Claws by H. C. Brown

CLAWS
Claws by H. C. Brown
Publisher: Luminosity Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Short Story (80 pgs)
Other: M/M, Anal Play
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Mistletoe

Rohan Knight thinks all his birthdays have come at once when a sexy blond twink hits on him. He has searched for a delicious man like Cael all his life.

The problem is Nox, King of the Fae, sent Cael to discover who is using magyck unlawfully in the Nomag realm. When Cael finds Rohan is a rogue Pride shifter with ancient magyck, he must use all his powers of persuasion to lure him back to the safety of Other World.

Rohan has lived a normal life until Cael comes into his world. The Fae gives Rohan a new look on life. All that he knows has been thrown out the window. If all that Cael says is true Rohan will find a new and better life in another world that very few ever get to see. Can Rohan trust his feelings for Cael? Will the two men find what they are looking for or will fear drive them apart?

I enjoyed this visit to the world of the Fae and the Pride. Rohan finds a world full of new and exciting things. He longs to share his new life with the man who brought him to this world. If only Cael would trust him to know his own feelings. Rohan is a good and strong man who will fight for what he wants and what he truly wants is Cael. As Rohan explores his new world he also finds a way to win Cael’s trust. Soon their attraction becomes much more and love finds a way into their lives but Cael must learn to trust Rohan. I enjoyed watching their relationship take shape and turn into something more. The two make a wonderful couple and the love that they share shines through in everything that they do.

I found Rohan’s character to be an interesting twist to this story and series. He has been lost to the human world for so many years and is more powerful than many that we have seen before. I cannot wait to see where Rohan fits in both the world of the Fae and the Pride. I do hope that we get to see more of Rohan and Cael in future books.

Slaying Dragons by Sasha L. Miller

DRAGONs
Slaying Dragons by Sasha L. Miller
Publisher: Less Than Three Press
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Historical
Length: Short Story (95 pages)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Devi has about had it with mages. All she wants to do is her job, which is slaying the dragons and other beasts that plague the country. She doesn’t have time or energy to spare for coddling or pandering to the fussy mages she keeps getting stuck with as partners. Unfortunately, her last mage was also a noble with clout, and Devi has the feeling her days as a Combatant are numbered.

Instead of reprimand or termination however, she winds up with a new assignment and a new partner: Noeme, who is competent, friendly, distractingly attractive—and far too good to be true.

Constantly traveling for work-related reasons doesn’t leave a lot of time for a personal life. Is this about to change for Devi?

One of the things I enjoyed the most about reading this book was learning about the different types of dragons and what it takes to defeat them. The plot took the time to explain this part of Devi’s occupation in detail every time the pace slowed down enough to talk about topics other than what was happening in the moment. Her work is dangerous and unpredictable. Knowing so much about what she was trying to accomplish on her mission with Noeme only made me like both characters more.

There were a few minor pacing issues. Conflicts that I thought were going to carry on until the end were resolved much more quickly than I expected them to. Their solutions did make sense, but the transition from the old conflicts to what worried the characters later on was a little abrupt at times. With that being said, this is a minor criticism of an otherwise fun and engaging tale.

The narrator gave Noeme and Devi the opportunity to get to know each other before anything even remotely romantic began to occur. I liked seeing them interact as colleagues and friends first as it added an extra layer of meaning to later scenes. This was a smart decision. It really made me hope they’d end up together.

I’d recommend Slaying Dragons to fans of romance and historical fantasy stories alike. It blends both genres together beautifully!

August Mystery/Suspense Book of the Month Poll Winner ~ Shadows of Doubt by Mell Corcoran

TDOUBT
Shadows of Doubt by Mell Corcoran
Publisher: Mill City Publishing
Genre: Mystery/Suspense, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (427 pgs)
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Reviewed by Stephanotis

Voted BoM by LASR Readers 2013 copy

Humans sit comfortably at the summit of the food chain; rarely does any other animal get the advantage. But other people? Now there’s something to fear. In Mell Corcoran’s thrilling crime novel debut, Shadows of Doubt, women are being hunted, tortured, killed and their assailant leaves the same clue on each of them but it has no scientific explanation. Detective Lou Donovan must figure out this killer’s signature because he’s escalating and no one knows where he will strike next.

