Where Willows Won't Grow by Lia Black

91SIU40v6lL._SL1500_Note: Title was free on Amazon/Goodreads at time of posting
Title: Where Willows Won’t Grow
Author: Lia Black
Genre: Science Fiction/Futuristic
Length: Novel (157pages)
Publisher: M/M Romance Group (July 12th, 2014)
Heat Level: Explicit
Heart Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥ 5 Hearts (because I can’t give any higher)
Reviewer: Kid
Blurb: Undercover agent Alex Kley is a long way from home. Six months of investigation have brought him to Willow House, a high-class brothel on Omanai Station, as beautiful on the outside, as it is corrupt on the inside. Sold into sexual slavery to infiltrate an illegal prostitution ring, Alex must find the evidence he needs to bring down the leader of a powerful criminal cartel—a man who may not even be human.

Illythe, the manager of Willow House, is a long way from freedom. The jet-skinned beauty with the face of an angel walks the halls of Willow House with serenity and authority, but underneath his cold and beautiful facade, Illythe is as much a slave as any of the young men working in the brothel.

In an undercover operation, falling in love is the worst thing an agent can do, but Illythe is a mystery that Alex can’t resist.

It doesn’t take long for Alex to realize that Illythe is not in his role by choice. Yet Illythe holds the holds the information Alex needs. The more Alex learns, the clearer it becomes that when the cartel falls, Illythe will be buried in the rubble.

In the end, Alex must make a choice: save Illythe and forfeit the mission, or leave him behind in a place where willows won’t grow.
Purchase Link: http://www.amazon.com/Where-Willows-Wont-Grow-Black-ebook/dp/B00LR78V6U/ref=pd_rhf_gw_p_img_3

Review: There are, in my opinion, three kinds of books. Those that you read and forget or dislike the ones that leave no real impact on you. Then there’s the comfort category, the ones you read and love, that feel like coming home. But there are a few, a very few, that are higher than that. They challenge you, evoke emotions, and leave you marked. For me, Where Willows Won’t Grow is one of the third.

This was not an easy book to read, it was not pleasant at times, and there were moments I was certain that happy would be the furthest thing from possible for the characters. I was not reading, I was experiencing. Emoting. Swept away in an unblinking, no-holds-barred exploration of darkness and, by contrast, the faintest glimmer of light.

Alex Kley is not a good man. Working undercover in the Sex Crimes division of the Office of Federation Security, he did whatever he had to do for the case. A rich kid who’d found a practical application for a penchant for partying, casual sex, and the occasional exotic drug, his years with the department had started to wear on his soul. When an extremely dangerous mission comes up, one which another officer hadn’t come back from, Alex is sent far from the reach of backup to find the elusive head of a prostitution ring.

From the first paragraph, we are thrown into the spiraling sense of hopelessness and desperation. This is not a fluffy novel, nor is it the sweet kind of BDSM where there are safe words and fantasy. It has graphic rape scenes, strong allusions to childhood abuse, and more than a little violence. But there is a deftness to the way Lia Black handles every moment. Everything has a purpose. Nothing feels gratuitous even in the midst of the horror.

When Alex first sees Illythe, he thinks of him as a dark angel. And truly, that’s what he becomes. Illythe is a captured warrior prince, broken and molded into an obedient slave by truly one of the most grotesque and horrifying villains I’ve ever read. His backstory alone had my gut clenching; it makes you love the character more the more you realize the terror of his life.

Honestly, I don’t want to tell you about the plot. I want you to unpeel it, layer by layer, as I did. This was a story that I consumed in huge gulps, completely unable to look away from the page. I will tell you that it ends, as it should have, in a way that, looking back, is the only way it could have. I shed tears at a perfect moment at the end, realizing that the author had given me, and the character, resolution I hadn’t even known I craved.

I’ve never read Lia Black before. Trust me, I will again. This is a story that, in lesser hands, would have been wretched. There is no way anyone but a master could have pulled this kind of horror and darkness and twisted terror out and yet balanced it so gracefully with hope and light.

I loved this story. The fact that it is sitting free on Amazon rather than gracing bestseller shelves astounds me. This book will be staying with me for a very long time.

Worthy by Lia Black

18075216Title: Worthy

Series: Love Has No Boundaries

Author: Lia Black

Genre: Dystopian Erotica / BDSM

Length: Novel (144 pages)

Publisher: Romance Group @ Goodreads (June 15th, 2013)

Heat Level: Explicit

Heart Rating: ♥♥♥2.5~3 Hearts

Reviewer: Thommie

Blurb: Dear Author,

This is a dystopian class-based society where being a slave boy is a prized position. For those not born into the weal436879thy class, there are few options for work. A position as a slave boy means security and safety from a life of poverty and the danger of the streets.

Dystopian – set in a world similar to ours but with a few tweaks. Usually a bit darker or a more frightening version of what our society could become.

Product Link: http://www.mmromancegroup.com/7959

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00ETEB5QQ/ref=as_li_ss_sm_fb_us_asin_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=213733&creative=399837&creativeASIN=B00ETEB5QQ&linkCode=shr&tag=portispass-20

Review: This is a very peculiar story which I admit sneaks in that old favorite shelf of mine. Dystopian setting in a world where society is not split in half but rather in thirds. There are the aristocrats who enjoy the freedom and wealth, there are the slaves who are actually lucky humans to have a nice upbringing and learn how to please a master and therefore given a position into a household, being cared and provided for, and there are the dregs. People with no family and a life that is lower than that of a dog.

