Knot Real by M.C. Roth


Knot Real by M.C. Roth
Publisher: Pride Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Erotic Romance, LGBTQ, Paranormal, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Moonflower

Vale will never have to worry about a mating contract, right?

Vale considers himself lucky that he’s exempt from having a mating contract. Why would any omega want thousands of alphas to bid on them and try to prove themselves worthy?

From his best friend Zyke to the cute omega he met at a house party—everyone’s lives seem to revolve around the search for a single mate. It’s simple… The alphas bid and the omegas make their choice, while protective instincts take care of the rest.

But the barbaric practice has its own beauty that will always be just out of reach for Vale. Maybe if he had a contract, he would find someone who would love him wholly and completely and he wouldn’t have to spend his time cherishing the last few days with his best friend before Zyke inevitably finds a mate of his own. Maybe he wouldn’t be so lonely…

Knot Real is a standalone as far as I can see, but I would love to return to this world and see further into how it works!

Vale and Zyke are best friends who everyone thinks are a couple. Vale is one of the lucky ones who doesn’t have to have a mating contract, but he’s not looking forward to when Zyke has one in case it impacts their friends. Well, Zyke gets a contract, and it does have an impact, but maybe not in the way Vale was expecting!

This was a great story with plenty of emotion. It was pretty clear what the lay of the land was, but I enjoyed staying with Vale as he discovered the truth about the situation, Zyke’s feelings, and his own.

A quick read that I thoroughly enjoyed and have no hesitation in recommending.

Scorned by Angela Addams


Scorned by Angela Addams
Publisher: Totally Bound
Genre: Contemporary, Erotic Romance, Paranormal, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Moonflower

Hell hath no fury like a werewolf scorned.

All I’d ever wanted was to blend in among the humans, but my stepbrothers had other plans. When one of them sent a thug to abduct me, I had to let my true self out, claws and all.

That was the thing… The men in my world were always underestimating me.

Being the hothead that I was, I went straight to the source of the problem—the new alpha of my family’s clan, my stepbrother Sal. He had a surprise of his own, though, and when he hit me with a magically infused pure silver collar, I crumbled like I didn’t have A-plus DNA in my blood.

That was when the Duke brothers entered my life. Heroes in their own minds, they worked a deal with Sal to buy me… as if I were a commodity. To the males in my species, that was what I was, but to the Duke brothers I was the final piece in a prophecy puzzle. They wanted me to rule their clan, be alpha to their pack, which meant they wanted me to take the bites of all three of them.

To that I said, not on your life, boys. But, damn, they were hot, and I was willing to give cohabitation a try. I’d explore their old-world scrolls and prints and listen to their fairy tales about a superpowered queen alpha. I could even get behind training with their pack, but I wasn’t ever going to let a werewolf take a bite out of me.

At least that was what I kept telling myself. The beast inside me had other plans, and I’d never truly known how to stop her from getting what she wanted, no matter who she might have to destroy to achieve her goals.

Scorned is the first book in the Hell Hath No Fury series, and we start with Charlie trying to live as a human after being exiled from her pack. After something happens, she returns ‘home’ to give her stepbrother, Sal, what for. Things don’t turn out the way Charlie was expecting though – including her being sold to a different pack!

The three brothers are all unique, with their own very differing personalities. They want Charlie to lead their pack and they’re not too bothered about how they go about that, being as they say she has been calling to them for years. I loved the aspect of Charlie learning about her beast and abilities with the brothers.

I was thoroughly enjoying this book, right up until the last scene. And it’s not because I don’t like BDSM scenes because I do. What I didn’t like was how this took place in the dreamscape with no consent or talks about limits. Yes, that may take the sexy out of it, but it is needed!

I look forward to reading more in this series and seeing how the story continues.

Brielle and the Alien Geek by Jessica Coulter Smith


Brielle and the Alien Geek by Jessica Coulter Smith
Publisher: Changeling Press
Genre: Erotic Romance, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Moonflower

The moment Syl sees Brielle, he realizes the sassy Earth woman is exactly what he needs in his life.

Brielle has waited faithfully for her fiancé to return from Terran Prime, only to discover she’s been engaged to a lying, cheating bastard, who tosses her out on her rear the moment he’s back on Earth. Not one to go down without a fight, Brielle will do anything to ensure her survival — even sign up for a bride exchange on another world.

Syl has lived his life in his lab, always preoccupied with his experiments. But the moment he sees Brielle, he realizes that perhaps his life has been missing something after all. Wanting and having are two different things. What would an exotic-looking female like Brielle want with an alien geek like him?

