Monster or hero?
My name is Larkspur and I was born in the Colony, a labyrinth of tunnels and caves miles beneath the surface designed for prisoners. Being born among the criminals isn't an easy childhood. But I have a secret, my nails turn into sharp claws. I learned early how to fight dirty, hide well and never trust. All too soon, our world changes. Something happens to the prospering world above. The criminals desiring freedom and revenge push toward the surface. Me among them.
Humanity needs a hero, now more than ever, but all they get is me, a monster from the darkness.
Texan Ben Malton is in a heap of trouble! He's had had a rough life. After his mom passed away when he was 12, he was bounced in and out of foster homes, many of which were abusive. He ran away at 17, and went to school briefly, hoping to be a paramedic, then changing to physical therapy. But when the money ran out, he did anything he could to support himself--including dancing in a bar. That's where he caught the eye of a major drug dealer named Dallas, who offered him a place to live, filled with all of the nice things money can buy. The catch was he became Dallas' plaything, existing only as the toy that Dallas played with--but also abused whenever he felt like it. Ben never realized how afraid he could be, until he made the decision to run away from Dallas. That's how he ended up in Wyoming in an old beater car, driving too quickly on snowy roads, until his car went off the road into a ditch. He walked as far as he could, while slowly freezing to death. He saw a building that turned out to be a barn, and fell into an exhausted sleep under some horse blankets in an unused paddock.
Ashton Covert owns the Wyoming ranch he grew up on, and inherited from his father. Ash spend time in the military, as an MP, then started a security agency in California with one of his buddies from the service. When a female celebrity's stalker objected to them arresting him, he drove into Ash, crushing his leg under the wheels of a car, then backed over him again for good measure. So Ash is in a lot of pain from a barely usable leg that he doesn't have the money to have surgery or physical therapy for. When he finds the terrified young man in his outer barn, he invites him in out of innate kindness, to give the boy food and drink, and a warmer place to sleep in the cold of a Wyoming snowstorm.
For all of the violence in this story, it was a very sweet romance. Even the sex scenes were awash in love. Ash and Ben are obviously perfect for each other. Even the friends of Ash who are not gay, can see the growing love between them. But both men carry baggage they fear will turn off anything the other might feel. Ben doesn't want to repay the kindness shown to him on the ranch, by making Ash and his friends targets for when Dallas comes to retrieve him--because there is no doubt in his mind that Dallas won't allow him to get away. Ash fears that the much younger Ben should be enjoying life heartily, not stuck on a ranch with a handicapped older cowboy who can't even ride a horse anymore due to his leg pains. But each helps the other out because they quickly grow to care for each other. And their HEA means that both of them are made whole again--together.
Reece Greene had a terribly childhood. His mother left when he was very young, and his father was an alcoholic who never gave him any presents, despite his birthday being on Christmas Day. His dad never said he loved him, but did tell him he was lucky he wasn't being "thrown away," like people do with the unwanted gifts they get for Christmas. Grinch-award for that despicable man! Reece is now a very rich man in his early 50's, who makes his living designing homes for the very rich, who expect their smart-technology to control every aspect of their lives. He's never been married, and in the first chapter gets his ring back from the blonde gold-digger he'd proposed to. Life has been very unkind to this man, so it's no wonder he's such a grouch! Reece's partner convinces him to take some time off--both to forget his unfaithful ex-fiancée, and to scout out a new location for them to build luxury condos. Calliope Whobrey was divorced many years ago when her husband insisted she get plastic surgery to keep her looking younger and thinner. She escaped to lick her wounds to a bed and breakfast on the side of a mountain in Colorado, run by her grandmother, Martha Whobrey. They've made a comfortable living by hosting repeat customers year-after-year, for the different holidays. Christmas is their favorite time.
