This was a very fun novella to read, with the extra bonus for being free!
This is a noir-ish historical mystery set in an alternative world where ownin...moreThis was a very fun novella to read, with the extra bonus for being free!
This is a noir-ish historical mystery set in an alternative world where owning slaves is allowed and expected. New private detective Flint, a freed slave himself, finds that he's unhappily saddled with taking on a slave of his own, and he's somewhat lost on how poor, low-rent him is supposed to handle the beautiful young man that's knocking on his door.
Flint can read people, and he reads gorgeous Friday, who is a mix of high-class service experience, sharp wit, and the lurking remains of bare-knuckled fear, the likes of which make Flint's stomach turn.
Along with figuring out how to fit Friday into his life (and apartment), there's also a case of a missing woman, along with some looming toughs wanting to make Flint's new life as a PI difficult.
I loved Flint's narration and it's mix of old-timey speech, I loved Friday's mix of sass and vulnerability, and very much enjoyed how these two worked together, both on the case and in in the few sexy times that dot the story.
Very enjoyable read, and at almost 40,000 words, it felt nicely long! I wouldn't say no if another client came walking on Flint and Friday's door to solve another mystery. :-)
The whole thing can be downloaded here. (For free!)(less)
Psyched to Death is the sixth installment in Perry’s Jamie Brodie Mysteries, a series that stars intrepid UCLA librarian Jamie, his dedicated boyfrien...morePsyched to Death is the sixth installment in Perry’s Jamie Brodie Mysteries, a series that stars intrepid UCLA librarian Jamie, his dedicated boyfriend Pete, their myriad friends and family members, and a rising body count. (At least one per book.) The series is definitely in the “cozy” variety—not too dark and rarely very tense (and all sexy times are fade to black), but the series is also comfortable, fun, and very readable.
At this point in the series, I feel pretty entrenched. Although I still find Perry’s style overly simplistic and straight-forward, I appreciate her character consistency and the dollops of development she spreads out over each book, so even as Jamie and Pete find themselves participating in another amateur investigation, the books don’t return to a perfect status quo at the end. They’re a little further in their relationship, or new information has been revealed, or new life developments have occurred, and the Jamie of book 6 is not the same Jamie as book 1 Cited to Death (although he still has to watch out for his asthma. That’s another point of consistency that I appreciate—Perry keeps track of all the little bits and bobs of the characters, so they feel very realistic.)
Can you jump into book 6 cold? Probably? But I wouldn’t recommend it. There’s been quite a bit of development over the series, and you’ll appreciate it more if you start from the beginning. There is also not a lot of character introduction, so you’ll follow along better if you have the build-up over the different books.
#6 is slightly more bolder than #5; this time Pete’s teaching colleague has found his young lover stabbed, but he swears he’s innocent. Jamie and Pete find themselves roped in to help find who might have killed poor young Matt, all the while navigating their continuing relationship counseling and some unwelcome news from Pete’s family.
I wouldn’t mind if Perry ramped up the tension and peril a little more, add a few dashes of danger to put me on the edge of my seat, but overall, I still really enjoy each mystery, and feel still that this series and its steady development (and recurring crimes) would make a really fun TV show.
Will I read the next one? Yes, definitely. I think Perry would have to do something really out there to get me off this train. As of now, Jamie and his bunch are so likeable and easy to read, that even if I want more excitement in the stories, I’ll still happily plunk down the cash to read about their adventures. (It helps that each book is less than $3.)
If you like m/m mysteries, especially the cozy variety, I recommend you check out the series with book 1 Cited to Death. Perry’s style feels little raw at first, but I got used to it. If the first volume work for you, it’s easy for me to recommend the follow-ups like this one.
(You can also tell Perry is a Josh Lanyon fan—there are multiple jokes throughout the series that point to Adrien English’s bookshop, and another reference is in this volume. I always dig those small references to the genre.)(less)
Temper Sanguine is the sequel to the Rainbow Award-winning paranormal romance Spirit Sanguine, about a vampire slayer new to Chicago who finds that hi...moreTemper Sanguine is the sequel to the Rainbow Award-winning paranormal romance Spirit Sanguine, about a vampire slayer new to Chicago who finds that his assumptions about vampires are turned on their head when he attempts to stalk a hot young vamp named Harvey (who’s a vegetarian, a bad driver, and has a penchant for sexy role-playing.) Instead of slaying him, they start seeing each other, all while solving some mysteries together.
I really enjoyed book 1, and overall really like Harper’s low-key writing, natural dialogue, and characters who live beyond stereotypes, which is a nice draw when picking up another vampire romance. This sequel continues from book 1, where Harvey and Gabe are still very together, although are now surfing some tensions, mostly due to Harvey’s fears that his “forced turning” by some vampires high on “bad blood” will eventually change him into a monster, the very same ones that Gabe used to kill in Europe.
Like book 1, book 2 is broken up into different stories, this time two different but linked mysteries, the first that sends our duo to New York and then later, to Hungary to track an old vampire menace.
For those who liked book 1, and Gabe and Harvey’s developing relationship, it’s easy to recommend the sequel. It’s nice to return to Harper’s world of “realistic vampires” who have to cope with day-to-day things, all while still having to solve some crimes and track some bad guys (or bad vamps.) I also love Harvey and Gabe’s relationship, and its mix of comfortable (and sexy) playfulness, even while they try to deal with their differences, including their habit of keeping things from each other.
For me, the first mystery in New York was the stronger and the more exciting of the two. The second, where our boys jet to Hungary, was scenic and interesting, but I definitely felt the pacing dip during that half, especially with sections that had felt heavy with exposition.
But overall, it was still a joy to return to Gabe and Harvey’s world, and I’m on board for any further adventures with them. If you enjoy paranormal romances, it’s a very good read, although I definitely recommend book 1 first. You’ll get way more out of the characters since there isn’t much explained about what happened earlier. And after that, don’t forget to check out the free short story that’s set between book 1 and 2, Late Night Snack.
4.5 stars - I’m going to start by explaining why this book has been on my TBR pile since June 2012. The thing is, I’ve read other works by Tamara Alle...more4.5 stars - I’m going to start by explaining why this book has been on my TBR pile since June 2012. The thing is, I’ve read other works by Tamara Allen…and I’ve LOVED THEM. To pieces. With immense and overflowing joy that makes me want to go outside and sing (badly) to my poor neighbors and to the café downstairs and to the overworked clerks at the drug store across the street. “There she goes again...reading Tamara Allen,” they’ll say as I serenade in the paper towel section to the handsome Brawny mascot about Allen’s rich prose and witty dialogue.
I loved The Only Gold and Downtime--they are awesome historicals, so having an “Allen in my pocket” as it were with Whistling in the Dark was like having one last piece of chocolate that you were saving for a rainy day, or a bad day, or the last day on earth. Something to treasure and hold on to, because at only a handful of books, Allen’s backlist isn’t huge, and I wanted to hold on as long as possible to a book of hers I haven’t read yet.
But it’s Spring Cleaning Week at Boys in Our Books, so I picked it up, ready to move forward.
So, after all that, how did it go?
I loved it.
Allen is refreshingly consistent with her writing and characters—they are solid and real and sympathetic. She has this ability to drop the reader back in time, so everything--from Jack’s cluttered Emporium, filled with novelties and exotic treasures, to his messy apartment upstairs with his bare larder, to the jolting New York subway--all feel vibrant and realized, like you’re sitting across from the characters, watching them slowly and cautiously reach out beyond their battle scars to find each other.
And find each other they do. Two war-torn souls—impetuous Jack who is juggling his struggling shop, his loan shark shadows, and the night terrors that sometimes take over his body during the day, and Sutton, once richly privileged but scandal, loss, and memories from battle have pushed him to try his luck alone in the wilds of New York. And one bad night, when things look most dire for young, beaten Sutton, Jack’s kindred soul finds him, and takes him home, like one more strange, stray treasure found in the back shelves of his shop.
But it’s not just Jack who finds Sutton—dreams once thought lost are found as Sutton’s musical talent breathes back to life, and he and Jack quickly find that even their little grimy corner of the city can bring joy and light and song to citizens ravaged by war, illness, and loss.
Reading Whistling in the Dark is like watching an awesome old black-and-white movie. The dialogue feels placed in that time, with great tempo and funny lines. (Especially when saucy Gert comes on the scene. She’s a riot!) And speaking of Gert, it’s once again evident that Allen is very skilled at developing and juggling multiple characters and giving them distinct voices and lives, from protective Harry, to flamboyant Theo, to grouchy, suspicious Ida, to lovelorn Ox.
And Sutton and Jack’s relationship is a nice slow build, and very representative of Allen’s style of having two very different characters meet (like Jonah and Reid in The Only Gold and Ezra and Morgan in Downtime), not exactly hit it off, but gradually (and sometimes begrudgingly) circle around their commonalities, until finally they realize how fiercely important this once agitating presence has become to them.
If I had one downside for this volume, it would be that I felt the pacing slip a bit during the last 20% or so, and it felt a little bogged down during character emo-time. (I’m never a fan when the “I’m not good enough for you” conflict swings in.) But the rest of the work is such an overflowing joy, that it is still very easy to love this book, just like the others.
And I can write love letters to Allen and sing inappropriately in the drug store all day about how much I enjoy her writing. For those who haven’t read her yet, I highly recommend her work, especially if you like historicals, slow burns, enemies-to-lovers, thoughtful and rich characterization, and a strong sense of place and time.
I think Allen is one of the best (and very underrated) authors in the m/m genre. For those who enjoy historicals, her work is a true treasure.
Out of the five Smithfield stories that Gregg has penned, I’ve read now three, including this one, and I think this newest installment is probably my...moreOut of the five Smithfield stories that Gregg has penned, I’ve read now three, including this one, and I think this newest installment is probably my favorite.
This time, Gregg takes us back to the small idyllic New England town of Smithfield, and we follow burly blond bed & breakfast owner Sam, who is likened to a Viking due to his towering height and light hair, and who is struggling, along with his sister, to keep their family business going. While he suffers through his sister’s money-raising schemes, the latest of which is to entice local lonely-hearts to meet cute while cooking at the inn, Sam himself is a little bit lonesome since it seems like all the other available gay men in town got coupled off already (in books 1-4.)
Of course, this means Sam also has his own “meet cute” story, but it’s not over the dinner table at the inn, but at the library, when he gets his hand stuck in the book drop, and only a shadowy figure sneaking in the stacks is there to help him out.
