He’s Just Knot That Into You by Nico Jaye (review)

Tagline: Desperate Alpha misses the potential mate right under the horned rimmed glasses in front of him

Book Cover

Cover: Anna Sikorska
Title: He’s Just Knot That Into You 
Author: Nico Jaye

Genre:  Paranormal m/m shifter romance
Format:  Novella (42k words)

Sites:  PublisherGoodreads

Publisher: Dreamspinner (June 2016)
ISBN: 978-1-63216-823-8

Retail: $4.99

Rating:   star  star  star  half-star  (I liked it alot!)

Synopsis:  When Tanner moves to Chicago for a new job, he experiences his First Shift, a revelation that signifies he’s met his mate since the last full moon. The only problem? He doesn’t know who it is. To find his mate, he enlists his new assistant Jon to arrange a series of dates, but each one turns out more disastrous than the last.

With the next full moon quickly approaching, Tanner finally determines the identity of his true mate. Unfortunately, Jon has since disappeared, and Tanner must now begin a new search. Is it really Jon’s family crisis pulling him away, or is Jon just not that into him?

Review:  I loved the premise – a potential Alpha in desperate need of finding his fated mate overlooks a rather endearing Omega who is serving him right in front of his eyes.

A nicely sweet story of an Alpha looking for his mate, it’s a fun piece of mating fluff with a little sizzle and even some shifter toughness mixed in with the yearning and potential love.Overall, it’s simply a nice treat for a quick, escapist read with plenty of sweet and a touch of sizzle.

3.5 stars (rounded up for the knotting)

Recommended for fans of: Quick and sweet romances; Alpha males who appreciate quite and/or young nerdy mates; knotting.

Sizzle:
Explicit Heat: fire fire fire  – Some explicit scenes  (and tiny bit of knotting kink).
Passion: heart heart heart   – Some chemistry present, especially with
Genre:  Adult Romance


Other Comments:
A bit of a wolf shifter Alpha / Omega vibe (including a Female Alpha/Male Omega pair of background characters).

Wolfsong by T.J. Klune (review)

Tagline:   “Worthless” teen thrust into a world of wolves, danger, and responsibility

Book Cover

Cover: Reese Dante
Title: Wolfsong
Author: T.J. Klune

Genre:  Paranormal M/M Romance
Format:  Novel (160k words)

Publisher: Dreamspinner (June 2016)
ISBN: 978-1-63477-165-8

Retail: $6.99

Rating:   star  star  star  star  half-star  (I really liked/loved it!)

Synopsis: Before he left his mother and his family forever, Ox’s father told the awkward and not always articulate young man that his son was worthless.  When young Joe moves in next door, Ox becomes fast friends with the neighboring family and begins to learn many of their wolf shifter secrets.  While Joe and Ox grow to be young adults and become closer and closer, Ox is deeply embedded in the family when violent shifters strike a blow against the whole pack.  As a future Alpha, Joe must shoulder the burden of leadership which might tear him away from the friend who is a potential love and mate.  Years of struggle with paranormal shifter and magical threats split the pair apart at a rather deep level, and the possibility of being reunited brings forth feelings of long-boiling anger that might overwhelm their abiding friendship and potential love.

Review: T.J. Klune is one of my favorite authors, and he delivers a stunning paranormal, wolf-shifter “romance” that draws characters,  supernatural elements, and relationship angst vividly on the page.  While Klune normally writes extraordinarily humorous and snarky contemporary gay romance, he brings similar but more serious rattling, prattling, rapid-fire character thoughts and attitudes to this rather angst-filled and dramatic coming-of-age romance.  The paranormal elements were compelling and the setting interesting. Even though many of the themes could apply to less magical environments, there is quite a novel development that brings a fresh and sometimes dramatic theme concerning a human protagonist not found in other paranormal stories.

Ox’s struggle with his sometimes dim view of himself is challenged dramatically by the events, forcing him to choose just what kind of person, partner, friend, lover, and family member he wants to be.  The tapestry surrounding the protagonist’s struggle is deep and rich for fans of paranormal and extended family settings, intriguingly framing personal growth and coming of age themes with supernatural and relationship struggles.

My small critiques would include the fact that the couples’ relationship was a so angst-filled it was hard to buy the connection between them at times, and the protagonist’s anger a bit over-the-top from my perspective, but these elements also made for a rather atypical and fresh approach to potential shifter mates.

