Claire Marta & Anna Edwards-Beauty’s War

Oh, these two. When they got together to write this book, they completely did something completely awesome. Beauty’s War blew me right the fuck away and left me gasping. Before we get started, let me just say I love this title. It means different things, depending on where you put the emphasis and what way you are thinking of. I love those kinds of titles, you know. Word play is so awesome, and I appreciate it so much.

Claire and Anna are taking on Roman mythology and modernizing it. I really like the way that they are doing it and spin that they are putting on it. Basically, you have two sides of the eternal war between good and evil. On one side, Jupiter and his sons, Mars, Apollo, and Hercules. On the side of evil, Pluto and his minions. Only these minions aren’t cute and yellow and probably don’t like bananas. The way that it works is gods and goddesses still walk among us, but not all of them know who they are. The goal, of both sides, is to find the gods and goddesses before the other side does. Pluto wants to either kill them or turn them evil, while Jupiter wants to save them and bring them back to their glory. If the deity in disguise dies, then they are reincarnated, but each time it happens, they add on the trauma of that death and their memories slip a little bit further into their deepest unconscious.

And to add to all that, Jupiter and his sons own and run one law practice in Rome while Pluto runs another, and they are frequently legal adversaries as well, as what opens this book shows. Pluto has been trying to get off a truly vile man while Mars has been trying to get him put behind bars. Sadly, Pluto prevails at this point. (Boooooo, hissssss)

While this is going on in one part of Rome, outside the Coliseum, very British Vicky and her best friend Susan are having a girls’ vacation. Vicky loves to draw, sketch, paint, and create art, Susan tolerates her doing it, but get bored watching her do it. So, when Susan asks if Vicky is done drawing the Coliseum, Vicky says sure, and they go off to get pizza. One of my favorite kinds too, margherita. Across the crowded restaurant, Mars and Vicky catch each other’s eyes and the connection is sizzling.

Mars immediately disappears off to tell his dad that he thinks he found another goddess, and Jupiter tells him to become her friend. I love Mars’ interior dialogue at this point where he is saying that he’s the God of War, not the God of Making Friends. That was hilarious, if you ask me. But, Mars pops into where he senses Vicky and manages to save Susan from a couple of lechs by saying he was there for their 3some. Again, I laughed. Spoiler, there wasn’t a 3some.

There are a lot of really terrible things that go on in this book. This isn’t really a nice, light, and fluffy romance. This is gritty and dark and occasionally tortured romance. Poor Vicky has a seriously shitty time of it. Seriously shitty. OTOH, I think Vicky is pretty damn fierce from the very beginning, just to deal with everything, and only gets more so. I think that she’s definitely Mars’ match. I like Mars too. I think that he’s a little arrogant sometimes, but, you know, god. What are you supposed to do? I think he sometimes gets blinded by what he wants versus what needs to be done, but I can see why he got that way when he did. I can’t wait to see what these two talented ladies come up with next in the series.

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OMFG, what they do to poor Vicky. And not just once. I think Claire and Anna must’ve really hated her. Maybe they knew a Vicky who really pissed them off at some point because, damn. I mean, just damn.

I feel sorry for Bellona. I don’t excuse her actions, but I would probably have done the same thing in her place, but I still feel sorry for her. She was put in such a difficult place and loving someone more than they love you is always painful.

OK, that’s all for this one. Go check it out! Happy reading!

Loki Renard-Scar

So, a couple of weeks ago, Loki Renard released a new book. This one pretty much decimated me. It was wonderful and terrible and brutal and tender, all at once. Honestly, I still don’t quite have all the right words to describe the feelings that Scar inspired in me.

Mary Brown has been trapped in a hospital. Well, let’s be generous and call where she is a hospital, I mean, it is in the upper story of a hospital. She doesn’t know how long she’s been there, all she knows that is that she’s nearly gone. So when a man in black stands over her and tells her that he’s there to get her out, she’s pretty sure that she’s hallucinating.

Ken Ares is a Special Forces soldier who is in between enlistments. So he took a private job. It was his job to bust Mary Brown out of the torture hospital that she’s spent untold months in. When he sees her, she’s nearly catatonic, and there isn’t a whole lot of life in her eyes. He manages to get her out, gets her to someplace sort of safe, and calls for an evac for her. He never thought he would see her again.

