Book Review: Ravenhearth, by Lotus Oakes

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Ravenhearth, by Lotus Oakes
Publisher: Less Than Three Press
Release Date: February 17, 2016

Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars
2--5-of-5

Buy Links: Publisher / Amazon

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summary

In a world covered by a deadly miasma, humans survive by way of the protection of powerful mages known as oakes-ravenhearthKeepers. In the town of Ravenhearth, the Keeper requests a companion from the village every ten years. What happens to them after those ten years, no one knows, for none has ever returned.

Ash is a young orphan who dreams of learning magic. When the newest request for a companion arrives, he volunteers. But when he arrives, he finds a place nothing like the fearful whispers shared around the village. Instead, he slowly grows to be a part of the close-knit family of the Keeper’s castle—and falling for Giles, the butler of Ravenhearth, instead of the Keeper he’s been sent there to attend.

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Gay M/M Romance
Fantasy
Mysterious Identities
Tribute/Sacrifice
Rags to Riches
Beauty and the Beast

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Things I loved about this novel:

  • Rooting for the underdog. Watching Ash’s desperation and hope as he goes from orphan to companion was incredibly well done.
  • The world-building. Lotus creates a world of danger and magic, and addresses the careful balance of consent in a world where your safety is controlled by the happiness or displeasure of one person.
  • Characters who are torn between duty and desire. Yesssssss.

Things that hovered in the middle:

  • Ash’s desire to learn magic. His enthusiasm and motivation were delightful, but the lessons themselves were skimmed over in favor of less interesting plot-points.
  • Glimpses of the outside world. A few times we get a figurative glimpse through the miasma, but the world is very contained. Not that it’s a bad thing, just sparked my curiosity.

And the dislikes…

  • The sexual attraction between Ash and the Keeper. I just couldn’t figure it out! The Keeper wears a hood, so it’s not a visual-based lust… yet Ash is fantasizing about him after meeting him only once for one meal.
  • Inconsistent characterizations. Certain character motivations baffled me, and were never fully explained.
  • Giles. I couldn’t get a grasp on him. Ash lusts after him, but… I wasn’t sure why, because their interactions were only glimpsed at.
  • I just felt like there was too much happening, and it detracted from the overall plot. Also, the plot was way more predictable than I would have liked.

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If you liked Romancing the Duke by Tessa Dare, then Ravenhearth may also appeal. Both have orphans moving up in the world, and mysterious and brooding lords to fall in love with. And both have characters who dream of finding romance, but have never had one of their own.

(I’m trying to think of novels where a character volunteers to become a companion or sacrifice, but I mostly keep coming up with marriage-of-convenience tropes, which isn’t quite right.)

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Lotus Oakes is a new author for me, but it looks like she has several other books that you can check out! Here’s her Goodreads page.

You can also find Lotus on Tumblr or her website.

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Audio Book Review: The Lightning-Struck Heart, by T.J. Klune (Narrated by Michael Lesley)

klune-lightning-struck-heart-audioThe Lightning-Struck Heart, by T.J. Klune
Narrated By: Michael Lesley
Run-Time: 19 hours, 48 minutes

Rating: klune-lightning-rating

Buy Links: eBook / Paperback / Audiobook

I received a copy of this audiobook in exchange for a fair and honest review.

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Blurb:

Once upon a time, in an alleyway in the slums of the City of Lockes, a young and somewhat lonely boy named Sam Haversford turns a group of teenage douchebags into stone completely by accident.

Of course, this catches the attention of a higher power, and Sam’s pulled from the only world he knows to become an apprentice to the king’s wizard, Morgan of Shadows.

When Sam’s 14, he enters the Dark Woods and returns with Gary, the hornless gay unicorn, and a half-giant named Tiggy, earning the moniker Sam of Wilds.

At 15, Sam learns what love truly is when a new knight arrives at the castle – Knight Ryan Foxheart, the dreamiest dream to have ever been dreamed.

Naturally, it all goes to hell when Ryan dates the reprehensible Prince Justin, Sam can’t control his magic, a sexually aggressive dragon kidnaps the prince, and the king sends them on an epic quest to save Ryan’s boyfriend, all while Sam falls more in love with someone he can never have.

Or, so he thinks.

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Release Day Blitz: Say Yes, by J.R. Gray

Say Yes Release Day Blitz Banner

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James failed.
He tried to be what they wanted.
He tried to deny it.
He tried to be a good Catholic boy… but it’s become too much.
He craves pain, submission.
He’s denied himself far too long, and it’s eating him alive.