When the first victim appears in Shadows of Doubt, neither Lou nor her partner wants the case but it’s dropped in their laps. As soon as they make some progress, however, the case is taken from them and the explanation is weak at best. Lou won’t let go and tries to work below the radar but she’s foiled at every turn. It’s as if someone is watching her and knows her every move.

Shadows of Doubt is an exciting ride. It has everything a good crime book needs: a fiery detective with a blood hound’s sense, dark figures with dark pasts, twists, turns, and action. And then there’s the tall, gorgeous man. Lou and this mysterious stranger keep crossing paths and his presence disarms her. What she doesn’t know is that her effect on him is the same and therein lies the rub. If he can’t think straight, Lou will die.

READ THE FULL REVIEW HERE!

Rising Tide by Susan Roebuck

TIDE
Rising Tide by Susan Roebuck
Publisher: Mundania Press
Genre: Contemporary, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full Length (228 pages)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Orchid

Time, and most of Portugal, has almost forgotten Luminosa, a small fishing community on the Alentejo coast. A cluster of white and blue cottages huddle under the cliffs overshadowed by the great manor of Herdade Albatroz whose family has ruled the village since the days of Napoleon. Far off the tourist route, nobody visits Luminosa by chance.

When a ruthless American racketeer turns up, the peaceful village’s way of life could be ruined forever. But will other visitors–Piper Pines, seeking news of her long dead Portuguese mother, and Leo Shine, bereft of a father and brother accused of terrible crimes–help or hinder his objective to drag Luminosa into the twenty-first century?

Leo and Piper are two special people. One lives in Alaska, the other in Norfolk, England. Leo had been born with a cowl covering his body and he attributed this to his ability to sense storms at sea. Piper could see colours in the sea which defined what lurked beneath the waves, good or evil, food or danger.

Curiosity concerning their missing mothers draw them to a small village of Luminosa in Portugal. Leo is mistaken for an investor in a building proposal but Piper has suspicions he is not as he seems.

Leo and Piper are strong characters and their suspicions of one another can be amusing. Their abilities help the people of Luminosa in their quest to stop the ruination of their village. I felt empathy with all the characters (except for the baddies) and found it a warm and intriguing book which I enjoyed reading. It had highs and lows which kept me engaged with the story and mystery which meant my curiosity as to the outcome was kept alive at all times.

Although only a sweet romance, the tension between Leo and Piper was definitely the main draw of the story and I eagerly continued reading to see what the outcome would be. I would definitely read another book by this author.

Armored Hearts by Angela Knight

HEARTS
Armored Hearts by Angela Knight
Publisher: Changeling Press
Genre: Paranormal, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Short Story (94 pgs)
Other: BDSM, M/F, Anal Play, Anal Sex, Forced Seduction, Fetish, Toys, Spanking
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Voted BoM by LASR Readers 2013 copy

Captivity makes the heart grow kinkier…

When interstellar mercenary Captain Nick Rand rescues a beautiful enemy from his own men, he thinks she’s the answer to his vampire prayers. On the verge of starvation thanks to the destruction of his hemosynther, he’s in desperate need of a female blood donor.

Lieutenant Zara Tahir needs Nick Rand as badly as he needs her. Without Nick’s blood, Zara’s overactive immune system will kill her.

But Zara has no intention of embracing captivity. While she’s willing to exchange blood for blood, maybe even play a kinky game or two with the handsome vampire dominant, he’s still the enemy. She can’t allow herself to see him as anything more.

Then Rand’s enemies make things a lot more complicated…

I give high marks for the stunningly imaginative sex scene that Ms. Knight created in Armored Hearts. Because this is science fiction, the author was able to let her imagination run wild and what she came up with was sexy, titillating, exciting and completely unique. If I could have an experience like that just once, I’m pretty sure I’d probably end up speaking gibberish because the afterglow would be so overwhelming, if I could speak at all. The description was mind blowing. The story is really good but this scene is the brightest gem in the treasure chest.

