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    SERIES REVIEW: Enlightenment Books 2 & 3 by Joanna Chambers

    Enlightenment: Beguiled – Joanna Chambers

    A fleeting pleasure is the sweetest seduction…

    David Lauriston couldn’t be less interested in King George IV’s first visit to Edinburgh. But with Faculty of Advocates members required to put on a minimal show of patriotism, David makes an appointment with his tailor for a new set of clothes-only to run into a man he hasn’t seen for two long years.

    Lord Murdo Balfour.

    Much has changed since their bitter parting, except their stormy attraction. And when Murdo suggests they enjoy each other’s company during his stay, David finds himself agreeing. After all, it’s only a temporary tryst.

    Amidst the pomp and ceremony of the King’s visit, Murdo’s seduction is more powerful than David ever imagined possible. But when other figures from David’s past show up, he is drawn into a chain of events beyond his control. Where his determination to help a friend will break his body, threaten his career, and put at risk the fragile tenderness he’s found in Murdo’s arms.

    Warning: Contains a lowborn Scottish lawyer with no love for the aristocracy, but more than enough passion for this highborn lord. Political intrigue, kilts, explicit m/m trysts, and men who epitomize “knight in shining armor.”


    Rating:
    5 Stars – absolutely perfect

    Soundtrack: Show Me The Wonder
    Artist: Manic Street Preachers
    Album: Rewind the Film


    Enlightenment: Enlightened – Joanna Chambers

    The cruelest duel may not spill a drop of blood…but it could break their hearts.

    Five months ago, David Lauriston was badly hurt helping his friend Elizabeth escape her violent husband. Since then, David has been living with his lover, Lord Murdo Balfour, while he recuperates.

    Despite the pain of his injuries, David’s time with Murdo has been the happiest of his life. The only things that trouble him are Murdo’s occasional bouts of preoccupation, and the fact that one day soon, David will have to return to his legal practice in Edinburgh.

    That day comes too soon when David’s friend and mentor takes to his deathbed, and David finds himself agreeing to take on a private mission in London. Murdo is at his side in the journey, but a shocking revelation by Murdo’s ruthless father leaves David questioning everything they’ve shared.

    As tensions mount and the stakes grow higher, David and Murdo are forced to ask themselves how far they’re prepared to go—and how much they’re prepared to give up—to stay together. And whether there’s any chance of lasting happiness for men like them.

    Warning: Men in love, men with secrets, and men armed with dueling pistols.


    Rating:
    5 Stars – absolutely perfect

    Soundtrack: Light
    Artist: Kinder
    Album: Light


    I don’t know what the heck I read in 2017, but I remember not being too impressed with Provoked, Book 1 of Enlightenment. The series was a huge fan-favorite, so what was I missing? 

    The story is from the POV of young lawyer David Lauriston. He’s a man with strong opinions about right or wrong. He will go through extreme lengths to protect his friends, especially Elizabeth, who married a rich but abusive aristocrat. David is stubborn, but I liked that he’s loyal and kind to a fault.

    My main gripe was Lord Murdo Balfour.

    Murdo is a villain name. Also, he was supposed to be this mysterious rakish figure who seduced the then-virgin David Lauriston, only to leave him high and dry. Apparently, there’s a thing as too enigmatic because he came across as a faceless, featureless, one-dimensional entity.

    Cue Books 2 and 3, Beguiled and Enlightened, and I was spectacularly flabbergasted to discover the very same Lord Murdo Balfour, not just a living, breathing entity, but a swoony, generous, considerate, and attentive love interest so obviously smitten with our boy David. How the hell did I not see that before?!

    And Murdo, chafing at the bit to free himself from his father’s evil grasp, and single-mindedly defiant of the Earl’s machinations to have him marry a woman to further their family’s political power. Also, him doing everything to protect David and his friends at the cost of his reputation, family, and wealth. This man, OMG!!! My jaw dropped to the floor!

    My, ahem, enlightenment in this aptly named series gave me a high while reading the 2nd and 3rd books. I had better appreciation of what turned out to be an very-well thought out plot running through the first three books, with nuanced characters navigating tricky political and social rules and a high stakes forbidden romance culminating a daring all or nothing bid for an HEA.

