• book,  Uncategorized

    REVIEW: We Could Be So Good by Cat Sebastian

    Midcentury NYC: We Could Be So Good – Cat Sebastian

    Casey McQuiston meets The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo in this mid-century romdram about a scrappy reporter and a newspaper mogul’s son–perfect for Newsies shippers.

    Nick Russo has worked his way from a rough Brooklyn neighborhood to a reporting job at one of the city’s biggest newspapers. But the late 1950s are a hostile time for gay men, and Nick knows that he can’t let anyone into his life. He just never counted on meeting someone as impossible to say no to as Andy.

    Andy Fleming’s newspaper-tycoon father wants him to take over the family business. Andy, though, has no intention of running the paper. He’s barely able to run his life–he’s never paid a bill on time, routinely gets lost on the way to work, and would rather gouge out his own eyes than deal with office politics. Andy agrees to work for a year in the newsroom, knowing he’ll make an ass of himself and hate every second of it.

    Except, Nick Russo keeps rescuing Andy: showing him the ropes, tracking down his keys, freeing his tie when it gets stuck in the ancient filing cabinets. Their unlikely friendship soon sharpens into feelings they can’t deny. But what feels possible in secret–this fragile, tender thing between them–seems doomed in the light of day. Now Nick and Andy have to decide if, for the first time, they’re willing to fight.


    Lots of conflicting feelings here.

    We Could Be So Good, Book 1 of Midcentury NYC by Cat Sebastian, is one of those modern historicals I’m exploring since Regencies and Victorians aren’t doing it for me recently. Set in the late 1950s New York, it’s a best-friends-to-lovers romance between a closeted newspaper reporter, Nick Russo, and his newly awakened bisexual friend, Andy Fleming, the publisher’s son.

    The book is touted as a “Casey McQuiston meets The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo” in that comparative marketing style I hate. I usually see this when a niche genre/indie author (is this the proper term?) is marketed to mainstream readers (again, not sure of the proper term). It’s helpful to a wider audience who might want to venture into queer books, but I prefer the book to stand on its merit.

    That said, I’d love it if more people discover Cat Sebastian and other brilliant MM romance authors. That way, their books would be popular enough to be picked up by Hollywood. My dream is to have my favorite books turned into movies. Sometimes, I entertain myself with the idea that if I win the lottery, I’d create my own production company just for that purpose.

    Anyway, I’ve seen the movie version of the royal rom-com, though I’ve no idea about Evelyn Hugo. There are a few similarities to the former.

    There’s the opposites attract trope where Nick is uber-competent and Andy is a bumbling himbo who can’t even shut a drawer without getting his tie caught. There’s the class difference where Nick comes from an Italian immigrant working-class family while Andy is third of his name and has more money than he knows what to do with. They also had to keep their blossoming romance on the down low.

    There’s also a wonderful found family for Nick, Andy, and their queer/non-queer friends. I loved that, by some unspoken agreement, they built a safe space for everyone in Nick’s building apartment.

    The story has all the ingredients that make a Cat Sebastian book a swoony, unforgettable experience. The scenes are brimming with mutual pining and longing and fluffy, adorable moments wrapped in cozy domesticity. There’s so much love and kindness between Nick and Andy, and I adore them! They reminded me of the author’s squee-tastic friends-to-lovers masterpiece Two Rogues Make A Right.

    Sadly, the feels didn’t soak through to the bone. I wasn’t squee-ing. The romance is of the slow burn variety, which I usually love, but it’s so damn slooow that the slowness is all I could think about. I was audiobooking this, and even the great Joel Leslie couldn’t stop the draggy feeling. 

    The glacial pace is compounded by the fact that there is barely any plot. It’s just Nick and Andy doing not-so-exciting everyday things and sending feels to each other. While era-specific LGBTQIA issues are tackled, as well as Nick’s family woes and Andy having his bisexual awakening, these threads felt shallow.

    I wanted to love the book so much but it is what it is. I’d still recommend this, since many people loved it and YMMV from mine.

    We Could Be So Good is a story of loyal friends, complicated families, and hopeful lovers against the backdrop of the Big Apple. It could have been all my yes had it been faster. Overall, a cozy, sweet romance built on kindness and care that falls in that place between like and love.

    Rating:
    3.5 Stars – that place between like and love

    Soundtrack: So Good
    Artist: Public Library Commute
    Album: Close to the Sun


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    WE COULD BE SO GOOD: Kindle I Audiobook

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    SERIES REVIEW: Boystown Books 1-3 by Marshall Thornton

    Boystown Books: Three Nick Nowak Mysteries – Marshall Thornton

    Finalist for the Lambda Award in Gay Mystery, Boystown: Three Nick Nowak Mysteries takes place in Chicago during the early 1980s. Haunted by his abrupt departure from the Chicago Police Department and the end of his relationship with librarian Daniel Laverty, Nick Nowak is a beat cop-turned-dogged private investigator. In this first book of the series, Nick works through three cases: a seemingly simple missing persons search, an arson investigation, and a suicide that turns out to be anything but. While working the cases, Nick moves through a series of casual relationships until he meets homicide detective Bert Harker and begins a tentative relationship.


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

    Soundtrack: Boys Town
    Artist: Babes
    Album: Leave Your Leather On


    Boystown Books: Three More Nick Nowak Mysteries – Marshall Thornton

    The Boystown Mystery series continues as Chicago private investigator Nick Nowak finds himself involved in three new cases. He’s asked to help a young man who murdered his stepfather but refuses to assist in his own defense, hired to find the murderer of a dead porno star, and, in a case that traps him between the two men he loves, must search for a serial killer’s only living victim. Set in the second half of 1981, Nick juggles his deepening relationship with Detective Bert Harker with the return of his ex, Daniel Laverty. Which man will he choose? Or will he be able to choose?


