for winning the copies of the Beach Remedy by Sasha L Miller and Herbal Remedy by Megan Derr. Sasha has already emailed Cel, so you should already have received the books, but if not, please email me at armchairreader[dot]coleriann[at]gmail[dot]com so you can get them. Thanks for playing everyone and thank you all for stopping by and commenting on Sasha’s guest post “How the Vampires Started It All”.
Title: To the Other Side (Terra #1)
Author: SJ Frost
Length: 78k words
Genre: m/m Contemporary Fantasy Romance
Heat: 3 – Sexy & Mild
Sex Frequency: 3 – Average Story to Sex
Keywords/Tags: Series, Alternate Worlds, Magic, Witch, Native American, Alternate Reality Historical, Dragons, Unicorns, Unusual Creatures, Fae/Elves
Rating: Really Liked It
When Garrett Evergard is rescued by the witch, Bryson Summers, he discovers an alternate world unlike anything he’s ever imagined, and when that world is threatened, he’ll do anything to save it and the man he’s grown to love.
Garrett Evergard is a finder of secrets. As a biologist and environmentalist, it’s his job to go into wild lands and uncover their mysteries in order to save them. In the Pacific Northwest, he races against logging lobbyists to save a section of temperate rainforest, but the forest seems reluctant to give up her secrets. Until a fateful meeting with a rare spirit bear opens the door to wonders beyond anything he’s ever imagine, the greatest of those being the beautiful man who comes to his rescue. As a witch and Gatekeeper, Bryson Summers is used to living a solitary life. He lives between two worlds, Earth and Terra, feeling not fully part of either, and dreams of meeting someone who understands him. From the moment he sees Garrett, he believes — and hopes — he’s looking upon a twin soul. Dragons, unicorns, and a witch with enchanting brown eyes, Garrett tries to make sense of a world so different from anything he’s ever known. But his mind and heart are open, and he finds himself drawn more to Bryson with each day they spend together. When Bryson and the gate that links the two worlds fall under threat, Garrett is willing to do all he can to protect them, even if it means facing down dark magic.
I’ve missed out so far on reading any of SJ Frost’s non-contemporary books, though I did read the first book of her Instincts series. But most of what I’ve read and really liked by this author has been her Conquest rocker series. This is a bit of a deviation from what I’m used to reading from her, but I still found her touch and sense of humor in it, and I found it to be a book that I really liked and, even more, am looking forward to the further books in the series. Fantasy is one of my favorite genres, and this was a sweet, light-hearted take on the genre, not a dark fantasy by any means, but more along the mood of a fairy tale.
We meet Garrett as he’s hiking through a forest bordering the near-by and protected national forest. He works for EarthQuest, an organization that exposes environmental abuses and government action. This forest is being heavily lobbied to be cut, but Garrett is EarthQuest’s secret weapon, in a way. He travels to places in danger and, as a biologist, looks for species or plant or animal that could become a mascot for protection. What Garrett finds blows his mind. Capturing the tiny dragon-like birds, Garrett is amazed when he sees a spirit bear, a bear with a recessive gene coloring it white and a heavily revered animal by the First Peoples. He knows he can save the forest now, but in trying to get evidence of the bear, Garrett falls into a ravine.
Bryson is called to the scene of a unconscious man by Koda, the spirit bear. Bryson is a witch, the Gatekeeper between Earth and a parallel, symbiotic world called Terra, and spends his time in both places. He can speak to animals, as well as manipulate the natural forces. And the only way he can save the beautiful and injured man is to take him to his home in Terra. It’s against the rules, but Koda tells him that he trusts the man and his confidence as well as the fact that the Floras showed themselves to him leads him to trust the man.
After reawakening in a strange place, the two men get to know each other and at the same time Bryson introduces Garrett to Terra and to his friends, a ragtag group (that will surely become the future main characters of Terra books): Korran, a dragon speaker and protector, Zain, a theif and assassin and all around smartass, and Larkin, a young minstrel who can speak to the dead. Soon, there are not only forces endangering the gate from the Earth side, but also a nearby Duke who is interested in stealing the power of immortality that comes with being it’s keeper, enough to summon another witch to help in his ends.
