Fantasy, New Adult Romance, Romance

My Review: A Touch of Darkness (Hades & Persephone #1): by Scarlett St. Clair

Publish Date: May 23rd, 2019
Number of Pages: 353 Pages
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre(s): Fantasy, New Adult Romance

Total Star Rating: 3.75 Stars

Hades chuckled, leaning in so that when he spoke, his breath caressed her lips. ‘Oh, darling. You don’t know what I’m capable of.’

– Scarlett St. Clair, “A Touch of Darkness”

What It’s About:

The official blurb:

Persephone is the Goddess of Spring by title only. The truth is, since she was a little girl, flowers have shriveled at her touch. After moving to New Athens, she hopes to lead an unassuming life disguised as a mortal journalist.

Hades, God of the Dead, has built a gambling empire in the mortal world and his favorite bets are rumored to be impossible.

After a chance encounter with Hades, Persephone finds herself in a contract with the God of the Dead and the terms are impossible: Persephone must create life in the Underworld or lose her freedom forever.

The bet does more than expose Persephone’s failure as a goddess, however. As she struggles to sow the seeds of her freedom, love for the God of the Dead grows – and it’s forbidden.

~~~

This was a total mood read, and while there are plenty of things that I thought could’ve been way better about it, it still at least served its purpose and entertained me as a reader. While some aspects were underdeveloped more than I cared for, what this story did give me was an erotic romantic tale with a sprinkling of fantasy elements added on top, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing so long as that’s something that you’re looking for.

I’ve been in the mood for some greek mythology related stories, and I’m usually really drawn into novels that get compared to the retelling of the classic tale of Hades and Persephone, so I’m so incredibly sad to say this wasn’t the best out of the many in that regards. It was still good enough to keep me interested and had me reading late into the night, but the romance factor was the main reason for that along with just having the whole classical mythology aesthetic on top of it all.

The writing was very so-so; It felt a little amateurish and choppy in some parts…not to mention there were a few typos and names mixed up…

This version of Persephone wasn’t the greatest portrayal of her character…

The sex was hot!

The Gods/Goddesses live amongst us!

The worldbuilding was simple, but effective!

Overall it wasn’t a bad book by any means, but I have similar feelings to it as I did for Laura Thalassa’s Bargainer series…I’d only read the first book for that, but the story focused mainly on the romance, had a simple world constructed with the possibility of more to explore as you read on, but not enough of the other aspects to make it a greater fantasy-genre book were developed as much as they could’ve been. It felt like I was just reading another version of the 50 Shades millionaire romance stories but the guy’s name just happens to be Hades this time around. At least from my perspective, I can say it felt like this story was less problematic than the franchise by EL James was…

With all that said, I can praise the romance factor that this book offered. I thought the author did a splendid job at it with the sexual tension that was built up between Hades and Persephone! At least, I can say I personally enjoyed it. It wasn’t the greatest, but it was still keeping me reading on. Some could argue that some of the lovemaking scenes felt out of place or excessive, but c’mon…..lesbehonest, we all know the smut is one of the main reasons people are drawn to these books to begin with. I certainly did not think this way!

~~~

‘Let me worship you,’ he said.

She remembered the words she had whispered to him in the back of the limo after La Rose. You will worship me, and I won’t even have to order you. His request felt sinful and devious, and she reveled in it.

She answered, ‘Yes.’

– Scarlett St. Clair, “A Touch of Darkness”

What I Liked:

  1. The Slow-Building Sexual Tension! The sparks between Hades and Persephone were (of course) a major highlight of the book. The author really did a good job of giving their relationship a slow burn that made the moments whenever they gave into their lust and passion all the more satisfying! Side note, but I was also such a fan of the scene later on in the book when the two of them are freakin’ couples goals when they had a movie night in their sweats and baked cookies…
  2. It’s an Unorthodox Retelling! So not everyone will like this retelling simply because it doesn’t necessarily follow the original story to a T. Things have definitely been switched around, or completely different ideas have been sprung forward to at least make it feel like something completely new. I just know there are certain readers who are really sensitive to that sort of thing, and will strongly dislike something if it doesn’t perfectly match up, kind of like when a book gets turned into a movie or TV show and doesn’t follow the book all that much.
  3. The Modern Day Greek Gods Living Amongst Us! The worldbuilding was honestly more on the mediocre side, but it still worked rather well for the sake of the story. In this world, The greek gods and goddesses live among us, and they’re very much still in charge. They’re like the A-list celebrities a lot of us idolize: Hades runs the night-clubs and casinos, Dionysus has the world’s best wine vineyards, and I think you get the picture…There’s a red carpet scene with all the glitz and glamour and paparazzi cameras flashing as they all make their appearances, and it made me think how much more fun even events like the MET Gala would be if we could see deities like Apollo, Aphrodite, and yes even Hades making appearances at these sort of events. Overall, this aspect of the whole book was very fun!