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

    Soundtrack: OOO
    Artist: Karen O
    Album: Crush Songs


    Boystown Books: Two Nick Nowak Novellas – Marshall Thornton

    In the two novellas that make up the third book in the popular Boystown Mysteries private Investigator Nick Nowak works two challenging cases and grapples with an even more challenging personal life. In Little Boy Boom, Nick’s car explodes when a thief attempts to steal it. Realizing the bomb was meant for him, Nick sets out to discover who wants him dead only to find that the list of possible suspects is longer than he’d like. When he begins to run out of suspects he wonders if the bomb was truly meant for him. Little Boy Tenor finds Nick investigating the murderer of a church choir’s star tenor, while at the same time his friend Ross asks him to discover the truth behind his lover, Earl Silver’s mysterious death. As he juggles the two cases, he becomes increasingly disturbed by what he learns.


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

    Soundtrack: Slipping Away
    Artist: Moby
    Album: Hotel


    A bit strange to call a series set in a decade you lived through as historical, but I considered Boystown by award-winning author Marshall Thornton as such. My first series from the author, The Wyandot County Mysteries, was entertainingly bitchy, and another modern historical (if we can call it that) set in the 2000s.

    The usual Regencies and Victorians are not working for me as of late, so I’m hoping to dive into more books set in the mid-century and later eras.

    Boystown starts in 1980, with prequels set in 1979. It chronicles the life of ex-cop-turned-PI Nick Nowak. He’s 33 years old and in the prime of his life. He’s good at his job. His business is going well and he’s free of debts He lives in a garden apartment, a.k.a. basement apartment in downtown Chicago in the known queer neighborhood called Boystown. Every weekend, he works as a bouncer at a gay club owned by a friend.

    The storytelling is one of the best and a top favorite in my reading history. Nick has a very compelling voice and a charismatic character. The books are written like episodes in a TV series. Also, Marshall Thornton has always been fantastic at flavoring his stories with period-specific events, culture, technology, and so on. They have a palpable patina of time and they always feel authentic and lived-in. 

    Nick’s cases intertwine with his private life, and threads from the previous books are continued or mentioned in the succeeding. There are many recurring characters or references to past events that Nick would follow up on or would impact the current story. We see Nick’s everyday habits and work routine, plus the more action-packed moments.

    My favorite part is the cases. Almost all mystery series tend to default to murder as the crime, so I loved that Nick’s cases vary from background checks to missing persons to arson to car bombing, and sometimes protection for rock stars. I loved that they realistically portray the variety of work a PI handles.

    And Nick’s one hell of a PI! He doesn’t give up until he’s satisfied, not even if his client feels the matter is already settled. He’s got wily investigation skills and is not above lying, impersonating someone, seducing the gullible, or breaking inside an apartment to get answers.

    Nick knows he’s a looker and enjoys an active sex life. There is no shortage of people eager to throw themselves at him and Nick’s not inclined to say no. From informants he’s interviewing, to corporate lawyers, to friends with benefits, beat cops mistakenly apprehending him while undercover as a homeless man and even the very person he’s investigating, as well as orgies. A couple of times, he asked himself if he was giving off some kind of pheromones.

    Nick is also pining for his ex, Daniel Laverty. They had a bad breakup after a homophobic attack that left Daniel with a broken cheekbone. Daniel wanted to report what happened, but Nick, then a closeted cop, refused.

    Nick eventually develops a relationship with a closeted police detective, Bert Harker. Theirs is an open relationship, which means Nick still goes around fucking any willing body. Nick is also torn between Daniel, who recently reunited with him, and Bert, currently living with him. The series is not romance, and it didn’t make promises of a romance HEA, so the open relationships didn’t bother me.

    What bothered me was the APPALLING lack of protection in all the sex scenes. There’s also some scenes where the characters take drugs. It was a wild, hedonistic era and Nick is in the thick of it. In contrast, contemporary MM books make it a point to mention rubbers or an exchange of health status. 

    Knowing what we know now of the 80s and the AIDs epidemic, it is heartbreaking that some of the characters here were among the early victims, and Nick and his friends have no clue yet of what is happening. It’s going to hit very close to home. I almost don’t want to read the succeeding books because the impact is going to crush Nick. 

    As mentioned earlier, Boystown is written as a continuous chronicle of Nick Nowak’s life and should be read in order. I had grand plans of reviewing the entire series until I learned there are 13 books. It’s a lot for me, so I’ll probably do three books at a time.

    The first three books of Boystown opens a highly engrossing mystery series that captures a pivotal era through the eyes of a gay PI. Blending Chicago grit and 80s sex appeal with LGBTQ+ issues and noir mystery, these stories are authentic, steamy and as irresistable as Nick Nowak himself.


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    BOYSTOWNKindle

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    SERIES REVIEW: The Wyandot County Mysteries Books 1 & 2 by Marshall Thornton

    The Wyandot County Mysteries: The Less Than Spectacular Times of Henry Milch – Marshall Thornton

    A new mystery series from the award-winning author of the Boystown and Pinx Mystery series.

    Things have not been going well for Henry Milch. After a Saturday night clubbing in his beloved West Hollywood, he took one pill too many and ended up banished to northern lower Michigan to live on a farm with his ultra-conservative grandmother. It was that or rehab.

    While working a part-time job for the local land conservancy he stumbles across a dead body in the snow—as if things couldn’t get worse. But then things take a turn for the better, there’s a reward for information leading the man’s killer. All Henry has to do is find the murderer, claim the reward and he can go back to his real life in L.A.