Little does Sam know that his sneaky savior is the newest B&B guest, a cute out-of-towner named Aaron who is quick with picking a lock, looks hot in Henleys, and keeps his secrets close to his toned little chest. (Height difference fans can rejoice at the inches between Aaron, who is around 5’5, and looming Sam.)
All and all, this is a nicely light contemporary romance novella—not too deep, but a quick and fun read. The other Smithfield books I’ve read, Mark & Tony and Max & Finn, had a mystery amongst the romance shenanigans, and this one shares that trait, although the mystery here is very light on suspense in comparison. (And also a little confusing.)
Even though I’m a big mystery-romance fan, I did prefer this book of the three, mostly because I liked Sam better than earlier MCs Mark, Max, and Finn, and he had cute chemistry with Aaron, as well as with the rest of the cast of wacky characters. (I had a hard time warming up to the other two books, but this one was pretty easy to swim into, like a warm bath started by a grousing, over-burdened inn owner.)
Do you need to read the other Smithfield books to enjoy this? Probably not—you’ll see some references to Mark and Finn, and both Tony from book 1 and Adam from book 4 pop up, but I think you can go into this expecting a light contemporary romance and enjoy it as it is.
I think my favorite Gregg works are still her Romano and Albright series, but this one would be a good de-stresser for a long day, or a nice read if you’re sitting by the beach. You might get a little hungry though—those dating dinner classes that Sam and Aaron are forced to take, although full of mishaps, do sound quite tasty. Maybe you can commiserate with them by having a glass of wine to share while you read.(less)
Bloodline is a m/m romance sequel/continuation of the m/f urban fantasy romance Jumping in Puddles. This is important to note because even though Bloo...moreBloodline is a m/m romance sequel/continuation of the m/f urban fantasy romance Jumping in Puddles. This is important to note because even though Bloodline follows fae Micah, the first book follows his sister Ellie and the rest of their family’s quest for some stolen faerie jewels.
Having not read book 1, I can only assume that it must have ended close to where Micah’s story in book 2 starts—where he and Ellie fall through a portal and into the bedroom of Oberon, king of the fae and overall sadistic bastard. Ellie is let go, but Micah is kept by the king as a prisoner/plaything, but before things get too dire for our book 2 hero, he meets another poor soul that’s caught in Oberon’s schemes—Inigo, a vampire tattoo artist who has been given an impossible task.
Inigo and Micah quickly bond over their terrible circumstances with the Fae king, and also over their mutual attraction for each other and soon start working together. Things quickly shift to rescue-mode, and even move out of Fairyland as Micah and Inigo get wrapped up into a new quest while still trying to evade Oberon’s hunters.
That sounds very exciting and it was! At the beginning, I was totally drawn into poor Micah and Inigo’s plight. After their escape though, I started following less, and when they flee fairyland, the story felt a little less sure of itself as more characters and events (and sexy times) were added, and for me, things felt far less compelling compared to the beginning.
First off—I REALLY felt a disconnection for not reading book 1. Past events were referred to in book 2 that I assumed happened or were explained more in book 1, but here, they had less weight and meaning, and I found many of the carry-over characters (Ellie, Jago, Jayne, Pixie, etc,) either annoying or superfluous. (And my guess is that they were more sympathetic in the previous volume. Except maybe Pixie, who is like spoiled teenager.)
For instance, Ellie was the main character in book 1, but what I saw of her character in book 2 made me feel no pull for her, and her impetuousness in the beginning felt a bit TSTL. In another instance, the shifter character of Jayne had very little purpose, which felt strange in this book because she was the reason why Micah put himself in danger in the first place. It felt odd to have that part so quickly resolved and removed. It made me wonder if there had been more weight or explanation in the previous volume with those events.
My disconnection grew much stronger as more characters entered the scene. That and the multiple sex scenes in the second half slowed the pacing down for me and added what felt like padding. When another sex scene popped up somewhere past the 80% mark, I did skim it while wondering when the climax (not the sexy kind) was going to pop up.
In the end, I felt a little frustrated. I love fantasy and urban fantasy, and I don’t dislike Elsborg’s writing. I just felt not connected enough to the characters in this volume to really enjoy it.
Do I recommend this book? I recommend Bloodline to fans of m/f and m/m urban fantasy and I recommend that you read book 1. I think you will get the maximum enjoyment out of this series. For me, who doesn’t read m/f, I definitely felt the loss.
But if you are a big urban fantasy romance fan, then this may hit all your buttons.
Will I continue reading the series? Not for this one. I do like Elsborg’s style though, and I thought it was quite creative, so I would definitely check out another m/m fantasy work by her.
A delicious albeit too short for my tastes trip back in time where a young journalist meets a sexy ghost hunter and a horny ghost.
I *love* KJ Charles'...moreA delicious albeit too short for my tastes trip back in time where a young journalist meets a sexy ghost hunter and a horny ghost.
I *love* KJ Charles' writing. I find it funny, imaginative, sexy, and thrilling, and she does a great job painting the scene with period details while keeping the pacing tight and the dialogue sharp.
It's a very fun, sexy read, but at 4,500 words, it's also a very quick read, which makes that $2 price point a little hard to take. Thankfully, I already read the excellent, longer, and free sequel story Butterflies so already knew I liked the characters and their steamy chemistry, so took the plunge into this first story about how they met.
Now I'm looking even more forward to checking out their new free crossover story Remnant.
Even if I'm grouchy about the price point, Simon and Robert are super fun characters and I love-love-love how Charles has developed them over their first two stories. I very much hope she returns to them. (With a novel. Pretty pretty please?) :D(less)
3.5 stars - Very low-key installment of the Jamie Brodie mysteries. This time, Jamie, boyfriend Pete, and Jamie’s nephew Colin visit Pete’s brother in...more3.5 stars - Very low-key installment of the Jamie Brodie mysteries. This time, Jamie, boyfriend Pete, and Jamie’s nephew Colin visit Pete’s brother in New Mexico for a vacation, and get involved in a case about the death of a TV host for a show about aliens.
I’m already invested in this series so in this fifth volume, I once again enjoyed Jamie’s straightforward, simplistic style of narration. The characters are, as always, appealing and realistic, and this time included Jamie’s nephew, who at 12, is very gifted, but wasn’t cloying or annoying.
There was some slight movement in Jamie and Pete’s relationship as they continued to work through some of the few issues hampering them. Not as much progress as past books, but their relationship is still very strong, and they’re a fun pair to read.
The mystery itself is very low-key and almost anti-climactic. If I was coming in on this volume without reading the previous four books in the series, I probably would have been bored and may not have continued further. Being entrenched into the Jamie Brodie world by this time means that I enjoyed the book, although it felt like a snack and not a satisfying meal.
For those interested in checking out the series, don’t start here. You will get waaaaaay more out of thing if you start with part 1, Cited to Death.
Even though this installment felt a little lighter and less meaty (or tense), I really enjoy the series and love the characters, so am fully on board still and am very much looking forward to the next volume.(less)
3.5 stars - Overall, I thought this was a very imaginative and fun fantasy adventure romance that’s set in this alternative world with magic and flyin...more3.5 stars - Overall, I thought this was a very imaginative and fun fantasy adventure romance that’s set in this alternative world with magic and flying ships where an assassin stumbles upon a mysterious farm boy, and together they get caught up in each other and a coming war.
What I liked: I LOVE fantasy, and I really love m/m fantasy, and Shepherd’s story is filled to the brim with creative word-building, fantastic settings, and LOADS of adventure. One thing I liked was that I didn’t remember the blurb much outside of “airships, yay!” so I was nicely surprised as the story twists and turns around how assassin Balin’s meets with gentle, sheltered Damir and their building life and relationship, and what happens when the more violent outside world comes crashing down on Damir’s idyllic farm and forces both of them to make some tough choices.
For the most part, I could not guess at all where the story was going. Shepherd has imagination to burn, and this book is most reminiscent of a big fantasy journey story as our heroes embark on their quest.
I really liked the characters, both main and secondary. The main MCs of Balin and Damir were sympathetic and readable, and I enjoyed watching loner Balin get attached to someone just as I enjoyed watching Damir open up to new experiences (and unfortunately, also to some tragedies that change him.) But fortunately, he is not facing them alone, and he and Balin make a fiercely strong couple (and have a lot of hot romantic times along their journey.)
The secondary characters were also interesting, and I particularly liked the secondary couple of Zephyr, an airship pirate captain and his right hand man/lover Israel. (My suspicion is that they may be a lead couple in a future book, which I wouldn’t mind. They’re interesting, and have yet to have their backstory explained.)
What was harder: The three things that brought down my reading a little are--
1) I’d recommend another round of proofing. There were quite a few editing errors, including misused names a few times. Also, a few anachronisms that seemed odd in this fantasy AU world, like when a character says, “Let’s get the fuck out of Dodge.” (Which refers to the old Kansas boomtown of Dodge.) Some of those threw me out.
2) The book is chock full of awesome adventures, and I did really enjoy that it spooled out in this great fantasy epic adventure way. I knew it was part of a series, but I didn’t know how much of series it was going to be. (Is it a series of one-shot stories in the same land? Will it have a cliffhanger? Etc.) Around the 60-70% mark, when the characters were going on a new side-quest that I could tell wasn’t going to resolve the main arc, I had the sinking feeling that I was in the long-term fantasy trilogy land, and from there, I stopped thinking that things would get resolved too much by the end of this one. (And they weren’t.)
BUT for those who hate cliffhangers (like me. I HATE them.), please note that this book does not have a cliffhanger ending. It’s very much in the middle of the journey—our heroes have much to do going forward, but it’s HFN and safe enough of an ending for now, that you won’t be gnashing your teeth too much about what will happen next.
3) Balin and Damir have some awesome sexy times in the book as they explore each other and their relationship. I did think some of the sex could have been culled out. Sometimes it slowed the pacing down, and at times felt like, “big action” -> “chill out after” --> “sexy times” --> back on the road --> “Mmm, a hotel bed. Sexy times!” --> “Action!” --> “healing and comfort” --> “Consoling sexy times!” etc. Probably 2-3 scenes could have been cut without losing the story’s (and the characters’) steaminess.
Will I read the next book? Yes, definitely. Even with my caveats, it was still a really fun read, and definitely hit my fantasy-romance buttons, so I’m on board for the next book, no matter if the author sticks with this book’s main couple or gives Israel and Zephyr the spotlight. Either would work for me.
Do I recommend this book? Yes, especially to other big fans of m/m fantasy. It wasn’t a perfect read for me, but I did enjoy it. Just know that it doesn’t end the journey in this volume, so it’s better to have that expectation of the “long view” for fantasy epics going in. (My assumption is that this will be a trilogy, but am not certain.)