Zara and Rand are on opposite sides of a conflict. The author created the sense of otherworldliness by word usage and references to objects that are common place to her characters but are pure science fiction fantasy and it was a lot of fun seeing what Ms. Knight came up with. Yet, the war that Zara is fighting in and the villains she’s fighting against parallel our own earthly struggles. It was easy to connect and relate to the heroine’s devotion to fight. Rand, on the other hand, isn’t on the villain’s side because he believes in the cause, but because he’s a paid fighter. He has a brain and a stronger moral fiber than the minions around him. As such, the hero comes to the decision that money isn’t everything. Sometimes a person has to take a stand against injustice and vicious tyranny but it becomes even easier when you have something beyond yourself to fight for. In this case, love. Tara’s ‘it’ for him, but they’re surrounded by the bad guys, so how is he going to get them both out alive? The hero has a plan. That was fun reading.

Except for a few missing word blips in the editing, this short story is flawless. Ms. Knight manages to give a reader a meaty plot, a noble cause, exciting shoot ‘em ups and examples of vampire fighting prowess. The author also gives erotic romance readers plenty of eroticism to enjoy and be entertained by, and they were placed within the story where they played a role in developing the relationship between Rand and Zara. Whenever I read a book written by Ms. Knight, I am always satisfied on so many levels. She gives her characters heart, she gives readers a reason to care, and love is always the greatest reward.

If a reader is seeking a short story that has the taste and feel of a full novel, but takes a fraction of the time to read and enjoy, then pick up a copy of Armored Hearts. It’s a sure pleaser.

H.A.L.F.: The Deep Beneath by Natalie Wright

LF
H.A.L.F.: The Deep Beneath by Natalie Wright
Publisher: Boadicea
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full Length (292 pgs)
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Aloe

H.A.L.F. 9 has taken his first breath of desert air and his first steps in the human world. Created to be a weapon, he proved too powerful for his makers and has lived a sedated life hidden from humans. But H.A.L.F. 9 has escaped the underground lab he called home, and the sedation has worn off. He has never been more alive. More powerful. Or more deadly.

Erika Holt longs to ride her motorcycle east until pavement meets shore. She bides her time until graduation when she’ll say adios to the trailer she shares with her alcoholic mother and memories of her dead father. But a typical night in the desert with friends thrusts Erika into a situation more dangerous than she ever imagined.

Circumstances push the two together, and each must make a fateful choice. Will Erika help H.A.L.F. 9 despite her “don’t get involved” rule? And will H.A.L.F. 9 let Erika live even though he was trained to kill?

The two may need to forget their rules and training and if either is to survive the dangers of the deep beneath them.

Be careful how far out in the desert you go. There are rattlesnakes, scorpions, cactus that shoots its needles, illegal aliens and worse. When the two boys and the girl go out to talk and drink some juice drinks, they only wanted to watch the stars. What happened was definitely on the worse side…

This story is about secret government projects, experiments, death, and the potential of war. At this point, it’s an imaginary war, but not in this scientist’s head. She’s preparing the ultimate weapon to fight aliens. After all, everyone knows about aliens and the crash in Roswell. What you don’t know is that she got some of their DNA.

Ms. Wright’s story maintains a good pace throughout the story. There’s extreme danger, odd encounters and an implacable enemy. When the kids are accosted in the desert, an odd being comes to their rescue. They are thankful, but they don’t trust him. And when the storm troopers show up, they don’t trust them either.

This is a new take on science fiction fantasies. This mad scientist is creating babies using the alien DNA and surrogate mothers. They raise the children without any emotion and try to bleed the human side dry.

The good characters are likeable; the bad ones are extremely ruthless. Yet, I still found myself drawn into the story and caring about them, even H.A.L.F. 9. He feels emotions but doesn’t know what to do with them. The teens are human and most likely be killed to keep them quiet. That doesn’t make you calm or well behaved. But when you’re isolated and can’t talk to your friends you can’t solve things very well either.

The ending was not what I expected and I’m not quite sure I liked it. However, this is the first book in the series and the author has set me up nicely with an interest in the next book. I bet that was her goal.