Brielle and the Alien Geek is the first book in the Intergalactic Brides series and follows Brielle as she deals with a cheating ex-fiancé and a helpful Terran.

This was a quick and easy read, detailing the set-up of the world and introducing (I think) characters who will be in later books. I loved that Syl was a scientist and not as bulked up as some of the others. Plus, Brielle wanted to be wanted for herself, not just because she was an available woman. I loved the scene in the restaurant and the reaction of the waitress.

It is a novella so the pacing is fast with insta-love, so prepare yourself for that. I found this to be a great start to a series and look forward to reading more.

Love Rains by Kira Stone


Love Rains by Kira Stone
Publisher: Changeling Press
Genre: Contemporary, Erotic Romance, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Fern

He’s loved her since they were children, before he even knew what real love is. As an adult he loves her even more, but she doesn’t belong to him. Yet. Maybe she never will.

She always felt he needs to be a part of her life, but exactly how remains uncertain. She loves him, but is it a forever kind of love?

When love rains down, these two meet to see what’s possible between them when the past is washed away.

They’ve always been a part of each other’s lives and he’s always loved her – but she can’t belong to him. She loves him but remains unsure if it’s a forever kind of love. Can these two meet each other’s needs when love rains down?

I enjoyed this very short story and found it refreshingly different to so many out there. Written in a slightly different way to most stories I come across – no names are used, just the “she” and “he” style of descriptors. At first I thought this would really detract from my being able to enjoy the characters and feel attached to them but I quickly found that this wasn’t true. Indeed just be reading “she/he” I found it sort of helped my own imagination fill in the blanks and almost create or embellish the written story already there. I’m honestly not sure this would have worked for me personally on a longer story – with too much vagueness the bubble might have burst – but for such a short story this really worked well for me and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

I’m also deeply curious as to whether another re-read in a few weeks or months might prove that I actually come away with a slightly different context or image of the story and am intrigued enough to really want to reread it soon and discover this.

This story felt to me very much like a vignette – a snapshot of a scene in the middle of a much larger story. A lot of things were left unanswered which I do understand might annoy some readers, but equally I really feel as if there is a lot of hope in this ending. Readers who need a Happy Ever After ending won’t find this satisfying I don’t feel, and while I’m not certain this is even a Happy For Now style of ending it does feel as if both parties are happy and satisfied with the way things between them are left.

A refreshingly different story this was a great quick read and an author I will be keeping an eye out for more of.

Mysterious Island 3: Here Be Dragons by Greig Beck


Mysterious Island 3: Here Be Dragons by Greig Beck
Publisher: Severed Press
Genre: Contemporary, Action/Adventure, Paranormal, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Fern

Below the English town of Ipswich a tunnel boring team is digging through solid rock when unexpectedly, they break into an ancient cave system filled with animal bones. Strangely, there were also the remains of men, knights in armor, some crushed, and some seemed to have had their bones and flesh melted. And there was one more thing found: a huge, egg-shaped ruby that glowed like a setting sun.

Just over 2000 miles away, still trapped on the lost island of Lemuria, Troy and Anne know that the time of monstrous beings long thought only existing in our legends or lurking in our nightmares, was returning.

But they now have a chance of escape – they have found the fabled submarine, the Nautilus.

Together, Troy, Anne, the secretive Elle, and the huge Viking woman, Yrsa, work together to break free so they can warn the world of the terror that is coming.

Under the earth on a mysterious island, Troy, Anne, Elle and the huge Viking warrior Yrsa are working together to escape the lost island of Lemuria. They’ve been gone for almost two years, but after surviving death many times they remain determined to return to their world. Will they be successful?

Meanwhile in the town of Ipswich in England a team is boring a tunnel unexpectedly find they break through into an ancient cave system filled with animal bones. The team discover an enormous, egg shaped ruby and all too soon human greed takes over on a journey that can’t be reversed.

This is the third – and technically final – book in the “Mysterious Island” trilogy by Greig Beck. While I do feel this book can be enjoyed by itself and much of the plot is very well explained just be reading this book alone, I do strongly feel the characters, the overall story arc and much of the deeper emotions will be better enjoyed if readers start at the beginning with the first book. I was very relieved and pleased that the bulk of the story throughout this full length novel was centered around Troy, Elle and Anne returning back home. This was the part of the story I was most heavily invested in from the previous two installments.

That said, I thought it was exceedingly clever of Mr. Beck to have incorporated from the beginning a secondary plotline about a new egg/dragon ruby being found in England and the new problems arising from this. A part of me felt very vindicated for Anne – human greed being what it is I nearly despaired of anyone believing her theory about these “dragon rubies” and having Anne proven correct felt wonderful to me. I was also deeply satisfied that even though I felt he was seriously slow on the uptake – Troy finally managed to work out who he could trust and who would turn on him when the opportunity arose.

