A Bargain of Blood & Gold (Midnight Guardians #1) by Kristin Jacques

A novice hunter with a mission. A five-hundred-year-old vampire with a strong sense of irony. A town plagued by creatures in need of saving.
When Johnathan Newman arrives in Cress Haven, the last thing he expects is for his life to be irrevocably changed. Sent by a clandestine league of vampire hunters to investigate a string of murders, signs point to a vampire lurking amid the townsfolk. Johnathan’s attempt to enlist the locals leads him to an unlikely partnership with Vic, the town’s most eligible, enigmatic bachelor.
As the pair work to solve the mystery, Vic’s secrets come back to bite him. Revealed, the vampire fights his attraction to a man trained to destroy him, while Johnathan’s emotions land him in the middle of forbidden desires. Even if Vic isn’t the murderer, how can Johnathan yearn for his natural enemy?
As Vic leads Johnathan into encounters with terrifying beings straight from children’s nightmares, Johnathan learns that not only is the world stranger than he knew, but that those he once trusted have far darker intentions that will place hunter and vampire at the center of a conflict between realms.
Cress Haven holds more sinister secrets than its resident vampire, a secret so great, it could unleash Hell itself.

So, historical fiction is not my go-to (hmm… for an eclectic reader, it seems I have a LOT of “non-go-to” genres, but that’s a conundrum for another day.) That being said, something has to pique my curiosity to make me pick one up, especially from a new to me author. In this case, it was the vampire vs. vampire hunter. With that combination, how could I resist. A Bargain of Blood and Gold turned out to be so much more than I expected. I love it when that happens 😉

Nothing about Johnathan’s first solo mission turned out to be what he expected. From the time he set foot in Cress Haven it seemed that the mission, as well as Johnathan, was doomed. The only bright spot in his arrival was Vic, but nothing that’s going on in the isolated town was exactly as it seemed and the experience was destined to turn Johnathan’s orderly life upside down.

There was plenty of action, mystery, danger and more to keep the pages turning. Add to that a strictly forbidden romance and the fact that it was hard to tell exactly where loyalties should lie, A Bargain of Blood and Gold was a hard book to put down. The adventure was far from over at the end, so it goes without saying that I can’t wait for the Midnight Guardians series to continue.

Rare Vigilance (Whitethorn Agency #1) by M.A. Grant

Former marine Atlas Kinkaid knows not to ask questions about the clients he protects at the behest of the elite Whitethorn security agency. Just like he doesn’t like anyone asking about his scars—scars left by a mysterious attack that haunts his every waking moment.
Consumed by the need to find out what happened to him, Atlas takes a job providing security to Cristian Slava, the indolent—and gorgeous—son of a notorious businessman. Cristian seems to be just another entitled client, but when nights at the club turn into secret meetings and people start going missing, Atlas realizes there’s more to Cristian—and to protecting him—than meets the eye.
But the same people who are after Cristian have something Atlas desperately craves: they know exactly what happened the fateful night he was attacked—and are willing to tell him everything…
For a price.

I love it when the author of a series I loved comes out with a brand new series. M.A. Grant first showed up on my TBR list with the first book in her Darkest Court series, Prince of Air and Darkness. As much as I grew to love that series, I have to say if Rare Vigilance is any indication, I’m going to love the Whitethorn Agency even more.

Atlas Kinkaid was the kind of broken character that it was hard to not sympathize with. He had been through a horrific ordeal that was so crazy he soon learned to be careful who he shared the details with. His sister was his rock though and she believed him, but she couldn’t keep the haunting terror away. All she could do was be there for him, including giving him a job with the security agency that she ran.

His newest assisignment wasn’t an easy one, mainly because the man he was in charge of protecting had run off most of the other agents assigned to him. Atlas was determined though and he found ways to out maneuver Cristian and his seemingly childish antics – most of the time. Nothing was quite what it seemed though and soon Atlas had to decide if keeping his job was worth losing himself.

