Nightchaser is the first entry in Amanda Bouchet’s new trilogy, also called Nightchaser. I’ve been looking forward to her next work ever since I read the last page of her fantasy romance Kingmaker Chronicles. Nightchaser doesn’t disappoint, and brings another kickass heroine in the vein of Catalia. As a warning, like the Kingmaker Chronicles, the entire series centers around a single pair of main characters, so don’t expect a happily-ever-after at the end of the first two novels (I fully expect one at the conclusion of the trilogy).
After spending several lifetimes trapped by the lusts of her succubus soul and the will of her vampire maker, Lizzie Adams did all she could to sever ties, moving halfway across the country, abandoning the satisfaction of live feedings and limiting her demon’s sexual indulgences to producing webcam porn.
Whitney Abbott travels to the seaside Maine town of Window to begin a new life in his uncle’s home. Robert Abbott is well-to-do and owns several high-end restaurants. Whitney will start at the bottom and work his way up at the flagship. But from the moment Whitney exits his car in the drive of the big, brooding house, he senses the sinister atmosphere surrounding his relations.
His cousin November, princess of the estate, feigns joy at having Whitney in town. And November’s handsome athlete boyfriend, Griffin, is an enigma. Soon after his arrival, Griffin warns Whitney to leave. With nowhere to go—and certain that his attraction to Griffin goes both ways—Whitney is drawn into November’s malevolent plans. Plans that will pit Whitney against dark supernatural forces in order to save both his and Griffin’s lives.
Content warnings: homophobia, Griffin is mind-controlled into having a relationship with November which obviously has implications but they are never gone into*
Tropes: forbidden love
Genre: paranormal, romance
Tags: novella, zombies, witches, gay
* I'm not sure if that would be a spoiler. While reading I guessed that very quickly and I assume most people will
Whitney’s parents lost all their money when their business failed. Now his uncle offers him the opportunity to live with him (rent-free) and work in one of his restaurants. Whitney’s not overjoyed at the prospect but things change when he meets Griffin. He’s hot, acts strangely and keeps alluding to mysterious happenings. And he is the boyfriend of Whitney’s cousin November. She and Whitney never got on and now November seems to be hiding something.
The story starts in the middle of the climax: Whitney, the narrator, finds Griffin seemingly zombified. Then we jump back and get a “How we got here”. In that introductory scene, when Whitney sees zombie!Griffin whose skin is grey and cold, we are informed that despite all this his feet still look very sexy. At this point, I already suspected that the book wouldn’t be for me and the rest of it didn’t prove me wrong.
Half-Life is a rather short novella (about 14k words) and with a main plot about having to defeat an evil witch it doesn’t leave too much space for other things. But if something is advertised as romance I want romance.But I only got two people who were instantly attracted to each other and instead of describing any actual developing feelings beyond that, they just decide they're soulmates and meant to be together.
And then there’s the misogyny. November is the only female character that appears in this book. She’s described as typical feminine in her looks and pursuit but Whitney quickly brands her as fake (“The longer she held onto me, forcing me to inhale her floral scent, the more I sensed she was like the flowers in the urn on the big dining room table - pretty and happy at first but the impression was quick to wear off, a disguise”) and informs us that her singing and dancing is horrible. (Meanwhile Griffin’s “clean male sweat” smells of manly things like “summer rain and pine” and not of girly fake flowers. Yes those are actual quotes). And of course, November is the villain of the story who is behind everything - including things that seemed to be the fault of male characters at first. Her motivation seems to be that she enjoys being evil.
And of course, she’s homophobic and comments at every possible opportunity how disgusting she finds Whitney. Just to make sure that we really don’t like her. You know, in case “evil witch who wants to turn people into zombies” wasn’t enough of a turn-off. I think you should be very careful with including characters that make comments like this fiction. Especially in romance, which is for many a form of escapism where they don’t need to read the same things, enough people in real life still say regularly.
I’m not saying that homophobia should never come up in lgbt-romance. There are books where it does come up and I found it handled well. Because they handled it at all. Characters reacted to comments aimed at them or their friends. Sometimes a character’s prejudice influenced the plot. None of this is the case in Half-Life. November just hurls those slurs around but nobody reacts to them (and as I mentioned, she is evil enough without it). There is absolutely no need for this kind of "homophobia as short-cut to make the character really evil".
If you want to buy the book, it's here.
Polaris Rising is the first book in a new SFR series by Jessie Mihalik, and this SFR adventure is full of action, fascinating secondary characters, and interesting world-building. There's lots of sexual tension, mutual mistrust, wall-banging sex and lots and lots of med-bay visits for the space faring duo.
Remember our review of Love Grind last week? Today is release day, and we're excited to share an excerpt with you!
This round of mini-reviews is all m/f romance (*gasp*) with a sports romance, an erotic historical, and an erotic contemp with kink.
The Other Book, by Roe Horvat - Jan. 30
It was supposed to be just sex... Famous last words.
Tyler doesn't overthink pleasure and avoids complications. He knows it might be stupid to get involved with his closeted boss, but the temptation is too great. At first, the cold and beautiful Joel Sandstrom seems to loathe Tyler's guts.
Except one late night at the office, his reasons become clear...and his control breaks.
Every time they touch, Joel's stony face comes alive, harsh lines smooth out, and for a minute, he looks serene. Happy, even. Just sex - dirty, intense, spectacular sex.
During their covert encounters, Tyler discovers the power he has over the lonesome man, and it's a heady feeling. What if he could set Joel free and give him peace of mind? When Tyler realizes how much Joel needs him, he doesn't regret breaking his own rules.
