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    REVIEW: Fractured Souls by Ava Marie Salinger

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    Fallen Messengers: Fractured Souls – Ava Marie Salinger

    Humans are dying in San Francisco. The most shunned angel on Earth may very well hold the key as to why…

    When Cassius Black moves to San Francisco for a fresh start, the angel’s hopes of staying below the radar of the supernatural organizations that oversee the otherworldly and magic users in the city are dashed when he stumbles across a dead body in the sewers. His grim discovery soon puts him in the sight of the Argonaut Agency and Francis Strickland, the bureau director who knows his darkest secrets. 

    Morgan King and his team of Argonaut agents have been hunting for the culprits behind a series of gruesome killings that have rocked the city all summer. Killings that bear sinister hallmarks of sacrificial rituals where the victims’ souls have been ripped from their bodies. When Fate brings Cassius in Morgan’s path, he realizes the angel everyone likes to call The Devil may very well be the only person who can help them track down the murderers.

    Morgan and Cassius soon find themselves chasing down a sect of black magic sorcerers and cross paths with a mysterious warlock whose actions evoke disturbing echoes of an incident from Cassius’s past. As rumors of a potential plot to tear the Nether reach their ears, Cassius and Morgan must work together to defeat their common enemy and save the city from destruction, all while fighting their growing attraction for one another.

    Fractured Souls is the first novel in the MM urban fantasy romance series Fallen Messengers. If you like action-packed paranormal adventures with romance and snark, then get this pulse-pounding book today and enter a world you won’t want to leave!


    If I make a list of books I’d love to see as a movie, Fractured Souls would definitely be on it. This book delivers the action-packed paranormal adventure it promised.

    Fractured Souls is the first book of Fallen Messengers, an urban fantasy/paranormal series set in a world after The Fall. There was a huge rift, and all manner of magical and mythical creatures now walked the earth. Four major organizations are in charge of keeping supernatural creatures in line.

    The world-building is exceptionally detailed without overwhelming or bogging down the pace. I loved this world of the Fallen the author created. It’s incredibly fascinating to read about beings from the deepest pits of hell and from the highest hierarchies of heaven.

    I liked the writing as well. It flowed smoothly and briskly, but major credit is also due to narrator Alex Kydd’s masterful delivery. He did an awesome job bringing the characters to life and made going through the info-dumps a breeze.

    The story is told in the POVs of the angel, Cassius Black, a much-feared pariah in the supernatural world, and cocky Argonaut agent, Morgan King, also an angel. They were forced to work together to solve the mystery of the ‘fractured souls’ and prevent another rift from happening. The bigger mystery here is who or what exactly are Cassius Black and Morgan King?

    I liked Cass from the get-go. As the story progressed, it became apparent that Cass was so much more powerful than he already was. It was also revealed that while he is the most reviled and hated creature on earth, the unassuming man is actually a self-sacrificing cinnamon roll worthy of the highest sainthood. This is the guy who secretly saved the world and continues to do so as we speak. That he is a bit of a tsundere only added to his appeal.

    I didn’t like Morgan at first. Probably still don’t like him 100%. He was a pushy asshole. He kinda redeemed himself when it became clear he wasn’t taking any of the shit people throw at Cass, and he’s going to break the neck of the next person who is mean to the poor angel. I’ll go easy on him since he has Cassius’ back, and they’re great as a team.

    Not sure I’m totally onboard with Cassius and Morgan’s romance. Their chemistry didn’t come across as strongly as I would have liked. Although, the story did a good job building up the mystery relating to their true identities and their connection. I’ve read other reviews extolling the virtues of Victor, Cass’s demon ex. I prefer an angel-demon merger, so I couldn’t help wishing this was their story instead.

    The rest of the cast drew me in almost immediately. They are from Morgan’s team. I enjoyed the banters and their various personal connections to each other. My favorite part was how they took Cassius to their fold after knowing his innate goodness and became his biggest allies.

    The coolest part of the book is the fight scenes. Oh hell yeah! You get mind-blowing displays of powers from various supernatural creatures. From angels and demons to witches and mages, no one held anything back. I think it would look super mega fantastic on screen!

    It did feel a bit too Son Goku, the way Cass’s and Morgan’s powers kept leveling up and up and up. And up. But it didn’t dampen the experience because the scenes was all friggin’ AMAZING!!! And I adore Cass and enjoy seeing him so badass. Also, I love superhero movies and superpowers, so I was living for everything!

    Fractured Souls is an action-packed series opener, where the fallen walk the earth and demons rise from the pits of hell. It got all the snark and romance, magic and mayhem you could ever ask for. All in all, fascinating, entertaining, and hella spectacular!

    Rating:
    4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits

    Soundtrack: A Thousand Shards Of Heaven
    Artist: Lunatic Soul
    Album: Fractured


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    FRACTURED SOULS

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    REVIEW: Thick As Thieves by Lucy Lennox

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    Thick As Thieves – Lucy Lennox

    Julian:

    I’ve been in love with my best friend since forever. Okay, fine. Like, kindgergarten. It started out platonic, obviously, but then became… nope. Still platonic. The problem is that Parker Ellis has been straight since forever. And that makes it difficult to convince him the two of us are meant to be together.

    And now there’s no point. All is lost. He’s gone and gotten engaged to his high-school sweetheart which means I have to grin and bear it while pretending to be the happy, supportive best man while he prepares to commit his life to a woman I can’t even fault. She’s great. We’ve all been friends forever. I know he’ll be happy with Erin, just not… just not as happy as he could be with me.

