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review 2017-03-18 23:27
This is definitely going to be a series to watch...
An Unseen Attraction - K.J. Charles

A Tag Team Review with Chelsea!

FOUR HEARTS--K.J. Charles' newest Victorian romance series, Sins of the Cities, starts off on the right foot with An Unseen Attraction. A slow burn with an encompassing mystery and romance between two unassuming souls can be found in this novel.


"Rowley, there are lots of people who think I'm worth looking at. Not so many who think I'm worth listening to. Not like you."
A spasm of something passed across Rowley's face. "Then there are a lot of fools out there."




Swoon.

The words were, as usual, a joy to read from this author. And the shared moments between 28-year-old Clement Talleyfer - lodging house keeper and 35 year old, Rowley Green, a solitary preserver (taxidermist) made this book special.

Clement, or Clem, is of Indian descent and grew up an outsider for his entire life. Rowley has not had an easy childhood and bears the scars to prove it. The author has a fine hand on writing inclusive characters be it race or QUILTBAG, no one gets left out. And An Unseen Attraction is on par.

But what makes this book even more special was including a character with DCD (Developmental Coordination Disorder or Dyspraxia). She wrote the character in such a way that respected the disorder and an affected person's feelings, rather than using his disorder as a characteristic and not following up. (I'm not a fan of books that write characters with intellectual disabilities and can't back it up with thorough research). Based on the obvious research alone put into this tale, it's rated all the hearts.

Clem runs the lodging house and crushes on his lodger of eight months, the small, quiet Mr. Green, who runs a preserve shop next door. Clem's not one to easily discern if Mr. Green would welcome his affections, so quiet friendship is what he relies on to keep in respectable contact within that time period. You know what they say about the quiet ones? Because quiet Mr. Green notices Clem just as much.

Told in dual POV, the two become closer while surround by interesting characters at the lodging house. Their shared attraction obvious. A mystery is literally dropped on the house doorsteps by way of a dead body. The pair bond even more, trying to figure out what is the cause of the violent acts. Both men have damaging pasts, with internal and external scars. Clem is gorgeous (great cover by the way - it's very close to how I picture Clem). But with DCD, most treat him like an imbecile. Rowley, knows he's not as handsome and he tends to downplay himself. Not to the point of annoyance but thankfully Clem sees him as a worthy partner and vice versa.

I loved both main characters. (Can you tell?) Flawed individuals who make each other stronger together and bring out the best in each other without losing a sense of self. They aren't overt characters, rather it's the quietness and the little things that they both do that grabs the attention.

And their compatibility exists both in and out of the bedroom!


"I like to be...undemanding in bed. To, well, have the other person make the decisions. there's something about someone doing what he wants to do with me..."






I-- *clears throat*

Yes, I'm very fine with that.

Edging and submissiveness...oh yes, these two were definitely hot together.

While the two check off so many boxes on my characters-I-enjoy list, the story isn't without minor flaws.

Why not full throttle and dump all the hearts at this book's feet? There are some open ended issues that I would love to be answered. There's an arc that has enough mystery to probably cover the entire series. (That epilogue is everything)

But...something about the 'villain(s) ending'-- something about it s sticking in my craw. Maybe it could be more of a me thing but I wanted justice. I wanted a big never ending battle royal as a climax to the action scenes scattered about the story.

The cowardice irks me. Who is the accomplice? Mastermind? Ah!

But I do think the author kept the main character's personalities at the forefront at all times, so I'll just have to swallow and build a bridge to get over it.

Or read the rest of this series, which I DEFINITELY will be. Because I am all in for "Polish Mark". This author has me pining for themes I tend to shy away from - mysteries and psychics. *shakes head*

The writing is that good.

I don't plan on running through the ignored lists of books with those themes but it seems that if K.J. Charles has written it, I'll make an exception.

The secondary characters are just as intriguing as the main characters. And the story overall, is well written enough, suspenseful enough and romantic enough to check out!

