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Review: Rise for Me by Kristal Dawn Harris

***Please Note The Tour & Giveaway Referenced Has Concluded***

Rise for Me

Kristal Dawn Harris

Genre:  Paranormal Romance

Publisher: The Wild Rose Press, Inc.

Date of Publication: February 1, 2021

Number of pages:   78

Word Count:   17770

Cover Artist:  Debbie Taylor, DCA Graphics

Tagline:   “I’d come back to you a thousand times.”

Book Description:  

Vampire and warlock, Roman Lee, spent centuries alone as ringmaster of the carnival. After befriending and healing a scarred, young woman, Roman realizes Mariah is his mate. He waits for her, but when she departs from his life, his torture knows no bounds.

Now he’s risen, unforgiving and angry, forced from his grave by the one woman who captured his heart, but will another secret and the call of his mate change everything? The steady call of Roman’s blood and the promise of peace brings Mariah Stone home to the carnival and the vampire she left behind.

He ignores her until she forces him from the grave with her blood. His anger crushes her already broken spirit, but she is determined to win Roman’s forgiveness and free him from their bond. Denied passion leads them down a path of magic and desire, while a devastating secret threatens eternal love.

Available on Amazon, Apple, and Barnes & Noble!

Excerpt #1:

Roman studied the perfection before him with something akin to regret filling his spirit. It should have been different between them. He momentarily questioned his decision before setting the ruby stone on her bedside table. In a whisper, he began to chant the words that would strengthen their connection and seal Mariah’s healing so it couldn’t be undone by anyone, ever.

Blood exchanged will seal my gift

The flesh will stay, no spell will lift

Let the night be filled with dreams

So she won’t remember it was me

Roman lifted his hands, palms up, to begin the next part of the spell using the stone, but when Mariah moved in her sleep and threw one leg out from under the covers, he didn’t know if he could do it. Bare flesh, creamy and soft, slid along the quilt as Mariah moaned in her sleep and spoke his name. A dull light formed inside the ruby stone, strengthening with Mariah’s moans. Roman closed his eyes against the onslaught of desire brushing against his body and soul. It sought entrance, control, and a response. She must be dreaming of him. It was the only explanation. His eyes snapped open when the bed creaked. Heavy-lidded, sleepy eyes opened with a reddish glow lighting their dark depths.

“Mariah?” Roman spoke her name as a question, not fully understanding what was happening, but the stone did. Brilliant red light shot from the ruby’s rough edges, saturating the walls, the floors, and everything in between in its glow. Roman tilted his face as Mariah rose from her reclined position to sit on the side of the bed. A trickle of unease sped down his spine. This wasn’t supposed to happen. Mariah was using the stone against him, and her desire magnified his own, fed off it, and seduced in strong waves. Roman groaned as his cock swelled painfully and his body clenched with need.

“Do you come to me as a warlock, vampire, or as man?”

The question was asked so softly Roman wasn’t sure he heard her voice. Mariah’s eyes blazed with color. She was a temptress, a woman bent on crushing what remained of his heart, and he hated her for it. Roman pinched the bridge of his nose when the truth reared its ugly head, forcing him to accept what was meant to be. He craved her like no other. This would be the one and only night they ever spent together. The spell was cast, and she shouldn’t remember anything, so for once, he let the caged passion soar. “I come to you as all three.”

REVIEW

Let me start off by saying paranormal romance is not my usual cup of tea, especially when dealing with vampires. However, I do love well-written paranormal fiction, and Rise for Me thankfully manages to fall into this category.

At only 78 pages, Rise for Me is incredibly easy to digest. It can be difficult to judge whether or not a quick read will flesh out its characters, but Harris manages to make her two leads interesting and mysterious. The “summoning an undead lover” hook is fresh and unique. I wanted to know how that worked and understand the motivations behind it.

Harris’ writing is full of detailed descriptions, which help me immerse myself into the story. Given that I’m not a fan of vampire romance, this is no small feat. Yes, I found myself wanting to see their romance blossom, when usually I’d be rolling my eyes and waiting for something more interesting to happen. It also helps that the story takes place in the dark at a carnival, which is creepy. I adore anything remotely creepy.