Of course, Reece and Calliope feel an instant attraction to each other, in this short romance. We get alternating chapters giving each one's point of view. Martha keeps inviting Reece over to enjoy the holiday season with them, and he's the grinch who tries to steal their holiday cheer and good will. Repeatedly. Until his heart starts to grow warmer, and he realizes the error of his ways. In the Dedication, the author says she is trying to write a Hallmark Romance. Since I've never seen one, I don't know if she succeeded but this is a cute love story that brings together two people who shouldn't have anything in common. Reece has a hole where his heart should be until Calliope and her grandmother fill that hole with love. Through them he learns to love himself, and Calliope finds a man who will stay with her because he loves the image of himself he sees reflected in her eyes. Her love makes him feel lovable, and she's the first and only person who has ever done that for him. He's a grouch no more!
Former chef Jasper is a mage, from a family of mages. Others in his family have what he considers more "useful" magical abilities, his are confined to food. He can take raw foodstuffs, even spoiled meats, furry fruits, vegetables, and with his power, transform them into 5-star gourmet feasts within minutes. He got bored living in Rhode Island, where he's from, and moved to New York City. Unfortunately, through no fault of his own, he's become trapped in his apartment, literally trapped. He can't even reach his hand out of his window. The tedium of being alone is broken only by his two magical friends who have been supporting him by paying his rent, and occasionally visiting. Since he's stuck with little to do all day, he's been spying on his neighbors. When a gorgeous man moves into the apartment across the street. Finn has just moved into his apartment, but other than eating, sleeping, and exercising, he doesn't spend that much time there. His father is bankrolling a company he started, that he wanted to use to highlight local chefs. Unhappy at work, Finn spends a lot of time trying to work off his stress at home. Lately, when he gets out of the shower, there are messages left for him in the steam on his mirror. He doesn't believe in ghosts, but it's happened often enough to creep him out. What he doesn't know is that the stranded Jasper is trying to communicate with him by practicing astral projection. Finn has no idea what's going on, or whether he should move from his haunted apartment.
Many times the sexual aspects of gay relationships are the sole focus of the story but in this story, Jasper and Finn fall in love gradually. Since there are alternating chapters for each of their points of view, you learn that both of them are unsure if their relationship is moving too quickly. Both of them want this to work, because of the attraction between them, but both of them are cautious about pushing the other too hard. The sexual relationship develops gradually, as does their romance. I found that to be refreshing and believable. It allowed me to even accept the magical elements running through the story. Finn's reaction to being introduced to a part of the world he never knew existed is very believable. As a reader, I am also drawn into believing in a world where there can be people all around us, who have abilities that none of us. Since there is a "ruling council" to ensure that non-magical folks aren't taken advantage of, we can rest assured that unless we become involved with one of the mages, we need not concern ourselves with what we don't know--since it won't hurt us. And in Finn's case, it led to his HEA. In the end, even Jasper's mom likes Finn, so it's all good.
Holly moved away from her mother and her best friend, to get away from a vengeful abusive boyfriend. Now she's indulging her inner introvert to avoid being noticed, even working from her small apartment as a writer. She's never told the two who love her the most what she was experiencing because she was ashamed that she stayed with him for so long. Plus the police didn't believe her when she went to them. Her friend talks her into going onto a social network site. Feeling brave, she puts up an entry for the site and waits to see if anyone notices. Alexander was burned by a past girlfriend that he caught in flagrant delecto with her male secretary. So he's sworn off women and dating. His assistant Zach, his best friend from long ago, goads him into signing up for the same social network site. Soon he and Holly are texting each other, bonding over movies they watch separately in their homes, and sharing only their first names with no pictures. When Holly starts receiving packages with ominous threatening notes, she knows she's been found. She decides to go to a lawyer for advice. Guess who the lawyer is? Yup. Alexander.
This book is written in alternating chapters of first-person. First we get Holly's insights, then we get Alexander's. I liked how they both are tentative about falling for someone new after their previous experiences. Holly is especially skittish. Alexander imagines doing all kinds of naughty things with Holly, but understands that he'll have to take things very slowly with her. There's such a fine line between even mild BDSM play, and real abuse, especially to someone who has suffered real pain from another man's hands. His offering to have her move into his guest bedroom is contrived, but it works out well in the story. He's keeping her safe, and she blossoms knowing she's being protected. This allows their romance to proceed. When they act on their impulses, the heat level is explosive as well as healing for Holly. No one has ever treated her with such respect, or consideration for her feelings. Alexander's discovery that Holly reciprocates his desire is sweet and steamy.
