Review: Alphas Unleashed Anthology by S.E. Smith, Mina Khan, Carolyn Jewel & Michele Callahan

November 4, 2015 2.5 stars, 2016 Kindle Freebie Freakout!, Anthology, Book Review, ebook, Free Read - Kindle Copy, self published, series 0 ★★½

Review: Alphas Unleashed Anthology by S.E. Smith, Mina Khan, Carolyn Jewel & Michele Callahan two-half-stars
Alphas Unleashed by Carolyn Jewel, Michele Callahan, Mina Khan, S.E. Smith
Published by Smashwords on June 15, 2014
Genres: Erotic, Fantasy Romance, PNR, Romance, Sci-Fi
Pages: 350
Format: eBook
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5 hot heroes. 4 authors. 4 worlds.
Discover five sexy alpha heroes in four hot adventures. They were each taken, tortured and tormented. These powerful males were held against their will, prisoners of fate. What happens when they escape their captors...and fall in love? Vengeance. Desire. Destiny. Nothing can stop...Alphas Unleashed.

A Warrior’s Heart (Marastin Dow Warriors, #1.1) by S.E. Smith
Ben and Aaron Cooper think their luck has ended when the freighter they are on is captured by the Marastin Dow, a terrifying alien species known for their savagery. Instead they discover love with two warriors who capture their hearts. Now, they are in a race to keep the fragile gift they find before it is ripped away from them forever.

**The Marastin Dow have appeared in the Dragon Lords of Valdier series.

Sealed With A Kiss (A Djinn World Novella) by Mina Khan
Rayez, a smoking hot chef and fire djinn in exile, lands himself in deep trouble (at the bottom of a beer bottle) when he tries to help a mysterious beautiful woman.

Selene is pursued and desperate. She’ll do anything to keep her brother safe—including capture a djinn.

While deception brings them together, dangerous enemies make them unlikely allies. Can one wrong lead to two rights and true love?

Dead Drop by Carolyn Jewel
Wallace Jackson has so little magic she expects to be kicked out of her group of street witches being trained to use their gifts and work with demons. No one is more shocked than she is when a powerful demon proves her wrong. And then asks a favor of her.

The demon Palla is a warlord’s enforcer, a stone cold killer. Wallace Jackson is a pacifist witch with a dangerous power. He wants nothing to do with humans until he needs Wallace to help him free his former lover from a living death and release her spirit from unimaginable suffering.

** Dead Drop is set in Carolyn’s My Immortals series world where demons and magic-using humans called the magekind are not quite getting along. Most people have no idea they’re living in what amounts to a magical war-zone.

Chimera Born (The Beginning) by Michele Callahan
Aron of Itara, Forbidden Son, has been a prisoner of fate since before he was born. Captured as a child by the evil Triscani, it’s been centuries since he’s felt the sun on his face or the tenderness of a woman’s touch. Determined to help humanity break the illusive but powerful Itaran Triads’ hold on Earth, Aron escapes with one goal, to find the one man who can help him save humans from an eternal prison. After that, he’ll fight to the death, but he’ll never go back in the cage.

Zoey Williams watched her sister die at the hands of monsters, and no one believed her. She’s spent the last five years using her journalism skills to track aliens, investigate paranormal activity, and hunt for answers. But she got too close to the truth, and now it’s not just monsters hunting her, but her own people. Zoey doesn’t believe she needs a guardian, but once Aron finds her he can’t leave her to the vicious hunters that would turn her to ash or to the power-hungry humans who seek to silence her. In fact, he discovers that he doesn’t want to leave her at all...

Note: This anthology is not currently available in ebook format.

I grabbed a free copy of Alphas Unleashed back in December 2014. Like 99.99% of my random kindle freebies, this one wasn’t read. I didn’t even attempt to read it, to be honest. The only reason I even grabbed a copy was that I knew I might want to read it later – so onto Mt. TBR it went.

Last night I decided I wanted something new to read. I’ve been in a bit of a reading funk – mostly reading complete and utter smut with no real redeeming qualities because…reasons. I think that miasma I’ve been in is slowly (VERY SLOWLY) starting to clear so my desire for books with real content is starting to peak.

Which brought me to Alphas Unleashed. I decided to read this one because purple cover and the fact it’s an anthology. Multiple stories means that I have a greater chance of liking at least one of them. And this one had four decent length stories to choose from. I downloaded a copy to my phone and promised myself I would skip to the next story as soon as I started feeling moody.