This happened again yesterday, when I reviewed the first book of a new fantasy series (that was Dragon Slayer by Isabella Carter) — I end up writing a huge summary for the book. I suppose that’s to be expected if I was actually going to touch on all the points. First of all, I like having a decent summary. I’m not really spoiled by them because I never remember summaries/blurbs when I start the book and I actually put off reading this for a while because I just wasn’t really sure what it was about. Granted, I probably don’t remember those blurbs because I don’t really read them that closely. That’s all my fault! But still, I wanted to give an accurate idea about the book if you’re thinking about buying it. Second, as the first book in a new fantasy series there really is a LOT of setup to be done. In this case, not only do we have to learn about Garrett and what he’s doing on the Earth side, but then we also have to learn about Bryson and the gate and his home, but also about Terra and a whole different way of life there, including the symmetry between the worlds and how they’re connected and why. That’s a lot to introduce, so I don’t completely blame SJ Frost for the fact that the first half of the book was full of exposition. At least it wasn’t dumped on us entirely in the beginning, but drawn out as Bryson and Garrett get to know each other.
No, while I really enjoyed the book and I think that SJ Frost set up a really enjoyable world (though not wholly original still interesting and engaging for those who like lighter fantasy), I still felt like this story was trying to juggle conflicts, between both the Earth and Terra side, which made what ends up to be the major conflict seem slightly underdeveloped. So much time was taken to introduce the world and the relationship that when the conflict started to ramp up I felt like I wished it had been a little more integrated into the story. That isn’t to say that it was totally sudden, and it’s a relatively minor complaint for a story that I really enjoyed.
This story really reminded me of a lot of Less Than Three Press releases, so those of you who are fans of their fantasies will have to check this one out. I’m very interested in the future books, although it is my own preference that I like to not know who the relationships are going to be before their books start. But then, that’s probably bad business I like SJ Frost’s writing, and I was actually surprised to find this a lot lighter than I’m used to by her. But then, this is fantasy and those were contemporaries. But she’s known for her angst in the Conquest series, and this book was surprisingly light and fluffy, in the best sense of the word.
Posted by Cole in 5 Really Like It, 76-100k, Authors D-F, Contemporary, Fantasy, Heat 3 - Sexy & Mild, Romance, Sex Freq 3 - Average Story to Sex Tags: Alternate World Historical, Alternate Worlds, Dragons, Fae, Magic, MLR Press, Native American, Series, SJ Frost, Unicorn, Unusual Creatures, Witches
Title: Born This Way
Author: Poppy Dennison
Length: 25,383 words
Genre: m/m Paranormal Romance
Heat: 4 – Spicy & Smutty
Sex Frequency: 2 – Few and Far Between (just one [super hot] scene!)
Keywords/Tags: Shifters (Big Cats), Mate Bonding, Injured Character, Alphas, Teachers, Famous (friends), Music, Lawyers, Atlanta
Rating: Pretty Good
Dayton Whitmore injures his arm playing basketball with his lion-shifter friends, and his best friend asks Dayton to check on her estranged brother Hart while he’s in Atlanta visiting a specialist. Though Dayton and Hart were never close, he grudgingly agrees.
Banishment from his pride meant Hart Sherman could never see his family again. His liger heritage—a tiger mother and lion father—was a thorn in his alpha father’s side. He always planned to go back for Dayton, the man he knows is his mate, but he uses his career as an entertainment attorney as an excuse to avoid risking Dayton’s rejection. When Dayton shows up unannounced on his doorstep, Hart wants nothing more than to claim him.
Knowing what it means to be a lion’s mate, Dayton isn’t in any hurry to make a lifetime commitment. To convince Dayton he’s serious, Hart must come to terms with the circumstances of his birth—and find a place in the pride for them both.
Ever since finishing the finale of Poppy’s Triad series with Soul Magic (reviewed here), I’ve been really excited about this new release. At the time, I almost begged Poppy to tell me that she was going to write a spin-off about the kids in that series (Garon & Riley), only to have my poor heart crushed There is still a spin-off coming, also about cat shifters, but in the meantime this story isn’t associated with that series yet still, in some areas, I found reminiscent, like the pack politics.
Dayton grew up with Hart’s family, or pride. They welcomed him in as a kid with a mom who wasn’t around much and took care of him, making him one of their own. He exists in a strange kind of half adoption. While he’s part of the family and they consider him, a human, part of the pride, he still can’t really understand what it’s like to have a cat as a part of himself. Then there’s Hart, the son of the Alpha who was born as a cross-bred liger and subsequently more powerful than his father. His banishment ensured his father’s reign.
