Book Review: Bigger Love (Big Love #2) by Rick R. Reed

Bigger Love by Rick R. Reed book cover

Truman Reid is Summitville High’s most out-and-proud senior. He can’t wait to take his fierce, uncompromising self away from his small Ohio River hometown, where he’s suffered more than his share of bullying. He’s looking forward to bright lights and a big city. Maybe he’ll be the first ever genderfluid star to win an Academy Award. But all that changes on the first day of school when he locks eyes with the most gorgeous hunk he’s ever seen.

Mike Stewart, big, dark-haired, and with the most amazing blue eyes, is new to town. He’s quiet, manly, and has the sexy air of a lost soul. It’s almost love at first sight for Truman. He thinks that love could deepen when Mike becomes part of the stage crew for Harvey, the senior class play Truman’s directing. But is Mike even gay? And how will it work when Truman’s mother is falling for Mike’s dad?

Plus Truman, never the norm, makes a daring and controversial choice for the production that has the whole town up in arms.

See how it all plays out on a stage of love, laughter, tears, and sticking up for one’s essential self…

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How was it?

For a queer YA novel with some adult themes, Bigger Love has a predictable set up, with Truman, one of the main characters, living in a small-town with small-minded people. So you can easily imagine the bigotry and hypocrisy surrounding this young openly gay, gender-fluid boy.

However, where this novel stands out is how Truman is written. He is resilient and brave, it becomes quite easy to cheer him on. You see him struggle, internally, with what he has to deal with living in his small-town, but the way he faces these people and deals with the hurt they cause is inspiring. Also the fact that he has the mother he does – Patsy is the best – is a breath of fresh air. He’s not completely alone.
Often in young adult romances – at least the ones that I’ve read – the queer teen has little to no support, and a big effort is made for us to pity them.

As for Mike, the boy who caught Truman’s eye, he could have remained Truman’s crush for all I cared. But I found interesting that Mike decided to be more private about his sexuality once he moved into this small town – I can’t seem to remember the name of it. Because it seemed like he wasn’t as much in the closet beforehand. To me this illustrate how as queer people we sometime have to adapt to our surroundings for our own safety. Next to Truman it seemed to be a cowardly move, since Mike can pass as straight and Truman can’t. Yet seeing this difference in their experience of being young queer men was nice.

This story is a nice example of how one character can make a big difference in a story that may seem run of the mill. Truman really pulls you in, he’s kind, mature, and strong-willed. I enjoyed his story.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Bigger Love is available on Amazon, Audible and other book retailers near you.

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Book Review | The Prince’s Poisoned Vow by Hailey Turner

Releasing: May 2, 2022
Cover Design: James T. Egan, www.bookflydesign.com

The Prince’s Poisoned Vow is out now!

Every country is built on revolution.

THE WARDEN. Soren is a nameless, stateless man, tasked with keeping watch over Maricol’s borders. He isn’t meant for politics, only dealing with the dead. His past was buried in the poison fields, but after a fateful encounter with a prince, Soren comes to realize he can’t keep what magic burns inside him hidden forever.

THE PRINCE. Vanya Sa’Liandel was the spare who survived the Houses’ murderous games to become the Imperial crown prince of Solaria. He has a duty to his country, but he’ll owe his life to the wardens. Payment of any kind is costly, especially when he’s at risk of losing his heart to the man who saved his life.

THE COG. Caris Dhemlan hears the siren song of clarion crystals better than anyone in Ashion. That skill for inventing has enriched her bloodline, but it’s who she can become that will ultimately entangle her with the Clockwork Brigade.

THE PRINCESS. Eimarille Rourke should have been raised to be queen of one country; instead, she is prisoner of another. Guided by a star god, Eimarille bides her time in a gilded cage, spinning a political web to gain a throne and start a war the world isn’t ready for.

From the author who brought you the best-selling Soulbound series comes a queer steampunk-inspired epic fantasy.

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How was it?

First of all, the world building in this book is insane! It’s huge, and rolled out differently from how the Soulbound series was introduced to us in A Ferry of Bones & Gold. Here it’s more subtle, the informations come in piece by piece, each one being more or as amazing and interesting as the next. It also makes the whole book more digestible, because every time I see a map on the first page of a book, I always think “hold on, this might get complicated.” but it’s not.

Don’t get me wrong, the story is complex, there are many names and places to remember, but Hailey Turner does a good job at breaking them down into manageable chunks. In fact having the book broken down in parts is a godsend. This is truly an epic story and you’re in for quite the ride. Because there are twists and misdirects pretty much from the get go, but once you’ve found your footing it’s great and smooth sailing. The different countries and the Star Gods they pray to will make sense, so does the influence these Star Gods have over these places.

