Guest Review: Manipulation by Eden Winters

manipulation by eden wintersFormat read: ebook
Formats available: ebook
Genre: m/m romance, mystery
Series: Diversion #4
Length: 240 pages
Publisher: Rocky Ridge Books
Date Released: November 1, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, KoboAll Romance

Lucky Lucklighter has a new life. His old life wants him back.

He traded trafficking for taking down criminals with the Southeastern Narcotics Bureau, and a drug-lord lover for a man on the right side of the law. Bo Schollenberger found the way past the thorny defenses of Lucky’s heart, and made Mr. I-Get-Along-Fine-Alone think about his and his closets, stevia in the sugar bowl, and a picket fence—with a good lock on the gate.

Now Bo is missing, and a voice long silenced asks, “Did you miss me?” Lucky must deal with a devil from his past to get Bo back.

And if Bo isn’t willing to come? A drug ring needs its back broken before flooding the US with a designer high, seductive and undetectable. But there’s a fine line between good and evil, and a truckload of temptation urging Lucky to cross.

Guest Review by Cryselle:

corruption by eden wintersOh yay! Bo and Lucky are back for more stomach-churning, heart-pounding adventures. This fourth installment in the Diversion series lets Bo shine as an undercover narcotics operative when a figure out of Lucky’s past and current nightmares turns out to be behind the influx of drugs in their case from the third book (Corruption).

The author offers Lucky a vision of happiness with Bo, where their biggest problem is rekeying locks on a newly purchased home, but it’s still a dream. Lucky’s trademarked smartassery gets out in full measure here. The real estate agent probably needs a stiff drink or three after a day viewing houses with him. Humor surfaces in flashes elsewhere—Lucky doesn’t let fear, danger, or language barriers stop the snark, but even so, we can see him turning his wit. In caring for Bo, he sees the world differently, and a few of his observations will tear your heart right out of your chest. Some of the others will put coffee on your ereader.

diversion by eden wintersBo’s cover hasn’t been breached when he’s taken to Mexico at the orders of the drug lord with big plans. But he’s there with no backup, no communications, nothing that an undercover operation should have, until Lucky charges down south. Lucky’s no longer willing to do things by the book, since Walter Smith, head honcho of the Southeastern Narcotics Bureau, has compromised his integrity in Lucky’s eyes. Nothing is exactly as it seems, and the world tilts farther sideways when Nestor Sauceda, a cartel leader and former associate of Lucky’s late lover, Victor Mangiardi, takes an interest in the new designer drug and the remains of Victor’s empire. (How Lucky goes from boy toy to a drug lord to narcotics agent is backstory presented in Book 1, Diversion (reviewed at Cryselle’s Bookshelf)

Deep undercover work is hard on Bo’s psyche—he still slides from one persona to the other, being Cyrus Cooper when he needs to be a tough leader of tough men, and wobbling through Bo Schollenberger when questions of right and wrong arise. Here, little is simple, and loyalties mean something different than they did back in the States. Add to that Bo’s forced dependence on a terrifying new drug, and it could all fall apart in a heartbeat.

The prose is strong and gritty, told from Lucky’s POV. He has to watch Bo’s disintegration, maintain his own ever more fragile hold on his new life, while still sinking just far enough into criminality to convince the cartels that he’s going to help peddle their designer poison. Lucky’s among those who “knew him when,” and it would be so easy to slip into the role he’d been prepared for all those years ago.

The entire series is good reading, with action, law enforcement, a reluctant romance between two guys who love each other desperately and are terrified of needing each other, and plot twists through the drug trade going in unexpected directions. With this fourth book, the author seems to have found an even higher gear, with death breathing down Bo and Lucky’s necks at all times, and their reliance on each other both the stuff of strength and the stuff of heartbreak.

Escape Rating A: I can depend on the Diversion series for an edge of my seat adventure with a heaping side of romance. Manipulation is the best yet. I’m greedy for the next book already.

cryselles bookshelf logoCryselle can regularly be found blogging and reviewing at Cryselle’s Bookshelf.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Guest Review: Naked Tails by Eden Winters

NakedTailsFormats available: ebook, paperback
Genre: Shapeshifters
Length: 234 pages
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Date Released: December 17, 2012
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, All Romance eBooks, Kobo

Seth McDaniel wasn’t raised among a shifter passel and has no idea what it’s like to turn furry once a month. An orphan, torn from his father’s family at an early age, he scarcely remembers Great-aunt Irene. Now her passing brings him back to Possum Kingdom, Georgia, to take up a legacy he doesn’t understand and reconnect with a friend he’s never forgotten.