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

    Soundtrack: Town
    Artist: CASTLEBEAT
    Album: VHS


    The Wyandot County Mysteries: A Fabulous Unfabulous Summer for Henry Milch- Marshall Thornton

    In the second Wyandot County Mystery, things are still not going well for Henry Milch. While stuck in Northern Lower Michigan helping his Nana Cole recover from a stroke, he learns that her favorite pastor has been killed. When Nana Cole asks him to investigate, he refuses—until she offers him money. Money that will help him get back to real life in West Hollywood. That sets Henry off on a journey that includes: off-key choir rehearsals, pole barns, bad haircuts, a hunky doctor and too many get-well-soon casseroles.


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

    Soundtrack: Big City Dreams
    Artist: Might Not feat. Sofia Insua
    Album:


    The Wyandot County Mysteries by Marshall Thornton is an LGBTQIA+ murder mystery series I didn’t expect to enjoy as much as I did. It did not have the usual romantic subplot, nor is it cozy. It contains many undesirable elements, yet I was completely hooked!

    The series is set in the early 2000s, so people watched cable TV, landlines were still ubiquitous, cell phones were flip phones, and the It gadgets were those colored Macbooks that look so retro now. The news often talks about the war, and people would mention updates about sons or grandsons deployed in the Middle East. 

    The star of the series, Henry Milch, well, I wouldn’t say he’s a likable character. Vapid, spectacularly self-absorbed, has nothing but uncharitable comments about everyone. In another story, Henry would be the bitchy ex the main character would dump to be with the love interest. Or that friend who’s always a hot mess

    Henry used to live in LA, but after an incident that left him with costly hospital bills, he’s broke and now lives with his Nana Cole in a small town in Wyandot County. Henry hates it. One reason is he’s shoved back in the closet. He has big plans to return to LA once he has enough money. And this kicks off the first mystery.

    The Less Than Spectacular Times of Henry Milch opens the series. Henry discovered the dead body of Sammy Hart, an out-and-proud gay man. The police weren’t making any efforts to solve the case, so Sammy’s friends offered $15,000 to anyone with information about the killer.

    Jumping at the chance to earn the reward, Henry decided to investigate, calling upon the knowledge he picked up from CSI and True Crime.

    In A Fabulous Unfabulous Summer for Henry Milch, Henry was offered $2000 by his Nana to find out what really happened to the dead pastor of their church. The man was bludgeoned to death. The police said he was robbed by a meth addict, but Henry thought otherwise.

    Still lacking enough funds to move to LA, Henry decided to humor his grandmother and started asking enough questions in an attempt to earn the money.

    He struck an antagonistic friendship with Opal, a bisexual a friend of the late Sammy Hart, who helped pooled money for the reward. Henry calls her only when he needs something, and Opal never hesitates to call him on his BS. Born and raised in the area, Opal knows everyone, including suppliers of illicit substances.

    Content warning: Henry is very much in denial about his drug addiction, and he’s frequently popping pills. In one very, very gross scene, he seriously contemplated fishing out the pills he puked floating in the toilet bowl so they don’t go to waste. He came to his senses when he realized that’s what drug addicts do, and he tells himself he’s not an addict.

    He sleeps with a few guys, most of them forgettable. One time, he dated a gorgeous doctor, a genuinely nice guy very much attracted to Henry. In your usual MM romance, this doctor would be The One. Of course, Henry fucked it up by refusing to give up his pills after the good doctor offered to help him overcome his addiction.

    Henry’s relationship with his mother and grandmother is complicated. His mother goes from boyfriend to boyfriend and has a casual parenting style, a.k.a. mostly absent. His mother and grandmother rarely agreed on anything, but surprisingly, they did when it came to him.

    Nana Cole is from one of the old families of the county, with typical Christian conservative views. They frequently butt heads. But even with their differences, it’s obvious that Nana Cole cares for her grandchild. Henry is determined not to like his Nana, but he also did not abandon her when she had her stroke.

    As an amateur sleuth, Henry notices things that don’t add up but have zero finesse in dealing with people. He just point-blank asks questions. He’s also not above using people to get what he wants. Given his bull-in-a-china shop approach, it was a wonder Henry got answers from the conservative folks of the county.

    With such a flawed character taking the lead, the entire thing wouldn’t have worked. But the author magically made the storytelling so damned engaging, even if I didn’t like Henry at all. He takes us to a scathingly humorous fish-out-of-water view of small-town Michigan with many comparisons and palpable longing for the big city way of life.

    Many times, I would think, “What a bitchy thing to say, Henry!” while at the same time thinking, “He’s got a point, though.” This leads us to another content warning: Henry’s views about religion and small-town life may offend some.

    The Wyandot County Mysteries is one of those mystery stories where I just enjoyed tagging along with our unlikely sleuth, not really caring about who killed who. The cases propel Henry to begrudgingly learn more about his hometown and its people. Twice, he’s on the cusp of leaving, but something or other would prevent him from hightailing it to LA.

    Would this snarky twink finally say adios to Wyandot to party and play in LA, or would he feel enough of a connection to the place to call it home?

    Maybe the third time’s a charm for our boy. Looking forward to Book 3. Because one thing about a hot mess like Henry: he’s never boring!

    P.S.

    The Wyandot County Mysteries should be read in order.


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    REVIEW: Gentlemen Prefer Villains by C. Rochelle

    Villainous Things: Gentlemen Prefer Villains – C. Rochelle

    Simon

    I needed to get the hell out of Big City.

    The only reason I was living in this American wasteland was because my mother insisted I reconcile with my estranged father. That the idea came to her while drunk on the French bubbly should have been my sign to stay right where I belonged.

    Anywhere but here. Certainly somewhere more fabulous.

    When an international job opportunity arises, I jump on board. It’s just a bonus that I’ll be traveling with the epitome of tall, dark, and handsome.