Please be aware that there is a disclaimer at the start of the book stating that the publisher and the author do not condone non-consensual sexual activities in any way. For some this will be a trigger, since Holly not only talks about what has been done to her, but there is an intense scene where the abusive man captures her again. This time the injuries, both physical and mental, will take her some time to overcome. Alexander has to go into therapy to deal with his guilt over not being able to protect her, though he swore he would. However, this is a romance, and there is a happy ending, including a steamy scene in the Epilogue!
Behind Two Screens is a very enjoyable read.
Vivian Hayes is one very lucky woman. She has two men who adore her--twins, though not identical. Since the genres listed older woman, the twins must be younger than her. They're all committed to their relationship, which involves love as much as great sex. Ever since her mother remarried years ago, Viv's been lusting after her step-brother Noah. They had a kiss once, and she's tried to avoid him ever since. She's already got two men so why complicate things? So she told Noah they needed to do alternate Christmases with her mom and step-father. This is her year to show up with her twins in tow. Much to her chagrin, Noah is there this year also. Now what? Can he convince her that it's fine to have a harem of three? And what will her guys think?
This was an easy read. The writing was smooth, and characters were clearly described. I found it odd that Vivian's mom and step-father are not only fine with her bringing her two men into their house for the holidays but they're both aware of how Noah feels about her. Indeed, her mom encourages her to give him a chance to be a part of her life. How...enlightened. Vivian's job is at Cowan Enterprises, run by Sabine, who values Vivian highly. They sell sex toys, but also run parties where employees, called Kitty Cats, dress seductively and weasel important secrets out of rich and powerful men. Her escort business is actually an information collection agency, and "her database could ruin the lives of many very powerful men." What does she use this information for? We don't really find out. But the whole idea struck me as rather sexist--kind of a Playboy club run by women who delight in using men--only occasionally having sex with them.
There's a sub-plot about Vivian's mom who has a soft spot for some cats who've been living in a barn that the town owns by default, after the owner died. There's a group of rich powerful men who want to knock the barn down to build something else, and Vivian is enlisted to help her mom help the cats. How? With a Kitty Cat party, of course.
I wanted more focus on the sexual relationship enjoyed by the soon-to-be harem of men that all want Vivian, with no jealousy, no possessiveness, and no touching of each other. Although considering that two of them are brothers, that would be weird and gross. There are frequent and inventive sex scenes. The one I was waiting for, the three-way penetration scene, was described from Noah's point of view, not Vivian's. What? A woman gets to have three hot men at once, and I only read about how much the new man in the group enjoyed himself? I felt cheated.
Blood Service by Angela Knight: Rating 5, heat level 5
The only author I have read before is Angela Knight. Blood Service is her story, about Adiva, a spy on the run, with a very high price on her head. She and the vampire she was a "blood thrall" for, were working to topple an evil ruler on a planet. Her vampire was killed, and she's being hunted. She's captured by a bounty hunter vampire known only as The Vigilante. From the start, he gets under her skin. Seems he read her bio before he decided to be the one to catch her but not to turn her in. More than he wants money, he wants to possess a blood thrall (enhanced human blood donor for vampires, with extra strength and stamina.) And since he's a level 21 dominant, and she's a level 17 submissive, he has big plans for her.
Phew! Did I mention this story is a scorcher? Of course, since Adiva is a natural submissive, the things he does to her cause her to leak copious sexual fluids, which ramps up the excitement for both of them. The erotic scenes are plentiful and creative. Most of them involve toys of some kind and things to add kink to their steamy sex. This is the kind of story you need a fan for, enjoy!
Slave School Dropout by Dakota Cassidy: Rating 3, heat level 3.
