Under a New Star is a nice change of pace when it comes to holiday reading—a story that happens around Christmas, and is set...IN SPACE. In the 26th cUnder a New Star is a nice change of pace when it comes to holiday reading—a story that happens around Christmas, and is set...IN SPACE. In the 26th century to be precise, where scientist Michael and his work partner Adrian, (a winged, angel-like modified human known as a Morph) are nearing the end of a months-long journey to colonize a new planet. One thing that is secret from their crewmembers (and is taboo for their program) is that Michael and Adrian’s relationship runs much deeper than professional, and when faced with the reality that they might have to end their affair or risk their careers, things start to go awry.
This was a fun quick read, and I appreciated the chance to read a sci-fi holiday story. At the start of the story, Michael and Adrian are just a few shorts days from landing on their new home, and those last hours are filled with both excited tension and menial labor as the crew has to tick off all the boxes on their check-lists to make sure they are safe to leave warp and prepare for landing. And then add to that mix a basket of anger and hurt-inspired miscommunications. (My internal subtitle for this story is “When lovers badly communicate...at warp speed!”)
Overall, a very imaginative story that could probably spin off into another, since hey, Michael and Adrian are starting on a whole new world! Length-wise, at 76 pages/23,000+ words, it’s also one of the longer holiday stories that I’ve read, and it was nice to have that space for further development, although I wish the main conflict wasn’t built around the MCs fighting between each other, but that’s really a me-thing since communication issues is probably one of my least favorite conflicts.
For sci-fi fans, this could be a good read for you, especially if you’re looking for something a little different, and I look forward to seeing what new worlds this author creates next. (And shout-out to the author, who has the flirtiest bio I’ve read.) :-)...more
It's hard to cut out of a thriller early. (Who is the villain? Will there be awesome action scenes ahead?)DNF @ 20% or around 23,000+ words (of 118k+)
It's hard to cut out of a thriller early. (Who is the villain? Will there be awesome action scenes ahead?) And normally I love a good long read, but I found the author's style frustratingly over-written, where scenes would drag on with details, characters repetitively pondering, or not very interesting dialogue. If I could recommend something, it would be to work with a heartless content editor and cut at least a third (or much more) of the writing to help tighten the pacing....more
3.5-4 stars: I read this novella, #6 in the Market Garden series, but #3 for focusing on the "Excellent Rentboy Adventures of Jared & Tristan (and3.5-4 stars: I read this novella, #6 in the Market Garden series, but #3 for focusing on the "Excellent Rentboy Adventures of Jared & Tristan (and Rolex)" and it's predecessor Take It Off all in one go, so reviewing together.
These two parts follow Market Garden #1 Quid Pro Quo, where we first step into the high class club and where our two MCs, experienced and savvy Tristan and less, experienced, less confident Jared are asked by a Rolex-wearing client if they work "together" and that night, they decide to go for it for what looks like a worthwhile and moneymaking time. (Little does Jared know how Tristan will sexily torment him and tease out all those bills from Rolex's wallet.)
In part #2 Take it Off, Jared gets to return the favor when Rolex comes back for another show, and in part #3, Payoff, Rolex wants in on the performance, in more ways than one, and cool-as-you-come Tristan has to face a new reality--that he doesn't want anyone "in" between him and Jared anymore, but does Jared want the same thing?
I don't think I'm a big erotica reader--I don't really get swept up as things steam up for the characters, and tend to latch on to anything nearing character and relationship development. So, I wished for a meatier read with these, but they're light and fun, and at 40-50 pages each, quick reads.
Extra bonus: I was able to get part #2 from the library as an ebook borrow! That was pretty nice, and since Riptide puts up a lot of their books into the Overdrive ebook system (which many libraries pull from), if YOUR library lends ebooks, it's totally possible to put a request in and have them purchase these (and more!) So you too could get your Market Garden sexy-times...from the library! :D...more
When I saw that Fyn Alexander, who may be best known for her contemporary BDSM romantic suspense series Angel and the Assassin, released what looked tWhen I saw that Fyn Alexander, who may be best known for her contemporary BDSM romantic suspense series Angel and the Assassin, released what looked to be a historical western romance, my interest was piqued. Although Angel and the Assassin pushed up against my envelope of things that I want to read, I dug Alexander’s straight-forward writing style and her development around the ruthless assassin Kael and his evolution as he learned to become more “human” around his Angel. Since I also enjoy historical romances, I was interested to see how Alexander’s style would translate to the lonely prairie of the 1880’s.
