Under a Crescent Moon, Mercy Celeste
Publisher: Total E Bound Publishing
Genre: Gay Erotic Romance
Tags: Angst, Obsession, Dub-Con, Paranormal-Light, BDSM-Light, Cheating, Contemporary
Length: 195 Pages
Reviewer: Kazza K
“I won’t hurt you, Xan, not on purpose. I wouldn’t be here now if I meant to hurt you.” He kissed my inner thigh and then my hip as he made his way up my body. “You are so beautiful. I break beautiful things. I promise I wont break you.”
Ahh, famous last words. This book is filled with angst and people doing things to hurt the other, not on purpose, you understand. Well okay, sometimes on purpose, and it is all quite delicious. Angst and misunderstandings, miscommunication and drama – it had me unable to put this book down from beginning to end. I wanted…no, needed to see where it would go. Did I suspect some of the things that might happen? Yes. Did I care? No. Was I fully emotionally invested? You bet your sweet arse I was! The book has warnings. Heed them. There is a cheating theme, dub-con, and secrets, lots of secrets. If you don’t like any one of these then I suggest this book may not be for you. Is it at the worst end of the scale? No. It is just Mercy Celeste pushing boundaries of comfort…and hallelujah to that. I like boundary pushing. If you are fine with these themes, then walk on in for a journey. This book is right up there with Beyond Complicated for me. It’s just like its angst-y fucked-up sibling saying ‘I can out grab the readers by the genitals, too.’ I am all for that by the way.
Xander Cooper is twenty five and he works at the Crescent Moon – a sort of bar, a sort of café. He has taken over the running of the family establishment from his Great Aunt Eula. And he has honed his N’Awlins cooking craft with the elderly and eccentric Esmerelda, Aunt Eula’s longest standing friend. Xander loves his work, and his life is not too bad. He drives a midnight blue 1967 Shelby gt500, a gift from Eula, and he lives in her three hundred year old home –
This was my life. I loved this life. I met people. Lots of people. I had money and a wicked ride and I lived behind a mansion. What wasn’t to love?
As background, Xander has sadness around his life. He parent’s died in the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York. Aunt Eula rescued Xander and brought (the then thirteen year old) Xander back to New Orleans and into her…interesting life and colourful ways.
Xander is cleaning up and preparing to leave the Crescent Moon for the night when he finds three men sitting on or around his Shelby all making suggestions and generally being menacing. They want his classic car and the ringleader, Dom, wants a bit more from the pretty Xander, before sirens sound –
“Son of a bitch, fucking cops.” Sobercrazy moved away from me slowly at first and then at a run. Drunkendisorderly started laughing and Dom, well I didn’t know what Dom was doing. I was too busy watching the occupant of the unmarked car. More specifically, I watched the man unfold from the car and loom over us all. His gun clearly visible in his side holster, his sleeves rolled up as if he was on his way home from something. I hated him but I’d never been more happy to see anyone in my life. Except maybe when Aunt Eula had showed up to rescue me from the city children’s home. This reminded me of that day. A little.
The detective who arrives is Taylor Campbell. He helps move the guys on then follows a slightly shaken Xander home to Crescent House. You soon discover that Taylor lived n the house with Xander when he first arrived in New Orleans. His mother worked there, still works there, and is a good friend of Eula’s. You also learn that Taylor comes by the Crescent Moon every night around closing. Stalkerish? Maybe. Besotted? Definitely. There is much tension between the men immediately and before long it becomes apparent that certain feelings have never died when a kiss is exchanged at Xander’s –
“Did you want to do that?” He stood beside the table again, this time his back to me.
“Yes.” Why lie. I wanted to do that. There was so much more that I wanted to do to him, with him.
“Is that why you left to go to war?”
He sounded small in that moment. As if he were that lost kid again.
“Yes,” I whispered. Because the admission would destroy me.
“You went to war when you were nineteen to keep from kissing me?” The words were damning.
“You were fourteen, Xan.” I turned to leave I made a mistake. But what was one more in the grand scheme of my life.
“I’m twenty five now. And no virgin. Will you leave me again because you want to do things to me? Things I want you to do to me.”
Taylor is worried about Xander. There have been murders in the general vicinity of the Crescent Moon and Taylor is concerned Xander could be next. So worried that he does something he has avoided since first falling for Xander all those years ago, he sleeps with him and stays over. The next morning he is called to another murder but there are complications involved. Taylor knew the victim, not just as a friend, and his reaction at the crime scene gives things away. So, Taylor finds himself on suspension and under IA investigation, because he will not give himself an alibi by admitting he spent the night with Xander. It is not purely motivated by selflessness, he has people to protect and he is not out professionally or personally, nor does he want to be. Xander makes it clear he wants Taylor in his life now. He just wants Taylor. However, a few things start to come to the surface and Xander sees himself increasingly as Taylor’s bit on the side. They to-and-fro until a pretty big secret comes out that forces Xander’s hand. Taylor wants Xander with a burning passion but he continually pushes him away.
