Tuesday, July 22, 2014

MARK OF CAIN by Kate Sherwood

Publisher:                         Samhain Publishing
Published:                         May 20, 2014
ISBN:                               978 1 61922 021 8
Genre:                             Contemporary Romance, M/M
Book Format:                    E-book
Obtained via:                    Publisher
Reviewed by:                    Helena Stone, helenastone63@gmail.com

Rating:                            5

“When a man is consumed by hatred, is there anything left to love?
When Anglican priest Mark Webber sees the man who killed his younger brother three years ago, having fun in a local bar with his friends and apparently back to his old ways, he calls the police and reports him.
Lucas Cain has spent the last three years in prison after he killed a man in a fight he can barely remember. He wants to create a sober and peaceful life for himself and has no intention of breaking his parole conditions. When the cops pull him over after he leaves the bar his breathalyzer results are clean. If he wants to stay out of trouble, he’ll have to create a distance between himself and his old friends though, so he moves into an Anglican half-way house.
When both Mark and Lucas get involved with Alex, a gay teenager coming to terms with his sexuality, they have to find a way of working together. As they get to know each other hate turns into feelings of friendship and, eventually, attraction. But with Mark’s church, Lucas’ old friends, homophobic townsfolk and Mark’s mother all against them the men will have to be strong and determined if they want to beat the odds.

I wasn’t sure how much I was going to like the book. While the blurb sounded intriguing I also feared I might be in for a predictable and possibly slightly frustrating read.

Well, colour me surprised. Not because the story turned out to be completely different from what I expected, it wasn’t. No, I’m happily surprised because there was nothing frustrating about this book. The story didn’t contain any forced or protracted drama. With a story- line as described above this was always going to be an angsty book, and they have a habit of upsetting me. It was wonderful to read a book in which the angst made perfect sense and was portrayed realistically. There is a lot of it and yet it doesn’t feel as if that’s the central theme of the book. The angst is part of a much larger story; it didn’t take over or dominate the narrative

This story and the relationships between the characters develop organically. There are no ‘magical’ moments, no instant conversions or other miracles. Not every issue is resolved when the book ends. This realism made The ‘Mark of Cain’ a near perfect book for me. In most romance novels I read there will be at least one character I want to slap because of their stupidity or refusal to communicate. I loved the honesty and openness between Mark and Lucas. It is great to follow two characters who actually listen to each other.

Of the three main characters I was most impressed with Lucas. He’s made a terrible and fatal mistake in the past and is trying to keep himself going from day to day. He’s not looking for forgiveness because he doesn’t think he deserves it. He wants to be a better man but doesn’t think it will ever make up for the wrong he did in the past. He is matter of fact about the situation he finds himself in and never allows himself the luxury of self-pity. He never sees himself as a martyr, which means the reader doesn’t have to see him that way either.

“Nah. I deserve what I get.” Lucas

It took me a bit longer to fall for Mark and I’m not entirely sure why. There were moments when I adored him. I loved the words he uses when he talks to Alex about being gay, because it’s such a wonderful way of talking to a confused 16 year old.

“I walk, I sit, I wake, I sleep. All gay, all day” – Mark to Alex

Maybe it took me longer to like Mark because I fell for Lucas straight away and he didn’t. And while his reasons for thoroughly disliking Lucas were better than good, I still wanted him to see what I saw in Lucas. As soon as he did start to see it, my reservations about him were gone. I also thought the process Mark goes through when it comes to his faith and the Anglican Church were well worked out and convincing.

The idea of the two men bonding over Alex - a sixteen year old boy struggling with his homosexuality and his homophobic father - and their need to help him was inspired. Alex infatuation with Lucas was adorable and the way Lucas and Mark dealt with it was sensitive as well as realistic.

I could say a whole lot more about this book. I fell in love with it and I tend to get carried away when that happens. So I’ll force myself to stop now. I just want to say that if you happen to be looking for a wonderful romance centred around two men you can’t help but fall for, you need to pick up this book. It is well written and immaculately plotted. You will find a smooth read with sparkling dialogue. If you enjoy a few smiles and chuckles with your angst, this is the book for you. If you want your next book to introduce you to two characters you may not want to say goodbye to, you could do a lot worse than pick up ‘The Mark of Cain.’

“We’re nothing like Romeo and Juliet, he said. Cause we’re going to make it.” - Lucas

This is an objective review and not an endorsement of this book.


SLAVE by Marcy Jacks
Publisher: Siren Publishing, Inc.
Date published: February 2014
ISBN: 978-1-62741-384-8
Paranormal Erotic Romance
Reviewed by Gabrielle
Obtained via publisher

Rating: 4 Hearts

When Theo goes with his alpha to protect another’s mate he never thought his life would end like this. He has been captured and sold so many times over he has lost track and has lost his will to fight. This time he is sold to a vampire who uses and abuses werewolves in the arena.  He must watch as two alphas are given the chance to win the right to mate with him. Theo cannot believe that his life has come to this but one alpha calls to him like no other and the two find that they will have to learn to trust each other and one may have to risk his life to help the other be free.

It seems that each couple’s story gets more intense as this series goes on. This story is so full of emotions and will pull on your heartstrings at times. Theo is at his wits end and finds something to hold on to in Lucius even if it is only for a short time. Lucius has survived for a long time as a slave fighting in the arena for the vampires whims, he has loved and lost and vows to never love again but Theo turns his world upside down and smashes through his walls without even trying. These two have become my favorite couple in this series. The pain that they endure is heart breaking and to see the trust and love that they find is a wonderful read.