Charles thrives off the exchange of power. He knows the world revolves around control. It’s given and taken like currency, in business and in pleasure. He won’t get attached, though, or so he tells himself, until James turns his world upside down. He’s defiant and snarky, but Charles can taste the submission on him.

Charles holds the key to his salvation but James has to Say Yes.

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Book Review: Say Yes, by J.R. Gray

gray-say-yesSay Yes, by J.R. Gray
Release Date: December 1, 2015

Rating: ★★★★☆ (4 out of 5 stars)

Buy Links: ARe / Amazon

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

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Blurb:

Charles holds the key to salvation, but James has to say yes.

James failed. He tried to be what they wanted. He tried to deny it. He tried to be a good Catholic boy…but it’s become too much. He craves pain, submission. He’s denied himself far too long, and it’s eating him alive.

Charles thrives off the exchange of power. He knows the world revolves around control. It’s given and taken like currency, in business and in pleasure. He won’t get attached, though, or so he tells himself, until James turns his world upside down. He’s defiant and snarky, but Charles can taste the submission on him.

All James has to do is say one little word.

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Book Review: Tasting Notes, by Cate Ashwood (Rating: 3.5/5)

ashwood-tasting-notesTasting Notes, by Cate Ashwood
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press (October 26, 2015)
Page Count: 200 pages
Genre: Gay (M/M) Romance

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Buy Links: eBook / Paperback

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

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Summary:

Joseph “West” Weston has paid for his wealth and success with long hours at the office and no personal life to speak of. Meetings, conference calls, and paperwork dominate his waking hours and have kept him from honoring the promise he made to his late grandfather years before.

After leaving the Marines, Robert “Rush” Coeman returns to his hometown and settles in as a Christmas tree farmer. His life is quiet and simple, and he likes it that way. When West arrives in town and buys Rush’s parents’ vineyard on a whim, that simple life is turned upside down. The animosity between them is palpable, but Rush shelves his preconceived notions in order to protect his parents’ legacy. He agrees to help West learn how to run the vineyard, and Rush soon realizes that love doesn’t necessarily come in the package he expected.

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My Review:

This was a really sweet romance, and I really enjoyed the plot and the characters. West is successful, but his life is completely empty, and he realizes one day that he’s not happy. Stress and over-work finally force him to take a break, and he makes an impulse decision to drive to the Pacific and spread his grandfather’s ashes, as a way to honor the man who raised him. Except he gets distracted on the way by a charming small town, a beautiful winery, and a handsome man named Rush.

I can relate to West in a lot of ways… being over-worked, and desperate for a break, is something that a lot of people can understand. So it’s nice to live out the fantasy through West, who has more than enough money to just take off one day.

Rush was a bit harder to grasp. He has his reasons for acting the way he does, but those reasons aren’t explained until much later, so at first he comes off as extremely unlikable.

But OH MAN, the hatred and sexual tension between Rush and West was so good! Rush is clearly attracted to West, but at the same time can’t stand the kind of person he knows (or thinks) West is. And West is just baffled, but certain that he wants to prove Rush wrong and win over the former Marine.

Rush saw the punch coming, and he couldn’t say why he didn’t react. West’s fist collided with his cheek, throwing Rush backward with the force of it. Even in the blur of anger, Rush had to give the guy credit. He didn’t think he had it in him.

While the initial relationship between Rush and West was fantastic, I feel like the animosity between them resolved way too quickly. I really wanted to see a slower transition from hate to love; the tension from Rush’s hatred really drove the plot and made both characters fascinating, but as soon as it was resolved everything really slowed down and leveled out, making the story drag on until the next point of conflict appeared.

I also feel like the author was a bit too pleased with her research. There were a lot of little details that were thrown in (ie, the exact make and model of West’s car, the specific breed of Rush’s dog, the exact type of helicopter pilot Rush used to be, etc) that seemed like overkill. Details that didn’t factor into the story at all, and didn’t improve the narrative, but instead just seemed awkwardly placed.

On the whole, though, the story was really enjoyable! Rush and West are sweet together, and Rush was great about teaching West to relax and enjoy the little things, while West was eager to learn and thrilled with the new challenges before him.

Worth checking out, especially if you want a sweet romance between two complex characters.

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