A King Undone by Cooper Davis

KING
A King Undone by Cooper Davis
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Historical
Length: Full Length (340 pages)
Other: M/M, anal sex
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Lilac

Sometimes you have to risk everything, to follow your heart

“Noble Pleasures, Book 1”

In a world where gentlemen openly court and marry fellow noblemen, the threat of scandal still lurks behind every velvet drape for kings and princes. Such has been the fate for King Arend Tollemach, forced to sacrifice his heart on the altar of regal duty.

Now that his wife is dead and his royal obligations are at an end, he s ready to take an unthinkable risk. King Arend seeks a concubine from Temple Sapphor, a secretive, gated world where he will finally shed his virginity as least as it pertains to making love to a man.

Julian never thought he d spend ten years on the temple shelf, passed over again and again. Just when he despairs of ever finding placement in a nobleman s bed, Arend walks into the temple. A lonely eyed, beautiful king who could easily steal his heart.

Arend discovers he has no problem opening his bed to the exquisite concubine. The problem lies in finding the key to his long-shuttered heart.

An inexperienced kind gets his first male concubine, and the sensuality and passion alone here could burn half the world to ashes. But when emotions enter into it….

We get both King Arend and concubine Julian’s POVs. Of the two, Arend is more interesting than Julian. Arend is a good king, though he’s been forced to follow his father’s orders and marry a woman to sire heirs. With his wife dead and his son of age, he’s finally free to act out some of his own desires and follow his own dreams. With Julian, Arend comes off as shy and vulnerable, exposed as inexperienced, and that gave an interesting character dynamic between the two men, as the man with all the power has the least experience. Still, Arend is not as strong as he could be as a man or as a king, letting almost everyone walk all over him and make decisions for him. With a father figure, that’s understandable; the rest, less so. Nonetheless, his progress was interesting to watch.

Julian’s a concubine, taught in the ways of sex and sensuality, but he’s never been chosen by any nobleman. He’s getting older, and knows he doesn’t have much time to find someone to be with. Despite his status as basically a sex slave, he’s a romantic, dreaming of a forever kind of love. When Arend chooses him, Julian is a bit more giddy than I expected from a sex slave. Sitll, he’s smart and sweet and cute as a button. What’s not to love? His eagerness is endearing, like a puppy jumping up and down when noticed and pampered. In fact, of the two men, he’s the stronger one, more inclined to fight for what he wants, which is Arend. While at first I wanted to know more about Arend, later I preferred to learn about Julian.

The banter between the two men attracted me to the story right off the bat. It’s witty, charming, smart, and simply fun to read. I was engaged and immersed into the fantasy world mostly through dialogue, which seems appropriate for the time frame, well written, and clever. I liked it the best, I think. Well, after the sensuality. However… much of the dialogue shows the two men speaking about their situations in life, but these are left hanging in the air at the end, as this is the first in a series.

The world around them is left a bit hazy but hinted at being harsh and brutal, with a couple of fantasy elements, again only hinted at. Yet there are intriguing aspects too, as men are allowed to marry men. Well, not royalty who are expected to breed children. Apparently this is the first story in a trilogy, so I imagine any remaining questions I had or you might have will be answered in the future. Be warned: This ends in a cliffhanger. Well, perhaps it’s better to say that a lot is left unclear and unresolved, the political situation especially. Enter at your own peril.

There was a problem, though. Since the set-up is a virgin king with an experienced concubine, I expected to be taught along the way. Yet Arend jumps right off the deep end, going for blowjobs and anal sex without much preamble, teaching, or patience. The insta-love kind of threw me considering the length of the book. I knew the connection would be passionate, but first times should include patience and be done slow. The practical lessons weren’t really there, so that sort of drew me out of the story, as it felt more like two experienced lovers coming together rather than a teacher with his virginal pupil. Sure, Arend has to psych himself up for the intimate scenes, but he still goes straight for the gold, so to speak.

