5 Stars, Fantastic Fiction Publishing, Genre Romance, Lynn Kelling, M/M/M and More, Reviewed by Lynn

Release Day Review: Double Heat by Lynn Kelling

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Title: Double Heat (Twin Ties: Book Three)

Author: Lynn Kelling

Publisher: Fantastic Fiction Publishing

Pages/Word Count: 299 Pages

At a Glance: The climax of this story is one of the best sitting-on-the-edge-of-your-seat scenes that I’ve read in a long while.

Reviewed By: Lynn

Blurb: When Evan and Brennan moved in with their boyfriends, Alek and Luka, they knew things would be complicated, but as their privacy gets eroded, and people around them begin to notice the tangled nature of their relationships, coping becomes a struggle. After Brennan leaves on a brief trip home, and Evan remains behind to enjoy the full attention of both Alek and Luka, the careful balance of things gets thrown off.

Ex-boyfriends surface, haunting Evan and Brennan in similar ways as regret for poor choices threatens their happiness, and the sexual freedom displayed earlier in their lives draws predators willing to use violence, coercion, mind-games and force to take what they want. Though Luka and Alek struggle to protect those they love, it soon becomes clear that the dangers surrounding them will find ways to rush in, trying to take what belongs to them.

Dividers

Review: First off, this is a series that should be read in order. My Brother’s Lover and Dual Affairs are the first two books in the Twin Ties saga. Second, this books deals with some pretty heavy issues that may be triggers for some readers: rape, pedophilia and incest. Please take heed to the warnings.

Having read the first two books, I thought I knew where this story was headed. We’ve already met both sets of twins, and watched as all four men evolved into a relationship with one another. They went through some rough spots, figuring it out along the way, and by the end of the second book, Evan, Brennan, Alek, and Luka are moving in together. So, I’m thinking the third book is going to be an adjustment period, a “getting to know you better” phase. I mean, when you’re in a relationship that involves four people, there’s going to be some issues to tackle, right? Oh boy, was I wrong.

The author takes us on a journey into the past, and we see what really happened to Evan and Brennan before they knew the other existed. At certain times it’s not a pleasant read, but I felt it necessary information so readers fully understood the reasoning behind the characters’ actions and words. Also, I felt the characters needed to be true to themselves and to their lovers about their past; to relive it, understand it, deal with it, and start healing from it. The author does an amazing job here. She gives us cringe-worthy scenes, not for the shock value but for the healing value.

Evan, I loved him from the get go. Even though I thought him to be a little whiny and a bit over dramatic, there was a genuine sweetness about his character. I knew there was more to his story than what the author was giving us in the previous installments, and I knew it wasn’t going to be pretty. We’re in Evan’s head for most of the story, with the beginning of his inner dialogue reading like a broken record of self-doubt. I wanted him to just shut up already, open up and talk it over with his lovers. It can’t be that bad, right? Well, when we get the full, heartbreaking, ugly truth about Evan’s past, I was beyond mortified. And, I finally got Evan. I understood him better. The part of his character that never quite felt right snapped into place. It all makes sense now.

Brennan is Evan’s twin brother. I thought him to be the stronger one. He exuded confidence and independence while all along he was hiding a secret too. Through Brennan’s POV, we see that going back to his hometown proved more difficult than expected because of his own abusive past. Returning home to his lovers, he really has no choice but to tell them everything.

While their situations were vastly different, the one thing that stood out was how each twin mistook abuse as acceptance, both brainwashed into thinking that any attention was better than no attention. One was alone, the other feared being alone. It’s no wonder their back stories had a similar theme. Finding true acceptance within their foursome caused them to finally begin unraveling the depth of mental, physical, and criminal warfare that had been waged upon them. I think the author does a great job delving into these difficult scenes. She was able to bridge the past and present seamlessly, bringing the abusers into the light so the brothers knew them for what they were. We see the real struggle Evan and Brennan went through during this process. The author never glossed over or pushed aside the problem, the characters weren’t miraculously cured by the next chapter. I appreciated that.

Now, I haven’t said much about the other set of twins, mainly because this wasn’t their story. They are both solid characters who are very dedicated to Evan and Brennan. Alek and Luka are there for support, helping as much as they can. It was really nice to see this other side of them, but I know they have their own story to tell. From what I know, Ms. Kelling is planning to explore their backstory in book four. I can’t wait.