A Warrior’s Heart (Marastin Dow Warriors, #1.1) by S.E. Smith (DNF)
Let me be honest. This was a DNF. I didn’t feel like I was reading a story, I felt like someone was telling me a story: “first this happened and then THIS happened and then that happened…” and I wasn’t a fan. I also didn’t care for the “culture” of the Marastin Dow Warriors. The beginning says that the way the Marastin Dow handled things like promotions and harassment was via murder. Want someone’s job? Kill them. Someone bothering you? Kill them. Ok, I can be down with that. Sounds a bit like the Klingons which is cool. But then we get to the section where one of the heroines is attacked by a male Marastin Dow. He sets her up to catch her alone because he wanted to rape her, eventually rape her sister and then kill them both. Why? Reasons! That’s why. So the heroine kills the wanna-be rapist…but now she’s terrified. Why? Because apparently this whole “kill or be killed” culture is only for the males. The heroine remembers a different female who killed a potential rapist in front of superiors. Those superiors then forced the female to go with them where they apparently raped her until she was a shell of her former self. Remembering this scares the heroine so badly that she goes hiding and that’s how she meets one of the heroes. WHAT IN THE FUCK?! I don’t want my Romance books to start with rape or the imminent threat of rape. DNF


Sealed With A Kiss (A Djinn World Novella) by Mina Khan (3 stars)

This story was nice. The hero is a super nice guy who helps the heroine when he finds her starving and freezing. The heroine returns this gesture by enslaving the hero in a bottle. The rest of the story is about why the heroine did this (she was forced) and how the hero and heroine break the enslavement as well as save the day.

There was a separate plotline with another Djinn who was after the hero for revenge. That entire plotline could have been removed – especially as it was handled so easily. I would have preferred more time with the MCs.

Dead Drop (My Immortals, #5.5) by Carolyn Jewel (4 stars)
Ok. Let me just start this by saying that this story is the reason I buy anthologies. I want to find NTM authors who write things that captivate me and this story captivated me.

It almost feels as if Carolyn Jewel gets almost everything right with this little novella. The heroine is amazing. The hero was a total jackass with lots of redeeming qualities (that we see over the course of the story). There was a new and different take on demons and witches (to me). AND it even had diversity!! WOW! I hit the novella jackpot!

YES. This does mean I’ll be buying at least the first book in this series. *nods* Anthology WIN.

I loved Wallace (the heroine). She was no-nonsense and strong. She never asked for help but was willing to offer it – even to someone who she severely disliked. Palla, the hero, I didn’t quite get a bead on him. I liked him but I never liked him, if you get my meaning. I felt that he could have been expanded a bit so the reader could understand him a bit better.

I also kinda LOVED the way the two got together. They found each other attractive but when they started having sex…they still disliked each a bit – they just were willing to act on their attraction.

There are a handful of things I disliked as well: the story was too short. A LOT of things happened in Dead Drop between Wallace and Palla that are glossed over for the sake of word-count. I would have really appreciated more time on-page of them working together and learning to like each other. I also wanted more of Wallace learning about how her magic worked.

I loved the fact that Wallace is PoC but I didn’t care for the way it was mentioned near the end. There was one time when Wallace’s insecurity caused her to accuse Palla of only being interested because she was Black. While I understand where that came from – and he’d just called her “interesting” – I feel that the person who Wallace was would not have started that argument at that moment in time. It rang rather false to Wallace’s characterization as well as the storyline. I blame it on the lack of word count.

The final thing I didn’t care for – which also seems to be related to word-count – was the ambiguous HEA/HFN/HEA thingy going on in the end. I’m not 100% sure WTF is happening there. But I DO know I’ll be reading some Carolyn Jewel in the suture.

Chimera Born (The Timewalker Chronicles #4.5) by Michele Callahan (2 stars)
This is a little closer to a skim/DNF than my usual. I started it but I am all WTF is going on??! The hero is some kind of Immortal…something or the other. He can’t really be killed but he has been captured by the baddies and tortured for centuries. So a Timewalker finds him by accident and he attacks her because he’s been starved for decades and he’s slightly mad with hunger. He stops once he realizes what he’s doing but her blood gets all over him.

And this is where I start getting confused.

He’s so starved that all of the Timewalker’s blood is immediately absorbed into his body, giving him enough strength to break free and knowledge. So I think, “He’s some sort of vampire.” But later he’s eating regular food for substance and doesn’t seem to need blood. Plus he’s able to take knowledge from people’s head without taking their blood… oooookay. Then we get to the explanation of who he is and why he was captured and I was done. I did force my way through to the end but…it never got better for me. I felt like I’d be dropped in the middle of something with no explaination. I am only assume that those who are familiar with this series will totally get it all but for me this short was a FAIL. It did not encourage me to even look at the rest (or first) of the books in this series.

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