Review: The Medic by Anna Hackett + Giveaway

Review: The Medic by Anna Hackett + GiveawayThe Medic (Norcross Security #8) by Anna Hackett
Format: eARC
Source: author
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genres: action adventure romance, contemporary romance, romantic suspense
Series: Norcross Security #8
Pages: 282
Published by Anna Hackett on April 5, 2022
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsiteAmazon
Goodreads

She’s a tough former soldier trying to resist the charming medic who’s going all in to claim her.
Former Norwegian special forces soldier Siv Pederson is making a new start in San Francisco. New country, new job at Norcross Security, and her new rule: no men. She’s left her annoying ex behind and her only goal is to prove herself in her new job, especially when she’s assigned to her own investigation.
What she didn’t count on was having to work with one handsome, charming, and far-too-tempting former combat medic.
After a career as an Air Force combat medic, Ryder Morgan is happy with his life. He likes working part time as a paramedic and donating the rest of his time at a free clinic in the toughest part of the city. He always thought finding “the one” wasn’t for him…until he sees gorgeous, tough Siv in a killer red dress.
Now he’ll do anything to break through her prickly shell and convince her that he’s the man for her.
As homeless people start dying, and Ryder loses a good friend, Siv and Ryder must work together to find a killer. Going undercover as husband and wife, they have to discover who’s preying on the city’s most vulnerable before more people die. As they uncover a vast web of lies, Ryder has his work cut out for him. Not only to find justice, but to prove to Siv that he’ll protect both her body and her heart.

My Review:

This OMG 8th book in the Norcross Security series reminded me just how much I love a story when the heroine kicks ass and takes names every bit as well as the hero – or even just a bit better as it proves in The Medic.

After all, that’s what Ryder Morgan is, a medic. He was a combat medic when he served, and now that he’s back in civilian life he’s a paramedic who is serving, protecting and patching up on not just one but three different fronts.

He’s a part-time paramedic with the city of San Francisco who could be full-time if he wanted to. But he’s doing his bit of paying it both back and forward by working part-time at a clinic in San Francisco’s Tenderloin District, providing free medical care to people whose circumstances have either led them or left them to life on the occasionally mean streets of this generally temperate (climatologically) city. It gives him an opportunity to treat some of the men and women who served just like he did, in places and circumstances that leave scars on the soul.

And he also works part-time and on call for Norcross Security whenever one of their agents needs more patching up than a first aid kit can handle. Which happens a lot more than he’d like, particularly since one of those agents is his brother Cam, newly returned from a war he hasn’t quite managed to leave behind just yet.

But those agents also include Norcross Security’s newest agent, Siv Pederson from Norway, a former member of Norway’s Special Forces. She’s come to San Francisco to make a fresh start in a place with no memories of a relationship that went bad. It’s not that she’s grieving or mourning her ex – more that she’s kicking herself for ever getting involved with an arsehole just like her dear old (absentee) dad. In other words, a lying, cheating, empty charmer who has nothing underneath and is threatened by her strength and abilities.

At the end of the previous book in this series, The Detective, readers had a ringside seat to Ryder’s first meeting with Siv. He tried to charm her – like he has so many women before – only to find himself measuring his own length on the floor after she showed him exactly where he could stick that charm and what he could do with it when he got it there. She decked him.

He never recovered – and neither did she. This is the story of how she got past her initial impression of Ryder, while he just kept leaning into his first impression of her. All the while, in the usual Norcross Security mix of action, adventure and car chases, they manage to bring down some bad people who thought they had the right to mess with Ryder Morgan’s friends – and Vander Norcross’ city.

Escape Rating A: One of the things that love in any romance is a relationship of equals – and that’s just what we get in The Medic. It’s not just that Siv can hold her own under any circumstances with the best of Norcross Security’s agents. The icing on this particular cake is that Ryder loves her for it just as she is. That he thinks it’s hot when she takes down the bad guys. It’s not a reaction that she’s used to from either her insecure ex or her love-em-and-leave-em sperm donor who is still harping on her to be more “feminine” and less capable of taking men down and seeing through their bullshit. Quite possibly because he’s afraid that she’s seen all the way through his.

But the strength those previous men in her life have tried to control, tame and even eliminate is the thing that draws Ryder to her like iron filings to a magnet. It’s something that is refreshing to see – to say the least – because so many women are stuck dealing with entirely too many people in their lives who see a woman’s strength of any kind as something to be denigrated at every turn.

I also loved in this particular entry in the series that Siv is always proactive and not reactive. It helps that the plot of this story does not start out with Siv being in jeopardy and requiring rescue. She is never a damsel in distress – not that she can’t be in distress but that she’s never damselfied.

One of the hallmarks of this series as a whole is that the Norcross Security operators are all former military in various stages of coming all the way back home – and both Ryder and Siv are part of that. This particular story in the series extends that outward, from the successful bunch at Norcross, to the work in progress that is Ryder and Hunt’s brother Cam, to the homeless veterans on the streets of San Francisco who Ryder is doing his best to help.

As he fully acknowledges that there but for the grace of God and the help of his family, he and his brothers would be also. So he stands for them when he learns the truth of how so many are being abused by the system yet one more time.

The crime that Siv and Ryder are investigating has a ripped from the headlines feel. The unexpected (at least to both of them) romance that has them ripping each other’s clothes off is hot enough to raise the temperature in their slightly chilly city. And the pulse-pounding conclusion to their part of this series will have readers on the edge of their seats.