Alex - This one is different than other books by the author, which is why the title is The Other Book. It’s less angsty than other books, but it still has some difficult themes in it (homophobia coming from parent, cancer and death from cancer) but as it is classified as erotica, it lives up to its genre, as well as the name. There’s a long author’s note in the beginning as well and it explains some reasons for the book in general. [Alex beta-reads for Roe Horvat.]
Buy a copy: Amazon (Also in Kindle Unlimited)
The Matchmaker's List, by Sonya Lalli - Feb. 5
One devoted modern girl + a meddlesome, traditional grandmother = a heartwarming multicultural romantic comedy about finding love where you least expect it
Raina Anand may have finally given in to family pressure and agreed to let her grandmother play matchmaker, but that doesn't mean she has to like it--or that she has to play by the rules. Nani always took Raina's side when she tried to push past the traditional expectations of their tight-knit Indian-immigrant community, but now she's ambushing Raina with a list of suitable bachelors. Is it too much to ask for a little space? Besides, what Nani doesn't know won't hurt her...
As Raina's life spirals into a parade of Nani-approved bachelors and disastrous blind dates, she must find a way out of this modern-day arranged-marriage trap without shattering her beloved grandmother's dreams.
Amy - I am always here for Desi romances because it's the closest I'm going to get to a Sri Lankan romance book. [Editor's Note: the main character pretends to be gay for much of the book in order to avoid the matchmaking process.]
Polaris Rising, by Jessie Mihalik - Feb. 5
A space princess on the run and a notorious outlaw soldier become unlikely allies in this imaginative, sexy space opera adventure—the first in an exciting science fiction trilogy.
In the far distant future, the universe is officially ruled by the Royal Consortium, but the High Councillors, the heads of the three High Houses, wield the true power. As the fifth of six children, Ada von Hasenberg has no authority; her only value to her High House is as a pawn in a political marriage. When her father arranges for her to wed a noble from House Rockhurst, a man she neither wants nor loves, Ada seizes control of her own destiny. The spirited princess flees before the betrothal ceremony and disappears among the stars.
Ada eluded her father’s forces for two years, but now her luck has run out. To ensure she cannot escape again, the fiery princess is thrown into a prison cell with Marcus Loch. Known as the Devil of Fornax Zero, Loch is rumored to have killed his entire chain of command during the Fornax Rebellion, and the Consortium wants his head.
When the ship returning them to Earth is attacked by a battle cruiser from rival House Rockhurst, Ada realizes that if her jilted fiancé captures her, she’ll become a political prisoner and a liability to her House. Her only hope is to strike a deal with the dangerous fugitive: a fortune if he helps her escape.
But when you make a deal with an irresistibly attractive Devil, you may lose more than you bargained for . . .
Ana - Set in a galaxy far far away from Upstate, NY is Polaris Rising. An heiress from a powerful intergalactic mercantile family is hiding from her parents power-hungry matchmaking and oppressive training by hiding out in small backwater planets, till bounty hunters catch up with her. Thrown in the same cell with a dangerous fugitive, they form a wary alliance as they attempt to shake their pursuers. The book is full of high action, good banters and quirky supporting characters.
Noble Hops, by Layla Reyne - Feb. 11
Everything Dominic Price has worked hard to uphold is about to come crashing down on everything he holds dear.
So much for the quiet life. Just as assistant US attorney and brewery owner Dominic Price is settling into a comfy new chapter with his partner, FBI agent Cameron Byrne, the sudden death of Nic’s father puts their happily-ever-after in jeopardy. Nic immediately suspects foul play, his prime suspect a notorious gangster his father was indebted to—only now the loan shark is out for blood.
Cam has been longing for Nic to finally let him in on this very personal case. But when Nic’s belief that he’s the sole Price heir is upended, the line between personal and professional starts to blur, leaving Cam unsure of where he stands.
Nic is depending on Cam’s kidnap and rescue expertise to save his recently discovered family member before it’s too late. But with a dangerous threat closing in, the ghosts from Nic’s past cast long shadows. Any relationship could crack under the pressure, but for Nic, finding his family might mean losing the love of his life.
Alex - Supposedly the last book in Trouble Brewing series. I still have to read the first two books (I know, shame on me), but I have heard good things about it. Different from the other books here since it belongs to romantic suspense genre and I haven’t tried it yet. However, it seems it’s the safest to try with this series as I see a lot of my friends recommend it.
Without Pretense, by TJ Thomas - Feb. 12
The last thing world class violinist Ava Wellington wants is some nosy writer publishing her biography. Unfortunately, her manager is insistent this is the best way to capitalize on her fame. Ava is terrified someone might discover the secret she’s kept for nearly twenty years, one that could not only destroy her career, but ruin the lives of those she loves most.
Journalist Bianca Vega has only just recovered from the loss of her wife and isn’t prepared to see Ava again, not after the deep connection she felt almost two years ago. When Bianca is hired to write Ava’s biography, they’re thrust together on a whirlwind music tour and neither can ignore the desire that’s simmered between them since that first chance meeting. Will Ava be able to trust Bianca with her darkest secret or will hiding her past destroy their chance at forever?
Eva - I’m not usually big on contemporary romance but this caught my eye anyway. The dynamic of professional musician & biographer promises to be unusual and interesting (and I have a weakness for musician and writer heroes/heroines in general). Admittedly, the reference to a “dark secret” also helped. I always enjoy some mystery with my romance.
Love Grind, the third in the MacLaine Girls novella trilogy by Shelly Ellis, is a wonderful, quick hit of HEA.
A Hidden Hope is the first in Laura Ambrose's Romancing the Page series of novellas. It's adorable and geeky and a bit angsty. It's also very specific. If you're a writer, blogger, librarian... or just really into books, I bet you'll like it.