Soft Heart by Megan Slayer

Soft Heart by Megan Slayer
Publisher: Evernight Publishing
Genre: Paranormal, Erotic Romance, Contemporary, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Dicentra

Can two broken souls be repaired with a lot of love and a little power from the gods?

Leto, the goddess of motherhood and womanly demure, wants to be anything but bashful. Working in Las Vegas in the music business has proven she can’t be coy if she has desires, but the man she loves isn’t available. What’s a goddess to do? Help break a curse, that’s what.

Tommy has loved Leto since the day they met, but he never thought she’d want to be with him. He’s also got a girlfriend. When his girlfriend leaves him for his brother and curses him, it’s up to Leto and Tommy to admit their deepest desires—they want to be together.

There’s just the matter of breaking that pesky curse…

Megan Slayer’s Soft Heart sizzles with chemistry and passion. A cross between a second chance romance and a fated mates story, there’s always something that has been in the way of Tommy and Leto being together and finding true happiness. The stars have finally aligned though, and one last obstacle remains. It’s more than just a pesky curse though…

As a fan of Greek mythology, I appreciated the focus on Leto (who is an underappreciated figure in my opinion). I liked how Ms. Slayer incorporated her children (the archer twins Apollo and Artemis), and the dynamic between Leto, Zeus, and Hera (like many things in Greek mythology, it is super complicated and dramatic). Zeus was still a jerk in this book, which is very on-brand for him (I don’t think a book where he’s a redeemable figure would read as realistic). Leto deserves a happily ever after ending, and I’m so happy that Ms. Slayer gave her one.

The chemistry between Tommy and Leto is off the charts. They never actually thought they could be together, but when Tommy’s girlfriend leaves him there’s suddenly a chance. Their relationship goes from zero to sixty very quickly, but I didn’t have any issues with that. Ms. Slayer establishes that they’ve known each other for a while and that the “celestial mates” aspect plays a role. Large amounts of on-page relationship establishment weren’t necessary for a story of this length.

Overall, a very enjoyable and quick paranormal erotic romance read (with some elements of fantasy thrown in). Readers who enjoy the genre(s) and think they might like a story influenced by Greek mythology should pick up Soft Heart. I enjoyed the book and will happily read other books by Ms. Slayer in the future.

Chaos Looming by H.B. Reneau

Chaos Looming by H.B. Reneau
Publisher: Vesalian Publishing
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Young Adult (14 – 18 y.o.)
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Dicentra

Build more than you break. Heal more than you destroy.

But what if chaos can’t be tamed?

For centuries, the Legion of Pneumos has lurked behind the seat of power in Loren. To preserve order across worlds, they are charged with battling chaos in all its forms, no matter the cost.

Keira Altman, the newest Legionnaire, has spent years perfecting the art of wielding pneuma and channeling order out of chaos. Ripped from her own world and into one she barely understands, the only thing Keira knows for certain is that she has a purpose. Now, if only she knew what it was.

Yet when word arrives that the Regio lies on his deathbed, Keira’s new world begins to crumble around her. As the specter of a peasant uprising looms large, and political maneuvering threatens to unravel the fabric of society, Keira realizes that her only hope of avoiding the coming turmoil may lie in the very institutions she’s fought so hard against. But can she master the forces of chaos without losing herself to the chaos within? And what if the price of order proves too high to pay?

How do you define chaos and order? If you, like me, have no set definition for that, you’re in luck. H.B. Reneau explores those ideas and what they mean in the new series starter Chaos Looming. The first book in the Legion of Pneumos series is an action-packed whirlwind of a fantasy adventure sure to excite readers and leave them on the edge of their seats.

Great worldbuilding is a must for me to enjoy a fantasy read. Action is a must too. This book has both. In addition to the actual building of the world (setting up what a world looks like, how things work, etc.), there’s also the magic system, religions, and the dynamics of how people in the world interact. I really enjoyed the magic system for this book, and there is a lot happening on the political side of things which is exciting. The actual action does take a bit to build up, but once it does it feels like you’re on a roller coaster. Slower on the front end, but once it takes off you can’t help but sit back and enjoy the ride. Admittedly, I picked this book up and put it down multiple times but I’m glad I persevered and finished the read.

