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    One Line Reviews Of Some Books I Read This Year (September – December 2022)

    This is a round up of the books I read on the 4rd quarter of this year that I’m too lazy to do a full review.

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    REVIEW: The Solnyshko Duet by Ashlyn Drewek

    I grabbed this series on a whim because I like the word ‘solnyshko.’ I was glad it was the weekend because I ended up reading until 5:00 AM. I finished the first book in one sitting. This duet is just sooo good.

    Now this might not be most people’s cup of tea. This comes with a list of warnings, from homophobia to graphic violence and PTSD. Things get nasty, even horrific, at some points. So please do head the TWs.

    Beyond all that darkness, this is a story of ‘two broken people who found each other,‘ according to the author’s notes. It all started with a kidnapping…


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    The Solnyshko Duet: The Kidnapping Of Roan Sinclair – Ashlyn Drewek

    Roan Sinclair’s life is perfect, just ask anyone. Set to graduate college and bound for grad school at Georgetown, Roan’s life has been all planned out for him. Except, he doesn’t want it. Dedicated to his music, he dreams of a life free from his parents’ expectations. Those dreams are gone the minute he’s kidnapped by a group of Russians, led by the tall, dark, and broody Sasha — a man ripped straight from Roan’s fantasies. Determined to make it out alive, Roan will do whatever is necessary to secure his freedom, even if that means seducing his captor.

    Aleksandr Vassiliev doesn’t care about anything except surviving in a merciless world. Known as the Wolf of Verkhoyansk, Sasha’s reputation for brutality is far-reaching and well-deserved. When a bank robbery goes wrong, he’ll do whatever he can to fix it — including kidnapping the bank owner’s son. Instead of complying like he should, Roan defies Sasha at every turn. Worst of all, he makes Sasha want things he can’t have, things that are a death sentence for men like him. Things like Roan Sinclair.

    Content warning: This book contains references to alcohol/drug use, sexual assault, graphic violence, self-harm, ethnic and homosexual slurs, and a lot of profanity. Reader discretion is advised.


    Roan Sinclair is a poor little rich boy trapped in a gilded cage. Music is his passion, but his banker dad blackmailed him to take a business major. He has one year to go before he leaves for business school.

    Aleksandr ‘Sacha’ Vassiliev is a feared, ruthless killer, not a bank robber and certainly not a kidnapper. But when a bank heist had gone wrong, a heist they didn’t fully understand why they had to do, he and his fellow bratva members were forced to change tactics. They kidnapped the banker’s son instead.

    It wasn’t the most ideal meeting, to say the least, but right from the get-go, Roan got under Sacha’s skin. Given his environment, the Russian is deeply in the closet. But he pinged Roan’s gaydar, and our boy used it to his advantage.

    One of the things I really loved about the books was the writing. There were no long paragraphs, and it’s very easy to read. The prose is straight to the point. Just 3-4 sentences per paragraph, yet they conveyed everything the reader needs to know. You feel the emotions jumping off the page. The graphic bits were written to show the nastiness without being gratuitous.

    Thawing the cold, dead heart of a man like Sacha is an impossible feat. Our boy Roan not only brought it back to life, but he became the center of Sacha’s universe. I was completely riveted to their journey, swept away by a tide of emotions. The story is devastating, painful, and, as mentioned, quite dark. But the lighter moments when they come is as heart-warming and bright as the proverbial solnyshko the duet is named after.

    It ends with a HFN but this is one of the best Stockholm Syndrome romances for me!

    Rating:
    5 Stars – absolutely perfect

    Soundtrack: Captivate You
    Artist: Marmozets
    Album: The Weird And Wonderful Marmozets


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    The Solnyshko Duet: The Vengeance Of Roan Sinclair – Ashlyn Drewek

    After a lifetime of death and suffering, Aleksandr Vassiliev finally has everything he could ever want — the most important being someone to share his future with. Somehow a spoiled American named Roan gave Sasha a reason to see life could be more. Except, that’s where the fairytale ends. He’s not surprised Roan hasn’t been the same since his attack, but with every day that passes, Sasha sees less and less of the boy he fell in love with. He would do anything to get his Solnyshko back, but old enemies from Sasha’s past might end up costing him everything, even Roan.

    Roan Sinclair used to have it all. Now? He’s a shell of his former self. No longer the rich, carefree college guy who brought a Russian criminal to his knees, all he’s trying to do is recover from an assault that nearly killed him. Roan knows he should be grateful to be alive… but he’s not. He’s humiliated. Ashamed. Most of all, he’s angry. He hasn’t forgotten the part his dad played in everything that happened and when he threatens Sasha’s freedom, Roan takes a page from the Russian’s playbook. Maybe vengeance will piece him back together. Maybe then Roan can move on and get to the happily ever after he so desperately wants with the Wolf of Verkhoyansk.