I must point out that a number of Mr. Beck’s books don’t end on a traditional Happy Ever After (and not even a Happy For Now) style of ending. This is absolutely one of those series. There are a few twists at the end. One of them was fairly clear – to me at least – from early on in this book but another was quite a sharp plot twist right at the end of the book that I really didn’t see coming. Readers who like all their loose threads neatly tied up might not find this to be a fully satisfying ending, so be warned. This also does not have anything close to a traditional ending so readers should be aware of that, as well, going in.

Mr. Beck has loosely mentioned on Facebook that there may be a fourth installment coming. I think I’d be equally fine whether that happened or not. While I completely understand the ending might not be comfortable for everyone and might not be my own personal preference – with exceptional writing, brilliant characters and a fabulous plot a few small niggles can be easily overlooked.

A brilliant trilogy with a solid plot, dragons and Vikings and deep under-ground worlds, adventure and plenty of danger, I feel this book straddles numerous genres and should be a fabulous read for everyone.

A Cat’s Garden of Secrets by Jacqueline Diamond


A Cat’s Garden of Secrets by Jacqueline Diamond
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Mystery/Suspense/Thriller, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Paranormal, Contemporary
Rating: 3 Stars
Review by: Astilbe

Awakening magical powers? Yes! Solving a murder, sure. But turning into a cat? Who, me?

On the weirdest day of my life, my cat starts talking, my car kidnaps me to a charming hidden village, and I inherit a mystical library. Plus, I discover I have superpowers!

As an orphan who grew up in foster care, I had no idea I came from an enchanted land full of furry shapeshifters, including—surprise!—me. Or that I had a gifted grandmother, who’s been murdered. Now it’s up to me, with the help of a handsome, otherworldly detective and my know-it-all cat, to uncover the truth… if someone doesn’t kill me first.

Identity matters…even for folks who don’t know much about where they come from yet.

The mystery elements of the storyline were handled nicely. This was one of those books that wove multiple genres together seamlessly. While it did feel like slightly more of a mystery to me than anything else, the fantasy themes were strong as well. There’s something to be said for authors who pull this off. It’s not an easy thing to do by any means, and I tip my cap to Ms. Diamond for following the rules of all of the genres she included here while still leaving space for a few surprises.

I struggled to keep track of the large cast of characters in this novella. There simply wasn’t enough time or space to develop dozens of different people and animals, and the ones that were given more attention were still only able to reveal limited parts of their personalities due to how many of them there were. As interested as I was in the world building and storyline, this prevented me from choosing a higher rating.

With that being said, the world building was handled nicely. Sometimes I found myself wishing I really could travel to Loobly and explore all of the magical things to be found there. I’d recommend taking notes about how the characters know each other and what the mysterious terms they use mean unless you have a photographic memory as recalling all of these details will be extremely important later on. There were a lot of moving pieces in this tale, but the complexity of it truly pays off later on.

A Cat’s Garden of Secrets kept me guessing.

A Murmuration Of Opas by William Meikle


A Murmuration Of Opas by William Meikle
Publisher: Weird House Press
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Fern

Mankind is spreading through the Solar System but, as yet, is still alone in the vastness of space.

That is all about to change.

A small team of intrepid scientists and engineers have made the long trip through the dark to Jupiter’s moon, Europa, and set up camp on an icy plain under the looming watch of Jupiter above them.

Initial samples show that the planet is host to primitive, unicellular life.

A submersible makes its first dive under the moon’s icy surface and finds signs that the life forms may not be quite so primitive after all. They uncover an indigenous species that shows signs of being capable of swarming together to achieve goals impossible for a single cell, a colonial organism that they nickname Opa. These Opas swarm in several different configurations in the cold dark ocean beneath.

The teams A.I. is set the task of deciphering the science behind the Opa’s dances, a swirling, and swooping that looks very similar to the movements of great flocks of birds back on Earth. Science is done, samples are taken back to the lab on the surface… and that’s when the trouble begins.
The Opas have been given a chance to roam in a new environment. A human environment.

Mankind is not the only species hungry for exploration. The Opas escape into the expedition’s living quarters.

They are curious, and hungry.

They are voracious for food…

And they will kill every living organism in the space station!

A small team of intrepid scientists and engineers have made the long journey to Jupiter’s moon, Europa. While at first, they believe only primitive, unicellular life is possible, under the ocean’s icy surface the team soon finds signs that some of the cells can swarm together to achieve goals impossible for a single cell. They nickname the organisms Opa. The Opas can swam into many different configurations and soon samples are captured and sent back to the lab for study. Only now the Opas have a new environment within which to swam and explore – and eat.