There were a lot of twists and turns, danger, suspense and at times it was hard to sift out the good guys from the bad. Atlas had to figure out who to put his trust in, which wasn’t always easy.

One word of warning, if you’re not a fan of cliff hangers, prepare yourself. The final chapter is a jaw dropper – but it also left me smiling. Needless to say, I can’t wait until the Whitethorn Agency continues.

The Elven King’s Promise (Fated Elves #3) by Devon Vesper

A carefully forged peace is threatened by unforeseen danger.
The prospect of going to college terrifies Dustin, and he balks at using Casersis’s money to do it. Along with his normal, human insecurities, Dustin is beside himself between going to therapy to deal with changing species and worrying about his omega’s upcoming heat. But Dustin is unprepared for the new twist when he accidentally soulbonds with an enemy. Erastus is crazed to get Dustin away from Casersis and will stop at nothing to get his way. 
Casersis is trying his hardest to put Dustin’s mind at ease, despite not understanding the very human hang-ups getting between them. But when his public relations officer attacks him, Casersis’s worries shift from Dustin to those trying to hurt him and his alpha. 
With his mate distracted, Dustin’s new soulbond could cost his relationship with Casersis. Or—even worse—his life. 

I know that I mentioned in my review of The Elven King’s Love that I missed the first book in the Fated Elves series, The Elven King’s Captive. At the time I also mentioned that I felt like I was missing integral parts of the story (Duh!) but it wasn’t too bad and I caught on quickly. Unfortunately, I felt those “missing pieces” even more in The Elven King’s Promise. It didn’t keep me from enjoying the continuation of Cas and Dustin’s story, it was just enough to let me know that there was more to the story. So, if this review is your first introduction to the Fated Elves series and it piques your interest, do yourself a favor and start from the beginning. You can thank me later 😉

Even though Dustin and Cas have come a long in their relationship, they still have some challenges ahead of them. Trust has grown, but there are still those niggling moments of doubt. Not so much about each other, but mostly about themselves and how they stack up to their mate. Cas worries that Dustin will get bored with him and eternity and Dustin worries that he will never be enough. Plus, Dustin is still transitioning, which just adds another layer to everything else that’s going on. As if all that weren’t enough, Erastus is a force that isn’t going to go away. He cares about Dustin and despises Cas. Cas doesn’t trust Erastus either, but neither one of them know the full story about the day that changed the course of both their lives. Throw in someone within Cas’s own ranks trying to cause him harm and it’s no wonder this was a hard one to put down.

I have a feeling things are about to get really interesting. The Elven King’s Forever is next and I can’t wait to see what happens next.

Burn (Witchbane #1.5) by Morgan Brice

One hundred years ago, a sheriff’s posse killed dark warlock Rhyfel Gremory, but his witch-disciples escaped, and their magic made them nearly immortal. To keep their power, each year one of the witch-disciples kills a descendant of one of the men in the posse, a twelve-year cycle that has cost dozens of lives, including that of Seth Tanner’s brother, Jesse. 
Seth uncovers a cycle of ritual murders that feed the witch-disciples’ power, and he saves Evan Malone, one of the warlock’s potential victims. Neither Seth nor Evan expected to fall in love, but when the dust settles, they find themselves on the run and on the road together, heading toward Pittsburgh, on the trail of the next killer. 
Seth wonders whether Evan will come to regret his choice to stay together, now that he’s living the reality of Seth’s nomadic life and the risks that come with it. He wants Evan to stay, but he’s afraid that Evan would be better off without him, living a normal life. Evan’s whole world has been upended, but there’s one thing he’s sure of, his love for Seth. Evan worries that he’s a liability, not yet able to hold his own in Seth’s rough-and-tumble world, but determined to do whatever necessary to have Seth’s back. On the way to face the next warlock, supernatural threats abound, forcing them to learn to fight as a team. 
Fate and danger threw them together. But once the adrenaline fades, will love last? 