Slave School Drop-out, tells the story of Nyla, who is a cat-shifter, descended from the Egyptian goddess Bast. Her bestie is the common tomcat shifter Lucas. They've been friends since they met a year ago at a shifter meet-'n'-greet. He told her from the start that he had feelings for her, but she relegated him to the "friend-zone" immediately. He's been patient enough to stick around. Now she sees the back of him in the aisle at a pet food store, and instantly she's turned on by his smell. When he turns around and she realizes it's her bestie causing her to feel such instant lust, she's dismayed to the max. Can they work it out? And what will her snobby parents think about their daughter bringing home a tomcat?
Even though the author likes to laugh, I didn't find much humor in her story. Her heroine is ditsy to the point of being annoying. The long-suffering Lucas should have cut his losses and run. When he smugly informs her they belong together, after they have sex once, she runs into his bathroom to avoid dealing with him. While looking for a hand-towel in his closet, she finds a collection of sex toys. Note: when the author has to put a disclaimer before her story saying that her heroine's reactions to BDSM are meant to be funny, you can be sure that without that explanation, some readers might not have realized that. And when you read who she gets her sexual advice from, you might want to say, "Aw, hell no!" But there is the requisite happy ending, at least for Nyla. Lucas still might want to reconsider.
Tainted Kisses by Kate Hill: Rating 4, heat level 4
Kate Hill's story, Tainted Kisses, was romantic and steamy. Naobi is a good vampire. Her creator explained to her that eternal life is a gift and to be used to enhance the lives of the mortals around her. Etlu was ripped from the body of his dead mother, on a battlefield of gore, after his creator and minions destroyed yet another village. As a boy, he was tortured and abused by his adopted brother, as well as anyone else who wanted to. They tried to teach him that having feelings of any kind is a weakness and that the only purpose he should have is to serve the dark god that his creator serves. He's a Viking leader of men who is feared by all. Etlu and his men destroy the village that Naobi, disguised as a man, had been protecting. He insists on a public death as a warning to the others, who will be taken back on his ship as slaves. He plans to rip out both of her lungs in a procedure known as the "blood eagle," which kills even vampires. But when he tears off her shirt to see that she's a woman, he decides to keep her for himself. She agrees to go with him as a willing occupant of his bed, if he frees the people she'd been protecting. To everyone's surprise, he agrees. Does he posses any vestige of humanity? And will she be able to reach it?
Etlu is a very confused evil vampire. He has never known any love, or even what the word means. He's raped and pillaged his way through life. He's sometimes peers into windows to watch mortals as they express their love to each other. It's a very different behavior than that of his men, who rut quickly as they please, with any female nearby. He wonders how it might be, with someone who is a willing partner. Since Naobi has proven herself to be strong, he suspects she might be able to teach him something. I felt sorry for Etlu, as Naobi does. He certainly is a willing pupil, once he realizes that females can enjoy sex as much as men, if the men are willing to learn a little thing called "foreplay." LOL. Since he's so dominant, it's not surprising that they discover the fun in dominance play during sex. I predict a long and happy undead life for them.
Liane once had an incredible three-way experience with two guys, when she was eighteen. She fell in love with both of them. But Mason backed off, not wanting to risk the societal disapproval of having a ménage relationship. She and Toshi stayed together, but they hung around as friends with Mason. A freak accident that Liane and Mason both blame themselves for, resulted in Toshi dying. Ten long years have passed, but neither of them can forget their guilt. At a Halloween party, Mason convinces Liane to join him in summoning Toshi's spirit, so they can both apologize to him--and see him once again.
I enjoyed this book, but was disappointed that it was so short and felt rushed. I've never read any Romance on the Go books before. They're obviously designed for those who love to read, but don't have a lot of time to spare. It only took me about an hour to read the whole book. I enjoyed the interactions between the characters. Liane's friend Ali was funny, and obviously cares about Liane being happy--which is why she practically shoves Mason at her, hoping they'll reconnect. I want to read more about Ali. Mason is a beta male, willing to wait his turn--he moved out of their hometown to get away from his bad memories, hoping he'd forget about Liane, and that she'd forgive him.