This is the first pro book that I’ve read by Shepherd. (The other work I read by her is one of her earlier pre-pro fictionpress stories Kingdom Come.) This novel is definitely an improvement over her pre-pro writing. I did sometimes find the story almost…over-stuffed, either with action or sex or extra plot or characters, but I think it’s partly a sign of a bursting and vibrant imagination. A little restraint might not be bad, but overall, she has a fun style. (I do think it’s cool that she keeps up her pre-professional work on FP. Not every writer does that.)
A fun read. I recommend some more proofing, but I definitely look forward to the next book, and for big high fantasy romance fans, it may hit many of your buttons.(less)
Overall I thought The Experiment was a pretty fun sci-fi romance. The story follows human Ryker, whose body is altered by human scientists as part of...moreOverall I thought The Experiment was a pretty fun sci-fi romance. The story follows human Ryker, whose body is altered by human scientists as part of their war against another alien race. The experiments are very much against his will, and to his horror, he and one of the aliens they’re fighting against are ejected into a shuttle and sent to the alien’s planet.
There, Ryker expects a quick death by the aliens’ hands, but instead, is faced with a much gentler treatment than what he experienced by his own kind. He is forced to confront who are his real enemies, and also who he is now in this new altered body.
I am a fan of the “forced marriage” trope when it’s not rape-y, and thankfully, that’s where this story falls as Ryker and his fellow alien captive Seral have to “join” to survive because of what the scientists had injected into them before they were released. Seral, who feels a deep connection to his new mate Ryker, understands that Ryker is *not* at the same place as him, nor does he understand any of Seral’s culture, including what it means to join, so he patiently and carefully enfolds Ryker into his world without pressuring him.
Ryker is suffering from severe PTSD from his trauma during his years of being experimented on. Even with his trauma, the story isn’t *too dark* because those painful experiences are not detailed and graphic, which I appreciated. If you dislike non-con and torture like me, know that The Experiment is not too graphic, and much of the focus is on his recovery and adjustment to his new world and to his new alien husband.
In this way, the book reminded me of the movie Avatar since it shared some similar traits of entering into (and falling in love with) an alien world, and how the world you are from may actually be the enemy to watch out for.
As a heads-up: the dynamic between smaller Ryker and larger Seral has kind of a yaoi-esque seme/uke tone and reading this reminded me of Rob Colton and Rowan McBride and other m/m writers that often focus on the protective larger mate and the protected smaller mate tropes, although the characters here are not as burly & hairy as in Colton’s seminal novel Timber Pack Chronicles nor did it have muscles bursting out of clothes like in McBride’s works. (Although there were clothes being torn off with claws literally before some sexy times.)
If you are adverse to that school of characters, you may have a harder time with this story. Even as Ryker grows stronger, and faces his fears after his trauma, the dynamic follows that yaoi-esque path. I’ve read and enjoyed a lot of yaoi, so it worked fine with me, but I know some don’t like those tropes, so heads-up.
Even with the seme/uke dynamics, I did really like Seral and Ryker’s chemistry, and I’m a fan of a good healing relationship story. It didn’t fall too hurt/comfort where it was overwhelming on comfort, and I did feel like it was a good level of understanding and space for a character who was very traumatized. It was easy to sympathize with Ryker’s fears of intimacy and trust, which made his slow bloom back to life even nicer to read.
Near the end of the book, some characters were introduced that, to a learned romance reader’s eye, reveals the seeds for future couples, so it looks like this is the first book of a series. For readers who hate cliffhangers (like me), please know that the ending here is satisfying, so even if more books come out, you will not be left hanging here.
This novel was born as a free serial on GayAuthors.org, and there, you can read the second book in the series Adverse Effects for free (and it just was completed.)
Nordwell, under penname Cia, has a bunch of free stories, novellas, and novels on GayAuthors.org, so if you like her style, there’s a lot to check out there (along with her published works.)
Do I recommend this book? I do if you’re a big sci-fi romance fan, and if you’re fine with the big/small traditional yaoi dynamic. Nordwell did introduce some cool word-building, including the culture of joining, and how it’s different on Seral’s world, and I thought that was pretty neat.
Will I read the next book? Yes, I would read the next book. I’m intrigued enough about Seral’s world and with following the future of the other characters who were introduced in the book.
Overall, a fun, intriguing imaginative sci-fi read with a good mix of romance and action (and sexy times.)
A very fun (and free) historical crossover novella that ties Charles' ghost hunter Simon and partner Robert (from The Caldwell Ghost and Butterflies)...moreA very fun (and free) historical crossover novella that ties Charles' ghost hunter Simon and partner Robert (from The Caldwell Ghost and Butterflies) with Hawk's academic/sorcerer Percival Whyborne and his detective lover Griffin (from the Whyborne and Griffin series).
Here, Whyborne and Griffin are visiting London from the U.S., and get embroiled in one of Robert and Simon's newest (and grisly) murder cases. Where as Robert and Griffin seem to hit things off quite quickly, Simon and Whyborne are very much not aligned, especially since Simon disagrees with Whyborne's use of sorcery.
A very fun read, and at over 15,000+ words, is pleasantly sizable for a free read. Fans of either series should find lots to enjoy (including some romantic times) and this is an easy recommendation to make if you've enjoyed either Charles' or Hawk's writings. Having the two pairs come together (whether they're friendly or fighting) is a very imaginative combo, and overall, a really enjoyable read.
My only aside is that I'm one of the few who didn't get into Widdershins, although I love historicals and mysteries. I think there's a style difference with Whyborne's narration that doesn't work with me. I felt that difference for the alternative chapters that Whyborne narrated here, so it's a good indicator that the rest of the W&G series is probably not for me either.
It definitely satisfied my Robert & Simon craving though, and Charles, that crafty person, alludes to several past cases that have not appeared in print yet. (The tease!) I hope there's an unwritten promise there, because I would definitely love to backtrack and find out more about them.
Charles and Hawk were definitely a good combo, and I would look forward to reading any further adventures of these four. That is, if Simon and Whyborne would allow it...
4.5 stars – A wonderful, delightful, and delicious historical romance/suspense that follows stiff and proper Archie Curtis, still reeling from his deb...more4.5 stars – A wonderful, delightful, and delicious historical romance/suspense that follows stiff and proper Archie Curtis, still reeling from his debilitating injury that forced him out of his military service (one that he thought would be his life career) as he travels to a secluded country estate for a two-week sojourn. Although his intentions are less about relaxing and more about uncovering some mysteries that may be hidden behind all the gilded wealth.
To Archie’s chagrin, among the other visiting guests is a haughty (and very gay) poet who’s sharp tongue and lackadaisical demeanor grates on his nerves, except when he realizes they share something in common. And then things get REALLY interesting.
Although it had a slow start for me, once I got into this book, I was IN, and LOVING it. Charles is just as witty and engaging here as she is with her Magpie series, and Archie and Daniel are truly a dream team, once they iron out some of the bumps between them.
I loved Archie’s slow build to wanting Daniel (and his realization about what that means) and I loved Daniel in general, both for his facade of not-caring, for his quick thinking, and for how he carried himself, so strongly, even though he was battered with an almost constant stream of anti-Semitism and homophobia. I loved that Archie wanted to his be Viking (even though he’ll have to be subtle about it—not overtly there to protect him.)
And a special shout-out to the side-characters, especially a lovely duo of ladies that keep many important skills beneath their hats. They could have their own series!
A fantastic and thrilling read. I almost want to reread it right now, and I finished it this morning. I’m pleased as punch that the author has already announced there will be a sequel. I’m already mentally lining up to pre-order it.(less)
A nice, albeit not deep diversion. It feels more like an episode than a short story, which technically, as part 1 of the Market Garden series, that’s...moreA nice, albeit not deep diversion. It feels more like an episode than a short story, which technically, as part 1 of the Market Garden series, that’s what it’s more akin to, kind of like a spicy amuse bouche before the series meal.
Quid Pro Quo is 43 pages/10,000 words and is told via the POV of Jared, a rent boy at the high-class escort club Market Garden. Jared’s only been there half a year, and is not as experienced as his high demand colleague Tristan (who he finds very sexy), but his experience points ramp up when both his and Tristan’s dual services are bought by a Rolex-wearing American, a client who is willing to amp up the ante to see them get to know each other better. By the end of the session, Jared finds himself caught between his own heated attraction to Tristan and Tristan’s intense teasing to heighten their ultimate take-home pay for the night.
Voinov and Witt’s writing is smooth and it was easy to travel along on Jared & Tristan’s Excellent Adventure. At the end though, I just felt like it was a nice sexy read, but not something I felt very emotionally tied to, or felt compelled to continue further.
There is a continuation though for those interested. Jared and Tristan star in the second Market Garden installment Take It Off, and in the sixth installment Payoff.
I’m not a fan of serials though, or rather serial-like, since I don’t think of Market Garden as a serial since some of the installments are much longer and focus on other characters. Tristan & Jared’s storyline in total is 35,000 words over the three stories (or 147 pages, numbers via Riptide), and $2.99 each. So, in the end, it’s $9.00 for what I consider less than a novel-length story. I enjoy Voinov and Witt’s writing, but that price point is hard for me to surpass in my mind, and it’s why I normally steer away from installment stories. The price point, and the lack of emotional tie-in for this first installment means that I’ll probably just get off the train here and assume that T&J eventually find that sexy, pants-tossing HEA they deserve.
For those who like to get invested in a series, and don’t mind varying lengths of installments, then this first stop on the Market Garden tour may be up your alley.
(As an aside, I read this for M/M Team Bingo, as a title off the I Want to See this on Screen! list, and I think it's funny that so many are hoping to see a Market Garden TV show. HBO? Are you listening?)(less)
Researched to Death is Perry’s fourth volume in her Jamie Brodie Mysteries, following the first book Cited to Death, and the subsequent books Hoarded...moreResearched to Death is Perry’s fourth volume in her Jamie Brodie Mysteries, following the first book Cited to Death, and the subsequent books Hoarded to Death, and Burdened to Death. The series focuses on intrepid and sensible UCLA reference librarian Jamie Brodie, and his boyfriend Pete, a former cop and currently a psychology professor, and their knack for falling into murder mysteries.
The Jamie Brodie Mysteries fits the “gay amateur sleuth” category very well, and rings a tone similar to Josh Lanyon’s Adrien English series and J. L. Merrow’s Pressure Head, where the non-law enforcement hero finds himself tracking a case and using his non-professional skills to find answers (and sometimes get into trouble.)