The characters were where I struggled the most in this book, and why I was unable to give the book a full five stars. I never really connected to Keira (which is an issue when she’s the main character). I was more concerned by what was happening than who was involved, if that makes sense. A lot of Keira’s backstory felt like it was missing, and after some research, I’m wondering if some of that might have been provided in the prequel to Chaos Looming, The Cantor.

For those who are curious about the audience level, I would categorize it as a young adult novel. There is some mild cursing in the book, minimal romantic content (I noted one kiss), and a lot of action (the violence and gore level is towards the higher side).

Altogether, Chaos Looming is an exciting, action-packed young adult fantasy with great world-building. I would recommend it to readers who enjoy epic fantasy tales.

Set Fire to the Gods by Sara Raasch and Kristen Simmons

Set Fire to the Gods by Sara Raasch and Kristen Simmons
Publisher: Balzer and Bray
Genre: Romance, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Young Adult (14 – 18 y.o.)
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Dicentra

Ash is descended from a long line of gladiators, and she knows the brutal nature of war firsthand. But after her mother dies in an arena, she vows to avenge her by overthrowing her fire god, whose temper has stripped her country of its resources.

Madoc grew up fighting on the streets to pay his family’s taxes. But he hides a dangerous secret: he doesn’t have the earth god’s powers like his opponents. His elemental gift is something else—something that hasn’t been seen in centuries.

When an attempted revenge plot goes dangerously wrong, Ash inadvertently throws the fire and earth gods into a conflict that can only be settled by deadly, lavish gladiator games, throwing Madoc in Ash’s path. She realizes that his powers are the weapon her rebellion needs—but Madoc won’t jeopardize his family, regardless of how intrigued he is by the beautiful warrior.

But when the gods force Madoc’s hand, he and Ash uncover an ancient war that will threaten more than one immortal—it will unravel the world.

After reading the words Avatar-The Last Airbender meets Gladiator in the blurb, there was no way I couldn’t read this book. I went in with very high expectations, and I’m very happy to report that the authors exceeded them.

Set Fire to the Gods by Sara Raasch and Kristen Simmons is told from dual points of view, and the two narrators couldn’t have come from more different backgrounds. Ash is the last in a long line of famed gladiators, and no stranger to using her elemental fire. She understands her responsibilities but finds no joy in the arena. Madoc, on the other hand, has no elemental gift but has still managed to make a name for himself in street fights (earning money to feed his family). When circumstances force them together, they end up setting a chain of events into motion that will change their world forever.

I’m a big fan of mythology, and I practically squealed when I learned this book features its own unique pantheon. The interactions between these gods reminded me a lot of how the Greek and Roman gods brought mortals into the middle of their disputes. I’m at the point where it’s very hard for an author to surprise me with a story based on classical mythology (because I’ve read so much), but I enjoyed how the authors of this book were able to keep me on the edge of my seat and throw in a lot of unexpected twists. The dynamics of how each of the elemental gifts work was also a highlight.

While the book is compared to Avatar The Last Airbender and Gladiator, I was also reminded of The Hunger Games. Citizens are forced to fight for the pleasure of those in power, and while winning gladiators are promised a life of comfort, they never really earn true freedom (similar to the Victors of Panem). Fights are slightly fairer in this book though, as gladiators are not children and they do receive training before they are forced to compete in the arena.

Please note, this book does feature the on-page death of a parent. While in some books you could skip over the triggering event, that isn’t really possible as it occurs towards the beginning of the story and is referenced multiple times in subsequent chapters.

I’m eager to learn how this story ends in the sequel, Rise Up From the Embers. Readers can expect action-packed fight scenes, an exciting magic system, and off-the-charts world-building when they pick up this book. I would happily recommend it to fantasy readers at the young adult level and above.

