Book Reviews

Fireworks and Stolen Kisses (Lijun 1) by Angel Martinez and Freddy MacKay at Pride Publishing

Genre Gay / Paranormal / Shifters / Interspecies / Romance / Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Reviewed by Serena Yates on 16-July-2018

Book Blurb

No. Eating. Pixies.


At the annual Global Lijun Alliance conference in Tokyo, Tally Bastille makes the first impulsive decision of his life. Others perceive his uktena—the enormous legendary serpent that’s his dual-spirit—as a threat, which makes him all too aware that he frightens fellow lijun. But an encounter with a passionate, obviously not-straight otter lijun one evening convinces Tally that he’s found his Em’halafi, his destined match. Tally is determined to barrel through all obstacles to make the match happen, including the otter’s conservative, traditional family.


Trained as a Satislit—a bride-son—Haru Tanaka chafes at the strict boundaries set around their life. They rebel against their clan’s constant attempts to force an arranged match and wish desperately for someone who will love them. At the conference, Haru is horrified to learn their family has accepted an offer for them, one too lucrative for the clan to refuse. Not only has the Urusar sold Haru to a stranger, but the lijun is also a giant snake and one who believes in the tired old superstitions regarding Em’halafi. Threatened with banishment if they refuse, Haru has no choice but to marry the wealthy American serpent.


Back in Tally’s home in Wisconsin, Haru and Tally must navigate both the widening gulf between them as they realize how much they’ve misunderstood about each other, and the tricky politics of the lijun clan Tally leads. Murder, intrigue and increasing hostility threaten to tear apart the little town of Wadiswan and the arranged marriage they’ve barely managed to begin.


Book Review

This fascinating story about a cross-cultural and cross-species shifter couple is set in a shifter world with multiple species more or less getting along, many myths about some of the more powerful shifters, or lijun, and a significant influence from Japanese and Native American culture I really loved. The authors have combined quite a few legends as well as added their own creativity to come up with a captivating setting for a series that promises to be charming, filled with mystery, and made to completely absorb me. ‘Fireworks and Stolen Kisses’ focuses on Tally, a snakeshifter who knows that he has found his destined mate, and Haru, an ottershifter who has been raised in a super-strict, traditional way which means he is basically being “sold” as a dutiful, obedient husband and uniquely for the financial benefit of his clan. But there is also the larger context of lijun politics, a murder mystery, and more than one surprise as the characters get to know each other.

Haru broke my heart. He has been raised to think of himself as chattel to be sold, to live his life in the way his clan sees it, and to do his duty no matter if that makes him happy or not. Happiness, in Haru’s world, is irrelevant. As an ottershifter he needs family and a social group more than most shifters, but he can’t really have it because he has no choice about whom he ends up with, and has never even had a true family in his birth clan. Haru tries so hard to be the dutiful son he has been raised to be, but he also wants an independent life. How he stays sane is beyond me! Once he begins to discover the potential of his and Tally’s life together he still has to learn to truly believe he can have it, and that is a monumental challenge requiring a lot of personal change.

Tally is a great guy – but he has some serious cultural blinders on as well. He assumes that everyone is as free-thinking and open-minded as he believes he is, so he has no idea what pressure Haru lives under and that he has no choice but to marry Tally and no say about what happens to him. All Tally wants is to love and be loved by his Em’halafi, his destined mate. Tally doesn’t listen – because he does not even suspect he might have to. “He’d wanted what he’d wanted and he hadn’t listened, even if Haru hadn’t felt comfortable enough or desperate enough to say the words.” When the truth of the situation finally becomes obvious during their wedding night, Tally is crushed. Self-recrimination follows but finding a solution that both he and Haru can live with, never mind discovering how to be happy, is a monumentally painful task. Opening up to someone who is different enough to never expect honesty or know what to do with it is a true personal challenge for Tally.

The contrast and conflict between Haru and Tally has many levels. There is the “superficial” difference due to Haru being Japanese and very traditional, and Tally being American and very “modern”. Then there is also the fact that otters and snakes are not exactly friends, so they have issues on a purely biological, instinctual level that are much more difficult to overcome.  Throw in the differences in clan culture and it is amazing these two men even manage to begin to communicate. Sorting out everything and adding the murder and all resulting suspicions heaped on Tally means the whole process is painful and takes quite a while to even surface. Neither man expects what they find once they start to sort out the problems, both men need to work on themselves and their relationship to make it happen, and I loved being along for the ride.

If you like mutilayered characters with multiple issues to solve on several fronts, if you enjoy imaginative paranormal worlds that take a while to discover and have enough depth to “require” a glossary, and if you’re looking for a suspenseful read with a lot of humor, a few surprises, and a very emotional love story, then you will probably like this novel as much as I do. It’s amazing for many more reasons than I can talk about here, and I already look forward to reading it again – just to make sure I didn’t miss anything. It’s one of those books where I know I will discover something new every time I read it and that makes it just about perfect as far as I am concerned.





DISCLAIMER: Books reviewed on this site were usually provided at no cost by the publisher or author. This book has been provided by the author for the purpose of a review.

Additional Information

Format ebook and print
Length Novel, 243 pages/84925 words
Heat Level
Publication Date 26-June-2018
Price $4.99 ebook, $13.49 paperback
Buy Link