Recommended for fans of:  Somewhat angst-driven (in a serious, adult responsibility manner) coming of age stories; slightly darker paranormal potential couplings;  TJ Klune’s fast-paced and direct character thinking/speaking processes in a more serious/less humorous manner.

Sizzle:
Explicit Heat: fire fire  – A bit of explicit content, but the real heat was in the angst, anger and potential passion much more than the physical scenes.
Passion: heart heart heart heart – In some ways it’s hard to get more passionate (almost five hearts), although most of the passion focused as much on feelings of betrayal and anger as deep friendship and intimate connection (more like 3 hearts).  So, overall, the highest level of emotion but also a strong undercurrent of mistrust and very separate, often diverging character attraction and development.
Genre:  Adult Romance


Other Comments:
I really enjoyed this as a fresh take on paranormal romance applied with TJ Klune’s unique style (even without the humor).  While I didn’t find the protagonist’s anger quite as compelling as other readers, the overall experience was riveting and a great (if just a tad dark) male/male paranormal romance.

Quiet as a Mouse by Asta Idonea (review)

Tagline: Shy church mouse shifter trapped by his feelings for the choirmaster

Quiet as a Mouse Book Cover Image

4
Title: Quiet as a Mouse
Author: Asta Idonea
Genre:  Paranormal M/M Romance
Format:  Short Story (8k words, 25 pages)

Series: Walk on Wild Side

Publisher: Dreamspinner (June 2016)

ISBN: 978-1-63477-515-1

Retail:  $1.99

Also available:  Walk on Wild Side Anthology

Rating:   star star star star   (I really liked it!)

Dreamspinner’s 2016 Daily Dose anthology includes 30 romantic male/male shifter stories released one a day during the month of June.


Synopsis: Shy shifter Paul becomes the proverbial church mouse to spend more time with choirmaster Cale.  While it wasn’t enough for the agnostic young man to join the church choir, spying on the musician and his soaring artistry caused a shift in his perspective, laying out a trap for his heart.

Review: This short story included themes I really enjoy, including music (especially soaring church music) as well as an agnostic struggling to enjoy the beauty of religious art (and his feelings for the church choirmaster).  Of course, I always love a sweet but shy protagonist, and there was just the right touch of hesitation about how accepting the otherwise friendly village will be about his crush on the talented and attractive man.  The brief exploration of the beauty of music with a darling “crushing on him” story made for a light and wonderfully escapist reading experience.  Tweaking the basic “boy secretly wants boy” plot with some fun shifter flavor simply added to the sweetness for me.

Recommended for fans of: short and sweet love stories; shy guys secretly crushing on a guy who might be straight; the artistry of religious, choir, and/or organ music.

Sizzle:
Explicit Heat: fire  – Nothing explicit or on page, but sweet crushing and yearning instead (with one beautiful kiss).
Passion: heart  heart  heart   – Some nice initial chemistry between two young men yearning for each other (in a tentative manner due to fear of homophobia).
Genre:  Romance


Other Comments (with spoilers):
The attraction between the two was clear, and even their appreciation, respect, and “like” for each other.  However, the  “love” word was over-the-top, making this more of a sweet, escapist fairy tale more than realistic contemporary romance (which, of course, fits fine with a “mouse shifter” theme).

Putting Down Roots by Tam MacNeil (review)

Tagline: Bookstore clerk gets a teaching job in an isolated manor rooted in a haunted village

Putting Down Roots Book Cover Image

Title: Putting Down Roots
Author: Tam MacNeil
Genre:  Paranormal M/M Romance
Format:  Short Story (9k words, 29 pages)

Series: Walk on Wild Side

Publisher: Dreamspinner (June 2016)

ISBN: 978-1-63477-512-0

Retail:  $1.99

Also available:  Walk on Wild Side Anthology

Rating:   star star star star   (I really liked it!)

Dreamspinner’s 2016 Daily Dose anthology includes 30 romantic male/male shifter stories released to me one per day during the month of June.


Synopsis: Working at a dead-end job in a bookstore,  Mark is lonely, unhappy, 29, and waiting for a chance to use his teaching certification. However, when a professional opportunity finally turns up, it is with an unhappy, isolated student in a village that is rumored to be haunted. His experiences at the rural manor, and with the student’s  strangely attractive father, begin to make him think there might be something about those  rumors.

