I read a book: Her Orc Warrior (Black Bear Clan #3), by Zoe Ashwood

This is the third book in the Black Bear Clan series by Zoe Ashwood. Normally I wouldn’t start a series at book 3, but this is an ARC and I’m on a deadline. That said, books in this series read well on their own. While there are references to characters from other books, the stories stand alone fine.

As I’ve mentioned in most of my monster romance reviews, I read Ruby Dixon’s entire catalog over the course of a year and have been chasing that vibe ever since. I’m looking for well written stories with cinnamon roll male main characters and interesting female leads. They can be grumpy. They can have issues they need to work through. In fact, I prefer it. But I don’t like the whole alphahole trope that seems to be wildly popular. That extreme possessiveness and jealousy just doesn’t do it for me. I don’t want to read about men who are unkind to women, even if they don’t mean to be. I have come across that with other orc or alien series and didn’t continue beyond the first books of those series. It’s so nice to come across orcs that are kind and loving but still fierce warriors bent on protecting their own. Ashwood’s Black Bear Clan checks off a lot of boxes for me.

This is the story of a woman (Hazel) who grabs her young child (Wren) and runs in hopes of escaping her life of crime and abuse and sparing her daughter of the same. They hide in covered wagon, hitching a ride out of town unnoticed by her gang boss and authorities. She is not unnoticed by the driver though, an orc named Vark. Naturally Hazel is frightened and plans to run from him as soon as possible. She only knows orcs by the stories she’d grown up hearing and none paint orcs in a positive light. It takes her a while to trust the orcs, especially after Vark tells her that she is his fated mate, but she gives it a chance.

I loved most of the characters. Hazel is strong and independent. She finds herself attracted to Vark but doesn’t jump straight to the HEA. She struggles with her feelings. Vark is kind and attentive in all things. He is also dealing with his own feelings of inadequacy. He knows that she is his mate but does not push her. He never tells her that this is how it is and she has to deal with it, as is often the case in other fated mates type stories. He and the other orcs slip into caregiver roles for Wren naturally. There is no big conversation about it, it just happens. Hazel and Wren need help and the orcs take them in happily. Vark is drawn to Hazel by the fated mates thing, but there is never any condition on her to cooperate in exchange for their safety. I also liked that it doesn’t end in pregnancy. A fated mate that isn’t all about popping out more babies is my kind of HEA.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ I really liked this book. It left me feeling happy and hopeful and that’s the best way to feel after reading a romance book. I’ll be going back to read the first two and following the series as it moves forward.

Big thanks to Zoe Ashwood and Booksprout for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review. You can pre-order Her Orc Warrior on Amazon and begin reading it on November 11. This will also be available as part of your Kindle Unlimited subscription.

I read a book: The Librarian and the Orc (Orc Sworn #3), by Finley Fenn

It’s taken me a minute to finish this book. I’m not sure I’m into this series anymore. I really wanted to like this one because the heroine is a librarian and the orc is a scholar named John. Yeah, there are orc scholars and yes some of them have human names. If you consider the fact that these orcs need human women to procreate, it’s a wonder that a larger percentage of them don’t have human names.

So let’s start with our heroine, a young librarian named Rosa who is given the task of reading all she can about orcs and digging up some dirt that will be scandalous enough to spark a peasant rebellion. The nobles don’t want to spend money on a war, so they plot to find a way to make the peasants do all the dirty work without the expectation of a paycheck or supplies. Shortly after receiving this assignment from her creeper of a patron, she encounters an orc named John reading in the back of the library. Because of the peace treaty negotiated in the first book, John has that right and Rosa really shouldn’t ask him to leave, but she does so anyway. They come to a compromise and he is allowed to take his studies to a private room.

Of course that is not the end of it and Rosa continues to push the issue. She sees this as an opportunity to get some insider information, so she turns her negotiation to a more personal nature and offers herself up to John in exchange for information. They come to an agreement that involves some library sex and a field trip to Orc Mountain in which John vows to keep her safe and answer all her questions. The reader knows Rosa is acting as a spy and John’s motivation is unclear, though if what we know about orcs is any indication, he probably wants a mate to bear his sons.

There is a lot that I liked about this book. The relationships between orcs is expanded upon. Because they have no females and gaining the trust of human women is difficult, many orcs choose to take pleasure with one another. In the previous books, the dynamic was more like they were biding their time until they found human women to mate with. But in this book, we learn that some just prefer other orcs and take each other as their life mates. This is all very strange to each of the women we’ve met so far (I guess there are no homosexual humans?) and they are shocked to learn that their orcs have partaken in pleasure with other orcs. We get to witness healing (and sex) between one such couple, a side story that almost overshadows the main story. I know Tristan and Salvi worked things out, but I would have loved for them to have their own book. I also loved the way Rosa solved the Lord Kaspar problem and avoided the war she was assigned to start.