    Content warning: This book contains references to alcohol/smoking, ethnic and homosexual slurs, sexual assault, mental health issues including PTSD and depression, on-page torture, and a lot of profanity. Reader discretion is advised.


    The second book picks up on the aftermath of the very traumatic events of Book 1. Roan is not in a good place, and Sacha is at his wit’s end. He does everything he thinks would help Roan, but the younger man isn’t taking it well.

    Here we have the major presence of Misha, Sacha’s boss, who is also sort of a friend and Misha’s nephew, Ilya. Sacha hired the young man to be Roan’s bodyguard. The easy going man provided a normalcy in Roan’s life during these troubled times.

    Misha has intrigued me since Book 1. He offers Sacha advice on his Roan situation. Where Sacha is a grumpy mofo, Misha is all easy smiles. But make no mistake, they are both wolves. I am so thrilled the bratva boss is going to have his own book!

    I struggled for a bit in the first part because going through Sacha and Roan’s rocky patch wasn’t a pleasant experience. It was angsty and raw. Communication isn’t their strongest suit, and you can really feel how bad they were struggling. All of these is worth going through just to get to the part where Roan smiles and Sacha declares, his sun is back!

    And that’s when we get to the vengeance portion of the story. Roan wants revenge for what his father did, and a ghost from the past is out to get Sacha. I really enjoyed this arc because it felt happier and lighter despite the gruesome bratva business.

    Sacha and Roan evolved to become the power couple they were meant to be. The pace here was also smoother and faster, and there was more action. Characters from the author’s other series popped up, the very mysterious Leander and his flamboyant husband, Bennet. I must investigate these two.

    Both books go through suspenseful, brutal climaxes where the piper is paid in blood and gore. But this time, the ending is a solid and very satisfying HEA. It was such a sweet and uplifting conclusion that sensation of relief was very palpable. I couldn’t ask for a better one for Sasha and Roan! Sometimes all you need in life is a new lease and some sunshine.

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

    Soundtrack: Who Needs The Sunshine?
    Artist: The Heavy
    Album: Great Vengeance And Furious Fire


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    The Kidnapping Of Roan Sinclair :US | UK
    The Vengeance Of Roan Sinclair :US | UK

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    REVIEW: This Is Not Revenge by Romilly King

    NOTE: the author plagirized stories from fanfic writers. I’m retracting my review

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    This Is Not Revenge by Romilly King

    The new dark gay romance series from Romilly King – Author of the Delphic Agency and Handled Series.

    He’s never going to believe this is for his own good.

    It looks like revenge.

    I swear it’s not.

    There is zero motivation for me to revenge what he did to my Father.

    I’d rather kiss him for it.

    (No, don’t think like that)

    This is me doing the only thing I can to save him.

    I can’t take the thought of one more death on my hands.

    Too many people have lost everything so we can live.

    And there is such power in the enemy vanquished.

    He’ll understand, once I get through to him, once I explain it all, then we can be allies, or even friends.

    I think I would like that.

    It’s a shame I have to lock him up to do this.

    (He does look really good in my chains though)

    This Is Not Revenge is the first book in a new trilogy by gay romance author Romilly King. It features damaged characters, an unreliable narrator, and themes of dark, twisted love. The story arc will continue across all three books.

    Trigger warning – this is a dark gay romance book and includes graphic violence, sexual scenes and psychological manipulation between lovers. Additional trigger warnings inside.


    First of all, that blurb!

    I already knew I will love this even before I started. I just had that feeling.

    Romilly King set the bar high with her Handled series. I completely went gaga over Gray and Nathan. Well, here’s another psycho pair for us to love.

    GIL and LEO ♡!!!

    Sweet, caring, enchanting, equal parts worldly and innocent, quite delusional, very adept at killing, Gil is everything and more. He is a favored son of a serial killer. Raised in a cult, he completely believes his father’s delusions that they have magic. He kidnaps Leo to keep him safe from his father’s wrath. His father has a long reach and other sons at his beck and call who will go after Leo.

    Leo is a forensic psychologist who helped put Gil’s father in prison. He describes himself as a typical gay man, thought himself capable of withstanding the mental tortures of an abduction but learns surprising things about himself while being chained to the wall. He also learns surprising things about his captor.

    The psychological aspect of the book was really well-done. This is written in dual POV which worked perfectly with the plot. It had me questioning whether the book might actually be paranormal, especially in light of Gil’s firm conviction that he can use magic. And yes, it would really seem he does. But then you would get Leo’s POV and the reality would shift back to the mundane. It was a real mindfuck. I loved it.