I also loved the attention to detail given to Romani culture and Roman’s willingness to include those who have been outcast by society into his home. It wasn’t too preachy or “afterschool special,” and it inspired me to look deeper into the history of the Romani people. Usually, only the Magic School Bus gets me to do stuff like that.

The only main concern I have is that I feel this should have been fleshed out into a full-length novel with the amount of details and backstories. It can be a bit jarring at times due to the many elements included such as Mariah’s relationship with her father, the Romani magic, the time lapse, etc. These are all well-thought-out plot points, but I feel they’re also better suited for a novel instead of a novella.

Overall, Harris has a clear talent for creating fleshed out worlds, characters, and arcs in the paranormal romance genre, and I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next.

About the Author:

Kristal Dawn Harris is an award-winning, Rone nominated, American romance author. She has been married for 27 years and has two children. Kristal finished a degree from Miami University in Accounting Technology, but quickly realized she preferred words over numbers. She is an avid reader and, in particular, loves darker paranormal romance. Her hobbies include coin collecting, physical fitness, stained-glass art (beginner), poetry, and song writing.

Kristal primarily writes for her publisher, The Wild Rose Press, although it should be noted she has self-released several books. She writes paranormal, fantasy, erotic, as well as contemporary romance in different lengths.

You can find out more about Kristal at https://www.kristalharris.com/

You can also find her on the following social media links:

https://amzn.to/2Lol5W7

https://www.facebook.com/kristalharrisauthor/

https://www.instagram.com/kristaldawnharris/

https://www.pinterest.com/kristal081670/

https://www.bookbub.com/profile/kristal-dawn-harris

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/18576974.Kristal_Dawn_Harris https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC1CwONvZkbiKG2MS4Ygiqvg

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Review: Alex McKenna & the Academy of Souls by Vicki-Ann Bush

Book Info:

Alex Mckenna and The Academy of Souls
Alex Mckenna Series
Book Two
Vicki-Ann Bush

Genre: YA, Paranormal, LGBTQ
Publisher: The Parliament House Press
Date of Publication: October 20, 2020
ISBN: 979-8697729533
ASIN: B08HCFGHXJ
Number of pages: 314
Word Count: 61,823
Cover Artist: Shayne Leighton Machova

Tagline: The Dead Need Him


Book Description:
After surviving a harrowing case, Alex McKenna just wanted to rest. Unfortunately, his plans are interrupted by the ghost of seven-year-old Haven, who is lost in an in-between realm.

Despite his great-grandmother’s warning, Alex crosses the bridge between the living and the dead, sending him and his girlfriend into the world of the Academy of Souls, a high school for dead teens who are unable to complete their journey.

There, Alex meets Ophelia, Haven’s teenage sister, who’s been searching for her for more than a century. Together, with a few friends he meets along the way, Alex must cross the treacherous terrain of the Underworld in-between, to save Haven from the clutches of the Soul Gatherer and reunite the sisters.

Excerpt:

The streetlamps illuminated the black empty sea of asphalt. A quiet calm laced the row of sleepy houses. Alex reveled in the tranquility. So much noise constantly filling his head, any semblance of stillness wrapped around his mind like a child’s favorite blanket.

            In the center of the glass, a small sphere of light caught his attention. At first, he thought it was in the yard. Leaning forward and squinting, he realized it was a reflection coming from directly behind him.

            Jumping up, he spun around. Growing in diameter, it was beginning to spin.

            “Hey, whatcha doin?” Margaret said groggily.

            “Stop. Babe, slowly move to your left and come over here by me.”

            “Why? What’s going on?”

            Margaret gingerly slid to the left as Alex instructed, and then quickly scurried by his side. “What do you see?”

            “It’s the vortex opening, the gateway to that girl, Ophelia.”

            “Alex, please be careful. Remember what your Gram said. Don’t get too close,” Margaret pleaded.

            “She’s there, it looks like a bedroom.”