The characters are awesome, they are complicated, some morally gray, strong willed, and total badasses. One or two might get on your nerves at times, because that’s how well Turner made them that they elicit such strong emotions. The different POVs also works wonders because they’re none of them wasted, each one is useful and moves the story along, while giving us a sense of who these characters are.

The pairings were a bit of a surprise, for some reason I expect only MM romances but I was nicely surprised that it’s not case, there’s an FF and essentially an MF couple. I really like these couples, the way they come to be together, and the unique dynamic each of them have. And also the political games they’re involved in makes it even more interesting.

This book does the most, it’s well-crafted, entertaining, and captivating. I don’t know who will narrate this – or if I did I forgot, I’ve been busy – but I’m waiting for that while eagerly waiting for The Emperor’s Bone Palace (Infernal War Saga Book 2).

While I hope that I perfectly conveyed my thoughts and feelings about the first Infernal Saga War Saga, I set out to talk about this book without spoiling anything or give names as to into about what happens to who, and I can’t believe I did.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

I received an advanced copy of this book and this is my fair and unbiased review.

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Hailey Turner is big city girl who likes to spoil her cats rotten. She writes science fiction and fantasy with lots of action, epic plots, and romantic relationships that satisfy the heart. Hailey lives in sunny California when she isn’t adding stamps to her passport.

Connect with Hailey

Website: www.haileyturner.com

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Soulbound series by Hailey Turner:

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Book Review | My Iron Knight: An Enemy Territory Story by S.J. Coles

Dash Cassidy loves his town even more than his bike, but his priorities have a violent shift in gear when an irresistible Russian hitman comes along.

Blurb

Darius ‘Dash’ Cassidy has ended up president of the small town of Salvation’s Iron Knights motorcycle gang, almost by accident. His sister, Zara, is the more business-savvy and ambitious of the two, but their father—the infamous Butch Cassidy—was far from politically correct, so Dash was left in charge.

Up to now, Dash has been more than happy to muscle his way through life as his father did before him, even if he is starting to suspect that something might be missing.

But now there’s a new player in town. Iris Damaro has plans to make Salvation the center of her international smuggling operation. Dash isn’t going to sit still while Damaro steamrolls through his town, but when the crime boss sends her alluring Russian number two, Nikita Vasiliev, to do her negotiating, Dash realizes he may be in over his head.

Can Dash figure out where his priorities lie before his town—or his heart—is lost forever?

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How was it?

This story is dark and gritty, a good enemy to lovers, action packed read. The chemistry between the main characters, Dash Cassidy and Nikita Vasiliev, is intense and explosive. Emotions are high and the heat searing and hot, for a short-story it’s completely engaging and very entertaining.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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Book Review | Primal by K.A. Merikan

Jag. Uninhibited. Possessive. Walks on the wild side.

Dane. Gentle giant. Monster lover. Plays it safe.

Dane always knew his illicit fantasies of rough sex and dangerous men would one day lead him down a path of no return, but no matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t stay away.

After being beaten half to death by his ex, he wakes up in a collar, chained to a wall by a wild man who claims Dane as his property.

From the moment Jag lays his eyes on Dane, he knows he wants to keep him. Big, strong, with colorful ink all over, he is the most unique man Jag had ever seen. But Dane has to be tamed if he is to become Jag’s mate for life.

All Jag needs to do is assure Dane that he will be protected and provided for, because the sparks are already flying. But Dane keeps nagging about irrelevant things like his family, responsibilities, and the Internet. No wonder Jag needs to keep him chained for longer than he expected.

The only way out for Dane is to play the role of Jag’s obedient, loving ‘mate’, and bide his time until he can escape. But while Jag is absolutely batshit, and his junkyard den lifestyle is insanity, he also showers Dane with treats, worships the ground he walks on, and f*cks him like a monster, the way Dane always dreamed of in his most secret fantasies.

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How was it?

Primal was  a roller coaster of emotions for me, I went in blind like I most often do, and immediately started feeling really bad for Jaguar, who seemed sweet but rough around the edges. However this sweet wild man got me worried that he was slowly becoming irredeemable, because the situation he got himself in was getting from bad to worse at one point. While I understood where Jaguar was coming from, I found him brave and loved that he followed his instincts when it came to his attraction to men, I still did not excusing his actions regarding Dane.