Review:   It’s almost difficult for me to call this a romance, as it was the slow exploration and realization of the nature of the “haunted” village and manor that was the focus of the story.  I thought the author did a great job of quickly teasing out a different and interesting paranormal setting.  I am generally not a fan of “haunting” mysteries and stories, but the balance of the supernatural, personal, and intriguing characters worked very nicely for me.  The sprouting of attraction and a potential relationship was fine, but the real pull of the writing to me focused on the nice hints and superficial but very intriguing revelations of the nature of the fae blessing/curse covering the setting.

Recommended for fans of: lightly haunted villages and houses; May-December (or maybe July-October) gay pairings; alternate, fae-flavored shifter meme.

Sizzle:
Explicit Heat: fire – The promise was there for two lonely men.
Passion: heart  heart   – There really wasn’t much chemistry between the characters to be found in the exposition, but the overall story seemed to portray genuine attraction to me.
Genre:  Romance


Other Comments (with spoilers):
I found the image describing the area to be nicely enticing, a biscuit box bringing back fond memories: The village was the type most often seen on biscuit boxes and old postcards.
I absolutely loved the idea of a fae-influence turning people into trees.  The anthology series presents a nice range of shifter themes, and the idea of a tree-shifter was particularly cool.

A Cat Builds a Raft by Bee Allen (review)

Tagline: Shifter living the life of ease as a housecat finds his otherwise workaday caretaker has otterly dangerous pretensions

Cat on a Raft Book Cover Image

Cover Art: Bree Archer
Title: A Cat Builds a Raft 
Author: Bee Allen
Genre:  Paranormal M/M Romance
Format:  Novella (18k words, 52 pages)

Series: Walk on Wild Side

Sites:  Publisher | Goodreads
Publisher: Dreamspinner (June 2016)

ISBN: 978-1-63477-511-3

Retail: $3.99

Also available:  Walk on Wild Side Anthology

Rating:   star  star  star  (I liked it. – Cat lovers might like it even more.)

Dreamspinner’s 2016 Daily Dose anthology includes 30 romantic male/male shifter stories released one a day during the month of June.


Synopsis:  Unwilling to deal with family expectations and complexities,  Zeke takes refuge with a relatively luxurious life as a housecat. Toby, his human companion, pampers him as a cat demands, and it’s too good to expose himself as a shifter.  When an intruder up-ends the comfortable life of human and cat, family issues haunt both of the companions, requiring a review of their priorities, wants, and needs.


Review: While not the most romantic story in the world (to me), this quick read explores several themes with some intriguing interaction and interplay.  The owner/pet dynamic is on display with just a nice display of cat-like attitude from the shifted man.  For a short story, the author weaves a setting and conflicts within shifter families that is simple enough to absorb but also complex enough to enjoy.  The focus of the story is the relationship between the two men (or a cat and a man), but I found the details surrounding the shifter setting, behavior, and conflict to be possibly more interesting.


Recommended for fans of: Housecat shifters; feline attitudes; alternate shifter paradigms.

Sizzle:
Explicit Heat:  fire  fire  – While mostly about characters, there is a small but heated bit of sizzle.
Passion:  heart  heart  – The relationship is a bit more as friendship and respect, but some chemistry builds.
Genre:  Adult Romance


Other Comments:
There was another character who was incidentally bisexual, and I am appreciating seeing this type of queer man receive some attention in this genre, as we do make up a significant portion of men who love men.

Fieldwork by Charles Payseur (review)

Tagline: Shy shifter with a secret is thrust into a dangerous, field-agent assignment with a buff partner (who just might be a “danger” in his own way)

Fieldwork Book Cover Image

Title: Fieldwork 
Genre:  Paranormal M/M Romance
Format:  Short Story (12k words, 38 pages)

Series: Walk on Wild Side

Publisher: Dreamspinner (June 2016)

ISBN: 978-1-63477-510-6

Retail:  $1.99

Also available:  Walk on Wild Side Anthology

Rating:   star star star star  (I really liked it!)

Dreamspinner’s 2016 Daily Dose anthology includes 30 romantic male/male shifter stories released one a day during the month of June.


