Dharma Cafe by Jessica Freely

Title: Dharma Cafe

Author: Jessica Freely

Genre: Paranormal, Multicultural

Length: Novel (232pgs)

Publisher: Loose Id (17th January 2012)

Heat Level: Explicit

Heart Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥4 ½Heats

Reviewer: Pixie

Blurb: Welcome to the Dharma Café, a restaurant like no other. There is no menu. The waiter, Samura, uses mystical powers to read what each customer needs, and the cook, Agatha, prepares the food with ingredients like love, hope, and courage.

The café is a refuge for the new busboy, Charlie, who was kicked out of home on his eighteenth birthday. Irresistibly drawn to Samura, Charlie soon discovers that the stern, formal waiter harbors a heartbreaking past and a dangerous secret.

Samura lives in fear that one day, the darkness inside him will burst forth to destroy all he loves. Now that includes brash, infuriating, delectable Charlie, who has broken through all Samura’s defenses and taught him to trust himself.

Just when Samura thinks it might be safe to reveal the truth, his worst nightmare walks back into his life: His father, Akio, the evil food sorcerer who runs the burger stand on the other side of town. Akio’s business is expanding and he wants his son to manage his new location, where the Dharma Café now stands.

It will take the combined resources of an ancient cook, a novice dishwasher, and a cursed waiter to fight Akio and protect the café. But when Samura succumbs to Akio’s magic, will it be enough?

Purchase Link: http://www.loose-id.com/Dharma-Cafe.aspx

Review: Samura was taken in by Chef Agatha when he was eight, after he ran away from his father Akio.   Now he is eighteen and although he tries his best, he can still feel the darkness inside sometimes. Charlie has been thrown out by his parents on his eighteenth birthday.  He’s roaming the streets when he comes across a dumpster full of gorgeous food, he can’t resist and dives in head first.

This is a… I have to say slightly whacky, but thoroughly enjoyable story. Samura is haunted by his past and although Chef Agatha has spent the last ten years working her magic on him, it still has the power to make him doubt himself. Charlie finds it hard to believe that his parents threw him out, but he starts to get back on his feet with the help of Chef Agatha.  Surprisingly, even though he has a fear of sorcerers, he doesn’t notice the magic at work in the café until he goes with Samura to collect ingredients and he makes a startling discovery about himself when he has to save Samura.

I have to admit that I was intrigued by the food magic and how there was good and evil.  The good working to give a customer what they truly need and the bad making customers starvelings who will do anything the Sorcerer wants for another burger (okay, so I am suspicious of McDonald’s now). The instant antagonistic reaction that Samura and Charlie adds a bit of spice , as you never know how they will react to each other because all the while you know that they are both hiding the fact that they are wildly attracted to each other.

The characters are brilliantly portrayed and I loved Chef Agatha.  The story-line was really good and I liked how both Samura and Charlie acted like eighteen year olds and not all grown up and adult.  their relationship progressed quickly once they admitted how they both felt and I will never look at bread dough in the same light again.

I will recommend this one to those who want a paranormal magic story with a twist, humor, great sex, food magic, a hunger demon battle, hordes of starvelings and a cheerful happy ever after.

Khyber Run by Amber Green

Title: Khyber Run

Author: Amber Green

 Genre: LGBT Multicultural

 Length: Novel

 Publisher: Loose Id

Heat Level: Moderate

Heart Rating:   ♥♥♥♥4Hearts

Reviewer: Pixie

Blurb:  (Loose Id) In Afghanistan, all the easy answers are wrong and the best-laid plans don’t stand a chance. A tight-knit band of USMC scout-snipers, enraged when one of their number murders another, is hell-bent on seeing justice. They kidnap Zarak Momand, a burnt-out Navy hospital corpsman, and blackmail him to be their guide into Momand land and to find a loophole in nanawatai, the Afghan code of hospitality. They don’t tell him their target — a deserter — murdered Zarak’s estranged baby brother.

Zarak has lost touch with his brothers, his heritage, and his religion, anything that might inspire true passion. Code-named Zulu and coerced to hunt down a deserter, he must navigate the ambiguities of fourth generation warfare, where there are no front lines and where the moral high ground shifts from situation to situation.

In the end, it’s just Zulu and Oscar, a sexually compelling cipher who embodies so much of the Pakhtun Way. But is Oscar’s rough passion a betrayal between brothers?

Publisher’s Note: This book contains explicit sexual content, graphic language, and situations that some readers may find objectionable: male/male sexual practices.

Review:  I will be honest and say I really wasn’t sure about this book when I read the blurb but the book gripped me from the first chapter.  Zarak (Zulu) is a man who is caught between two cultures and struggles with what he was taught as a boy (grew up in an Afghan region until he was about 10yrs old) and what he learnt as a man. We also get snippets of Zarak’s childhood in flashbacks so we get to understand him better and the culture he was taught as a boy.  Oscar is a Native American from the Tohono o’odham tribe, he is a big, physically strong man with a Texan accent and that’s really all you learn about him except he has a cool sniper rifle, you don’t even learn his real name!!

The mission Zarak has been kidnapped for is personal he just doesn’t know it yet, and when he does he goes from reluctant to wanting badal (blood vengeance) but is torn as he also wants to bring him in for trial. Oscar is there to watch his back, keep him alive and make sure he doesn’t do anything stupid.

The settings in this book are brilliant and the detail to the culture is incredible, I learned a lot about the normal Afghan citizens; i.e. the handless spice dealer who plays a joke on them (scaring them half to death), the slave auction (selling or leasing children’s service’s as a shop boy, goat herder etc. for a twice yearly sum) or the buzkashi game.

There is no romance between Zarak and Oscar, there is want and need and maybe more. It’s down and dirty and they make do with where they are and what they’ve got.   What’s between them is primal, two Warrior’s coming together, so really don’t be expecting these two men to be declaring undying love for each other cause they won’t. This is a fantastic story that I highly recommend to the people who want more meat in their stories.