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. The Grammar/Spelling/Typos…It happens at the very beginning, but there are some noticeable errors along these lines that were a big turn off…I mean, if something is published—traditionally or independently, I’d hope there wouldn’t be something like this in the book itself. I’m not reading someone’s fanfiction on Wattpad, this is an actual published book! I don’t know, it lessened my expectations and made the quality of it go down in my eyes.
  2. The Smut is Overhyped…I’m glad to see how many people like this book, or even this whole series, but I will admit that the actual sex scenes didn’t fully live up to the hype for me. They were good, but I was thinking they’d be better based off so many glowing reviews this book has. I was also maybe hoping for something…darker and more erotic and tantalizing, and maybe with more magical abilities put into play to spice things up a bit…
  3. Not Sure How I Feel About the Villain…This is the first time I’ve seen Demeter set up as the villain in the whole story revolving around Hades and Persephone, and while I say this is a more original take, I’m not sure how I feel about it to be honest. In the story, Demeter is always known as the caring and doting mother, but this time she’s painted as cold and manipulative and just an all around frigid bitch! I don’t know, I think the idea of having a positive mother/daughter relationship is always a better way to go, but that’s just a personal preference to me. I’ve just seen shitty parents used as the outer conflict for a character in the romance-genre way too many times, and it’s just so cliché for me too.
  4. Very Little Magic…Some other reviewers on Goodreads say this, and I have to agree: there were times this felt like just another millionaire romance, and not really something that has the legendary Greek God as the main character. It did feel almost like a “50 Shades of Grey” + Greek Mythology kind of setup quite a few times. At least this time it’s a little less problematic. There just wasn’t as much magic as I was hoping, it was very underdeveloped, but maybe more will happen in the later books! Fingers crossed…
  5. Persephone Isn’t All That…I wasn’t the biggest fan of Persephone in this particular story. She was headstrong and fierce at times, and more power to her for that, but she was also just pure plot convenience too. She was just way too naive and there was just WAY too much miscommunication with her in order to add conflict into the story for my liking.

Conclusion:

Overall, I liked but didn’t love this book, but it certainly filled the need for some Greek Mythology related fiction that I’ve been kind of craving as of late. It focused more on the erotic romance and less on the grandeur of having the powerful and magical gods among us, which is fine, but I want to see more stronger fantasy aspects going forward!

I recommend this book, and possibly this series, to those who really enjoy authors like Sarah J. Maas, Laura Thalassa, and even Jennifer L. Armentrout. This author’s writing isn’t as up to par with these other names, but the overall themes and aesthetics of the story and what is given attention to within the plot will appeal to those who enjoy their books.

The big question I had going forward was which book to read next in the series. Technically, there’s two options: A Touch of Ruin which follows after this book and still follows Persephone’s point of view, or there’s also A Game of Fate, which is actually this book all over again, but this time it’s told from the perspective of Hades! Do you go forward, or see everything from the other side of things? Maybe I’ll try and read the beginning of both and see which one I want to read first? If you’ve read these books already, what do you suggest? Let me know!

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

Erotica, Romance

My Review: Crosstown Crush (Sins in the City #1): by Cara McKenna

Publish Date: September 1st, 2015
Number of Pages: 336 Pages
Publisher: Signet
Genre(s): Erotica, Romance

Total Star Rating: 3.75 Stars

After I happened upon this book totally by accident, I can say that this is definitely a smutty & erotic story worth checking out for those who are curious about what exactly is explored by the main characters…

I was doing a mini experiment with this title and decided to give it a try without looking into it on Goodreads, Amazon, literally nothing besides just reading the blurb and starting it based off just that. Honestly, it’s been wayyyyyyy too long since I’ve done that and I feel like I should do it more often; I might enjoy a lot more titles and not end up passing on a lot of them based off their Goodreads average rating or being scared off from others’ reviews. It makes me think of how many books I’d actually passed up on because of that, and it turns out I would’ve really enjoyed them?