The climax of this story is one of the best sitting-on-the-edge-of-your-seat scenes that I’ve read in a long while. It wasn’t resolved in a nice gift wrapped box. It was messy, violent, graphic and disturbing. I couldn’t imagine it ending any other way. Evan and Brennan’s stories weren’t pretty, so why should the resolution be?

All in all, this story stopped being about twincest, stopped being about anything taboo. It’s about the love these four men have for each other. It’s about healing and getting back that self-worth, to finally move on, to love and be loved back. It’s about never being alone. I can’t wait for the next book.

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You can buy Double Heat here:

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5 Stars, Historical Romance, Loose Id, Nasia Maksima, Reviewed by Jennifer

Review: Slave Eternal (In His Arena: Book One) by Nasia Maksima

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Title: In His Arena 1: Slave Eternal

Author:  Nasia Maksima

Publisher: Loose Id

Pages/Word Count: 248 Pages

At a Glance: This book had everything I could have wanted and more

Blurb: When novice gladiator Lucan is stolen from his patron house and enslaved by the wicked Stratos to be a pawn in a dark scheme, he finds himself fighting for his life in the cruel Spectacles of the arena. His only hope is to undertake training under HektorActaeon, the arena’s greatest champion.

From the moment he meets Hektor, Lucan’s life is changed. He expected to be trained. He expected to win glory in the arena. He never expected to fall in love. With every challenge, Lucan rises in power and glory, and what begins as a desperate bid for survival quickly spirals into a whirlwind of lust and love as he fights—both for his life and for an impossible future with Hektor.

But Hektor is harboring his own dark secret—one that could very well keep him from loving Lucan in return. Even worse, the menace of Stratos’s plan looms over them, sending them into the arena in a final battle to the death. Against each other.

Can Lucan and Hektor overcome Stratos’s dark designs and the cruelties of the arena, or will their secrets drive them to ruin in the final battle against each other?

DividersReview: I don’t even know where to start with this review. Part of me wants to start swearing like a drunken pirate about how amazing it is. Another part of me wants to do the Kermit happy dance and start flailing around madly. This book had everything I could have wanted and more. So much more.

First, I think it’s only fair that I give you some warnings. This book has a lot of content that might upset readers, and not necessarily in a good way. It’s a violent book. There is a LOT of blood and death. That said, it is a historical fantasy novel about gladiators, so that should be a given. There’s also a lot of dubious consent. The characters seem like they’re enjoying it at times, but there are moments when they aren’t. So just a word of caution if that’s a trigger for you.

Other than that, this book…oh this book. I loved the show Spartacus and fell in love with Agron and Nasir. This book isn’t like that, don’t get me wrong, but because of my love for them I needed to read Slave Eternal. And now I love Hektor and Lucan. They are incredible characters. Both are vastly different and their depths are astounding. The world Nasia Maksima crafted in this book is unlike any other I’ve read. It’s an interesting mixture of history and fantasy that blends seamlessly to create a believable world where gladiators fight at the whim of their blind Empress.

The fantasy element of this novel comes from slavecraft and a mark called the Ebon, which binds a person to their master. Once the Ebon is initiated, the slave must do whatever their master bids, even if in their heart they know what’s happening and don’t want to. Legend has it that only true love can defeat the Ebon, but can it? Stratos—the villain—certainly doesn’t think so, and based on occurrences before the novel, it doesn’t seem like it either.

There are no fluffy moments in this book. Sure, there is romance, but the reality of the world is harsh and brutal. These are men trained to—as the author puts it—fight and fuck. They either kill their opponents in the arena, or they face them in the Claim the next morning, where they have sex with them. It might sound strange, but for the mythology of the world, it works. In order to grow stronger, they believe that the seed of the stronger opponent being shared with the loser makes the defeated gladiator stronger. So there’s your dubious consent, but it’s not exploitative at all. It works. Perfectly.

I should also make a note about the sex. If you’re a reader who likes just one or two sex scenes per book, then this is not for you. If you don’t like descriptive sex, then this is not for you. The sex these men have is not written with purple prose disguising their act. Nope. It’s brutal and honest, just as the men are. It’s hard to make me blush, but I blushed through a lot of these scenes. And while there is a lot of sex, it actually pushed the story forward. Finding that in this genre can be difficult, but Maksima did it masterfully.

I could go on for days about this book. It was my last read of 2014, and man did I hit a winner with it. I cannot wait to read the next book in the series because I know whatever happens, it will be done with a skilled hand.

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You can buy Slave Eternal here:

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