Meanwhile, Taylor is finally reinstated to the force – thanks to some inspired acting by Eula and the household, witchy senses, and Eula’s prominent position within New Orleans society. However, he is no longer working homicide. He is also no longer with his former work partner, who had been too keen to see the murders pinned on Taylor. Still giving him stich when he can. He is assigned a new partner and is working on a car theft ring which appears to be headed up by Dominic Grimaldi, aka The Reaper. The same Dom who was on Xander’s Shelby. The ring also may or may not be connected to the murders. To make matters more personal, Dominic Grimaldi is now seeing Xander. Taylor tries to keep tabs on Xander but he knows he has hurt him, he gets it, Xander has moved on –
Every night for the last two weeks Xander closed the restaurant as usual and every night the lights came on upstairs. Most nights there was just him silhouetted against the blinds. But once or twice there were two silhouettes. One Xan got on his knees for.
And of course Taylor will put himself through this, even though it nearly kills him to see Xander with another man. We know Xander hasn’t moved on, though. Sure, physically he is with someone else because Taylor won’t commit, can’t commit for some big reasons, but his mind never strays far from Taylor. So there is emotional torture on both sides –
My first broken heart at fourteen came from Taylor, and now I’d allowed him to do it again. Break my fucking heart because he needed one last hurrah before he tied on the old ball and chain.
Then Eula rings Taylor and reports Xander as missing. She says Xander told Esmerelda he was going away for a few days, but he hasn’t been heard from or seen for over a week. She can’t contact him in the both ways she knows how – phone and her witch senses. Pretty soon Taylor does find Xander, but not in a good place. Xander has taken a rather self-destructive nose dive aided by his new ‘love’ interest. Meanwhile, there is still a murderer that hasn’t been accounted for and the feelings that are below the surface of both men just waiting to explode. On top of this, Xander is now an angry ant after having been found by Taylor and the police.
Under a Crescent Moon is told from both Xander and Taylor’s POV, which keeps the reader in the loop throughout. I like books that are angst ridden where the author allows the reader to be aware of things the other MC is not privy too and also builds that information bit by bit. I find it helps elicit strong reader-emotion. And I had plenty of emotions reading this book. There is also a glimpse of the past that helps you see why Xander and Taylor have this intense connection that neither can let go of. It all becomes clear why/how they are hooked. It is not driven via flashback, rather dialogue and thoughts, and it always segues seamlessly –
Xan was a scrawny, gangly mess of an orphan with hair the color of the sunset. His tilted up green eyes were an exact match to Eula’s. Everything else about him was forgettable. His quiet desperation was not. Both parents gone in a flash. His entire world gone.
While there is a fair amount of character driven story, there are also a number of other arcs driving this book – Xander and Taylor’s rocky history, Xander’s Aunt Eula who is a freaky-fabulous character (and keeps slipping people roofies.) Mrs C, Taylor’s mum, a witch lineage, a murderer on the loose, and the current back and forth between the two leads, not to mention the secrets I won’t spoil here. Everyone is interconnected. Just when you think maybe things will come out…they don’t. Then the MC’s gravitate towards one another in a sexual and emotion-fuelled dance. Yet again. It was like watching a Cobra about to strike – fascinating and horrifying all at once.
The story is an interesting one. I love drama and I love palpable sexual tension. I love characters that are meant to be, but bounce off each other like supercharged atoms. I love a long standing attraction that borders on obsession. I got that in spades in UaCM. I really liked the leads, I really disliked the leads. I wanted to slap them both senseless – on multiple occasions. I also really wanted them to be together. They had to work freaking hard for everything. Life should not be this complex, and yet it most certainly can be. You know how life can be stranger than Fiction? Well, Mercy Celeste got the memo on that and then wrote about it. I read the book in one sitting and I was exhausted reading about their lives.
I must mention the sex in this book – whoa, momma!! I had to give the sex categories –
OMG! I’m-doing-it-with-him sex.
OMG! This-is-the-best-sex-ever sex
OMG! It’s-angry-as-fuck sex
You-want-dominant? I’ll-give-you-fucking-dominant sex
…and so it goes.
This book was a bitch to review. I have had to be cryptic as you need to read it to fully understand the warning of infidelity and the sex and the secrets. I love it. I am not apologetic about the fact that Mercy Celeste is one of my absolute favourites – so I expect the book to be of a certain standard. This book is all that I expected, and then some. If you are up for a ride, and you are not put off by the things I mentioned earlier, then let me highly recommend Under a Crescent Moon as a terrifically sexy, attention-grabbing, passionate read with very interesting characters, both primary and secondary, some murder, witchy ways, and a HEA. 5 stars all the way!!
“Is that how you like it? Hard.” He pushed my legs wide and held me behind my knees. His body pressed me to the bed. His lips touched mine, his gaze held me mesmerized. Hips thrusting hard, harder, deeper with each stroke. I clawed at his shoulders, his back trying to bring him closer.
“Tell me, do you like this, Xan? Does this hurt”
“Yes, oh god yes. Harder.”
My body tingled. Electricity danced from my toes to my fingers and along my spine…