So back to this book, but sex and a particular kink are the main focus of the story. I mean, that makes total sense when it comes to books within this genre, and one thing to remember is that with so much emphasis on the graphic sex scenes comes less actual plot and in-depth character development. Sometimes you do get all that in the story, but it can’t always be expected. What is expected is incredibly detailed sex scenes that really heat things up! This book is a dirty one and might even be too much for some readers! I enjoyed it because it was all about exploration of something that is taboo and forbidden and looked down on by a lot of people, plus I think it also depends on your personal views of marriage and how far a couple can go with their sex lives both as a couple but also as individuals.

So I’m kind of assuming a lot by this point, but I’m sure you know what’s going on in the book, so I’m just going to sort of go off about the “other man” in this whole relationship because he was by far my favorite character! I go into more detail about him later on in my review, but I thought the chemistry between him and the wife was so much hotter and undeniable than even her and her actual husband! There was definitely some major sparks happening there, and of course plenty of passionate, forbidden sex that was happening between them all!

The ending left a little more to be desired in my honest opinion, but again, I go more into detail on that below. I guess I can say that it was satisfying enough, but maybe not for those who read this and are leaning more towards the third man in this whole setup.

This erotic novel kind of hit different with its content and focus on cuckholding, which is when the husband is cheated on, but there’s also a lot more to it I think… This book doesn’t really give you a lesson in the topic and taboo subject matter, but it certainly paints it all in an interesting picture. Of course in this book it was all kind of hot, but would it be the same in your own sex life? What if instead of seeing red with rage and getting jealous, what if it was a huge turn on to have your significant other whispering in your ear all the torrid and dirty things they did with someone else? Maybe it leads to roleplaying and/or bringing a third party into the mix all for the sake of experimentation and fulfilling a dark and forbidden fantasy? I know that definitely doesn’t appeal to everyone, but I feel like exploring the idea through fiction might be a safer way to do so? It’s tricky because how accurate can it be? How much research did the author do? Is this just another 50 Shades of Grey mess? It certainly raises a ton of questions the more you think about it, but I’m going to leave it all up to you, the reader, to make up your mind on the topic. I appreciate you either way!

Each of the three characters has their own fantasies/fetishes that they admit to at some point in the story, some earlier than others. As the three of them explore themselves and their whole sexual dynamic, it actually gets kind of complex with how their feelings change and develop as they get to know more about each other, but the one thing that makes us unique gets in the way: human emotion. It certainly can lead to complications, especially with such a fragile and unique dynamic that the characters find themselves in with this book. Lines get crossed, as to be expected, but how exactly do they deal with it all? Thats the big question to ask that makes me say you need to read it for yourself to find out!

(or just keep reading on where I’m kind of giving a vague spoiler on the ending…fair warning).

What It’s About:

The official blurb:

The first in a new series from the “wicked-hot”* author of Hard Time and Give It All explores the fantasies of a daring married couple—and those of a stranger invited to play along in their scandalous little games… When he’s working, Mike Heyer is all business—every inch the alpha male, with the hard, capable body to back up his persona. But at home he can be a different man entirely, harboring appetites only his wife gets to glimpse…

When Samira first learned of her husband’s fantasies, she was reluctant, even alarmed. But after witnessing the way they set him on fire, she yielded, and happily indulged. As their games have intensified, so has the rush. And now so has the risk—they’re poised to take Mike’s indecent desires to the next level, by opening their bed to a sexy, brazen stranger. A man seeming custom-made to grant every last one of Mike and Samira’s sinful wishes.

Welcoming someone new into their lives was always a dangerous proposition, but the couple imagined if anything was at stake, it was their privacy…not their hearts.

What I Liked:

  1. Bern! He was a total highlight of this book, and I find it so ironic considering he’s the third party person whose brought into this unique pairing. He’s charming, he’s confident, down to earth, cheeky, and so intune with his sexuality and what all happens, he was fun to read in this story. I liked him almost immediately and wouldn’t mind if he was a real person if I ever bumped into him. He also has a dog who he obviously cares a lot about which is also a major plus, but also how he totally is down to go with the flow and change up the roleplaying almost quicker than either Sam or Mike. He has an exhibitionist in him and he’s not afraid to take charge and put his emotions out on his sleeve, I think anyone who reads this will absolutely adore him!
  2. The Smut! With the added thrill of the forbidden and taboo, the sex was absolutely so well done in this book. So much dirty talk and hot actions were said and done to heat up the pages and make you blush a couple times, plus these scenes take up a rather hefty amount of the book itself. Any fans of smut will absolutely love this book for this fact alone.