In true “Creative Deeds Reads” fashion, I somehow missed this book. By the time I realized my mistake I had already read both Dark Rivers and Flame and Ash. Yikes! Burn was a nice reminder of how new things really were between Evan and Seth, so I guess it wasn’t too much of a blunder on my part. 😉

Burn takes place right after the events in Witchbane. Even though Evan was thrown head first into the supernatural world in Richmond, he had no idea exactly how extensive that world was. Burn was kind of like an initiation. A lot happened in this story and the events tested both Evan and Seth and their new relationship. Evan spent time proving himself and Seth spent time hoping the reality of dealing with everything didn’t scare Evan away. They both had something to prove and they didn’t always handle things perfectly.

Burn was the perfect transition story for the Witchbane series. Both men learned a lot about themselves and each other. It also built on the world that this series is centered around – and touched on characters from other series the are a part of the same world. Next up for me is Unholy, the 4th book in the Witchbane series (if you consider Burn 1.5).

Black Moon (Wolf Moon Rising #1) by Sam Burns & W.M. Fawkes

An apple a day won’t keep this doctor away.
Linden Grove has always known that he’s not destined to be the next pack alpha. That position belonged to his brother Aspen—but then Aspen left the pack to join the military. When the unthinkable happens and the pack is left rudderless, someone has to step up and take care of it. Can a doctor go from “do no harm” to defending his own with his teeth and claws?
Colt Doherty is used to a certain kind of life. Glittering, picturesque, and . . . empty. As the youngest child of the country’s only werewolf senator, Colt has grown up in the spotlight, and he’s all too used to knot-headed alphas taking credit for the work of others, especially omegas like himself. When his editor sends him to write a story on the Grove pack, though, he finds something completely unexpected: Linden Grove in his unpolished perfection, as shiny and sweet as the apples his pack are known for.
A Grove pack omega has been kidnapped, and someone has to step up. The pack needs Linden to fill his father’s shoes, but no wolf can stand on his own. To save the day, sheltered Colt has to drop the politics and become the action hero he never thought an omega could be.

This is the second book that I’ve read by Sam Burns and W.M. Fawkes. The first was Wildfire, which was full of magic and mythology – one of my favorite genres. Black Moon is the first book in what promises to be an amazing werewolf series, that is also another one of my favorites. In other words, I’m pretty sure I’ve found a new favorite writing duo 😉

Linden was one of those characters that was hard not to like. He was admired by many and misunderstood by a few. His caring for the members of his pack went way beyond the fact that he was their doctor. He had the heart that was necessary for a pack alpha, he just didn’t think he had the brawn to back it up. Watching him grow into the leader that his pack needed was one of my favorite parts of this story. My other favorite part was watching Colt slowly become a part of a pack that was nothing like what he was used to.

Black Moon had plenty of danger, suspense, pack politics, a sweet romance and a few new twists on pack dynamics that kept the story fresh and the pages turning. Both Colt and Linden grew a lot during the course of the story and surprised even themselves in the new roles that they found themselves made for.

The next book in the Wolf Moon Rising series is Harvest Moon followed by Hunter Moon. I can’t wait to get to know the rest of the Grove pack even better.

Haven (Magic Emporium) by Morgan Brice

Old secrets, hidden psychics, secret shifters, ghosts, scandals—and true love.
A series of long-ago disappearances leads cold case private detective Austin Williams to investigate a troubled sanitarium.
Jamie Miller is new in town, temporarily running the local historical association, and he willingly signs on to help solve Austin’s mystery.
Sparks fly between them as they dig into the hospital’s troubled past. But someone wants the past to stay buried—and is willing to bury Austin and Jamie to keep it that way.

Haven is part of the multi-author Magic Emporium Series. Each book stands alone, but each one features an appearance by Marden’s Magic Emporium, a shop that can appear anywhere, but only once and only when someone’s in dire need. This book contains explicit scenes and a guaranteed HEA.