Marcy Jacks keeps this series fast paced and entertaining with each new book and this one does not disappoint. Lucius and Theo’s story shows us that love is hard to find and when you least expect it love will find you.

This is an objective review and not an endorsement of this book.

Monday, July 21, 2014

CROSS & CROWN by Abigail Roux

Publisher:               Riptide Publishing            
Published:               June 9, 2014
ISBN:                     978 1 62649 132 8
Genre:                   Mystery, Romance, M/M
Book Format:          E-book
Obtained via:          Publisher
Reviewed by:          Helena Stone, helenastone63@gmail.com

Rating:                   5

This is the second Sidewinder story.

The crime couldn’t have come at a worse time. With his boyfriend and former Recon Teammate Kelly Abbott about to join him in Boston, the last thing Nick O’Flaherty needs is a crime to investigate. For a short while he’s under the illusion that things are going to be fine; there’s a surviving witness to the crime. When Nick discovers the man suffers from amnesia and doesn’t even remember his own name, never mind the crime, Nick knows he should just have applied for vacation time.

Almost immediately Nick’s hands are more than a little bit full. Getting Kelly to assist him on the case means they at least get to spend time together, but that time is fraught with danger.
The witness is being followed by Julian Cross, a retired CIA hitman who seems to have his own reasons for wanting to get his hands on ‘JD’ as Nick has decided to call him. To complicate matters further, JD appears very attracted to Nick and Nick finds it hard to ignore that attraction.

It soon becomes clear that the roots of their mystery lie in the past. And they’re not the only ones looking for answers. After several attempts on their lives Nick is forced to turn to old enemies for support and answers.

This is going to be a completely spoiler free review. Apart from the three paragraphs above I won’t be saying anything else about the story-line. Trust me, you want to read this book with as little prior knowledge as possible.

I have quite a few things I want to and can say though. Let me start by stating that I loved the story and find myself getting more attached to Nick and Kelly with every book they feature in. In fact one of the things I liked best about this book was the opportunity to get a better insight into these two men and the way they are together. Much as I adore Ty and Zane, I relished this time with Nick and Kelly. I am grateful that these two and the relationship between them, are very different from Ty and Zane. Nick and Kelly have known each other for years, have faced death and trauma together. This gives their relatively new relationship a depth most couples would only achieve after years together.

The mystery in this book was fascinating and well plotted. I was intrigued from the very first page and held my breath as the story unfolded and secrets were revealed.

History plays a huge part in the mystery in this book and I was fascinated by it all. It is clear the author has a deep love and endless amounts of respect for historical fact. Her depth of knowledge (or research) gives this story the ‘this might actually be true’ quality that always gives books added value for me.

As I’ve come to expect, there is an endless amount of humour in ‘Cross & Crown. My husband gave me numerous quizzical stares when I burst out laughing while reading. When Abigail Roux writes dialogue I can hear the characters voices and imagine their facial expressions even when they’re not described.

“No ID, no memory, shot in the head in the middle of a gunfight outside a robbery of a used bookstore. What. The. Fuck.” – Nick

The banter between Kelly and Nick had me smiling and laughing on numerous occasions.

“Romantic, but are you sure this isn’t just a history nerdgasm you’re having right now?” – Kelly

While the depth of their feelings for each other was swoon-worthy.

“I love you (...). Has nothing to do with the circumstances, or our history, or how close to death we’ve come together. I would love you in any incarnation of yourself.” – Nick

My final quote is from Julian Cross. I’ve come to like this enigmatic man more with each subsequent book he appeared in and enjoyed encountering him again here, even if he was more of a secondary character in this story. His calm in the face of pending disaster and his wry sense of humour never fail to impress me while a glimpse of his more vulnerable side made him that much more relatable.

“If you would let me finish before you get your knickers in a twist, this would be easier.” – Julian Cross

This really is all I can say about this book without spoiling the story. I could easily have turned this review into a love fest featuring lots of detail. For the sake of those who haven’t read the book yet I won’t. Some books are best read without any prior knowledge. I’ll just end this post by saying that I can’t wait to see where Abigail Roux will take the story and her characters next. Needless to say, where ever that may be, I’ll be close on her heals.

This is an objective review and not an endorsement of this book.

Naughty Bits (Part IV) The Highest Bid by Joey W. Hill

Publisher: Penguin
Date published: Jul 15 2014
ISBN: 9780698135994
Contemporary Erotic romance
Reviewed by Gabrielle

Rating: 4.5 Hearts

I am truly enjoying each new addition to this great series. Each new book endears the characters to this reader more and more. In this latest novella Logan brings Madison’s deepest fantasy to life. While Madison falls deeper into her fantasy she begins to realize her true feelings for Logan more and more. Will Madison finally let herself be happy and grab for the love that she has always wanted or is she still too fearful of failing once again in her relationships?

I am enjoying watching Madison grow in each new part of this series.  She is finally beginning to let go and enjoy herself. Her love for Logan is strong but she must let go of her past so that she can look towards her future with Logan.  He loves Madison with all his heart and has proven that he will always be there waiting for her. He is a good man and has proven that his love is true and he wants to do everything in his power to keep Madison happy and to show her that she truly is loved. The interaction between these two is not only hot but we get to see their relationship grow stronger with each book. The two make a great couple. Their love is strong and pure. Watching Logan and Madison bond makes for a wonderful read.

I also enjoyed visiting with many of the other characters in this book. From Troy and Shale to the Clarence we are getting small looks into each of their personalities; bringing this world to life even more. Pulling me into this story and grabbing my attention and keeping me eagerly waiting for the next installment in this series.

This is an objective review and not an endorsement of this book.