Our characters are Demetrie and Sev (Seven); One is a rebellious aristocrat who’s had enough being held prisoner to his golden chain, always expected to conform to society’s expectations. Get married for the sake of heirs, accumulate health, and ignore your true desires. The other is a dreg, a mongrel at that. He has no family, raised by the gypsies, and won in a cheating game by a man who covets his talents. He is an acrobat and an exquisite thief. Mostly he is rare and has a subservient nature, one that walks hand in hand with the dark side of Demetrie.

When the young Count wins Sev in a card game the last he expected was to find his other half, but no one is more surprised than Sev himself with how much he came to love and adore his Master. But will that love stay strong if all a person could dream would become reality? Would Sev choose his Master over a secured wealthy life?

As I said, this genre and subgenre are my favorite. Blend in a dystopia with a good Master/slave scenario and I’m hooked. Honestly, I read this in one go and it was mostly a good story. I liked it most of it, I loved the idea, and the characters were quite charming. The erotic part was alluring to a fault (at least for me), Sev’s submission coming easily, and effortlessly, the setting provided perfect for such displays. I must say some emotions were a bit too hasty in their appearance or hastily dismissed and the tension they should have provided was lost somewhere, not quite making it up to the reader.

I did not feel as good about the narration and writing style, too. It is highly inconvenient knowing everyone’s thoughts all the time. It takes away all the suspense and intensity when you know beforehand what will happen. You just resign yourself into a read that has no anticipation at all, no reasons to keep you there.

The fact that there is such a quick love bond formed between Master and slave was also a put off. One would argue that a month is more than enough, and if this were a contemporary romance with contemporary characters, I’d agree according to circumstances. However, in a world where distrust and cynicism are in full bloom I didn’t see this happening as easy as it did. Add to that the decision Demetrie took in the end and it lost quite a large portion of any credibility it held in my eyes.

However, this was still a good read for me, one I enjoyed, and one I was glad to have read in the end.

Spiretown by Lia Black

Stockholm - SwedenTitle: Spiretown

Author: Lia Black

Genre: Fantasy, Dystopia, Magic

Length: Novel (233pgs)

Publisher: Vinedark Publishing (2nd December 2012)

Heat: Moderate

Heart:  ♥♥♥♥3½ – 4Hearts

Reviewer: Pixie

Blurb: It’s been several years since the end of the Mage wars. Those born with the taint of magic are sent to places like Spiretown, a city within a city that serves as a prison for its inhabitants. Logan Grey is the self-proclaimed mayor of this ghetto, but he’s suddenly found himself in some trouble, and he needs help from an unlikely source.

Templar Battalion Commander Collin Anderfels is having a very bad week. His fiancée left him for his best friend, he was blown up in a raid gone wrong, and now he’s been forced to protect a man who represents everything that Collin loathes. Worse still is the fact that Logan Grey keeps saving his life, and he seems intent on bedding the young Commander, despite Collin’s sometimes violent protests.

Somehow, beyond prejudice and deceit these two unlikely partners find themselves becoming more than just allies, but can a love born from lies survive when the gates of hell are torn open?

Purchase Link: US: http://www.amazon.com/Spiretown-ebook/dp/B00AHH0UQK

UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Spiretown-ebook/dp/B00AHH0UQK  

Review: Spiretown, a place where people born with the taint (magic) are shipped to when their magic becomes apparent. Logan is a mage, who has his own little part of the world in Spiretown. But, he needs help when he discovers the Red Seal (a group of rogue mages) are targeting him. So, he approaches an unlikely source for assistance. Collin is a Templar Commander.  His group is there to keep the mages in place and to destroy any who succumb to the demons. Being approached by a mage for protection is astounding; beginning to have feelings for the mage just might destroy him.

This story is slightly dark, with prejudice, hate, anger and fear, breaking down those emotions and finding love. When Collin’s team is lead into an ambush by the Red Seal, he never thought his savior would be a mage.  But, that mage wants something in return, he wants protection. Logan needs the help of the Templar if he is going to bring down the Red Seal. Saving Collin fit into his plans, and now he just needs his web of lies to come to fruition. But, neither Logan nor Collin reckoned on an emotional connection forming between them. But, it is that love that just might save them all, when the Red Seal attempt to rip open the gates of Hell.

This is a great story if you are looking for a story that is drenched in angst and darkness. After the Mage Wars, all humans showing the taint of magic were rounded up and put in places like Spiretown.  Children taken from their parents were handed over to the clergy and Logan was one of those children. Templers are plainbloods (humans with no ‘taint’), who are given the task of dealing with any mages who succumb to demons.  Many of them, like Collin, hate the mages due to losses of family in the Mage Wars. Logan is a special mage though; he has special abilities that the Red Seal want.  Logan turns to Collin for help and it begins a complex relationship between the mage and the Templar.

I have to admit to that this story isn’t black and white.  Neither character is particularly lovable due to their personalities, but the longer you read the more you understand what drives them. The storyline is brilliant, but twisted, and at times will turn your stomach, especially when it comes to Logan’s past. We see a huge development in Collin’s psyche as he comes to realize that not all mages are evil and that some humans do deserve what they get.  The relationship he develops with Logan is not easy, but it is something that he would give everything up for. Logan is a very complex character and how he has been treated as a child has left scars on his soul.  It has also molded him into the way he is now and it’s a miracle he isn’t completely insane.

I have to recommend this if you love angst, demons, mages, harsh lives, some hot sex, great descriptions, some horrific scenes, a love emerging against the odds and an ending that has hope.