If that wasn’t enough, there’s a bit of a teaser at the end – as their usually is with this author’s series – for the next Norcross Security case. It looks like Cam Morgan will be taking the series back to New York City, the stomping grounds of the Billionaire Heists series in The Protector. And I can’t wait to see what happens next!

~~~~~~ GIVEAWAY ~~~~~~

Anna has graciously allowed me to give a copy of the winner’s choice of either The Medic or The Detective as part of my Blogo-Birthday Celebration Week. The trick to this particular giveaway is whether or not the winner wants instant gratification or is willing to wait an extra week or two. Anna has copies of The Detective available now for giveaway, but if you can stand to wait just a bit longer, she’s more than willing to send a copy of The Medic to someone with just a bit of patience.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Review: Dirty Work by TA Moore + Excerpt + Giveaway

Review: Dirty Work by TA Moore + Excerpt + GiveawayDirty Work (Dirty Deeds #1) by T.A. Moore
Format: ebook
Source: author
Formats available: ebook
Genres: M/M romance, romantic suspense
Series: Dirty Deeds #1
Pages: 182
Published by Rogue Firebird Press on March 4, 2022
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKobo
Goodreads

Crime Scene Cleaner [kraɪm siːnˈkliːnə] - Cleans up crime scenes…before the cops know there is one.

People always say ‘you can’t go home again’. It turns out that doesn’t count as a guarantee…especially not during a global pandemic.

After the jobs in LA started to dry up, crime scene cleaner Grade Pulaski was forced to pack up and move home. He loves his family, but the last thing he ever wanted was to face the ghosts he’d left back in Sweeny, Kentucky.

Also, the place just sucks.

He certainly isn’t going to stay any longer than necessary. The plan is to save up enough money to move back to LA and give his business a kick-start. The problem is that, as previously mentioned, Sweeny’s a hole and the locals are anything but professional.

Now a body has gone missing, Grade’s reputation is being held hostage, and people keep asking whether his Dad really did run off with 100 grand of meth in the back of Dodge. Plus, even though you shouldn’t sleep with your employers, crime lord Clay Traynor is exactly the sort of bad idea that Grade can’t resist. Tattooed, bad news, and dangerous.

…oh, yeah. Grade’s job is to clean up the crime scene before the cops know someone’s dead. That’s why he needs to sort this out before he gets a bad review on dark net Yelp.

My Review:

“It’s a dirty job, but someone has to do it,” or so the old saying goes. And then there’s the whole idea of “dirty work” which is not the same thing at all. Although when we first meet crime scene cleaner Grade Pulaski, the job he has to do is both. Cleaning a public washroom that hasn’t been cleaned since the turn of the century – possibly since the turn of the 19th into the 20th – is just a dirty job that someone really ought to have been doing all along. Cleaning up the place so thoroughly that no evidence of the headshot corpse currently “littering” the place remains to be found – ever – is dirty work all the way around.

But that clandestine clean-up job is only the beginning of Grade’s misadventures with the “Catfish Mafia” that runs everything dirty and/or operating under the table in Sweeny – and it seems like that whole region of Kentucky.

Grade’s stuck in the middle – every bit as much as he’s stuck back in Sweeny – when his truck, with the evidence sloshing around in a barrel in the back gets carjacked. (Truckjacked?)

The job he thought was going to add to his “getting out of Sweeny” fund instead starts adding to his “reasons he wanted to leave yesterday.” Along with one long, tall, dangerous reason to stay.

Escape Rating B: I don’t think I was expecting a “Mafia romance” to be set among the tiny towns of Kentucky. So I have to admit that threw me for a bit. As did the fairly graphic description of just what Grade has to go through to clean up the mess that body made – in a place that surely didn’t need to be any messier.

But once the suspense part of this romantic suspense story kicks into gear – with the truckjacking – the need to figure out just what the hell is going on sets its hooks deep. Into Grade because he has to solve it to get out of this mess alive – and into the reader because it’s just such a damn convoluted puzzle.

On top of that – sometimes literally – there’s the hard, slightly mean and a bit edgy relationship that springs up between Grade and Clay Traynor. Clay seems to be the enforcer for the local branch of that Catfish Mafia, and its his job to keep an eye on Grade until someone decides whether the cleaner is in this mess up to his neck – or whether he’s going to end up in one of his own cleaning barrels. That Clay does most of Grade-minding from up close and personal is a surprise to pretty much everyone. Especially the two of them.

But it’s that suspense plot that kept this reader turning pages. Because the situation that seemed fairly simple at the beginning is absolutely anything but by the dirty, twisty end.

Guest Post from TA Moore + Chapter 2 of Clean Hands (check out Chapter 1 at MM Romance Reviewed)

Thanks for letting me pop in to talk about my latest book, Dirty Work, which comes out on March 4. This is the first book in the Dirty Deeds trilogy and I had a lot of fun with it! It’s available online – https://books2read.com/Dirty-Work-Dirty-Deeds-Book-1 – and I hope you like it! I had a lot of fun writing it!

I also hope you enjoy ‘Clean Hands’ a short story prequel to the series.

Clean Hands – Chapter Two

Harrison sat on the floor in front of the stained couch, a slice of frying steak held to his face, Watery blood dribbled down his face and stained the pearl-decorated collar of his blouse. Grade wasn’t sure if it was his blood or cow blood.

“That’s for a black eye,” Grade said. “It’s not going to cut it.”

He did have a black eye. His cheek was also puffed out and swollen, red and shiny-tight, and his lower lip split. Old blood scabbed along his chin and down his neck. Grade looked away uncomfortably as his stomach turned.

Shannon stopped their restless pacing of the room to give Grade an aggrieved look. “It’s not going to hurt is it?” he snapped. “Or do you have a better idea?”

“Call an ambulance,” Grade suggested. 

That made Harrison move the steak away from his face. Under it his eye was swollen shut, like a golf ball jammed into the socket, and his eyebrow was split. He slurred out something that was probably an objection from the way he gestured ‘stop’ with his free hand.

“We can’t,” Shannon said, to back him up. “The accident…it wasn’t…we didn’t come off worst.”

Shit.

“There was another car?” he asked.

Shannon opened their mouth to answer, thought better of it, and pressed their lips together as they shook his head in a quick ‘no’.

“And Harrison already has a record. If it goes to court, he’ll get the book thrown at him.”

“Say you were driving.”

Shannon pulled their glasses down their nose and leaned in so Grade could get a good view of their pupils. They were huge, blown so wide that the blue of Shannon’s iris was a pencil line around them. “You think I’m gonna pass a drug test?”

Their breath was stale with weed and the hot, sweet hit of formaldehyde. Grade leaned away from it.

“Why is this my problem?” he asked.

Shannon wiped their nose on the back of their hand and sniffed loudly. They gave Grade a challenging look. “You think you’re going to find somewhere else to live this cheap? Or that my aunt will keep you on at the funeral home if I get sent down?” they said. “Not that you’ll need to worry about that when Harrison’s dad finds out you’re the reason his son’s in court. I told you he’s connected.”

That part Grade wasn’t so worried about. Harrison had also claimed, at various times, that his mother was a movie star, that he had friends in Hollywood, and that there was an A-List actor who’d take him away from all this in a heartbeat…if Harrison’s independence wasn’t so important to him. And yet he had a shitty room in a shared house with the rest of them, and he regularly stole other people’s food.

The job thing was real though. Even with his shifts at the funeral home Grade was barely able to pay rent and buy food without dipping into his savings. If he lost it he’d be on the bus back to Sweeny in a couple of weeks. If he could beg the money for a ticket off his mom.

“I didn’t have anything to do with this,” Grade said.

“That’s not what I’ll tell them.”

Grade stared at Shannon for a grim second. Yeah, that was what he should have expected.

“OK,” he said. “OK. What the fuck do you want from me?”

Shannon just stared at him blankly for a second. Then they sniffed again and shrugged jerkily. “I don’t fucking know! Something.”

It could be argued that Grade had brought that on himself. He took a deep breath and held it for a second.

“OK,” he repeated. “Maybe it’s not as bad as you think. Where did the accident happen? We’ll go out there, see what state he’s in and…”

The confused look on Shannon’s face wasn’t going to lead to anything good. Grade could just tell. He stopped for a second and wondered if it had been such a bright idea to leave Sweeny after all. LA had been the dream, but it turned out there were shitty, dumb people here too.

Except that he had to pay rent to them.

“What did you do?” Grade asked.

Shannon apparently still had enough brain cells linked up to feel awkward. They shuffled their feet and then pointed down, at the ground between their mismatched trainers.

“…it was in the garage,” he said in a small, hoarse voice like a failed whisper.

The two of them stood on the cracked concrete floor and stared at the man. He was pinned against the wall of the garage by the grille of Harrison’s dune buggy looking jeep. His torso was slumped forward from the hips, limply sprawled over the crumpled, bright yellow hood of the vehicle. In the silence Grade could hear the sound of something dripping. It might be blood. It might be brake fluid. It could be both.

Dead bodies didn’t bleed once the heart stopped beating, but they could be drained. It was what they did at the funeral home, although the method there was a lot tidier. They had a bucket, for a start.

“Maybe he’s not dead,” Shannon said. He shifted his weight from one foot to the other, his shoes scuffed over the concrete floor, and chewed on the ragged edge of his thumbnail. “Do you think maybe…”

Grade pulled his attention away from the mangled obvious corpse and gave Shannon a disbelieving look.

“No,” he said sarcastically. “I don’t think he’s alive.”

He had been. That odd, quiet switch in Grade’s head, the one that he had instead of panic, had flicked on and methodically noted all the evidence that pointed to that. The smeared bloody hand prints slapped onto the dirty hood and the evidence of flesh slippage along the man’s thighs where he’d tried to pull himself free. It had taken him a while to die. That wasn’t uncommon with some catastrophic crush injuries, the body really didn’t want to deal with something like that. So it just didn’t. He probably would have died quicker if Harrison had tried to reverse–although the fact she hadn’t would not do her any favors if it got to court.

Right now, though, the man was definitely dead.

Grade shoved both hands back through his air and laced his finger together around the back of his skull. 

“Shannon,” he said. “What happened?”

“I told you!” Shannon said. “It was an accident. Sorta.”

That was such an obvious lie that Grade didn’t even bother to point it out. “Not what I asked.”

“He’s a dealer, I know,” Shannon said. They fiddled nervously with the button on the cuff of their shirt as they tried very hard to stop looking at the dead man. “I’ve bought from him before, but at work. You know? Except Harrison and I wanted to pre-game tonight, before we went out to the club. So I asked Johnny to meet me here. He had the gear, the deal went down fine, but then Harrison got back and he fucking freaked out.”

“Harrison or Johnny?”

Shannon twisted the button hard enough it snapped. They let it drop to the floor. “Both?” he said with a shrug. “Apparently Harrison had sugar-trapped him or something, stole a shitload of money. I don’t know, they were fucking screaming at each other. Harrison got in the car–to go, to run–then Johnny said that he’d be back and he’d have his boss with him…and I think it was an accident. I think Harrison just put the car in the wrong gear. You know?”

“If it was an accident, we can call the cops,” Grade pointed out. “Just explain what–”

“No,” Shannon said. “We can’t. OK? You need to deal with this.”

“Me? I need to deal with it?” Grade said, his voice thin and incredulous. He jabbed his fingers against his breastbone. “Why the hell is this suddenly my responsibility?”

Shannon looked shifty. “I don’t know,” he said. “Someone has to and you deal with dead bodies all the time. I don’t wanna touch it.”

Grade pulled a face at that and turned back to the dead man as he weighed up his options. He could ignore Shannon and call the cops. It wouldn’t actually do the dead man any good, he was past that, and it would screw them all over. And…Grade had his own reasons for wanting to stay off any cop’s radar.

“You owe me,” Grade said. Most of the time he worked to keep the Kentucky out of his voice, sanded it off with Youtube videos on elocution and careful mimicry of the rest of LA. This time he didn’t bother, it lay thick on the words. “After this. You really owe me.”

Catch the next chapter Wednesday at Two Chicks Obsessed and follow the tour for the rest of the story!

 

About the Author:

TA Moore is a Northern Irish writer of romantic suspense, urban fantasy, and contemporary romance novels. A childhood in a rural, seaside town fostered in her a suspicious nature, a love of mystery, and a streak of black humour a mile wide. As her grandmother always said, ‘she’d laugh at a bad thing that one’, mind you, that was the pot calling the kettle black. TA Moore studied History, Irish mythology, English at University, mostly because she has always loved a good story. She has worked as a journalist, a finance manager, and in the arts sector before she finally gave in to a lifelong desire to write.

Coffee, Doc Marten boots, and good friends are the essential things in life. Spiders, mayo, and heels are to be avoided.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads |

 

 