    I also loved that one line at the first part that hinted this might be set in the Handled world. If so, would there be cameos? Please?

    The trigger warnings set my expectations for this to be very dark and disturbing. It’s actually kind of mild a.k.a. I wasn’t disturbed (but YMMV so do heed the TWs). But it is quite intense in many ways. It is this intensity as well as the complex and compelling characters, the fast-paced plot and the brilliant writing that made the book perfect for me.

    This Is Not Revenge is one of the best Stockholm Syndrome stories I have read. I loved how the author laid out Gil and Leo’s internal conflicts, how they got to know each other, how they slowly won each other’s trust. I relished the delicious anticipation building up to the point when things shifted between them. You can really FEEL that moment.

    It was such a tender and sweet romance. I think it’s absolutely wonderful that, Stockholm Syndrome or not, they were able to find a pure and beautiful emotional connection amidst all these fucked up circumstances. For me, it’s what stood out the most. Witness this heartwrenching scene where they had to fight against the evil father:

    “We have to stop this.”

    Gil looks at me, “We?”

    “Yes.” There is utter certainty in my voice. “We, always we, from now on, forever, we.”

    There is a desperate hope in his eyes. “But I’m mad.”

    “Me too, apparently it’s catching, and I don’t care.” I’m suddenly fierce, suddenly determined, begging him to believe me.

    I don’t suppose there was ever much doubt.

    This madman, I love him. I can’t help it, and I am going to do everything I can to fight for him

    I too caught the bug, apparently, because I’m crazy about these two madmen.

    P.S.

    This Is Not Revenge is book 1 of a trilogy. It ends with a cliffhanger.

    Rating:
    5 Stars – absolutely perfect

    Soundtrack: Safety
    Artist: Yoke Lore
    Album: Far Shore


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    SERIES REVIEW: Criminal Delights Books 6, 11 & 14

    On to my quest to partake everything the Criminal Delights series has to offer.

    This is is a review of three books from the series, By Way of Pain by J.M. Dabney, Beloved Possession by Leona Windwalker and To Have and To Hold by Abigail Kade.

    All three books have a BDSM theme wherein a captive was taken against his will, subjected to training, develops feeling for captor, gets taken again by worse elements and rescued by original captor turned love interest. With several variations on the Stockholm Syndrome, some pulled it off spectacularly, others a paler version of themselves.


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    Criminal Delights: Assassins: By Way of Pain – J.M. Dabney

    Double lives were just the way it was for a man like me. By day I was a man with a reputation above reproach. Even assassins needed backup plans. For fifteen years, life was going without a hitch until I had to take out a witness. When it was time to kill him, beautiful eyes filled with fear urged me to do something else. Yet, in order to do that, I had to break him, and by way of pain, my captive would experience pleasure he’d never dreamed.

    This book is part of CRIMINAL DELIGHTS. Each novel can be read as a standalone and contains a dark M/M romance.
    Warning: These books are for adult readers who enjoy stories where lines between right and wrong get blurry. High heat, twisted and tantalizing, these are not for the fainthearted.


    I read somewhere that assassins are really just serial killers for hire. That is basically Cowen.

    By day, he’s a successful defense attorney. At night, he takes jobs. And he doesn’t do it purely for the money. He’s a misanthrope who likes making people suffer. He has been killing people since he was a child. He said it himself that he doesn’t feel things the way normal people do. He doesn’t enjoy sex or even feel aroused . I was getting my hopes up that finally, we are going to get an asexual dom, but no. They had to have sex because that’s the way this series rolls.

    Cowen’s personal assistant is Harrison. Harrison has a bad crush on his enigmatic boss. He’s too shy to do anything about it.

    On day, while in the parking lot, Harrison witness a guy being attacked and then the attacker turned on him. The next thing he knew, he was held captive by a man wearing a mask. And forced to do humiliating and painful things.

    This book stands out for having MCs with diverse body types. Harrison is a plus size bear while Cowen was described as gaunt. Interestingly, it was Harrison who submits to Cowen’s dominance. Cowen could really be dominating. So dominating that you’d forget he’s really a skinny guy who had to wear lifts in his shoes to appear taller.

    By Way of Pain is high on the darkness spectrum. It was kept from becoming pitch black by the tender connection that blossomed between Cowen and Harrison. Harrison is oh so slowly, making Cowen feel things. And given the kind of person Cowen is, “I have no desire to kill you” is probably the only way he will say I love you.

    Cute!

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

    Soundtrack: Pain and Pleasure
    Artist: Divinyls
    Album: What A Life!


