Book Review: Fish Stick Fridays, by Rhys Ford

ford-fish-stick-fridaysFish Stick Fridays, by Rhys Ford
Series: Half Moon Bay Mystery, Book 1
Release Date: November 30, 2015

Rating: 5 out of 5

Buy Link: Dreamspinner Press (Publisher)

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Deacon Reid was born bad to the bone with no intention of changing. A lifetime of law-bending and living on the edge suited him just fine—until his baby sister died and he found himself raising her little girl.

Lang Harris is stunned when Zig, a little girl in combat boots and a purple tutu blows into his bookstore, and then he’s left speechless when her uncle, Deacon Reid walks in, hot on her heels. Lang always played it safe but Deacon tempts him to step over the line… just a little bit.

More than a little bit. And Lang is willing to be tempted.

Unfortunately, Zig isn’t the only bit of chaos dropped into Half Moon Bay. Violence and death strikes leaving Deacon scrambling to fight off a killer before he loses not only Zig but Lang too.

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Blog Tour: Negotiating Love, by Morticia Knight

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Cover Artist: Posh Gosh

Negotiating Love, by Morticia Knight
Series: Sin City Uniforms, Book Five
Publisher: Pride Publishing (October 27, 2015)
Genre: BDSM, Crime/Mystery, Erotica, Gay (M/M) Romance
Word Count: approx. 51,000 words

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Welcome to the blog tour for Negotiating Love, the latest in Morticia Knight’s “Sin City Uniforms” series. This stand-alone romance features two men from two very different worlds, who find common ground in the bedroom. Be aware, this book contains scenes of BDSM and fetishism.

Keep reading for an exclusive excerpt from the novel, and a secret key phrase to use for your chance to win a fantastic giveaway!

(You can read my review of Negotiating Love here.)

Summary:

Can the kinky billionaire owner of Dark Fantasy Resort Casino capture the heart of a muscled SWAT officer with a secret fetish?

SWAT Team Hostage Negotiator, Steve, wonders why he can’t stay away from the spoiled rich Allistair, owner of Dark Fantasy Resort Casino. They have mutual kinks – ones Steve can’t find with other lovers—but there’s something else about the emotionally detached, beautiful man that calls to him.

Billionaire Allistair stays alone in his luxury penthouse apartment at the top of Dark Fantasy, terrified of the real world and of opening himself up to genuine emotions. He takes lover after lover, all of them allowing him to do whatever he wants to their bodies, in the hopes that they can scam something from him.

One night is all he ever shares with a plaything—he knows they only want the money and luxury he can offer them and nothing more. But the down to earth Steve is different. They share the same kinks and are explosive when together. But could the muscled law officer ever want more than the lust-filled encounters that have become such an addiction?

As they grow closer, they discover they also have to find a balance between Steve’s everyday world and Allistair’s entitled world before they can truly find an ever after. They also have to make sure Allistair stays safe. Filthy rich playboys are too tempting to those who seek the ultimate payday—and who aren’t afraid of hurting someone to get it.

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Book Review: Negotiating Love, by Morticia Knight

knight-negotiating-loveNegotiating Love, by Morticia Knight
Series: Sin City Uniforms, Book 5 (Stand-alone)
Publisher: Pride Publishing (October 27, 2015)
Word Count: approx. 51,000 words
Genre: Gay (M/M) Romance; BDSM; Crime/Suspense

Rating: 3 out of 5

* I received an advanced copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review. *

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Summary:

SWAT Team Hostage Negotiator Steve wonders why he can’t stay away from the spoiled, rich Allistair, owner of Dark Fantasy Resort Casino. They have mutual kinks—ones Steve can’t find with other lovers—but there’s something else about the emotionally detached, beautiful man that calls to him.

Billionaire Allistair stays alone in his luxury penthouse apartment at the top of Dark Fantasy, terrified of the real world and of opening himself up to genuine emotions. He takes lover after lover, all of them allowing him to do whatever he wants to their bodies, in the hopes that they can scam something from him.