It is real skill that Merikan has to make this crazy, f’ed up situation engaging, somewhat cute and…rational? Because I believed in Jaguar’s intentions and Dane’s feelings for him. I didn’t feel like the wrong things were getting glorified, Jaguar’s actions, as misguided as they were, seemed understandable once I got who he was. Jag left his unconventional family behind years ago, but he didn’t let go of his father’s teachings and beliefs. We may not go as in depth with Dane as we go with Jag but Dane is so much the average Joe, the guy next door, a canvas for readers to see themselves in that he didn’t need it as much as Jag did. Because Jaguar’s “crazy” needed to be explained and understood.

The second entry in the Wrong Side of the Tracks series is a book that I would have ignored because of the premise alone and maybe some of my prejudices about how romances featuring captivity or kidnapping are written and what they seem to promote. This was scary, lovely and sweet with a gem of a character that is the definition of a diamond in the rough. this book didn’t disappoint and I love how it all turned out in the end.

One thing I have to admit though, is that for a little while I thought this was a shifter romance because of how Jaguar talks and acts but he’s just a wild.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Primal is available on Amazon, Audible and other book retailers near you.

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Book Review | Vampire with Benefits by E.J. Russell

A match between a vampire and shifter could be deadly—but this broken beaver doesn’t give a dam.

Silent film actor Casimir Moreau had imagined that life as a vampire would be freewheeling and glamorous. Instead, he’s plunged into a restrictive society whose rules he runs afoul of at every turn. To “rehabilitate” him, the vampire council orders him mated to an incubus with impeccable breeding who’ll mold Cas into the upstanding vampire he ought to be. Or else.

As an inactive beaver shifter, construction engineer Rusty Johnson has fought—and overcome—bias and disrespect his entire life. But when his longtime boyfriend leaves him for political reasons, Rusty is ready to call it a day. Next stop? Supernatural Selection and his guaranteed perfect mate, a bear shifter living far away from Rusty’s disapproving clan.

But then a spell snafu at Supernatural Selection robs both men of their intended husbands. Rusty can’t face returning to his clan, and Cas needs somebody on his arm to keep the council happy, so they agree to pretend to be married. Nobody needs to know their relationship is fake—especially since it’s starting to feel suspiciously like the real thing.

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How was it?

This is my first E.J. Russell read and I jumped in blind not realizing that this book is the second entry in the Supernatural Selection series but that didn’t matter much since the story is easy enough to follow and got more engaging as it went along.

Cas and Rusty were great together from the start, even when they were snipping at each other, I was rooting for them. They had great chemistry and the heat was goood. I liked Rusty in an instant and he was amazing throughout. Cas also grew on me, eventually, but he got on my nerves just as much. I guess his antics added some spice to the story – it didn’t really need it – but it allowed for the ending we got, which I quite liked.

I seriously hope we’ll see more of them in future books because Cas and Rusty’s secret is very juicy, and I doubt that Rusty’s ex will let him go, in particular when it’ll come out of nowhere to him.

Vampire with Benefits is a delightful read with a snarky and sometimes annoying vampire, and this gem of a beaver shifter who can’t shift.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

I received an advanced copy of this book and this is my fair and unbiased review.

Vampire with Benefits is available on The Book Depository, Amazon, Audible and other book retailers near you.

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Book Review | Charlie Sunshine by Lily Morton

Sometimes love is a lot closer to home than you think.

Charlie Burroughs can’t keep a man. All he wants is a good relationship like the ones he sees his friends having, but none of the men he picks ever work out. Despite him trying to be the perfect boyfriend, the men are either threatened by his looks or his epilepsy or a combination of the two. It’s lucky that he has his best friend Misha to turn to. The two of them are closer than peas in a pod and fiercely loyal to each other. He can’t imagine his life without Misha in it.

Misha Lebedinsky is the complete opposite of his best friend. Being the support system for his mum and twin sisters leaves Misha with neither the time nor the inclination for a relationship. Quick and frequent hook-ups are his favourite means of communication and any other pesky emotional needs he has are met by Charlie, who he’s devoted to. He lives a life of happy compartmentalization with no intention of ever changing.

All of this changes when the two best friends move in together. Being in close proximity means that they suddenly start to see each other in a very different light. But Charlie struggles when his drive to be the perfect partner clashes with the fact that he’s in love with a man who knows every little thing about him. And even if he can get past that, can a relationship ever work with a man who’d need a dictionary to tell him what love means?

From bestselling author Lily Morton comes a love story about a sunny librarian who has relationship written all over him and a cynical banker who doesn’t even have it in his blurb.

This is the second book in the Close Proximity series but it can be read as a standalone. 