This is a straight-up historical. (No BDSM dungeons in the back of Luke’s prairie shanty.) The focus is on our two leads, seasoned farmer Luke, who has been living a lonely life on his own, and newcomer Sam, who has come to the Dakota Territory to farm his new claim, but his “book learnin’” about how to tend the land doesn’t cover everything. Thankfully for him, he is rescued from a blizzard by Luke, who takes in young Sam, and they soon realize that they have much more in common—they both prefer to be with men.
For fans of historicals, especially historical westerns, Winter Hearts is a good pick. It feels very much like a traditional historical romance, with the focus being on the trials these two men face, whether it’s with the terrain, or surviving with their secret relationship in a time where being gay was illegal. Alexander’s style is still very straight-forward, but I find it easy to sink into, and she dots her passages with sparse but fitting details that bring to life Luke’s small but cozy shanty (thanks to Sam for bringing the warm light in) and the harsh terrain they’re toiling away at.
My only down point is some of the conflict is based on one of my least favorite tropes (lack of communication). Also, since the novel is a historical, its mood is weighed down by the very heavy, very true conflict that you could be murdered for being gay back then, and Luke lived with an underlying fear that they would be caught and killed. It felt pretty heavy, and made me think that I probably love sci-fi and fantasy romance so much because the “queer factor” is often more accepted in those fantastical settings.
Do you love historicals? If so, and especially if you like ones with a western setting, then this is an easy book to recommend. Alexander sweeps you along with Luke and Sam’s love story. If you’re a nervous reader (like me), I can promise the ending is good.
Do you hate historicals? Then this is probably not the book to turn you over to the historical-side. It feels lovingly traditional, and is well-paced as it follows the seasons with Sam and Luke as their land and love grow.
I was super surprised that Alexander, whose Angel and the Assassin series has some BDSM scenes that I don’t want to ponder too much about (the Humbler!), could write such a sweet (although still very sexy-times laden) story set in the Old West. Very happily surprised. I look forward to seeing what the author comes up with next....more
A nicely written "fairy tale" romance of two orphans who grow up together at the orphanage, grow to become each other's worlds and when faced with theA nicely written "fairy tale" romance of two orphans who grow up together at the orphanage, grow to become each other's worlds and when faced with the repercussions of a crime, flee together towards an unknown future, or unknown except for one thing--no matter what, they will stay together. No matter what.
I'm not an angst fan, especially with contemporaries, so there's a section of Lane's works I can't dive into. Her lighter or speculative work though is open season for me, and I'm always really impressed how easily she shifts between genre and narrative voice, while still also writing a good, compelling story.
This one was a nice imaginative story, written in a style similar to a fairy tale (except with more on-page sex.)
And I totally cried during the last section. For nervous readers, the ending is totally fine, but just a little emotional....more
3.5 stars - Wings of Destruction is a dystopian/post-apocalyptic novella about Martin, who is asexual in a world built around fulfilling carnal desire3.5 stars - Wings of Destruction is a dystopian/post-apocalyptic novella about Martin, who is asexual in a world built around fulfilling carnal desires. He is unable to keep relationships (or Mates as it is referred to here), and tries to survive on his own while trying to stay off the radar of roving gangs who rape and pillage whatever they can find.
At the beginning of this story though, Martin is at the end of his resilience, and he decides that dying would be better than anything this desolate world can offer him, so he prepares to kill himself, and when trying, he meets the angel Anael who has been sent to judge whether those on earth should remain or be destroyed.
What I liked:
Wings of Destruction is an imaginative story, and went into a couple directions that I hadn’t expected, which was a nice twist. I also very much appreciated how some of the characters weren’t all that they appeared.
I went into this story primarily because I was looking to read something with an asexual character. Being ace myself, it’s really rare to find romances with ace characters so I wanted to check this out.
I have complicated feelings about fantastical pairings with ace characters. Here Martin is happy to find someone, a literal angel, who can love him for him, and won’t pressure him for sex. A part of me is, “Yay!” because Martin deserves love. A part of me is wary because of the (not intentional) message that ace characters can only find love with those not of this world. I think it’s hard for authors now writing ace characters because there is so little available in romance now, and so anything that comes up is looked at as an example of representation, and asexuality is really complex, and there are so many ways to write about it.