Fast forward to Afghanistan and a year or so later. Mary is there as an embedded journalist and Ken’s commanding officer just embedded her in the unit that he is in. He’s doing some scouting before his Special Forces team joins him. On their first mission, she doesn’t listen to him and talks to some of the women in the village and gives them some little things like soaps and shampoos. Ken yells at her, and since they are sharing quarters, spanks her, and then they have mindblowing sex. A few days later, on another mission, they go back through the area after an attack, and Mary sees one of the women she had talked to before having her soap taken from her and a man beating her. Mary jumps out of the transport they are in and goes to beat the shit out of the man. Ken totally flips out because she’s blown all kinds of things now, has her press credentials pulled, and then sends her home. She’s devastated, of course, and is pretty sure that he hates her. So when she gets to the airport in the states, and his brother Tom is there, she’s not sure what to think. She tells Tom that she’ll just leave because bad things will happen, but he brings her to his house anyway.

This isn’t the darkest thing I’ve read. It’s not even the darkest thing that I’ve read that Loki is written. But then again, it kind of is the darkest thing that I’ve read that Loki has written. I know that doesn’t make sense at all, but, like I said, this one is still defying my prodigious vocabulary in trying to define my feelings. Probably if I spoke German, I could mash a few words together to come up with the right emotion. German is good for that. I cried because of this one. When I reread it, I expect that I will cry again at the same spots, and probably for the same reasons.

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OK, I so totally didn’t expect anything about Mary’s past. That was a total shocker. But I can see why she said that she had secrets and that bad things would be happening and were coming.

I have to say that I saw the Head as Amanda Waller from the DC comics, also known as the Wall. It’s that same kind of I will bury you and not think of you after I do kind of attitude. If you saw Suicide Squad, remember where Viola Davis as Waller shoots all the FBI agents who were there to help her? Yeah, that’s the attitude. That’s who I saw the Head as, and frankly, that works really, really well.

OK, that’s all I have to say about this one. Go check it out. I want to hear what kind of emotions it inspires in you.

TL Martin-Dancing in the Dark

Dear TL Martin, thank you for giving me my latest book hangover. Captain Morgan and I are going to retire to my bedroom to see if I can get through it.

Signed-your ever faithful book blogger.

So, OK, you may think I’m joking, but only just. Dancing in the Dark really did get to me, and I’m having problems with settling down and figuring out exactly what to read. I feel like I want to read something completely light and out of the dark romance genre, but that doesn’t feel right either. I have some new books to read that are out of the romance genre altogether, and I might just have to go with one of them. I was going to blog this yesterday, but my real life got a little crazy and I didn’t have as much time to read and blog as I thought I would. But here it is, better late than never.

This is dark. It’s not the darkest book I’ve read, but it is dark. It has some dark scenes, including one with candles that gave me the heebie-jeebies. It also has some mindfuck going on, but for me, it’s more of a mindfuck-medium.

The story goes like this. Emmy has a sister named Frankie and a completely bug-fuck, religious zealot mother. Think the mother from Carrie, and you may get close. I think Mama may be Carrie’s mom squared. Anyway, Frankie has gone missing. Months and months ago, she came home and asked Emmy if she would leave if she had the chance to leave everything behind and find a place where you could be absolutely you. Then she disappeared, and Emmy never heard from her again. After trying to find Frankie on her own, Emmy finds a number and calls it, and ends up talking with Stella. Stella is the chief secretary to the Matthews Brothers, and she assumes that Emmy has been contacted to become a secretary.

Now, when I say secretary, think less Miss Drysdale and more Maggie Gyllenhaal in the movie. They sign a year long contract that basically signs their entire everything over to the Matthews for that time period. The secretaries can get claimed by one of the brothers, who she will then serve pretty exclusively, or she may serve all 4 brothers, Raife, Felix, Griff, and Adam. There are 3 distinct phases to the whole process, and during the meet and greet, it’s pretty obvious that there are all kinds of games being played.

I like Emmy, most of the time. Most of the time she’s very interesting and is always thinking and very goal-oriented. However, there are a few times when she totally loses the narration. However, they work well with what’s going on. Adam is interesting. There is obviously so much damage, especially since he talks about how damaged he is, but I don’t think that he’s as damaged as he thinks he is. Felix and Aubrey are characters that I want to know more about. Griff, Raife, and Stella can all just fuck off and die, if you ask me.

This is done in dual POVs, and both first person. I’ve been having a discussion with some authors on FB about this very thing. When you have 2 POVs and they are both 1st person, you have to be careful to make sure that the break in between character A and character B is very clear and you have to make sure that their voices are very distinct. I’ve read books where it is done poorly, where you have to go back and look to see who’s talking, and I found it really confusing and frustrating. I’ve also read books where it is done very well. TL Martin did it very well. It helps that each POV change happens at a chapter break, but Emmy and Adam have very distinct voices.