    Make that muscular, morally gray, and hopefully, my next conquest.

    What’s a casual fling between coworkers, after all? I’m ready for my next big adventure—far from Big City—so if whatever we’re up to is vaguely illegal, I’ll simply turn the other cheek.

    It’s not like some superhero is going to swoop in and stop a couple of humans like us.

    Wolfgang

    I may have orchestrated my villainous parents’ deaths, but that doesn’t mean the crushing weight of my responsibilities is easy to bear.

    My sister was the only one of my siblings who knew how badly they treated me. The only one I told how much I despise my powers. Now she’s on the run—leaving me to carry this alone.

    But then I meet him. I may have hired Simon Alarie as my assistant, but it’s instantly apparent he’s much more than that. He’s not only intelligent and business savvy, but fiercely loyal, and the tastiest—most forbidden—little thing I’ve ever seen.

    Nothing can come of it. Because if I touch him, he dies.

    That doesn’t stop me from claiming him as mine. Whether or not this normie knows it, every inch of him—every breath he takes—belongs to me. And anyone who thinks otherwise will meet the Hand of Death.

    Gentlemen Prefer Villains is an MM romance between a villain and a “normie.” Our men find other men in tight supersuits incredibly attractive. Sometimes, they keep these supersuits on while engaging in explicit extracurricular activities with each other (and sometimes they even use bad words!). This is not your kid’s superhero book. This is Sin City and The Boys having a love child with extra spicy Spideypool and is meant for 18+ adults who can handle such things.

    The Villainous Things series contains standalone books (each with HEAs) that feature interconnected characters and an overarching plot. You should read them in order (starting with Not All Himbos Wear Capes)

    IF YOU LOVE (full list of CW/TW coming soon to the authors’ webpage)

    • Superheroes/villains (and the “normies” who love them)

    • Big skerry boss + his sassy li’l assistant (SIZE DIFFERENCE)

    • Mafia vibes

    • Touch Him & Perish vibes too

    • Casual psychopaths with mutual obsession

    • SO MUCH TENSION

    • Leather

    • Extra spicy extracurricular activities

    • Naughty dark humor + sweary dialogue

    • MM romance (in case you missed that part)

    • A James Bond meets Catch Me If You Can international romp

    Then shake your martini and power up!


    It boils down to this: I loved the book, I didn’t like Simon.

    Gentlemen Prefer Villains, Book 2 of Villainous Things, picks up after the events of Not All Himbos Wear Capes. Violencia is missing, and Wolfgang, now head of the Suarez family and currently using his civilian identity, is looking for a personal assistant to help look for his sister.

    Simon Alarie, spoiled son of a serial gold digger, is being interviewed. Wolfgang walks in to gauge his reaction since the notorious villain is used to being feared even out of uniform. To his surprise, not only Simon didn’t show any signs of fear, he outrageously flirted with him. He was hired on the spot.

    This is why I didn’t warm up to Simon. He was so annoying!!! Too pushy and rude!! And being spoiled, he started bossing Wolfie around, thinking the bigger man was a bodyguard. I didn’t like Wolfie being bossed around, not even if Wolfie claimed to like it.

    Wolfgang was the most enigmatic Suarez in Not All Himbos Wear Capes and one of the most powerful villains in Big City. He can absorb the power of any supe he touches or the lifeforce of a normie. One touch means instant death. No one has voluntarily touched Wolfie since he accidentally killed his nanny as a toddler.

    He was raised as a weapon by his abusive parents. As a child, his father, Apocalypto Man, ordered him to run while he hunted him in the middle of the Argentinian forest. If Wolfie is caught, he’d be killed. He was only eight years old then. This is only one of the many “trainings” he had to endure.

    As the Hand of Death, Wolfie killed whoever his parents wanted dead. As the eldest Suarez sibling, he did all he could so that his siblings were spared a similar fate. Wolfie is a born protector and carer.

    So I wasn’t thrilled about him being bossed around. After a lifetime of taking orders, I wanted him in charge.

    As the story progresses, it becomes more apparent that Simon is a psychopath. His dynamics with Wolfie are pretty similar to Julian Castellani and Leo Bernardi (His Fatal Love). Murder husbands is a favorite trope, and I wanted to like Simon, but I’m sorry, the man lacked Julian’s charm.

    The closest thing I came to liking Simon was when he went beast mode and bit everyone’s head off when Wolfie went missing. At least we know this bratty psycho will burn the world for his man. Wolfie deserves that level of devotion.

    The world-building in Villainous Things gives us enough details to imagine the scenarios, but it’s not as tightly constructed or as richly conceived as the more hardcore superhero stories. The series tends to focus more on sexy times, particularly the BDSM aspect. I’m not a fan of BDSM, so I’m neutral about the couples.

    Part of the plot is a fascinating glimpse of supe history, going back thousands of years. I hope it will be explored further because it would give the series a rich lore that could spawn more stories. It also helps with the world-building. 

    My favorite part is The Rabble, as Wolfie calls the Suarez group chat. Xander is The Mouthy One, and Butch is The Token Hero. The twins, Andre and Gabriel, are Thing One and Thing Two, while Baltazar is The Dumb One. The sibling interactions are hilarious, and I think it’s a missed opportunity not to have them together in more scenes, ala war room scenes in Necessary Evils.

    The most poignant part is Wolfie’s relationship with V. She’s closest to him, his sounding board, and the only one who knew about the abuse he suffered. Not knowing what state he will find V in or that he might be forced to kill her, since V’s berserker power makes her both deadly and also susceptible to other’s control.

    I am aware I am reading Gentlemen Prefer Villains wrong. The book is all about bratty, bossy, and BDSM, while I wanted supe lore, sibling banter, and superhuman fight scenes. Still, I got enough of the parts I wanted that I am looking forward to the next Suarez, which is Balti!