            “What’s she doing?”

            “Sitting on the bed, she’s covering her ears.”

            The wind whipped around the vortex howling like a wolf speaking to the full moon.

            “I don’t hear anything?” Margaret turned to Alex.

            “It’s like a high-pitched howl. It’s deafening. Wait. It’s quieting down. She sees me.”

            “What’s she doing now?”

            “She’s coming closer.”

            Alex leaned closer to the anomaly.

            “Alex, back up.” Margaret tugged at his t-shirt.

            “Babe. I gotta do this. Please. Let go of my shirt.”

            Margaret reluctantly let the fabric fall from her fingertips.

            Alex inched closer.

            “You are Alex McKenna, right?” Ophelia asked.

            The anxious teen widened her eyes in anticipation.

            “Yes. I’ve seen Haven. Who is she?”

            “She is my sister.”

            “I think she’s in trouble,” said Alex.

            Ophelia floated off the bed and stood directly in front of the entrance to the living.

            “I’ve been searching for her for years. She was taken by a man, a Soul Gatherer. I think she is counting on you to help.”

            “I think she is, too.”

            “Can you?” Ophelia’s eyes widened.

            “I can try. Where are you? Is it The Academy of Souls?”

            Ophelia’s chin dropped.

            “Yes. You know about my school?”

            “I do.”

            “Oh no.”

            “What is it?’

            “The gateway. It’s closing!” Ophelia shouted.

            Alex heard the desperation in her voice as he helplessly watched the circle shrink. The wind cried out once again, as it violently thrashed around the outer edges of the bridge between the dimensions.

            “I have to go.” Alex tasted Margaret’s lips. “I’ll be back soon.”

            “What the hell? No. Alex. You can’t,” Margaret shrieked.

            “I love you,” his voice trailed.

            Alex stepped into the center of the storm. The vision of Ophelia rippled, traveling to the rim of the circle, and splashing into the void. “This shield is my power to protect against evil, this shield keeps out harm. No dark entities shall pass through this shield. As I will it, so shall it be.”

            Sawing to fill his lungs with air, he pushed forward and landed on the floor of the dorm room. Gazing up, Ophelia stood in front of him, her mouth wide open.

            “Ugh. My head hurts. Where are we?” a voice echoed.

            Alex winced. His heart punching the walls of his chest. Whipping his head around in a frenzy, Margaret was lying on the floor beside him.

            “No, no, no, no. What the fuck, il mio amore.” Alex scrambled to her side.

            Ophelia moved closer. With her pointer finger, she quickly poked his shoulder and retracted.

            Alex didn’t respond. His focus was Margaret.

            “How could you do this? Why did you do this?” his voice strained.

            “I couldn’t let you go without me.”

            Alex kissed away the saltiness from her cheeks. With the back of his sleeve, he gently patted dry her eyes.

            “Alex?” Ophelia murmured.

            The couple turned to the bewildered Ophelia Wetherton.

REVIEW:

Vicki-Ann Bush’s second installment in the Alex McKenna series, Alex McKenna & the Academy of Souls, offers plenty of teen mystery solving and clever paranormal world-building. Fans of paranormal urban fiction may get some enjoyment out of this book if they can ignore formatting issues and consistent editing issues.

The novel opens with protagonist Alex McKenna finishing one of the most taxing cases of his career before literally jumping into another case (and another world) with his girlfriend. I adore Bush’s execution of Alex as a transgender protagonist and how he copes with his physical and emotional needs. It’s presented in a realistic way that doesn’t seem preachy or overtly educational.

I was enamored with the world-building of the Academy and its denizens. It was interesting to learn how places like the “in-between” and “The Nowhere” functioned in relation to the world of the living, even if it became a little confusing at times.

All-in-all, I was prepared to fully enjoy this novel and its characters. Unfortunately, the lack of a thorough line edit made the journey through this world quite a difficult one.

After the first chapter, we were introduced to a sizable cast of ghost teens, which is where I found it difficult to invest in the overall plot. There were several secondary characters introduced who offered little to narrative. I found myself questioning if the story actually needed them to be there.