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. The Ending… So this goes into spoiler territory, so read on at our own risk or skip to the conclusion……….but I wasn’t thrilled about the ending. It felt rushed and wrapped up a little too nicely, which always seems to be a problem I have with contemporary romance titles I swear! Well the main reason I wasn’t all that happy with it is because it honestly felt like it gave Bern the short end of the straw. So basically Sam ends up wanting both men in her life and being in a relationship with Bern while staying married to Mike, so they basically share her. Well, Mike shares her and pretty much chaperones anything that happens with Bern and Sam….It may have ended the book fine, but I was thinking about how it could come to be later on in their lives, like it doesn’t seem like it’d work long-term for them. To be fair, it was implied that Mike lessoned his strictness a little bit over time, but I just feel like Bern is going to resent how he doesn’t get enough over time… I just saw it going south, plus it’s not like throuples are really a big socially acceptable thing in this day and age. I’m not even sure if you can call it a throuple because Mike and Bern don’t really go too far with each other; there’s some exploration with that, but it’s more about them sharing Sam with little interaction between themselves…I don’t know, I just wasn’t thrilled with how it all wrapped together in the end.

Conclusion:

Certainly a HAWT erotica novel that fans of the genre should absolutely consider getting their hands on! It explores the dynamic of a man and wife and their adventurous sex life and how far they’re willing to go in order to live out some of their most forbidden and dark sexual fantasies. Those curious about it all have the chance to really enjoy this title, and meet the other man Bern, who was a total delight for this book!

This is also the first in a series, and while the couple in the next book isn’t anyone you meet in this book, I wonder if these characters make other appearances at all? I guess I’ll have to read on in order to find out!

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

Erotica

My Review: Priest (Priest #1): by Sierra Simone

Publish Date: June 18th, 2015
Number of Pages: 354 Pages
Publisher: Createspace Independent Publishing
Genre(s): Erotica

Total Star Rating: 2.75 Stars

I’ll admit that I was just in such a mood to read a smutty, erotic book when this book popped up into the bookstore one day. I’ve been reminiscing about books/series like the Crossfire series, the Beautiful Bastard series, and even the New Camelot Trilogy (that’s written by this very same author), and I just wanted to read something along the lines of those kinds of books again; it feels like it’s been awhile since I really have! I’ve been enjoying some new adult romance books by Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy, and while those are incredibly fun, they’re not entirely in the same ballpark as the other series I’ve just mentioned. I just need some mindless smut, you know? Literally, sometimes a reader like me just needs pornography in the written word format, there’s nothing else to it!

The premise of this book immediately drew me in because I absolutely adored Sierra Simone’s New Camelot Trilogy, and I thought I’d hit another goldmine with this story, which is about a Catholic Priest breaking his sacred, religious vows with a woman. several times. As someone who loves to explore the darker and forbidden side like these sort of things, at least in literature, how can you not be immediately curious? Sure, figures in the church like the main character haven’t been cast in the best light over the years, but luckily this wasn’t as horrific of a tale like say, The Keepers (A Netflix true-crime documentary).

This book wasn’t terrible, but I can also say I was not as satisfied with the story overall as I was with her other trilogy I loved. I go more into detail about that further down in my review, but I can say I still thought it was pretty good book; the story wasn’t as strong as I’d hoped, but the sex scenes were still hot as hell and entertaining enough to that degree. It was more one of those kinds of reads that are mindless fun; you enjoy it more if you don’t really think about all the things wrong with it too much. I felt the exact same way with stories like 50 Shades of Grey and 365 Days; super hot stuff, but the forbidden factors don’t appeal to everyone, like if you sign a contract to be someone’s submissive, you get kidnapped by the mob, or in this case with a Catholic Priest falling for a woman and having a secret, torrid affair with her.

What It’s About:

This story revolves around 29-years old Tyler Anselm Bell, who’s also a priest in his small town. He has an incredibly personal reason for turning to the church since his past is questionable, but one day he has a run in with a sensuous voice in the confessional booth. He’s a man who’s sworn to walk the straight and narrow, to guide those who seek forgiveness and retribution, but meeting Poppy Danforth makes him question everything.