As Irene’s second-in-command, Dustin Livingston has two choices: assume control of the passel or select another replacement. Unfortunately, the other candidates are either heartless or clueless. Dustin’s best hope to dodge the responsibility is to deliver a crash course in leadership to his childhood pal Seth, a man he hasn’t seen in twenty years. However, while Dustin’s mind is set on his task, his heart is set on his old friend.

Seth’s quest for answers yields more questions instead. What’s with the tiny gray hairs littering his aunt’s house? Why do the townsfolk call each other “Jack” and “Jill”? Do Dustin’s attentions come with ulterior motives? And why is Seth suddenly craving crickets?

Guest Review by Cryselle

That smarty-pants possum on the cover tells you right away that this is no ordinary shapeshifter story. No wolves, no big cats, and most importantly for me, no insta-luv based on “finding your one true mate.” These fellas have to work to find their HEA.

And Seth has to work to find his spine. He’s the heir apparent to a band of shapeshifters he has no clue about, and he’s ill-equipped for the task. People run roughshod over him, and it isn’t until he returns to Possum Kingdom, Georgia to discover all he missed in the way of family, friends, and moonlit nights that he starts to stand up for himself.

Seth’s torn between his grandmother, who seems to care about appearances more than Seth’s well-being (although she does raise a small boy by herself when it’s pretty clear this is a major imposition) and his Aunt Irene, who has to balance Seth’s well-being against her passel’s when she decides how hard to fight for a child who’s not in danger of anything worse than living in a city. There are no easy choices, and while the grandmother is not precisely three dimensional, she’s certainly not evil or cruel as much as terrified that the passel will cost her another family member. Irene is a much more loving figure, but she’s cut off from Seth when he’s eight years old.

So twenty years later, when Seth can decide what he wants without his grandmother’s opinions coming first, he’s got to cope with a town of strangers who are all behaving rather peculiarly and his best friend from way back when, who’s never stopped missing him. Dustin’s grown up to be the town doctor and Irene’s second in command become temporary leader, a position he doesn’t want. He can either step up to the pump or find a suitable replacement, and hope he survives the experience either way.

The story spends a lot of time with the possums in their animal form, which is often quite humorous, occasionally dangerous, and sometimes political, and always told in a way that moves the story forward. Seth also needs to learn to be part of the passel, a role he’s thrust into rather more firmly than Dustin could have imagined. Seth hasn’t been shapeshifting all along, but finds he enjoys it once it’s inevitable. “I am the Crickinator!” he exults after a chirpy snack.

In two-leg form, Seth grows hugely as a person, blossoming with the responsibilities that are thrust upon him, but Dustin’s not sure this will be enough to make him a leader. These qualities do lurk within him as dormant as his shapeshifting, but with a little coaching on method, he seems to have a talent for it. Between Dustin and Monica, Dustin’s current second in command, Seth will get whupped into shape one way or another.

The secondary characters are drawn vividly: Monica, Irene, and even the hapless Tiffany have clear personalities. The grandmother’s characterization is heavily tinted by being seen as the adult tyrant through children’s eyes, and it probably isn’t possible for her to be portrayed sympathetically after taking everything important away from young children, no matter what her reasoning. Monica is formidable and not easily won over—she’s a hoot, and I don’t ever want her plotting against me. Seth finds her advice valuable precisely because she doesn’t like him.

The relationship between Seth and Dustin is hugely complicated by the leadership issues, doubts about each other’s motives and sincerity, and the occasional foot planted firmly in mouth. It moves in fits and starts around these other issues. It’s never as simple as “childhood buddies destined to be lovers.” Dustin had to part with his long term lover over shifter politics, which he still regrets, and Seth has an ex who can mess with his mind. Both Seth and Dustin have to learn to see each other as men as much as long ago pals, long term disappointments, and solutions to a problem. No fated-mate handwaving here: it’s a real relationship that has to be built in the current day.

This story is charming for its characters, offbeat shifters, and the author’s clear understanding of small Southern towns, which all come together into a well-balanced read. A couple secondary characters deliver their messages with a slightly heavy hand and a running gag got one repeat past the funny, but that doesn’t keep this story from being a lovely afternoon’s entertainment.