I have to admit, Haven is the only book that I’ve read in the Magic Emporium series. Since it’s a multi-author series with only one element of connection, it can definitely can be read as a stand alone. That one element was intriguing though and after taking a glance at the rest of the authors included in the mix, I have a feeling I’ll be checking out at least some of the rest of the offerings included in Magic Emporium. 😉

Jamie and Austin were both characters who were easy to like. They both had secrets that they were hesitant to reveal to each other, but those secrets made more alike than they realized. They also made them the perfect team to solve the more dangerous secrets that the town was hiding.

There was plenty of action, danger, spookiness and romance to keep the pages turning in Haven. There were also some familiar characters for those readers who have read the Fox Hollow series and other Morgan Brice books. Just enough to give new readers a taste or what they’ve been missing and give long time readers a chance to re-visit familiar locations and characters. Which kind of makes me think that readers haven’t seen the last of Jamie and Austin 😉

Bell, Book and Scandal (Bedknobs and Broomsticks #3) by Josh Lanyon

Black Magic. Blackmail. Little Black Books. Must a witch break his vows to save his marriage?
Cosmo Saville loves that his husband has finally accepted his witchy ways. And in return, his promise to stay out of police business guarantees them a happily ever after. At least, until he discovers he might be responsible for a dangerous game of blackmail…
Police Commissioner John Joseph Galbraith feels relieved that his marriage is back on track. Especially since he has his hands full with a high-profile suicide and rumors of a city-wide extortion ring. But when he stumbles across Cosmo breaking his vow by playing cop, John agonizes over old wounds.
With the commissioner’s badge and family in jeopardy, Cosmo has no choice but to put his life on the line…
Can the witch expose a dark conspiracy, save John’s career, and return to love’s delicious spell?
Bell, Book and Scandal is the third book in the Bedknobs and Broomsticks romantic gay mystery trilogy. If you like quirky characters, snappy spells, and madcap suspense, then you’ll love Josh Lanyon’s supernatural story.

John and Cosmo are such an unlikely couple. So much so that I sometimes wonder while reading this series why Cosmo puts himself through what he does to stay with John. The heart is a fickle thing though and even though I spent some time being frustrated with the police commissioner and in fear for Cosmo’s heart, I have to admit that the man not only surprised me in Bell, Book and Scandal, he even impressed me a little bit.

Cosmo finds himself in a no win situation in Bell, Book and Scandal. He doesn’t purposely try to break his promise to John, but trouble seems to follow him – even when he’s trying his hardest to avoid it. He may be at the center of a case John’s trying to solve without even knowing it. He soon finds out that it may involve more than some of the city’s prominent figures. His family may be in danger as well. Whether John wants to admit it or not, Cosmo may be the only one who can get to the bottom of the mystery.

Hex in the City is the next book in the Bedknobs and Broomsticks series.

If A Butterfly Don’t Fly (Out of Underhill #2) by Mell Eight

Merridy has always loved music but can’t sing. The only job in the music business he can get is as a security guard for the Bard and Sons, a premier record label. He keeps their secrets and patrols their hallways, always wishing for a big break he knows will never come.
Changeling’s Court is a brand new band struggling to record their first single. Merridy chances upon a scrap of their lyrics without accompanying music notes and can’t help composing a simple melody for them. If he’s found out, he’ll probably get fired.
Instead, he finds himself in a strange new world of magic and faeries—and danger.

I can say with confidence that If A Butterfly Don’t Fly can be read as a standalone. The only thing that you’ll miss (other than a great story) is some world building that takes place in Kelpie Blue. Although I was kind of disappointed that readers weren’t given more of Rin and Blue’s story, I have to admit that I think I may have enjoyed getting to know Merridy and his introduction to the world of magic and faeries even more. 😉

Although their is a romantic element between Merridy and Fion (one of the band members) the main focus in If A Butterfly Don’t Fly is Merridy finding his place in a world that he always wanted to be a part of, but was always out of reach. He also discovered much more than he bargained for – including a world he had no idea even existed.

