05/2016 release

The Only Option by Megan Derr

The Only OptionRate: 5 stars
Genre: Fantasy
Publication day: May 1, 2016
Length:  114 pages
Publisher: All Romance eBooks

A desperate dragon. A lonely necromancer. A marriage neither wants.

When he is summoned to the royal castle, Rochus anticipates nothing more than a particularly difficult assignment. The bothersome journey is almost made worthwhile when he is propositioned by a young, beautiful dragon, Tilo, who seems untroubled by the fact that Rochus is a necromancer.

When Rochus arrives at the castle he is ordered to marry the very same dragon he spent the night with. Though Rochus would rather sign papers and return home, he is helpless against Tilo’s pleas for help, even if it means spending more time around a man he is desperately drawn to but who doesn’t seem to want him.

My View: The Only Option is a nice little fantasy novella with great characters and a lovely relationship. Since we first met Rochus, we get charmed by the older necromancer with a chip on his shoulder. His story, the settings, and the reason for his travel engaged the reader since the very beginning. And his meeting with Tilo just added the perfect mix of flirting and desire.

The time Rochus spent at the castle seemed to short for the length of his travel, but Tilo’s apparent betrayal justifies their course of action. They worked great as travel companions, friends, and lovers. Even when both of them are trying to guard their hearts– it becomes an impossible mission as they get to know each other. The more time they were together, the harder it was for them not to want more from their marriage of convenience.

The author managed to create a compelling story even with a reduced amount of characters involved. The story was well fleshed, but it’s easy to want more from it anyway. Rochus’s pets were great and an integral part of the story. Overall, an excellent novella with a potential for more books in a series.

What I liked the most: I loved the relationship between Rochus and Tilo. The easy way they worked together.

I wanted more: Of everything.

Who should read it: Fantasy fans are up for an excellent story.

ARC provided by All Romance eBooks, via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review. 

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Loud and Clear by Aidan Wayne

Loud and ClearRate: 5 stars
Genre: Contemporary
Publication day: May 23, 2016
Length:  93 pages
Publisher: Riptide Publishing

Jaxon is getting by fine, severe dyslexia or not. Being a cab driver means he doesn’t need to read much, and the job has its perks. The pay isn’t bad, the people can be interesting, and having memorized the city streets keeps him from feeling too stupid.

When he picks up Caleb, a quiet fare in a nice suit, Jaxon doesn’t think anything of it. Then he ends up driving Caleb home the next week too, and the next, and the next. Eventually Caleb tries to communicate—by writing things down. Turns out that Caleb has such a bad stutter he spends most of his time mute.

If only Jaxon had an easier time reading what Caleb had to say. But he’s interested in trying, and Caleb seems interested back. They discover that, with a little bit of effort, it isn’t so hard to make themselves understood. Especially when what’s growing between them is definitely worth talking about.

My View: Loud and Clear is a lovely short story with two intriguing main characters. It breaks with the normative of “perfect” characters and “torture” souls. Both characters struggle with disabilities, but instead of wallow in them, they learned to raise above them and have fulfilling lives.

Their relationship is a slow-burn with lots of chemistry and zero on page sex. Even so, the connection between the characters is evident and their time together fulfilling. The more they get to know each other, the more you will want to see them happy. There’s little angst in the story, but plenty in the MCs’ lives.

Their interactions with others are limited but gave us enough information to learn more about their personal and work relationships. They have pretty routine lives with nothing more than lack of companionship to interfere with their happiness. Yes, Jaxon’s dyslexia and Caleb’s stutter make their lives more challenging, but it’s nothing they don’t see as part of their every day. Thier blossoming relationship is almost a reward of moving ahead with their lives against all odds.

The writing is done well, and the short format fits the fast pace of the book and the relationship. If anything, the reader will want to know more about the MCs after the ending of the book. The small details, notes, and conversations are the important aspects of the book. Their relationship is built on the little things in life.

Overall, this story is sweet, easy read, but it’s filled with hope and a lovely friendship.

What I liked the most: How easy their casual acquaintance turned into a friendship, and then, a relationship.

I wanted more: Of Caleb and Jaxon interacting with others. And perhaps, what happens after the book’s ending.

Who should read it: Fans of sweet contemporary stories.

ARC provided by Riptide Publishing, via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review. 

Risk Aware by Amelia C. Gormley

Risk AwareRate: 4.75 stars
Genre: Contemporary, BDSM
Publication day: May 9, 2016
Length:  323 pages
Publisher: Riptide Publishing

Tattoo artist Geoff Gilchrest is convinced his life is some sort of cosmic joke. Why else would a hemophiliac also be a masochist? He’s given himself more than one elbow bleed since puberty just doing what guys do when alone and bored, so forget about whips and chains. How many partners would contemplate playing with someone even a mild flogging could kill?