~~~~~~ TOURWIDE GIVEAWAY ~~~~~~

TA Moore is giving away a $10 Amazon Gift Card to one lucky winner on this tour!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Review: The Detective by Anna Hackett

Review: The Detective by Anna HackettThe Detective (Norcross Security #7) by Anna Hackett
Format: eARC
Source: author
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genres: action adventure romance, romantic suspense
Series: Norcross Security #7
Pages: 274
Published by Anna Hackett on March 1, 2022
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsiteAmazon
Goodreads

She’s a woman on the run and desperate to avoid her hot, nosy detective neighbor.

Artist Savannah Cole has secrets. She can never stay anywhere too long or let anyone get too close. An obsessed stalker has her in his sights, and to protect her family, she can never go home, never share her art, and never fall in love.

But when she plays her music a little too loud, she collides with her good-looking, inquisitive, and far-too-hot neighbor, Detective Hunter Morgan. A man who makes her want things she can never have.

After an injury ended his military career with Delta Force, Hunt Morgan found his place at the San Francisco Police Department. He may not have been there for the men of his team, but now he does his bit to keep his city safe. But his mysterious, new neighbor is disturbing his peace. One look at the beautiful blonde and Hunt knows she has secrets…

When a spate of mysterious attacks threaten Savannah’s life, Hunt steps in. He’ll keep her safe and he’s not going to let her run again.

As Savannah’s stalker closes in, she finds herself with her own private protector. Even with his brothers and friends at Norcross Security at his back, she’s terrified he’ll become the next target. But Hunt isn’t afraid of her deadly stalker, because he knows the hardest challenge will be convincing Savannah to take the biggest risk and stay.

My Review:

I’ve been wondering when the Norcross Security series was going to get around to the Morgan brothers, and it looks like that time is finally here! I say I’ve been wondering because the Morgan brothers, or at least Hunt and Ryder have been part of the series from the very beginning – even if not exactly at the center of the fray until now.

The series initially followed the Norcross family – hence the series title – but the Morgans have been on the periphery of the action from the very beginning. Two of them at least.

Hunt Morgan is a detective in the LVPD. Specifically he’s THE detective in the Las Vegas Police Department who has been assigned to – or perhaps that’s cursed with – the task of cleaning up after some of Norcross Security’s messier operations. Not that Hunt ever does anything illegal – he really is a good cop. And the Norcross organization is on the side of the angels, no matter how much some of them occasionally act like devils both on and off the job.

But it’s Hunt’s frequently thankless task to take care of any paperwork, civilians and/or bureaucratic handholding that needs to be taken care of after the dust settles. Because the bad guys that Norcross is chasing after have an unfortunate tendency to inflict some, or occasionally lots, of collateral damage in the process of their criminal actions.

And Hunt has ‘white knight’ syndrome in a really bad way. He doesn’t just want, he actually needs to serve and protect – and that’s what gets him involved in the case of his new neighbor, Savannah Cole.

Or it is once he bangs on her door and barges into her next door townhouse. Because she plays her music really, really loud, really late at night – and the walls between his bedroom and hers aren’t nearly thick enough to block the sound. Or any sounds at all, as Hunt discovers later.

What he discovers at first is that Savannah is an artist, she likes to play VERY loud music while she works, and she’s much too aware of and wary of her surroundings to be exactly what she claims to be.

The art is real, the woman is beautiful, but something tells Hunt that she’s deathly afraid of something that she wants to conceal at all costs. But Hunt has seen the signs before, and is certain that Savannah is in big trouble with someone, somewhere.

And that he will defend and protect her from whoever or whatever that is – whether she wants his protection or not.

Escape Rating B: I loved the romance between Hunt and Savannah, but the whole stalker plotline is one of the tropes I hate the most – right up there with secret babies and mean girl bullying. It makes the heroine reactive rather than active, and it always ends up with her doing something really stupid that puts her in the hands of her stalker. I know this shit – and worse shit – happens in real life, but that doesn’t mean I want to read about it.

Which means I had extremely mixed feelings about this book. I could see the stalker plot coming a mile away – and I didn’t want to go there. At the same time, I loved the fuller portrait of Hunt that we get in this one. As I said, he’s been around for the entire series, so I’ve been hoping he’d get a story of his own.

I liked Hunt. He’s always been an interesting side character in the series, as a sometimes grumbling participant in the Norcross shenanigans and a surprising and surprised friend of Vander Norcross. And now family, as Hunt’s cousin Brynn and Vander Norcross ended up together after their adventure in the previous book in the series, The Powerbroker.

I also liked Savannah. She’s done a surprisingly successful job of running from her stalker for quite some time, and the cost to her has been high – and so has the cost to a whole lot of other people that Savannah didn’t know about because she didn’t stick around long enough – nor should she have.

I think the part of stalker plots that always sends me round the bend is the way that the heroines in these type of stories always reject any possibility of help and generally get in their own way when capable, qualified help appears. Also stalker plots tend to put the heroine in a reactive mode and I’d rather see them take agency.

My two cents, your reading mileage may vary, etc., etc., etc.

At the same time, I loved the romance in this one. It’s not rushed in spite of the circumstances, and I was absolutely all in on these two getting together and making it work, sometimes in spite of themselves.

As I said at the beginning, mixed feelings all around.

I have no mixed feelings about the teasers we got for the next book at the end of this one. The next story in this series, The Medic, is clearly going to feature Hunt’s brother Ryder. Ryder is the paramedic that Norcross calls on – all too frequently – when one of them needs patching up and they’re unwilling or unable to go to a hospital. Which means that Ryder has been “on call” in this series as much as his brother Hunt. I’m absolutely looking forward to this one, as I’ll be getting it for a birthday present. Literally. The release day, April 5, is my birthday. So if I say I can’t wait for this one, the double meaning is fully in effect!

Review: Emperor by Anna Hackett

Review: Emperor by Anna HackettEmperor (Galactic Kings #2) by Anna Hackett
Format: eARC
Source: author
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Series: Galactic Kings #2
Pages: 300
Published by Anna Hackett on January 18th 2022
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsiteAmazon
Goodreads

When an experimental starship test goes horribly wrong, a scientist from Earth finds herself fighting for her survival, and her only lifeline is a wild, powerful alien king.

Waking on an alien world, wracked by pain, Dr. Poppy Ellison is confused and adrift…until his voice calls to her in the darkness. The big, wild, enthralling man reveals that she’s been infected and is turning into an alien shapeshifter. Poppy has always been smart, practical, and boring, but with her entire life turned upside down, there is no one she can trust…except for this alien wolf.

Emperor Brodin Damar Sarkany is king of Damar and its shapeshifters. As wild as the forest city they call home, the Damari can be volatile, always fighting to control the wolf inside. Brodin uses his immense strength to keep his people in check and protect them from the most dangerous evil of all—his war-mongering father. He can’t afford the distraction of a small, tantalizing woman from Earth, even when everything about Poppy sings to the instincts of both man and wolf.

As his father’s ruthless warlord attacks, innocent children are at risk, and Poppy knows she has to help by mastering her new, emerging abilities. She must also face the shocking passion that explodes between her and Brodin. But as Poppy and Brodin hunt down the enemy, they uncover a plot that could mean the destruction of all the Damari…if they don’t stop it in time.

My Review:

Emperor reads more than a bit like it’s part 2 of the story we started in Overlord. In that first book in the Galactic Kings series, we got further acquainted with Overlord Rhain Zhalto Sarkany, a character we were introduced to at the end of the author’s Galactic Gladiators: House of Rone series, in the book Weapons Master.

When Overlord opened, I confess to wondering exactly how a woman from Earth was going to make her way to Rhain’s system. It was established in the Galactic Gladiators series that Carthago and its nearby systems, including the Sarkany system, are so far from Earth’s solar system that the only way to get from one to the other was through a wormhole. A VERY temporary wormhole.

Science – especially in science fiction – often finds a way where one did not exist before. Sometimes even when it shouldn’t. This may or may not be one of those times.