Merridy’s story was sweet, but it was also full of dangers he didn’t know existed. Not knowing about them didn’t keep him safe though. Changling’s Court was much more than an up and coming band and they needed Merridy as much as he needed them.

Once again, Mell Eight has woven a beautiful fantasy and I can’t wait to read whatever she offers readers next.

Lucky Town (Badlands #1.5) by Morgan Brice

Psychic medium Simon Kincaide and his boyfriend, Myrtle Beach homicide detective Vic D’Amato, find that the only thing more frightening than murder might be navigating their first holiday season as a couple. 
A trip back to Pittsburgh to spend Thanksgiving with Vic’s large, exuberant family means dodging old frenemies and a bitter ex-boyfriend. A cold case comes back to haunt Vic when a murdered woman’s ghost begs Simon for justice. Then a new murder back in Myrtle Beach looks suspiciously familiar, and the dead man’s ghost isn’t playing nice. When Simon gets a vision of the next victim before the crime occurs, he realizes that all the murders are supernaturally linked. Catching the murderer will take his psychic sleuthing skills along with Vic’s street smarts to avert a tragedy. Can they do right by ghosts past, present and yet-to-come without ending up in the crosshairs of a killer for Christmas? 

It’s been a while since I read Badlands, the first book in Vic and Simon’s series, but it didn’t take me long to get back into their story. It also didn’t take me long to remember why I think they’re one of my favorite couples in this intertwined world created by Martin/Brice. 😉

Lucky Town may be considered a novella (a little over 100 pages) but a lot happens. Readers are not only treated to getting to know Vic and Simon a little bit better, they also get to meet Vic’s larger than life family. A family that welcomes Simon, much to his relief. There are others from Vic’s past, including the “bitter ex” that make it easy to see why Vic had no problem leaving Pittsburgh behind – despite the fact that he misses his family.

Lucky Town brought together connections from other series and drew Vic further into the supernatural world. It also opened his eyes to more of the power and magic that Simon possesses. I can’t wait to continue this series and other series in this world. The Rising is next in the Badlands series and it’s also next on my TBR pile 😉

Dawn’s Light (Duskblade #1) by Shannon Blair

Moranthus is an elf who has lost everything. With his lover dead and his career stagnating, he jumps at a chance to redeem himself by rescuing a human prince from the goblins hunting him—even if failure means death or eternal exile from his homeland.
Gerrick, a human soldier who bears an uncanny resemblance to his prince, has always chosen duty over desire. As the sole parent of his young daughter, he needs the extra coin that working as the prince’s body double provides—even if it may one day cost him his life.
When a case of mistaken identity puts the prince in the hands of a goblin raiding party, Moranthus’s and Gerrick’s paths collide. With winter closing in and miles of hostile goblin lands ahead, they must set aside their differences and work together to bring the prince home safely.
Their deepening connection comes with a growing certainty that rescuing the prince may be fatal. Moranthus and Gerrick must each find a way to reconcile his heart’s desires with his homeland’s needs—or die trying.

To me, Dawn’s Light was more an epic fantasy than a romance, but that’s not a bad thing.

Gerrick was a devoted father and loyal to his prince and kingdom. He took his position seriously and was more than willing to sacrifice himself to protect the prince. He had no idea what he was in for when he let himself take the prince’s place.

Moranthus had lost everything when he lost his lover – including his identity. When given the chance to win some of what was lost to him back, he jumped at the opportunity. Even though he knew it was too good to be true. It was an offer from someone he knew better than to trust.

These two warriors were an unlikely pair that found themselves thrown together through a case of mistaken identity. They fought against each other until they realized that working together was easier. It still took them a while to realize that they were both on the same side. It didn’t help that they denied what they were feeling for each other – well, at least Gerrick did – for most of their story. If nothing else, it definitely kept things interesting.

This is my first read by Shannon Blair, but since Dawn’s Light is the first book in the Duskblade series, I’m fairly certain that it won’t be my last.