This wouldn’t be too much of an issue if we didn’t spend a large chunk of the book with them. Ultimately, I found their characters to be largely unnecessary outside of having people for the main characters to interact with besides themselves.

Awkward sentence structure made it difficult to figure out who was speaking during dialogue, but the biggest culprit was the overuse of commas. They were often used in the place of periods and semicolons, often in places where a comma wasn’t needed at all.

An example from the novel:

“Visiting family that had migrated to a warmer climate, was a yearly trip he’d have to miss this time.”

Beyond grammar and formatting, there was way too much telling and not enough showing. A character would reveal they were upset, and this would be followed up with text explaining why instead of allowing the character to convey the emotion organically.

I also would have liked a bit more background on a few characters who showed up to help solve very specific problems. It was a little too convenient at times for “this character who knows how to enter this very specific dimension” to suddenly appear and rectify the characters’ plight.

Overall, if you can ignore the abundance of grammatical errors and superficial characters, you’ll probably enjoy this book. I adored the protagonist as well as the world-building. I believe with a proper line edit, this book could at least be a decent page-turner. We need more LGBT protagonists, and I hope Bush continues to hone her craft for any potential future installments.

Alex McKenna & the Academy of Souls is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo.

About the Author:

Originally from New York, Vicki-Ann currently resides in Nevada. Writing Young Adult paranormal, she finds inspiration from events that have been in her life for as long as she can remember. Inheriting the sensitivity to the
supernatural from her family, they continue to be an endless source of vision and access to behind the veil
.

Amazon  https://amzn.to/3myUySY

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/VickiAnn.Bush.Author

Author Website http://www.vickiannbush.com

Twitter –  https://twitter.com/VickiAnnBush

Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/vickiannbush

Tik Tok –  https://www.tiktok.com/authorvickiannbush

Newsletter – http://eepurl.com/c-cRc1

Blog – https://www.vickiannbush.com/blog

Goodreads – https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2947321.Vicki_Ann_Bush

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When Hearts Are Involved by Phabian Mitchell Review

***Trigger Warning: Book Contains Depiction(s) of Sexual Assault/Rape***

Love can be a harrowing experience, one that is further complicated when multiple players are introduced.

When Hearts Are Involved, Phabian Mitchell’s debut novel, posits a question few gay men dare to imagine: What do we do when we have it all, and it still isn’t enough? The answer that will surprise no one? Fuckery.

The Blurb:

“Adonis Hill is one of Atlanta’s black, young, and formidable defense attorneys. He is engaged to, Sidnee, a high society socialite whose grandfather just so happens to be his boss at the law firm. He has it all; a wonderful family, an exciting career, and a beautiful fiancé.

That’s not enough. He strikes up a hot and steamy sexual relationship with a young, black man trying to find his way in the world. As the affair grows more serious, Adonis must decide if he’s willing to risk it all and live in the truth he wants to deny or be bound to keeping up appearances. Love, sex, lies, domestic violence, and mental illness takes you on an exciting ride in this short novel.”

Every Character Gets a Moment to Shine

When Hearts Are Involved excels when it focuses on each character’s unique point of view. For example, I enjoyed secondary character Allegra’s chapter, even though she had little to do with the main narrative.

I was also pleasantly surprised to see most of these characters’ point of view chapters converge towards the end. It meant I had a reason to get invested in their individual arcs instead of just skimming through them.

The Plot is Solid, Even When Pacing Gets in the Way

When Hearts Are Involved works best when it gets out of the way of its characters and allows for more organic plot developments. Since we had so many characters featured, I would have liked to see these arcs expanded. There were also a few plot points that I felt needed more build-up.

For instance, there’s a sexual assault scene midway through the book. Now, don’t get me wrong. Sexual assault is often abrupt, not something that’s easily forecast over a period of time.

Still, for the individual who committed the act, it was a major character shift. I could still piece together how and why he got to that place (because I think I’m Oprah anyway), but I feel like we needed a bit more character foreshadowing.