It may not be possible to send people from one side of the galaxy to another without that wormhole, but communication is another matter. The Terrans stranded on Carthago sent back plans for advanced technology, including space ships, in the hopes that someday someone might bridge that gap.

And that’s where Pilot Mallory West and her best friend and mission engineer Poppy Ellison enter the story. They were on an experimental ship that was supposed to generate its own wormhole and skip through our galaxy on a test flight.

Well, they did manage to create that wormhole, but it extended a whole lot further than anyone planned. The ship crashed on Zhalto, in the Sarkany system. Mallory was rescued by Rhain and his people, the story which is told in Overlord.

But Poppy fell into the hands of an evil, mad scientist working for Rhain’s dastardly father. By the time she was rescued, she was suffering from the results of that mad scientist’s evil experimentation. (I’m not really hyperbolising here, it seems like all of dear old dad’s high-ranking minions are insane AND evil.)

Poppy can’t be cured, but she can be helped. Whatever the experiment was intended to do, its result gave Poppy many of the powers of the inhabitants of another planet in the Sarkany system, Damar.

The people of Damar are wolf shifters. Poppy can’t fully shift, but she seems to have received most of the rest of the suite of powers; enhanced sight, hearing, smell, faster reflexes – and the ability to shift her fingers into claws.

Along with a few extras that no one even thought were still a part of the Damar genome. And maybe they aren’t, unless that genetic heritage is given to someone from Earth. Like Poppy.

Escape Rating A-: As I said, Emperor reads like it’s the second part of that story we began in Overlord. Mallory and Poppy arrived together, and they’re besties. Brodin, the Damari Emperor, agrees to help Poppy as a favor to his brother Rhain. So in a lot of ways, Emperor reads like a continuation of Overlord.

(It’s not necessary to read the Galactic Gladiators series to get into this one. But they’re fun so why wouldn’t you?)

As there often is in Anna Hackett’s series, there’s an overall arc to the story. In this case it’s the three sons of King Zavir Sarkany, united in their determination to throw their father’s evil minions off of their respective planets and overthrow their hated father. And it certainly seems like they have cause.

Even though there’s a scene near the end of Emperor that makes me wonder about more than a few things. We’ll see in later installments.

But in the meantime, Poppy is trying to figure out where she fits, and Emperor Brodin is trying to ignore just how well she fits into his heart, his people, and his bed. He’s determined to remain alone to focus all of his concentration on the needs of his people. Poppy’s determined to make a place for herself in her new circumstances, no matter how much she misses her family back home. She has Mallory and that’s going to be enough.

But yes, Brodin is an idiot. Not about most things, but definitely about what both he and his people need when it comes to strength and focus – both his and others.

The story here is twofold. There’s Poppy, an engineer and scientific genius, who can help his people – even before its discovered that she’s brought back a talent his people thought had been lost over the centuries.

Then there’s the Damari fork of his father’s plan to bring Brodin back to his side – by attacking, kidnapping and experimenting upon Brodin’s people.

Something is really wrong with either King Zavir or his plans or both. Terrorizing the people in each of his sons’ kingdoms is NOT going to win them to his side – unless that provides an opportunity for them to get close enough to kill him. After meeting Zavir at the end of this story, I’m suspecting that there’s something rotten on Sarkan that we haven’t seen yet – and that’s it not just Zavir.

The Damari people remind me a lot of the Changelings in Nalini Singh’s Psy-Changeling series. Which means that their reaction to this invasion of their world and threat to their population brings a predictable result – they fight back with everything they have. And they are intelligent and strategic in that fight.

(I think that resemblance made me like this story just a bit more than Overlord. It felt like I was already familiar even though technically I wasn’t.)

I loved the relationship between Brodin and Poppy. There’s nothing stopping them from being together except their own misguided beliefs, insecurities and fears. Well, Brodin has the mistaken beliefs and Poppy has the insecurities and fears. But they’re a good match and I really enjoyed watching them figure that out.

As this book ends, it leads into the next book in the series in a way that turned out to be a bit of a surprise. I was expecting the next book to focus on Rhain’s and Brodin’s remaining brother, Graylan, ruler of the planet Taln. And I’m sure we’ll get to his story eventually, but I wasn’t ready for this series to end so soon.

And it isn’t. Rhain’s second-in-command, Thadd Naveri, and Brodin’s second, Annora, get along about like kerosene and matches. Combustible in every situation. They’ve been given a joint command to investigate whatever King Zavir is up to – undoubtedly no good – on the unpopulated but mineral rich planet Andret. They’ll find out what mischief Zavir is mining on Andret – or they’ll make the planet explode. Or both. Probably both.

I can’t wait to watch the fireworks in Captain of the Guard, coming in May!

Review: Fire of the Frost by Darynda Jones, Jeffe Kennedy, Grace Draven, Amanda Bouchet

Review: Fire of the Frost by Darynda Jones, Jeffe Kennedy, Grace Draven, Amanda BouchetFire of the Frost: A midwinter holiday fantasy romance anthology by Darynda Jones, Jeffe Kennedy, Grace Draven, Amanda Bouchet
Format: ebook
Source: author
Formats available: ebook
Genres: anthologies, fantasy romance, holiday romance, short stories
Pages: 368
Published by Brightlynx Publishing on December 22nd 2021
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKobo
Goodreads

A midwinter holiday fantasy romance anthology…

From Darynda Jones, A Wynter Fyre a standalone novella set in a world where vampyres are hunted for sport. The only thing standing between them and total annihilation is Winter, a warrior bred to save them from extinction. Forbidden to fall in love, Winter cares only about her oaths… until she meets the devilish prince of the underworld.

Of Fate and Fire by Amanda Bouchet
The Kingmaker Chronicles meets modern-day New York City! Piers, an exiled warrior from Thalyria, finds himself in the Big Apple just before the holidays. The world and everything in it might be utterly foreign to him, but that won't stop Piers from helping to complete a vital mission for Athena and protect Sophie, a French teacher from Connecticut who's suddenly knee-deep in inexplicable phenomena, danger, and henchmen after an Olympian treasure that should never have ended up in her hands—or remained on Earth after the Greek gods abandoned it.

The King of Hel by Grace Draven
A novella-length expansion of a stand-alone short story in which a cursed mage-king from a frozen kingdom is obligated to marry a woman of high-ranking nobility but meets his soulmate in a lowly scribe.

Familiar Winter Magic by Jeffe Kennedy
It’s holiday time at Convocation Academy, but best friends Han and Iliana are finding it hard to celebrate. As a familiar, Iliana is facing her assignment to a life of servitude to a wizard, very soon. And Han… despite being tested by the oracle daily, he is still uncategorized. As Iliana and Han face being separated forever, they at last find the courage—or desperation—to break the rules and acknowledge their deeper feelings for each other. But it will take more than true love to save them from the laws of the Convocation…

My Review:

This holiday treat dropped into my lap this week and I couldn’t resist starting it immediately! Isn’t that what holiday treats are for? Immediate consumption for the yes! Especially as I’ve received earlier versions of this confection of a collection (Under a Winter Sky, Seasons of Sorcery and Amid the Winter Snow) and they’ve all been wonderful reading treats.

For the most part, this year’s collection of winter fantasy romances was a very sweet treat indeed – with just enough naughty in the mix to give Santa a blush or four.

My absolute favorite story this year was Grace Draven’s The King of Hel, and not just because it’s a standalone story that isn’t set in one of her other worlds. It’s the kind of fantasy romance that didn’t really have to be a fantasy romance. In fact, its real world inspiration was not. Inspired by the real life romance between Madame de Maintenon and Louis XIV of France, this is the story of Doranis, the magic-touched king of Helenrisia and his queen’s best friend, the modestly born Castil il Veras. What made this story so beautiful is the way that Castil’s deep, life-long friendship with Doranis’ queen is not broken by the romance. Rather, Castil is heartbroken when her best friend dies in childbirth yet still honors that friendship. But life goes on, and the queen’s death gives Doranis the freedom to marry the woman who is suited to him in all ways but birth, and lets Castil acknowledge her love for a man who was otherwise twice beyond her touch.

This was just a beautiful winter romance between two strong and surprisingly equal partners and I loved every page of it.

On the other hand, my least favorite story in this collection was Familiar Winter Magic by Jeffe Kennedy. It’s not that it’s not a good story, because it is, and it’s not that it’s not well done, because it is that as well. It’s that the protagonists of the story are fundamentally, by law and custom, absolutely powerless and their powerlessness gets rubbed like salt into their wounds and the reader’s psyche at every turn. This is just one of those cases where I know it’s good and I know there’s an audience for it and I’m just not it.

