Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Review: Safeword by AJ Rose

Title: Safeword
Author: AJ Rose
Publisher: Voodoo Lily Press
Rating: 5/5 hearts 


Everywhere Detective Gavin DeGrassi looks he’s reminded of his attack by the Breath Play Killer. It’s in the house he lives in with his partner and Dom, Ben Haverson. It’s in the sympathetic yet pitying looks he receives from his fellow detectives when he returns to the force after a year-long hiatus. It’s in the suffocating coddling of his entire family, and the relentless reporter demanding an exclusive of his ordeal.

Most of all, it’s in his lack of submission to Ben, who isn’t convinced Gavin’s recovered enough to trust the power exchange between them.

The miraculous recovery of two teen boys from a twisted kidnapper gives him heart, and Gavin's determined to prove he can handle anything despite increasing strain between him and Ben, painful nightmares, and panic when anyone touches him.

But his next case is too close for comfort: a friend and colleague found raped and murdered in a fate chillingly similar to what could have been his own, and this killer isn’t stopping with one cop. As the body count rises and taunting souvenirs are being hand-delivered to Gavin, he faces a frustrating lack of leads, a crushing need to prove himself, and a sinking suspicion the imprisoned kidnapper’s reach is further than originally thought. A miasma of uncertainty and fear threaten to suffocate him when he asks a question with which he’s overwhelmingly familiar: what happens when a victim is pushed too far?


Whew! Talk about a follow-up novel! It's an intense ride the whole way through. I was literally on the edge of my seat until the end of the book. This is one of those novels that I knew was going to either be awesome, or fall flat because I loved the first one so much. AJ Rose pulled it off superbly. 

Gavin and Ben are obviously struggling with their inner and outer demons in the aftermath of Power Exchange. Then add in the pressures of job and family, and you have way too much heaped on an already overwhelmed couple. I was holding my breath about halfway through waiting for them to get kicked in the teeth. 

I think AJ dealt with the very intense trauma to his characters very well. I don't think that it was accelerated, and I felt like his characters were ready as he moved them forward. I liked how as a newcomer to BDSM in the first novel, everything was very well explained from the standpoint of someone new to the scene. I also really loved that in the second novel that wasn't repeated. It's already an understood fact. 

Honestly this was everything that a follow-up novel should be. I couldn't have asked for a better put together story that really built upon the lives of Gavin and Ben. I also loved the supporting characters. I just felt really attached to the story and was sad to see it end. Is there a third novel in the works AJ?  I'd love to find out what happens to Gavin and Ben down the road. 

I know you all want to know the gist of the novel, but really if I start talking about it, I will spill all the secrets that you should really just read for yourself. 

So if you want to pick up the sequel to Power Exchange, Safeword, then head over to 




You certainly won't regret it. It's an amazing read! 

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Hop Against Homophobia and Transphobia: And the Winner is....

I want to say thank you to all those who participated in the blog hop, and certainly to everyone who stopped by, and left lovely comments on my post about addiction. 

I've drawn a name, and the winner is Karl. Congratulations Karl! I am on the road today to do the whole parent/kid exchange thing so I will email you at the address you provided when I get back, or if you are in a hurry you can email me:  and let me know what book you would like from Amazon, and as a bonus I'm still going to donate 10$ in your name to the Matthew Shepard Foundation. 

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Author Interview: Brandon Shire

An Interview of sorts with 
Brandon Shire 

First of all, I want to take a moment to thank Brandon. He is someone who inspires me a lot, and I'm so grateful for the support that he has always given me and this blog with every book that he puts out and asks me to review. 

Brandon is here promoting his new book Cold, which released on May 14th. You can find our review for it HERE, along with the buy links. 

Brandon Shire's first book was Value of Rain was published in November of 2011, and now less than 2 years later he has 4 additional books under his belt: Listening to Dust (March 2012), Afflicted (Nov 2012), Afflicted 2 (Dec 2012), and now Cold (May 2013)

Brandon has generously agreed to give away an ebook of Cold in either Epub or Mobi format. Details on that give-away are at the end of this post. 

Why a Prison book?  

Honestly, it was the intensity of the environment that intrigued me. Most stories about prison are based the violence and the climate of prison life. I wanted to focus more on the characters, but place them in a setting where two complete opposites would be almost forced into interaction because of the close confines and daily monotony.

What kind of research did you have to do for this book? 

 I did a lot of research for this book, and have several consultants to thank. One person is a prison guard, another is a parolee who spent 20+ years in prison for murder, and another is a retired forest naturalist who gave me quite bit more insight into Lem’s character than I had considered while the book was still rolling around in my head

How does the writing process work for you? About how long from conception to research to birth did Cold take?

My muse spits out a dozen ideas at a time. I dutifully jot them down since this usually occurs while I'm in the middle of another project. The concept of Cold began to unfold in December 2012, so from there to the publication date in May...about six months, which is typical for me.