One night is all he ever shares with a plaything—he knows they only want the money and luxury he can offer them and nothing more. But the down to earth Steve is different. They share the same kinks and are explosive when together. But could the muscled law officer ever want more than the lust-filled encounters that have become such an addiction?

As they grow closer, they discover they also have to find a balance between Steve’s everyday world and Allistair’s entitled world before they can truly find an ever after. They also have to make sure Allistair stays safe. Filthy rich playboys are too tempting to those who seek the ultimate payday—and who aren’t afraid of hurting someone to get it.

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My Review:

There were a lot of things about this novel that I liked, and a lot of things that I really disliked.

My favorite things about this book:

  • There’s a reverse power exchange going on that I didn’t expect. Steve is a SWAT police officer, big and muscled, so stereotypically he would be the top. Allistair is a smaller man, more effeminate, although he’s also a brilliant businessman. But the usual power dynamic says the big guy is the Top, and the small guy is the Bottom. I liked that it was reversed.
  • The emotions! Steve really cares about Allistair, and wants to protect him from anything dangerous. But because he cares so much, he also wants to protect Allistair from himself, and from his probably-unhealthy introvert tendencies. Allistair is super protective of Steve in exchange, but never smothering. He’s there for  Steve, just not overwhelmingly so.

“So what you’re trying to say is that you’re wondering if I might be your chance at love?”

  • There was an actual plot, and danger that drove that plot forward, but the story was all about the characters and the relationship. Even when things are hitting the climatic point, Steve and Allistair worry about the other, and work together to keep each other safe. I love relationship-centric novels!

What I disliked about the book:

  • The writing style was stilted and awkward, especially Allistair’s dialogue. It was less “business smart” and more “robot”. Some of Steve’s dialogue was just confusing, too, especially when he was upset or angry:

“And since you are no doubt quite familiar with my professional life already, I can detect bullshit from galaxies on the other side of the universe, so bearing that in mind– I expect you to be as honest with me as you claimed you appreciate having from me. Is that clear?”

  • The relationship itself was also as problematic as  it was enjoyable. There were times when it was epic levels of cheesy (“Have you gone mad?” “No. I’ve gone in love.”), but I was more upset with how fast it moved. At the beginning, Steve clearly doesn’t love Allistair; they have an arrangement and nothing more. But they go from “arrangement” to “love” in the blink of an eye!
  • The villain. I won’t spoil anything, but I thought it was stereotypical and not very well done. I also think the climax was resolved way too quickly. One second they tension is rising, and then it’s suddenly gone, and I was confused about what had happened.

Final Verdict?

A solid novel, and enjoyable, but with some pretty heavy issues that prevented me from really being able to love it.

Buy Links: Amazon / Pride Publishing

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Excellent… but not remotely as advertised! — Book Review: Heart of the Liliko’i, by Dena Hankins (Rating: 3/5)

hankins-hear-of-lilikoiHeart of the Liliko’i, by Dena Hankins
Publisher: Bold Stroke Books (October 19, 2015)
Page Count: 240 pages
Genre: Genderqueer Romance; Mystery, Crime/Thriller

Rating: 3 out of 5

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Summary:

Human remains tangled in lilikoi roots bring the authorities to Kerala’s construction site. Native Hawaiians say the passion fruit vine marks an ancient burial ground protected by guardian spirits, the ’aumakua. But these aren’t ancestral bones. The fractured skull points to murder.

Secrets, sabotage, and indigenous sovereignty campaigns hinder the project Kerala leads: building an eco-dream vacation home for Ravi, CEO of a solar power company. Proud to be a tough dyke in the trades, Kerala can’t believe she’s so hot for the masculine genderqueer scientist. Their sexual connection is volcanic, but Ravi’s craving for love and family aggravates burn scars from Kerala’s past. As the lovers pursue justice for Hawaii and its people, Ravi turns his gift for harnessing the sun’s strength toward cultivating his own power, and Kerala wonders if building deep, lasting love could be even more satisfying than constructing a home to last the ages.

