Needing the Kraken: Cursed Mermen Book 6, Aramis Jordan

This book was...interesting.

I liked the premise and was drawn into the general story trajectory and was tantalized by the tentacle love... But somewhere between the beginning of the middle and the very end I got lost. The spice was there, oh holy good night, was it there, but that was kind of what carried the story. There were feels and they came on slowly since admissions were kind of few and far between with most of the feels being revealed through actions and inner dialogue rather than being shared and communicated.

The scene where certain personal truths were shared and explained was actually done well with tact, heart, and acceptance. Perhaps it was a little too easy, but by this point there was a whole lot of drama put behind them, danger conquered, and time for genuinely deep feelings to take root. I didn't mind that it was more tender and sweet rather than complicated.

And we have the implantation and birthing scenes....oh my... If that kind of cephalopod stuff is not your thing, understandable, just skip ahead.

Also, if this is the first book of the series that you read, as was the case for me, there's nothing included, even in the epilogue, that would give spoilers for any of the previous books. There are a couple characters and groupings that interested me in the epilogue, but I have to say, despite that interest, those stories will likely not make the top ten on my To-Read list merely because the writing is very word heavy with less progress achieved than expected with the sheer number of words. I totally feel the reviews of readers that said they skimmed a whole lot. At times I wish I had.

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A man on the run.
A dangerous sea witch offering shelter.

Nobody can know who Sebastian really is. Driven from his home and chased by the king’s henchmen, Sebastian runs into Malik, a sea witch and kraken shifter. At first he’s repulsed by Malik’s eight long appendages, but with nowhere to go, Sebastian has no choice but to fling himself into Malik’s many arms.

Malik is the mightiest witch in the New World. His magic grants him dark powers, but the one thing he can’t have is love—because Malik guards a deep secret. When Sebastian comes to him for protection, he grants it. As they grow closer, the pressure on Malik to reveal his best-kept secret mounts. But what if the truth sends Sebastian running into the arms of his enemies?

Needing the Kraken is a 72,000 word MM romance. It features an intense love story, plenty of steam, secret identities, close proximity and a non-binary main character. This gay, paranormal romance is a standalone and the final book in the Cursed Mermen series. HEA guaranteed!

A Little Christmas: Blake, W. Rathbone

The focus of the story was on the tenderness, the sweet feelings of something unexpected and everything you hoped for but thought could never be yours. There were two sides here that actually got a good amount of balance between them giving the overall feel of the story a satisfying evolution. Between the self discovery on Eliot's side and the self-acceptance on Blake's I felt a lot of newness, raw, honest vulnerability, and a childlike wonder.

While I very much enjoyed those things and seeing both men blossom under one another's care and acceptance, the story was very simple. The length of the story didn't allow for delving into anything other than their connection. Keeping things simple and uncomplicated on the side of Eliot's work and family situation, not revisiting Blake's awful boss, and nothing major to keep the men apart all worked to keep the short story focused, it just also didn't delve too deep.

There was also something about their dynamic that was kept almost a little too simple. I'm of two minds about this one because on the one hand it could have been problematic to have both men jumping into a lifestyle neither one had really looked into, researched, or learned much about at all. On the other hand by keeping both men's preferences perfectly aligned and giving it an almost "fated mate" feel to their connection on both the romance and keenk (yes, I know that's not how it's spelled...) it kept it from seeming unhealthy, uninformed, and potentially damaging.

So did I like the book? Definitely. Was it everything? No. Would I read more from this author's new-ish penname? Yep!

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Can a Christmas miracle make Blake’s secret dream come true?

Blake has no one. His boyfriend cheated on him and left without a word taking almost everything in the apartment. His boss fired him. He’s behind on the rent and Christmas is coming.

But there is one man, Eliot, always impeccably dressed, always with a nice word, who keeps running into him. Blake knows him as a regular at the diner where he used to work. The man was a great tipper.

Eliot asks him out. Blake accepts. When his date shows up in a gleaming Rolls Royce to pick him up and Blake is wearing only his best jeans and an old sweater, shivering in the new falling snow, he realizes Eliot is way out of his league.

He can’t possibly go on this date now. He’s not good enough. Worse, if Eliot were to ever find out his secret, that Blake has a little side and an impossible dream to one day call a lover “daddy” and not get smacked or laughed at for it, Eliot would probably never want to see him again.

But it’s Christmastime, and Eliot is a surprisingly persuasive guy, not to mention full of his own sweet secrets. This is the time of year when things have a way of working out, but can Blake let down his barriers long enough to see the special truth between them?

Contemporary holiday gay romance, age gap, billionaire, rescue, comfort from the cold, HEA. This is an MM daddy/little Christmas twist on The Little Princess Classic tale. Each age play romance book in this multi-author series can be read as a standalone.

Monstrous Intent: Mischief and Monsters Book 1, Alice Winters

This is why I read this author's work. I've come to know, love, and expect the shenanigans, the ridiculousness, the scowly grumpy character, the outlandishly silly partner, the interesting side characters, the unexpected animal companions, the creatures either causing or attempting to fix the mayhem and danger... Everything was here and I would be disappointed if it were missing.