Does love make people's poor choices or actions redeemable or does it just make them human? 

Good question. I wish I had an answer, but I don’t. I think the love between two people is different in each and every situation, and only the person involved in the relationship could answer such a question. Otherwise, you, as an outsider, are just judging an intimacy which you know nothing about. From a personal perspective, I think each person has the qualities that would create a bond; I don’t hold people as 'redeemable' because I don’t see them as irredeemable. Singular actions and poor choices do not, for me, make up the definition of a person as a whole. 

Do you think that writing a story about a relationship between two men that have been convicted of Murder and Drug dealing humanizes them for readers? 

I think our conception of the people in prison is based on the crap people watch on television and the hype produced by the media to sell ad space. Dehumanizing individuals to allow us to match the concepts we're force fed is why we have the largest prison population in the world. Whether Cold pushes back against that, I can't say. I honestly don't think it is likely. Corporate America has too tight a hold on the average individual's panic button to realistically expect changes in the foreseeable future. 

Your books focus on characters that might be outside the life scope of the bulk of your readers.  Is there a reason why? 

This comes about because I like to test boundaries and push back against predefined concepts. While I do a lot of research and try to be factual in the presentation of my fiction, what I find is not always in line with the common beliefs people hold. (Laughs) I think that's why readers have a love/hate relationship with my writing style. 

Many people may have a love/hate relationship with Brandon's style, but I for one love it. I also love the evolution of that style and voice, and how it changes from one book to the next. Whether you like it or not, you have to agree that Brandon Shire's voice is a powerful one. If you notice, there are no personal questions in this interview because Brandon is a private person who wants his work to speak for itself. If you wish to contact Brandon, or find out more about his books you may do so through his website:

Or through twitter (@TheBrandonShire)

Or on the fan group on Goodreads  He drops in quite often.

So... you want to win a copy of Cold?

 Well all you have to do to enter into the Drawing is leave a comment with your email address AND the format (Epub or Mobi)  and I will enter you into a drawing to be held on May 24th (Friday) which is also the last day of the blog tour. I will announce the winner on our 



Twitter (@engineerqueen)

I will also announce on the Goodreads group linked above. 

The winner will also receive an email in case they miss it here or on fb or twitter. 

Each of the blogs on the tour are giving away a copy of Brandon's book.. You can find out into about his stops HERE.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Review: Cold by Brandon Shire

Title: Cold
Author: Brandon Shire
Rating: 4/5 hearts 

Book 1: Prison is a brutal, heartless, and demeaning environment. No one knows this better than a man sentenced to life in prison for murder. Lem Porter is a high-profile prisoner who had a solid career ahead of him in a field he loved until he killed his brother. He has spent almost eighteen years behind bars and doesn't have much hope left.

Anderson Passero had it all. He built a career, a name, and a relationship with a man he thought he loved. Only after he very publicly landed in prison did he realize how ignorant he’d been. He has eight months left on his sentence and he is eager to go home and put prison life behind him. He doesn't know it yet, but he will always carry these eight months with him, and they may just help him to understand what love really means.


I don't like prison books. Partly because I was a criminal justice major for a long time. Partly because my dad was a prison guard for awhile. One of my best friends is also a prison guard. I have a hard time feeling sympathy for prisoners. My mind likes to dehumanize them. I have a very strict inner moral code, so I just have a hard time getting into stories centered in the prison system.  My review is a little colored by those things, so I figured I'd be upfront going in. 

Right from the beginning I really felt for Lem. He is obviously devastated by the crime that landed him in prison. He relives his crime constantly (even while there is no reason given for the crime). He obviously feels an incredible amount of guilt despite never having outwardly shown remorse. He truly believes that he SHOULD be in prison, partly because there is nothing left for him on the outside. He can't have what he really wants so there is no hope in his mind. 

Anderson, I felt less sympathy for. Maybe because it was a drug crime, and even if he was an accessory after the fact it still irked me. I felt like he still, even at the end of his sentence, believed himself to be better than the men he was serving time with. That somewhat annoyed me, although I realize that he was mostly just scared. 

I love what the two men found in each other despite all their differences... size, background, crimes. I really don't feel like I can delve too deep into the plot of this story because I don't want to give anything away. You really must read it in order to let the layers and the story be built for you. 

This was another book that definitely needed the tissues at the end. I really would love to see a continuation of this book, because quite certainly all the questions were not answered.

Even if you don't like prison setting stories.. TRY this book. It is sooo worth it. ;) 

Also join us here TOMORROW on the blog as I'll be putting up the interview with Mr. Shire as part of his COLD Blog Tour, and Mr. Shire will GENEROUSLY be giving away an ebook copy of COLD.

You can learn more about Brandon's books by visiting his website 

You can follow him on Twitter: @TheBrandonShire 

You can purchase Cold from the following retailers:





As always 10% of profits from his books go to LGBT charities. 