Of Fate and Fire by Amanda Bouchet was just plain fun, kind of in the way that the first Thor movie was fun. At points, literally in the way that the first Thor movie was fun, a fact that the heroine references more than once during the course of her whirlwind romance while running from bad guys story plays out. Although Piers of Thalyria, an exile from the world of the author’s Kingmaker Chronicles, has no godlike powers, it turns out that his heroine does and he’s been jerked across time and space in order to protect her while she figures out how to either use them or give them back. The story here is kind of a lighthearted romp – in spite of being chased down by evil entrepreneurs and their henchmen at every turn.

Last but not least, my second favorite story in the collection, Darynda Jones’ A Wynter Fyre. The beginning had a bit of an “aliens made them do it” start – not that any of the characters in this story are actually alien to this world. But there’s a common fanfiction trope for series like Stargate and its spinoffs where the characters are compelled by unbridled libidos to have sex because of “alien sex pollen”. The way this story begins, with vampyres biting Wynter in order to infect her with the equivalent of “vampyre sex pollen” had a very similar feel. Particular when the hero fends off the bad vamps in order to woo her for himself, once he’s helped her take the edge off, so to speak.

After that hot, heavy, creepy and slightly rapey beginning the story itself takes a surprising turn. Wynter has been awakened from 70+ years as a statue because her mother the demon (yes, the being she believes is her mother is an actual demon) needs her to rescue a kidnapped vampyre princess.

But it’s all a setup. Not that the princess hasn’t been kidnapped, but it’s all part of the plot to give Wynter the chance to do her job of protecting the vampyres properly – by killing the greatest threat to their existence – her demon mother. That the setup also manages to change the romance from a sex into love story into a second chance at love story is all part of its charm – something this one had absolutely oodles of.

Escape Rating B+: This collection is always a lovely holiday treat. But like any collection, some stories hit the mark with this reader – or any other – while others aren’t quite as close to the bullseye.

If I were giving individual ratings, A Wynter Fyre would get an A; Of Fate and Fire would receive a B; The King of Hel hits the high spot at A+ while Familiar Winter Magic just didn’t work for me at all. Your reading mileage – even through the snowy landscape of these winter tales – will definitely vary.

No matter which stories in the collection tickle your holiday reading fancy, the collection is definitely worth curling up with some hot chocolate and a cozy blanket for a delicious holiday read!

Review: Overlord by Anna Hackett

Review: Overlord by Anna HackettOverlord (Galactic Kings #1) by Anna Hackett
Format: eARC
Source: author
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genres: action adventure romance, science fiction, science fiction romance
Series: Galactic Kings #1
Pages: 300
Published by Anna Hackett on December 12, 2021
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsiteAmazon
Goodreads

When an experimental starship test goes horribly wrong, a test pilot from Earth is flung across the galaxy and crash lands on the planet of a powerful alien king.
Pilot Mallory West is having a really bad day. She’s crashed on an alien planet, her ship is in pieces, and her best friend Poppy, the scientist monitoring the experiment, is missing. Dazed and injured, she collapses into the arms of a big, silver-eyed warrior king. But when her rescuer cuffs her to a bed and accuses her of being a spy, Mal knows she has to escape her darkly tempting captor and find her friend.
Overlord Rhain Zhalto Sarkany is in a battle to protect his planet Zhalto and his people from his evil, power-hungry father. He’ll use every one of his deadly Zhalton abilities to win the fight against his father’s lethal warlord and army of vicious creatures. Rhain suspects the tough, intriguing woman he pulls from a starship wreck is a trap, but when Mal escapes, he is compelled to track her down.
Fighting their overwhelming attraction, Mal and Rhain join forces to hunt down the warlord and find Poppy. But as Mal’s body reacts to Zhalto’s environment, it awakens dormant powers, and Rhain is the only one who can help her. As the warlord launches a brutal attack, it will take all of Mal and Rhain’s combined powers to save their friends, the planet, and themselves.

My Review:

We first met Overlord Rhain Zhalto Sarkany at the end of the Galactic Gladiators: House of Rone series, as Rhain and several others rode their spaceships to the rescue of Magnus Rone and his allies in the final book of the series, Weapons Master, in the final takedown of the series nemesis, the slave-trading Edull.

It was pretty clear at the end that we’d be following Rhain back home to see him fall the same way that his gladiator counterparts have, even if neither Rhain nor the reader had any clue yet as to just how a Terran woman was going to, figuratively if not literally drop into his lap.

And so it begins.

Pilot Mallory West opens the story about to “slip the surly bonds of Earth” on an experimental test flight, in a spaceship build using advanced designs from the remote planet of Carthago, far across the galaxy, where the people captured by slave traders through a temporary wormhole ended up. They can’t go home again, but they can send messages and plans in the hopes of getting a bit of home just a bit closer to them.

Mal’s ship is the result of some of those plans and hopes. The engines are supposed to create a temporary wormhole that’s supposed to take them from Earth’s orbit to Jupiter – where everything began. Whether the design wasn’t tested enough, or Murphy’s Law is simply stronger than any other force in the galaxy, Mal and her friend Poppy may never discover.

Things went pear-shaped. That’s what happens when you string that many variations of “supposed to” together in a design. Instead of ending up near Jupiter, their experimental ship came out of its temporary wormhole a LOT closer to where the first one did. Too far away to come home, but much, much too close to the planet Zhalto. Close like well within the planet’s gravity well.

The crash is spectacular – not in a good way. The ship is also broken. Mal lands – for certain extremely rough definitions of landing – to discover that she has no idea where she is, the animals are people-eaters, and that the part of the ship where her friend was strapped in is just gone. Not burned, not broken. Gone.

And that her rescuers, in the form of Overlord Rhain Sarkany and his guards, are absolutely certain that Mal is a spy sent to infiltrate his court and his country by Rhain’s worst enemy. The man who ordered his mother’s assassination.

His own father.

Escape Rating A-: This was fun. Just plain fun. I always love the opening book in this author’s series, and Overlord – or as Mal calls him, “Your Overlordness” – makes a fantastic introduction to this follow-on from the Galactic Gladiators.

(The connection between the Gladiators and the Galactic Kings is a loose one. They obviously know each other, but the reader doesn’t have to know the Gladiators to get right into the Kings.)

The “Big Bad” in this series is King Zavir Sarkany, Rhain’s not-so-dear-old-dad. It’s going to be interesting to see how those very real “daddy issues” play out as the series goes on. Beyond the obvious, that Zavir is sending evil surrogates to each of his sons’ planets in an attempt to force his rebellious offspring back into the family fold, Rhain at least has concerns that he’s in danger of giving in – not to his father – but to the same aggressive violence that has made his father hated and feared across their system.

He wants the man dead but is afraid that killing him will make him fall prey to his own, personal, dark side. That he’s not actually in danger of such is just one of the many things that Mal has to convince him of – in her own inimitable way.

It’s not until Rhain discovers that Mal is from Earth that he begins to trust her – or at least to trust that she’s not a spy for his father. Once he does, they both fall, and fall hard for each other, even if neither is willing to admit it.

One of the things that makes this one so much fun is that Mal is every bit as much of a badass warrior as Rhain. It’s not something he’s used to seeing, as women in his culture are generally not warriors. It makes Mal perfect to be his queen, even if neither of them is quite willing to go there, at least at first.

Rhain’s and Mal’s relationship reminded me just a bit of Aral and Cordelia in Shards of Honor. And that’s a marvelous book for any SFR to hearken back to, even a little bit.

As I said at the top, the series opener is always one of my favorites in this author’s series. My other favorite tends to be the one where the leader of the group finally lets himself fall in love. As all of the obvious protagonists in this series are already kings of their own worlds, I’m wondering how that’s going to work out. There’s not an obvious leader among the royal brothers, at least not yet. We’ll see.

Meanwhile, the next book in the series is clearly going to belong to Rhain’s brother Brodin, Emperor Brodin Damar Sarkany, Emperor of the Damari shapeshifters. I can’t wait!

Review: Hex Work by TA Moore + Excerpt + Giveaway

Review: Hex Work by TA Moore + Excerpt + GiveawayHex Work (Babylon Boy, #1) by T.A. Moore
Format: eARC
Source: author
Formats available: ebook
Genres: paranormal, urban fantasy
Series: Babylon Boy #1
Pages: 136
Published by Rogue Firebird Press on November 23, 2021
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKobo
Goodreads

My name is Jonah Carrow, and it’s been 300 days since I laid a hex.

OK, Jonah Carrow isn’t actually an alcoholic. But there’s no support group of lapsed hex-slingers in Jerusalem, so he’s got to make do. He goes for the bad coffee and the reminder that he just has to take normal one day at a time.

Unfortunately, his past isn’t willing to go down without a fight.

A chance encounter with a desperate Deborah Seddon, and a warning that ‘they’re watching’, pulls Jonah back into the world he’d tried to leave behind. Now he has to navigate ghosts, curses, and the hottest bad idea warlock he’s ever met…all without a single hex to his name.