    Overall, gentlemanly villains are much preferred!

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

    Soundtrack: Villain
    Artist: Missio
    Album: Villain

    P.S.

    Villainous Things should be read in order. Watch The Mouthy One and The Token Hero shake things up in Big City and in the bedroom in Not All Himbos Wear Capes.


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    REVIEW: Not All Himbos Wear Capes by C. Rochelle

    Villainous Things: Not All Himbos Wear Capes – C. Rochelle

    PLEASE NOTE: Full list of Content & TWs can be found in the front of the book and at c-rochelle[dot]com.

    Xander

    Big City is supposedly the place where dreams come true. As someone just trying to live my life, I can tell you, it’s more like a recurring nightmare where dreams get c*ckblocked at every turn.

    Especially if you’re a supervillain like me.

    The irony is that I have zero powers, despite coming from purebred villain stock, but try telling that to Big City’s beloved hero, Captain Masculine.

    This himbo is ruining my research, and if his firepower doesn’t kill me, the sight of him in Lycra surely will. Luckily—or unluckily, in my opinion—my bestie just signed me up for the Bangers dating app and found my perfect match.

    If this isn’t the start of my villain arc, I don’t know what is.

    Butch

    It’s hard feeling like I have to wear a mask every day—that the only value I bring to the table is the sparkling image others have created for me.

    Such is the life of being Captain Masculine, Big City’s greatest superhero. This is the existence I was destined for, and I will gladly defend this city against every threat to its people.

    Except Doctor Antihero.

    I’ve seen countless villains come and go, but something about Antihero intrigues me more than the usual hero-villain encounters should.

    It’s because of him that I impulsively signed up for a dating app, hoping a meaningless fling with a local normie will help get my head back in the game. The truth is, what I really want is someone who sees me—the man behind the mask.

    But that’s a luxury no superhero can afford.

    Not All Himbos Wear Capes is an MM romance between a superhero and a villain. Our men find other men in tight supersuits incredibly attractive. Sometimes, they keep these supersuits on while engaging in explicit extracurricular activities with each other (and sometimes they even use bad words!).

    This is not your kid’s superhero book. This is Sin City and The Boys having a love child with extra spicy Spideypool and is meant for 18+ adults who can handle such things.

    The Villainous Things series contains standalone books (each with HEAs) that feature interconnected characters and an overarching plot.

    *FULL LIST OF Content & TWs can be found in the front of the book and at c-rochelle[dot]com*

    CONTENT & TROPES:
    • MM romance
    • Dual POV
    • Superheroes/villains
    • Grumpy/sunshine
    • Star-crossed lovers + fated mates
    • Lovers-to-enemies-to-lovers (yup)
    • Hurt/comfort + found family
    • D/s dynamic that’s more bedroom than lifestyle
    • MM romance (in case you missed that part)
    • Plus suspenseful plot + save-the-world epicness for pizazz

    POTENTIAL TRIGGERS:
    • Sweary dialogue
    • Naughty irreverent humor
    • Extremely morally gray characters with moments of psychotic ideation
    • Extra spicy extracurricular activities (see inside book and c-rochelle[dot]com for specifics)
    • Minor gore in villain lair and during hero/villain battle scenes
    • Controlling + neglectful parents with some physical (superpowered) abuse
    • Lack of autonomy + indentured servitude
    • Restraints (not the fun kind)
    • Detailed descriptions of humans’ negative effects on coastal wildlife (specifically with pollution and including a seagull autopsy with details of the contents of its stomach)


    Heroism and villainy as a matter of perspective, or in this case, a matter of signing the contract, is a frequently explored theme in superhero stories.

    Villainous Things, by C. Rochelle, is another take on the subject. The series opens with Not All Himbos Wear Capes, an enemies-to-lovers secret romance between Big City’s golden boy, the cheese-tastically named Captain Masculine, and Doctor Antihero, a member of the infamous villain clan, the Suarez family.

    The world here is divided between normies and supes. The supes are considered different species and shouldn’t procreate with normies because their abilities might harm ordinary humans. They are expected to form strategic alliances with other prominent supe families to create more supes.

    The supes are further divided between superheroes and supervillains. The heroes are backed by the government and signed contracts to protect the city from the bad guys.

    Cap Masculine and Doc Antihero first met as Butch and Xander via an online dating app. They immediately hit it off on their first date. Still clueless of each other’s alter egos, they continued dating until things became serious between them.

    Then Xander invited Butch to meet his family. Only for Butch to realize Xander is from the notorious Suarez clan, having recognized his sister as Ultraviolent, and his mother as Glacial Girl. Xander still remained the clueless loving boyfriend, while Butch tries to find the right time to tell him. 

    Also, his family has arranged for him to marry a girl from another famous superhero clan, treating Butch as nothing more than a breeding stud. His entire life has been mapped out since birth and Butch is used to following orders.

    The plot starts simple enough as a secret identity romance, where the supposed villain shows his caring side and the hero discovers his kinkier desires. There’s also a grumpy/sunshine aspect, Xander being the growly top and Butch as the sunshiny himbo.

    I’m not a fan of the romance because it’s mostly boring daddy/boy foreplay with cringy dirty talk. Outside the bedroom, they were okay, mostly just there as eyes to see the world through. In short, I don’t care for the MCs. I just like the things happening around them. 

    Because bigger things are happening than just a forbidden love affair. Cap Masculine’s blinders fell off, and he took a stand against the indentured servitude his famous superhero parents signed him in when he was born. As they and the rest of the superheroes have signed such contracts.