Poppy has moved into the small town, and meets Tyler during a private confession session, and despite them both trying to keep it professional, they can’t deny the sparks that fly between them, and of course, begin to have a torrid and secret affair.

What begins as a relationship that’s doomed from the start, their secret is constantly threatened to be exposed along with both seeking their true purpose in life as well as whether their relationship is strong enough to withstand all that it’s up against…but that doesn’t mean they’re not going to be having electric sex all while trying to figure it out!

What I Liked:

  1. It’s Certainly Taboo! I’m not someone who’s all that religious, and I would have to be an idiot to actually recommend this title to someone who’s heavily involved with the catholic church, and this book really brings up a controversial idea of what if a catholic priest falls in love? With the story involving someone involved in the Catholic church, where tradition and strict guidelines is the reputation, this story certainly falls on the forbidden and taboo subject matter that will definitely appeal to those who are looking for a spicy book that will make them ashamed to be caught reading in public! Sierra Simone really seems to be an author that loves to explore the forbidden and darker themed erotic fiction!
  2. The Sex Scenes Absolutely Sizzle! Just like when I read The New Camelot Trilogy by this author, I can say this book also has some seriously hot love scenes that fans of erotica, and even further justifies me recommending this author to anyone who’s looking for something to read within the erotic fiction genre. It’s even hotter when some of the scenes within this story take place right inside the church, even up on the dais

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. The Few Perspectives Told from Poppy’s POV…You don’t really get inside the head of the female main character except for a few quick instances with the author giving you a brief glimpse, but they’re horribly written and horribly edited because they’re, like, all run on sentences and also just feel very randomly put in. They could’ve been more consistently placed within the story in order to maybe feel more effective too.
  2. The Build Up…I get that it’s erotica and sex is the main focus of the story, but I swear that even some porno’s had a much better bridge into the lust and all that than this story. It’s like the first time the main character even hears her voice is when he’s having trouble controlling himself and his raging hard ons, and in reality, if you’re a pastor/priest/anyone heavily involved with the church, shouldn’t you have a little better self control than that? I think the story would’ve been a little stronger if there was a little more restraint at first, and hell, it would’ve been a well drawn out slow burn that readers would appreciate more!
  3. Poppy Danforth in General…I just was SO not sold on her in general…the author brings up her privileged upbringing and her college degrees, and constantly reminds us of how smart she is, but honestly I wasn’t buying it based off the choices the character made and just how she presented herself in general. Also, a classic case of show don’t tell would’ve made this aspect of the whole book a lot better too. Don’t tell us she’s smart, show us through her dialogue, her characterization, or even just the decisions she makes!

Conclusion:

Another sensuous, wicked, provocative piece of erotic fiction from Sierra Simone, but I have to say I wasn’t as sold on this title when compared to her New Camelot Trilogy that I really enjoyed! I think this story was actually one of her earlier works, so I can definitely see that being why I felt like this book wasn’t as strong of a story. The characters weren’t as memorable, but I can say how once again the author really explores the dark and forbidden side of human sexual attraction; this time with a Catholic Church Priest falling in love with a woman.

I recommend this book to those that enjoy these beachy, easy to read erotic tales that have absolutely scorching sex scenes with maybe not the greatest plot…I think fans of such things like 50 Shades of Grey and 365 Days on Netflix will enjoy this book the most!

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

Erotica, Fantasy, LGBT

My Review: Silk and Steel (Silk and Steel #1): by Ariana Nash

*Kindle Edition*

Publish Date: January 18th, 2019

Number of Pages: 380 Pages

Publisher: Crazy Ace Publishing

Genre(s): Fantasy, LGBT

Total Star Rating: 4 Stars

Warning & Reader Advisory:

Silk & Steel is not a “romance”.

This series is a DARK FANTASY intended for mature readers. While Silk & Steel is a love story, it is not for everyone. It is not categorized on Amazon, and not sold as m/m romance. It DOES feature a strong m/m LOVE STORY that develops over three books.
Silk & Steel features a gay dragon shifter, a bisexual elf, and adult themes. There is triggering content that some readers may find distressing, including implied incest, abuse, violence, dubious consent, and on-page sex. None of these instances are gratuitous. There is heterosexual sex and gay sex. The intense and star-crossed relationship between the two male leads develops over three books.