Escape rating: A-

Cryselle can regularly be found blogging and reviewing at Cryselle’s Bookshelf.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Guest Review: The Wish by Eden Winters

Format read: ebook provided by the publisher
Formats available: Trade Paperback, ebook
Genre: M/M Contemporary Romance
Series: The Wish #1
Length: 193 pages
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Date Released: July 19, 2012
Purchasing Info:Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, All Romance

At his death, Byron Sinclair left behind more than just his much older partner Alfred Anderson. The couple helped raise their respective nephews, and while Paul Sinclair and Alex Martin are now adults, they still have some growing up to do, particularly when it comes to getting along with each other.

If they refuse to be in the house at the same time, how can Alex be so sure Paul is an opportunistic suck-up with the morals of an alley cat? Paul isn’t impressed with aloof and arrogant playboy Alex, either. Both swear they know all they need to about the other–and about themselves.

Byron’s dying wish is for Alfred to help Paul and Alex see how perfect they are for each other. But when the boys stubbornly refuse to acknowledge what’s right in front of them, Byron must get creative – though it’ll be difficult without hands, or a voice, or a body….

Guest Review by Cryselle

Honest to goodness, I don’t know how Eden Winters does it—she can start a novel in a funeral home, and still produce not one love story but two, plus chuckles, groans, gasps, and tears of the happy sort as well as the sad. By the end of this story I was well and truly run through my emotions.

Byron and Alfred are one love story, though Byron appears as a young and vibrant lover only in the memories of those he left behind. Alfred, his much older life partner, always expected to be the one to go first, as befit a man nearly a generation older. In the thoughts of their nephews Paul and Alex, we see both Byron and Alfred as trailblazers for gay love and acceptance, and as men thwarted in their desire for family by law, the times, and conventions. Still, they manage to be huge influences in the lives of their nephews, though not in the same way for both youths.

Byron is an opinionated man—a little drawback like being dead and incorporeal isn’t going to keep him from achieving a last deed before leaving—such an intrusive little busybody he is! A few of his wispy nudges have the possibility of going horribly awry, but that just might get his two hard-headed nephews to talk, something for which they’re decades overdue.

Paul and Alex are two of the most stubborn men to walk the planet—Paul is bent on independence to a degree that almost requires a slap and a lesson in graciousness, while Alex can hold a notion so tightly it dies of strangulation before he can reassess it. These two have to knock heads over and over before they can come to any appreciation of each other, but ghostly Uncle Byron has ways of shaking them up that provide some giggles along the way. When they do release their assumptions, Paul and Alex are sweet, hot, and more startling to one another than any manifestation of ectoplasm could be.

We get to look at the cogs turning in Alex’s head and know the tragedies that can accompany a privileged upbringing. He’s the one who changes the most in his understanding of love, and with his new-found appreciation of Paul, he can be a bastion of strength when it’s needed. His numerous wrong assumptions are the grist for the comedy, although Paul has his share of preconceived notions to give up. Paul’s almost a little too goody-goody, until he slangs back as good as he gets.

The style is sometimes bouncy and sometimes solemn—it’s a strength of the writing that some very serious notions permeate the work but don’t bog it down. Aging, ill health, death, and surviving loss all play a role, but there’s more hope than gloom, and love absolutely triumphs over everything else. For a wonderful emotional journey, a reader couldn’t wish for better than this.

Escape Rating: A

Cryselle can regularly be found blogging and reviewing at Cryselle’s Bookshelf.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

The Sunday Post AKA What’s on My (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand? 12-23-12

We made the mistake of trying to go shopping yesterday. The outing was successful, but ACK! I know there are people who love being part of the pre-holiday shopping madness, but count me out for next year.

Parking lot vulturing is insane. You know what I mean? Driving behind people as they leave the mall, like packs of vultures wheeling over a hopefully dying carcass in the desert, hoping against hope that the shopper is going to leave the mall and is not just returning to their vehicle to unload.

Like I said, parking lot vultures.

In much happier holiday news, the Holiday Gifts of Love Blog Hop winner at Reading Reality was Holly J. Lucky for Holly, the $10 Amazon Gift Card does not require a trip to a shopping mall. Way to go Holly!


Speaking of Blog Hops, there is still plenty of time to enter the Gifting Books Blog Hop, here at Reading Reality and elsewhere. The prize at Reading Reality is the winner’s choice of either a $10 Amazon Gift Card (they’re so easy to send, and you get to pick what you want) or a copy of The Hobbit or one of the parts of The Lord of the Rings, sent to anywhere the nice folks at the Book Depository ship.