Synopsis: Everyone thinks Agent Ignacio Ritter, a desk agent at the Central Xenomorph Organization, is a wolf-shifter, and he is too embarrassed to reveal the truth.  When paired with tiger shifter field Agent Reed Daily, mysteries may be investigated.


Review:  Overall, this was an enjoyable, quick jaunt into the life of an accountant with a “shameful” secret being drawn out into dangerous but important situation and exposed to a big, tough, and interesting man.  I’m a sucker for the shy, quiet protagonist being drawn out by more agresssive characters around them, and this aspect of the story worked very well for me.  As a reserved anti-hero, Nacho was not too passive, but for me had a nice balance of awkwardness with a reason or two to stand forth.  Reed was not very complex, but a pleasantly tantalizing and accepting foil for the more introverted protagonist.  The Chicago mob theme added an interesting flavor, with a shifter twist, but was mostly dressing for Nacho’s personal struggle and story.

Recommended for fans of:  Awkward, smaller, less aggressive protagonists; buff men who respect and like the quiet, little guy; a nod to Chicago mob activity with a shifter twist.

Sizzle:
Heat: fire  –   Not explicit, but the promise of more…
Passion: heart    heart  – There clearly was some attraction between the two, and a start to some chemistry.
Genre:  Adult Romance


Other Comments:

I enjoyed the plot device regarding target practice giving the two potential partners a reason to quickly expose some of their story to each other (and the reader).  “For every shot you miss, you answer one of my questions.”

Shifter By Mark Wildyr (review)

Tagline: The young native, his best bud, the enchanted isle, and trans-formative magic witch unleashes true desires with plenty of sizzle

Shifter Book Cover Image

Title: Shifter
Author: Mark Wildyr
Genre:  Paranormal M/M Erotica
Format:  Short Story (5k words, 19 pages)

Series: Walk on Wild Side

Publisher: Dreamspinner (June 2016)

ISBN: 978-1-63477-508-3

Retail: $1.99

Also available:  Walk on Wild Side Anthology

Rating:   star star star star   (I really liked it!)

Dreamspinner’s 2016 Daily Dose anthology includes 30 romantic male/male shifter stories released one a day during the month of June.


Synopsis:  Recently come of age, Gray Fox paddles across the lakes to visit his long-time but separated friend.  A spirit on an enchanted isle has ideas on how the young man should enter adulthood, perhaps giving the canoeist a story to share upon their reunion.

Review:  This erotic story might not be typical m/m romance, or necessarily appealing to those looking for more romantic, relationship focused stories, or typical shifters.  This rather atypical shifter really worked for me, and the combination of a coming of age/”first-time” sizzle with just enough of an interesting story and relationship really worked for me.

In short, the native/indingenous setting was a nice frame for a rather sizzling short tale, invoking some nice “shifting” magic to turn up the heat.  A budding attraction between two recently come of age young men was a light but appreciated touch to round out the “first time” vibe.  This alternate shifter might not work for some readers of m/m romance, but I really liked the weave of sizzle, magic, a trans-formation, and a bit of young love (or at least lust).

Recommended for fans of:  Nicely sexual native/indigenous/First People spirituality and shifting; those who don’t mind a bit of a feminine touch in their m/m romance;  sexy witch stories.

Sizzle:
Explicit Heat: fire fire fire  –  The focus of this read was the explicit heat which, for some readers, might be a tad different than typical m/m romance encounters.
Passion: heart  heart   – Clearly some atraction between the two friends, but the physical heat seemed more important.
Genre:  Erotica


Other Comments (with spoilers):
I personally loved the gender fluid aspect of the story, a bit of a trans-forming witchcraft made the “witch” character an intriguing place to me (and I personally am not squicked by female sexuality mixed in with my m/m romance).
Also, two “straight” young men overcoming their prejudice and enjoying what they have likely longed for.