But even though Dayton doesn’t think Hart ever liked him much, Hart has a good reason why he’s willing to take the banishment. He’s known since they were teenagers and his first heat came over him that Dayton was his mate, but as an outcast among his own family, he couldn’t offer him much. In the years that Hart has been gone, forbidden any contact with the rest of his family, he’s made a career and a name for himself, all in the hopes of going back to claim his mate with a life to offer him. Somehow though, Hart can’t work up the nerve, knowing that accepting their mating may mean leaving his adoptive family behind. Having to face Dayton not choosing him is too hard, so they remain parted until Hart’s meddlesome sister Tawny, Dayton’s best friend, sets them on the same course. The ramifications, however, are more than any of them expected.
This was really a cute story and I think that it stands well on it’s own. I’ll say straight up, I was a little confused at first whether this was the spinoff that Poppy talked about, just because it has to do with cat shifters, but it’s not at all. Still, with the recent release and a similar type of story, I wouldn’t be surprised if people make comparisons. It’s probably bad to do that, in fact, because the Triad series had a real forward momentum that involved an overarching series plot. This story is different because it does stand alone. And while it certainly leaves things open for a sequel, it isn’t obviously just part one of a longer story. That means that the focus of this story is really the relationship, something quite different from the Triad series. And considering the characters and the setup of the plot, this story didn’t need a convoluted journey, no matter how much longer I wished it could have been so that I got to know the characters better and all that. It worked well as it is and I’m really just being greedy.
The story works in the Alpha Man trope with a larger stronger man and a smaller, more emotional and fragile man. But it also doesn’t play to stereotype, but allows the characters to become themselves as the story progresses and buck a few of those conventions. I think that the story could have benefitted from a little more concrete knowledge of the pack politics as well as some better knowledge of the secondary characters in the pack. Otherwise, the story mostly focuses on Hart and Dayton and uses the pack as a catalyst for the changes in their relationship.
I’m excited whenever I get a story to read from Poppy and this was no different. In particular, the two of these guys together are super steamy. Even though we don’t get more than one intimate scene with them, it packed a punch! Recommended, especially for fans of the author and fans of shifter stories.
Born This Way is available today from Dreamspinner Press!
Posted by Cole in 16-40k, 4 Pretty Good, Authors D-F, Heat 4 - Spicy & Smutty, Paranormal, Romance, Sex Freq 2 - Few and Far Between Tags: Alpha Men, Atlanta, Big Cats, Dreamspinner Press, Famous, Injured Character, Lawyers, Mate Bonding, Music, Poppy Dennison, Shifters, Teachers
Title: The King’s Mate
Author: Ashavan Doyon
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Length: 14,706 words, 64 pages
Genre: m/m Contemporary Romance
Heat: 1 – Sweet/None
Sex Frequency: 2 – Few and Far Between
Keywords/Tags: 2013 Daily Dose – Make a Play, Light & Sweet, May/Dec, Secret Admirer, Short Story, Sports (Chess), Unrequited Love
Rating: Really Liked It
Reviewed by Nikyta
*****This review contains slight spoilers!*****
Russell Pine goes to the café every morning to enjoy his time chatting with Sam Tesh, the café owner, a friend made over the past twenty years. So when Sam asks a favor, Russ reluctantly agrees to play in a chess tournament. But the contest isn’t the real challenge: Russ finds himself the focus of a secret courtship in words and pictures left for him to discover each morning, leading him to the question: In a café full of young and beautiful minds, who is looking at the graying chessmaster?
This was one of those stories that touched my heart. While not perfect, I fell in love with Russell, his troubles and how Chess played a role in it all. The fact that he has issues with Chess but willingly helps a longtime friend generate interest in his café by playing in a tournament was heartbreaking for me because it was obvious how much Russell hated it. The story is short but it revolves around Russell, his secret admirer and the possibility of moving on.
I loved the progression of this story because it has a slow feel to it. There isn’t much depth to any of the characters, though we get to know Russell just enough to connect with him (at least I did) but Sam, the café owner, and Justin, Sam’s son, are still enigmas. I found Justin so cute and I loved the way that Russell handled his ‘secret admirer’ but most of all, this was just such a cute story I couldn’t help but smile while reading it.
As I mentioned, though, it’s not perfect. In fact, some of the dialogue felt stiff, which made some scenes seem awkward. There isn’t much background to the characters so I was left confused and wondering what they were talking about sometimes. Such as, how Russell helped Sam regarding Justin, what happened to Justin and why he was healing. There were just so many questions left over in the end, that I wasn’t completely satisfied with it.