About the rest of last week…

Red Hot Holiday: A+ Review: Breath on Embers by Anne Calhoun, B+ Review: I Need You for Christmas by Leah Braemel, B Review: Wish List by K.A. Mitchell
A Review: The Walnut Tree by Charles Todd
B Review: That Night by Diane Dooley
Gifting Books Blog Hop
Five Golden Rings: B+ Review: Tempting Mr. Witherspoon by Vivienne Lorret, A Review: War of the Magi by Rena Gregory
Stacking the Shelves (27)

This week coming up is the week that slows down at work–at least for most people. It’s a three day week at my place. Whoopee!

But on the blog, it’s still a week. One last Christmas review, All I Want for Christmas is a Duke, by Delilah Marvelle and Maire Claremont. Well, not me personally, but the heroines in the two novellas.

Also, my review of Cast in Peril, the latest in Michelle Sagara’s marvelous fantasy/urban fantasy Elantra series. I already can’t wait until next year’s installment. Write faster, Michelle!

And my fantastic friend Cryselle is back with another fantastic guest review. This time for Eden Winters’ The Wish.

One more treat this week. As the year winds down, it’s time to take a look at the best of the year, at least from this reviewer’s perspective. This week I’ll post my best dozen for 2012, and next week, December 31, my baker’s dozen (13, of course) of my most anticipated books for 2013.


Ebook Review Central, Dreamspinner Press, July 2012

Welcome back to Ebook Review Central! In today’s post-Labor Day edition of ERC, we’re taking a look at the titles from Dreamspinner Press for July 2012. There’s a certain symmetry to that, isn’t there? July was the last holiday month, and here we are again, just after another holiday.

But before we move to this week’s featured titles, I can’t resist one more look at Dragon*Con. (I know, I know, you’re wondering when I’m going to stop) But this is relevant.

At Dragon*Con I had the pleasure of meeting Adrienne Wilder, one of the authors on this month’s Dreamspinner list, and listening to her read from Worth, one of her Gray Zone novels, published by Dreamspinner. One of the fantastic things about cons is the opportunity to meet authors whose works I’ve read, reviewed or featured.

But we’re here to talk about the July books, so let’s take a look at the featured titles. It turns out that this week’s features are all character-driven stories.

Sometimes there’s a theme. Sometimes there isn’t.

Coming in at number three this week is After Ben by Con Riley. This is a contemporary romance about loving, grieving, and deciding whether or not to open yourself up again, even though there might be pain, later. The title of the book is After Ben because this is the story of Theo Anderson’s life after the sudden death of his longtime partner, Ben. A year later, Theo is still trying to pick up the pieces, but he’s starting to live again, instead of merely existing. On the one hand, he feels a physical attraction for Peter, a fellow gym member. But the one who really challenges him is Morgan, someone he met through a political chat room. Online, no one knows who you are or what you look like, only how intelligent, and occasionally how snarky you are. Morgan becomes a friend first, and it’s only after their relationship develops online that Theo discovers that Morgan is half his age. Just as Theo was to Ben. He’s afraid that he’s been there and done that and isn’t sure he wants to do it again. Is love worth the risk? Is the joy worth the potential pain. Again and so soon? Readers thought that Theo’s struggle and all the characters in this story were genuine and authentic.

In second place we have another emotional piece, The Wish by Eden Winters. It starts off with another character who is dead before the book begins. Byron however, wants to influence the world he left behind. But he’s a ghost. So Byron helps his partner Alfred get their nephews to see how perfect they are…for each other. The problem is that Paul and Alex have known each other most of their lives, and seem to be the epitome of the cliche that familiarity breeds contempt, because they certainly hold each other in plenty of contempt. It takes a lot of ghostly interference, including a lot that backfires, to make this romance work out right in the end. But ghost Byron deserves his own happy ending, and there’s only one way that can happen. Have some tissues handy.

Speechless by Kim Fielding is the winner for this roundup. This is a quietly sweet story about two lonely men who have survived some of the worst that life can throw at them. They are two people who would ordinarily never have met, but accidents and circumstances have created a situation where they have a chance to break through the biggest barrier that separates them, one of them has aphasia and can neither speak nor write. But they need each other enough to find a way to communicate. If you’re motivated, even that’s not a barrier. But what happens when one of them has to leave town? One reviewer described this story as “cute with a side of angst”. Read it for yourself and see.

This week’s stories are all character-driven. Next week it will be Samhain’s turn at the wheel, and maybe we’ll have a different theme. Maybe every story will have a completely different spin.

Tune in next week and see what happens!