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My Review:

This novel was LONG. I’m not talking physically, but it felt like every one of these 240 pages was five times as long as a normal page. The plot crawled by at times, and I kept waiting for the promised conflict of the summary… a promised conflict that didn’t come until more than two-thirds through the narrative.

Look: if the very first line of your summary promises a murder mystery tied to the native Hawaiian traditions, then DELIVER on that! When your main plot point doesn’t occur until the 70% point of the novel, you may want to rethink the basic premise.

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This novel was not at all what was promised. I thought I’d be reading a fast-paced mystery with “Secrets, sabotage, and indigenous sovereignty”, revolving around a murder found on a construction site. This is not what I read.

Now, the novel I read was good. It was, in fact, EXCELLENT. But it was a slow-paced character study about Kel, a lesbian construction worker, and Ravi, a genderqueer scientist. It was a love story set against a backdrop of Hawaiian politics.

If the summary had reflected the story accurately, I would have given this novel 4 or 4.5 out of 5 stars. But I was disappointed, and felt betrayed, because the story I got was not the story I was promised.

In the game of Diversity Bingo, this novel definitely wins a blackout. Lesbian main character, genderqueer love interest who is also a POC and a trans man, native Hawaiians vs. white ‘haole’… there’s no shortage of representation here. And Dena did a great job of integrating all of these elements, although at times I didn’t feel like the novel was a bit too political.

“I use genderqueer to say that my gender is complicated and won’t match your expectations, and that I won’t adopt a label that doesn’t work just to fit into or rebel against those expectations.” (Kindle Loc. 2094)

Do NOT read this book if you’re looking for a murder mystery/crime thriller. DO read this book if you want a lovely, evolving romance focusing on the relationship between two interesting characters.

(I find it interesting that this book is filed under just the “romance” genre on both BSB and Amazon, with no mention of a “mystery” or “crime” genre. This makes me think the summary was written to deceive readers, to make them think the novel was something that it isn’t.)

If the author and publisher changed the summary to reflect what this novel was actually about, I would recommend it much more highly. But basing your summary on the last 30% of the actual novel is a no-go for me.

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Blog Tour: “On the Run” by Michael Mandrake (Excerpt, Interview, and Giveaway!)

ontherun_pride_800 On the Run, by Michael Mandrake
Publisher: Pride Publishing (October 6, 2015)
Word Count: approx. 50,000 words
Genre: Action/Crime Thriller; Gay (M/M) Romance

Reader Advisory: This book contains the use of racial slurs.

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Welcome to the blog tour for Michael Mandrake’s new release, On the Run! This is the first in the PROTEKT series, which features a top-secret organization that works apart from governments to help those in need. I’m excited to host Michael’s tour here on Just Love today, because On the Run has an action-packed plot and multicultural characters!

Keep reading for an excerpt from the book, Michael’s thoughts on writing gay men of color, and your chance to win a Pride Publishing ebook of your choice!

Summary:

Who would’ve thought that a British hitman would fall in lust at first sight with an American felon? It could become deadly for both.

Aiden Moriarty is a Florida ‘herbalist’ who works with a performance-enhancing drug used by many athletes. One of them is baseball star Ivan Salerno, who was caught using the drug and is now on the brink of getting suspended. Because of Ivan’s connections with a rogue mob boss, Aiden is taken into a witness-protection program, working along with baseball higher-ups until he testifies.

The mob boss, Augustine Ora, has hired former British military officer and his best hitman Devlin ‘Brit’ Crawford to do the job. Ora has instructed Devlin to go to Miami, kidnap Aiden and take him to the local airport to be transported to Havana, Cuba, to be executed by Ora’s top officers.

However, when Devlin receives the email, the pictures of the blue-eyed felon catch his eye and he is moved to go in a different direction. Instead of delivering Aiden to the airport, he has thoughts of taking him away and saving him from Ora’s wrath.

This move puts himself and Aiden, as well as his assistant, Miranda Ashley, in huge danger. Will Devlin keep Aiden safe despite the odds, or will he fail, causing Ora and his men to come after him?

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