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How was it?

I devoured the Mixed Messages and Black and Blue series so I jumped at the opportunity to read this one. It started well and good since I love a good slow burn but the characters need to pull their weight. So when one character seems far more interesting than the other it’s not as fun.

Charlie, the title character, was not my favorite. The more I learned about Charlie, the less I connected with him, and I even started to question Misha and Charlie’s friendship. Charlie has epilepsy but he’s not really taking care of himself and that kind of put me off but the way he was written in general made him seem like different people at different times with maturity level that seemed a bit too low for me at one point.
The other odd thing for me was the underwear thing – I know it’s nitpicky and maybe weird but I know the kind of underwear my friends like my bestie in particular – it was weird that it came as a total shock to Misha.

As for Misha, I understood him, I got him and he seem consistent. He’s hands down my favorite part of the story. He made me laugh so hard at one point but even that came so late in the book. So overall it was a nice read but it didn’t fully grabbed me.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

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Book Review | The Scars That Bind Us by Michele Notaro

The Magi Accounts 1 – The Scars That Binds Us by Michele Notaro

Sometimes the worst scars are the ones you can’t see.

World War III broke out 130 years ago when humans found out that my people—magi—and shifters were real. They’ve been imprisoning and enslaving our two species since. But now humans need our help protecting the world from the strange monsters they let cross the veil between realms. 

Eighteen years ago, my world changed. Suddenly I was allowed freedoms I’d never had before, but I was still at the Non-Human Specialties Operations’ beck and call. Which is how I found myself on a team with my best friend, five shifters, and a human.

Now, I have to figure out a way to work with others—with shifters. I’ve never been one to trust easily, and I don’t see that changing, but this shifter pride has a way of getting past my walls. Unfortunately, all that means is now I have even more people I need to protect against the evils of this world, and I really don’t know how I’m gonna do it.

All three species have been at odds for more than a century, but maybe Cosmo—a lion shifter—and I can put aside our differences to work together and keep everyone safe. And if I’m secretly crushing on the guy, well, I think I’ll keep that to myself.

The Scars That Bind Us is a 115K word novel and the first book in the MM urban fantasy series, The Magi Accounts

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How was it?

The first entry of The Magi Accounts is both heavy and sweet. The history that introduces this world of Magi and shifters is brief but the effect of that gruesome past is very much felt throughout the book. So the weight of that 130 years history permeates the book, meaning speciesism – to use a word from the book – established discriminations of all sorts, and microaggressions. On top of that there are – brief – mentions of past abuse, and yet it never takes away anything away from the core story. It doesn’t overtake it, it just grounds the story in a chilling realistic way. Because humans can be trash – it’s just my opinion.

I very much like the pace of the story, it’s well-balanced. A lot of it establishes the world, its magic and paranormal and interdimensional species. It also has an interesting dynamic when it comes to the main characters, because the bonded friends, Madeo and Jude, take as much space in the overall story – if not more – than Madeo’s romantic pairing. I loved that. It show a deep, non-sexual friendship between two queer men. Some might call it fantasy but they do exist, and if Jude hadn’t been giving his dues he totally would’ve seem like Madeo’s servent.
While establishing Mad and Jude’s relationship Notaro manages to build a new one between these two with Logan creating a small family unit for them. On the other side of that the close-knit relationship between Cosmo and the members of his shifter pride is very much felt if not as heavily detailed. So when both families start to merge it’s very endearing, in particular taking into account the Magi’s past.

Romance-wise the relationship between Cosmo and Madeo is only at its beginning, a good one with a solidifying base as we go along. Because the story is told through Madeo’s perspective, Cosmo doesn’t seem to have as much depth but again it’s the beginning of their relationships and this book is the start of a series.

In terms of the class system systems between races, with Magi on the lowest rung, it’s good to see the wrong assumptions shifters and Magi have of each other’s lives. I also love how well the microaggressions were depicted but it would have been better if they weren’t always pointed out. Speaking from personal experience, when you’re the target of microaggressions they don’t all always get a response (internal or otherwise), because sadly you get used to them. It would have been more interesting to see how many people would have picked on them if they weren’t made obvious by Madeo’s emotional responses.

I got so reluctant to finish this book toward the end, it was crazy. I sat on that last chapter and epilogue for way too long. This book is immersive, and I’m excited for the future because I suspected more even exciting things are coming.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Scars That Binds Us will be available on Amazon and other book retailers near you.

My ARC copy of the book was provided by GRR for a fair, unbiased review.

The Magi Account book 1 was released on February 22, 2022.

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