    Parker:

    I’ll admit. Sometimes I press the easy button. Like when Julian Thick had offered me half his sandwich back in grade school after noticing I didn’t have any food. Or when I’d needed a date to homecoming in tenth grade and Erin told me she was it. Or when I’d used the one thing that came easy to me, skiing, to get my college tuition paid for. Or when Erin had showed back up in my life six months ago and told it was time to marry and start a family…

    But for the first time in my life I’m facing something that’s not at all easy. It’s my wedding weekend and I’ve just been left at the altar. Not only that, but when my best friend whisks me away to drown my sorrows in a snowy cabin in Aster Valley, I accidentally discover Julian’s been keeping secrets. Big secrets.

    The kind of secrets that lead to hot experimental kisses in front of a blazing fire, tentative physical exploration in a way I’d never imagined before, and the kind of intimate, true confessions I’d never even dreamed of between me and the one person who’s always been my true home.

    But after twenty-plus years of thinking of Jules as my friend without benefits, is it truly possible to change who we are to each other? There’s no easy button this time, but I’m willing to do the work. I only wonder if Julian is ready to trust I really mean it.


    This outstanding contemporary romance series makes another stop in the idyllic town of Aster Valley with this deliciously pine-y childhood friends-to-lovers tale.

    Thick As Thieves is about lawyer Julian Thick being hopelessly in love with his best friend, Parker Ellis, since kindergarten. As these things usually go, Parker is spectacularly oblivious to Jules’ more than friendly feelings for him.

    Now Parks has been dating their other friend, Erin, on and off for years. They’re finally going to tie the knot. On the day of the wedding, Erin ghosted. Ever the loyal friend, Jules takes Parker to his secluded cabin in Aster Valley to console him. The very cabin he intended to be his wallowing hole where he drinks his feelings to oblivion and gets over Parks once and for all.

    This is where things heated up because Parker is coming to realize his feelings for Julian, not just now but since the beginning, has always been something more. This, after fending off a Grinder hook-up who turned up at the cabin. One sent to Jules by their well-meaning a.k.a. meddling friends.

    I love all the Aster Valley books. This one is as fabulous as the rest. It is a great example of why the friends-to-lovers trope is so squee-tastic. There are a million takes on the trope, but Lucy Lennox still made it fresh, exciting, and HELLA SWOONY!!!

    Jules and Parks have known each other all their lives so the chemistry is pretty much a given, but no less fantastic. Their relationship felt comfortable and solid as friends. Their transition to boyfriends happened very naturally. There was a sense of rightness to it as things clicked into place. There’s something so beautiful about two people who are always meant to be together fulfilling that destiny and finding their HEA.

    My heart went out to Julian. He practically endured everything for his best friend. Parker is a doofus for not recognizing his feelings for his best friend for that long. But when he realized he was in love with Jules, he was all in, 101%. They’re amazing together!

    Hands down, my favorite part was the contract. Young Jules and Parks signed a piece of paper with the words “You and Me. Always” written on it. Unknown to Parker, Jules held on to that piece of paper for decades. That scene where he discovered it, I was as blown away as Parker! It was just sooo sweet and so Julian!

    Much later, cheesy sappy guy that he is, Parker amended the contract. And blew Jules away.

    One of the themes is how safety nets could become bad habits. This is shown through Erin, who wants to be adventurous, but returns to Parker again and again because she feels comfortable with him. She is not evil. Mostly, she’s a confused person who doesn’t take responsibility for her actions and doesn’t know what she wants from life.

    Here’s the thing with this series. I’ve come across real vile villains in many books, but I have never been affected by any of them. Here, the antagonists are ordinary people who are merely unlikeable, yet their scenes make me feel so bad they take me out of the story. The author really knows how to get under the readers’ skin.

    It happened again with Erin’s scene. Parker had a long overdue talk with her. I know it was needed for closure and clearing the way for Jules. But it went on for so long. It was repetitive and just plain tiresome. I felt so bored I nearly dropped the book. I held on because I was rooting really hard for Jules and Parker, and they’re close to the finish line.

    Overall, Thick As Thieves is a fulfillment of a promise backed by 20 years of memories, unrequited feelings, and loyal friendship. It’s heartwarming, sweet, cheesy, and a damn good reason to stay in Aster Valley, always.

    Rating:
    4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits

    Soundtrack: Always Forever
    Artist: Cults
    Album: Static

    P.S.

    Thick As Thieves can be read as a standalone but why miss out on the other charming men of Aster Valley?
    Witness a dreamy rock star romance in Winter Waites.
    Meet the sassy chef and his adoring football player in Right As Raine.
    There’s an adorkable bumblebee in need of a knight in shining motorbike in Sweet As Honey
    A starstruck sheriff clashes with a trouble magnet in Hot As Heller


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    THICK AS THIEVES

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    REVIEW: Moonstruck by Onley James

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    Necessary Evils: Moonstruck – Onley James

    Atticus Mulvaney is the eldest son of eccentric billionaire, Thomas Mulvaney—a role he takes very seriously. Atticus takes everything seriously. Like his brothers, Atticus is a psychopath, raised to right the wrongs of a broken justice system. Unlike his brothers, he’s not very good at it.

    Jericho Navarro is no psychopath, but he is a vicious killer. Like Atticus, he also has a secret life. To most, he’s just a mechanic. But to a ragtag group of social misfits, he’s Peter Pan, teaching them to eliminate those who prey on the weak with extreme prejudice.

    When Atticus and Jericho come face to face over a shared enemy, their accidental meeting ends in an explosively hot hookup neither can forget. But they have nothing in common. Atticus is a buttoned-up closeted scientist and Jericho is a man on a mission, determined to find and punish those responsible for the death of his sister. Still, Jericho can’t stay away. And, truthfully, Atticus doesn’t want him to.

    As Jericho’s mission begins to bleed into Atticus’s life, two separate but equally brutal families will need to learn how to fight together to take out a common enemy. But no amount of brute force can show Jericho how to scale the walls of a psychopath’s heart. Can Jericho convince Atticus that, sometimes, the couple who kills together stays together?