I have enjoyed many of William Meikle’s horror and paranormal books and this was an excellent addition to the pile I’m growing. While I am usually not a fan of Sci-Fi or inter-space styles of stories, the fact I am such a fan of Meikle led me to give this book a try and I’m really glad I did. Meikle is exceptional at writing “monster eats all the humans” sorts of stories and this was another fast paced and excellent adventure.

Readers who are used to Meikle’s other tales should be warned this one does feature a fair bit more heavily on the Sci-Fi front than his others. While there is absolutely a strong element of “monster eats everyone” to the story this didn’t really kick into high gear until after the first quarter or so of the book. The Europa moon and otherworldly nature of the setting featured heavily in the beginning, as well as introducing our six main characters and letting the reader get a feel for their dynamics and interactions. Speaking personally, I found this different focus was very well written and I did enjoy it, but I have to be honest that I was present – and really largely interested in – the monsters aspect to the story so I was pleased when this part took center stage.

Readers looking for something different – particularly Sci-Fi fans or readers who enjoy the “monster eats everyone” style of story should find this is definitely up their alley and I found this a well-paced book with relatable and interesting characters and a whole bunch of vivid imagination. A story I will re-read in the future.

The Perfectly Fine Neighborhood


The Perfectly Fine Neighborhood edited by Kayleigh Dobbs, Stephen Kozeniewski, and Wile E. Young
Publisher: French Press
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Paranormal, LGBTQ, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller, Contemporary, Horror
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

For all of human history ghosts were real and they were everywhere. Then, one day, after a horrible cataclysm, they all disappeared.

That was the story of THE PERFECTLY FINE HOUSE.

But there are more tales to be told from that world. And a thrilling lineup, ranging from horror legends to relative newcomers, have joined forces to bring you:

– a roadside attraction featuring a real, dead serial killer

– a pair of twisted sisters whose sibling rivalry only begins with suicide

– a hitman hired to facilitate a ghostly sexual liaison

And more!

The first unhaunted house was just the beginning. Come, stake your claim in…

THE PERFECTLY FINE NEIGHBORHOOD

If you love paranormal horror, I have quite the treat for you!

One of the biggest strengths of this anthology had to do with the wide variety of approaches the contributors took to the theme. A few of them were a little too gory for my tastes, but I still found their stories to be well written and memorable. Horror fans who love the bloody side of the genre may have completely different responses to them, of course, and I thought it was wonderful that so many different writing styles and horror subgenres were included to suit all sorts of readers. I wish I had space in this review to cover every tale, but I will have to limit myself to only speaking about three of them for the sake of brevity.

In “Jurisdiction,” Eddie and his fellow officers tried to figure out who or what had been killing ghosts. I thought the premise of this tale was a clever one, and I couldn’t stop reading until I reached the conclusion. Eddie’s interest in this case overshadowed everything else in his life, including his relationship with his partner. This was an interesting way to realistically showcase some of the protagonist’s flaws while also keeping the pacing strong and steady until the final scene. I was left yearning for more and would love to read a sequel if Mr. Vincent ever decides to write one.

Thomas decided to kill his wife in “The Perfectly Fine Family” so that she could join him in his peaceful afterlife. Honestly, that was not a decision I would expect a ghost to make, so I was immediately sucked into his story as he planned out the ideal way to ensure he and Marie would be together forever. There was a surprising streak of humor in the storyline as well that suited the characters perfectly. Horror and humor should be mixed together more often in my opinion!

While I generally shy away from stories about serial killers, “Addict to Slaughter” had such a creative spin to the topic that I soon became insatiably curious to find out more about John Miller and his terrible compulsion to kill others. The twist showed up early and will probably be something most horror fans figure out early on. Knowing there is more to his life that meets the eye was all I needed to remain interested.

The Perfectly Fine Neighborhood was deliciously scary.

Cruel Seduction by Katee Robert


Cruel Seduction by Katee Robert
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Genre: Erotic Romance, LGBTQ, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Dicentra

Aphrodite has never flinched at getting her perfectly manicured hands dirty, and she’s not about to start now—even if that means marrying Olympus’s enemy number one, the new Hephaestus. She has a wicked plan to keep her deadly new husband off-balance, seducing the one person he seems to care about most in this world: Pandora, a woman as beautiful as she is sweet.

Two can play the seduction game, however, and Hephaestus is all too happy to put his new wife in her place. Her ex, Adonis, seems like he’ll do the trick. It doesn’t hurt that he’s gorgeous in the way of fallen angels, either.