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The boys’ background is pretty horrific. I totally get why they are the way they are, from all the things that they weren’t through.

I didn’t really have any kind of feeling for Stella, but I didn’t like Griff or Raife from the very beginning. They were really yucky and just never got better.

OK, that’s all I have to say. I’m off to try and fix my book hangover.

Elizabeth Knox-Scarred

Elizabeth Knox gives us today’s MC book, Scarred. It’s the first book in a new series. I don’t always give trigger warnings, mostly because I tend to let y’all know if something is dark, but there are times when I think they are necessary. This is one of those times. There are graphic descriptions of domestic violence and sexual assault. If those things will trigger you, even if you like MC books, I would highly suggest that you not read this one.

Roxy has been with Rage since they were teenagers. She got together with him after her dad died. But now, after years of behing his wife and punching bag, she regrets it. His name describes him all to well and the bad boy that she thought she married has turned into a monster who just gets worse every day. There hasn’t been in a day in years that she hasn’t undergone some kind of abuse, and no one in the club really stops it, and in fact, many of them have joined in. But now she’s pregnant and hiding it from Rage. She knows she should get away but she’s also terrified that if she does get away, Rage will hunt her down, especially if she has his child. But when he beats the ever-living shit out of her by beating her with a baseball bat and leaving her nearly dead outside the clubhouse, everything changes.

Tex is Rage’s best friend. He was involved with Roxy first, but then Rage decided he wanted her, so Tex stepped aside. He’s spent the years in the club trying to avoid Roxy as much as possible. He’s gone to do as many errands as he could just so he doesn’t stay around. When he’s around, Rage isn’t as bad, but Tex doesn’t know that. In fact, he doesn’t know the majority of what Rage has done to Roxy. But when he comes home to find her bleeding to death outside the clubhouse, he knows that he has to do something. He takes her to the hospital and then manages to get her away before anyone Rage can send can take her back to the club.

I felt like this was two books that got shoved into one. I think that the story would’ve been much better if it had been spread out into two stories, that way each part of what was going on would have gotten the attention that I thought that they deserved. The two parts of this book both have a very different feel, and they just don’t quite mesh as well as they could’ve. I did like the story, even with those issues. I thought Roxy was a pretty kick-ass character. She’s survived through all kinds of terrible stuff, and she’s still standing. I do think that everyone should’ve listened to her a little more than they did, but men. What are you going to do?

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I have to say, if I were in Roxy’s place, I would’ve been really pissed off at Tex and I wouldn’t have forgiven him quite as easily as she did. I mean, he knew what she was going through. He knew that Rage was going off the rails, so why he didn’t step in before, I don’t know. I would’ve been angry with him for a good while, even if I loved him.

OK, that’s all I have to say today. Happy reading!

Addison Cain-Branded Captive

Addison Cain was my first experience with Omegaverse stories, whether they were Mf or Mm. Now I read a lot of them. So, when I heard about Branded Captive, you know that I was first in line to get it. I might have had to cut a bitch to get it. Or maybe I just begged. I don’t remember. I’ve slept since then. What I haven’t forgotten is just how filthy and obscene this one is. It is sooooo wrong. So, very, very, very wrong, and yet so very, very, very right. And did I mention filthy and hot? I just want to make sure that you know that. And since it’s an Addison book, you know that it’s dark.

Wren is a Deaf Omega. Her parents have kept her pure and innocent. Her mother didn’t tell her anything about what she needed to know. So when her father sells her virginity to a big Alpha and she doesn’t meet his needs, because she doesn’t know what to do, she ends up being branded as defective and thrown away and ends up in the Warren, but not before the Alpha caused her even more pain by ripping his knot out of her.

Five years later, she’s managed to build some kind of life for herself. She has rooms that she keeps scrupulously clean and two boys who were also abandoned that she has adopted as her own. As an Omega, she’s driven by her instincts to nest and have a family, so that’s what she’s done. But when her boys disappear, she worries that she has lost them to Caspian and his syndicate. So she decides to go get them, even though she wants to stay away from Caspian. Alphas are bad and hurt people and the ones in the Warrens are even worse.

Caspian is not a nice dude. His second is Kieran and his third is Toby. They are all very not nice men. Even when they do nice things. Caspian controls everything in the Warrens and a good chunk of what’s going on above too. He wears a coat that is reputed to be made out of human skin, and I’m more than willing to believe it. When he sees what he thinks is a skinny man dragging one kid out of his area by his ear while carrying another one, he has to know what’s going on. That’s when he finds out that it’s not a skinny man, it’s a beautiful Omega.