    Moonstruck is a high heat, intense psychopath romance with an HEA and no cliffhangers. It features a fumbling, sexually confused maniac and the dominating, unapologetic gang leader who can’t stop tormenting him. As always, there’s gratuitous violence, very dark humor, more killers than you can count, and enough explosive chemistry to level a city block. This is book three in the Necessary Evils series. Each book follows a different couple.


    More Mulvaney madness today. Couldn’t get enough of this crazy family!

    Moonstruck is the 3rd book of Necessary Evils, a series about a family of serial killers meting punishment to fellow monsters. The family was founded by Thomas, a billionaire and a genius psychiatrist, who adopted seven boys, Atticus, August, twins Asa and Avi, Archer, Aidan, and Adam. They were carefully selected and trained to be highly accomplished individuals in various fields by day and deadly vigilante killers by night.

    Now August might be my favorite Mulvaney, but I have a soft spot a mile wide for my grumpy Atticus. He was the first to be adopted and, therefore, felt pressured to make Daddy Mulvaney proud.

    Atticus tries so hard to be perfect but always felt like he’s coming up short. Like his brothers, the man is an over-achiever. He is both M.D. and Ph.D. The thing with Atticus, trained killer that he is, the man actually hates killing (because it’s unsanitary). And by his brothers’ accounts, isn’t very good at it.

    On one of his assignments, he stumbles upon another killer, Jericho Navarro, in what was perhaps the most perfect meet-cute for a pair of murderers ever! Bossy mechanic Jericho promptly latched on to the grumpy ginger, recognizing the man’s submissive nature from the get-go. Gives him the most adorable nickname you can give a psychopath, “Freckles“.

    “I’m not letting you go, Freckles. I’m just not. You can call it a business arrangement, an affair, a kidnapping, some kind of midlife crisis. But whatever you call it, you’re mine. And I protect what’s mine.”

    I’m not a fan of dirty talk and, man, Jericho has a mouth on him! Other than that, it was a lot of fun watching Atticus’ prickly submissive nature meshed with Jericho’s affectionate dominance. It’s not just Atticus’ submissiveness. Jericho was also quick to recognize and appreciate everything good about his man.

    “Do you think I want anybody else? Nobody compares to you, Freckles. You are this weirdly perfect combination of impenetrable and vulnerable and I can’t fucking get enough of it.”

    The family’s reactions to their relationship were one of the best parts. Atticus’ brothers could be such asshats sometimes, so watching Jericho defend his Freckles gave me great satisfaction. He even called Thomas out for his treatment of his eldest son. Jericho goes declaring he wants to be Atticus everything, including be his proxy killer. And sure enough, he holds true to it. As Thomas puts it, Atticus found himself a good one!

    I was so happy for my favorite grumpy ginger getting his HEA. Atticus’ special ability is mimicry. He’s used to mirroring other people, but he rarely gets to be himself. I loved how he took the courage to embrace his truth and proved he could be just as good as his brothers.

    The scenes where Atticus eats granola bars while complaining about his paper not being front page in JAMA, and Jericho, fresh from a kill Atticus gifted him with, soothing his prickly man, is most definitely a very Mulvaney brand of endearing. It pretty much screams TRUE LOVE Murder Husbands-style. This is a trope I couldn’t get enough of, and watching these two serial killers falling in love is like the best thing ever!

    Atticus slipped his thigh between Jericho’s, snuggling closer to tuck his head against his chest. “I know. I don’t like killing, but I’d kill for you, too.” Jericho’s stomach fluttered. “I know, Freckles. I know.”

    Also, Atticus and Jericho cuddled and watched Labyrinth!!! ☆*:.。. o(≧▽≦)o .。.:*☆

    The story is part romance and part mystery. The mystery involved Jericho’s missing sister. I wasn’t as invested in this as I was with the other books. It wasn’t as strongly delivered compared to the first two books.

    Also, the series started dark but is leaning more towards steamy and humorous in this 3rd installment. I would have preferred a bit more darkness to offset that, the way the 2nd book, Psycho, perfectly balanced fluff, steam, and dark. 

    The case was, however, a great way to bring everyone together. All hands were on deck to solve it, including Jericho’s crew of young killers. These guys are awesome! They need their own spinoff. Jericho’s brother, Felix, will have a thing with Avi. So excited for the twins! Just a teensy bit disappointed they won’t be sharing. The plot also spent time building up Aiden and Thomas’ story. Hoo boy, I am beyond excited to see how this works!

    Moonstruck continues the wonderful and worthwhile tradition of giving the Mulvaney brothers their HEA. Atticus and Jericho’s relationship might have started with murder, but it certainly breathed new life to a mimic who learned how to be himself and found his perfect match in a man who was his opposite.

    The story is equal parts a very swoony insta-love romance, a riveting found family saga, and a crime procedural handled by vigilantes who love to get their hands dirty. I might not be completely over the moon about everything, but I definitely love this book to bits!

    Rating:
    4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits

    Soundtrack: Every Other Freckle
    Artist: Alt-J
    Album: This Is All Yours

    P.S.

    The Mulvaney tradition starts with the youngest, Adam the supermodel serial killer, and his feisty person, Noah, in Unhinged. It continues with the psycho and the psychic, August and Lucas, in Psycho.


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    REVIEW: Christmas Wish List by N.R. Walker

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    Hartbridge Christmas: Christmas Wish List – N.R. Walker

    In need of work and a change of scenery, Aussie ex-pat Jayden Turner agrees to a short-term chef position at a Bed and Breakfast over the Christmas holidays. After all, how hard could it be in a small town in the mountains of Montana? What he finds is a grand old house in a beautiful town, and his new boss is gorgeous, gay, and single.