Also, the one year contract between Arend and Julian is designed to be sex only, no emotions. Yet Arend breaks the rules immediately, publicly courting a man who is already his, taking him to parties and dinners, and so forth. It seemed like the contract was a mere formality, easily broken. Again, took me out of the story a bit. I thought the two men, one a virgin who has lost a love and the other passed off too many times, would be hesitant in baring their hearts. But both jumped right in.

Overall, I recommend this book to those who like Victorian historicals and beautiful M/M relationships that take time to mature, sensuality described and shown with lovely visuals and rather purple prose, and a delicious set-up that’s tantalizing enough to whet out appetites for the next book.

The Unfinished by Patrice Williams Marks

UNFINISHED
The Unfinished by Patrice Williams Marks
Publisher: Circa Publishing
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Short Story (24 pages)
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

In a future where the Unfinished (murdered) are brought back to life for only 72 hours to testify against their killers before being “put down” for eternity… an Unfinished is resurrected to what he believes is his one chance to point the finger at his accused killer.

He remembers the final details of his life; his boring job as a mattress salesman, the Dame he had high hopes for and the Mug who took his life.

Once brought back from the dead and taken to court, this Unfinished could never have imagined what was awaiting him.

Set in a world that is our future, giving homage to 1940’s detective noir stories, “The Unfinished” serves up a twist ending that will leave you wanting to follow his story to the end.

It’s never too late to seek justice.

The premise caught my attention immediately. The blurb did a good job luring me into this tale without giving away certain details about what happened after Donny was temporarily brought back to life. I was especially intrigued by what it would be like for someone who was murdered to be able to testify against the person who killed them. This idea alone was enough to convince me that I needed to give this book a try!

There were some pacing issues in the plot. Much more time was spent setting up the backstory and main conflict than was spent showing what happened to the main character after he woke up as an Unfinished. All of this exposition would have worked really well in a novella or full-length novel, but it didn’t translate as smoothly for the short story format. The narrative wrapped up just as I was really getting into it. This made the ending come across as jarring to me even though I had a pretty good idea of what was going to happen.

Donny’s character development was fascinating. His personality seeped into every scene. By the end of the first page, I felt like I’d met him in person because he was described in such vivid detail. At first I wasn’t sure what I thought of him because some of his quirks happened to be things that I don’t normally like in a protagonist. Seeing the world through his unique perspective soon changed my mind about that, though, because of how earnestly he approached life.

I’d recommend The Unfinished to anyone who is in the mood for something futuristic.

Valley of the Shadow by T.H. Gerety

VALLEY
Valley of the Shadow by T.H. Gerety
Publisher: Rogue Phoenix Press
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (88 pages)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 2.5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Avid naturalist, hunter and birder, Mr. Gerety has constructed a tale of two people who meet briefly then are reunited after death in a place and time other than the one they have always known. In this unfamiliar and pristine environment, his characters find each other, leaving behind their years of professional education and training as well as a lifetime of modern urban assumptions to assume lives of hunters, nomads, lovers and parents in a world emptied of all other people.

As Michael and Val are about to learn, surviving is easier than thriving.

The descriptions of the food made my mouth water. They were written so clearly that I could almost taste the simple, delicious meals that the characters made based on what they’d found to eat each day. These scenes were my favourite ones because they made me so hungry at times!

I was quite puzzled by Val and Michael’s reaction to their new surroundings. They both adjusted to it extremely quickly for reasons that I was never able to determine. This is the exact opposite of how I’d expect two ordinary adults to respond to waking up injured in the middle of the wilderness with no supplies and no way to signal for outside help. I would have also really liked to know why they both knew how to do things like knapping flint, tracking prey, curing animal hides, and figuring out which wild plants are safe to eat. These are all uncommon hobbies for the twenty-first century, so it was surprising to have two characters who were both so skilled at all of them.

The dialogue often made me smile. Val and Michael found ways to tease each other over small things. Writing them this way made their romance more relatable because those sections showed me how well these characters work together. It was also a lot of fun to see what kinds of things they’d come up with next to joke about.

Many words and phrases were repeated over and over again in this story. Sometimes several sentences in the same paragraph would all begin with the same word. At times this made it difficult to keep my place while I was reading because it was so easy to lose my place and accidentally return to a paragraph I’d already completed.