**I was provided a copy of this book in return for an honest review**

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Hop Against Homophobia and Transphobia: Addiction & a Give-Away


Thanks for coming by in honor of the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia

At first I was going to tell you about my addiction. How by the time I was 16 years old (deeply in the closet) I was an alcoholic. I was going to talk about how at 24, I had something open my eyes and I chose to stop drinking, on my own with no help. I was going to talk about how instead I punished myself by getting married, and having children. I came out and asked for a divorce when I was 30. I turn 33 in a few months and still haven't successfully achieved the divorce, but we have been separated for over 2 years. I was going to talk about my 8 year struggle to stay sober, but that isn't really what this is about. 

Members of the LGBTQ community are much more likely to abuse substances like drugs and alcohol than our straight counterparts. I feel like this is directly related to non-acceptance, either by friends and family or just by society at large. Addiction is not something that should be a right of passage for our youth. You can be young and have fun and make idiotic decisions without the haze of drugs and alcohol to lead the way. Our kids shouldn't feel like they NEED alcohol and drugs to numb the pain of living, because living INSIDE the addiction isn't living. I promise you this.

It makes me angry sometimes the excuses that I hear people use.. Well, I'm not as bad as I used to be, or I don't drink THAT much. You don't hate me do you? I don't HATE you, I just wish that you could see how amazing you are without a chemical in your system. That you shouldn't have to feel guilty about being different. You shouldn't have to be loaded to be okay. You are beautiful and amazing and perfect just the way you are.

But chemicals aren't the only thing those of us in the the LGBTQ community get addicted to. Sex. Society projects this image of promiscuity specifically in the gay community and we have latched on to it with a fervor that is terrifying. Nameless, faceless, meaningless sex. Don't get me wrong.. I like sex as much as the next person. And that shouldn't have to be a right of passage either. If you are hardwired that way, then awesome and more power to you. But if you aren't and you think that's all there is, that's simply untrue. If what you want is a stable relationship, then being lesbian, gay, trans, bi, whatever... shouldn't be a deterrent to that.

But you have to LOVE you, before anyone else truly can. And honestly I think that is what most addiction boils down to. People that LOVE themselves don't cut, or abuse drugs and alcohol, or use sex as a tool for keeping people from seeing the real you.  The most important relationship you will ever ever have is the one you cultivate with yourself. And it is a relationship like any other. You have to keep nurturing it, because if you don't, you can find yourself in some shitty places.

Did I love myself when I quit using? Probably not. It took me a long time to get there, and some days I'm still struggling both with the addiction and with my own self image. I know that I don't want to see kids struggling with the same things I did. I know that we can only do that by continuing to work towards change, even if it's only one person at a time. I don't have all the answers, or necessarily any of them. I know we have to keep on moving forward. We have to keep speaking out against injustice, and not just injustice perpetrated against us but against everyone. Bad people win when good people do nothing.

Soooo enough of my rambling and onto what you are really here for. The give-away..  I thought long and hard about this and was pretty stumped as what to offer, so I have decided to offer an lgbtq e-book of your choice from Amazon *10$ or under limit please* OR a $10 donation in your name to the Matthew Shepard Foundation. I will randomly draw a winner on 27 May. The winner will be announced on the blog. On our Facebook  and on my Twitter feed (@engineerqueen), I will also email the winners if they haven't responded by May 29th.

To be entered in the giveaway all you have to do is comment below with your email address. :)

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Author Post: Regency Romance with Lee Brazil

We welcome Author Lee Brazil to the blog! 

Hey there! Thanks for inviting me over. I'm Lee Brazil, author of mm romances with Breathless Press, Silver Publishing and Evernight Publishing. I usually write contemporary romances, but lately have been bitten by the Regency bug. I think that for all the fun I have exploring a different era, I'm most captivated by the way men remain the same throughout the ages.

Every when that men have lived, sport has prospered and this was no less true in what we often think of as simpler, more elegant times. Imagine a world where men wore silk and velvet, where blowsy shirts and skin tight trousers gave every man a romantic, sensual appeal, where men prided themselves on the fit and style of their clothes, on cutting a dash in society and on the dance floor.

And what did this creature of elegance and style do for entertainment outside the sight of his lady fair?

Why any foolish, bloodthirsty activity that crossed his fancy of course!

The aristocratic gentlemen of the regency make for wonderful, dreamy heroes, but when it came to entertainment, the class lines and elegant manners were dropped and they rubbed elbows with the lower classes with ease and pleasure.

Their tastes in sport weren't much different than those of men today. They enjoyed boxing just as much as the men of modern society. Boxing, fisticuffs, or pugilisms as the sport was known, between two gentlemen was conducted according to quite strict rules.  Professional matches were generally held at inns and were very popular, though aristocrats were most always merely spectators at these events.

 Since they didn't have the technology to indulge via the big screen, when a particularly appealing match was planned, the aristocrats filled the rural inns around the place. Their presence was good for business, as the impression one gets is that such a match generally resulted in partying on the level of what one sees in Fort Lauderdale during Spring Break.

Gathering for a boxing match was also a good excuse to indulge in the other favored vices, drinking, gambling and self-indulgence, but more about those another time!

Fighting between men wasn't the only sport that engaged the nobility and common men alike, either. These fellows would travel just as far to watch a cock fight. Hunting, shooting, fencing, boxing, racing horses or curricles, a gentleman had plenty of opportunity to cut loose and shed some claret.

Boxing skills often came in quite handy outside the sports arena as well, as you'll see in Randall's Romance, when Randall finds himself in a tight spot or two.

Thanks again for letting me ramble, I hope you'll check out my books, or stop by and find me on Facebook.

Randall's Romance by Lee Brazil
Slip into the past to an era of mystery men, danger, and romance, where a chance encounter at a masquerade ball can lead to a lifetime of love.

An Engagement at the Theater by LB
Having resolved his wardrobe deficiencies to his valet's satisfaction, Gavin leaves Marcus to sort out the ways and means to fulfill the desire their spying in the tailor shop has aroused, while he re-engages with his recent conquest, the not so innocent Bernard.

Fifty-Fifty Chances Are by Lee Brazil
"There's a fifty-fifty chance he's lying to me." When the body of an ex-cop is found in the men's room of the Chances Are, Chance and Rory are the prime suspects. Chance knows he didn't do it, but he can't be sure of Rory.

Contact Links

Twitter @leebrazil
You Tube

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Review: The Sky is Dead by Sue Brown

Title: The Sky is Dead
Author: Sue Brown
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Rated: 5/5 hearts 


Danny is young, gay, and homeless. He lives in the park, preferring to avoid attention, but when thugs confront a stranger, Danny rushes to his rescue. He and the would-be victim, Harry, form a cautious friendship that deepens months later, when Harry persuades Danny to visit his home. Daring to believe he has found happiness, Danny finds his world turned upside down yet again when tragedy strikes.

Until he runs out of options, Danny won’t trust anyone. Finally he has to accept the offer of a home, and Danny becomes David, but adjusting to a new life isn't easy. When he meets the mysterious Jack, it stirs up feelings he thought were long gone. Can David dare to allow himself to love? Or will the truth bring his new world tumbling down around him?


The fact is that life for many gay teens is less than ideal. I'm not sure what the statistics are in the UK (where this book was set) but here in the US, up to 40 % of homeless youth identify as LGBT and 7/10 of those youths cite family rejection as the reason for their homeless state. 62% of LGBT homeless youths attempt suicide. Do those numbers frighten you? They do me. 

Homelessness doesn't sound romantic to me. It's a tragic circumstance that many people either find themselves in or choose. So I bought this book with some trepidation. Because I know what young people often have to do to stay alive on the streets. 

Sue Brown tackles this subject with a fearlessness that at times took my breath away. She didn't sugar coat the conditions, or some of the circumstances that such a kid might find themselves it. Danny's trust issues aren't any surprise given the life he'd been handed. He had to fight for everything that he'd gotten, until he met Harry. A kid that had a huge heart, and together they began forming a happiness of sorts. Then the unthinkable happens and Harry slips out of Danny's life. 

When circumstances back Danny into a corner, he find himself forced to take a helping hand and he begins a new life, as David. Enter Jack... There are some definite plot twists in there that you really just have to read about. This is an amazing story about a young man's determination to live despite the odds stacked against him. It's a story about how love can find us in the strangest circumstances. It's also a story about how a few people can make a huge difference, even if it's only one person at a time. 

Sue Brown is a brilliant storyteller. She is always on my to buy list, and hopefully she'll make it onto yours. I would also like to point out that royalties from the sale of this book will be going to the Albert Kennedy Trust. That makes an amazing book even more awesome. :)

If you wish to purchase The Sky is Dead you may do so through

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Review: Six Ways From Sunday by Mercy Celeste

Title: Six Ways from Sunday
Author: Mercy Celeste
Publisher: Beg For Mercy Press
Rating: 5/5 Hearts


Six Ways from Sunday
Take one NFL tight end, and one Marine, add one week and watch the sparks fly.

Bowen Murphy craved two things, football and Dylan. After high school he had football but he lost Dylan.

Dylan Sunday walked a different path, one laid down before him by his father and his grandfather. Losing Bo one day after discovering they shared more than football wasn't part of the bargain.

Six years of missed connections and finally Dylan is able to come home to the man he left behind. The spectacle of the biggest game in the NFL is only the beginning of one sizzling week. After that time and fate would decide if Bo and Dylan would walk the same path, or if one of them would make the ultimate sacrifice.


I have long been a Mercy Celeste fan. I figure that I'll start off with that because she is a phenomenal author in my opinion.  There isn't anything she has out that I didn't enjoy, and Six Ways was no different, except it was. I have a soft spot in my heart for military stories, which is no secret. I also love sports stories, american football in particular. A lot of authors can't quite get them right. Mercy did.

Bowen and Dylan are best friends, and at the end of high school Bo prepares to go to college and play football. He discovers by accident that Dylan enlisted in the Marines. Angry and hurt and scared, Bo takes a chance and kisses Dylan. He never dreamed his best friend would return those hidden feelings. They have one perfect night before life changes forever.

Six years later, they have a week to make up for lost time and begin the countdown to when they can be together forever.

Sweet story right? And then Mercy throws us for a loop. Prepare your tissue boxes because it SHOULD make you cry.. and that's all I'm gonna say about that.

Mercy's characters always seem so real, and I always get attached. This was a book that I was sad to see end. I wasn't quite ready to let go of Dylan and Bowen. So if you want a great read with awesome characters, with a bittersweet twist along the way, you should pick up this book.

You can find it exclusively on



Barnes & Noble

You can find out more about Mercy Celeste and her other works by visiting her blog:

Beg For Mercy

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Review: A Silence Kept (A Ghost Story) by Theo Fenraven

Title: A Silence Kept (A Ghost Story) 
Author: Theo Fenraven
Publisher: Voodoo Lily Press
Rating: 4/5 Hearts


Manhattan-based Mikal Gray rents a summer getaway and discovers there's already someone in residence: a very persistent ghost. His friend, Alice, sends help in the form of a sexy ghost hunter named Seth. Together, they unravel the mystery behind the haunting and discover the heart always searches for what it needs...and often finds it.


Theo Fenraven brings us a very short story that packs a punch. Mikal is broken hearted and decides to rent a country home that is reputedly haunted. He doesn't care and takes the rental regardless. After finding that the rumours are true Mikal calls in a ghost hunter to rid him of his persistent guest. In their quest to help the ghost, the also discover feelings for each other.

All in all, I loved this story. It was very moving and it kept me glued to the page. My complaint is, as always, with Mr. Fenraven, that it simply wasn't long enough. More, More, More! Honestly though, this is one of my favorite Fenraven stories.

So if you like m/m with a ghost thrown in, this story is for you.

Buy A Silence Kept at


Get to know the Author:



Monday, February 25, 2013

Review: My Bittersweet by N. Wood

Title: My Bittersweet
Author: N. Wood
Rated: 4/5 

The word count is 96,898.


For Nicholas Walker, life barely seems worth living. With a too small apartment, a dead end job and a homophobic step father, what's the point? He is at the end of his tether - until he meets Archer. When a misplaced joke pulls them together, will Archer be able to convince Nicholas that he does have something to live for, or is it really better to have loved and lost than to never love at all?


There should definitely be a tearjerker warning attached to this book. You can't help but really sympathize for Nicholas. At times it almost seems to be a little much, but he really has a lot thrown at him. Archer at first seems like a bit of an ass, but it becomes very obvious how much he immediately cares for Nick. I had one bit of a peeve, and that was that due to the author being from the UK, there were some definitely Un-American phrases. This wouldn't have been an issue for me had it not been set in the U.S. and that both of the characters were American. All in all it didn't take a lot away from the story. 

This is not a HEA story, and I saw the end coming although it didn't happen precisely the way I thought it would. (that's all I'm saying if you want to know what happened pick up the book) I loved the role play portion of the book, that was a lot of fun, and I giggled a bit. I really can't say too much without giving it away. This has some triggers in it though. Some physical abuse, so if that's not something you can handle, beware. I was really hoping for a happy ending even though I knew ahead of time that there wouldn't be one. I really really wanted to see Nicholas catch a break. The end doesn't leave you completely hopeless though. I'd love to see a later story of Nicholas where maybe he finds that elusive happiness. 

This is the only book out by N. Wood at this time, and while it does have some things that are not perfect, it's a great first book. I look forward to seeing more from this author! 

You can find the book on:

*If you a Prime member, you can borrow the book for free. 

Thursday, February 21, 2013

GRL2013: the Controversy.

Obviously there has been a lot of flurry over information put out about GRL. Maybe it's as they claim, misinformation. I know that for me as a reviewer it casts a negative light on an event that I had an absolute blast at just a few short months ago. Whereas I had been definitely planning to attend, now I am wondering if my time and money might be better spent elsewhere. It also makes me wonder where "MY" authors fit in. For the most part, I choose to support Independent Authors. Of course this is not to say that I don't review mainstream authors at all. But where do Indie Authors fit into the machine that is becoming more and more elitist. I attended as a reader last year, because really that's what I am. I read and I give my opinion on what I read. In fact this blog is just a collection of my opinions. I am trying to with hold judgement at this time, but I am disappointed, and unhappy with the way things are being dealt with. Obviously if nothing else their wording left many things to be desired. So I guess we'll see, but I know I don't want to be part of something that is playing cool kids against everyone else. I wasn't a cool kid. Most of us weren't. I never had the innate desire to BE a cool kid.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Author Post: Kendall McKenna Talks Books

Hello! My name is Kendall McKenna and I write M/M erotic romance novels and novellas. I always start with that introduction when I do guest blogs or blog hops so people know what they’re getting into, right up front! My stories not only feature hot men falling in love, but also having lots of hot sexin’!

The result is that I could possibly bust out swear words or give a graphic descriptions of body parts or sex acts. Just so we’re clear! I think we’re all family here, though!

When I asked our hostess if there was a topic she wanted me to discuss, she gave me a really great one:
What makes a good book? Is what you like to read in a good book different from what you write in a book, or do you try to incorporate the things you enjoy reading about?

We agreed that that beauty of the topic was that no two writers will answer in the same way.

What might set me apart from other readers or authors is that I differentiate between good (quality) and entertaining (enjoyable). Some books I’ve read are well written from a technical aspect; word usage, grammar, punctuation, showing not telling, tight POV, use of all five senses by POV character(s). Some books I’ve read are entertaining; fun characters, engaging story, good sexual tension, but sometimes poorly written from the technical standpoint. The true gems are the books that combine the two. Those are the ones I re-read, analyze, break down, recommend, and sometimes stalk the author!

Writing a quality story is part innate talent and part learned skill. Constructing character and story arcs, pacing, showing not telling, sentence construction, grammar and punctuation are all skills that can be learned through practice and constructive criticism. A smooth, clear, pleasant narrative voice isn’t that easy to learn. It’s more of an innate talent.

Creating and enjoyable, entertaining story though; that’s part innate talent, good luck, dumb luck, and magic. It’s also much more subjective. Not every reader finds the same things entertaining. A formula that works in one story, won’t necessarily work in another, and no one is entirely sure why. The same author will create one pairing that captivates readers, and another pairing that leaves readers lukewarm. Some writers actually have knack for it, and we can all name them. They have an extensive back catalog of much loved stories and we all read them and we all stalk the writer!

Do I like to read in a good book different from what I like to write? Yes and no. I like to read fantasy/sci-fi, vampires, Regency historicals, and chick-lit, but I have no desire to write any of those (yet). I always want my stories to be technically ‘good’. I work hard to make sure they’re well written. If I use a trope, I try to give it a new twist. I always work to write something that hasn’t been done before, or at least isn’t done as often.

Because I like to read well written m/m erotic stories with graphic content, strong male characters, plot beyond the romance, action scenes, and character growth and development, those are the things I do try to write. My love scenes are details and graphic. Some of them are pretty aggressive and not on the romantic or gentle side. I will not feminize one of my male characters, they will both always be very masculine and very male. There may come a time when I write a character that is more on the feminine side of the scale, because those types of men do exist in the real world. But I don’t like and I won’t write a male character who is simply ‘representing’ a woman in my stories. I much prefer to write a plot that the romance revolves around, versus using the romance as the primary plot. I write the romance so that the story development also advances the romance. I like a good action scene that makes my heart race and I’ve learned how to craft that type of scene realistically. There’s a trick to it, the narrative isn’t like the rest of the story. And finally, I give my characters an arc beyond plot resolution and falling in love. I give them something to learn, something to move past, or the resolution to reach for something they desire (no, not the man they love!).

On the flip side, my latest release (Strength of the Pack) is a shifter story, and I don’t read shifter stories. I’ve read a couple of them, many years ago, but it’s nothing I’ve ever sought out. Yet, I’m one book into a series of werewolf stories. I knew going in that I would end up writing something very different, because I don’t have the influence of other shifter stories. There was never any guarantee anyone would like my take on the concept. The genre is popular for a reason, too much deviation from the ‘rules’ could have very easily alienated readers. Luckily, that didn’t happen.

I’ve decided I’m not going to start reading shifter books now; at least not until I’m finished with this series. I’m going to continue to write this series blind, and hope the future stories make the readers as happy as the first installment has.

So, what does this all mean? When you get right down do it, I don’t think it’s possible for writers to completely divorce themselves from their own tastes and preferences when writing. On some level, we’re always writing the things we enjoy reading. It’s even possible that we’re attempting to perfect or ‘correct’ things that we’ve read, that we feel could have been done better, or should have been done differently. Our stories are our fantasies, we gain a level of emotional satisfaction from what we write. The books we enjoy reading also provide us with a level of emotional satisfaction. The two are inextricably linked, whether we’re aware of it or not.

So, are you curious about the book everyone is talking about? Check out the info below on Strength of the Pack.

 Lieutenant Lucas Young doesn’t know much about shifters. When Sergeant Noah Hammond is assigned to Lucas’ platoon, the Marine Corps’ True Alpha werewolf challenges the Lieutenant’s authority and his self-control. As Lucas learns to dominate and command Noah, he struggles against a strong attraction and deepening emotional bond.

During their combat deployment to Afghanistan, Lucas and Noah begin mirroring legendary partnerships. Their bond and their power grow as they survive dangerous combat and ambushes. When one of them is wounded in battle, they both must embrace the strength of their bond before they lose each other forever.

Lucas pulled his SUV into the parking lot. The sun blazed orange and hung low over the ocean, streaking the sky with shades of red and purple. Lucas estimated it was about forty-five minutes before sunset. There were several vehicles already parked, but Lucas knew there would be many more rolling in.
Noah was easy to spot, leaning against the spare tire of a Jeep, legs crossed at the ankles. A thrill ran the length of Lucas’ spine as he took the parking place beside the Jeep. Stepping out into the still warm evening, he realized he wouldn’t need the jacket he’d brought.

“I will admit, Lieutenant,” Noah said by way of greeting, “I didn’t think you’d actually show up.” His eyes were glittering silver.

“I said I would, Sergeant,” Lucas replied. “Why would you doubt it?”

“Not a mistake I will make again,” Noah drawled laconically.

Lucas knew there was more meaning behind that statement than was immediately obvious. He held out the clipboard with the roster of werewolves expected to show tonight. “Do you already have one of these?”
Noah glanced at the list and back up into Lucas’ eyes. “I won’t need that, sir. But if it makes you feel better to use it as a back-up, by all means.”

He knew Noah was laughing at him, and Lucas bristled. “You can keep track of exactly who shows up tonight and if they make it back in the morning, without writing anything down?”

“Yes, sir, I can.” It was a simple statement of fact, devoid of any arrogance.

“Since we’re off duty, we can set rank aside for the evening,” Lucas said, wondering at the wisdom of his words even as he spoke them. “Explain to me how you keep track of such a large group of shifters.”

“Yes…Lucas,” Noah replied. His face was expressionless, but his voice was laced with humor. “At the end of the night there will be two distinct scent trails for everyone who turns out for the run. If there’s any trail that goes out but doesn’t return, I’ll use that to track down the missing werewolf.”
Lucas ignored the tug of attraction he felt at Noah’s subtle amusement. “Does that happen often?” he asked brusquely.

“No, Lucas. Not very.”

Lucas suppressed a shiver at the husky, suggestive way Noah said his name. It had to be due to his impending shift into wolf form. He watched as Noah’s nostrils flared slightly.

“When it does,” Noah continued. “It’s usually a case of someone misjudging how far out they’ve run. Occasionally, I have to deal with trapped legs or lacerated paw pads.”

Lucas thought of how Noah always seemed to be scenting him. “Is that how you all keep track of each other?” He silently chastised himself for hoping he was something special.

Noah’s eyes narrowed as he studied Lucas for several seconds. “Are you asking if every werewolf is able to differentiate between over a hundred individual scent trails and identify the age of each trail?”

Not really. “Yes.”


The abrupt answer took Lucas by surprise. He waited for Noah to elaborate but quickly realized he didn’t intend to.

“So it’s a skill unique to Alphas?” Lucas persisted.

“Having the ability to monitor several different scent trails contributes to an Alpha being able to successfully lead a pack.”

Lucas forced himself to be patient. It was like pulling fucking teeth. He decided to meet Noah’s silence with his own.

Finally, Noah pushed off from the Jeep and said, “True Alphas can track and monitor larger packs. It manifests naturally; we don’t have to develop it.”

Lucas nodded thoughtfully. That was a hell of a useful skill to have.

“Listen up,” Noah suddenly shouted, causing Lucas to jump. “Everybody check in and out with my Lieutenant, here. He’s standing Sentinel, so make it easy for him.”

Lucas looked around, abashed that the parking lot had begun to fill up while they’d stood there talking, and he hadn’t noticed. How such a large group had remained so quiet baffled him.

As the Marines passed by, each one called out his or her name. Lucas checked the first box for each one on his alphabetized list. The entire process went quick and smooth. As the group checking in dwindled, Lucas turned to find Noah kicking off his shoes.

“Now what?” Lucas asked, surprised at his own informality.

Noah opened the back of the Jeep and pulled out several plastic tarps that he handed off to other Marines.

“We walk out into the setting sun, get naked and shift into wolves.”

Lucas’ mouth went dry at the mental picture of Noah stripping himself naked. “And the tarps?” he asked distractedly.

“Nobody likes putting on clothes that have lain in the dirt all night.” Noah’s grin made Lucas’ chest tighten.

“Of course,” Lucas replied, wondering when he’d lost the power of deductive reasoning.

The large group had almost all moved out into the growing dusk. “I should warn you; some of us are going to show back up in different states of…arousal,” Noah said, looking like he was avoiding meeting Lucas’ eyes.

“There could be squabbling. There will definitely be some fucking. It’s typical. Just ignore it.”

Lucas wasn’t sure how to respond. He stared wordlessly at Noah for several long moments. “Seriously?”

“Ever been in combat?” Noah asked, finally looking directly at Lucas with his silver eyes.

“Yes.” Lucas wondered what that had to do with anything.

“Similar reaction,” Noah replied.

Lucas suddenly understood. “Copy that.”

“Are you really going to sit in your car all night waiting for us to come back?” Noah asked abruptly.

Why was this so fucking hard to believe? “I’ve got a book, a thermos and a cell phone. If something goes wrong out there, send someone with a message, and I can get help.”

Noah gave a slight shake of his head. “Are you for real?” he muttered.

“Excuse me?” Lucas had no clue how to answer, or if he even should.

“The first of us should start showing back up just as it gets light,” Noah said over his shoulder as he walked into the dark, his hips rolling slowly, broad shoulders cutting a defined silhouette.

Lucas locked down the sudden spike of lust that rocketed through him. “What’s the appropriate thing to say, right now?” he asked, hoping levity would dispel the sudden awkwardness. “Good luck? Stay safe? Play nice with the other wolves, and don’t pick up any strange fleas?”

Noah stopped in his tracks and slowly turned back. Lucas was sure he’d crossed some sort of line of inappropriateness. He mentally berated himself for openly flirting with an NCO under his command.

Relief washed over him when Noah suddenly grinned. “I wondered if there was any spirit to go with that brain.”

Lucas stayed rooted to his spot, speechless, blood thundering in his ears, as he watched Noah walk into the darkness.

Strength of the Pack is available from:



Be one of the first to obtain an e-book copy of Strength of the Pack!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Review: Strength of the Pack by Kendall McKenna

Title: Strength of the Pack (Book 1 in the Tameness of the Wolf series) 
Author: Kendall McKenna
Publisher: MLR Press
Rating: 5/5 Hearts


A Marine werewolf and his commander bring legends to life while surviving combat deployment in Afghanistan.
Lieutenant Lucas Young doesn't know much about shifters. When Sergeant Noah Hammond is assigned to Lucas' platoon, the Marine Corps' True Alpha werewolf challenges the Lieutenant's authority and his self-control. As Lucas learns to dominate and command Noah, he struggles against a strong attraction and deepening emotional bond. During their combat deployment to Afghanistan, Lucas and Noah begin mirroring legendary partnerships. Their bond and their power grow as they survive dangerous combat and ambushes. When one of them is wounded in battle, they both must embrace the strength of their bond before they lose each other forever


Where do I start? I met Kendall at GRL in October, and she briefly discussed Strength of the Pack, which I believe was still incomplete at that time. This came up in discussion because I mentioned how much I hate shifter books because I felt that no one really pulled it off well. She then said that she was writing a shifter book and that she thought she fixed most of the areas that bothered me about "typical" shifter novels, and that she thought I would really like it if I gave it a chance. When Strength of the Pack released, I really waffled on whether or not to pick it up straight away, especially because of the price. $8.99 seemed high, but it is 95,000 words, so this is not just a short novella. So I bought it (obviously, I'm writing a review about it), and I read it. This is the part where I bow down to the goddess herself, Kendall McKenna, because she was so right and I was so wrong. 

I like being this kind of wrong though. I finished the book in just under 3 hours. (I am an extremely fast reader, and from what I gather it takes others about 7+ hours to finish. Yes, I'm a freak) I loved it so much, and I was sad to see it end, so I read it a couple more times. I love the chemistry that the two MC's have from the very beginning. And I love how obtuse they both are. The military portions are awesome. Kendall always does well to capture the true spirit of the military, and the Marine Corps in particular. The shifting portion of the novel was unique, fun, and interesting. Lucas and Noah are awesome. I love them. I can't wait to see more in this series. I also loved some of the supporting characters, specifically Tim Madison. 

One of the other things I loved was the depiction of Capt. Stanley. Why you ask? Because there is always at least one. One jerkoff commander and his jerkoff 1st sgt that cause issues. If you have ever been around the military for any real length of time, you know this. I also really loved the symbioses that existed between Lucas and Noah, especially when one of them is injured. It's really cool how that worked out. I honestly can not say enough good things about this novel. I love how Lucas was very conscious of his position despite his rapidly growing feelings for Noah. The sexual tension throughout this book was fantastic. Congratulations, Kendall, You've converted me... Okay, well at least to YOUR books! 

If you would like to purchase Strength of the Pack, You may do so: 

Direct from MLR



Barnes and Noble

If you wish to connect with Kendall, you can check out her website:

Kendall McKenna

or her page on Facebook:

Kendall's Facebook