    After his divorce, Carter “Cass” Campion bought his great-aunt’s rundown country manor in his home town, and he’s determined to get it ready for the busy holiday period. Recently out as gay, he’s been focused solely on his business and hasn’t had time for a man. Not that many gay men come through Hartbridge . . .

    As his new clients arrive, and being away from his two kids, celebrating Christmas is the last thing on Cass’s mind. But his new chef has other ideas. And if there’s one thing on his Christmas Wish List this year, Jayden can make it come true.


    I’m not really into Christmas romances. I find them too cheesy and, well… Christmasy, for my taste. But then this book grabbed me right away, from the first time I featured its release on this blog. I mean, look at that cover!

    Christmas Wish List is a holiday, insta-love romance between a charming and talented chef who had enough of the drifter life and a divorced and newly-out small-town guy with a newly-opened bed and breakfast. It is the 2nd book of the Hartbridge Christmas series. It can be read as a standalone.

    The story starts with Jayden Turner, an Aussie ex-pat whose been all over the States for 15 years. He just arrived in Hartbridge for his Christmas temp job. After nearly getting lost, he meets his boss, Carter Campion, the man who single-handedly renovated an old grand manor into the magnificent Arabella Bed and Breakfast.

    With guests arriving in just a couple of days, Jayden soon realized there were still a lot of to-dos in an ever-growing number of to-do lists his distractable boss scattered throughout the property. It didn’t help Jayden was a distraction himself, with his megawatt smiles, engaging humor, and indecent proposals. Or did it?

    Jayden’s incessant flirting with his boss nearly irritated me, but he did it with so much good cheer, you couldn’t help but be charmed. He’s sweet, thoughtful, and very dedicated to feeding people. He’s a guy who knows what he wants and doesn’t hesitate to tell you. Yep, he’s a bossy one!

    I loved that this is not a grumpy+sunshine story. Cass is a total sweetheart. He’s a gentle, unassuming guy who starts doing a million things then forgets after being distracted by yet another task that needs to be done. He’s so unassuming that Jayden (and I) was surprised the man was a top-level executive.

    Having been in the closet most of his life, Cass’ life as a newly out gay man didn’t change much from before. He feels so guilty about ruining his marriage and his kids’ lives that he doesn’t let himself be happy. Cass is lonely and touched-starved. It so happens there’s a very attractive gay man who is very eager to show him the gay experience…

    With so much regret, he explicitly stated that he has a business to run and that if things went sideways with Jayden, he’d be left without a chef for Christmas. I totally applaud Cass here. The man was clearly being practical and responsible, especially after all the time, money, and effort he put into the BnB.

    This is why I wasn’t that pleased with Cass’s friend, Rem, encouraging him to hook up with his new and only employee. I was also annoyed at the repetitive parts where Jayden does one thing, apologizes about it, then keeps doing it anyway.

    Gripes aside, the romance was magical! It was a joyous celebration of freedom, first times, and the simple, heartwarming comfort of holding hands. The last one was my favorite.

    Cass and Jayden are all about communication. I loved that they do it with such easy openness. They clicked right away. They were a solid team from day one even with a deadline hanging over their head.

    It was so endearing to see Cass’ character grow with Jayden’s guidance, slowly gaining confidence to truly embrace his truth. The way he lit up with each new experience was quite adorable. Jayden is pure sunshine for being the kind of person who brings joy in everyday moments.

    The story could have easily gone in a steamier, angstier direction, but I loved where N.R. Walker took this. The mood hit the sweet spot for a holiday read. It’s light, humorous, cozy, and soo sweet and fluffy without being too precious.

    This feel-good romance touches upon family, setting roots and grabbing happiness whenever you can. The setting is simply fabulous! Hartbridge is an idyllic, picture-perfect town full of friendly, hardworking people.

    The two major secondary characters are Rem and Hamish. They are the couple from Book 1., Tic-Tac-Mistletoe. I haven’t read it yet. Now, I want to because these two are equally lovable! Cass’ ex-wife, Kendra, and their kids, Wyatt and Charlotte, were awesome too.

    Overall, Christmas Wish List is a heartwarming, feel-good Hallmark romance filled with wonderful people, sumptuous food, cozy settings, and sweet, uplifting moments. There’s even a wedding! It’s everything you can ever wish for in a Christmas story and more!

    Rating:
    4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits

    Soundtrack: Stay With Me
    Artist: Better Love
    Album: All I Ever Wanted Is To Be Where You Are


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    CHRISTMAS WISH LIST

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    REVIEW: A Touch Of Fever by Nazri Noor

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    Arcane Hearts: A Touch Of Fever – Nazri Noor

    What do you do when you can’t cast spells? You make your own magic.

    Jackson Pryde was never great at wielding magic. Instead, he works as an artificer, crafting enchanted devices in the Black Market, a shadowy bazaar of wonders. But Xander Wright, the mouthy, pretentious mage next door, hates all the hammering in Jackson’s workshop.

    When a chance assignment forces them to team up, they discover a terrifying predicament. Something is driving members of the magical community into murderous rages. Jackson and Xander must combine might and magic to find the source of the Fever and stop it. Can they put aside their differences long enough to end the Fever, or will they succumb to its bloodthirsty curse?

    A Touch of Fever is a 73,000-word M/M urban fantasy romance with a HFN ending. Join a fast-talking artificer and a snarky sorcerer, best friends turned bitter enemies, as they navigate an adventure filled with strange flora, mythical fauna, and magical murders. If you like your urban fantasy with humor, horror, and a whole lot of heart, you’ve come to the right place. Experience A Touch of Fever today.


    A Touch Of Fever is an urban fantasy adventure that reads like a shounen anime with a shounen-ai romance. It is the first book of the Arcane Hearts series and my first book by Nazri Noor. I’m guessing, this is connected to the author’s other urban fantasy works.