Recommended.



A copy provided for an honest review via Netgalley.

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review 2017-03-06 06:31
Stereotypes in insta-love. Ho hum.
Permanent Ink - Jaime Samms
A Hearts On Fire Review

TWO HEARTS--The re-release of Permanent Ink by Jaime Samms is a short story that features a very quick pairing between white college basketball player Eric and black tatted/pierced ex-con Dwayne. Eric's best friend is Dwayne's cousin, Angel, meaning they knew of each other but never formally hung out. Eric judges Dwayne based on his outward appearance, assuming the worst. Though Dwayne doesn't help Eric's preconception in the beginning of the short when he brags about his ass pain from a hookup the night before. The two start on the wrong foot and it quickly turns around into a HEA.

Race is an important factor in this short. And unfortunately, so are a few stereotypes.

This is a re-release, I haven't read the original version but I'm going to take a stab that not much changed. Though the time period could be implied as modern day, it read more like any reference to the time period was vaguely mentioned. An example, Dwayne is supposed to look like a "thug" with cornrows and beads because he came from the hood and had to wear the "thug" exterior to protect himself on the "inside".

*sigh*

I just can't buy the characterization as justification for writing Dwayne this way. I'm unsure if the story is supposed to be based in the UK or America, so it could help me reference the characters. Maybe that's how the "thugs" dress and act in a different part of the world? *shrug*

I think I see what the author was going for, opposites attract insta-love romance but the beginning was rough. I didn't like Eric. He was privileged and didn't really come away as a better person in the end. Dwayne read more like 2-D character who had past rape added to his life to give depth?

Past rape was given as the reason for the "armor" of tattoos and 'tough persona....why have him brag about sleeping around if he has a sexual hang up (about bottoming). There were contradicting factors - hooking up with random men to never having sex since jail.

Didn't make the impact it tried to go for.

My second biggest gripe (after poor characterization) is if this was reedited, why not make it read more current? Angel tried to give something about race relations when he tried to give a teaching moment with Eric. But it kinda fell off to the wayside. Story is too short to try and encompass crime, rape PTSD. Not a fan of the way it was written or presented.

The one sex scene was a bust because the main characters read awkward and acted awkward to me. Example, it'd be a kiss then stall then kiss then pause...not smooth writing. Along with the vagueness in the writing.

I've read this author in the past. Samms's books have a tendency to be full of angst. I don't think the topics added to make the story...interesting (for lack of a better word) was needed.

How could the story have been better? More length, show how the two connected rather than insta-love over time. There were very tiny bits of that that just didn't go anywhere.

Didn't like Eric by the end - he still read like a privileged rich kid. I doubt he grew or will grow from his relationship with Dwayne. Dwayne could do so much better.

Not recommended.
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review 2017-03-02 02:04
Fun historical road trip romance!
Wanted, A Gentleman - K.J. Charles
A tag team review with Chelsea

3.75-4 HEARTS (sliding scale)--

WANTED, A Gentleman of better character than he knows, who plays the Villain to the manner born. Prompt application to M.St.V. is greatly desired as a Promise remains to be kept.

Oh this was fun!

Wanted, A Gentleman is officially my first book of the year and I couldn't have chosen any better to start the new year off! Take one overworked scribbler who is a bit shifty (Theo Swann) and pair Theo with a former slave turned well to do merchant who is straightforward (Martin St. Vincent) and get a surprisingly light, and sexy opposites attract budding romance(?)

It's romantic in a sense though the story starts with a HFN feel, it's a promising start which read like an organic conclusion.

St. Vincent (I've had a great track record with historical St. Vincents) needs help locating a wayward teen who is determined to marry a liar. The girl is the only child of St. Vincent's former masters = complicated city. Theo runs a matrimonial matchmaking advertising business where the lonely and desperate write for potential matches. The two men are thrown together during desperate measures, Martin wants to help a child he grew up with though the ties still uneasy to fathom and Theo wants the money Martin promises him....even though he can't stop his attraction to Martin.