Perry’s writing doesn’t have the polish and ease of Lanyon or the distinct narrative voice like Merrow, but over the series, I’ve grown very comfortable with her straight-forward, simplistic style for Jamie’s first person POV. I still find some of his observations very list-like, but I think he’s so refreshingly realistic and “normal” that I can’t help myself from liking him and Pete and wanting to follow them along as they discover clues or elude danger.
This is probably my favorite thing about the series. Jamie is extremely RATIONAL and makes what I can only describe as “good decisions” in a mystery novel. (A good comparison is the trailer for the fake movie Hell No: The Sensible Horror Movie.) I just love watching Jamie deal with issues because for the most part, he reacts like what I would think most people would if facing a similar situation.
To illustrate, let’s compare Jamie to his cliché amateur sleuth counterpart. I’ll call this guy Jimbo. There’s been a murder, and Jamie and Jimbo have been roped into the case due to their connections to the victim.
1) You’ve gotten a shady note to meet a stranger at midnight in a dark and lonesome park.
Jamie: I better tell people about this note. Maybe get the police involved. I certainly won’t go alone to meet this turkey.
Jimbo: Oh, a note! I should go right away without talking to anyone! Oops, I left my phone at the office. Oh, well! Why would I need that??
2) It looks like your door is ajar, and you know you didn’t leave it unlocked. You open the door to find the living room a mess, and the house in darkness.
Jamie: (backs away from the door, turns around, goes back to his car while pulling out his phone.) “Hello? Yes, I’d like to report a break-in…”
Jimbo: “Hello? Is anyone here? Helloooooo?” (walks inside, closes door.) “Oh, the lights aren’t working. Maybe the kitchen ones will work. Gosh, it sure is dark in here!”
3) The person you suspect to be a murderer is wandering around outside with a knife.
Jamie: “I’ve called the police. I better stay in the car until they get here.” (Locks doors.)
Jimbo: “Oh, there’s that guy! I think he did it!” (gets out of the car) “Maybe I’ll just walk over there and ask him what he’s doing. Oh, look the cops are here! I should move within their sight, right between them and the culprit…”
It sounds like it might be boring, having someone make good decisions as they move along with the mystery, but I mostly just find it super refreshing and I respect all the characters involved, because for the most part, they make sound choices.
Not that Jamie’s perfect, not at all. He and Pete hit a big bump in this volume when Pete’s oily ex Luke pops into the picture and tries to scheme them apart. Jamie makes some bad, knee-jerk decisions, but then you see Pete’s sensible side too, even in the face of adversity and anger, and I can’t help but root for them as they try to work through their respective issues to make things work out.
And that’s another thing that I like about this volume and the series as a whole. Perry balances character progression as well as tidy installment endings, so as a reader, I don’t have to be too worried about how things will end up, while also watching characters truly progress and change, so the Jamie and Pete at the end of vol. 1 Cited to Death are not the same as the Jamie and Pete at the end of the fourth volume. They’re a year older, a little more burdened with their respective truths, and also more understanding about how valuable their relationship is, and why it’s worth fighting for.
As someone who gets very stressed out about endings (and I won’t lie, I peeked at the end of this book once the big bump came in), I really appreciate that Perry gives non-cliffhanger endings while also providing real development. The series is not like a comic strip or a sitcom where nothing changes and everything returns to status quo at the end.
The mystery in this volume, about a missing book and some murders, was fun—not too complicated. The villain is mostly a cypher and separate from the story. This volume had slightly more tension than the last two, although not too much, and that’s probably one of my biggest hopes for future volumes is to have some more nail-biting moments. (And how do we include more nail-biting tension while also having rational, sensible characters? I guess that’s the challenge, balancing non-TSTL heroes while including conflict.)
I don’t think it’s a perfect series, but it’s one that I’ve grown to really enjoy, and it’s mostly because of the very likeable and appealing characters, their progression over the books, and Perry’s ability to maintain character consistency, even as she pushes them to evolve. It’s a nice change of pace, and I’m really looking forward to seeing how things go from here.
If you’re interested in checking things out, I strongly recommend starting from the beginning with Cited to Death. A) You’ll enjoy the character progression from the beginning and B) you can see if Perry’s style meshes with you.
I recommend this series for those who like gay mysteries, especially the more amateur, cozy kind, and also for those who don’t demand a high heat rating since all intimacy in the series is off-page. (Personally, I haven’t missed the sexy times here.) I’m definitely on board for volume 5 whenever it comes out. (And from Perry’s notes on her blog, it looks like there are quite a few books coming. It’s kind of like a fun TV show.)(less)
3.5 stars – This is a fun historical, set during the 1920’s. The story follows young Chauncey (later nicknamed Chance) during his troubled youth in Ne...more3.5 stars – This is a fun historical, set during the 1920’s. The story follows young Chauncey (later nicknamed Chance) during his troubled youth in New York City, which eventually spits him out into working for the Foreign Legion in Africa. There, he meets Jacky, his superior officer, who he not only finds infuriatingly attractive, but also a strikingly kind and solid soul, one who can even help tame Chance’s demons.
What I liked: Probably my favorite thing about Cochet’s historicals is that it is really apparent that she loves writing historicals, and she dives in headfirst. There is real joy in her old-timey language, and the characters seem to fall right out of an old black & white movie. I love the back-and-forth in the dialogue and all the scenes. She brings a lot of fun energy to the story, which I really enjoyed.
I also dug that the romance wasn’t dragged out. For some reason, I thought it wouldn’t kick in for a while, but things broke open before the half-way point, so that was a nice surprise.
What was harder: I was less a fan of Chance’s narrative style in this outing. Him telling about his life felt like a lot of…telling, basically. So, I did feel a loss of immediacy there, and that I was being told things, like how everyone respected Jacky (Chance’s love interest) rather than seeing it. (We do also see it, but then I’m told it as well.)
I also found the ending section too tidy and perfect. In that way, it reminded me also like an old movie that ended very happy and everything tied up in a bow. I’m not against very happy or perfect endings, but this one felt more orchestrated rather than organic.
Probably The Amethyst Cat Caper is still my favorite of Cochet’s historicals. I like her bouncy, upbeat style though, and I dig that she’s focusing a lot on historicals, an area that doesn’t often get love because it tends to sell less than contemporaries.
If you’re a fan of Cochet’s style or of historicals in general, this one may be up your alley.(less)
3.5 stars - This is a fun steampunk novella, and it’s nice to see Ford’s imagination really cut loose, although I felt the restrictions of the page-co...more3.5 stars - This is a fun steampunk novella, and it’s nice to see Ford’s imagination really cut loose, although I felt the restrictions of the page-count might have reined the author in too much.
What I liked: I’m both a big steampunk fan and a fan of Ford’s contemporary Cole McGinnis Mysteries, and was interested to see how she would handle a historical fantasy AU world with her style. Overall I found Ford’s writing smooth and imaginative and full of color and wonder. Her two MCs, upper-class Marcus and pariah inventor Robin, are appealing and full of the same creative energy that fuels this alternative world of science and magic. Watching the world unfold and seeing new marvels pop up, whether they were Robin’s inventions or just part of the colorful steampunk setting, was a real treat and kept this lover-of-steampunk heart pumping along.
What was harder: As much as I loved the imaginative setting, I felt that the story’s pacing was very uneven. At 90 pages, the author doesn’t have a lot of room to reveal a new world and its multi-geared miracles, its flawed but persistent heroes, their conflicts and triumphs, and the boisterous array of side characters (including my faves, a hard-as-nails doctor and a surprisingly modern Dowager.)
The first quarter quickly introduced us to the setting, and of Marcus rescuing Robin from a beating, but the pacing and story seems to dip after that as Robin is nursed back to health and Marcus ponders how to bring his “little crow” into his world. Compared to the first quarter, the rest of the story lost some steam, and I felt the author’s dilemma—how to give the MCs their much deserved HEA, but in the small amount of space. Because of those restrictions, the development felt more told through scattered paragraphs that described past events or of time passing and thus, the relationship felt more “insta-love” because we didn’t get to see its organic growth. I also very much felt a loss of tension in the second half. I wish there was some more story drivers introduced to help push the plot along.
For this story, I think it either needed to be much tighter (and less descriptive) to work in such a short amount of space, or it should have gone in the opposite direction, and let Ford’s creativity soar under more novel-length parameters.
For fantasy fans, especially steampunk fans, this story may turn all your gears though, and Ford’s world is a wonder to behold. For fans of Ford’s contemporary stories, if you’re okay with taking a more fanciful tour, you will probably also enjoy her writing here.
My hope is to read more fantasy from Ford, although I vote she gets more space. She writes great novels, so I would look forward to a longer work in this area.
This is one of the most frustrating books that I’ve read in a while.
What I liked – I’m a big fan of mystery/romance. I love mixed genres, and First Yo...moreThis is one of the most frustrating books that I’ve read in a while.
What I liked – I’m a big fan of mystery/romance. I love mixed genres, and First You Fall is a good mystery (and more mystery than romance.) Kevin, our cute young male escort MC finds himself adding “amateur sleuth” to his repertoire of skills (alongside being the receiving end to a gentle, wannabe sadist and delivering comfort for a hot hacker agoraphobe). A friend has fallen to his death, but Kevin is sure it wasn’t suicide, and once he starts digging, he starts finding a mess of connections, ones that gets dirtier and more twisted the further he investigates.
The mystery was good and had a lot of potential paths. I did not guess the truth, which is always a plus. Kevin is an appealing, funny, upbeat and resilient presence, and his escort job is more colorful and humorous than other dreary rent-boy stories. (Kevin’s profession is born more from the easy money and amiable clients than from an abused past or a broken home.)
The side characters are also colorful, amusing, and fun—especially Kevin’s sleuth partner Freddy, a guy who always has his radar up for the next hot man who might be in reach, and Marc, the shy, genius hacker who Kevin visits, but who is so sweet, their “sessions” never feel like part of his escort job.
Sherman is also very adept at characters and their voices, and everyone had their own distinct voice. I was super impressed when he made one character so scarily persuasive, it was like watching one of the scenarios spin out from The Gift of Fear: Survival Signals That Protect Us from Violence. (People, if someone won’t take “no” for an answer, at all, it’s a good sign to back away.)
What was harder: Sweet Jeebus, I don’t think I could give a shit less about Kevin’s love interest than what I felt for “his” Tony, a closeted, married cop who had been his first teenage love, but who had left him, only to reenter his life when Kevin’s friend was killed, still carrying his back-and-forth attraction for Kevin. “You’re so cute.” “Oh, but I’m married.” “I’m not gay. You know that, right?” “Oh, but the *things* you do to me, Kevvy...”