    Our hero is Jackson Pryde, last of the Pryde family of artificers. He lives in the Black Market, a magical mercantile city in a pocket dimension of sorts that has portals to different places around the world. It’s one bustling bazaar after another, a mish-mash of cultures and creatures where every conceivable item can be bought for a price. It is dominated by various guilds.

    After an incident that blew up their labs and killed almost all artificers, the guild and the craft were deemed pretty much defunct. As a result, Jackson’s life is an everyday hustle to put food on the table. These frequently involved selling and bartering prized items he foraged or embarking on quests to retrieve one.

    One day he was requested to retrieve a rare flower, with the condition that he work with a partner. This turned out to be Xander Wright, frenemy, neighbor, and the magical boy of his dreams. The two lived to annoy the heck out of each other. Dorks!

    Like many shounen anime heroes, Jackson is cocky and brash. He has no false modesty about his looks and loves to flex his muscles just to get a rise out of Xander. He’s also insecure about not having much magic in him.

    Artificers use artifacts to amplify the little magic they have inside them. Jackson has been working for years to create a gauntlet that actually works. He carries the thing around in his backpack, testing it whenever the opportunity arises. It’s his ticket to bringing in gold and bringing back glory to artificers.

    Xander is from an elite family of mages and went to an ultra-elite school for magic. He and Jackson were childhood friends who grew apart and became antagonistic. His hobby was to file noise complaints against his artificer neighbor.

    Xander’s life is the opposite of Jackson’s. He hasn’t seen much of the world, just going about studying magic and not much else. The quest with Jackson might be the first time he stepped out of the Black Market. Naive he might be, Xander is also a highly-trained, walking, talking arsenal of deadly weapons.

    The story is written in Jackson’s 1st person POV. Our boy is quite the talker, building a detailed picture of the Black Market and the Arcane Hearts world through smart-ass comments and various asides. If you love world-building that goes down to the nitty-gritty, you’ll liked this.

    It’s a wordy book to read on paper. I do feel I wouldn’t have finished it if not for Zachary Johnson’s energetic narration. He was the perfect audiobook narrator for the series. His voices and characterizations were fabulously on point!

    I only noted the wordiness because I am a lazy reader who has no patience with details. The writing was able to keep the mood lively and the momentum consistently moving even through the denser prose. It struck a good balance between action, humor, magic, and romance.

    The main thing that kept me hooked was how the author deftly weaved together a grand adventure filled with action and magic while building up the delicious anticipation between two frenemies with very obvious USTs.

    This was wonderfully demonstrated during Jackson and Xander’s quest, where they snapped and sniped, battled a very angry sylph, and were forced to acknowledge a truce or else. They would have ended up acknowledging so much more if not for a griffin with very bad timing.

    The quest is actually just part of a wider plot. The titular fever is the big mystery that runs in the background. It is mostly heard via secondhand news as the cause of various death. It wasn’t until another neighbor spontaneously combusted that Jackson and Xander took an active part in the investigation.

    The cast is fantastic! Jackson’s friends, the talented Beatrice, the gentle giant Paxton, and the majestic griffin Zephyr, all had colorful personalities that made their interactions hilarious.

    I loved the fight scenes! They’re always an adrenaline-pumping mix of death-defying stunts and spectacular displays of high-level magic. I especially liked that we get high-octane action and magic from the get-go. No boring training tropes here!

    All in all, A Touch of Fever is a super fun action-adventure with winsome heroes to root for. It was great to listen to on audio, and it would be even more amazing to see on screen.

    Rating:
    4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits

    Soundtrack: Fever Dreams
    Artist: Diveo feat. Taylor Fernandez
    Album:


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    A Touch Of Fever

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  • book,  Uncategorized

    REVIEW: Life Lessons by Kaje Harper

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    Life Lesson – Kaje Harper

    Mac’s three goals: keep Tony safe, catch the killer, don’t come out.

    Tony Hart’s a dedicated teacher, though he’s not much older than his high-school students. Between his profession, a few good friends, and plenty of books, he’s content with his quiet life. Then the murdered body of another teacher falls into the elevator at his feet, and Tony’s life becomes all too exciting.

    Jared MacLean is a homicide detective, widowed father to a young daughter, and deeply in the closet. But from the moment he meets Tony’s blue eyes in that high school hallway, Mac can’t help wanting this man in his life. Mac’s not out ― can’t afford to be out ― but Tony makes him want the impossible.

    Mac isn’t the only one with their eyes on Tony, though. As the murderer tries to cover their tracks, Mac has to work fast or lose Tony, permanently.

    (This is a rerelease of the 2011 original with light editing.)


    I’ve seen Kaje Harper around ever since I started reading MM romance back in 2016. This is the first time I’ve read her books. Life Lessons is a great introduction to her works. The book kicks off the series of the same name.

    Young high school teacher, Tony Hart, was about to step out of the elevator when the body of another teacher crashes into him with a knife sticking out of its chest. Police were called and along comes Detective Jared Maclean and his teammates to investigate.

    Mac is deep in the closet for fear of losing his 4-year-old daughter, Anna. His resolve to stay there was tested by the attractive and openly gay teacher who was also a person of interest. Mac found himself finding reasons to see the younger man. Tony is ready to have the detective if only the older man would let himself. Then, the killer made another move. This time, Tony was the target.

    This is a police procedural. But unlike most procedurals where the MC is the lead detective and seems to do all the work, Mac’s partner, Oliver, is the lead. The detectives worked as a team and the others were shown taking an active part in the investigation. I liked this a lot because it felt more realistic.

    The mystery wasn’t anything mindboggling. You can tell who the bad guy is the minute they went on-page. Still, it’s intriguing enough for me to feel invested and complicated enough to make following the investigation worthwhile and enjoyable.