I’m not sure if I hate Caspian or love him. He’s cruel and brutal, pragmatic and straight forward. If he wants, he takes. He wants Wren. He’s going to take her. He’s also going to share her when he wants, with Kieran and Toby. It doesn’t matter what Wren wants at this point. She’s going to have to just deal with whatever Caspian wants to do and suck it up. This is dark, it’s gritty, it’s filthy, and it’s Wren’s new life. There isn’t a whole lot of good and happy going on right now in her life, and frankly, I don’t know that there will be. However, I’m going to reread this book a lot and when the next ones in the series come out, I’ll read those too. I need more of this story and I need it soon. And I really hope that Caspian kicks that other Alpha’s ass up one side and down the other.

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Toby gives me the creeps. I’m not too proud to admit it. Caspian is pretty straight forward I think. Kieran may be a little softer than the other two, for all that he’s the second strongest Alpha, but I think that Toby is as bent as a pretzel. I don’t trust him around Wren.

OK, that’s all I have to say about this one. I cannot recommend it enough, so go check it out! Happy reading!

And hey, if you really like me and think that I’m a pretty awesome blog/blogger, can you pretty please go over to this FB event and vote for me? I’ve been nominated for fave blogger, and if I’m in the top 5, I get to move to the next round. I promise, I’ll love you forever.

Aria Adams-Burned

Oh my darling children, this is not a light and happy story. This is an amazing, fiery, twisted story that I loved, but not a whole light of light and happy going on in Aria Adam’s Burned.

So, many years ago, Hans Christian Anderson, a Danish author, wrote fairy tales. His fairy tales don’t really have any happy endings. Yes, he wrote The Little Mermaid, but in his story, Ariel and Eric don’t have their happily ever after. He leaves her and she turns into sea foam. Anderson also wrote a story called The Little Match Girl. Yeah, this one didn’t have a happy ending either. The way his story goes is that an innocent young girl who is out selling matches on New Year’s Eve freezes to death. As she’s slowly freezing to death, she lights all her matches, because she sees happy visions in them. In the last one, she saw her beloved grandmother, who was the only person who treated her nicely, and grandma came to take her to heaven. Only after she’s dead, do people care about this poor little match girl. Depending on how you want to look at it, there could be a happy ending, but I don’t really see it this way. Personally, I like Terry Pratchett’s version in Hogfather better. Well, now I can add in Aria’s book in there too.

So, in the winter of Victorian-era East End London, Eve has been chased out of the house by her father so that she can go out and sell matches to support them. She used to work at the match factory, but she started getting sick, so she left because she didn’t want to die. But her deadbeat dad still needs his booze, so out she goes to sell the matches she used to make. If she doesn’t go out, he will beat her. If she doesn’t bring home money, he will beat her. It doesn’t matter if it’s snowing and freezing and she doesn’t have the right clothes or shoes, she has to go out. On this particular day, Eve has no luck. She doesn’t want to have to go home, so she goes and finds an alcove to hide and to stay the night. She’s reasonably sure that she won’t be able to survive the night.

In order to try to be warm, she lights a piece of paper that came near her on fire. She gets a little bit of fire for just a little bit and it kind of warms her up. But she knows that her dad is going to get after her for missing a match without any money. She decides to light another one, just to watch it, because why not. She’s already going to get the beating, she might as well really deserve it. Then, something happens.

A well-dressed, obviously well-to-do man comes up to her and asks her what she will do to stay warm. She tells him that she would do anything. Would she do anything that he asked her? Oh yes sir, she would do anything and everything that he asked her. Would she obey him? Yes sir, she would obey him. So he helps her up, escorts her to his carriage, and takes her home. He gives her her very own room and a servant, a full wardrobe, and a bathroom. Pretty good for a street urchin, right? All he asks is that she does everything that he wants her to do, when he wants her to do it. If he comes to her room, she’s to stop doing whatever she’s doing and see what he wants. In return, she’ll be warm, fed, and clothed. Yeah, this doesn’t sound sinister or anything, does it?

So, the sickness that Eve saw the signs of had a couple of different names. It went by phossy jaw or the blackening. Its real name is phosphorus necrosis of the jaw. The fumes from the phosphorus would break down the bones in the jaw of the people who worked in the match factories and it killed them. She had a good reason to be afraid of it.