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    Criminal Delights: Organized Crime: Beloved Possession – Leona Windwalker

    Ishmael Lux.
    A name synonymous with wealth. The elite come to him- to stay in his hotels and to play in his club, both for business and for pleasure. He has a secret, though. It’s rather an open one, though believed by most to be rumour and speculation.

    Kristoffer Jones.
    A new hire of Triborr Property Management International, one of Lux’s many legitimate fronts. He was thrilled to be in London, straight on the heels of being informed he was being moved onto the management track. Some rumours are best left unconfirmed, as he discovers when he finds himself in the wrong place, at the wrong time.

    Ishmael saw it as an opportunity..
    As with all opportunities that will pay off handsomely, he takes it. Then, he locks Kris away. Kristoffer is his and he is never going to let him go.

    The kicker?
    Kris is rapidly becoming unsure if he wants to be free.

    *This book is written in UK English.


    Beloved Possession had, unfortunately, the most unconvincing transition from possession to beloved.

    It’s compounded by the fact the the lead characters were forgettable. I appreciated that Ishmael has successfully built a billion-dollar company and has a close circle of men that was very, very loyal to him. But he lacked the charm of other doms.

    Kris was so bland, I don’t see why Ishmael was so enamored with him other than he’s pretty and malleable. The only interesting point about Kris is that he’s half-Filipino. This is rare in MM especially as a lead character.

    I forced myself to slog through this story in the hopes that it would get better. I ended up skimming.

    I say pass on this.

    Rating:
    2 Stars – it’s a struggle to finish the damn book

    Soundtrack: My Possession
    Artist: Ministry
    Album: Twitch


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    Criminal Delights: Taken: To Have and To Hold – Abigail Kade

    My name is Worthington Winters, and I have a confession before I die. I know he’s a killer. I know one day he’ll even kill me, but I don’t care. Because I feel more free with my captor than I ever did with my husband.

    My husband courted me, seduced me, ensnared me, then subjugated me in my own home. He pushed and I would bend. Until, one day he pushed too far, and I pushed back. I escaped and thought I was free, but I was so wrong.

    Now, my Captor has me in his grasp. He’s supposed to squeeze me until I give him the information I took from my husband. I’ll never do it, so I know I’m destined to die. But, he’s beginning to see beyond my scars, my shriveled heart, and he’s forcing me to look, too.

    As he makes me look into the darkest depths of my soul, I finally find my truth, who I truly am and want to be. As strange as it may be, through the sweetest pain and most exquisite torture he inflicts, I’ll finally feel free.

    The truth may give me a new life I never existed. If I can survive.

    This book is part of CRIMINAL DELIGHTS. Each novel can be read as a standalone and contains a dark M/M romance.
    Warning: These books are for adult readers who enjoy stories where lines between right and wrong get blurry. High heat, twisted and tantalizing, these are not for the fainthearted.


    To Have and To Hold is a terrific combination of dark and cute.

    Worthy suffered abuse from his evil husband who frequently humiliated his desires as a masochist while hurting him without his consent. The husband also stole his money and his family’s company. Worthy was able to get his properties back and he ran away. The bastard then set an assassin on his tracks.

    Crow is an ethical assassin. By that, he only kills the guilty. He caught Worthy and had every intent to make him suffer. Until he learned the truth.

    That’s when things turn sweet and fluffy with the way Crow was taking care of Worthy. It’s pretty fucked up that a person who has been abuse likes pain and Worthy’s evil husband used that against him. Crow showed Worthy the way to pleasure and pain without the humiliation.

    I love Worthy! He crawled his way out of a hellish marriage and decided to wear things that only makes him happy. He has the best fashion sense. I would gladly wear one of his kawaii statement shirts with adorable animal prints.

    Crow was a teddy bear. The fierce, morally grey part of him had no qualms about killing or torture. But he was also willing to break a contract if the target was proven innocent. Even feeding and clothing said target when the man looked liked he needed some TLC. He dropped everything and rescued his boy when Worthy was taken the second time. Also bought him more kawaii clothes.

    Crow belongs to a group of ethical assassins, what I liked to call the Bird Boys because they use birds as code names. I’m not sure if there are other books about these boys but I would love to read all about them. Especially Os a.k.a. Osprey a.k.a Obediah who had some very questionable exes.

    This is my favorite out of the three.

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

    Soundtrack: Submission
    Artist: The Irrepressibles
    Album: Superheroes


    Two wins out of three is not so bad. I still have a few ways to go before I finished the entire series. Even with the mixed reviews, I think this series is worth the time.

    Wondering which Criminal Delights books to read and which ones to pass up? Check out the reviews here.