“Asexuality is the orientation when a person doesn’t feel sexual attraction. They can feel romantic feelings, and they can fall in love. They can like touching and kissing and cuddling. Some are into kink, some aren’t. Some can like sex and be aroused while others can be repulsed by sex. There are hetero-romantic and homo-romantic and pan-romantic and aromantic asexuals. I’ve come to understand that it’s a really wide spectrum of people, where the real commonality is the lack of feeling sexual attraction towards others.”
Martin is ace and also suffers from depression, so overall really devalues himself, especially since no one will stay with him because he doesn’t want to have sex. Meeting Anael is for him, like finally feeling what love can be, even for him, which was nice.
Was the Asexual character “fixed” in the end? No, he’s not. And I bring it up because my worry with reading ace romances is that the ace character will be changed somehow in order for there to be an HEA that is considered more “normal”. But, no, Martin’s asexuality is not changed or erased.
What was harder for me: The writer’s style felt simplistic, and felt like an early work. I’m really psyched that the author wrote a story with an ace lead, so I encourage them to continue writing and working on their craft. There was a lot of ideas here in a short amount of space (20,000 words), and for me, the execution felt too simple or bare for what being called within the fantastical plot.
Do I recommend buying it? This is partially an activism issue with me. For me, who sees so few stories with ace characters, I feel the need to buy them when they do come out to send the message to keep writing more.
The market is very cyclic--so if you want more diversity in your romances, whether it’s more trans*, bi, or gender fluid characters, more characters of color or diverse backgrounds or characters with disabilities, the cycle is this: Write Publish Buy. If a part of that cycle isn’t working, it can encourage the other parts to also stop. So, if you want it, people got to write it, people got to publish it, and people got to buy it, and that’s how it gets into the market more.
So, although this story was just an okay read for me, I’ve already pre-ordered my own copy, and my encourage to the author is to keep writing, and to the greater field, I’d love to see more ace characters getting their Happily Ever After. (I see Alex Beecroft has a book on the horizon.)
3.5 stars - An interesting and imaginative read, although I had a few issues.
The story: It's our world, but there are those who exist who can "dreamwa3.5 stars - An interesting and imaginative read, although I had a few issues.
The story: It's our world, but there are those who exist who can "dreamwalk" or when they sleep, they enter the dreamworld of Somnus, lucid and having powers, while drone-like zombies mill around (that's us when we're sleeping.)
The first time dreamwalker Bryn meets Laszlo, it's when he's visiting this dream world. They don't know each other in the waking world, but that meeting starts a chain-reaction of realizations, as Bryn learns his skills in dreamwalking run much deeper (and dangerous) and Laszlo finds that he can't run from his dreams any longer, especially if it means risking never seeing Bryn again.
How were the MCs? Bryn was very likeable and it was easy to follow his journey, whether it was in the real world or when he was dreamwalking in Somnus. I felt less connection to Laszlo, where much of his journey was focused on coming to grips with who he really is. Together, they were fun, although I'll admit, it felt pretty "insta", so much so that I wondered if there was some greater meaning to their instant attraction--like if they had met before in Somnus, but couldn't remember. So far, that hasn't been spelled out.
What worked for me? Fun ideas, and good tension built up as Bryn and Laszlo are automatically pulled closer and closer to danger when they enter their dreams.
For those who are nervous about their couples and the endings, readers should feel safe here. Chambers does not pull a "Provoked" with this volume. (I say that will love, BTW.) :-)
What was harder for me? I found this book a bit frustrating, but I'm not sure how frustrated I'm supposed to be.
I like the pacing at first as the novel's world unspooled and you tried to figure out what was going on, but it did feel very "well-paced" or a little slow in development. Around 60% or so, I started thinking that I must be in a first book of a trilogy or a multi-book character arc, because I wasn't getting a feeling that we would get much character development in this first book. I was a little frustrated because it felt like much of this first volume was set-up, and didn't feel like a solid story on its own.
The last quarter, things speed up, but then I felt frustrated because it was almost too fast after that first half, and felt a bit anti-climactic after all the build-up before then.
I honestly don't know what to think of the book. Will Bryn and Laszlo have their story continue in book 2? If so, I feel more forgiving and will just wait for things to be developed further.