The irony is that Sherman is VERY CAPABLE of creating likeable characters. Pretty much every other guy, except the suspects, are all better choices for Kevin’s attentions. (Freddy! Marc! Romeo!) I don’t understand why he centered on drab, colorless Tony, who felt more like a stereotype of the “straight?” cop love interest than anything else. It was like…someone pointed him to Josh Lanyon, and said, “This guy sells books. Look at all those law enforcement MCs! Look at Jake Riordan! People fell in love with him, even though he jerked Adrien around for multiple books!” That or Sherman really wanted to work out his own thing for “straight?” love interests.
Well, I will tell you--Tony is no Jake Riordan. Even in book 1 of Adrien English, where nothing super-sexy progresses between him and Adrien, the back-and-forth that he was struggling with was way more raw and evident. Whereas here, following Kevin’s forlorn love for Tony was so innately unsatisfying. At one point, I left a reading status of “I feel more sympathy for a wet load of laundry that has been left in the washer overnight than I feel for Kevin’s thing for Tony.”
I honestly don’t understand why Sherman picked Tony to be Kevin’s love interest. Was it because Tony might help “straighten” Kevin out from his escort job? Was it to hold on to the theme of “first love”? I don’t know, but I did not give a shit about their relationship, and I mostly felt that Kevin was missing out by holding on to his Tony dream. This pretty much lost the “heart” in the story for me, so only the mystery was left.
I also agree with the points in Emma’s review. There is some anti-fat/women humor in here that was absolutely not necessary for the story’s progression. Making fun of heavy women and how they’re considered unattractive (and here, posited as unfit to be loved at all), It’s what I qualify as “cheap laughs”, like having a visually impaired person walk into a wall. “HA! HA! They walked into the wall ‘cause they can’t SEE!” The humor is very base-level, is not at all clever, and really dragged things down. There’s also the appearance of the villains, both are (view spoiler)[women (hide spoiler)], and one is the over-used (view spoiler)[Evil Homophobic Wife (hide spoiler)], the bane to m/m mysteries.
You can say that being from 2008, maybe that cliché villain still felt “fresh”, but I doubt it, and it’s one that doesn’t age well in a growing genre.
So, mad props to Sherman for creating a fun main character in Kevin, excellent side characters, a twisty mystery, and a terrible romantic subplot. On the plus side, I have no desire to read further in Kevin’s journey to redemption/love, which will save me some moolah since both book 2 and book 3 are more than $9 for the ebooks.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
3.5 stars - This was a fun installment, part 3 in Lynley’s “Precious Gems” adventure romance series, but there were a couple issues for me that made i...more3.5 stars - This was a fun installment, part 3 in Lynley’s “Precious Gems” adventure romance series, but there were a couple issues for me that made it not my favorite book in the series.
I really enjoyed the first two books, Rarer Than Rubies and Italian Ice, and rated them 4 stars and 4.5 stars respectively. In this installment, gay romance writer Trent is off to Japan with his friend Beth to help survey some art for a gallery he co-owns. But as usual, Trent is a magnet for trouble, and he finds himself on the wrong end of a murder investigation and is thrown in jail (and Japan does not have the same legal system as the U.S., so there is no “one phone call” and his case looks like it might move to a quick conviction.)
Fortunately for our hapless hero, FBI agent and live-in boyfriend Reed flies in to work with the U.S. Embassy and figure out how his man so conveniently fell into someone’s set-up of a yakuza murder.
What I liked: I really like Trent and Reed, and have really appreciated how they’ve grown over the series. Somewhat sheltered writer Trent has really developed. At the beginning of the series, he was a man still in mourning over his lover’s death and was taking a trip to Thailand to help “rejuvenate” both his writing and his life. (And that’s where he bumped into undercover agent Reed, and got quickly embroiled into Reed’s rare antiquities case.) Reed has also really grown. He still worries about Trent getting hurt, but also recognizes that the inexperienced writer he first fell for in Thailand has grown much stronger and more capable (although still maintains his sweet veneer and his love of luxurious body wash.)
Their interactions together, and not just sexy times, but just regular interactions, are my favorite parts of the series. And in this installment, we got to see them both work on their own to solve the case (and protect each other.)
I also really liked the setting in Japan. Lynley mentions in a note in the beginning that she had lived there for several years, and it’s very evident by the everyday details that paint a very realistic Japan, and not one that falls on stereotypes or common tropes. (As someone who studied Japan, I appreciated the careful attention Lynley paid to the setting to make it real and not a cartoon.)
What was harder: For me, the pacing felt very uneven in this installment. I also felt Rarer than Rubies had a slow start, but this felt even slower as the first 40% are filled with the set-up, some cozy times with Reed, and then Trent’s detailed trip to Kyoto and Tokyo. I think I put the book down around 38%, wondering when the story was going to pick up. It did after that, but it felt like it really took too long to get to the main plot.
The next part, where Trent is arrested, almost is a complete reversal, and moves too fast as the narrative shifts to a lot of “telling” as Trent is moved quickly through the system and tossed into jail, and starts to really worry if he’s going to be indicted and possibly face the death penalty for a murder he did not commit (but which no one believes.) I understand why this went by so fast—probably because the author wanted to get to the rest of the story, but it added to the uneven feeling of the pacing. (Although it made the reader empathize with Trent’s feelings of being overwhelmed by the breakneck process that he was tossed into.)
Things settle into a comfortable/fitting pacing in the second half as Reed gets to Japan, and they are reunited for a short time before splitting up again as Reed moves on to the case to find the real killer.
For me, I kind of wish the set-up part was tighter and the conflict was introduced a little earlier. I do understand why the cozy couple time was included in the beginning. It did feel like “filler” but I think it was partially included because the MCs are not together a lot in the bulk of the book. They’re following separate threads for most of the story, so are probably only together for about a quarter of the book.
I definitely did miss that “together-time”, and again, I’m not referring to sexy time. Reed and Trent’s interactions are my fave parts the series, and I like seeing how they work together on things. I understand part of the point of this installment was to show how they can work separately for each other, and be resilient on their own, but I definitely missed those closer interactions and how their different styles bounce off each other.
What added to that separation also was Reed’s partnership with Shindo, a Japanese Interpol agent who is helping Reed out on the case. Fairly quickly in their first meeting, Reed internally ruminates about how attractive Shindo is and how he wonders what Shindo’s beautiful lips would look around his cock.
This completely kicked me out of the story. Reed earlier qualified that Trent would be considered his husband, and has been very worried about Trent (who not only was arrested, but was later beaten up by mobsters), and is working the case to clear his name, so this inclusion of a very strong attraction felt out-of-place at this point of the story (around 60-70% in) and felt a little out-of-character for Reed, who always seems very focused (unless Trent is involved, and then Reed admits to himself that he can make mistakes.)
I understand why it was included—realistically people in committed relationships can be strongly attracted to someone else without it risking the relationship, but it felt very off-putting in the story, and around 71%, I thought about wandering off and not finishing, it felt that *off* to me.
I think Lynley closed off the story well, although I still had a couple questions. Things end well with our heroes though, a strong HFN, just like the last two books.
But for me, and I say this as someone who has been a big fan of the series, the pacing issues, the lower amount of MC “together-time” and the oddness of the added attraction to a side character made this overall an uneven reading experience for me.
I still very much recommend the series as a whole, especially for those who like adventure romance. The first two books are a lot of fun, and Trent and Reed are very appealing characters and have a great (albeit sometimes tumultuous) relationship. For those who like a little excitement, danger, and faraway locals mixed in with their romance, these books are definitely good reads.
4.5 stars - For fantasy fans, Reawakening is a pretty smashing novel, filled with beautiful exotic settings, creatures of lore (dragons!), fighting go...more4.5 stars - For fantasy fans, Reawakening is a pretty smashing novel, filled with beautiful exotic settings, creatures of lore (dragons!), fighting gods, battlemaidens, the walking dead, and a dark menacing villain that can infiltrate your heart. It’s got sword fights, daring escapes across the desert, a developing romance (and yes, sexy times), and most of all, a lot of adventure.
Tarn the dragon is awakened after centuries of sleep to find his treasured hoard depleted and the world having moved on without him. While on an evening flight, he gets the taste of something new, something strange and spicy and hot, an angry desert spirit that is NOT HAPPY to have a dragon invading his sandy domain. Tarn is quite smitten by the spirit’s irate attempts to kick him out, and the dragon vows to return to the desert to woo him properly and make him part of his new hoard.
And thus Tarn’s adventure begins, as he changes into his human form and joins a trade caravan bound for the same desert that he’s madly crushing on. His wooing plan has started. He just has to find his angry spirit.
But when they arrive, the desert is a much different, far more deadly place than the warm, welcoming realm it had been on his first post-sleep flight. The dead are rising and attacking travelers, and Tarn finds that things look eerily similar to a war he’s fought before.
That’s the gist of the beginning of the story, and it just takes off from there. I personally found the blurb with the book confusing, and I didn’t quite know what to make of it. I came into this 100% because I loved Durreson’s free fantasy novella The Lodestar of Ys. That was a wonderful story, so I bypassed the blurb, and dove in, feeling pretty safe that the author could provide a good fantasy story for her first full-length novel, and I’m happy to report that it was a great read.
I would qualify this story as fantasy first, romance second, although don’t worry romance fans, it has a lot of that (plus quite a few intimate scenes.) But the weight of the story is one that is fantasy, about a dragon’s quest to rebuild his world and his heart, and to conquer an old enemy. Along the way, he not only meets his match in Alagard, the fierce yet very flirty desert spirit, but also picks up a crew of wonderful side characters, each who have their own distinct personality, from the older sworldswoman Ia to flirty young buck Dit to haughty yet caring caravan leader Sethan.
For people who bemoan the lack of diverse characters or developed female characters in m/m, I definitely recommend this book because it has a wide array of rich characters, including a lot of queer male and female side characters. (Sethan’s caravan has a bit of a reputation of being a safe haven for those who are “sparkly” or who prefer same-sex partners, so there are a lot of couples in the background.)
As for the main romance, Tarn and Gard’s back-and-forth is pretty sparkly on its own. Gard’s fierce need for independence makes him come off more fiery than Tarn ironically (since Tarn is the one that can breathe fire), but Tarn is like a giant Great Dane—someone who is so powerful (even in his limited human form) that he’s far more relaxed compared to Gard’s bouncing, flitting energy. (Although even ancient dragons can get a little jealous, lost, and sad at the thought of his beloved not wanting him back.)