    The plot seamlessly interweaves the mystery and the romance. I really liked how this was done. It brought Mac and Tony together in a way that felt organic to both the case and their budding relationship. It’s a slow-burn, hurt-comfort romance with an ever-patient Tony encouraging Mac to enjoy life a little more even if it’s only from his closet.

    I loved that we get characters who are just regular joes going about their daily lives. Mac and Tony felt real and relatable. They make a compelling couple. I especially loved how they were working hard to make it work. I also greatly appreciated how they avoided the usual drama, something that could have easily happened given the closeted cop premise. And yet, even without the dramatics, this was an emotional story.

    I wasn’t sure at first if I would enjoy a gay romance where one of the MCs is deeply closeted throughout several books in the series. I thought I would feel negative about Mac for hiding his relationship with Tony, but the story did a good job making you feel for the guy. I totally got where he was coming from and that he was making the effort. Seeing his character grow bit by bit as the story progressed made me root hard for him. Someday, Mac. Someday.

    Tony was super understanding. I felt sad he had to make sacrifices, a bit too much IMHO, but it was pretty clear that Mac’s heading in the right direction in that HFN ending. He’s definitely worth the wait!

    The author found the perfect audiobook narrator in J.F. Harding. He brought the story to life in such an engaging way I was glued to my earbuds right to the end.

    Life Lessons was published in 2011. They did a good job with the slight re-editing because the story still felt current. It’s not without flaws and it features frequently-used tropes, but it’s so well-written, it still comes across as fresh and exciting. All in all, this teacher/cop romance with extra-curricular murder mystery gets a grade of 4.

    Rating:
    4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits

    Soundtrack: Life Lessons
    Artist: Railgun
    Album: Seishin no Tatakai


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    REVIEW: Silent Knight by Layla Reyne

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    Fog City: Silent Knight – Layla Reyne

    I won’t let anything happen to you.

    Fourteen years ago, Braxton Kane’s feelings were forbidden.
    As an officer, he couldn’t fall for an enlisted… no matter how much he longed for Holt Madigan.
    Now—as a police chief in love with a digital assassin—his promise to always protect Holt is becoming harder to keep.

    I’ll protect you.

    Holt doesn’t understand why his best friend has been pushing him away for months.
    But when Brax’s life and career are threatened, Holt refuses to allow the distance any longer.
    The Madigans protect their own, and Brax is family, whether he believes it or not.

    I won’t let anything happen to you either.

    Forced together, Holt realizes his feelings for his best friend have changed.
    His desire to explore the promise their single night together held is undeniable.

    His resolve to protect the man who has always protected him is unshakable.
    But if Holt wants a future with Brax, he’ll have to search and destroy the person who attacked him—before Brax activates the kill switch and sacrifices himself.

    Love and devotion. Friendship and trust. Family. It all comes down to this. Holt and Kane, together at last, in the final book of the Fog City romantic suspense series.


    Saving the last for the best Madigan of ’em all!

    Silent Knight is the most awaited finale of Fog City, a series about the notorious Madigans. I’ve been waiting for Lil H’s story ever since he and Brax had those moments in the Hawes’ Fog City trilogy.

    Holt Madigan, hacker, ex-soldier, dad, and all-around sweetheart, had had it worse in the first books when his wife, Emilia, turned out to be a traitor in their midst. His best friend, Police Chief Braxton Kane, has been his rock for decades. Now, Brax’s life is in danger, and Holt will do anything to save the person who saved his life.

    Their story started 14 years ago when they were in the military. Then-captain Brax first set eyes on the young private stepping off the plane and immediately fell in love. He promised himself he would do everything to make sure that soldier would board the plane home alive.

    Due to military regulations, a relationship was forbidden, and Brax kept his feelings for Holt under lock and key. However, the two became best friends. Their bond remained strong even after returning to civilian life and Brax learning the truth about Holt’s family.

    The first half is told in flashbacks from Brax’s POV. This part made my chest hurt. The pining alone was worth 5-stars. Poor Cap had it bad for the Private. So bad that he forced his way into a mission to protect the young soldier, helped him transition back to civilian life while he’s still halfway across the world, forced to silently endure Holt getting married to another person, moved across the country to live in the same city as him, risk his career to protect him and his family of assassins. Never once letting his best friend know how he truly felt for him. Not even that night he helped the pan/demisexual Holt lose his virginity. Damn the man and his military discipline!

    The second half covers the present and is told from Holt’s POV. This is where most of the mystery and the suspense came in. All the Madigans rallied to Brax’s side to uncover who was behind the threats. I loved how everyone considered him family and pretty much already assumed he and Holt were a given. The only one who needed to realize this was Holt.

    This part lost me at some points. The mystery wasn’t as riveting as it was supposed to be. There was a big to-do with the investigations, where I danced with glee at the cameos from Jamie, Aiden, Mel, and Nic, characters from Agents Irish and Whiskey and Trouble Brewing. There were also some attempts at plot twists. But at the end of it all, everything still came down to the default bad guy. So there weren’t any major surprises. The big showdown, while fitting Holt’s character, also felt anti-climactic.

    The suspense bit might not have been strongly delivered but the rest of the story, and the romance, in particular, was what made this book my favorite in the series. It is a beautifully rendered love story about falling for one’s best friend and a deeply rewarding requiting of a silent and unconditional love. And the way this book was written, which felt more intense and angstier than the rest, hit me harder in the kokoro.

    There is a strong sense of family that ties everyone together, from the Madigan siblings to their significant others to their organization members, and their friends. It is these characters and their bonds that kept me returning to Fog City and its sister series time and time again

    The epilogue wasn’t what I was looking for, not enough Brax and Holt. But it left an opening for possibly another spinoff. And it looks like Brax is going to play a big part here too!

    Overall, Silent Knight might not be as flashy as Hawes’ books or as bombastic as Helena’s, but it is the one that spoke the loudest and the most heartfelt.