So yes, expect some things that feel extremely familiar if you're a repeat reader, but don't let that stop you from finding the unique bits that make this story its own. For instance, where else has this author written about chimeras in this way? What other author has used this take on not just what they might look like, but their "family" dynamic that's unique to this storyline? I loved picturing these creatures in my mind as they were described here and I feel both mesmerized and horrified by what the humans in this world might be experiencing as the story progresses.

Declan is my ideal growly grump with a personal crisis of what they actually want and the eye-opening moments that are only possible because of the other MC. And with all of Lake's utter ridiculousness it's hard not to live for Declan's super small and reluctant grins. Lake's got all his own issues with where he comes from, what and how much he's hiding, what his hopes and dreams are, and his own moments of revelation as Declan makes him see beyond the fight to live his own way. They are a fantastic team and Declan's delayed reaction to Lake's unilateral choice was utter perfection. It was unexpected because it wasn't formulaic or cliched. That was an absolute highlight of the reading experience.

So to say I'm a fan and that I'm totally invested is an understatement at this point. I truly cannot wait to find out what the body on the slab means for them all, who's going to run the show after the parade's events, and how much more trouble Lake will get Declan into.

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It’s really hard to pretend like life is normal when you’re staring a monster in the eyes, though he’s both tempting and irritating in his human form. I put my days as a hunter behind me, unable to cope with the death and pain anymore, to become an upstanding citizen and for what? To assist Lake, a man who claims he’s not a monster but keeps talking about me like I’m edible and–even worse–wants to woo me? Between my old organization trying to pull me in and Lake proving that things aren’t quite what they seem, I’m dragged back into this world of fighting the things that humans fear the most.

The human is exquisite. The first moment he told me he was going to hunt me down, I felt my heart burst. He’s beautiful, sassy, angry, and going to be mine (even if he thinks he can refuse my charms). But what Declan doesn’t know about me is that there’s a reason I’m hiding as a human among monster hunters. And while he definitely doesn’t know why, he’s willing to work with me because the people around us strangely want Declan and me dead at the end of this (I mean, who would want to kill us? We’re amazing).
But honestly… what’s more fun than dragging a hunter off to the dark side?

Warning: This is a chaotic monster and a chaotic human. Stuff happens. People die (but they were bad, so it doesn’t matter, right?) and there’s plenty of humor alongside a budding romance.

Single and Ready to Jingle, Piper Rayne

With no recourse but to be thrown together to make things work Mackenzie makes the most of Andrew's predicament after a rather disastrous meet-insult instead of a blind date of the meet-cute variety.  Coercing a grinch to participate in Christmas activities to save his pride and possible promotion is just icing on the cake for the holiday-loving elf.  This is absolutely not a recipe for disaster, is it?  More than likely it's the attraction of a forever with their complete opposites that neither of them are willing to admit to...

I have to admit, however, that I was prepared to be annoyed by Mackenzie.  Often I find holiday-loving characters go over the top and are the types of people even those of us who love the same holiday go out of our way to avoid.  But in the case of Kenzie I found myself drawn to her, her indomitable spirit, her brightness and positivity.  She wasn't over the top and she most certainly wasn't annoying or pushy either.  Unless it was for the right grump that needed the push.

It was Andrew that I was more annoyed with on occasion though.  He was unnecessarily secretive and the justifications were thin and more or less ridiculous.  His need for transparency once things started progressing completely mocked his own need for secrecy when the hesitations were his own.  But when he began coming out of his shell and reluctantly enjoyed the things Kenzie planned for them, when he started to thaw and find joy through her eyes and revel in her just being her, that was when I joined his team.

The big conflict moment that came wasn't entirely unexpected, but it felt like a juvenile write-in rather than something truly organic to the story.  What I will say for the moment was that the circumstances allowed the hurt to be less deep and severe, something that made the big gesture sufficiently appropriate for an apology.  The fallout from the moment was hurtful, for sure, but there were other elements that allowed it to not be truly devastating.  And then the epilogue was a short, sweet moment that really wrapped things up pretty well for being a quick read overall.

This was far better than I hoped for and has swayed me more in favor of this author, who I haven't read much from.  It could have gone the way of formulaic and cliche but it didn't cross that line and I was thoroughly delighted throughout the couple hour read time it took to enjoy Andrew and Mackenzie's story.

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Bad Bishop: Perfect Play Book 2, Layla Reyne

The communication that I felt was lacking in book one really shone here in book two.  There was a subtle shift in the relationship that allowed for both men to truly rely on one another as they faced the enemy that was taunting them and drawing them further into a dangerous game that threatened not only the safety of countless vulnerable young women, but themselves and everyone they hold close.

There are moments in this book that I'm not sure will play out well for the men but it's far more clear this time around that they are in it together.  They come to trust one another not just professionally, but with their hearts and the hurts of their past.  It bonds them far more deeply than just their attraction that got a small but powerful moment in Dead Draw.

We're left at the end with a bigger cliffhanger, one I truly wasn't expecting, and it shocked me.  I'm now at the edge of my seat and cannot wait for the resolution which is sure to be messy, frustrating, painful, and also vindicating, powerful, and right.  This was a fantastic continuation of the series with more feels, more spice, and more drama.

*4.99 on Amazon or FREE on KU!

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