The only problem with using seduction as a weapon? Hearts are all too quick to get involved. With Hephaestus and Aphrodite trading venomous strikes that feel a whole lot like foreplay, lines become blurred and emotions entangled. But a broken heart may be the least of their worries. With unrest in Olympus reaching new heights, these bedroom games may have deadly consequences for themselves, their city, and everyone they’ve come to love.

As someone who enjoys anything related to Greek mythology, I’ve been a big fan of Katee Robert’s ongoing Dark Olympus series. One of the latest releases, Cruel Seduction, centers on the Aphrodite and Hephaestus myth. A very loose re-imagining of the original story, the author does a great job honoring the tone and heart of the source material while still weaving in their own trademark spiciness and complexities.

If you had to sum up Aphrodite and Hephaestus’ relationship in one word, it would be complicated. In almost every version of the myth, Aphrodite was not exactly thrilled about getting married to her husband. That holds true in this book as Aphrodite (formerly known as Eris) is forced to marry the new Hephaestus in order to secure his cooperation in working with the other members of the Thirteen for the good of Olympus. Those who have read the previous books in the series know that both are very talented when it comes to manipulation and politics. Since they can’t physically hurt their spouse, they choose to go for the emotional jugular and seduce their spouses’ former lovers (Adonis and Pandora, respectively). Romance readers who pick their books by trope will be pleased to know that the ‘marriage of convenience’ and ‘second chance romance’ feature very heavily in this book. The whole situation between Hephaestus and Aphrodite gets very complicated very quickly (turning into what the author terms as a ‘polyamorous knot’) and it was quite entertaining as a reader to follow along.

The worldbuilding of each book in the series works off of the foundation that previous books have laid. I’ve really enjoyed getting to learn more about how the city works, and what forces are working against it. While the plots of each book are constructed such that they can be read in any order and independently of each other, I do recommend reading it in order for the best experience. If you read this and subsequently start reading more of Katee Robert’s books, you will also notice that her different series are interconnected. I highly recommend checking out their graphics on Instagram to see the different connections. As a side note, for those who might be going into this as your first Katee Robert read, I do want to warn you that the spiciness rating is very high; multiple explicit and intimate lovemaking scenes are scattered throughout the book.

Overall, this was an excellent read that’s left me excited for more. Audiobook narrators Alex Moorcock and Zara Hampton-Brown did an excellent job bringing multiple perspectives to life with their performances in the audiobook version of the story. I’m super excited for the next installment in the series (due out January 2024), which features Charon, Eurydice, and Orpheus.

The Thing Under Your Bed by Stephen Kozeniewski


The Thing Under Your Bed by Stephen Kozeniewski
Publisher: French Press Publishing
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Paranormal, Contemporary
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

There’s something under your bed.

It hates you. It wants to devour you and everyone you love.

Dad’s at work. Mom’s dead drunk and no help whatsoever.

Maybe your stuffed rabbit can help, since he seems to be alive and talking now. Then again, maybe that just means you’ve finally gone around the bend.

Whatever plan you come up with to survive the night, though, you’d better not let so much as a fingertip stray off your mattress. If you do, you’ll be ripped to bloody chunks by…

THE THING UNDER YOUR BED.

Fairy tales might not be pure fiction after all.

Childhood can be frightening for all sorts of different reasons. Ordinary things that make perfect sense to adults can feel terribly random and nonsensical to a kid. The fact that this particular little girl was also growing up with an abusive, alcoholic mother only deepened her confusion about how adults are supposed to behave and what rules someone should follow to stay safe. Some of my favorite scenes were the ones that explored the many types of fears kids can have, from the mundane ones about odd noises in the middle of the night to far more terrifying and dangerous ones.

This novella sometimes felt like it was written for adults but at other times seemed like it was intended for a much younger audience. I found myself wishing that the author would more fully commit himself to one of these audiences as this was far too gory for kids but also had a fairytale-like quality to the conflict and plot development that many children would find appealing if they didn’t know what they were getting into. Part of this was due to how young the unnamed protagonist was, of course, but I would have gone with a full five-star rating if the age group this was written for was clearer.

The narrator spent a great deal of time playing around with the idea that what she was experiencing may or may not have been real. For example, think of the sensation of waking up from a nightmare and not being alert enough yet to tell where bad dreams end and real life begins. This was one of several ways Mr. Kozeniewski challenged the readers’ assumptions about what was really happening and who should or should not be trusted as new plot twists were revealed. I enjoyed the process of testing out various theories as I waited to discover what would happen next.

The Thing Under Your Bed was deliciously scary.