…When a blurb has this included within describing what the story is about, it really raises your eyebrows at what you may or may not be getting into! Now, the question for you is this: are you someone who immediately turns away from something like this, or does it pique your interest even further? Based off the fact that this is another one of my reviews, I bet you can guess what my answer was.

For anyone who’s looking for a dark fantasy to read, I would definitely say to take this warning extremely seriously, because while I was only more curious about this book, I can recognize that the content within this story can be extremely triggering for more sensitive readers, and this story is NOT for everyone! Yes, there is a M/M love story storyline that is what initially drew me in, but it’s a small aspect that intertwines with a lot of emotional torment, rape, assault, torture, and even implied incest that’s a lot of heavy material to take in all within one book! Seriously, this book goes further with it than even HBO’s Game of Thrones or even Spartacus from STARZ.

Besides all that carnality and absolutely vicious material, what really surprised me was an actually epic war/battling kingdoms style plot that developed. Don’t ask me to name any of the kingdoms back to you, but basically it’s a Fantasy world that Elves, Humans, and Dragon-Shifters. The Elves and Humans have been taken over and oppressed by the Draconic empire, but there are small groups of rebels from both races that are gathering supplies in order to make a stand against the dragons.

Besides sex & violence, the themes of trauma, acceptance & belonging, and even forbidden love make for an actually gripping and action packed tale between two unlikely enemies-turned-lovers: an Elf assassin named Eroan, and a lonely Dragon Prince named Lysander.

Eroan is courageous, stubborn, noble, natural born leader for his tribe. He’s a warrior through-and-through, but his troupe of assassins get captured by the dragons and he becomes the only survivor, and thus becomes a prisoner, which is where he meets Lysander, the younger Dragon Prince.

Lysander is a character your heart will break for because of all the pain he’s had to deal with in his lifetime. His mother and brother have tried to kill him several times because they consider him “broken” for his sexuality, and think he’s weak because he’s not a heartless murderer like they are. Luckily, they’ve been unsuccessful and Lysander has become the greatest warrior under his mother’s rule. Unfortunately, that doesn’t stop them from still believing he’s a useless waste of space. He’s been an outcast and the runt of the litter for all he’s known, but lately he’s been absolutely sick of it, and there’s a fire threatening to explode before you know it, no pun intended.

I would agree with the author when she says it’s not a romance title. There’s attraction and sexual acts that happen, but there’s so much pain, suffering, and violence occurring all around that romance feels like too soft of a word to describe it. The love story that’s developing between those two main characters grows in an intriguing way in the sense that they feel a kindred connection to each other that grows to a reluctant mutual respect, and of course, pure lust that may or may not being blooming into deeper feelings of love. There’s still some unsettling instances of rape and death surrounding it all, so it’s not rainbows and unicorns and happily ever afters, far from it.

The world-building was so-so with not much description in the cities/kingdoms and major landmarks, but luckily there wasn’t much mentioned in that regard to kind of save it. There’s some history with the three types of people that’s revealed in a way that’s not info-dumped. I was majorly confused by the point when one character runs into a certain group, it happens around the 60-75% of the book; it felt so randomly placed into the story and was a strange wave within the pacing, but hopefully it gets explained better in the next book. There’s a surprising amount of sub-categories within even just the Dragon empire, and it features different species that make appearances in the story. There’s major dissent that is evident within both the Dragons and even the Elves, which is surprising since you usually figure Elves are all entirely on the same page.

There are plenty of questions that popped up while reading, but I have to remember this is only the first book in a series, so hopefully that means so much more gets revealed as I keep reading on!

What It’s About:

The Official Blurb:

The Dragon Queen’s reign is one of darkness and death. Humans have vanished under the rubble of their world and if the queen has her way, elves will be next.

Eroan, one of the last elven assassins, lives for one purpose: kill the queen.

He would have succeeded if not for her last line of defense: Prince Lysander. Now, captured and forced into the queen’s harem, Eroan sees another opportunity. Why kill just the queen when he can kill them all? It would be simple, if not for the troubled and alluring prince. A warrior, a killer, and something else…, something Eroan finds himself inexplicably drawn to.

Trapped in a life he despises, Lysander knows his time is running out.

If the queen doesn’t kill him for his failures, her enemies will. There’s nothing left to live for, until an elf assassin almost kills him. A stubborn, prideful, fool of an elf who doesn’t know when to quit. An elf who sparks a violent, forbidden desire in Lysander.