    I also complained before about the POV being solely from David’s as too one-sided. It didn’t matter anymore. The storytelling felt more balanced now that I have a better grasp of Murdo’s character. Also, the rest of the supporting cast, David’s mentor Chalmers, Elizabeth, Euan who is David’s friend and Lizzie’s lover, the Earl, and Lizzie’s abusive husband, now stood out individually and playing their parts effectively.

    I have never been more glad to give a series another chance. The fans were right!

    From the eye-opening characters, the compelling threads of kindness, trust, and care in a world of power and abuse, to the clever, clever way it sliced through the Gordian knots that bind Murdo and the hard-won happiness for him and David, Enlightenment is a brilliant historical romance. 

    A true classic!

    P.S.

    Enlightenment should be read in order. Decide if Murdo was indeed cardboard or I was too blind to see his true nature in Book1, Provoked.


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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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    BLOG TOUR: Honey Moon Murder by Dahlia Donovan (Giveaway)

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    SERIES REVIEW: Kage Trilogy by Maris Black

    Kage Trilogy – Maris Black

    *** KAGE (Book 1)

    My name is Jamie Atwood, and I’m an addict. I never thought I’d say such a thing. Never had a problem being overly-attached to anything in my life. I came from a perfectly middle-class family, made good grades, and had a hot cheerleader girlfriend… but the truth is, nothing ever really moved me. So how did a guy like me become an addict?

    I met Michael Kage.

    Kage is an MMA fighter. A famous one. I like to think I helped him get that way.

    He’s charming as hell, with looks to rival any movie star and talent to back it up. So why did he need to hire me as an intern Publicist? Simple. He has a darkness in him– like a black hole so deep it could swallow him, and me, and everyone we know– and that’s not good for business.

    The first time I met him, I felt the pull. I think the addiction began at that very moment. And even if I’d known then what I know now, I would have fallen for him. How could I not?

    For me, Kage is everything.


    Rating:
    5 Stars – absolutely perfect

    Soundtrack: Stay In My Corner
    Artist: The Arcs
    Album: Yours, Dreamily


    *** KAGE UNLEASHED (Book 2)

    In a battle of the heart, who will be the first to submit?

    My name is Jamie Atwood, and I am an idiot. Against all odds, I got the attention of Michael Kage, the hottest MMA fighter on the planet. To say he rocked my world would be an understatement. He transformed me completely, made me depend on him, and made me love him. And the sex? Let me put it this way: I’d never been with a guy before I met Kage, but I’d gladly spend the rest of my life on my knees for him. He is my obsession and my addiction. But I did something stupid, and now I’m paying for it. I don’t know if I’ll ever see Kage again.

    Being Michael Kage was never easy. Too many demons, too much anger, and not enough to live for. And then I met Jamie Atwood. He’s got this innocence about him that speaks to something deep down inside me- in a place that’s never been touched by anyone. He’s beautiful, smart, and courageous, and he hasn’t been tainted by the darkness that’s ruled my life. I wanted him from the first second I laid eyes on him. It’s selfish, I know. Because you can’t bring an innocent thing into the darkness and not expect something to rub off.


    Rating:
    5 Stars – absolutely perfect

    Soundtrack: Teleport 2 Me, Jamie
    Artist: KID CUDI
    Album: Teleport 2 Me, Jamie


    *** KAGE UNMASKED (Book 3)

    CAN THEIR LOVE SURVIVE THE MOST SHOCKING REVELATION?

    SEXY COLLEGE SENIOR Jamie Atwood has fallen hard for MMA dark horse Michael “the Machine” Kage. With his hot muscled body, intoxicating green eyes, and proclivity for rough sex, Kage is a potent aphrodisiac to the innocent boy-next-door. The danger, the intrigue, the feel of his strong hand around his throat, the knowledge that his fighter would kill or die for him. From the moment Kage grabbed onto his hips and channeled all that masculine aggression into claiming his body, Jamie was ruined for anyone else.

    PASSIONS RUN HIGH as the lovers try to assimilate into each other’s lives: coming out to family and friends, blending into the high-profile MMA world, dealing with Kage’s sketchy uncle. But behind Kage’s mask of strength and indifference lies a crippling vulnerability, and a devastating secret. As the mask comes off, past traumas surface, dark desires spin out of control, and the damaged fighter is driven to hurt the man he loves more than life itself.


    Rating:
    5 Stars – absolutely perfect

    Soundtrack: Forget the Past
    Artist: The Irrepressibles
    Album: Mirror Mirror


    Kage Trilogy by Maris Black is an intense, angsty, frustrating, compelling, and hella swoony sports romance between an MMA fighter and his publicist.

    Journalism major and college senior Jamie Atwood scored a summer internship as upcoming MMA fighter Michael ‘The Machine’ Kage’s publicist. This after the dork blustered his way through his first interview with Kage. The man was so impressed (and smittened) that he demanded the college boy work for him. Thing is, Jamie is straight and has a girlfriend.

    Did it stop Kage? Hell no!

    Meanwhile, Jamie couldn’t help but be magnetized by enigmatic Kage. And I couldn’t blame the boy because, damn, the man has quite the presence!

    I came into this series blind. The first two books end in cliffhangers, so the trilogy must be read in order. Kage, book 1, is written solely in Jamie’s POV. We see a bumbling, naive college student playing the sports publicist, pretending to know what he’s doing and boldly declaring he’s going to make Michael Kage famous.

    In fairness to Jamie, our boy did work hard, building a website, social media presence, and Kage’s image as a sexy MMA fighter. Multi-tasking as the photographer, some of his picture-taking sessions has Kage in temperature-raising poses that led to our boy questioning (and lowkey denying) his sexuality.

    Jamie could be spectacularly oblivious to the fact that Kage was doing a slow but thorough wooing. Kage was obsessed from that first interview and proceeded to wine, dine, and splurge, but our boy remained clueless (or in denial). And it wasn’t until, a very provocative pose and Kage spelling it out for him that our boy fell on his knees and willingly swallowed the truth, among other things.

    Kage Unleashed and Kage Unmasked are written in both Kage’s and Jamie’s POVs. The two sequels chronicle Kage and Jamie’s struggles as a secret gay couple and how they navigate publicly coming out while they introduce Kage to Jamie’s family and try to outmaneuver Kage’s evil uncle.

    There are scenes that might be disturbing to some, like the dubcon-ish scene in the gazebo or that minors were forced to fight to the death. Kage also has PTSD and childhood trauma cause by his abusive uncle.

    When I say frustrating, I’m mostly talking about Jamie and the villain, Peter Santori. Jamie is impulsive and makes stupid decisions. I could forgive him. He’s young and still has lots to learn.

    Kage and Jamie’s relationship is tested by misunderstandings and miscommunications made worse by separations caused by Kage’s uncle’s evil schemes. This asshole is mostly absent, but his presence and machinations can be felt through their negative impact on Kage and/or Jamie. He’s a psychopath who uses Kage to further his own goals and has no qualms attempting to kill his nephew when he proved too much trouble.

    Kage the man is why Kage the trilogy packed a punch. The Machine is highly skilled, unbeatable and hyper-focused on his targets, whether it be winning Jamie or the MMA championship belt. Life threw one challenge after another, first losing his family as a young child, then living under his evil uncle’s thumb and forced to toe the line by pretending to be in a relationship with a woman.

    Kage still managed to come out on top, fighting for his and Jamie’s lives. And there is always a fight and a separation. Then Kage getting Jamie back through sheer willpower and two middle fingers to the world and his uncle. Arrow right in my kokoro every time!

    Here’s a little spoiler why Kage is everything. Whenever I read somebody’s reaction to a book saying, “I’m a sobbing mess,” I tend to roll my eyes at such hyperbole. Well, there was this scene where Jamie and Kage were forcibly separated and had no contact for some time (evil uncle in action). Jamie convinced his friends to watch Kage’s fight on TV because he missed his boyfriend badly.

    Jamie was bragging he helped choose Kage’s entrance song, Kanye West’s I Am A God. But when Kage entered, Jamie was surprised it was a different song playing. His friend googled the song and showed him the title: Teleport 2 Me, Jamie.

    You guessed it, I was a sobbing mess! Songs are my krytonite and Kage just had to pick the perfect song!

    Kage Trilogy ends with a HFN, a cliffhanger really. I’m glad I read it now and not when it was first released because now I know the story continues with Santori Trilogy. Kage and Jamie aren’t perfect, but with the distinct honor of being the third book to make me cry in all my reading life, I’m giving them 5 stars. These boys hit me with a knock out punch!


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    KAGE TRILOGYBoxset

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