In the end, I loved the characters and the fledgling relationship that they start. The secret admirer aspect was done well, IMO, because it was sweet without it getting out of control. If the story had been longer with more fleshed out characters, this could have been a phenomenal read. As it is, it was adorable but left me wanting more.
Posted by Nikyta in 5 Really Like It, Authors D-F, Contemporary, Heat 1 - Sweet/None, Romance, Sex Freq 2 - Few and Far Between, up to 15k Tags: 2013 Daily Dose - Make a Play, Ashavan Doyon, Dreamspinner Press, Light & Sweet, May/December, Secret Admirer, Short Story, Sports, Unrequited Love
Title: Outlast the Night (Lang Downs #3)
Author: Ariel Tachna
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Length: 61k+ words, 210 pages
Genre: m/m Contemporary Western Romance
Heat: 1 – Sweet/None
Sex Frequency: 1 – None
Keywords/Tags: Series, Australia, Closeted, Cowboys, Emotionally Damaged, Friends to Lovers, Light & Sweet, Pets, Yearning
Rating: Really Liked It
Reviewed by Nikyta
Office manager Sam Emery is unemployed and out of luck. When his emotionally abusive wife demands a divorce, he contacts the one person he has left, his brother, Neil. He doesn’t expect Neil to reject him, but he also doesn’t expect the news of his divorce—and of his sexuality—to be met with such acceptance.
Neil takes Sam to Lang Downs, the sheep station Neil calls home. There, Sam learns that life as a gay man isn’t impossible. Caine and Macklin, the station owners, certainly seem to be making it work. When Caine offers Sam a job, it’s a dream come true.
Jeremy Taylor leaves the only home he’s ever known when his brother’s homophobia becomes more than he can bear. He goes to the one place he knows he will be accepted: Lang Downs. He clicks with Sam instantly—but the animosity between Lang Downs and Jeremy’s home station runs deep, and the jackaroos won’t accept Jeremy without a fight. Between Sam’s insecurity and Jeremy’s precarious position, their road will be a hard one—and that’s without having to wait for Sam’s divorce to be final before starting a new life together.
I’ll freely admit that the Lang Downs series is one of my favorite cowboy series. There’s just something about it that I absolutely adore. With this one, it’s no different. I loved both Sam and Jeremy, especially Jeremy since he has to overcome the hatred attached to being a Taylor. There was such animosity between Neil, Sam’s brother, and Jeremy, which made for some interesting conflict! Sam was someone I just wanted to give a hug. He’s so innocent even though he’s not young but I felt really bad for him and what he’s had to go through by playing straight.
The story revolves around both Sam and Jeremy finding a home where they’re accepted. After years of putting up with his brother, Jeremy’s finally had enough and leaves, heading towards Lang Downs in hopes of finding another job. Sam shows up around the same time after being belittled constantly by his soon-to-be ex-wife. Both guys are healing in their own way. Sam finally has the freedom to spread his wings while Jeremy finds in Sam what he thought he’d never get a chance to have. It’s a sweet, slow romance where Jeremy and Sam start a friendship before moving into anything deeper and many will be shocked to realized there is no sex in this novel. Something I was extremely glad for but even without the sex, I still loved it because even though it’s obvious there’s no love between Sam and his ex-wife, he and Jeremy still wait until the divorce is finalized before making their relationship into something more. I also loved that we get pieces of the station but also a little more of Caine and Macklin.
While I adored the story, I still felt like the relationship between Jeremy and Sam wasn’t quite complete. I feel like the situation with Sam and his ex-wife took too long to resolve and when it is finally over it was rushed through, making the ending feel rushed as well. I would have liked to see more of Jeremy and Sam as a couple, after Sam’s divorce, because I didn’t feel that concrete bond between them like I’ve had with the other couples within this series, which I was sad we missed.
Overall, I enjoyed the story very much. I love that Lang Downs is a place for those who are lost or rejected. It’s a great concept and I loved that we got Jeremy’s story and what he and Sam go through. It’s slightly sad but I loved the journey Jeremy and Sam go through. I can’t wait to read the next in the series and to find out who’s story is next!!