If Lysander can’t save himself, maybe he can save the elf and maybe, just maybe… one stubborn elf will be enough to bring down the queen before she kills them all.

Duty demands they fight for their people. Love has other plans...

What I Liked:

  1. The Lust/Love between Lysander and Eroan! It’s definitely not a romance, per say, but the attraction that builds between these two characters is certainly a noteworthy aspect of this story. It’s pretty erotic in some areas, heartbreaking in others, but one scene in particular stood out a lot to me. Basically, to the other characters, Eroan is about to be assaulted and raped by Lysander, who is not happy about it. He actually has feelings for the captured Elf, and being forced upon the Queen’s captive is the last thing he wants. He leans in and whispers an apology only Eroan can hear, but surprise…..Eroan whispers back “Don’t be.” It may be incredibly creepy or perverted of me, but I found that kind of hot! I mean, at least it was consensual!
  2. Dragon-Shifters! I’d never read a book with these types of characters. I absolutely love any stories with dragons/wyverns/dragon-riders/etc. so to have humans who can change into the flying, fire-breathing beasts was something new for me that I really enjoyed!
  3. MVP Character: Lysander! By far my favorite character so far, my heart goes out for him and all that he experiences just in this first book. Anyone else would’ve given up with all that he’s been through, but still he rises above it all and becomes a better person because of it. He’s never felt like he’s belonged, and has been called broken and useless by his own family, who by the way, has tried to kill him on several occasions as a quick reminder! Seriously hoping the author throws him a couples bones this next book because Lysander deserves some happiness in my opinion!

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. The Human World…What a random introduction into this story, and it wasn’t really explained as to how it is the way that it is. I know that justification doesn’t make a whole lot of sense without more context, but I don’t want to spoil it for readers. All I will say is it happens at about the 60-75% mark in the story.
  2. Homophobia…Poor Lysander deals with it from his mother and even older brother amongst the Dragons. Luckily, they’re the only people that really show any of it, everyone literally could care less about that sort of thing, but anyone who’s in the queer community who’s had a hard home life like that growing up knows how hard and traumatizing that can be!

Conclusion:

Overall, I was actually really surprised at how much I liked this title! Besides all the sex, violence, and torture, the plot actually got pretty intense in the sense of it feeling very similar to an epic battle happening in a show like Game of Thrones! There are some dark occurrences with rape and assault and torture, but if you’re someone who watched GoT in its entirety, it’s not necessarily anything you haven’t seen before, this story is just higher up on the gay male/male romance factor. With that said, it’s not like anyone can really say they enjoyed those moments, but it’s understandable that some readers would rather avoid that triggering content. It’s not for everyone, so definitely take the author’s warning within the blurb!

I’d recommend this title to anyone who likes M/M romance, and if you really liked The Captive Prince trilogy by C.S. Pacat; I think they have a very similar vibe in the first book introducing a very ominous vibe with a lot of violence and sex involved to shock readers but then turns into an epic tale to keep your attention!

This book was one that had me up extremely late—like 3 or 4 in the morning—and has a dramatic cliffhanger of an ending, so much that I groaned into my pillow and immediately purchased a copy of the next book in this series to get on that ASAP! the forbidden/star crossed lovers aspect of the story with the two male main characters is tearing me apart because the author constantly throws things in their way to keep each other just out of reach, and ugh………….it’s torture for me too!

I do have some other titles I need to read first because I have a reader friend/coworker named Erika who I make deals with to have us read books that we pick for each other. If she wants me to read a certain book, I make sure she knows I have a title for her too so we can get what we both want out of it and to be able to talk about yet ANOTHER book we’ve both read. If you don’t have a reading buddy like that, I highly recommend it because one of the worst things a reader can suffer from is being absolutely obsessed with a book/series but having no one to talk about it with in person!

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

LGBT, Paranormal

My Review: Captive (Beautiful Monsters #1): by Jex Lane

**Kindle Edition**
Publish Date: August 5th, 2016
Number of Pages: 316 Pages
Publisher: Jex Lane
Genre(s): Paranormal, LGBT

Total Star Rating: 3.5 Stars

In all fairness, I knew going in that I wasn’t going to absolutely love this story because I’ve just been so done with the whole vampire cliché for quite some time. For me, it died with TV shows like The Vampire Diaries and Buffy the Vampire Slayer and I haven’t looked back too much to be completely honest. What truly drew me in was the M/M romance mentioned by the genre listings and from many other reviewers on Goodreads.