Durreson’s writing is smooth and clean, and paints a bright world in full color, even when that world is dune upon dune of endless white sand. It’s a very creative, imaginative story, and for those who like being transported to other worlds, you can find safe passage here.
My only down points are that at some points in the middle of the story (and the novel is over 89,000 words), the journey did feel a little rambling. I also often found myself having a hard time reading the name of Ia, one of the side characters—my eyes would blow right over her name, and I had to restart a lot of the paragraphs where she is featured. And you can call me a heathen, but I almost could have done without some of the sex scenes. They were all well written, but some of them felt a little extended or filler-ish compared to the rest of the story.
But overall, I think it’s a really great fantasy novel, and would definitely recommend it for those who are m/m fantasy fans, especially ye olde dragon fans, since Tarn gets to have some fun scenes in dragon form.
With what I’ve seen so far, I think Durreson is a bright new star in m/m fantasy writing. I’m looking forward to whatever world she unveils next.
3.5 stars – This was the equivalent of a Saturday matinee, the kind with mummies and ancient evils and romance and sketchy villains and adventurers sq...more3.5 stars – This was the equivalent of a Saturday matinee, the kind with mummies and ancient evils and romance and sketchy villains and adventurers squinting from the sun as they pull out their hidden revolver and start shooting at snakes. Just like the kind you’d catch on some random weekend afternoon while you’re channel surfing, trying to avoid football. (Except, this one has WAY MORE m/m sex.)
Christian is British and uptight and working on a somewhat sketchy dig in 1920’s Egypt for a blowhard of a boss. Their competition is the dig next to theirs, which happens to include Eric Lawless (!!!), a handsome American hired gun, who Christian instantly dislikes…until they start to “get to know each other” better.
It is a fun light adventure romance, with a lot of the telltale signs of these kinds of adventure stories. (Shadowy villains! Egyptian myths coming alive!, Lots and lots of sand!) If you like Indiana Jones-esque m/m stories, you may have a good time with this.
My main beef is that there is A LOT of sex in between all the dashing around and avoiding snakes (but not “pants-snakes”!) It felt like there was a sex scene every 10% of the story. They weren’t too long, but I started skimming them. (Ho-hum, another shared BJ in the tent…)
That, and there were a couple questions that weren’t answered. (view spoiler)[What was up with the poisoning? Who did that? Why?? (hide spoiler)]
But with that said, it was still a fun read. I still find historical-adventure-Saturday-Matinee-ish-m/m-romance as very novel, so I had fun reading this, even with the sex scene-skimming. This is the first book I’ve read by Talbot, and I thought her writing was overall fine and smooth, albeit a few typos.
So, have fun if you read it! Don’t go in for deep-thinking mummies. Go in for silly monsters, shady demons, and sexy times amongst the sand dunes. ‘Cause that is what you will find here.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
I really enjoyed the historical paranormal romance The Magpie Lord, so this free short story "interlude" that is set right after Magpie is a real trea...moreI really enjoyed the historical paranormal romance The Magpie Lord, so this free short story "interlude" that is set right after Magpie is a real treat.
At 4,500+ words, it's a short, but sexy and fun read as Crane and Stephen return to London from their adventures in Magpie, help christen the window seat in a new exciting way, and discover that liaisons between them can leave lasting gifts.
Recommended especially if you enjoyed the first book. If you haven't read the Magpie Lord yet, you may enjoy this short story, but there will probably be lots of confusion, so recommended to go try the first book.
Stephen has some worries in this, especially about getting attached to Crane who is supposedly leaving for China soon, so am looking forward to Book 2 to see how things further play out... (Is it January yet??)
A short, sweet return with Cole and Jae as Cole makes some (inedible) Christmas cookie ornaments, It's set after Cole McGinnis Mysteries #3 Dirty Laun...moreA short, sweet return with Cole and Jae as Cole makes some (inedible) Christmas cookie ornaments, It's set after Cole McGinnis Mysteries #3 Dirty Laundry (so heads-up, some spoilers in there if you haven't read book 3 yet.)
4.5 stars - I thought this was a pretty fabulous sequel to Merrow’s 2012 mystery romance Pressure Head. Tom’s bright narration is back in full-force,...more4.5 stars - I thought this was a pretty fabulous sequel to Merrow’s 2012 mystery romance Pressure Head. Tom’s bright narration is back in full-force, and it’s hard not to be charmed by him and the colorful denizens that dot Merrow’s cozy English countryside world.
Book 2 finds plumber Tom (who has an innate ability to find hidden things, including buried bodies) getting used to his new relationship to former high school bully/now all-grown-up boyfriend Phil and getting even more used to his family reentering his life as his sister Cherry tells him that a) he has a surprise bequest from a neighbor who had passed away and b) she’s getting married and wants Tom to meet her new beau, the literally big-handed clergy member Greg.
The engagement party is interrupted by an attempted murder and Tom and Phil (who’s a private detective, as well as protective boyfriend) are on the case to find out who’s tried to poison Cherry.
The case gives Merrow a good excuse to introduce a village full of red herrings for Tom to parse through, some funny, some melancholic, and along the way, he discovers some things he hadn’t been searching for, as well as finding out the greater depths of his and Phil’s developing relationship.
Tom is one of my favorite Merrow heroes, second only to Al in Muscling Through. She’s created a real winner here with his cheeky, flirty charm and his upbeat presence as he works his plumbing jobs, seeks out answers for the case, and quietly juggles his self-conscious feelings for Phil and his fear that he won’t match up to Phil’s deceased husband.
The side characters are also great, whether it’s flamboyant BFF Gary and his former porn star beau, closed-up Cherry who slowly thaws as she and Tom grow closer again, or Tom’s police contact Dave. Phil is a stalwart presence in Tom’s life. Neither he nor Tom are great at communicating or navigating the ups & downs, but slowly, they inch forward as they see what the other wants, and you can tell that even when they’re clumsy, they care about each other. (And I love the times when Tom decides to not say what he’s feeling, but then blurts it out automatically, like a reflex.)
The mystery is fun and twisty, and I didn’t guess what was going to happen, which is always a plus. I also loved how much Merrow painted in the villages and towns where everyone lived. You get a real feel for the English countryside setting.
I think the only thing I wasn't a fan of was some of Tom's mental tangents, but overall, I liked his narration so much, that I was able to glide through most of those.
It's also pretty low heat, with just a few intimate scenes, and others that are fade to black. I was fine with this because I loved the story, but for those looking for a five-pepper heat mystery, this isn't the one.
If I could have a wish, it would be to see this on TV. It would be a GREAT mystery series. But until the BBC picks it up, I am 150% satisfied with the funny and charming world that Merrow has built in these books, and ECSTATIC that at the end of book 2, she announces that the adventures will continue for our plumber in book 3, Heat Trap.
2.5 stars: This is not my fave Mary Calmes paranormal book.
What I liked: Probably my favorite part was that one of the MCs was not the typical gorgeo...more2.5 stars: This is not my fave Mary Calmes paranormal book.
What I liked: Probably my favorite part was that one of the MCs was not the typical gorgeous Jory character. Roman was badly scarred in an accident, and still has those scars (including on his face.) Sometimes he is mistreated by others because of his appearance, but love wins in the end, and part of this fairy tale ending is that he not only finds true love, but also a group of people that only recognize him for his real self, and not for his scars. That’s a nice change, and I’ve always liked it when Calmes explores “non-traditional” MCs and gives them a good HEA, like with Joseph in Nexus who is blind, or Landry in Mine who was bipolar. I’m always a fan when authors bring in characters with disabilities and give them the awesome HEA they deserve, just like everyone else.
What was harder: That’s where the boundary pushing really ended. Roman is still ridiculously wealthy, which adds to the fairy tale-ness since he is pretty much all-powerful, even with his disability and fear of rejection. The other MC, Quade, is more from the Alpha Jory school where he embodies the traits that everyone is in love with him, is gorgeous, etc.
Overall, I found the story uneven, and a slog to get through. Playing the Mary Calmes Drinking Game was helpful to add a scavenger hunt layer to the reading. If I wasn't reading this for Team Bingo, I probably wouldn't have finished it.
I don’t hate-read though, so I’ll just leave it at this not being my fave of her paranormals. I DO think that if you love Calmes’ style and her bright HEAs, you shouldn’t let my grousing review deter you. Go forth and read with joy, and love what you love. Quade doesn’t need to justify his love for Roman, even with Roman’s scars, and you do not need to justify your love of Mary Calmes.
And if you want to drink along the way, here is my MC Drinking Game Score Card
The Mary Calmes Drinking Game for Old Loyalty, New Love
If one character hosts a TV show, take a drink. (NOPE)
If one character caresses another character's cheek, take a drink. If they only just met and they're basically strangers, take two. (There is a lot of cheek caressing and cupping. Be prepared with your beverages.)
If there's an Hispanic best friend (m or f,) or best friend’s partner, take a drink. (Not this time.)
If there’s a pregnant character, take a drink. If there’s a birth, take a drink. If the MC is the birth partner for a pregnant character, take two. (Nope.)
Take a drink if someone is kidnapped. (Debatable. Some unseen side characters are held against their will. This could be discussed over a Mary Calmes working group on the amount you should drink.)
Take one drink if the MCs name starts with a J. (Nope.)
Drink on each mention of the word “dessert,” or on consumption of a dessert (this includes pie). (TWO actual pie sightings, plus more mentions of pie.)
If there’s a surgeon or doctor character who does not perform a medical procedure on the MC, take a drink. (If they’re a neurologist or neurosurgeon, take two.) (There is a medical professional, but they extract blood from the MC, so doesn’t count.)
If the story mentions Chicago, take a drink. If the story is set in Chicago, take two. (YES! Chicago is slid in right before the end.)
One drink for each mention of a jazz club. (Nope.)
Every time you encounter waggled eyebrows, take a drink. (NOT ONE. I think this was avoided because Roman’s eyebrows were burned off in the accident.)
Take a drink if the MC entertains a small child. If they're 6 years old, everybody drinks. (YES, and yes to one of the kids being six.)
When one MC dances with a woman, take a drink. If he dances with multiple women at a work event, or a partner's work event, take one drink for each dance partner. (Nope.)
Every time one MC calls the other “baby”, take a drink. (Hmmmm...I can’t remember. I think they used “love” and other endearments.)
If there’s a festive family party or special occasion, take a drink. (Yes! You can also debate about the “festive party” mentioned at the end. It is kind of off-scene.)