But nobody ever said normal was easy. Not to Jonah anyhow.

My Review:

The central theme of Hex Work might be “Lead me not into temptation; I can find the way myself.”

It’s not merely that Jonah Carrow has to resist turning his truck down the road to temptation – and his family’s home place in Babylon, Pennsylvania – every single day, but that something happened when he left home a year ago that made him swear off using his family gift. A gift for casting – and warding off – hexes.

We may not know what went wrong – at least not yet – but we are riding along with Jonah as his old life does its best to drag him back under its spell. Literally.

A woman enlists his help in a way that seems so random and nebulous that he isn’t exactly sure what it’s about. Not until the people who are chasing her drag him in for a little “chat” about ghosties and ghoulies and just how many of them are going to be set upon him if he doesn’t figure out what she’s up to. Or why she stole something nasty from them. Or both.

Everyone thinks he doesn’t know what it’s all about. Because he’s left his home, his name and his reputation behind in the hopes of making a new start – or outrunning his own ghosts. Except the ghost of his brother who haunts his front yard at night. He’s stuck with that one. Why? We don’t exactly know. Yet.

And even though this wasn’t initially his fight, his circus or his monkeys, by the time he solves the supernatural mystery that stalks Jerusalem (PA) he’s right back in the thick of it. Even if he has, at least so far, still managed to resist falling off the hex wagon.

It’s only a matter of time – and the things that stalk the night have plenty of that.

Escape Rating A-: I was looking for something, let’s say.a bit less complicated after a long weekend reading marathon (because reasons). Not that I expected the characters in the book to be in an uncomplicated situation – from that perspective the more messed up the better. Rather I was looking for something where the story would suck me right in and take my mind away – not tie it up in knots that I wouldn’t be able to unravel for hours or days later.

Urban fantasy has always been my go-to when I want a world to slip right into, and Hex Work certainly fulfilled all my dark, dirty magical expectations. Although, at least so far as this series starter goes, all of the dirt is quite literally dirt. Grave dirt. Not the other kind – at least not yet. This series may eventually switch from urban fantasy to paranormal romance at some point – but neither it nor Jonah are there yet.

The story of Hex Work is told from Jonah’s first-person perspective. We’re inside his head and it’s a pretty damn snarky place to be, which is just fine as one of the things I love about urban fantasy is that it is generally snarky as hell – and sometimes snarky IN hell- and Jonah is no exception.

So we know what he’s thinking in the moment, and we see what he’s struggling with. But we also see that there are plenty of shadowy places in his past that he’s definitely, absolutely, obsessively trying his best NOT to think about. The places that I really hope this series goes as it continues.

Right here and right now, Jonah is in a kind of limbo. He’s sworn he’s not going to lay another hex. He’s left Babylon in order to get away from the supernatural world. But it’s found him. The story is of his struggle to get to the bottom of the grave that the hag that is chasing him pulled itself out of, so he can maybe get back to that fresh start he’s working on.

Only to discover that even though the hag has been laid to rest and the mystery has been solved, he’s still neck deep in the supernatural – and not getting out. We’re left wondering if, in his heart of hearts, he truly wants to.

This reader certainly doesn’t want him to at all. The magic of this world is fascinating, both simple and complex by turns. It feels like it’s been drawn right out of myths and legends and has been hiding in plain sight all along. (It also feels a bit like Midnight Crossroads, so if you liked either the book series or the TV series you’ll probably love this.)

Jonah himself has secrets that I’m itching to discover. I can’t wait to see what trouble finds him next!

Guest Post from TA Moore + Chapter 2 of Stories of Babylon (check out Chapter 1 at Book Gemz)

Hi! Can you believe it’s November already? I feel entirely adrift in the calendar these days. It’s 1934th of Morch! One thing I have managed to keep on track for, more or less, is the whole publication schedule for Hex Work…more or less! 

Hex Work is NOT the book I was meant to be writing, but it’s the one that wanted to come out of my head. So I hope people like it in order to make the absolute shambles it made of my writing schedule worth it. I like it, so I guess that’s a good start!

Thanks for having me and I hope you enjoy the exclusive short story prequel to the Hex Work novella!

Read the rest of the story at TAMooreWrites.com

Stories of Babylon: Chapter Two

He followed the crushed crash and tire tracks to a pick-up truck wrapped around a beech tree. The front end was crumpled and the windows smashed in over the burned, half-melted sheets. It had been red once, but it was smoke-scarred now with black, brittle patches of cracked blisters on the doors.

The kid sat on the rutted ground with his head in his hands. He looked up when Jonah cleared his throat.

Shit, the kid said, my dad’s going to kill me.

His name was John Samuels and he’d been dead for a week. His funeral was tomorrow. That always…cut some sort of thread. Not that John would move on, but being John would start to wear off him. He’d not think he was alive anymore.

“You weren’t meant to have the truck?” Jonah asked. 

He already knew the answer. John was fifteen and he’d gotten home early from football practice. There’d been a casserole in the oven for him and chores to do before his homework. He knew better than to take the truck. His Dad had said that over and over.

Lot—always friendlier—squeezed by Jonah and stuck his nose into the John’s face. His tongue slobbered up, and through, John’s vaguely insubstantial nose until he got a snuffle of laughter and a hand came up to pet his ears.

No, John said. He looked up at Jonah through his tangled fringe, His voice changed—breathy and light, the catch of fear wet in the back of his throat—but his face didn’t. We have to go. Jonah, Joey, we have to go. He’s COMING.

Wife leaned against Jonah’s legs and sighed heavily. The hot, living weight of her anchored Jonah and he pulled away from the hook of that voice. It hadn’t been his name, not when he played it back in his head, it probably hadn’t been John’s either.

“Who was she?” Jonah asked. “Did you know her?”

Some girls are like that, John said, some segment of memory queued up to suit the question. I thought we were the same, but she was….she was…

The words glitched together. Awful/Beautiful/DEADDEADFUCKINGDEAD/Lost. Jonah took a step back and shook his head to clear it. There was blood in his mouth, but when he turned his head to spit it was just saliva. Not his copper and salt thick on his tongue, not his fear thick and clotted in his throat.

For a second John knew what he was and it peeled the facade away. A chunk of glass glittered in his cheek as he talked—speared through flesh and into the mess of broken teeth and gums the impact had left of the kid’s mouth—and the side of his skull was caved in. Blood matted dark blond, curly hair and when he raised a hand it was gone.

He gaped that ruined mouth and screamed. It was a thin, pinched sound that just made the dogs look curious, but it spilled over to something and awful on the unnatural side of things. A handful of confused birds were jostled from their roost as it grated on them, and took off into the sky.

John lurched up from the ground and lunged at Jonah, his hand curled into a claw tipped with bony spikes that poked through his fingertips. His breath hung in the air, dark and oily as smoke.

You have her touch her take her away. I wontletyouhurtheragaaaaaaaa!

The words ran into each other, slurred back into the harrowing, static howl of the scream that drew the other side closer. Moonlight faltered and faded into a grey miasma as the air thickened and chilled.

It was always cold in Babylon, even in summer. A climatic anomaly apparently. Good for the shop that sold coats in town, not so great for tourism. 

Jonah snapped the piece of chalk in his pocket and crumbled the bit he hung onto between his fingers. He threw it into the air.

Technically it should have been drawn on a door or a wall, or a bit of paper to shove down the hag’s throat. Jonah was a Carrow, though, and magic still owed one him for that. Chalk powder dripped from his fingers as he sketched the rune in the air and it hung between him and poor, dead John.

“Holy, holy,” he said and clenched his hand into a fist, thumb extended, to cross himself in a quick, careless swipe. The hex burned on his tongue and stung his lips as he spat the words out. They’d probably meant something once, years and books ago. Now it was just sounds that worked and who cared why? In the moment. “Salt and dirt. Hold your breath and it won’t hurt.”

John smashed into the rune. The little bits of chalk dust stuck to him and spread, white and powdery skin that filled in the holes of his death and clogged up his mind. He staggered to a stop as he forgot, again, why he was so angry. He coughed and licked his lips with a greyish tongue.

I’m thirsty, He said and reached up to rub his head, breaking off sections of crust. It dusted the ground under his feet. What happened?

Catch the next chapter tomorrow at Two Chicks Obsessed and follow the tour for the rest of the story!

About the Author:

TA Moore is a Northern Irish writer of romantic suspense, urban fantasy, and contemporary romance novels. A childhood in a rural, seaside town fostered in her a suspicious nature, a love of mystery, and a streak of black humour a mile wide. As her grandmother always said, ‘she’d laugh at a bad thing that one’, mind you, that was the pot calling the kettle black. TA Moore studied History, Irish mythology, English at University, mostly because she has always loved a good story. She has worked as a journalist, a finance manager, and in the arts sector before she finally gave in to a lifelong desire to write.