Bite Me for Christmas by Megan Slayer

Bite Me for Christmas by Megan Slayer
Publisher: Changeling Press
Genre: Erotic Romance, Holiday, Paranormal, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Dicentra

Rachael isn’t good at magic, and she’s not versed in life, but this witch wants to lay her hands on the sexy vampire who’s come to her in her dreams. She wants just one thing for Christmas wish — her vampire.

Gavin wants the witch in his dreams, but he doesn’t believe he’s worthy of her. Part of him wants to devour her magic and save himself, but what if being saved doesn’t involve dying?

Anything is possible with a little Christmas magic.

Sometimes Santa works his Christmas magic and delivers more than what you ask for…

Rachel isn’t the best or the brightest witch, but she does her best. Her days are dull, but her nightly dreams are filled with the gorgeous vampire Gavin. When she decides to change things for herself, she puts her Christmas wish out into the universe and requests that Santa bring her vampire lover to her. Gavin, as a vampire, longs to be free of the constraints of his nature. He does have feelings for Rachel, but he doesn’t feel like he has anything to offer her. After Rachel’s Christmas wish ends up bringing the lovers together, will everything work out for them in the end?

There isn’t a lot of worldbuilding in this story, but I don’t think it was necessary. The story is set in a very recognizable version of our world. Additionally, the characters and their emotions were quite impactful – I was rooting for Rachel from the very first line of the story. I loved how Ms. Slayer balanced the erotic scenes with the emotional scenes. Gavin was super charming, and there were many moments where he caused me to swoon. Cue the heart eyes!

The ending of the book is by far one of my favorite parts of the story. Ms. Slayer tied everything up in a bow nicely! Overall, Bite Me for Christmas was a delightful paranormal/urban fantasy holiday short story. If a reader is in search of a quick, entertaining, and spicy read complete with happily ever after this book delivers.

The Tethered Goat by Mikala Ash

The Tethered Goat by Mikala Ash
Elizabeth Hunter-Payne Steampunk Adventures, 7
Publisher: Changeling Press
Genre: Erotic Romance, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Dicentra

Hell-bent on revenge for the death of her husband, Elizabeth takes the initiative and sets a daring trap for Vladimir, the Russian spy she suspects of the deed. Meanwhile, Peter Smythe, a handsome and dedicated correspondent, is investigating the disappearances of street people in the docklands of London.

The discovery of a horribly mutilated body of one of the victims reminds Elizabeth of the horrendous acts perpetrated by the Whitechapel murderer known as the Collector. Elizabeth slew that monster, itself a creature of Vladimir, and she fears this is a new apprentice.

Sparks fly when Peter and Elizabeth come together, and they set off on a roller-coaster adventure in a fogbound steam-driven world. When the hunted becomes the hunter, Elizabeth is the bait!

When does the hunter become the hunted? Imagine setting a trap for a vicious beast, but you end up being the one trapped instead. Mikala Ash takes readers into their 1800’s steampunk version of London where our daring heroine might have bitten off more than she can chew.

I loved Elizabeth’s character. An intelligent, beautiful, bad-ass woman who can take care of herself? I am all here for that! She’s not always one to take other’s feelings into account, but I feel like that’s part of her character arc and something she has room to fix. Ms. Ash had me invested in Elizabeth’s journey when Elizabeth allowed herself to be vulnerable and talk about how she’s still affected by the death of her husband. That moment gave her a lot of depth in my eyes.

While you can technically read this as a standalone, readers may miss out on some of the backstory and character dynamics. For example, I felt like I was missing something in the relationship between Elizabeth and Marianne. Despite missing some small details and nuances because of this, I didn’t have any issues understanding the mystery aspect and the overall story arc.

The erotic romance factor was not as obvious. Yes, there were some erotic scenes but there was no romancing (which is disappointing). Erotic scenes lose a lot of their excitement for me when there’s no connection (or when the connection is not believable). A meeting of the brains? Love at first sight? Plain and simple lust a character needed to work out? Anything works! Just give me something I can believe in to establish why characters are getting in bed with each other. Unfortunately, the story failed to deliver a meaningful romantic connection. If it had, I would have been able to give it a higher rating.