    Rating:
    4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits

    Soundtrack: How Can I Protect You
    Artist: Restless Modern
    Album:

    P.S.

    Silent Knight is best experienced after the Fog City trilogy and Queen’s Ransom. The Madigans wouldn’t have it any other way.

    While you’re at it, pick up the equally fantastic partners-to-lovers romance between FBI agents, Aiden Talley and Jameson Walker, in Agents Irish and Whiskey.

    Because these guys are a tight-knit bunch, also check out Aiden’s sorta-ex-turned-friend, US Attorney Dominic Price, and Nic’s partner, FBI Agent Cameron Byrne in Trouble Brewing


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    SILENT KNIGHT

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  • book,  Uncategorized

    REVIEW: Origin by A.J. Sherwood & Jocelynn Drake

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    Scales ‘N’ Spells: Origin – A.J. Sherwood & Jocelynn Drake

    Cameron wants to make it clear that he did not go into the festival to find a dragon mate.

    Germany is supposed to be an escape. With a new mechanical engineering degree, a new job looming, and a whole life planned out that isn’t his, Germany seems like the best place to find himself.

    So how does he end up discovering his lost magic heritage, running from bad guys with a secret agenda, and being adopted by the not-so-extinct Fire Dragon clan?

    Cameron blames tall, dark, and sexy Alric, king of the Fire dragons. His fated mate. Because of course he is, and mates are meant to take the blame, right?

    It may take a hot second, but as Cameron learns more about the scarred Alric and the life he’s landed in, Cameron realizes that perhaps this is where he’s meant to be, magic and mates and kidnapping and all.

    Turns out coming to Germany wasn’t an escape but his awakening.

    Tags:

    Not-so-extinct, Shifter dragons, mages, fated mates, secret clans, epic libraries, hurt/comfort, age gap, not that Alric cares, magical heritage, mechanical engineers being BAMF, grumpy dragon kings being protective of their cute mates, really the cuteness is downright criminal, we might need a firehose for these two, or not, sass, so much sass, Ravi and Cameron are no longer allowed to be alone together, for reasons, dragons hoarding, when you live long enough statistics will get you, bats named Cheryl, beheadings, no damsels in distress here, just very unhappy mages, with trigger fingers, anyone have life hacks on how to get rid of kidnappers, Cameron is open to suggestions


    Here be DRAGONS!!!

    If you love them, this series is sure to make your inner fire-breather rumble.

    Those tags up there in the blurb made my day! I think every book should have them.

    A.J. Sherwood teamed up with fave author Jocelynn Drake to deliver us this fantastical series, Scales ‘n’ Spells. This is a world of dragons and mages. They work together to create magic. Mages are also extra precious because they are the dragons’ fated mates. However, there was a Great War that wiped out the mages and dragons became extinct. Or so the world thought…

    The remaining dragons, like the Fire dragon clan, kept their existence a secret. King Alric and his clan have been searching for a mage for 500 years. They finally found one at the Dragon Festival, an American-Korean tourist named Cameron Park. Alric decided to play tour guide to see what the young man knows. Turns out, Cam had no clue he is a mage or that dragons still exist.

    Origin is the first book in the series. It effectively established the Scales ‘n’ Spells world and boy, there was quite a lot to take in. Cam had to learn thousands of years of dragon history, about his own family’s legacy as well as magic spells. There was info-dumping but there was an effort to avoid bogging down the narrative too much. The magic system was explained using simple scientific analogies by Cam as he tried to figure how it worked. I liked this approach because it makes things more straightforward and easier to grasp.

    Cam was understandably freaked out upon learning he’s a mage. Still I couldn’t help wishing that maybe MCs can react more like Po from Kung Fu Panda, all gung-ho and fanboy-y about being the chosen one instead of getting hysterical.

    That mini-gripe aside, Cam’s fabulous! Flirty, cheerful, intelligent and so very determined to boost people’s self-esteem through compliments. Especially that of a certain broody, pessimistic king. They say a mate is someone who brings joy. And while Cam’s a bit too much at times, the way he lit up Alric’s world was a palpable energy that shone throughout the story.

    Many will claim Cam is cute, but really, the most adorkable character of all was Alric. Check out his dragon hoard! The man is regal and dominant, very elegant in his suits, very protective of his Clan. But he can be so endearingly awkward and insecure too. Many times, I wanted to give him a hug.

    As the last remaining Burkhart, Alric carries the weight of the world on his shoulders. More so now that they have just found a long-lost mage, someone tried to kidnap their treasured magic user. Alric was always too ready to sacrifice his own happiness for his Clan. The dork even thought he’s unworthy to be anyone’s mate, let alone Cam, because he has a damaged arm. Put this poor king out of his misery, Cam!

    I loved the authors’ take on fated mates. It’s started with insta-attraction but then took things slow. Instead of simply being swept away by fate, the two MCs got to know each other properly. The relationship development was a rollercoaster but it’s definitely worth it.

    The book as a whole felt a tad too long. There’s the training rigmarole to go through, historical events to recount, the big to-do about Cam’s family, and the mystery of who is behind the kidnappings. It could do without some of these parts. It was like things were happening quickly for Cam in a matter of weeks but it also took a while for the story to get to the point.

    The supporting characters though, I loved them! Alric’s friends/courtiers are awesome! Each of them stood out and made me want to know more about them. Baldewin, Ravi, and Gunther each have their own books. I can’t wait for these dragons to find their mates.

    I might have some niggles, but overall, I had a lot of fun with Origin. It’s fast-paced and slow-burn, humorous and angsty. This series opener set the wonderful world of dragons and mages. It introduced us to a lovable Fire Dragon king, his beloved little mage, and a wacky family cheering them on. It’s a story 500 years in the making but it’s only just the beginning.