Werewolf PTA by Felicitas Ivey (review)

Tagline: A doctor with an exotic pedigree comes to a small town only to encounter mysterious deaths – and an attraction to the lawman charged with investigating them

Werewolf PTA Book Cover Image

Cover Art: Bree Archer
Title: Werewolf PTA  
Genre:  Paranormal M/M Romance
Format:  Novella (18k words, 51 pages)

Series: Walk on Wild Side

Publisher: Dreamspinner (June 2016)

ISBN: 978-1-63477-509-0

Retail:  $2.99

Also available:  Walk on Wild Side Anthology

Rating:   star star star  (3 stars)

After reading this story, my reaction was very mixed and I was unsure as how to rate it.  As an innovative and interesting shifter story, I enjoyed a somewhat novel approach to “romantic” shifter stories and would give it 4 stars.  However, the romantic relationship was not very compelling to me and perhaps rates just an “o.k” (2.5 to 2.75 stars).  If I average the two, it results in a 3.2 to 3.3 star rating overall

Dreamspinner’s 2016 Daily Dose anthology includes 30 romantic male/male shifter stories released to me one per day during the month of June.

Synopsis: Malak, a doctor of Persian descent who recently set up practice in a small town, knows the three men killed on the night of three different PTA meetings had very suspicious deaths. However, dis cussing his true beliefs with the sheriff may be difficult, as he has a hard time keeping his eyes off the attractive lawman.

Review: The story and ideas felt refreshingly innovative for a shifter story to me as a reader of paranormal romances, although are probably not uncommon in speculative fiction.  The multi-cultural background of a character or two was integrated nicely into the shifter mythos and even a bit into the fearful reaction of a small-town.  Overall, the plot and mechanics of the shifter setting and story interested and intrigued me as a reader.

Unfortunately, I did not find the relationship very compelling.  Mechanically, it’s hard to point to anything in particular but I will just say it didn’t work for me, especially once Faysal entered the picture.  Indeed, I found myself feeling more of a creepy vibe than a lusty, attraction chemistry between the pair.


Recommended for fans of:  Investigations of deadly, evil threats in a Supernatural– style; shifters versus weres; characters of Middle Eastern/Muslim/Persian origin.

Sizzle:
Explicit Heat: fire fire  – There were two quick and nicely heated scenes.
Passion: heart   – The chemistry of characters did not work for me, although the doctor’s sweetness on the sheriff (as opposed to others) worked nicely into the plot.
Genre:  Adult Romance


Other Comments (with spoilers):

 

As somebody who lived through the AIDS crisis and lost a ex-lover during the period, the “I’ve got a one month test so let’s bareback” really squicked me out.  (This is kind of strange, as I think sometimes I don’t bat an eye at unprotected sex in romance novels if the safety issue is not mentioned. This particular scene made me want to go re-read Hope by Rick Reed.)

 

I enjoyed when Faysal spoke with a fake, over-the-top Middle Eastern accent to get the goat of any xenophobic, close-minded listeners.  I had an Iranian colleague who occasionally piled on a thick Persian accent to tease people, and I heard his voice when Faysa took on his rather provocative attitude.

Always Follow Your Goat by Nora Roth (review)

Tagline: Experienced camp counselor who is also a nervous fox shifter lead nicely astray by a goat

Always Follow Your Goat Book Cover Image

Title: Always Follow Your Goat 
Author: Nora Roth
Genre:  Paranormal M/M Romance
Format:  Short Story (9 k words, 23 pages)

Series: Walk on Wild Side

SitesPublisherGoodreads
Publisher: Dreamspinner (June 2016)

ISBN: 978-1-63477-504-5

Also available:  Walk on Wild Side Anthology

Rating:  star star half-star  (2.5 stars – It was o.k.)

Dreamspinner’s 2016 Daily Dose anthology includes 30 romantic male/male shifter stories released one a day during the month of June.


Synopsis: Newly minted veterarian Noah Matthews is attending his shifter summer camp one last time, serving as a counselor before moving on to his first professional position.  In addition to the usual issues with a stern but well-meaning boss, teens with crushes, and camper rambunctiousness, Noah has to deal with a wandering, bleating, and meddling goat.  Of course Milly does lead him to a neighboring cabin, where a hunky neighbor is more intriguing than another round of camp politics.


Review: This story was sweet and simple. While not very complex, it does provide a nice view into the counselor’s thoughts and his mixed feelings regarding what his involvement with the camp meant to him.  The setting and the character’s changing life are evoked through Jack’s internal musings about being a camp counselor, dealing with a strong but somewhat pushy boss, and his own nervousness regarding shifting.  Milly the goat had an amusing but brief role in the story.  Shifter-human relations were barely mentioned, but just the ideas floated seemed to be potentially interesting and I would have liked to hear more (but that’s just part of the limitations of a short story). Frankly I was hoping for a bit more of the goat!