But I got the feeling that their love story is done at the end of this, even though so much of the novel felt like setting up something much longer. Side couples are also introduced here, so I'm wondering if the side couples are now going to be main characters in the next volume. If so, I feel more frustrated because I didn't feel enough development with the first couple, and don't really care about the side couples.
So for me, it was hard to understand how this first volume fit. It felt like mostly set-up, but then a fast close-up for the MCs. Will we get more with them to match that set-up? If so, I'll look forward to that. If it's progressing on with the conflicts between the side characters, then I care less.
Overall? An interesting and imaginative read. Those who like sci-fi-ish/speculative fiction with their m/m may dig it.
For me, the frustration over the pacing, the slow and then fast development, and the uncertainty of how things will progress make me pause when thinking about whether I should continue to vol. 2. I guess I'll wait for the blurb. If it's jumping to the next couple, I probably won't continue.
A very fun sci-fi romance that develops further the interspecies relationship and love between Liam and Ondry as they try to better understand each otA very fun sci-fi romance that develops further the interspecies relationship and love between Liam and Ondry as they try to better understand each other as well as navigate the politics of what being together means for human-Rownt relations.
Heads-up, this is book 2 in the series! If you are new to Gala’s amazing Rownt world, you should head first to book 1, Claimings, Tails, and Other Alien Artifacts. That’s where this story really starts and how Liam finds himself literary chained to Ondry’s bed, and then realizes how he got himself there (and how it’s actually…kinda…something he really wants.)
What did I dig about this sequel? (Besides the fact that at 69,000 words, it’s twice as long as the first novella? Yay!)
1- Gala’s world-building: Like in book 1, Gala’s world-building is probably one of my favorite parts of the series. The Rownt are so INTERESTING and often very funny as they try to parse out the very illogical actions of the humans stationed on their world. Their love of profits and status remind me a little bit of the Ferengi on Star Trek, except they’re much taller and more purple and have very skilled tails. The descriptions of the Rownt, including how their feelings would often be reflected by their skin tone, were fascinating and lovingly consistent, which meant it was easy to sink into the novel and travel along with Liam and Ondry as they worked through their varies challenges.
2- The solidity—This is less a romance-romance since it’s not so much their journey to be together, but their struggle to stay together. Liam and Ondry, even though they are confused or uncertain about some things, are still very *together* and I loved that. I loved seeing their devotion while they tried to work through problems. I also dug how their sexy times were mutual in the way that they wanted to give each other pleasure, but operated in understandably different ways.
Their relationship is still one that is innately D/s, one that is life-long and surrounding, and which is part of Liam’s role as a palteia, one that serves his Life Partner/Dom, but is also taken care and protected. This is not whips-and-chains D/s with a pleasure dungeon out behind Ondry’s pillow nest, but is more of a lifestyle that is reflected in how they interact and care for each other. It also fits more as a way of life in the Rownt world.
It’s interesting that you could probably take the sex out, and you will still have a very compelling read. (Not that the sex is unnecessary–it’s well-written and not distracting; it’s just Gala did a nice job of rounding everything out so it would still have been strong without it.)
Would I recommend this? Did you like book 1? If so, then YES. It’s a very fun and interesting continuation of the story, and Gala does a good job with the sci-fi. I didn’t feel like she covered up a sex scene with some hastily developed alien wallpaper. I felt like we got to visit a really fascinating world and story where sex was included, but was not the dominating factor that propels the story or their love forward.
If you like sci-fi romance, I would point you to try the first novella, and if that works for you, come check out this sequel. And for me, I would definitely be up for a third visit with Liam and Ondry....more
Nicely spooky and like much of Fox's writing, very evocative and rich with its setting, so you can feel the mist on the moors and the chill in the airNicely spooky and like much of Fox's writing, very evocative and rich with its setting, so you can feel the mist on the moors and the chill in the air.
I steered away from this because I'm rarely into novellas. (It's hard for me to get excited about stories less than a 100 pages.) But I saw that Fox has continued this series, now at 4 stories, and that convinced my novella-leery mind to dive in, since there's more to clutch at later if I like it.
And it is good. Gideon and Lee have some nice developing chemistry, although I'll look forward to more development as things progress. I think the real star for this one is the setting, as well as Gideon's growing trust in himself to go out into misty unknown, whether it's to solve a crime, or to allow himself some happiness with a potential new love.