This book had a lot of things that I loved. There were also a couple of places where I was like aw hell no. I would cut a bitch before I agreed to a couple of those things. But Eve liked them, even as they scared her, so it’s all good for her. I love Ignis’ name. I just think that is such a great name for a book about fire and fire play. And there is a lot of fire in this. Eve likes fire. Ignis likes fire. There’s a lot of fire. I like fires, but I guarantee that I don’t like fire the same way or near the same amount as these two. When I say they like fire, I mean that they LIKE fire. There is a kink called fire play and anyone who likes that kink would like this book, I think. It is very intense in a few places. It is pretty dark. I loved every single word of it.

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Eve’s first punishment with the wax? Yeah, that was pretty exciting. I really liked it. The deal with the straight razor? Yeah, I didn’t like that one near as much. That was kind of scary. Or maybe a lot of scary.

I love the wedding, or rather the wedding after the wedding. That was pretty hot and sexy.

OK, that’s all I have to say about this one. Go check it out and give Aria Adams some love. Happy reading!

Adara Wolf-Under His Heel

I find book recommendations all over the place. Various authors, other readers, blogs, so on and so forth. I also get some from the groups I belong to on Goodreads. Two of the groups have book of the month reads. This is one of the books from one of those groups.

Under His Heel is dark. It’s noncon. It’s intense. It’s an M/m book, which not everyone likes, but I do. I will warn you that when I say dark and intense, I know of what I speak. The light in here is only lighter in comparison, and there are things which may trigger some people. Neither of our main characters are necessarily all that nice or likable, and they are very much written to be that.

So, here’s the story. Alex, who isn’t stupid but isn’t the sharpest pencil in the box and who has been manipulated by his twin brother for years, has been set up to sell his services as a bondservant. In the world in which they live, if you are in debt, you can sell your services and you end up doing whatever. For most people, for bondservant read sex slave. You write a contract that both parties sign stipulating what can and can’t be done, and then the owner pays off the servant’s wages. For Alex, his contract included that he gave up all bodily autonomy and no body mods were allowed, for a time period of 5 years.

The reason that Alex has to do this because his twin brother, Nick, has run up a gambling debt in his name, and they weren’t able to escape. Now Alex is the one who has to come up with the money, so the two of them hatched this plan. More like Nick hatched the plan and conned Alex into doing it.

Captain Tracht is a very authoritarian, strict, blunt, gives no fucks kind of guy. He’s also a pure sadist. He loves causing pain, both physical and mental. It gets him off big time, and for him, it’s even better if the person doesn’t get off on being hurt. I’m pretty sure he’s a total sociopath too. He’s also scrupulously polite and doesn’t like foul language. He runs a very tight ship, literally and figuratively. He is at the agency to get a new bondservant because the one he just returned was unsatisfactory. That guy was a masochist and he liked Tracht’s games just a little bit too much.

After a full body inspection that Tracht performs on Alex, he decides that Alex will be perfect. Alex isn’t all that excited, but he figures a 5 year contract with this guy is better than having a contract with the gangsters that own his debt. He saw one of their bondservants once, and she’s the reason that he has no body mods written into his contract.

Tracht isn’t nice. I’m relatively sure that we aren’t supposed to like him. I kinda do. The thing is that he is exactly who and what he says he is. He never says one thing and does another. He is consistent within himself. He’s a WYSIWYG system, even if he does like to play mind games with Alex. But that’s part of who he is, and he never told Alex that he would have loads of fun or that Alex wouldn’t be hurt.

Alex. Poor, poor Alex. He’s lost all over the place. He thinks that he can survive Tracht, but it’s pretty immediately obvious that he can’t. He has spent most of his life in way over his head and Tracht throws him right into the very deep end of the pool. Alex has such a hard time. Tracht is not an easy man.

Then there’s Parsons. He’s a member of the crew and he tries to be friends with Alex. I don’t like him. He’s a douche.

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I’m so glad that Alex saw through Nick, eventually. I hated Nick even before we ever saw him. He’s absolutely terrible. I mean, who does that shit to their twin brother? Alex is all about trying to protect his brother, but Nick is all about getting whatever he can out of everyone, including Alex.

Ugh. Parsons. Gods save me from people like him. He’s just such a shit. He’s judgmental, condescending, and turns into a user. The thing is, Alex could’ve really used a friend outside of Tracht, and Tracht was mostly OK with it. Luckily there was doctor’s bondservant he could talk to, but only when they were in coms range. She at least got it.

OK, that’s all I have to say on this one. I loved it. It left me gasping at the end. There’s a followup novella called Kidnapping. She’s also written another book called In Life, In Death. It’s totally different to Under His Heel. It was so lovely. They are all available in KU, so check them out.