Overall, The Tethered Goat is a quick and enjoyable adventure-filled tale. I would recommend this book to readers who might enjoy a steampunk, female driven mystery that’s similar in style to Sherlock Holmes (with minimal elements of erotic romance).

Hansel & Gretel: To Have and to Hold by Rose Wulf

Hansel & Gretel: To Have and to Hold by Rose Wulf
Publisher: Evernight Publishing
Genre: Erotic Romance, Paranormal, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Star Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Dicentra

For nearly two hundred years, the Hansel and Gretel Academy has trained young adults to fight and protect the rest of humanity from the magical threats of the land.

After a decade of partnership, the Hansel and Gretel team of Katz and Chessa are going strong. They’ve never met a monster they couldn’t kill. When Chessa’s twin brother, Declan, finally writes her back after numerous months of one-sided correspondence, it’s with barely a note of acknowledgment. So Katz makes a surprise decision, bucking the tradition which insists upon keeping distance between different teams. He vows to Chessa they’ll track her brother down, just so she can have a face-to-face conversation with him.

As their journey begins, unbeknownst to them, they set off the first part of an ancient prophecy threatening the destruction of the very establishment that supports them….

Before they can learn about that, they have to survive some dangerous situations unlike anything they’ve encountered before. And when one momentary lapse forces Katz to reveal a dark, intimate secret he’s kept from Chessa for years … Chessa offers him an ultimatum. He can have her body, or he can pursue random strangers from whatever village they land in when he’s in the mood. But he can’t do both.

It’s a no-brainer for Katz, but will Chessa understand what their changing relationship really means? Or will her insecurities get the better of her, and ruin their blossoming romance?

Rose Wulf’s Hansel and Gretel: To Have and To Hold is not some tale of two naïve children wandering through the forest. Instead, the author takes readers into a world where hunting pairs train at the prestigious Hansel and Gretel Academy. Graduates are then sent out into the world to deal with all sorts of foul creatures, constantly moving from job to job. For one Hansel and Gretel pair, will their feelings for each other get in the way of stopping an ancient prophecy?

Katz and Chessa, who go by Hansel and Gretel when on a job–as tradition demands, have been a hunting pair for over 10 years. Chessa is great at being diplomatic and dealing with the townspeople who request their aid. On the other hand, Katz is a total hothead which makes him seem prickly. This trait serves him well – the monsters, not so much.

I love a book where the love interests are friends first before they end up in bed together. The tension and romance between Katz and Chessa have been developing for years by the time we meet them in the book. When they finally stopped resisting and allowed their relationship to develop into more, it was palpable and hot. Ms. Wulf left me hooked and wanting more – I couldn’t stop reading until she delivered all the spiciness she had been teasing readers with. I am happy to report those scenes were worth the wait once they arrived.

Fairytale retellings can be hit or miss. An author should use enough of the original story so it’s recognizable but put their own spin on it such that it doesn’t feel stale or repetitive. I was quite happy with the direction that Ms. Wulf took the Hansel and Gretel story in. I prefer stories where Hansel and Gretel are not siblings. However, despite my love of the idea, the plot execution fell flat for me at times. One issue I had while reading was the lack of knowledge on how the Academy operates. I was eighty percent of the way into the book before the author started revealing details like how the academy is structured, how pairs are matched, and who directs the hunters in the field. The magic system was also a big question mark for me. As a die-hard fantasy fan, there wasn’t quite enough detail for me to be satisfied with how everything worked. As a result, I didn’t appreciate some of the plot twists until well after the event had taken place –which took the fun out of it. This aspect may be off-putting for some fans who are looking for books that involve more fantasy and fairy tale references.

Mature erotic romance fans who enjoy books filled with action-packed adventure and paranormal elements will find themselves fans of this book. Despite some minor issues, I’ll definitely be checking out other books by Rose Wulf in the future when I have a free moment.