I look forward to seeing where things go in part 2, Tinsel Fish. :-)
3.5 stars - an overall fun historical, set in the roaring, mostly drunk 20s, about a wealthy albeit a little war damaged young veteran, and the hot da3.5 stars - an overall fun historical, set in the roaring, mostly drunk 20s, about a wealthy albeit a little war damaged young veteran, and the hot dancer/performer/man-of-the-night that he meets in a gentlemen's club.
Young and angelic-looking Julius is used to having men fall at his feet for any of his "favors" or attention, but he doesn't know what to make of doggedly sincere Edward, who seems determined to win Julius' affections by sheer force of kindness. Unfortunately for them, they are in the middle of a rip-roaring melodrama filled with conniving gangsters and jilted prostitutes who, as the saying goes, will stop at nothing--nothing!--to get their way or to get Julius to themselves.
What worked for me: I think one of my favorite things about Cochet's historicals is her LOVE of writing them, her tempo with dialogue, and how it's easy to picture every scene as something glorious in black and white on the movie screen. The stories often have that "classic" feel too--it may not always feel new, but it feels still very vibrant, and it was nice to return to Julius, who we first meet in the freebie short Roses in the Devil's Garden, and see him get his HEA.
What was harder: The last quarter or 30% or so gets very full of characters and side-stories, since there are technically 3 couples floating around and finding their way home, along with the appearance of some other Cochet couples who have a part to play in the plot. All these happenings seemed to slow down the plot as well as crowd out a little the main conflict (or delay the climax. I felt a little frustrated with Edward who was sniping with some agents helping him, when I kept thinking, "Hellooooooo? Julius is in danger! Focus!")
What was fun: Cochet "crosses over" many of her series in this book, and you either see characters from other historicals pop up or see references to, including from The Auspicious Troubles of Chance and The Amethyst Cat Caper. You don't need to read these other books to enjoy this one, but they were fun to catch for those following all her books.
(I would recommend reading Roses in the Devil's Garden before this. It's free, and set's up two of the characters that you meet later in this book. You probably CAN get by without it, but I would recommend it.)
For those who like historicals, this was a fun ride, although not my fave of hers. I think that still is her Teahouse series....more
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 owninThis 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!)...more
With Dead Man and the Army of Frogs, we return to Harper’s paranormal Chicago, home of vampire Harvey and slayer Gabe from Spirit Sanguine and its folWith Dead Man and the Army of Frogs, we return to Harper’s paranormal Chicago, home of vampire Harvey and slayer Gabe from Spirit Sanguine and its follow-ups. In this second book in her off-shoot Dead Man series, sequel to Dead Man and the Restless Spirits, we find young necromancer “Dead Man” Denton stretching out his powers more, as well as dealing with the day-to-day trials of being a freelance web-designer, finding the best socks to go with his new hobby of wearing kilts, and trying to figure out his taciturn half-demon boyfriend who seems to be clinging to the past.
Like in book 1, Denton is a laid-back, easygoing narrator, and a good foil for his introverted herbalist lover Bran, who is a bit bemused by Denton’s new habit of going commando under his new kilt. (Fans wondering if there will be some sexy kilt time, my Magic 8 Ball says “Aye, Laddie!”)
Also, like in book 1, this volume is broken up into three connecting stories that follow Denton on a few mysteries as he and Bran continue to work together to help clean up some of the peskier ghouls haunting hapless Chicagoans.
For fans of book 1, I think you’ll definitely enjoy being back in Denton’s head, and there are a few nice twists along the way. (My favorite? Meeting Bran’s demon dad! My second favorite? Denton’s surprise minions.) Bran is still his enigmatic self, still a little perplexed by Denton’s go-with-the-flow nature, and still shy about his half-demon-side, but this time, you get to see a little bit more spark as Bran tries (and fails) to stay so-not-jealous around Denton’s friendship with vampire slayer Gabe of Spirit Sanguine.
Can you dive into this one cold? I wouldn’t recommend that. To really enjoy the characters and their growth, I would strongly recommend reading book 1 and also, the freebie short story Dead Man and the Lustful Spirit, since there are some threads picked up from there as well.
Do you need to read Spirit Sanguine first? That’s probably less necessary, but I personally would recommend both series. They’re enjoyable and not “same-old-same-old” paranormals. Both are marked by Harper’s style, which I tend to think of as realistically creative, fun, sexy, and low-key.