    Rating:
    4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits

    Soundtrack: I Found You
    Artist: Andy Grammer
    Album: Naïve


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    ORIGIN

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    REVIEW: Swat Ed.: Fox & Bull by A.E. Via

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    Nothing Special: Swat Ed.: Fox & Bull – A.E. Via


    A fox can set many traps to catch his target—but this one only needs one to catch his.

    Dominic “Bull” Walker is used to the simpler things in life. Give him his own land to work, a strong horse, and twelve hours of daylight, and he is a contented man. But when someone threatens to take away the successful ranch that took him two years to rebuild, he’ll accept any help he can get to defend it.

    Mandel “Fox” Tucker is a sixth-generation SWAT soldier. It’s embedded in his bones to protect and serve his community. So when he gets word of the vandalism occurring on the Walker Ranch, he quickly volunteers the free time he has, thanks to his recent suspension.

    The brief visit Fox had with Bull four months ago had been a contentious—but powerful—encounter. Therefore, he’s not surprised when he shows up on his doorstep unannounced and has to pull out some of his best tricks to get past the six-foot-four, stubborn Texan.

    Fox is only there to safeguard what’s most important to Bull. But being on the ranch brings an awareness to him that he embraces with both hands. Nature, peace… love—things he never found in the city.

    This book contains the love story of two new characters. It is a part of a series but can be read as a standalone.
    There are no multiple pairings or sharing. Ends in a very HEA.

    Trigger Warning:Mild police violence. Scenes are not graphic.


    I have always been a big fan of the Nothing Special series since the beginning. Admittedly, many of the books were messy. It wasn’t until the 6th book, His Hart’s Command, that the series hit its stride. The 7th book, Ex Meridian, is my absolute favorite. It continues its winning streak with the 8th installment.

    Fox & Bull is the second SWAT Ed. The titular characters were introduced in the previous book’s epilogue. The two met for only a couple of hours but each made quite an impression on the other. Fast forward to the present time and we got Bull still trying to catch glimpses of his favorite SWAT soldier on the nightly news.

    Meanwhile, Fox, tired of being disrespected and unappreciated when he was doing his job well, decided to take a break. He grabbed the opportunity to investigate a break-in at the Walker ranch just so he could see the unforgettable cowboy one more time.

    Fox is a cunning, smart-talking cop who’s very good with a rifle. Bull is a hardworking man of few words. An astute businessman who built a successful ranch from the ground up after his old one was destroyed by a calamity. They are just a couple of guys who wants to love and be loved in return. Is that too much to ask?

    Fox has gone through hookups and one-night stands with people who fantasized about dating a SWAT soldier. But when things get serious, they were actually too chicken shit to put in the hard work required in a real relationship. Bull was engaged at one point but the bastard left him to die during a flood. So I couldn’t really blame the poor man for not immediately jumping into Fox’s arms no matter how badly he wanted to or how charming the other man was.

    The first scene they were together made me LOL. Bull got so tongue-tied and awkward at seeing his crush again, he tried to say three greetings all at once. He’s such a sweet guy! I was rooting hard for him.

    There was a deadline hanging over their heads. Fox will be called back to work after a couple of months. The author did a great job making each moment Fox was in the ranch count. The passion and heat jumped off the page. But what I loved most was how the story was able to convey, in the cozy domesticity and everyday ranch business, the way the two cherished each other tenderly.

    This is a wonderfully done opposites attract, slow-burn romance with a minor mystery, some action, and lots of humor. It’s more romance-focused than all the other books. There’s less action, with most of these scenes happening in the beginning and at the end. A huge chunk is spent with Fox building rapport with Bull’s employees, learning ranch work, and falling in love with a horse.

    The book had a fluffier feel to it as well. All the books had a strong sense of family and camaraderie. With the previous stories, the bonds are formed among people who constantly risk their lives for each other. Here, there is still that strong connection but the dynamics has a softer vibe. This is perhaps because the bonds are formed among people in a safer, homier setting. (Not sure if I’m explaining this part properly. Sorry if I’m not making sense (^_^;))

    The book is populated with lovable characters, both old and new. We see a lot of Hart and his boyfriend, Free, stars of the first SWAT Ed. Bull’s pop, Walker, and their housekeeper, Emma, were a riot! They are his biggest cheerleaders and all but claimed Fox their son-in-law the second he made his appearance at the ranch. Fox and Dale’s interactions were also hilarious. Bull’s best friend/ranch manager was very determine to cockblock Fox in the name of protecting Bull. Until Fox sicced a young, and very interested, ranch hand, Ridge, on the interfering idiot.

    There was OTT ridiculousness near the ending when God and his squad bulldozed their way into the ranch. I was rolling my eyes at all the silly male posturing. It’s a thing with this series. Sometimes it works, sometimes it’s just plain stupid.

    Another niggle is Mercy, Bull’s horse. He said he had the horse since he was a little boy. He is now 33. Mercy is, what, more than 20 years old? I’m not sure about a horse’s lifespan but that horse is really old. And Bull is still working him hard.

    Minor quibbles aside, I enjoyed this story a lot. Fox and Bull are great additions to Nothing Special‘s impressive roster of alpha males. As a couple, they light up the page with their fabulous chemistry and unwavering devotion to each other. Their romance was a building of trust, and a promise of commitment. These are two men who truly appreciated what a precious gift it is to find someone brave enough to stick around.

    .Rating:
    4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits

    Soundtrack: Just Stay
    Artist: Mauve
    Album:

    P.S.

    Fox & Bull can be read as a standalone but is best experienced after meeting God, his husband, Day, and their merry band of troublemakers. Check out my reviews of the first seven books:
    Nothing Special
    Nothing Special Books 2-6
    Ex Meridian


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    SWAT ED.: FOX & BULL

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