The Formatting Can Be Distracting at Times

Spelling, thankfully, wasn’t an issue with this story, though the book could stand to be reviewed by a skilled editor. There were quite a few instances where I was distracted by disjointed sentence structure and random commas.

An example: “Has that white hoe been hitting on you?” , I asked him in concern. (I love Allegra. Give her a spin-off PLEASE). The misplaced comma may seem innocuous and nitpicky on my part, but there were quite a few instances like this throughout the novel. It became a little excessive and took me out of the story a few times.

Overall, There’s Plenty of Potential

Nevertheless, When Hearts Are Involved ultimately does what it sets out to do: entertain you and leave you wanting more. The final product is a diamond in the rough, but it’s still enjoyable. I hope Phabian continues to grace us with more appearances from Adonis and the rest of the cast (okay mostly Allegra). Love is, after all, a harrowing experience, and I believe it needs a sequel.

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Beautiful Chaos Gay Romance Review

“Emotional” isn’t enough to describe Devon McCormack & Riley Hart’s Beautiful Chaos. The title alone should clue you into that. Does chaos give way to harmony or…simply a mess? Find out below.

From the Amazon Blurb:

SILAS

My home is my sanctuary. Or is it my prison? Some days it’s hard to tell.

I’ve confined myself behind these walls for protection. I have my reasons, but that doesn’t change the profound loneliness I’ve discovered in the process.

Then one day I find myself drifting toward the window to see him. Corey Marshall, my new neighbor. Quiet, reserved, and cute as can be. He infects my thoughts, becomes the image I fantasize about.

I want to taste his lips, smell his scent…feel what it’s like to be inside him.

And soon, watching becomes exchanging gifts and messages, which becomes so much more.

It’s wrong to want this as badly as I do, but I can’t help myself. I crave him so desperately. It’s hard to tell if what we’re doing is going to make me lose my mind or change my entire world, but it’s too late to turn back now…

COREY

I’ve never been quite right. Too high or too low. Pain is my constant companion…at the hands of my abusive ex, and often from myself. The sweet relief is only temporary, but in those moments, it’s like I can finally breathe.

Then I meet him. Silas Rizner calms the chaotic storms inside me. He makes me feel loved, treasured, even when I don’t deserve it. I cherish the moments we share–cooking, cuddling, and when Silas reads to me until I fall asleep. When he’s inside me, it’s the only time in my life I’ve ever felt complete.

Silas becomes the glue that holds me together, that bandages my scars. Inside the walls of his home, we’re almost safe, but our demons are always there, waiting to break free.

We’re a mess. We’re broken, chaotic, beautiful; we’re in love.

But not even love can slay our monsters. No, only we can do that.

Unless our monsters destroy us first.

TRIGGERS: Self-harm, depression, anxiety, mentions of past domestic violence.

*While the sexual situations depicted in Beautiful Chaos are imperative to the characters’ development throughout the course of the novel, readers are advised to peruse the “Dear Reader” letter at the beginning of the book to help them make an informed decision about whether this particular story will be to their tastes. This letter can be viewed in the downloadable sample or by using the “Look Inside” feature found on the title’s product page.

First, I want to give these two authors their props for handling some deep, very real issues dealing with domestic abuse. Do not ignore the trigger warning from the blurb. These two lovers have a lot of darkness to wade through.

Thankfully, Silas and Corey’s ultimate journey doesn’t fall into the typical co-dependent unhealthiness that plagues the romance genre (Looking at you, Fifty Shades). Though the two have a lot of work to do, but the focus is on them healing individually instead of together.

From a writing perspective, scenes were captured so vividly I had to put the book down a few times to catch my breath. That’s not to say this is a book that “isn’t for everybody.” On the contrary, I believe it’s a story we don’t get enough of.

Beautiful Chaos isn’t about happy endings or beginnings. It’s not about two beautiful, Calvin Klein model-looking men who are “struggling to find love.” It’s about how someone who is completely damaged learns to choose themselves so that they can choose another.

I look forward to more from these authors.