Coffee, Doc Marten boots, and good friends are the essential things in life. Spiders, mayo, and heels are to be avoided.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads |

 

 

~~~~~~ TOURWIDE GIVEAWAY ~~~~~~

TA Moore is giving away a $10 Amazon Gift Card to one lucky winner on this tour!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Review: The Powerbroker by Anna Hackett

Review: The Powerbroker by Anna HackettThe Powerbroker (Norcross Security #6) by Anna Hackett
Format: eARC
Source: author
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genres: action adventure romance, contemporary romance, romantic suspense
Series: Norcross Security #6
Pages: 302
Published by Anna Hackett on November 5, 2021
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsiteAmazon
Goodreads

She’s undercover in a dangerous motorcycle club, and her unwanted protector is the city’s most lethal man.

Police Detective Brynn Sullivan is dedicated to her job and living up to the memory of her cop father. She’s out to prove herself on her biggest case yet—stopping a dangerous drug from flooding the streets of San Francisco. She needs to go undercover with the city’s wildest, most dangerous motorcycle club, and that means using any contact she can to get in there.

Even the dark, powerful ex-military man who rules the city’s streets from the shadows—Vander Norcross.

After years fighting for his country as commander of a covert Ghost Ops team, Vander Norcross has built Norcross Security into a thriving business to keep his family and friends safe. He’s a powerbroker in San Francisco, with his finger on the pulse of what’s happening—both legal and not so legal. When his friend asks a favor putting a detective—a female one—undercover with the Iron Wanderers MC, Vander is not on board.

It goes against every protective instinct he has, but Brynn proves to be tenacious, annoying, smart, and far too tempting.

Brynn and Vander strike enough sparks to start an inferno, but when dangerous players up the stakes, they find themselves with a bounty on their heads. On the run, with only each other to depend on, Brynn discovers she has an even bigger battle on her hands—capturing the heart of a man who thinks he’s too dangerous to ever fall in love.

My Review:

Brynn’s words to Vander made the whole book for me, when she told him that she needed him to stand beside her, not in front of her. As a cop, Detective Brynn Sullivan brings every bit as much to the table of badassery as former Ghost Ops team leader Vander Norcross. Just as much skill, just as much fight, and just as much need to fight for those she protects and what she believes in.

That Brynn is a beautiful woman whom Vander wants to protect at all costs, even from himself, does not change Brynn’s perspective at all. She’ll stop being the woman who fascinates him if he lets him protect her. She’ll come to hate herself, and him into the bargain.

No matter how much it makes him clench his fists and grit his teeth whenever she throws herself into danger – usually head first and guns blazing. But then, he’s no different.

Both Brynn and Vander are people who have decided that they don’t have either the time or the inclination for a relationship. She’s too wrapped up in her career, and he’s still too tormented by the ghosts in his head.

He thinks it’s too dangerous for him to fall for someone, because if someone he loved were endangered, he’d burn the city down to save them and damn the consequences to anyone who got in his way – or his soul. Brynn can’t find anyone who can accept her as she is, that the cop part of her is every bit as important as the rest of the woman.

But when Brynn’s cousin Hunt, the detective who works with Norcross Security and helps to keep the police powers that be and Norcross from rubbing each other a bit too raw, asks Vander for a favor, Vander knows he owes Hunt big, even if he really, really hates the particular favor that the cop is asking for.

Hunt needs Vander to give Brynn an introduction to the Iron Wanderers Motorcycle Club, because someone in the club is bringing a deadly new designer drug into the city that Vander protects even if he doesn’t serve.

Brynn will be going undercover among some of the most dangerous people in the city to uncover the dealer and his supply chain in order to stop the drugs. Vander is all too aware that she’s walking into trouble – possibly more trouble than she can handle.

He can’t let her go. He can’t stop her, either. All he can do is step up and walk beside her, even if it breaks the heart he swears he doesn’t have.

Escape Rating B+: I loved Brynn, I adored Vander, but I definitely got a reminder of the things I don’t like about motorcycle club romances. Or perhaps that was just that the villainous dealer seems to have gotten entirely too many of his speeches out of the “Villains Handbook for Overdone Monologuing”. I didn’t like him – not that we were supposed to, but he was just a walking, talking, spouting cliché. At least Trucker, the leader of the Wanderers, had a tiny bit of nuance – or humanity – or both.

Obviously not my favorite setting.

But, but, BUT the romance between Brynn and Vander was smokin’ hot, and it had so many of the elements I really enjoy. Brynn was just awesome. I love a kickass heroine, especially one who makes sure that her love interest RESPECTS her at every turn. I particularly liked the way that Brynn was always an active participant in both the investigation and the romance, and NEVER played the damsel.

Also terrific was the way that Vander shied away from a relationship but not for any of the usual reasons. His logic was an excellent twist on the “I’m not worthy” trope that a lot of romantic heroes seem to fall into.

It’s never a question of whether he’s worthy – that doesn’t seem to enter his head. Instead, his concern is that he’ll go too far if something bad happens, because he lives in a world where things ALWAYS go wrong. He’s too well trained to let himself lose control out of a reasonable fear that he’ll leave a trail of bodies behind him and not care about the collateral damage. He has to prove to himself that he can keep a lid on it if Brynn is in danger – because he knows she will be. And that he not only can’t stop her, but that he shouldn’t.

I usually like the “leader’ romance in one of this author’s series even more than the rest of the series. There are issues with the conflict between leadership and vulnerability that often make that particular entry in a series a favorite. But Vander isn’t the leader of Norcross Security in the same way that Holmes was in Hell Squad or Galen was the Imperator of the Galactic Gladiators.

But I still liked this one a lot because of Brynn. A lot a lot because of Brynn. I just liked Brynn and her kickass and take no prisoners attitude, although my favorite in the series is still The Specialist.

It looks like Brynn’s story is going to pivot a bit more of the action of the Norcross Security series to the rest of the Sullivan family, with her cousin Camden joining Norcross at the end of this book. Cam’s brothers Hunt and Ryder need to find their HEAs as well.

I’m looking forward to watching them fall.

Review: The Hacker by Anna Hackett

Review: The Hacker by Anna HackettThe Hacker (Norcross Security #5) by Anna Hackett
Format: eARC
Source: author
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genres: action adventure romance, contemporary romance
Series: Norcross Security #5
Pages: 252
Published by Anna Hackett on October 12, 2021
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsiteAmazon
Goodreads

She’s accidentally pregnant and someone is trying to kill her…and now her one-night-stand is her fierce protector.

Helicopter pilot Maggie Lopez is focused on building her helicopter and drone photography business—and she has the loans to prove it. She takes one night off to trade her jeans for a designer dress, and attend a fancy gala…and ends up spending a very steamy night with her panty-melting crush—Ace Oliveira. He’s tall, sexy, and the guru of all things tech at Norcross Security.

She wasn’t supposed to fall in lust, or fall in love, and she really wasn’t supposed to fall pregnant.

Ace Oliveira’s life is just how he likes it. After years protecting his country at the NSA, he now puts his special computer and hacking skills to good use at Norcross Security. He gets paid well. Has good friends. Enjoys the hell out of his carefree bachelor lifestyle. Relationships and kids are not on the cards for him—ever. He has his reasons.

But then feisty, saucy Maggie—who snuck out of his bed like a thief—drops a bombshell.

Before they can even process the surprise pregnancy, it becomes clear someone is trying to kill Maggie. A series of deadly accidents are all centered on her, and Ace will do whatever it takes to keep her safe. With the men of Norcross at his side, he’ll track down a killer, fight his own demons, and convince skittish, independent Maggie to fall in love with her baby’s daddy.

My Review:

One of the things I love about this author’s series (serieses?) is the way that each book in the series previews the coming attractions of the romance in the next book. So the genesis of The Hacker was foreshadowed at the end of The Bodyguard in the one-night-stand between Norcross Security’s ace hacker Ace Oliveira and Maggie Lopez, a helicopter pilot that Norcross Security regularly contracts with for some of their hairier jobs – especially the desperate rescues therefrom.

Genesis is certainly the right word to describe how this particular story starts, because that one-night-stand included some hot, up against the wall, unprotected sex. The result of which is that Maggie is avoiding the really awkward conversation she needs to have with Oliveira. A conversation that needs to include Maggie’s unintended pregnancy.

Maggie wants the baby. What she doesn’t want is to get her life tangled up with Ace’s love-’em-and-leave-’em lifestyle. Because there’s no love involved. Being a notch on his bedpost is bad enough, but there were two enthusiastically consenting adults involved in that particular scenario. Watching as an endless series of other women drape themselves all over him is not something that Maggie plans to sign up for.

They need to have a civilized, rational, adult conversation about the baby they’ve unexpectedly made. A dispassionate conversation they can’t seem to manage to have with all the passion that is still stirring between them.

And that’s before someone tries to kill Maggie and the “Peanut”, or whatever size fruit or vegetable is the current equivalent of the growing embryo.