    At this point, the plot became a convoluted game of political machinations, supe rights, family upheaval, and unlikely allies where power is challenged, and murders are committed to maintain the status quo.

    I wished the Saurezes came on page much earlier because they were the more interesting characters. Xander has a complicated relationship with his family. He says they’re all psychopaths and stays away from their house. They appeared halfway in the story, and made things a hell of a lot more chaotic and exciting. 

    Apocalypto and Glacial Girl have five known children, Violencia, Wolfgang, Baltazar and twins, Gabriel and Andre. Xander is the secret baby because he didn’t show any superpowers. His high IQ gave him multiple PhDs and nifty inventions, which he used to save the ocean. These inventions were hijacked by his evil dad into dastardly gadgets.

    Wolfgang, a.k.a. Hand of Death, practically stole the show, when he made his move to secure the Suarez family. One of the most powerful villains and a sly psycho who will protect his family at all costs, but is also surprisingly vulnerable, he’s my favorite character and happily, his book is next.

    The rest of the books feature the male siblings and continue the overarching plot so the books must be read in order.

    At first blush, Not All Himbos Wear Capes is a fun, raunchy take on the superhero trope. Then it goes grey and gritty the more we know about Big City and its secrets.

    While not really saying anything new about heroism and villainy, it still gave us an intriguing world that is fun to explore through the eyes of its superheroes and villains. Overall, heroically kinky, villainously wears its heart on its sleeve.

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

    Soundtrack: Villain
    Artist: Ado
    Album: Ado’s Mitattemita Album


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    SERIES REVIEW: Necromancer Rising Books 1 & 2 by Richard Amos

    Necromancer Rising: Death Eternal – Richard Amos

    Death is supposed to be the end.
    Not in my world.

    The dead never move on, not since Death walked off the job and disappeared. As a necromancer, it’s my job to police the spirits while they remain stuck and, well, problematic a lot of the time.

    Death really needs to take his head out of his backside and get back to work, wherever he might be.

    After a horrible incident in the tunnels of the London Underground, my life takes a sharp turn. It’s all my fault and I’m sent off to a small town, a move to keep me out of sight and mind for the time being. Shamed, reputation dragged through the dirt.

    I’m not getting that promotion anytime soon.

    On my first day in the town, I get caught up in a strange murder case, and Death saves my life.
    Yes, the Death. The delectable, mysterious Death.

    Goodness, he is hotness personified. But what happened to make him walk away from his responsibilities? And why is he so deliciously tempting, my desire a raging inferno every time he looks at me with those incredible eyes?
    I shouldn’t be thinking of an immortal being like this, but with every passing hour I can’t stop myself from falling deeper into infatuation.

    I want him.

    Resistance is… impossible.

    Death Eternal is the first book in an M/M Paranormal Urban Fantasy Romance series packed with mystery, danger, a knitting necromancer, a delectable immortal being, plenty of sizzle, and rather disgusting liquid mushrooms.


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

    Soundtrack: Cosmic
    Artist: Benjamin Carter
    Album: Self_Portrait: Vol. 1


    Necromancer Rising: Death Enraptured – Richard Amos

    Follow my heart and make a mess…
    That’s putting it mildly.

    My life has really taken a complicated turn here in Oakthorne. I keep hoping some fairy godmother will show up and offer me a nice bit of time reversal. Not too much, just enough to ease this pain.

    Yeah. Right.

    Anyway, as much as there’s hurt, there’s also Death. He is the complication, but a beautiful one I can’t resist when I really, really should. He consumes my every waking moment, submerges me in raging desire I never want to break free of.

    Damn.

    On top of that messiness, there’s a mystery to solve, a bad guy to defeat, and other new developments within myself to deal with.

    So much to do.
    So much danger to face.

    Where the hell is that fairy godmother?

    Death Enraptured is the second book in an M/M Paranormal Urban Fantasy Romance series packed with mystery, danger, a knitting necromancer, a delectable immortal being, plenty of sizzle, and rather disgusting liquid mushrooms.


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

    Soundtrack: Enter The Mirror
    Artist: Everything Everything
    Album: Mountainhead


    In the graphic novel Sandman, Lucifer quit his job and handed the keys to Hell to Morpheus. Then, he went on to have fun. The world went on spinning.

    Necromancer Rising, an urban fantasy by Richard Amos, sets a world where Death quit. Which begs the question, WHY?

    Death hanging up his scythe means ghosts. Lots and lots of ghosts and people acquiring necromantic powers to handle them.

    Necromancers are easily identified by their silver hair. They have five threads of magic that can be used to bind or release ghosts to sanctuaries, a place made specially for them since without Death, they cannot move on to the afterlife.

    Marcel August is a London-based necromancer suddenly transferred to Oakthorne after a mission gone awry that left his bestfriend, Jenn, severely injured. On his way to the town, he encountered a ghost that led him to the famous caves, where there were some trouble. He got injured and was rescued by a mysterious man.

    Later, Marcel met his new boss, the High Warden, a friendly man named Nicholas West and his taciturn husband, Leon. Nick was a stark contrast to the stone cold High Warden of London, Emma. Marcel has the worst luck in bosses as it later turned out.

    Marcel is tasked to look for a missing ghost. Then the mysterious man who rescued him turned up his door bearing gifts.

    This is where things get dicey and hell of a lot swoonier.

    The overarching plot is to stop the lich from taking over the world. As an urban fantasy, this is a twisty-turn-y, action-packed necromancer procedural, a.k.a. murder mystery, with plenty of magic spells thrown about. I loved how the events of Death Eternal and Death Enraptured go from grim to complete clusterfuck to freakin’ catastrophic. No rest for our weary boy, Marcel.

    Marcel goes from dreaming of a promotion to pretty much exiled to a small town to being lulled into a false sense of security to being lich fodder, only to evolved into something more. Add to that his forbidden romance with Death that has apocalyptic consequences, this series has all the mellow drama and the epic awesomeness!

    So, Death. Hmm, I don’t know. The immortal is conflicting mix of drool-worthy and cringe. That he’s gorgeous is pretty much a given. But the fashion sense, ew!

    The lich is right in criticizing his lame style. Tight leather pants, satin shirt open at the chest with multiple piercings? That screams sleazy rather than sizzling. I’d rather he go the John Wick route in tailored suits or a 70s punk in plaid bondage pants with distressed sweater.

    But as a love interest, the immortal is a master of seduction and muffins. Death could be a cheesy mofo but mostly, he says the most romantic things.

    At first doing the hot/cold dance, then later a steadier presence in Marcel’s life, Death fights a secret battle against the forces that kept him and Marcel apart. Been doing so for centuries, he and Marcel are cursed to repeat the cycle of love and destruction.

    In Death Eternal, it took a while for the book to get to the meat of things, taking its time to establish the world and have Marcel interact with the secondary characters. Death lacked depth as a character since he was presented as a mysterious entity.

    In Death Enraptured, the lovers work to circumvent the curse. They make questionable decisions, suffer betrayals, and just plain suffer. High Warden Emma is the worst character here, absolutely heartless.

    The books in the series end in cliffhangers so they must be read in order.

    Necromancer Rising is an entertaining series I’ll be reading till the end. The romance is one for the ages, heartbreaking but so fun to root for. The characters are a mix of intriguing and abysmal. The fight scenes pulled no punches. Overall, a bit all over the place, but worth hanging up the death scythe.


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    REVIEW: His Guilty Pleasure by Leighton Greene

    West Coast Mobster: His Guilty Pleasure – Leighton Greene

    When Redwood Manor’s butler Darian is accused of murder during a high-stakes Mafia parley, he has to rely on the infuriatingly attractive Raffi DeLuca to prove his innocence—before one of the mobsters decides to take justice into their own hands.

    Darian Thornfield-Hayes has always been content to fade into the background while he conducts his work with precision and perfection. But when murder threatens the fragile peace between rival Mafia factions staying at the Manor, he finds himself in the spotlight in the worst possible way.

    Raffi DeLuca, acting head of security—and the flirtatious thorn in Darian’s side—jumps in to give him an alibi, claiming they spent the night together. But in doing so, Raffi finds himself compromising his honor and his vows to the Don.

    When Darian and Raffi are forced to share a room to keep up the charade, the attraction simmering between them flares to life. Raffi sees past Darian’s defenses to the real man underneath, awakening desires the untouched Darian never dared admit to before.

    But Darian hasn’t been telling the whole truth…

    Torn between his heart and his duty, Raffi must decide how far he’s willing to go to protect Darian.

    Will their guilty pleasure be the key to solving the murders, or will secrets tear them apart?

    ***

    His Guilty Pleasure is the fifth 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.


    From the super-loyal Alfred Pennyworth to the devilish Sebastian Michaelis, butlers are fascinating, pivotal figures who perform miracles while being as unobtrusive as possible. However, the personal lives of butlers are a subject that doesn’t get talked about often, so when I learned about this book, I had to grab it.

    His Guilty Pleasure is the 5th book of West Coast Mobsters and the very reason why I started this series. Darian Thornfield-Hayes, Redwood Manor’s new butler, and Raffi DeLuca, acting head of security while Max Predetti is away, are in charge of making sure the parley between opposing Bernardi factions goes smoothly.

    Somebody threw a wrench into the works by murdering the mediator of the parley, a retired mobster last seen arguing with Darian. As the number one suspect, the young butler has to prove his innocence not only to the Castellanis but to the rest of the people involved in the parley.

    Darian’s and Raffi’s views from ‘below stairs’ gives us well-rounded look at the power players of the West Coast after seeing it through the Castellani leadership’s POVs from the previous books. The ‘dynamic duo’ juggled regular work, investigation of the murder, and their passionate, if complicated, romance while putting out fires and trying to keep everyone alive in a house full of killers.

    As subordinate members of the Castellani Family, Darian and Raffi felt very much like secondary characters in their own book despite it told in their dual 1st person POVs. It is fitting in a way because they are working in the background, supporting the Castellani bosses, performing minor miracles to satisfy the difficult and deadly guests of the Manor.

    As a peek into the private life of Darian, it almost didn’t feel like he had one because, no surprise, the butler has little personal time. How he seemed to be present everywhere at the same time is a mystery, but the man is a consummate in the art of hospitality.

    The most personal he got was finally acting on his attraction to white knight Raffi after a nudge or two by the matchmaking Julian. It was a hot/cold romance I’m neutral about because I am more invested in the murder mystery and the disaster of a parley.

    It is obvious from the get go that this is Julian Castellani’s show. He was hellbent on hiring Darian, even going so far as using Raffi when Darian first turned him down, knowing Darian would have a reaction to the security specialist. From then on, his “favorite butler boy” was guaranteed his protection because, it turned out, our lovable Castellani psycho collects and protects his toys, a.k.a. people he’s fond of. And never lets them go.

    Julian is also a genius schemer, a shadow ninja, and a creative killer who lends a helping hand to key players when needed, lays clues here and there, and makes bold moves lesser men won’t dare make. All for the Family and revenge.

    My favorite part, however, is Alessandro. The man is now a stronger, wiser Don Castellani. So wise, in fact, that he mastered the art of plausible deniability and weaponized it. It was a damn clever move and so low-key, yet it made the Castellanis more powerful than before!

    The only thing missing is Teddy. Our boy only has a cameo so I need another Sandro/Teddy book, pleeeease!