Every time tongues are tangling, take a drink. (Hmmmm...my guess is yes. I glazed over the tongue tangling. I vote for the book-specific extra drink option for every time blood is drunk while there’s biting while kissing.)
On the word “peacoat”: everybody drinks. (Nope, but there is an absolutely unnecessary description of a new overcoat near the end. I got really excited here because I was wondering if a peacoat sighting would happen after.)
If someone makes a newspaper swan, take a drink. (Nope.)
One drink if there’s an ex-boyfriend who wants to get back with the MC (double if he’s batshit crazy). (YES to the ex, and no to the crazy, but it is extra awkward.)
One drink if one MC is/has been literally or effectively an orphan. (YES!!)
Also the added rule of: Drink if someone is described as golden all over/tanned, and the answer = YES.
If you want to really mess yourself up, take a drink every time someone says “Mate”.
And remember, as Emma says, always read Mary Calmes responsibly! :D(less)
This was another fun mystery from Lou Harper. This time, the story focuses on Jem (short for Jeremy) who is a recovering goth bad boy who used to run...moreThis was another fun mystery from Lou Harper. This time, the story focuses on Jem (short for Jeremy) who is a recovering goth bad boy who used to run around and hustle in his teens, but turned over a new leaf after an accident forced him to rebuild his life. Now in his later 20’s, he’s working at a gourmet grocery store, where he runs into Nick, one very delish cop. Only to his horror, Nick recognizes him from his hustling days. Jem thinks that’s the end to any hot future with him, but things veer off plan as someone else starts sending him anonymous dirty photo reminders of his old life. And then another part of his past is murdered…
I’m fan of Harper’s writing, and this one is another good sample of her style, nicely straight forward but with some added snark (from Jem, who thinks his life is cursed.) Nick was a hot cup of yum as well, although less developed of a character than Jem. They had nice chemistry though, and I liked how Nick tempered Jem’s more erratic, spontaneous behavior.
There’s a nice poke at the way some heroes choose to go the TSTL route in their mysteries, when Jem gets a suspicious invitation to a party by a former “client” of his. He internally ponders going, and imagines getting into trouble and having Nick swoop in to rescue him. But then, instead of following the Amateur Sleuth’s Guide to Getting into Peril, he quickly understands that going would be a Bad Idea, and passes on the invitation to someone else. I liked that bit of self-aware humor (and appreciated that he didn’t follow that path.)
At 38,000 words, it’s a novella, which usually I’m less a fan of since I love longer works, but this time, I felt Harper did a good job of fleshing out the characters and the mystery, so it felt “just right” for length.
If you’re already a fan of Harper’s mysteries, I think this will be a good read for you. If you’re trying her work for the first time, you could start here, although I probably would rec Spirit Sanguine or Dead in L.A. first. Those are two of my favorites.(less)
3.5 stars - Overall I thought this was a very enjoyable sci-fi/dystopian romance about two very different “variant” men whose powers, personalities, a...more3.5 stars - Overall I thought this was a very enjoyable sci-fi/dystopian romance about two very different “variant” men whose powers, personalities, and histories often keep them very separated from others, but who end up fitting very well with each other.
What I liked:
- I’ve only read one other work by Martinez, the sci-fi epic adventure Gravitational Attraction, which I also enjoyed. I like Martinez’s style. She packs in a lot of action and activity without overwhelming the story too much, and she moves in directions that are not easy to forecast ahead of time, which means lots of interesting surprises story-wise. (Gravitational Attraction is a great example of this. That story goes way beyond its blurb.)
Rarely Pure and Never Simple shares that trait. The story starts off far in the future, where our world has been darkened by pandemics and other events, and where “variants” (people with special abilities, kind of like mutants in X-Men) have been born and are now living amongst “normal” humans, although they have to deal with discrimination and fear from the majority.
Cranky, abrasive Blaze, who is a “sparker” (can create fire with his hands) is brought in as the muscle to protect Damien, a “locator” who has the ability to find people, and who has been tasked with finding a group of missing variant children. What makes Damien a little different from the variant norm that Blaze usually deals with is his extreme anxiety that causes a lot of OCD patterns and makes him afraid of dealing with most people. Fortunately for Damien, Blaze has a keen understanding of what he needs to work, and gives him the space he needs without judgment.
The story moves on from there, and Martinez kept things up at a quick clip as the plot shifted from the school where the kids had studied to an extremist compound to a hidden sanctuary and so on. Damien is following the threads that he innately feels inside of him, leading him to find out what happened to the kids, and Blaze is right there with him, trying his best to protect a man who sometimes will run out of the car without notice, fueled by the intense need to find, and blind to the dangers that might be around him. Martinez’s ability to keep the plot shifting along meant that I was often (happily) surprised in how the story moved, and it really kept my interest.
- The main characters were great, sympathetic and appealing. It’s easy to fall for Damien, who was abused as a child, and who falls back on his OCD patterns to maintain control and feel safe. Blaze comes off as a bit of hardheaded jackass at first, but he quickly grows on you, especially as he realizes what things Damien needs, and responds accordingly without being condescending.
That was actually one of my favorite things about the story. Both Damien and Blaze had things that others might have seen as abnormal (or kinky, in regards to Blaze’s love of fun underwear), but they made efforts to understand and accept each other rather than trying to change or “fix.” Blaze gave Damien the space he needed, even if that meant extra time as Damien packed and repacked the car in the morning, and Damien found Blaze’s collection of lacey and outrageous undergarments as quite entrancing and sexy.
Big A+ points for not involving “healing sex” to fix Damien’s tics and fears. His anxiety does not go away through the story, but he does learn to be more comfortable and intimate with the one person who makes him feel safe.
So, really the characters and their developing relationship and how they worked and accepted each other were definitely my favorite parts. (I thought Blaze’s understanding of Damien’s anxiety issues was very refreshing and SEXY.)
- Speaking of sexy, this book is low on sexy times, but not sexy tension. There are a couple intimate scenes, but they do not overshadow the story. I actually appreciated that because it meant that Martinez wasn’t artificially trying to insert sexy times in between action set-pieces. (So no awkward instances of “We’re running from bad guys, so let’s have sex!” or “You’re terribly injured and tired, so let’s have sex!”) The few scenes she has make sense for the story and what was going on.
I also thought it was refreshing because what intimacy was there didn’t focus on specific sexual dynamics. Blaze might be a big strong guy, but he does like lacey thongs. Damien might be shorter and “pretty” to some, but he doesn’t get relegated immediately into the “bottom” drawer. I liked how Martinez steered away from some well-used patterns here, mostly by avoiding the issue of penetrative sex, which is fine. It’s one of those things that’s not necessary to reveal developing intimacy between characters.
What was a little harder:
- At around 58,000 words, it’s a good-sized novel, but I wished it was longer. Not just because I’d liked to read more about the characters (which I do; I like them a lot.), but also there’s a lot going on in the story, and a lot going on in the background of this future world (roving gangs, wildlings, government discrimination of variants, potential corruption in the variant superhero group The Guild, etc.) I wouldn’t have minded if it the story was given some more space to flesh out some of the scenes and background conflicts. (There’s a climactic-ish scene around the third quarter that moves quickly, but I wouldn’t have minded if that scene was a little longer and had some more conflict.)
- There’s not a Big Baddie here, and I don’t think it’s necessary to have a Big Baddie, but I missed some of the tension that a Big Baddie or something like that can bring to a story. There’s a lot of movement in the story, which is great for quick pacing, but I wished there was a little more tension. The baddies are kind of in the background more, and that dulled the edge of the last quarter, rather than have a ramp up.
- There’s a little bit of a love triangle. Not too much really, because the reader really knows what’s going on, but the MCs don’t. I liked the side character, but the fear over the potential love triangle felt a little inserted to add some angst and to create the reason why our heroes would eventually separate (but not for too long, so no worries there.)
- I love Damien, but for those who like a little hurt/comfort, he’s a little bit of woobie character that could fall into the broken man trope. It’s not too bad though. Martinez didn’t delve into deep h/c territory, which I appreciated, but he’s definitely a character that has some issues, and has people worrying about him on-page a lot, which if you’re an h/c fan, you’ll be good, but if you’re not at all, you might find it a little off-putting. (Again, I do appreciate that Martinez didn’t focus on “fixing” Damien though. That was a nice change of pace.)
Even with my few caveats, I really enjoyed the story, and I really liked the main characters, their relationship, and how they bounced off each other and fit together. I think Martinez is good at creating really appealing characters, very fast-paced, plot-driven stories, and very interesting sci-fi worlds.
I’m very happy I read it, and I’m definitely on board if there will be more stories with Blaze and Damien. (Their story has a nice ending here, but I would definitely line up to read more adventures with them. Plus, we’d get to see more of Blaze’s underwear choices!)
3-3.5 stars: This is actually a hard review to write because I really dig this series, I LOVE-LOVE-LOVE the main MCs, and was looking forward to this...more3-3.5 stars: This is actually a hard review to write because I really dig this series, I LOVE-LOVE-LOVE the main MCs, and was looking forward to this third installment, but this one was just waaaaaaay too long, with pacing issues, and focused a lot on side characters that I personally was less interested in. So in the end, was less a fun read.
What I liked: This is the third book, sequel to Blood Howl and Blood in the Sand, which follows human mercenary Jed and his sweet werewolf lover Redford through their adventures. The first book is where they meet, when Jed has a job to kidnap a recluse, only to find his job to be a hot, sweet, shy guy (with wolf-like tendencies on the full moon.) I love Jed and Red’s chemistry, so very much enjoyed their story. Book 2 sees them off to Cairo as they try to solve a mystery with emo vampire buddy David and his bookish lover Victor. Book 2 was fun, but the POVs split between Jed & Redford and David & Victor, and I only felt really invested in one couple, but it was overall a fun read.
In book 3, we get more Jed & Redford time. Yay! I don’t know why, but their chemistry totally hits my buttons. Love gruff hired gun Jed who is so marshmallow soft for his werewolf. Love sweet Redford who doesn’t always get Jed’s leering jokes, but is along for the ride because they loooove each other. It is sweet times, and I could read them all day.
And this time, they are on an adventure to help book 2’s Victor (now sans emo vampire David), and his werewolf friend Randall, and Randall’s two werewolf brothers. (It is getting crowded in this story.) Off the whole group goes to find a big werewolf clan to help heal Randall’s brother. Along the way, relationship conflicts ensue, there’s some conflicts with evil hunters, and Jed wonders if he’s been caging in Redford’s wolf too much.
