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Pirate Bound by Carysa Locke

Pirate BoundSource: Copy from author
Format: Kindle ebook
Rating:  4 Stars
Reviewer: Laurel

Received a copy from the author in exchange for an honest review.

The Talented Pirates have suffered loss. Some years ago a deadly virus swept through the female Pirates, decimating them. Now the Pirates face extinction since they have few viable females to bear talented children. Then the Pirates come across two female Talented, Sanah and Nayla, exhausted and wary, who have escaped from a Talented organisation known as Veritas. Nayla is a biokineticist, able to heal on a cellular level, who’s Talent is required by their brother Niall – working for Veritas – for it’s killing abilities.

What a fantastic story. Each of the main characters, and a few of the secondary characters, are well developed with differing personalities, goals and desires. Dem’s qualities as a protective hero make him very endearing, and I enjoyed his internal battle with his Talents. That really made me chuckle. Cannon was an extremely insightful Pirate King who really keeps his finger on the pulse. It would be nice to one day read more about him, and also about Treon, Dem’s enigmatic brother.

Inventive and well-written, I hope to read many more books about the Telepathic Space Pirates. This definitely checks all my boxes in space opera, psychic talents and romance. This is excellent stuff right here, reminiscent of the best of Anne McCaffrey.

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The Bones of the Sea by Pippa Jay

The Bones of the SeaSource: Own collection
Format: Kindle ebook
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewer: Laurel

Myasi has been contracted to demolish a weird metallic construct in the shallow seas of Ulto Marinos. But her attempt to do so reveals something more beneath the surface …

In The Bones of the Sea, we get a glimpse of Ulto Marinos, a mysterious world on which stranger things exist – namely, the Bones of the Sea. Ulto Marinos is the predominantly marine world Gethyon, Quin’s son, travels to as a teen in Pippa Jay’s novella, Gethyon.

Myasi has been contracted to blow up an artefact known as The Bones of the Sea, some artificial structure that is getting in the way of seagrafters. She lays the final charge and returns to her ship – but a charge explodes prematurely. Myasi is sent back to learn why the charge blew, and discovers that the structure’s door has opened thanks to the concussion, and a whirlpool sucks her in.

This is a well-crafted short story in that – and typical of Pippa Jay’s writing – one is left to muse over the final events in the story for a good while after one has finished reading it. Not everything is quite as it seems, and sometimes what one intends to do doesn’t quite give the results one aims for. Which is quite amusing, really.

A quick read, very well-written, and somewhat reminiscent of Titan A.E.

Hidden in Ashes by Rachel Leigh Smith

Hidden in AshesSource: ARC from author
Format: ebook
Rating:  5 Stars
Reviewer: Laurel

Childhood enmity turns to love, with one problem: his heart isn’t his to give.

Lorin is a daro, a Lokmane man trained to make humans feel special and valued. As Prime of Arkos House, no one stands between him and the safety of the daros under his care—except his mistress. The dead one, and the new one. He needs to focus on the Essence crisis infiltrating the Houses, and his sister’s safety. Not figure out how to balance his duties with falling in love.

When her mother dies, emotionally wounded Sagira Memeos becomes the Marcasian Empire’s newest High Lady. And reluctant owner of the most sought after daro in said empire. He’s her childhood nemesis, and way too sexy for his own good. With his kindness finding its way into her bruised soul, asking for his help to navigate her succession to ruling high lady probably isn’t her brightest idea.

Lorin wants Sagira. But not if he has to pay for it with innocent lives. She’s a distraction he can’t afford while the bedrock of Marcasian high society is under attack. Not to mention facing losing his sister to the man who wounded Sagira. If the daro houses fall, all hope of freedom goes with them.

An up-front warning – this book is not for the faint of heart, or those unable to deal with abuse, including physical, emotional and sexual. There are some graphic descriptions of abuse: while most action is off-page, it is discussed on-page.

This is, I think one of Smith’s gentler novels, but at the same time, she still takes her time taking your heart apart piece by piece – and at one point, she certainly ripped mine to shreds – and then patches it all back together again ready for the end.