But as intriguing as I find ideas about summer camps for shifters as well as nervous and cute fox shifters to be, the story’s climax is a potential hook-up with the neighbor man.  Overall, the author painted an interesting if not overly-compelling summer camp background for what technically is an adult fling.  In reality, you could have taken the shifter element entirely out of the story and still had a nice little coming-of-age/summer camp rendezvous story, with the potential for either a happy ending or at least a fond memory.

Recommended for fans of: fox shifters; summer camp hook-ups; meddling bleaters (goats).

Sizzle:
Explicit Heat: fire fire – One brief but explicit scene
Passion: heart  heart – a tiny bit of chemistry, present but not particularly compelling
Genre:  Adult Romance


Other Comments:
There were occasional interesting comments on the characters, the camp, and the shifter world.  I chuckled when I read the shifters referring to humans who lusted after them as “tail chasers,” in the most literal sense of the word tail. “God, he hoped Jack wasn’t a tail chaser.”

Holy Cow! by E.M. Lynley (review)

Tagline: American medical student visits India and stumbles into the home of the Nandi, shifter descendants of Shiva’s personal mount

Holy Cow! Book Cover Image

Title: Holy Cow! 
Author:  E.M. Lynley
Genre:  Paranormal M/M Shifter Romance
Format:  Novella (17k words, 52 pages)

Series: Walk on Wild Side

Publisher: Dreamspinner (June 2016)

ISBN: 978-1-63477-503-8

Retail:  $3.99

Also available:  Walk on Wild Side Anthology

Rating:   star star star star  (4 stars I really liked it!)

 Dreamspinner’s 2016 Daily Dose anthology includes 30 romantic male/male shifter stories released one a day during the month of June.


Synopsis: American Duncan Stirling takes a break from his medical studies to travel India with his honeymooning friends.  He appreciates the wonders of the culture, especially in the magical city of Jaisalmer, where he meets a revered bull as well as Akash, an extremely attractive man from a well-connected family.

Review: This story succeeded on multiple levels, including multicultural explorations, family conflicts, a touch of personal sacrifice among friends, and an interesting shifter dynamic.  The short but interesting introduction to an aspect or two from an “exotic” (from a isolated American perspective) but vastly influential world culture was appreciated and made for a nice change of locale and mythology within this genre. I particularly appreciated the brief but enticing descriptions of India in general and Jaisalmer in particular. While there was only a tiny bit of cultural and religious aspects explored, the political intrigue related to shifters was also effectively and quickly woven into the short plot of this novella.  I also liked that neither “side” in various conflicts were monolithic and most of the characters (including an antagonist or two) had defensible if conflicting motives.

Finally, for a relatively short work, I think the author did a decent job of entwining the two protagonists in a relatively quick manner.  The story includes very brief descriptions of the physical intimacy, yet the connection and passion between the characters seemed rather real.  All in all, the novella took a quick trip to an “exotic” locale, with an interesting and alternative shifter setting, presented an array of interesting characters outside of the couple, wove a decent tale of shifter intrigue, and provided passion without relying on detailed, explicit explorations of their physical intimacy.

It was an enjoyable and entertaining jaunt into an enticing shifter setting.

Recommended for fans of: Indian/Hindu mythology; Brahman bulls; developing a passionately intimate couple without dwelling on extensive explicit scenes.

Sizzle:
Explicit Heat: fire fire – While there were multiple intimate scenes, they were mostly one sentence fade to black descriptions, with only slightly longer explorations of a couple of key intimate moments.
Passion: heart heart heart – the emotional and physical chemistry between the characters actually seemed palpable, even though the work was short and the physical intimacy mostly off-page
Genre:  Adult Romance


Other Comments (spoilers):
I also appreciated that despite the very brief descriptions of physical heat, the author included that the partner who happens to also be a huge, hulking, supernatural bull (and therefore fit very nicely on top) was also physically receptive of his human lover.
When Akash tracked Duncan across the desert, riding on a stallion to find his erstwhile lover, the scene evoked a nicely romantic and even a bit passionate response in this reader.