One of the things I liked the most about the ending was how well it blended in with everything that had happened before. While I would have preferred more concrete answers to certain questions I had about the characters and what had happened to them, I appreciated the fact that the narrative stayed true to the author’s style. This section repeated the same themes that had been introduced in the beginning, and that’s a good thing.

There was a great deal of telling instead of showing in this tale. The characters faced circumstances that should have brought a lot of tension and anticipation to the plot. It was difficult to immerse myself into those scenes, though, due to how much distance the narrator left between what was happening and how those events were communicated to the reader. It felt like I was hearing a second or third-hand account of these sections instead of imagining them for myself.

This was a huge surprise for me because I was so enamoured with the blurb when I first stumbled across it. I’m a lifelong fan of books set among hunter-gatherers and other groups who live off of the land. The idea of two contemporary characters ending up in this kind of lifestyle made me feel even more excited to give it a try. This is the kind of premise that snags my attention immediately. The idea of trading all of today’s technology and luxuries for a chance to spend the rest of one’s life sleeping under an unpolluted sky is so fascinating.

I’d recommend Valley of the Shadow to anyone who is really interested in stories about living off the land.

Heart of Ice by Sibelle Stone

ICE
Heart of Ice by Sibelle Stone
Publisher: Books to Go Now
Genre: Historical, Paranormal, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full Length (213 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Poinsettia

Will their passion for each other be a blessing, or fulfill an ancient curse and destroy them?

Lucinda Stafford is uniquely unqualified to serve as governess for the children of a handsome inventor. But, she’s determined to prove to her family she’s not a fragile, pampered heiress who can’t take care of herself. She didn’t plan to be attracted to the man who makes her furious one moment and whimper with desire the next. When danger threatens, can she save two innocent children from a terrifying nightmare?

Grayson Thorne has only weeks to prove his geothermal plant can generate electricity, or he’ll lose much needed funding. He’s desperate to hire a new governess, but shocked when his housekeeper returns home with a beautiful, educated female who awakens long dormant desires. She’s the perfect choice, if he can manage to keep his hunger for her kisses and fantasies of taking her to his bed under control.

An ancient Icelandic curse hides in the hills, haunting the residents of Thornehús. Grayson and Lucinda may be swept away by passion, but they must face an unspeakable horror that threatens them all.

A temporary position as a governess has left Lucinda with permanent attachments.

Lucinda is a smart, outspoken young woman. Unfortunately these are not qualities that are appreciated by the other members of society. However, Lucinda just can’t imagine herself in the role of a subservient, silent wife. When presented with the opportunity for a taste of independence, Lucinda happily accepts a position as a governess. For someone with no experience with children, Lucinda sure is a natural. I love how caring and patient she is right from the start. She never treats the children like an obligation as past governesses have. Instead, she treats them with respect and gentleness. Her warmth and genuine affection wins the children over almost instantly.

Even though the children take an immediate liking to Lucinda, Grayson has a much harder time accepting Lucinda into his life. While Lucinda and Grayson are physically attracted to each other, their personalities clash frequently. The majority of their exchanges are antagonistic, and while it was entertaining to watch them irritate each other, I found myself wishing they had more positive interactions. Privately they admire, respect and even develop affection for each other. I just with this had been more clearly demonstrated in their actions rather than just their thoughts.

Heart of Ice is mainly a Gothic romance, but there are elements of steampunk present. I must admit that the parts of the tale that dealt with technology did jolt me out of the story a bit, but not enough to ruin my enjoyment.

I was expecting the paranormal element to be a larger part of the story. The curse alluded to in the blurb loomed in the background for nearly the entire book and only became a frightening force at the very end. Even then, it was wrapped up much too quickly. There is very little explanation given on what exactly was going on and why Grayson and his family were being targeted. Despite this issue, the climax of the story is chilling and does come to a satisfying conclusion.

Heart of Ice is certainly an enjoyable read. I recommend it to anyone who enjoys historical romance with just a dash of the paranormal mixed in.