As much as Maggie is afraid to get involved with Ace out of fear that he will break her heart, Ace is equally afraid to fall for Maggie because he’s afraid that once she gets to know the real him, she’ll run fast and far and not look back. He’s certain that he’s not good enough for either her or the Peanut, and that once she learns the truth she’ll agree.

But as the attempts on Maggie’s life escalate, Ace can’t stop himself from setting aside his nebulous fears for the future in order to deal with the very real fears that have intruded on the present. Fears that are filled with armed drones chasing Maggie down dark alleys leading to snatch and grab kidnap attempts that are barely thwarted by the efforts of the entire Norcross Security team.

In order to keep Maggie safe, Ace needs to let her all the way in, to his life and to his heart. And in order to let him help her, Maggie has to set aside all the lessons her father drummed into her about never letting lean on anyone no matter how much she hurts.

Escape Rating B: The Hacker is a solidly entertaining entry in the Norcross Security series. It’s not my favorite in the series (at the moment that would be The Specialist, but I have high hopes for Vander’s upcoming book) but a good reading time was definitely had by this reader.

Even though obvious villain was very obvious, and every bit as over-the-top as most of the baddies in this series. And the unplanned pregnancy trope is far from my favorite.

What I liked about this story was that Maggie has made a life for herself and that it’s a life she’s satisfied and happy with. And that while she does need help and protection in this entry in the series, she’s not stupid about it. She makes adjustments to keep herself and the Peanut as safe as possible, and doesn’t run around meeting mobsters and robbing estates on the sly. At the same time, she stands firm on needing to continue working and maintaining her independence.

That, in the end she doesn’t merely participate in but plays a key, professional role in her own rescue was a great antidote to some of the earlier books in the series where the heroines were all reactive rather than active.

At the same time, this book reads like the series is starting to wind down, which it is. There were lots of scenes where the entire Norcross Security team as well as their friends among the police were active participants in the investigation, the interrogations, and the rescue. Almost like a second-to-last-hurrah before the big finale that’s coming in the next and final book in the series, The Powerbroker, coming next month. (YAY!)

They say that the bigger they stand, the harder they fall. Throughout the Norcross Security series, Vander Norcross has always stood the biggest – literally – and been the biggest badass of all his brothers and of the security agency he founded. We’re finally going to see just how hard he falls – and I can’t wait.

Review: King of Eon by Anna Hackett

Review: King of Eon by Anna HackettKing of Eon (Eon Warriors #9) by Anna Hackett
Format: eARC
Source: author
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genres: science fiction romance
Series: Eon Warriors #9
Pages: 284
Published by Anna Hackett on September 5th 2021
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsiteAmazon
Goodreads

The King of the Eon Warriors has decided to take a Terran as his bride…but finds himself shockingly attracted to the tough, beautiful Space Corps officer in charge of his potential brides’ security.

King Gayel Solann-Eon is dedicated to his people and empire. His father was a hard man and a rigid king, but Gayel is doing things his own way. That includes working with his allies to defeat the ravenous insectoid Kantos. To strengthen the alliance with Earth, he’ll put his own wants and needs aside and take a Terran bride. But as the group of bridal candidates arrive on the Eon homeworld, he’s shocked by a stunning attraction to the Space Corps officer in charge of their security.
Captain Alea Rodriguez has worked hard to escape her awful childhood and make something of herself. Space Corps is her family and her work is her life. Escorting a group of women to an alien planet so a king can pick a bride has left her feeling like she’s on a reality television show. But she takes her job seriously and will keep them safe. What she never expected was her own powerful reaction to the alien warrior king.

Stealth attacks by the Kantos make it clear that no one is safe. Alea is sure that the aliens want to assassinate Gayel, and she’ll do anything to protect him, even as she fights to safeguard her heart. But Gayel is a king and a warrior, and as the two of them fight side by side, he will also convince Alea to risk everything: for their people, for their hearts, and for a bond that won’t be denied.

My Review:

The story in King of Eon reminded me very much of the immortal words of the Scottish poet Robbie Burns. You know the quote, even if you don’t remember who said it. It’s that old saying about the best laid plans of mice and men going oft astray – or variations thereof. The original words went as follows, “The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft a-gley.” A truism that applies every bit as much to kings and Kantos as it does to mice and men.

Readers have been watching the growth of the alliance between the Eon Warriors and Earth, against the swarming, insectoid Kantos since its rocky beginning in the first book in this series, Edge of Eon. (That’s a big hint to start there at the beginning and not here at the end.)

The Eon Warriors and the Terran Space Corps have united against their common enemy, the Kantos. The big bug-like creatures who are nipping at both species’ heels – along with any other body parts they can reach. The Kantos want to swarm, consume and destroy, while the Eons and the Terrans are hoping to live and let live once the threat is eliminated.

As long as the threat doesn’t eliminate them first.

Gayel, the king of the Eon Warriors, has observed as the ties between his people and the Terrans have gotten stronger – and more intimate – as the series has progressed. Several of his warriors have found their mates among the Terrans. Gayel sees the future of his people going from strength to strength as part of this alliance, and decides, for the future of his own people, that he should set an example by finding his future queen among the Terrans.

It’s not actually a bad idea, but his plan for accomplishing that goal is doomed to fall prey to the old saying about mice and men. Gayel determines that he will find his bride through a process that sounds a bit too much like the reality TV series The Bachelor. And with the same odds of long-term happiness as the show.

That Gayel falls for the Space Corps officer assigned as security for his prospective brides instead of one of the actual prospective brides isn’t much of a surprise – not even to his friends and family. He was never going to fall for, or make a successful match with, a pampered princess – and he didn’t.

But Captain Alea Rodriguez, as much as she may want the man who occupies the throne, has no interest in becoming a queen – as well as zero belief that she might be worthy of the honor.

While the course of true love is running far from smoothly, the Kantos are hatching plans of their own. They need to break the alliance between Eon and Earth before the alliance wrecks their plans to destroy both their enemies and gobble up the remains.

Literally.

Escape Rating B+: King of Eon is a fittingly epic wrap-up to this series, and there is plenty that needs wrapping up to get all of the previous relationships – along with the people of both races – to move from “happy for now but still seriously worried about the future” to happy ever after.

It’s a wild ride and a thrilling read from beginning to end – especially because there is so much left to get wrapped up when this final entry in the series begins!

Gayel’s idea to cement the alliance with Earth by marrying a Terran woman is a solid political decision. It’s been done for centuries on Earth, marrying for alliance instead of love. The problems with the execution of said idea are obvious from the start, because Gayel also wants some kind of real marriage, if not of love than at least of mutual respect and duty. He does not want to marry someone whose ambition is to be queen. He needs someone who will see it as the duty and responsibility that it is and share that duty with him.

And that’s not the scenario he’s set up, as everyone around him realizes long before he does.

At the same time, he’s the linchpin for the alliance with Earth, not because he’s planning to marry a Terran but because Eon is much the stronger partner in the alliance. If he falls, especially if it can be made to seem as if his death is somehow the fault of the Terrans, the alliance will fall apart and the separated allies will be easier to pick off one by one.

So in between the various events that are scheduled for Gayel to choose a bride, the Kantos have scheduled a series of assassination attempts and stealth attacks that get more desperate, more dangerous and more relentless each time they are thwarted.

In the end, the Eon Warriors and the Terrans are going to have to bring the fight to the Kantos – who have already brought the fight to Eon territory with devastating results. The climactic battle is, of course, climactic in more ways than one as the Terran Captain and the Eon King make one final push – with more than a little help from all their friends – to end the conflict once and for all.

The romance in this story, with its backdrop of the bachelor king seeking a bride, was a lot of fun. While it’s obvious early on that Gayel and Alea belong together, their reasons for resisting the attraction feel right for the story. That they can’t resist is what puts the icing on the romantic part of this particular book-cake.

The war with the Kantos felt like it needed a bit of help, not just from all their friends but from more than a touch of deus ex machina. For a species that has been such a big and long-running threat, the denouement of their people as a conquering race was exciting but felt a little too fast and the moral dilemmas of their potential genocide dealt with a bit too easily.

Not that I wasn’t glad to see that problem resolved!

In summary, I loved the romance, thought the Kantos got eliminated a bit too easily, and saw plenty of possibilities for a followup to this series at some not-so-far-future date! Meanwhile I’m looking forward to more science fiction romance from this author when the first book in her Galactic Kings series (loosely linked to the awesome Galactic Gladiators) arrives at the end of the year!