The two start off as strangers, are thrown together in a race to catch up with the eloping pair. And you know what happens during that road trip when mutual passion and chemistry is shared between the pair?

Road side hooking up.




This isn't PWP in the least and the road trip plot and chasing the wayward teen and her crappy swain plays second fiddle to Martin and Theo's page time. Thankfully.

The story is a definite win, but some parts were better than others.

Where this book excels : The main characters are the read and butter of this story. From the moment they meet to the very last scene, Martin St. Vincent and Theodore Swann grab the reader's attention.Well known Charles is a wordsmith and exceeds with excellent dialogue between her main characters. No different in Wanted. Theo and Martin have great balance of funny, serious, sexual and damaged.

"This has been a delightful interlude, but if you don't fuck me right now, I am going to set fire to your house. Consider yourself warned."
"Well, if you put it that way. How do you like it?"
"In."
"I'm trying to treat you with respect and consideration. The least you could do is stop playing the harlot."
"What makes you think I'm playing?"

Well matched pair.

Another point where the story excels is the fact that Martin is a conflicted character. The story is light in tone but it by no means diminishes Martin's history. I think it gave a great grasp on being...'other' than what society deems 'the normal'. It was cool to read Charles' take on a merchant Black Briton in the Georgian era. Martin is layered. He's proud of his accomplishments (freed slave now merchant), never mistreated as a slave and grateful for that because it could have been worse. But he is still angry. (Justifiably so) Traveling north of London, the reader gets a taste of the subtle racism Martin endures, learns why he chooses to continue this 'mission' and get to learn all of facets.

All while having Martin find a possible partner. And it wasn't angst riddled.

Out of the pair, Martin wins for me slightly over Theo, though Theo is definitely no slouch in the great character department: witty, quick thinking and just a bit criminal. Both are damaged by their upbringing but aren't bitter at the world.

Where the book was good : The plot was simple and engaging. I've lost track of how many historical romances I've read that used a Gretna Green road trip plot device to throw opposites together. It was nice to read one with a queer main couple. It's a quick read so, there aren't everlasting declarations made (Totally wouldn't work BTW) There was a big twist at 65% that seems a little left field...how? what? who? But overall, it works for the arc.

Where the book could have done better: It's little nitpicks but knowing I've read stellar reads from this author in the past, I know this story could have been more. Maybe a little more exposition on Theo. It's a Martin/Theo book and we get more depth on Martin. Theo is an interesting character. He leads a double (or triple) life. Once the twist is thrown in, Theo loses a little of his sparkle. I think I wouldn't have minded more page time, maybe a little more written at the stage stops on the road. The reasoning of why Martin chose to chase after 'Cressida' is given but maybe a touch more.

Altogether, the story more than gets the job done.

Would I read more of this pairing? Yes...and no. The story ends on the right hopeful note. I wouldn't say no to possible future snippets of their future but the story really drove the main point across.

Martin is living a HEA (as much as can be expected in that time period) being free and being able to help the poor Britons in need.

Theo was a delightful addition. Two lonely hearts entwined for however long they fancy.

Sometimes a budding and hopeful end is all we need.

Recommended for readers familiar with Charles work, readers of historical romance who don't mind different interpretations of a HEA.

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review 2017-02-14 19:25
Samaria: Warrior Princess
Samaria: Warrior Princess (Volume 1) - Jaxx Summers

Title: Samaria
Author: Jaxx Summers
Publisher: Cultural Cocktails
Series: Volume One
Reviewed By: Arlena Dean
Rating: Five
Review:

"Samaria" by Jaxx Summers

My Thoughts....