And then there are things that aren’t working for me anymore. The heroine gets so wrapped up in the idea that she’s been lied to when the entire purpose of her visit is a giant lie. The only thing she manages to be real about is the BDSM theme. At first she is scandalized and talks about how shameful it is to want to be afraid and want to be conquered etc. John helps her come to terms with herself and accept her truth. Cool. BDSM isn’t my thing and I am most definitely not the submissive type, so that part of the book didn’t speak to me (or titillate me). Every time she cried and ran off into the dark because she felt he’d lied to her, I rolled my eyes and sighed. Girl, everything about you is a lie. And somehow John and the orcs have known all along and forgive her and welcome her into their clan because she’s redeemed herself with her actions. There’s this big emphasis on how John’s clan does not speak vows because words can be broken and how one should be judged on their actions instead. Which, I guess. I guess I’ve just grown weary of the miscommunication trope. Why doesn’t Jule take aside all the new women and tell them that orcs don’t communicate the way humans do and you can’t expect them to understand if you don’t tell them. And at some point, maybe the women should start teaching unmated orcs how to talk to human women so they can avoid all the bullshit in the first place. I could do without all the cum guzzling though. Seriously, so many mentions of orc seed and Rosa’s amazing deep throating skill. Buckets and buckets of thick white seed. The spicy scenes are not doing it for me at all. And I find myself taken out of the moment anytime modern conversational language is slipped in with the anachronistic language used throughout. It’s a little jarring when you have orcs using words and phrases like naught and I shall and you wished but also phrases like macking on.

Still, this was a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ star read for me. Tristan and Salvi, and Simon to an extent, saved this one. The relationship between Tristan and Salvi was a shining spot in this story. The way Simon listened and learned from them and agreed to talk to his clan to work toward mending clan relations was really nice to read. And I do love a story where the heroine finds her spine (and herself) and ends up saving the day and gets the happily ever after she truly wants. Rosa and John grow individually and as a couple and when it was over, I found myself rooting for them.

That said, I think I’m going to take a break from the orcs. I did check out the next volume from KU, but it’s not a priority. I guess I’m still chasing that Ruby Dixon vibe that’s missing from my monster romance now that I’ve caught up on her entire catalog.

I read a book: The Heiress and the Orc (Orc Sworn #2), by Finley Fenn

Again with the orc-pricks and buckets of seed and other decidedly unsexy descriptions. Again with the lies upon lies upon lies. Again with men and orcs using wealthy women against each other for personal and political gain. Again with the women who take way too long to find their voices.

Very spicy, but I find most of the scenes lacking. These orc dudes will lick a lass from asshole to vulva but don’t spend any time on the clit. Orc-pricks in the butt without any foreplay/prep. I guess they’re dripping with natural lube? I guess. The spice is fine if you let yourself get caught up in the orc magic and just go along for the ride.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ for me. So why 4 stars? I really enjoyed the storytelling. It’s like a soap opera. It’s ridiculous and dramatic and will have you screaming at the characters when they do or say something dumb. It’s fun, and I’m here for it.

You can find The Heiress and the Orc, by Finley Fenn on Amazon as part of your Kindle Unlimited subscription or for sale in various formats.

I read a book: The Lady and the Orc (Orc Sworn #1), by Finley Fenn

100% picked up this book because I’ve seen Ruby Dixon mention liking the author. This book did not disappoint.

That said, if you are also reading this on the recommendation of the aforementioned author, don’t go into this thinking it will be anything like her work. The orcs of Fenn’s world are not the doting himbos of Dixon’s world. Their happily ever afters are hard earned and require work, compromise, and understanding on both parts to continue into the ever after. While there is a mating bond that makes them want each other, there is no magic that makes them love each other. They have to work at it. They make mistakes. In this book, our hero lies and withholds information, and eventually puts his needs ahead of hers and betrays her. But he is learning and so is she. There is so much to say about that, but I don’t want to spoil it for anyone. There were parts that legit had me crying because I was feeling the characters’ emotions. I am not a cryer.

My main gripe with this book was the use of the word “orc-prick” and emphasis on his seed. Seed pouring from him before the act, seed flooding out afterward, drinking his seed to make the baby strong. I’ll chalk that up to being #justorcthings.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ for me. This was really good. I’m looking forward to finding out what the rest of the series has to offer.

You can find The Lady and the Orc, by Finley Fenn on Amazon as part of your Kindle Unlimited subscription or for sale in various formats.