Gallery owner Robin Brady knows he can deliver what Geoff needs: to be taken to the edge of danger but never beyond. But Robin came to Saugatuck to get away from the leather scene and heal from a betrayal by his former sub, so he’s not sure he should get involved with Geoff. His ambivalence isn’t helped by the fact that Geoff’s unwillingness to communicate about his well-being hits Robin in some very raw places.

Geoff’s hemophilia isn’t the obstacle he thinks it is. Instead, a lack of trust—on both their parts—is what could end them before they have a chance to begin.

My View: Risk Aware was a pleasant surprise. The blurb was intriguing, and it delivered more than I originally expected. This was my first R.A.C.K. story, and the author did an excellent job setting up the difference between R.A.C.K and a traditional S/m relationship. Having two willing participants without the need to establish a submissive allowed the reader to distance themselves from pop culture clichés and misconceptions.

The touch of fantasy in this story was delivered by the characters background and not their play scenes. Their well-off status took care of everything but the need for control and pain. We could see the characters as fiction even when the scenes they took part of were as real as our lives.

The author delivered two main characters that represented the two sides of a consenting relationship. Geoff, a hemophiliac masochist, is new to the lifestyle and Robin, an experienced Dom with a questionable background, helps him find what he needs and wants. They’re very different characters with diverse backgrounds, but in the end, they complemented each other.

Geoff’s health is an ever present issue they dealt with together after he accepted Robin’s dominance. Every aspect of their relationship had to be discussed before hand and their trust place in each other. After Geoff’s initial reluctance to share with Robin, everything moved forward. We were able to see how their relationship evolved from friendship to love and how it changed them.

The cast of characters involved in the story just added to its enjoyment. Some of the scenes are hard to read if you aren’t into impact or pain play, but overall, this story is an excellent example of a story well written and researched.

What I liked the most: How real the MCs’ scenes were. They weren’t a fantasy for the readers to enjoy, but a reality that could be happening at someone’s house.

I wanted more: I kept waiting for Geoff to drop all his defenses. I wanted him to truly show his love for Robin without inhibitions.

Who should read it: Fans of R.A.C.K. BDSM stories.

ARC provided by Riptide Publishing, via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review. 

High Contrast by Tess Bowery

High ContrastRate: 3.25 stars
Genre: Contemporary
Publication day: May 3, 2016
Length:  226 pages
Publisher: Samhain Publishing 

The deepest scars aren’t the ones that show.

Jacob Shain is your average member of Generation Screwed. He has a boring internship, no cash flow, and a tiny NYC apartment he has to share with Ethan, his much-cooler, tattoo-artist twin brother. Not to mention his love life is DOA. At least, until his brother’s shop hires on a new piercer, and Jacob’s humdrum life takes a turn for the weird.

Cody Turner is gorgeous, funny and kind—everything Jacob wants in a boyfriend. Except for the way he refuses to talk about his past, or where he lives, or anything about his personal life.

When Ethan is arrested while on a mission of mercy, the reason Cody is so tight lipped comes to light. And while Jacob and Cody fight to understand the depth of their feelings for one another, the police dogs catch their scent. So does the local mob.

Now Jacob has to make the hardest choice of his life: stay safe like a good boy, or dive headfirst into a world he barely understands…and hope Cody is there to break his fall.

My View: This was my first book by Tess Bowery, and I enjoyed the writing style and the characterization, not only of the MC but the rest of the characters. Everyone involved had a reason to take part of the story, and their background added to it. The pace flowed, and the situations were interesting enough to keep me reading.

One thing I like about contemporary fiction is the opportunity to mix real and unbelievable events. This story started strong, and I had high hopes for it, but near the ending, the unrealistic events took over. They were too many to ignore and too cheesy to keep me invested in the overall story.

The main characters were great together and their relationship lovely. I love how protective Jacob was of Cody and how sweet their interactions were. Their times together were smexy and their nerd moments amusing. Also, Ethan seemed to be the perfect complement for Jacob.

Overall, High Contrast is entertaining enough if you don’t mind suspending your beliefs for a while. The ending was too cliché, but it worked with the rest of the story. The book is unconventional but engaging enough to want more from it. I’m definitely looking forward to the next book in the series.

What I liked the most: The friendship between the shop’s crew.

I wanted more: Angst.

Who should read it: Fans of new adult stories.

ARC provided by Samhain Publishing, via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.