Posted by Nikyta in 41-75k, 5 Really Like It, Authors S-U, Contemporary, Heat 1 - Sweet/None, Romance, Sex Freq 1 - None, Western Tags: Ariel Tachna, Australia, Closeted, Cowboys, Dreamspinner Press, Emotionally/Physically Damaged, Friends to Lovers, Light & Sweet, Pets, Series, Yearning
Title: Dragon Slayer (The Empty Crown #1)
Author: Isabella Carter
Publisher: Less Than Three Press
Length: 40k words
Genre: m/m Fantasy Romance
Heat: 1 – Sweet/None
Sex Frequency: 1 – None
Keywords/Tags: Series, Dragons, Alternate World Historical, Secrets & Lies, Royalty, Arranged Marriage, Magic, Unusual Creatures, Family Issues, Cliff (small!), Slow Burn
Rating: Really Liked It
Ingram is a coward and weakling—at least according to his father, the king, and the royal court. He cannot use a sword, he faints at the sight of blood, and even his brilliant abilities as a strategist are not enough to overcome his failings. When his father loses a bet to the notorious Lord Mallory over the matter of a dragon slaying, he pays his debt by ordering Ingram to marry him.
Then his father reveals that he is putting Ingram to a greater purpose, giving Ingram one last chance to prove he is not worthless. All it requires is betraying his new husband.
I really have grown to love Isabella Carter’s books. So I was really excited for this one, which not only promises to be an in-depth story because it’s the first of a series, but also that I know she likes to really dig into her fantasy worlds. In many ways you can see that this book is a setup, but if you didn’t know it was the first book of a series, I think you’d find that it felt like a whole book. It isn’t just setup, but it does a really good job of giving us the story and leaving the ending open. So yes, it’s important to know that this is the first of a series so that even though you get some resolution, you won’t be surprised that there is a bit of a cliffhanger ending.
Ingram has become the weakling that his father has always accused him of being. Though he’s learned that nothing he does can make his father — the king of Abelen — proud, he’s found his own strengths. They aren’t in what a prince is expected to be, strong at swordplay, but he has a fine mind and has shown himself to be an expert strategist with the King’s miliary.
Abelen is still growing and recovering from a rebellion little more than twenty years previously. The country and King has become more insular, with the Lords abandoning their keeps to spend most of their time in the capital of Solberg. The royals have grown further apart from their people. But, an old feud lingers from Winterveil, the northernmost region of Abelen. Lord Mallory is a young man, but has inherited the feud. He makes a wager with King Roderick, that if he kills the red dragon who has gone into madness and is killing indiscriminately, that he will wed one of the King’s children. When he brings the head of the dragon to court and Roderick casually gives him Ingram, Ingram is hurt and scared to be thrown away to such a dangerous man.
But more is work in such an alliance, on both sides. The King gives Ingram a mission, one that finds him at an impasse when he learns just how wonderful Mallory is, and how much living in a place like Winterveil is more like home than his own family.
There is so much that I could say about this book, but it really should be experienced while reading it and… honestly there is so much going on in the book, so many characters with each one having their own machinations in place that it was a little hard for me to keep up. This is a book that does well as the first of a series — it holds up. Still, for those of you who like to get a lot of the action and information at once and don’t want to wait for the sequel, you might want to do that this time. Because while I really loved this book and I was totally sucked into it, I also feel like there is a lot of subtlety that will benefit from a second or even third read and will also make more sense after I can read the next book in the series. Hopefully, that will be soon!
I know a lot of you who are fans of Less Than Three Press like I am, and this is really their kind of book, the quintessential LT3 fantasy, though maybe a little less sweet than many of them. Ingram goes through quite a bit of angst about his relationship with his father. It’s tough to watch, not only because I grew to care about him, but also because it makes for difficult reading at times. I want him to realize what is happening to him. But we’re privy to information that he isn’t, and he also has to deal with a lifetime of manipulation by the people around him, the people he cares most about. So, while his choices and thoughts are frustrating, they’re also true to his character.
There’s one more point I’d like to touch on. The relationship between Ingram and Mallory in this book is very light. I imagine that the relationship arc is going to take place over the whole series, so don’t expect much romance in this first book. Mallory does court Ingram, in his own way, but it’s a very slow getting-to-know-you kind of thing. It’s actually very sweet, and it’s a very slow-burn romance.
So, I definitely recommend this one. Unless you want to wait, I say go ahead and get this now and read it. I’m so glad I didn’t wait and decided to read it right away, because it was a really fun read for me.
Posted by Cole in 16-40k, 5 Really Like It, Authors A-C, Fantasy, Heat 1 - Sweet/None, Romance, Sex Freq 1 - None Tags: Alternate World Historical, Arranged Marriage, Cliff-hanger, Dragon Shifters, Dragons, Family Issues, Isabella Carter, Less Than Three Press, Magic, Royalty, Secrets & Lies, Series, Slow Burn, Unusual Creatures