I wouldn’t call this a romance title at all though; far from it in actuality. It plays on the mental and emotional manipulation that people have often speculated happening in another fictional vampire franchise: Twilight by Stephanie Meyer. In this book, it’s way more obvious and it really makes you feel for the main character: Matthew Callahan. His “love interest,” the Incubus General Tarrick, tricks him into slavery and slowly and methodically breaks him down until he’s calling the Incubi his “master.” It certainly doesn’t help that the general also uses sex as a weapon to manipulate the MC into performing specific orders. You really sympathize for Matthew as despite the terrible situation he’s put in, which is right in the middle of a centuries long war between Vampires and Incubi, he falls in love with the general. It’s even implied that the general may be falling for him too, but it’s not necessarily certain.

Overall, I liked it but didn’t love it, but there’s for sure enough interest from me to want to keep going on later in the series. The storyline wasn’t too interesting, the action scenes didn’t really grab my attention, nor am I a big fan of Vampires in general, but there’s still some major potential in some aspects like the MC, the mysteries surrounding his past, and his relationship with his potential love interest.

Many trigger warnings go with this title for anyone who’s a more sensitive reader: slavery, emotional and sexual manipulation, torture, character death, and smut.

What It’s About:

I’m risking a lot for you. I could lose everything. Don’t betray me.” It was a plea. Not an order. The first he had ever heard from Tarrick.”

– Jex Lane, “Captive”

Matthew Callahan has spent seven years struggling against the insatiable hunger for blood consuming him. Unable to stop the vampire inside from preying on humans, he keeps himself confined to a lonely existence.

Everything changes the night he is lured into a trap and taken prisoner by High Lord General Tarrick—a seductive incubus who feeds off sexual energy. Forced into the middle of a war between vampires and incubi, Matthew is used as a weapon against his own kind. Although he’s desperate for freedom, he is unable to deny the burning desire drawing him to the incubus general he now calls Master.

*This book is intended for mature audiences!*

Collar or no, we all have our masters. One day, that would be different for Matthew. One day, others would kneel before him.”

– Jex Lane, “Captive”

What I Liked:

  1. The Uncertainty behind Tarrick and Matthew’s Relationship! Like I said earlier, it’s definitely not a romantic relationship by any means, and if someone really does think the opposite, they may want to reconsider. While a sexual relationship starts, what’s truly interesting about them is all the questioning that goes into both the characters motives. Since the story is focused on Matthew, you know he falls in love with Tarrick through everything, but it’s definitely unclear what Tarrick’s true feelings are. I want to hope he has some sort of humanity left and that maybe he returns the feelings that Matthew has, but it’s incredibly up in the air, which does make it more interesting!
  2. The Mystery Behind Matthew’s Past! Besides the unclarity of Tarrick and Matthew, there’s also a lot of mystery behind Matthew’s past that drives him further into the story. I don’t want to give too much away, but some of it has to pertain to who his parents were, and who was the person/monster that turned him in the first place. Obviously, there’s more questions, but I don’t want to spoil it as it’s a major part of the story, and you should experience it yourself in order to fully enjoy it.

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. A Lot of Slower Moments…There were plenty of sex scenes (M/M and M/F as Matthew is bisexual) to entertain readers looking for that sort of story, but I can say the big battles and higher action scenes didn’t really pick up the story for me personally. They weren’t badly written, but they also didn’t make me glued to my Kindle screen either.
  2. Vampires… I just don’t like Vampire’s anymore. I know I know… I say this as I knowingly read this story that has them within and part of the main plot, but I can at least enjoy it somewhat if the author at least can add something new to the table in terms of all that people associate with the pale ones, but that doesn’t really happen here in this book anyways.

Conclusion:

An interesting paranormal-genre title that’s filled with war, violence, slavery, Incubi and Vampires, along with lots of sex. Anyone who reads dark fantasy and can handle the more disturbing relationships that are filled with sexual manipulation will enjoy this title, especially if someone’s looking for a M/M erotic tale.

It was good but not great, but the first book is hardly ever the best in a trilogy/series, so I say these books can only go up from here! I’m not in love with the story, but I am interested enough to want to keep reading on and seeing what happens next in terms of exploring how Tarrick’s relationship develops with Matthew, whether there’s actual romance that will form once all the mind games are over and done, and all the questions raised with Matthew’s past, like why would a vampire refer to him as “my prince?”

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell