The Reluctant Husband

The Reluctant Husband (Goddess-Blessed, #2) by Eliot Grayson:
Review by Lost in a Book

The Reluctant Husband

Blurb:

Disowned, disgraced, and with nowhere to turn, Tom Drake is willing to barter anything — even himself — for a reprieve from starvation and despair. Years spent lying to protect his secrets have left him longing for someone to value him, even if it’s only for his body and the blessing of his patron goddess.

Mal Leighton’s cousin and heir is dying. Only a miracle can save him — and if a miracle doesn’t appear, Mal’s damn well going to create one. Marrying Tom for his blessing is his last desperate hope to preserve his family. And if Tom happens to be as irresistibly seductive as he is untrustworthy? Well, Mal can focus on more than one goal at a time.

Tom doesn’t fall in love, and Mal knows better than to believe he’s the exception. But when Tom’s blessing doesn’t provide the quick cure they’d hoped, it’s clear that the goddess expects them to have a marriage in more than name. To save Mal’s family and find their own happiness, they will both need to sacrifice their pride and risk their hearts.

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4.25 Stars

How the hell was my heart breaking for Tom??? Tom?? The poor, kicked out on his conniving ass VILLAN in the last book of this series, The Replacement Husband

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Somehow Tom ends up Goddess-blessed AND redeemed and now I’m converted to his side while waving my Team Tom t-shirt. Color me impressed, Eliot Grayson. Random note but as any voracious reader, I used to stay up all hours of the night to read *before* having a kid. Work the next day was tiring but I could hack it. Now, I try not to lose sleep over reading unless the book has it’s hooks in because ultimately my daughter is going to wake up at the ass crack of dawn if I stay up. BUT… I gave up sleep for this book. *gasp*

The premise for this Goddess-Blessed series is intriguing and I’m here for it. The Reluctant Husband is a historical fantasy where it’s completely acceptable for men to love men when they’re blessed by a goddess. The first book did a great job of laying down the foundation for this world while this one adds depth. It’s captivating from the very beginning when Tom and growly Mal have their initial interactions. As mentioned, Tom is blessed and Mal needs to marry someone that’s blessed for important reasons. Unfortunately, both men are stubborn and have their own hangups from the past that affect their relationship. They have a very bumpy road full of dysfunction while trying to form a complete bond that meets the goddess’ requirements.

Tom and Mal are hawt together once they can stomach being near for more than a few minutes. Slowly, Tom reveals his true self and Mal can’t help but draw near even though he’s an ass and I wanted strangle him for how he talked to and treated my oft misunderstood Tom. (Oh how far we’ve come that I’m calling him mine!!) I wanted to throw my Kindle a couple times throughout though. Tom stands his ground for a bit but gives in wayyyyyyyyy too fast for my liking at the end. They get their HEA but I wanted Mal to grovel and show his remorse. *sigh*

Anywho, Grayson’s writing and storytelling has always been enjoyable but both have come a long way since the debut novel. I will absolutely continue to devour any other books in this series. Recommended.

Copy provided for honest review.

Release Blitz: Reluctant Husband by Eliot Grayson

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Disowned, disgraced, and with nowhere to turn, Tom Drake is willing to barter anything — even himself — for a reprieve from starvation and despair. Years spent lying to protect his secrets have left him longing for someone to value him, even if it’s only for his body and the blessing of his patron goddess.

Mal Leighton’s cousin and heir is dying. Only a miracle can save him — and if a miracle doesn’t appear, Mal’s damn well going to create one. Marrying Tom for his blessing is his last desperate hope to preserve his family. And if Tom happens to be as irresistibly seductive as he is untrustworthy? Well, Mal can focus on more than one goal at a time.

Tom doesn’t fall in love, and Mal knows better than to believe he’s the exception. But when Tom’s blessing doesn’t provide the quick cure they’d hoped, it’s clear that the goddess expects them to have a marriage in more than name. To save Mal’s family and find their own happiness, they will both need to sacrifice their pride and risk their hearts.

Chapter One:

“Well, well,” drawled a voice Tom knew and detested, a voice that raised all the fine hairs on the back of his neck. Why here, goddess, why now? Tom had come to this loud, smoky gaming hell in the least fashionable part of town specifically to avoid anyone he might know. “Tom Drake, as I live and breathe. Thought you were rusticating.”

Face frozen in a rictus of a smile, Tom turned away from the faro table to face the owner of the voice, slapping his hand down over the two pitiful guineas left of the forty-three he’d had to his name when he stepped through the hell’s doors. One of the coins went flying, pinging onto the floor and immediately disappearing in the chaos of the gaming room. His chest clenched, and he barely stopped himself from diving after it.

An ill-natured chuckle drew his attention back up. “Had a bad night, Drake?” The florid, grinning face of Marcus Leighton came into focus, far too close. The Leighton family tree had more twisted branches than a hawthorn. Must it really have been this member of their gods-forsaken family to pop up where he was least wanted? “Lost more than you could afford to?”

Everything he had, in fact, and more than just money. A hysterical laugh bubbled up, and he forced it down, letting out a cough instead. “Not at all,” he said, his voice ringing distantly in his ears. “Just a trifle.”

Leighton snickered, glancing down pointedly at the death grip Tom had on his one remaining guinea. “So I suppose you wouldn’t mind buying an old school friend a brandy, eh?”

The man standing behind Leighton, until then in conversation with someone else, turned around to face them at that. “I wouldn’t drink the brandy here, Marcus. Or should I say, the dyed gin?”

And that was simply the outside of enough, the final blow to bring Tom to his metaphorical knees. His real knees, too, had he not been still sitting on the faro-table’s stool. Marcus Leighton had tormented him throughout his school days, mocking him for his enjoyment of books, his blue eyes, the way he shivered in the cold, and anything else he could think of, logical or not. His presence here, well, that was almost to be expected, given Tom’s run of ill-luck. But his cousin Malcolm, the man beside him, had never taken the trouble; far worse, he had never seemed to notice Tom at all. That Malcolm Leighton of all men should be witness to his final, degrading mortification was — beyond anything Tom could have imagined.

Malcolm Leighton’s cool, faintly amused expression didn’t alter a whit as he looked Tom up and down, examining him as one might a not terribly interesting insect. “Drake, isn’t it? Arthur Drake’s brother?”

Tom flinched, cut to the quick. It didn’t matter that he couldn’t possibly know. At that moment, Tom was certain that he did, that his blasted cousin did, that every man in the room was laughing at his ruin and whispering over his estrangement from his family.

He rose abruptly, knocking into Marcus and making the man stumble and shout; he shoved past Malcolm and blindly forced his way through the crowd, leaving curses in his wake. Too many bodies, and faces, and the nauseating smell — harsh spirits and the reek of cigars, unwashed flesh and beneath it all, the rank scent of despair rising from too many men watching their fortunes and futures disappear.

Tom reached the door at last and burst into the comparatively quiet hallway, only a few men speaking discreetly here and there, either arranging assignations or discussing their debts. He bypassed the cloakroom and rushed past the mountain of a man guarding the front door, out onto the street.

“Sir? Are you taken ill?” the servant called out after him. Tom didn’t stop. He stumbled down the side of the dingy square, tendrils of foul mist wreathing about his burning face, until he found an alcove in the side of a building where he could slump unseen and drop his head into his hands.

As he did, the last guinea slipped from his sweaty palm and tinkled away into the fog. Tom groaned and rubbed his forehead. He’d be damned if he was going to scrabble around on the filthy cobbles. He might starve for it, but no. Let some street-sweeping urchin enjoy the find of a lifetime and feed his whole family on it for months. At least then Tom would have done something of benefit to someone else, even if accidentally.

Footsteps on the cobblestones of the square roused him from his fugue, and he pressed himself back into the alcove in panic. A lamp across the square did little to illuminate his corner; he was safe enough from anyone passing by.

Except that it wasn’t just anyone, and he wasn’t just passing by.

Malcolm Leighton stopped in the opening to the square, seeming to sense Tom’s presence; his silhouette, sinister in the mist, sent a shiver down Tom’s spine. But it was unmistakably Leighton, at least to one who’d spent years studying him surreptitiously from across school assemblies. He had a certain way of holding himself, both arrogant and graceful, that had always caught and held Tom’s attention — had made it so bloody difficult for Tom to hide the feelings he had to keep out of sight at all costs. What his father might have done had he discovered Tom’s leanings toward other men hadn’t borne thinking of.

When Leighton turned, his face was in shadow, but Tom could easily imagine his expression: one corner of his mouth raised in cynical amusement, the slight lift of his thick, straight black brows, and the shrewd gleam of his dark eyes.

As he stepped closer, Tom’s body tightened, every muscle and tendon quivering with the urge to run, to fight, to take some action. He was cornered and brought to bay, quite literally and in every other way. If Leighton had followed him with violence in mind, he would find that Tom was not quite the easy pickings he had been as a schoolboy. Leighton still had an inch or two of height and the same in the breadth of his shoulders on Tom, but Tom could hold his own.

But when Leighton reached out, he held something in his hands, and his movements were slow and easy. “Your coat, Drake. They said you didn’t have a hat.”

The tension bled out of him as quickly as it had built, leaving him almost shaking from relief, from an odd disappointment, from despair and drink. “You followed me to return my coat?” Tom’s voice came out all wrong, hoarse and dry. He reached out, took the coat, felt its weight in his hands as something unfamiliar and strange, now that it had been in Leighton’s possession even for a few minutes. “And — how did you know I’d left without it?”

“Half of the city saw you fly out the door as if all of Ingard’s hounds were on your heels,” Leighton drawled. “The gossips will be whispering of Tom Drake’s sudden fit of madness, this time tomorrow.”

“As though it matters,” Tom muttered. He wished it didn’t — wished he could be truly indifferent. He unfolded his coat, hands numb and clumsy, and nearly dropped it.

“Allow me.” Leighton swept the coat away so smoothly that Tom hardly realized it was gone. “Well?” Leighton said impatiently.

Tom left off gaping at him and turned obediently to allow Leighton to help him on with it, a task he accomplished as well as any valet Tom had ever had.

None of Tom’s valets had ever lingered so long on the task of smoothing the fabric down his arms, though, nor stroked their hands over his hips afterwards. Tom jerked away and spun to face Leighton.

“What the hell are you playing at?” he snarled. “If you think I’m the kind of man to fumble in an alley —”

“I know you’re that kind of man.” Leighton pushed forward, his chest brushing Tom’s and his face close enough that Tom could feel his breath. It was warm, and sweet with fine brandy, and nearly as intoxicating as the spirits Leighton had clearly imbibed. “But I’m not one to fumble, myself. There’s a place nearby. Rooms to let, short notice and short term. I had thought to take you there.”

“You’re not taking me anywhere.” Leighton’s other meaning belatedly sank in. “And I don’t fumble, in alleys or elsewhere, you arrogant, condescending, conceited arse!”

Leighton’s broad shoulders moved slightly, an arrogant, condescending shrug if ever there was one. “Your rather checkered history says otherwise, Drake.” Amused, Leighton was amused by Tom’s misery, and it was suddenly the outside of enough.

Tom seized Leighton by the shoulders and shoved, knocking the bastard against the rough bricks of the alcove wall, and he followed the shove with his full weight, knocking Leighton back and pinning him. Leighton hit hard and let out an oof of surprise, his hat flying off and landing somewhere on the damp cobblestones of the walkway.

“Don’t.” Tom shook him once, slamming him into the wall. “Don’t you dare speak of my wife as . . . checkered history. I should thrash you for that!”

“I’d like to see you try,” Leighton said, as calmly as if they stood in a drawing room discussing the weather.

Tom had been thrashed more often than the reverse, most recently by his own brother, but he’d learned a thing or two on those occasions, most notably that one took what advantage one could and be damned to the rules. He drew back and drove his fist into Leighton’s solar plexus — or would have, if Leighton hadn’t caught his arm, ducked to the side like a damned snake, and used Tom’s own momentum to fling him face-first into the wall.

He landed just hard enough to bruise, his cheek stinging where it scraped against the bricks. Leighton’s full weight landed against his back and knocked the wind out of him. He only registered that Leighton had one arm twisted behind his back when he tried, and failed, to throw him off.

“That’s enough of that,” Leighton said, suddenly not sounding so amused. “A friendly quarrel is one thing. I draw the line at fisticuffs.”

“We’re not friends,” Tom spat. He bucked, cursed, and landed against the wall again, winded and defeated.

Leighton leaned in, slowly pressing the whole length of his tall body against Tom’s. “Certainly not,” he breathed in Tom’s ear, the warmth of it sending a contradictory shiver down his spine. “But the way you’re wriggling your arse feels very friendly indeed.”

Tom stilled abruptly; he had been moving, but surely that was just a continued attempt to loosen Leighton’s hold.

“I didn’t intend for you to stop,” Leighton said, his low, smooth voice curling around the edges of Tom’s confusion, soothing and lulling him, making everything hazy. “You have a delightful arse. It may be the only thing you have to recommend you.”

Tom’s eyes snapped open. The dull ochre of the wall filled his vision; his own rasping breaths filled his ears; all his other senses could feel nothing but Leighton, on and around him, his rich, brandied scent and the heat of his hard form.

A harsh, horrible laugh rose up in his throat, and he forced it down before it could become a sob. His arse, of all things. His one remaining possession, besides a few items of clothing he couldn’t appear before the world without and that he hadn’t thought to sell — and that was all the value Leighton could see in him. Goddess knew, perhaps that was all the value he had.

He squeezed his eyes shut, trying to fight the spinning of his head and the tingling in his extremities. He had to survive, didn’t he? Everything he’d done had been what he’d had to do — he’d had no choice but to make the decisions he had. They’d all come out badly. His decisions always did, and this one would surely be no different.

But tomorrow he’d be hungry; within a week, he’d be evicted from his rooms. He needed to live. And the hat he’d pawned that morning had been one of Monsieur Favreau’s masterpieces; gentlemen of higher station than Tom waited months for one made by the fellow’s own hands. Really, he probably should have sold his arse first.

A strange calm descended as he made up his mind. “Let me go,” he said. And then, because Leighton seemed the sort to want to be quite sure he’d won, he added, “Please.”

Leighton’s hand around his wrist tightened, just a trifle, and then he released it and stepped away.
Tom took his time; he pushed back from the wall slowly enough to hide the stiffness in his limbs, and he carefully flicked the dust of the bricks from the front of his clothing. His fingers brushed over a snag in the silk of his last remaining waistcoat, and he shoved down the flash of panic at that. Leighton could afford to buy him another. He took a final moment before he turned around, giving himself one deep breath before he put his mask in place.

Bankrupt, disowned, and disheveled he might be, but Tom Drake could seduce anyone.

About the Author

I’m an editor by day and a romance writer by night, at least on a good day. I’m more of a procrastinator by day and despairing eater of chocolate by night when inspiration doesn’t flow and my day-job clients are driving me to insanity. Go ahead and guess which of these is more common.

My steady childhood diet of pulp science fiction, classic tales of adventure, and romance novels surreptitiously borrowed from my grandmother eventually led me to writing; I picked up my first M/M romance a few years ago and I’ve been enjoying the genre as a reader and an author ever since.

Any Old Diamonds

Any Old Diamonds (Lilywhite Boys #1) by K.J. Charles: Review by Lost in a Book for @BMBR -Buddy Read with Adam

Any Old Diamonds (Lilywhite Boys #1)

Blurb:

Lord Alexander Pyne-ffoulkes is the younger son of the Duke of Ilvar, with a bitter grudge against his wealthy father. The Duke intends to give his Duchess a priceless diamond parure on their wedding anniversary—so Alec hires a pair of jewel thieves to steal it.

The Duke’s remote castle is a difficult target, and Alec needs a way to get the thieves in. Soldier-turned-criminal Jerry Crozier has the answer: he’ll pose as a Society gentleman and become Alec’s new best friend.

But Jerry is a dangerous man: controlling, remote, and devastating. He effortlessly teases out the lonely young nobleman’s most secret desires, and soon he’s got Alec in his bed—and the palm of his hand.

Or maybe not. Because as the plot thickens, betrayals, secrets, new loves, and old evils come to light. Now the jewel thief and the aristocrat must keep up the pretence, find their way through a maze of privilege and deceit, and confront the truth of what’s between them…all without getting caught.

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4 Stars

There’s something so comforting about a K.J. Charles historical romance. Well, as comforting as intrigue, murder, jewel thieves, and filial retribution can be…which for me is as effective as a cozy blanket and a mug of hot chocolate. #content

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Lord Alexander has harbored rage for years after his family was turned away by his father, Duke Ilvar. The Duke and Duchess remain quite wealthy while their children live in poverty. With their anniversary coming soon, the Duke has commissioned a diamond parure for his wife and Lord Alexander (Alec) hires renowned jewel thieves to steal it.

Jewel thief, Jerry Crozier is unapologetic about his profession and instructs Alec that he must get in the good graces of the Duke and his wife. This is a really tough pill to swallow for Alec who has to alienate important people in his life to see the mission through. Part of the mission requires Jerry and Lord Alexander to become the very best of friends. The benefits they discover and partake in are strictly a bonus.

Jerry is harsh and doesn’t sugarcoat his past nor what he expects out of the present/future. Alec is independent but craves someone to take control in the bedroom (Jerry was good at doing control type things and let’s just say I was here for it). I do wish Jerry and Alec had more getting to know you moments instead of always hopping on the orgasm train… which isn’t totally a complaint but I wanted more. I could *see* some subtle moments during those intimate times, moving them closer together. Yet, I would have definitely welcomed more relational development.

The plot has a lot of moving pieces and I really like all the ground work that has to be laid in order to pull off the heist. There are lots of twists and turns along the way.

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Holy plot twist Batman. I also enjoyed the mentions of the Vanes and Cirencester from the Society series. Any Old Diamonds is not a touchy feely romance. It’s sexy, entertaining, gruesome, and suspenseful, with plot twists around every bend. Recommended.

Copy provided for honest review.

The Bibliophile

The Bibliophile by Drew Marvin Frayne: Review by Lost in a Book for @BMBR

The Bibliophile

Blurb:
To toughen him up, Nathanial’s father has indentured him to a ranchman, Cayuse Jem, a large, raw-boned, taciturn man Nathanial’s father believes will help teach his son to “become a man.” Cut off from his books and the life he has always known, Nathanial is not only forced to co-exist with Cayuse Jem, but to truly get to know him. In doing so, Nathanial discovers there is more to this silent horseman than meets the eye. And, in the process, Nathanial also learns a few things about life, about human nature, and about the differences in being a man and a boy…

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4 Stars

Well, this one snuck up on me. My love for historical romance pushed me over the edge on choosing The Bibliophile and I’m glad. It’s a unique, nineteenth century story told through journal entries for one of the main characters, Nathanial. This style might not work for some and even though I would have liked some more perspective, I enjoyed it and moved right along from entry to entry.

Nathanial has been ordered to leave his studies and take his place as the only son beside his rich father to learn the family business. He’s an academic at heart and feels the most joy spending his days surrounded by books and having intellectual discussions on anything and everything. Unfortunately, Nathanial becomes indentured as a ranch hand to toughen him up and make him “a man.” Luck is shining down on him because he’s dropped off with Cayuse Jem, a huge, burly man that is the complete opposite of his father.

Cayuse, man of very few words, is a horse trainer with a very patient and gentle hand. He doesn’t believe in bending a horse or person to his will, but to coax them gently. He uses this approach with Nathanial from the first day which builds trust and a deeply meaningful connection. Cayuse slowly built him up after Nathanial’s father and grandmother spent years tearing him down.

There’s a sweetness to the relationship between Cayuse and Nathanial. Nathanial is a virgin in every way, including never being kissed. He finds safety and validation with Cayuse in just being his boy. During an era of reserved life, their relationship and love is simple and peaceful. Cayuse may be a man of few words but that doesn’t make what they have any less meaningful. There’s some erotic heat between the eager pupil Nathanial AKA Boy and Cayuse that helps get through some of the more difficult times.

The Bibliophile has relatively low angst for a M/M historical romance. The angst comes from other circumstances and a devastating loss to both men. The transition from indentured servant to lover was odd. I enjoyed the entries but would have liked Cayuse’s POV. We get to know him through Nathanial’s eyes but there’s so much missing. I think having that extra insight would have helped the transition not feel so abrupt when they become lovers and smoothed some of the other areas that lacked finesse.

Overall, I really enjoyed seeing Cayuse and Nathanial ride into the sunset with their HEA. Recommended for fans of historical romance and classic literature.

P.S. I clearly missed a TON of classics while taking Lit in HS/college because Nathanial is a lover of it all, references them throughout, and left me in the dust with anything beyond Shakespeare.

Copy provided for honest review.

 

The Replacement Husband

The Replacement Husband by Eliot Grayson: Review by Lost in a Book

The Replacement Husband

Blurb:

Goddess-blessed Owen Honeyfield is destined to enjoy perfect good fortune, and the arrival of handsome and eligible Tom Drake in his country town appears to be just the latest manifestation. Tom’s proposal is the fulfillment of Owen’s desires, but Owen is left heartbroken and at the mercy of Arthur, Tom’s disapproving elder brother, when his betrothal takes a disastrous turn. His reputation ruined and his bright future shattered, Owen must choose between loneliness and practicality.

Arthur Drake has taken responsibility for Tom’s scandalous behavior all their lives. He doesn’t think much of his brother’s engagement, knowing that even Owen’s sweetness won’t be enough to influence Tom for the better. When Tom’s impulsive selfishness threatens to ruin the lives of everyone involved, Arthur has only one honorable choice. He’ll need to repair the damage Tom has done and fight for his own happiness, knowing all the while he may never be able to take Tom’s place in Owen’s heart.

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4 Stars

This is the second M/M historical I’ve read by Eliot Grayson (I believe the second book they have released, too) and I’m a fan. The Replacement Husband isn’t a cookie cutter historical with having its goddess element and the ability for these main characters to be open about their relationship. The unique approach may be a negative for historical romance sticklers who prefer the secrecy and the heightened angst from societal and criminal implications when two men fall in love. However, all the readers that stay away from M/M for those very reasons may appreciate a historicalish romance where not only can two men be together, it’s accepted and celebrated.

As the blurb mentions, Owen is blessed by the goddess with great fortune, blessings, and a husband to live happily ever after with. He lives at home with his parents and waits to meet the one. The wrong one comes in the form of Tom Drake, a charming man with dazzling eyes and the inability to follow through. After Tom becomes engaged to Owen, a series of events take place and Tom’s brother Arthur has to pick up the pieces or Owen’s reputation is ruined.

Arthur, being nothing like his brother, begins to immediately fix the problems. Owen and Arthur’s tentative relationship grows into much more as they navigate their new life. There’s a lot of heat between the blushing virgin and growly Arthur. I adored Arthur with his commanding presence and his sweet nature towards those he loves. Owen is somewhat likable but also very much a pushover. I’m happy he finds his place with Arthur but wish he had more of a backbone when it comes to the other characters and the situations he falls in.

I was engaged throughout the story and appreciate that the goddess element isn’t a heavy focus. I wish the epilogue gave us more because we didn’t get a lot of time with Owen and Arthur together together on page outside of sex. Still, I felt warm and fuzzy at this lighthearted *historical* where love is love and men can marry men. Recommended.

Copy provided for honest review.

New Release by Eliot Grayson

The Replacement Husband by Eliot Grayson is available now.

“This book will be available as part of the New Year, New Author giveaway on Prolific Works from December 28-January 3. There are 28 M/M authors participating, so check it out! It will be for sale and available in Kindle Unlimited starting on January 4.”

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Blurb:
Goddess-blessed Owen Honeyfield is destined to enjoy perfect good fortune, and the arrival of handsome and eligible Tom Drake in his country town appears to be just the latest manifestation. Tom’s proposal is the fulfillment of Owen’s desires, but Owen is left heartbroken and at the mercy of Arthur, Tom’s disapproving elder brother, when his betrothal takes a disastrous turn. His reputation ruined and his bright future shattered, Owen must choose between loneliness and practicality.

Arthur Drake has taken responsibility for Tom’s scandalous behavior all their lives. He doesn’t think much of his brother’s engagement, knowing that even Owen’s sweetness won’t be enough to influence Tom for the better.  When Tom’s impulsive selfishness threatens to ruin the lives of everyone involved, Arthur has only one honorable choice. He’ll need to repair the damage Tom has done and fight for his own happiness, knowing all the while he may never be able to take Tom’s place in Owen’s heart.

Buy Links:

Goodreads        Amazon

Author Links:

Prolific Works link for readers:
https://claims.prolificworks.com/gg/9et98E0aPrQNqVGv1kqG
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Band Sinister

Band Sinister by K.J. Charles: Review by Lost in a Book for @BMBR

Group read with fellow Unicorns, Adam and Chelsea

Band Sinister

Blurb:
Sir Philip Rookwood is the disgrace of the county. He’s a rake and an atheist, and the rumours about his hellfire club, the Murder, can only be spoken in whispers. (Orgies. It’s orgies.)
Guy Frisby and his sister Amanda live in rural seclusion after a family scandal. But when Amanda breaks her leg in a riding accident, she’s forced to recuperate at Rookwood Hall, where Sir Philip is hosting the Murder.
Guy rushes to protect her, but the Murder aren’t what he expects. They’re educated, fascinating people, and the notorious Sir Philip turns out to be charming, kind—and dangerously attractive.
In this private space where anything goes, the longings Guy has stifled all his life are impossible to resist…and so is Philip. But all too soon the rural rumour mill threatens both Guy and Amanda. The innocent country gentleman has lost his heart to the bastard baronet—but does he dare lose his reputation too?

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4ish Stars

Whoa! Anyone else have to reread the title page on this one just to make sure it was a KJC book? No murder? No angsty relational and/or time period peril? This is insanely lighthearted compared to her previous writes. It’s practically fit for teenage consumption if you throw a chasity belt on it. (Is that still a thing?) I couldn’t help comparing the feel of Band Sinister to her others and I think the Grinch KJ Charles’ heart has increased in size.

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Ok, so I’m a huge fan of KJC whether we are chasing antacids with alcohol just to get through the angst/death or this spoon full of sugar featuring Sir Phillip Rookwood and Guy Frisby. The blurb does a great job setting the stage for this story so let’s get this party started.

Rookwood and Frisby dislike each other greatly. It’s more of a my family has had awful interactions with yours and your family has ruined my family type dislike and not really between the two men. Unfortunately during that time period, past family shame is enough to cloud the rest of the generations. Much to Rookwood’s dismay, Frisby’s sister (Amanda) is injured on his property and will be recovering there for at least a fortnight. Guy is devastated about his sister’s injury and beside himself with the idea of staying in the same location as the Murder. Well, he is until the men of the house begin to seem actually human; kind, compassionate, sociable, and spirited.

Frisby becomes aware of Sir Phillip’s preferences and that sets off a sexual awakening long suppressed. Phillip is like a blood hound and is on the trail as soon as Frisby begins to question what he desires. The men get to know each other as Amanda heals and Phillip volunteers to teach Guy in all things pleasure.

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There’s some heat along the way with the MCs and the added spice of the other men in the house having the propensity to share. Throw in some family drama, town drama, a very lively Amanda, KJC’s trademark humor laced with snark, a HEA, and Band Sinister is an entertaining, low angst read. I have to mention that Amanda is a kick ass female character and I highly enjoyed when she was on page.

It took a bit of a time getting in the groove. Due to the slow start, I liked the second half more than the first. It was another enjoyable read by one of my favorite authors. I think I prefer the Tums and alcohol compared to the low angst sweetness but I can’t wait to read Corvin’s story and see him brought to his knees. I’ll definitely continue on if this is a series. Recommended.

Copy provided for honest review.

 

Salt Magic, Skin Magic

Salt Magic, Skin Magic by Lee Welch: Review by Lost in a Book

Salt Magic, Skin Magic

Blurb:

Lord Thornby has been trapped on his father’s isolated Yorkshire estate for a year. There are no bars or chains; he simply can’t leave. His sanity is starting to fray. When industrial magician John Blake arrives to investigate a case of witchcraft, he finds the peculiar, arrogant Thornby as alarming as he is attractive. John soon finds himself caught up in a dark fairytale, where all the rules of magic—and love—are changed.

To set Thornby free, both men must face life-changing truths—and John must accept that the brave, witty man who’s winning his heart may also be about to break it. Can they escape a web of magic that’s as perilous as love?

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4.25 Stars

Well, Well, Well. This is a captivating (and a tad gruesome) read. Sign me up for immediate membership into Lee Welch’s fan club. I’ll patiently await my official VIP card, please and thank you.

Lord Thornby is trapped on his father’s estate. Still. After being kept there somehow for well over a year, the days are bleeding together and he’s barely keeping a hold on his sanity. Thornby’s father and step-mother arrive back in town and there’s an increase in the already peculiar happenings taking place around the Yorkshire estate. Luckily, John Blake shows up to investigate some unexplainable magical happenings.

Thornby and Blake have an immediate dislike and are forced to work with each other to make sense of what is holding Lord Thornby hostage. Their dislike changes fairly quickly and a necessary companionship is formed. They have great chemistry, entertaining banter, lots of heat, and are frequent passengers on the orgasm express. Apparently danger turns them on…

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Salt Magic, Skin Magic is a historical paranormal romance that is very well done. I was enthralled from the very beginning and didn’t want to stop until the end. Once the plot picked up, I was on edge until the end. There are many PNR/fantasy elements taking place. Some of them made sense and other elements weren’t fully explained and left me wondering if it’s slightly lacking world building is setting up another book? I’d definitely read it.

I wanted to give it more stars but I needed more at the end. There’s a HFN but where do they go from here? That could be me just being picky but I didn’t feel completely settled at the end. Still, very enjoyable and definitely recommend.

Copy provided for honest review.

The Henchmen of Zenda

The Henchmen of Zenda by K.J. Charles: Reviewed by Lost in a Book.
Also reviewed on @BMBR.

Tag team with Adam

The Henchmen of Zenda

Blurb:

Swordfights, lust, betrayal, murder: just another day for a henchman.

Jasper Detchard is a disgraced British officer, now selling his blade to the highest bidder. Currently that’s Michael Elphberg, half-brother to the King of Ruritania. Michael wants the throne for himself, and Jasper is one of the scoundrels he hires to help him take it. But when Michael makes his move, things don’t go entirely to plan—and the penalty for treason is death.

Rupert of Hentzau is Michael’s newest addition to his sinister band of henchmen. Charming, lethal, and intolerably handsome, Rupert is out for his own ends—which seem to include getting Jasper into bed. But Jasper needs to work out what Rupert’s really up to amid a maelstrom of plots, swordfights, scheming, impersonation, desire, betrayal, and murder.

Nobody can be trusted. Everyone has a secret. And love is the worst mistake you can make.

A retelling of the swashbuckling classic The Prisoner of Zenda from a very different point of view.

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3.75 Stars

It’s official, I’ll absolutely read it if KJC writes it. The Henchmen of Zenda is an intriguing, snarky, ever changing ride with a psychopathic Duke, his hired swords, and never ending betrayals.

Please check out the warning KJC has issued on this book. It isn’t a romance but there are romantic-ish elements. There are smexy times and a very compatible pairing between the MCs. However, the romantic-ish elements should be classified as more of mutual understanding with open communication and a fond unconventional companionship.

Jasper Detchard and Rupert of Hentzau are working side by side as hired swords for Michael Elphberg, half-brother to the King of Ruritania. They immediately dislike each other as Hentzau is social with a zest for life that Jasper finds infuriating. Their wit and challenges soon turn to a partnership with benefits as they work under Elphberg and around the schemes to unseat a future king.

The plot shifts constantly throughout as circumstances change and alliances are made. I’ve never read The Prisoner of Zenda and will say that this version is definitely not for the squeamish. There is a trigger warning for abuse of a secondary character. There are also many murders that take place in detail.

The beginning and end of the story are fast paced and captivating. There was a lull throughout the middle that took a bit longer to get through but the quality of writing never falters. I appreciate the strong representation with the women characters and the support of them by the MCs. Obviously I would have liked more romantic elements because I like a side of *swoon* with my reads. However, that’s on me since we are clearly warned. I’m glad I took a chance and recommend it for those that love historical adventure.

Kidnapped by the Pirate

Kidnapped by the Pirate by Keira Andrews: Review by Lost in a Book

Kidnapped by the Pirate

Blurb:

Will a virgin captive surrender to this pirate’s sinful touch?

Nathaniel Bainbridge is used to hiding, whether it’s concealing his struggles with reading or his forbidden desire for men. Under the thumb of his controlling father, the governor of Primrose Isle, he’s sailing to the fledging colony, where he’ll surrender to a respectable marriage for his family’s financial gain. Then pirates strike and he’s kidnapped for ransom by the Sea Hawk, a legendary villain of the New World.

Bitter and jaded, Hawk harbors futile dreams of leaving the sea for a quiet life, but men like him don’t deserve peace. He has a score to settle with Nathaniel’s father—the very man whose treachery forced him into piracy—and he’s sure Nathaniel is just as contemptible.

Yet as days pass in close quarters, Nathaniel’s feisty spirit and alluring innocence beguile and bewitch. Although Hawk knows he must keep his distance, the desire to teach Nathaniel the pleasure men can share grows uncontrollable. It’s not as though Hawk would ever feel anything for him besides lust…

Nathaniel realizes the fearsome Sea Hawk’s reputation is largely invented, and he sees the lonely man beneath the myth, willingly surrendering to his captor body and soul. As a pirate’s prisoner, he is finally free to be his true self. The crew has been promised the ransom Nathaniel will bring, yet as danger mounts and the time nears to give him up, Hawk’s biggest battle could be with his own heart.

This May-December gay romance from Keira Andrews features classic tropes including: a tough alpha pirate too afraid to love, a plucky virgin captive half his age, enemies to lovers, first-time sexual discovery, and of course a happy ending. 85,000 words.

 

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4.25 stars

There’s just something about pirates that make me want to sail away on the open seas with my very own badass, sword swinging side piece. I’ll just have to settle for being a fly on the wall as Captain Hawk and Nathaniel come together and then come together.

Please check out the blurb because it does a great job explaining the premise of the story in detail about Captain Hawk, the score he wants the settle, and how it relates to Nathaniel.

I really enjoyed this story about a Captain that secretly wants peace and a sheltered Nathaniel that has only ever known what it’s like to be deemed a failure. The men are drawn to each other from the very beginning even though Nathaniel is treated as a prisoner. He has a sweet and eager demeanor that slowly breaks down the hardened Captain.

Kidnapped by the Pirate is entertaining, enthralling, and has a list of elements that would make me one-click. Bonus is that it’s all very well delivered. We have pirates, submission, an age-gap, sexual discovery, historical setting (FYI- not historically accurate), angst, and enemies to lovers all within the pages of incredible world building and well fleshed primary and secondary characters. Let’s not forget the sexy times.

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Captain Hawk and Nathaniel’s transition from enemies to lovers is realistic and the HEA is hard fought and well deserved. The epilogue is sugary sweet but still left me giddy AF.

I listened the audio version of this and was very happy with the narration. Cornell Collins did a great job bringing all the characters to life and I would definitely listen to another audio narrated by him.

Definitely recommended.