This was a enjoyable read especially if you are into interracial paranormal romance. It will be quite interesting to see how this entertaining story will come out about this vampire Viking [Alarik] and warrior princess [Samaria].Will this Viking be able to save Samaria from her wicked sister [Nzinga] before it's too late? Be ready for one phenomenal amazing ride of good and evil that will definitely keep your attention as you will be kept turning the pages and yes, left wanting more. Now to get the rest of this captivating story the reader will have to get the next part.

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review 2017-02-06 07:25
Refreshing New Adult MM romance...
Andre in Flight - Laura Lascarso

FOUR HEARTS--


'I've watched you sleep a thousand times.'





New-to-me Laura Lascarso is fairly new in the MM romance department. And she made an impression after reading novella, Andre in Flight.

I'm not sure how exactly to categorize it, probably contemporary new adult with a twist. The twist is everything that makes this story move. I'll try my hardest not give it away.

Set in Miami, twenty-something artist Martin works as a waiter in a Cuban fusion restaurant. His circle of friends is small, his love life is nonexistent. Other than a closeted co-worker who takes out his frustration on Martin since Martin refused him, he has no action. One day, he sees the new dishwasher, eighteen year old Andre who is full of youth and beauty. Martin's muse is captures. and there is something about the boy that captivates him. Is it his muse only? Or is it more?

The story is told in Martin's 1st POV but the reader definitely gets an equal sense of both main characters. Andre is essentially homeless, living in the worst neighborhood by exchanging sexual favors. Triggers: Past abuse, mentions of homophobic bashing. Martin takes the teen in his studio apartment...as a friend. It trips both of them out.

This is a period that I enjoy in reading budding romances, that getting to know the other person period. Hell I enjoy it in real life. Andre is a character and embodies eighteen. He's legally an adult, but sadly he's been through some rough things in his life. Sometimes he acted older than his years and then in the next page, he does something so damn eighteen!

Reading Andre and Martin move from roommates to more was great. I enjoyed the author's tone a lot. And even with the serious topics introduced, the story didn't read angst heavy. It was closer to realistic...for the most part.

Things I enjoyed:

Main Characters : both were men of color, Andre - African American and Martin - Cuban-American. And both men described a view of their world with a sense of their self. Andre, more so than Martin, he was young, black and gay in small town Alabama, where homophobia drove him away from home. Both men were characters and not caricatures with pretty skin tone.

The Twist : was not expecting it in the least though there were hints in the blurb. There's a point when it comes to ahead and I was shocked. That doesn't happen too often.

Things that weren't as strong for me:

Melissa : I'm unsure what side of the coin she's supposed to fall on. She's too ambiguous for me. (also, if Martin and Andre are subjects in this...game(?) What exactly is her story? How? I can see the why, though I think it could've went deeper.

Last 20-25% : The story gets the job done. It slowly unfurls with giving enough crumbs to move the pace along. But the last 20-25%, seemed like it could have been pushed further. Finding out the motive behind the story's villain(?) Why the main players? Will it happen again? Is there some mission? Ulterior motive? And the way one character just went away for a few weeks with no contact when they really seemed to be the puppet mater, just struck me as a  little odd. I think I quibble because I wish this story was slightly longer.

Overall, the story is certainly different. It sort of has paranormal elements but ...not quite. Is there sex? Yes, but it's overly detailed and doesn't need to be. It's more about Andre and Martin's connections. There are miscommunication issues, so if you're a reader who gets easily frustrated with that plot device, it doesn't overtake the entire book. Keep in mind it's New Adult, so expect the characters to act as such.

I think Andre in Flight read like a current snapshot of working class new adults who become friends into something more. It felt as close to real life as it could get.




Recommended? Yes. A sort of sweet, low angst glimpse at relationship that seems to stand the test of time. It has a HFN ending, which I think works for this age range.

But it's up for interpretation, sort of like Martin's artwork.

I'll be keeping my eye open for more MM from Ms. Lascarso in the future. I want to read what other ideas she has brewing.

P.S. This cover? Nom nom nom!



A copy provided for an honest review.

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