My goodness. Nothing in the universe Smith has created ever comes easy – especially for the Lokmane. In this novel we get to know Lorin – a Lokmane daro we met briefly in Freedom’s Embrace – and Sunny, who some of us may have met as a babe in a short story Smith shared a while back. And as usual, Smith’s characters are broken people – usually through abuse of one form or another – who are trying to learn how to stand on their own two feet again.

Smith made me cry. Now, I am NOT a person who cries easily when reading books. The fact that this was the second book within a month that got to me says more of my fragile health at the time than anything else, but even then I think I would have had tears in my eyes at a particular revelation in the book. In all, I have huge respect for an author who can engage my emotions in a story that far.

I loved learning more about the Marcasian society, and it was special getting to know Lorin and Sunny. I look forward to meeting them again one day, as surely their story is incomplete.

Quickshot by Pippa Jay

QuickshotSource: ARC from author
Format: Kindle ebook
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewer: Laurel

Sal, a legal carrier (just about) of whatever comes her way, puts her trust in just two things: her guns.

Keeping out from under Imperium eyes—especially those belonging to a certain Ehi Wahu—while making a living, and trying to keep a lover who can tolerate her twitchy trigger fingers, are the extent of her ambitions.

Then a kiss from a passing stranger, and a promise of the biggest score in a long time, tempt her. Devin fulfils more than one need, but he comes with more trouble than one woman can handle. And this time it’ll take more than her guns to save her. She’ll have to trust a man again.

WARNING: for over 18s only. Adult content including sex, bad language, & implied extreme violence.

What an intriguing story! So many questions!

And this is what I like about Jay’s shorter stories: it’s often more about what’s not said than what is. This one seriously set me to wondering if Devin’s human at all, or a very cleverly-designed robot. And then one has to wonder why humans with cyborg enhancements are treated so harshly. WHY is Devin apparently on the run?

Quickshot is called that for many reasons, and I’m pretty sure that at least one of them is that this really is a snapshot into the life of Sal, the main character. Being short, we don’t get overly much happening growth-wise, although this story does include a massive moment where Sal has to trust someone other than herself. To be fair, she’s pretty cornered and out of options.

A very quick read (*sigh there’s that word again…), fast-paced and vividly written.

Definitely for persons 18 years and over.

Freedom’s Embrace by Rachel Leigh Smith

Freedom's EmbraceSource: ARC from author
Format: Kindle ebook
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewer: Laurel

They made the wrong choice. Putting it right requires going into a war.

A’yen’s Reign: Year Two

Taran has served Nicco, prince of Marcase, for twenty-three years. While on a fact-finding mission to Corsica–a planet annexed by the empire thirteen years ago–Taran and Nicco are kidnapped by the Freedom Alliance and taken deep into the Corsican hardwood forests.

Da’Renna, sister to King A’yen’s linked bodyguard, has loved Taran since the moment he saw her. Leaving him behind wasn’t easy, but her brother needed her more. Hearing about Taran’s kidnapping makes her wonder if she made the right choice.

With the help of a friend from Corsica, Da’Renna and her brother sneak in to find Taran. When mercenaries take her hostage, Taran must make the choice he dreads most: his master, or his soul-mate.

If Taran loses his girl, he’ll never find his way to freedom.

Note: This novel stands alone and is a great entry point into the A’yen’s Legacy futuristic romance series.

This is book 4 of the A’yen’s Legacy series, and introduces Ren and Taran, who we met briefly in book 3, as the main characters. The book is split between two stories, really, with some sections filling out the history between Ren and Taran while others follow present day events, which take place shortly after the events of To Save a Life.

It was interesting to finally get a deeper glimpse inside the Marcasian Empire and some of the problems it faces. And, of course, to get to know Taran better – ok, and some of the other characters. Ro and Varune make a significant reappearance in the story, and we see some of the more familiar faces too.

I had no difficulty following the separate story lines, and especially the historical information was useful to finding out what drives Ren and Taran in the present. And I’ll be frank; at times I just wanted to knock their heads together and get them to wake up and see the light… well, to be honest, that applies more to Ren than to Taran: Taran has a far better grip on what’s really going on.

The book is an excellent exploration of what “freedom” really is and means to different people. That, and sacrificial love. And boy, the answers don’t come easily in the slightest.

Another star turn from Rachel, and I can’t wait for the next one!