The Jed & Redford parts were fun, and for those who enjoyed the last two books, you will get more of the warm and toasty chemistry that only the mixture of explosives and love can make.
What was harder: Okay. I love me some J&R time, but this book was too long. ARe tells me it's over 239,000 words (Over 600+ pages), and it really felt that long. I thought it was way too much, and I didn’t always find what was there as necessary. Scenes ran too long, or dialogue, or things that probably could have been skipped. It didn’t feel like a “tight epic”. It reminded me more of a sprawling serial fanfic which is updated in chunks, but doesn’t read tightly as one controlled story, or it reminded me of written out role-playing sessions, when characters dialogue and dialogue to figure things out, but I don’t always feel the necessary weight of those scenes.
For me, it felt like a very long draft that needed a heartless cold bastard of an editor to go in and cut out the darlings. (This sex scene--too long! This dialogue scene--not needed!) I’m not the bastard for the job since I would be all, “Nooooo, not Jed & Red time! They are my PRECIOUS!” But there is someone out there who could be that heartless, and that’s what it really needed. A jerky, snarling, evil editor (who has your best interest at heart.)
My other issue is more of a personal reader issue. I don’t normally do well with multiple pairings in one book. My mind tends to focus on one couple. (Outside of say, Pride & Prejudice. I mean, who doesn’t love Jane, and want her to have her Bingley??) Part of the issue might also be that the other couple is compared to Jed and Redford, who are very lovey and colorful and have a lot of energy.
For book 2, I didn’t really care about David and Victor’s failing relationship--I found them emo and colorless, and in book 3, I wasn’t super into Victor getting his HEA on with Randall. For one, they are *both* very emo, their characters felt very similar to each other, and they had a lot of repetitive relationship conflicts. “I can’t be with you, but I kinda want to!” “No, I can’t be with you, even though I like you!” There’s a lot of that, dragged out over several hundred pages, and it just was flat to me. And each chapter has a POV shift, and I would get to a Victor or Randall chapter, and feel deflated, and feel double-deflated when it went from Victor immediately to Randall, and triple-deflated when it went to Victor-Randall-Victor. (And those chapters are long!)
Having a 239k story with what felt like half of it focusing on a couple that I didn’t feel attached to, it just made the story drag on even more.
And then again too long, pacing issues. (Like from 75%-95% not much happens except some relationships issues are resolved, and some set-up for the next book. That sounds good, but for a story this long, that’s…45,000 words for what ultimately felt like not much happened. I was somewhere in the 85-88%, thinking, “...is this it? Was that part in the early 70% the climax? What?” Something exciting happens near the end, but it didn’t fix the overall pacing issues for me.
For those nervous about endings, it ends very well. There’s definite set-up for the next book, but you don’t end nervously or worried about the MCs, so you can go into the installment fine, even if you have to wait awhile for the next one.
There is a lot of set-up for future books. It looks like the next secondary pairing will be with Randall’s brother Anthony, who I find still very emo, but marginally more interesting than Randall and Victor, so will be positive.
I do think if you enjoyed book 1 and book 2, you should definitely check out book 3. A) It might work better for you than me and it has a lot of what was great about the first two books and B) it’s definitely not a volume you should skip since stuff does happen.
So, if you’re into the series, go in and enjoy yourself. If you haven’t read the series before, I recommend book 1, Blood Howl. It is fun times, and one of my fave comfort re-reads.(less)
This was a fun take on vampires—mixing both fantasy with its AU setting and also reality, as our newly-bitten MC plods through the bureaucratic requir...moreThis was a fun take on vampires—mixing both fantasy with its AU setting and also reality, as our newly-bitten MC plods through the bureaucratic requirements he has to go through to “prove” that he can handle his new “orientation” enough to return to his job in law enforcement. Along the way, he meets a sympathetic psychiatrist who draws more of him than he was expecting.
What I liked: This is a fantasy AU world, one were “drinkers” (aka vampires) exist, and are a minority that are monitored by the government. The setting feels “Victorian-ish”, with a mix of carriages and electricity, but also modernisms like pills, blood centers, and tranquilizer guns. (It did take me a while to figure out the setting since it seemed more modern at first, but everyone rides around in carriages, but I got used to it. Overall, I liked the mix of Victorian dress and more modern science.)
I really liked the “realism” of how someone transitioning to being a vampire would have to deal with a lot of governmental systems and approval processes. That “vampire realism” reminded me a little of Hemovore and Spirit Sanguine, both which also deal with some of the “real life” quirks of the vampire lifestyle. Here, MC Laurence is going through the process to get his classification that says he’s fit to go back to work, so in between his regular visits to the blood center, he also has to participate in mandatory psychiatric visits, which is where he meets Ira, who gives Laurence the benefit of not treating his new life as something fragile or fearful.
The romance is a slow burn, and that Victorian propriety means that everyone is very classy as they try to figure out how best to ask someone out without being too pushy or forward. I do have a soft spot for when romance is built around bureaucracy, and like Laurence, I too was looking forward to his weekly meetings with Ira, since their slow build and back-and-forth was fun to read.
As a heads-up, this is a non-explicit romance (and thus, very safe to read on crowded public transit.) There are some kisses, etc, but overall, it’s a very light romance in that department. I didn’t miss it, personally, but just a heads-up for those who are looking for sexy, clothes-tearing vampires. (There was some clothes-tearing, but not what you think.) :-)
This is the second work I've read by Miller, after the enjoyable freebie short The Novelty Maker. I do like her style--it's straightforward and very readable while also still imaginative.
What was harder: Overall, I liked the story a lot. It ends on a nice HFN. Where it ends, it feels like another whole story could start, so in that way, I do miss not being able to see what would happen next, but the ending is nice. (Although I found the climactic sequence a little muted since Ira wasn’t witness to some of the parts.)
I did have some floating questions also, some from the story, and some from the world, and what Ira and Laurence should expect next. (view spoiler)[(e.g. Why was that vampire locked in the wardrobe? If drinkers are monitored, are they also treated poorly? Will it be a stigma for humans and drinkers to be together?) (hide spoiler)] So I was left wondering some things.
Overall, it’s fun light fantasy read, although with tension in the second half as things get a little dire for our heroes. It’s also a pretty fast read, at 45,000 words, but I did appreciate that it’s closer to novel-length since I love longer works.
Recommended for those who don’t want a same-old-same-old vampire story, are good with fantasy-ish settings, and are also good with a light, non-explicit romance. If there was a sequel, I would definitely check it out.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
I don’t know if I’m getting more used to Perry’s writing style, or if Perry is getting more used to her writing style, or what not, but I enjoyed this installment a lot, and didn’t have the same issues as before.
Or rather, the issues are still there--Perry’s writing is very straight forward, and sometimes Jamie’s first person POV comes off like a diary entry as he talks about his day--but I’m used to it now, and I like Jamie a lot. Our intrepid UCLA research librarian is just as appealing as in the earlier books, and he’s a fun character to follow.
Unlike in Hoarded to Death, where I missed some of the relationship/lovey-ness between Jamie and solid boyfriend Pete, in this one, the relationship is almost more to the forefront than the mystery related to Pete’s childhood friend who had committed suicide. Jamie and Pete are working out some issues related to a revelation from the last book, and you see them trying new things throughout the story in order to make their relationship stronger.
I love Jamie and Pete’s relationship, and their overall dedication to communicate openly. It’s so refreshing, especially compared to some books that rely on misunderstandings and miscommunications to create extended conflicts. I like that both men act like adults, sometimes flawed adults, but adults who take responsibility and really care about each other. It’s a nice change of pace.
Heads-up: Like in the other two books, all sexy times are fade-to- black/off-page. I didn’t really miss it, but just a heads-up.
My only main qualm is that like book 2, it’s a very laid-back mystery, especially compared to the peril-filled book 1. I do enjoy the ease of the book, but I wouldn’t have minded a little more tension, but that could just be me. (I am a big action movie fan...)
I’m definitely still on the Jamie train, and I will happily say that I’m a fan of this series. Perry’s writing is not flashy; it’s simple and straight forward, but at the same time, the characters are so likeable, and the mysteries are interesting. I find the books very fun to read.
These remind me of when I was a kid, and I would go to the library and take a mystery series, a whole stack of books, and take them home and read them all in two days. I almost miss the fact that I’m reading these individually, months apart, because I think I would have loved to take a stack of these to a chair and nestle down for some fun mysteries with librarian Jamie and his hunky Pete.
Recommended, especially if you liked the first two books. I’m definitely looking forward to more in this series.
One note: I would not recommend diving in to this volume cold. I do recommend going back to start at #1, Cited to Death. You will get way more out of the character interactions, plus Perry doesn’t spend much time on intros, so you’ll get more about who the side characters are.(less)
3.5 stars – I’ll be honest—the event planner in me found all the info about the leather/BDSM convention super fascinating. (I was all, “Workshops? I w...more3.5 stars – I’ll be honest—the event planner in me found all the info about the leather/BDSM convention super fascinating. (I was all, “Workshops? I wonder how those were set up…”)
This is an overall light, fun read as our two MCs, friends for a long time, both into the BDSM scene, one a dom, one a sub, but are not together. Things are somewhat complicated by the fact that they had “vanilla” sex the night before they leave for a BDSM convention, and now they’re all confused about their feelings for each other and about what they think the other wants.
I loved the parts about the convention—I thought that was so interesting, and it sounded like a super sex-positive, welcoming environment, so you go, BSDM con!
The MCs are appealing and likeable, and you get both their POVs, so always interesting to see the view from the “top” and the sub, and what they want. I also liked that this was not an introduction to the scene—these guys were very in it, so it wasn’t a story about a virgin slowly introduced to the “pleasures of submission”, but were about two men who knew very much what they wanted, even though they were total crap about talking about it with each other.
My only downpoint is that a lot of conflict is based on lack of communication, which can get tiring as the main issue.
That, and even though this is set as a BDSM/leather con, it’s not overflowing with scenes, so don’t go in expecting that. There is one big “scene” with one of the MCs and some nice side characters, but the eventual coming together is late in the book and pretty straightforward, which was a little disappointing since both MCs talk about how great the other is from scenes they’ve seen at their club. (Maybe there will be a follow-up?)
It’s a fun, light read though, and at 45,000+ words, is a pretty fast read. I think it’s neat that Witt set the story at a con. (And I think a very smart BDSM con bookseller would have stacks of this book out front of their stall with a sign, “Finding Love at the Leather Con!”)
Recommended especially if you’re looking for something light, fast, and sexy (but one that is not too heavy on sex or BDSM.)(less)