    His Guilty Pleasure satisfied my curiosity about butlers and while the romance was lukewarm, the mafia politics was a powder keg about to explode. It’s one heck of a gripping twisty-turn-y story, stealthy in its attack, gleeful in its revenge, and pleasurable in its unfolding.

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

    Soundtrack: Pleasure
    Artist: Feist
    Album: Pleasure

    West Coast Mobsters has an ongoing suspense plot that runs through the all the installments so they should be read in order.

    Johnny Jacopo lost a hat and gained a boyfriend in His Lethal Desire.

    Alessandro Castellani looked for justice and found a teddy bear in His Brutal Heart .

    Julian Castellani went on the prowl and tamed a lion in His Fatal Love.

    Max Predretti uncovered a traitor and discovered a mafia prince in His Sinful Need.


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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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    REVIEW: His Sinful Need by Leighton Greene

    West Coast Mobsters: His Sinful Need by Leighton Greene

    Two men. Two Families. Too many secrets.When Castellani security specialist Max Pedretti is reluctantly loaned out to the Esposito Family, he’s thrust into close quarters with their youngest Capo, Bricker Soldano. The magnetic pull between them is undeniable, but Bricker is strictly off-limits, for multiple reasons.

    For one thing, he’s an Esposito.

    For another, he’s half Max’s age.

    But most of all, because Max shares a hidden criminal history with Bricker’s father—a secret that could shatter the tentative trust building between them.

    So Max vows to focus on the job instead, and finds his old skills as a bank robber are put to the test as he works with Bricker and his crew on a heist that could change the power dynamics in Los Angeles.

    But when a tragedy reveals a mole in their midst, Max and Bricker must investigate together to uncover the truth, blurring the lines of loyalty and desire.

    Can Max and Bricker uncover the traitor and find their way to love, or will past sins cost them everything?

    ***

    Each book in this series 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.


    Massimo Pedretti is a man who smells like aftershave and gunpowder. A good smell for a security specialist, according to the sharp-nosed Julian Castellani in Book 3, His Fatal Love. Next to his underboss, Jack Jacopo (His Lethal Desire), and his brother Julian, Max is the other person Don Alessandro Castellani (His Brutal Heart) depends on the most.

    His Sinful Need is Book 4 of West Coast Mobsters. Each  book features a West Coast Family, from the Castellanis, Bernardis, and now, the Espositos. This Family is unique in that they accept women in their ranks, and they rarely interact with other Families. 

    The head of the Espositos is the formidable Maestra Anna-Vittoria Esposito. She specifically requested Max to work with them, cashing in the favor Alessandro owed her. He is to join the team headed by Bricker Soldano, a young capo almost half his age.

    Half of Bricker’s team is experienced, and the other half green-as-grass rookies who can barely shoot. They are preparing for a bank heist, but most of their practice runs end in disasters, so Bricker was forced to admit there is a mole in their ranks. And whether he admit or not, he could use the help of a veteran in the field like Max. But can the Castellani be trusted?

    I’m not sure whether it is because I skipped the sex scenes since I am not a fan of age gap romance, but Max and Bricker’s book felt different than the rest of the books. Not necessarily a bad thing. It’s just there are less sex-related thoughts than the rest.

    Max’s internal dialogues are more about the missions and the angst over secrets from the past that might come back to bite him in the ass. There’s some worrying over his attraction, the age gap and Bricker’s connection to a ghost from the past.

    I loved Max! He oozes calm, confidence and dependability that jump off the page. This is also why his book feels less hectic and less violent than the rest. It’s like you know things will be okay because Max.

    With twenty-odd years in Castellani service, he is fiercely loyal and well-liked in the Family. It may have been a surprise that he was chosen, but still fitting because no one else would be a better envoy to the Esposito Family than Max.

    Bricker’s lusting after the older man, but it’s mixed with suspicions and worry over who to trust. As the youngest Esposito capo, he’s eager to prove himself and his team.

    I’m neutral about Bricker. There’s a lot of hot/cold treatment from him, but he’s a good leader who cares for his team like a family. I loved that he doesn’t do shortcuts when preparing his team for their missions, ensuring not just success but everyone’s safety as well.

    The plot weaves an age gap romance, trust issues, mafia politics, action, and several major and minor mysteries, some nothing more than a casual mention that you know will be pick up again in the future. The mole was easy to guess, and the romance wasn’t doing it for me, but I still loved this book.

    My favorite is the revelations regarding the Espositos, proving that the enigmatic Anna-Vittoria has a heart underneath the iron will. I loved how the WCM and Morelli Family world expanded, satisfying my curiosity that was piqued since mentions of how aloof, unique and mysterious the Espositos are from the previous books.

    Every Castellani cameo gave me life. Our boy Jack, always gregarious but deadly. Julian was particularly significant as the man is the dreaded bogeyman of the West Coast. I enjoyed seeing Sandro as the mighty Don Castellani from another person’s POV. I need another Sandro and Teddy book!!!

    HIs Sinful Need didn’t have the sizzling chemistry like the other WCM books, but it’s still a solid installment. The thrill is in the revelations of family dynamics, the twisty turn-y mafia politics, and the interactions of well-loved characters who rule the West Coast. All in all, steadily gripping, wholly likable, not that sinful, totally necessary.

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

    Soundtrack: Trust
    Artist: Half-Alive
    Album: Now, Not Yet

    P.S.

    West Coast Mobsters should be read in order. Last time, I realized the WCM books are retellings.

    His Lethal Desire is Cinderfella falling in love with a hitman. His Brutal Heart is Beauty and the Beast with a cyber twist. And His Fatal Love is Romeo and Julian, BDSM style.

    I can’t still figure out which retelling His Sinful Need is. Let me know if you know.


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