Related to “low-key,” my one down point is that this visit to Dead Man’s world felt a little low on tension, even with some darker forces at work. I didn’t feel too fearful for our young necromancer, so although I very much hope for a return to Denton and Bran’s apartment, crowded with plants and one clever black cat, I wouldn’t mind an extra shot of adrenalin to shake things up a little.
But for now, if you’re looking for a nice change of pace with your supernatural m/m romances, this series, along with the related Sanguine books, are a great way to go.
I started City of Soldiers with some excitement but also a little trepidation. It is the first book that I’ve read that featured an asexual character,I started City of Soldiers with some excitement but also a little trepidation. It is the first book that I’ve read that featured an asexual character, and being asexual myself, I was worried about how it would be portrayed, and also interested in seeing something—anything—that had a character like me.
Just as a quick primer, because I know it can be confusing--asexuality is the orientation when a person doesn’t feel sexual attraction. They can feel romantic feelings, and they can fall in love. They can like touching and kissing and cuddling. Some are into kink, some aren’t. Some can like sex and be aroused while others can be repulsed by sex. There are hetero-romantic and homo-romantic and pan-romantic and aromantic asexuals. I’ve come to understand that it’s a really wide spectrum of people, where the real commonality is the lack of feeling sexual attraction towards others. (Also, many share the same feelings of confusion, since there is no education about asexuality, that this is something that exists, so you have a bunch of confused people who don’t understand why they don’t feel the same way as others. You have this group wandering around thinking they’re “broken” because there isn’t a lot of understanding or acceptance that who they are is a real thing.)
For me, I like to categorize it like this. “There’s this cookie. You can find this a very handsome or beautiful cookie. You can eat the cookie. Some will enjoy eating the cookie and some won’t. Some will eat the cookie because they really want their partner who likes cookies to be happy. But you can walk by the cookie without eating it. Because you are not compelled to ever eat the cookie. You can love that cookie, and never eat it, and that feels totally 100% okay with you.
Now with that said, how did City of Soldiers hold up?
Actually very well. It’s a good novel with compelling characters, an interesting story, and is well-written!
City of Soldiers is not a traditional romance, and that’s not because one of the MCs is asexual. It’s because the focus is on four key characters, and how they relate or have feelings for each other. This is not a journey of one couple getting to their HEA, but of a group of men finding their purpose or their true desires or just someone to love and have love them.
Roman is a young veteran who suffered a traumatic brain injury while in service in Afghanistan, and now is back home in Philadelphia, scampering through the tunnels underneath the city with a close-knit group of veterans, all of whom are homeless and carrying various scars and injuries from battle.
Roman is also the soul of the story--a character that draws others to him, because they’re attracted to him, because they’re worried about him (and his habit of losing his memory or wandering off not knowing where he is), or for one, because they want to harm him. He is a sweet, gentle character, who also understands that his asexuality will continue to frustrate those that want more from him.
That includes Sean, nicknamed “prettyboy” by some of the other veterans. Sean is the only one not living on the streets on in shelters, but he is also feeling lost after he was forced out of the military due to an injury. Meeting Roman in one of the underground tunnels suddenly shines a light on his life that he didn’t know he could find again. After that brief encounter, he can’t help but seek more of that light, and he pushes his way into Roman’s world.
Poor Roman. He finds himself drawn to Sean too, but he feels that the truth about himself will never be enough to keep Sean, so when an old friend shows interest in Sean, especially when Sean’s desire for submission and bondage begin to stir, Roman feels compelled to be a good friend and push them together.
“And he’d ask Brackett to be good to Sean. Roman might be destined for a life lived alone, but that didn’t mean other men were too.”
Burke described very well Roman’s dilemma--his lack of desire for sex, but his want for love, to have someone to go home to and sleep next to and wake up to and to love him, even if he doesn’t want to be sexual with them. And she conveys also his grim understanding that there may never be someone who will want to stay with him, and so he sees Sean’s puppy attraction to him as just waiting for the inevitable—to once again be rejected and alone and unloved.
Thankfully, although Sean is confused by Roman’s lack of sexual desire, he still is determined, because he can’t help but feel a desire to be closer to him.
Meanwhile, back on the Philly streets, someone is murdering homeless veterans, and the killer is closing in on Roman and Sean and those they care about. This part of the story was very intriguing and was drawn out in a way that I couldn’t guess who it was until the author started dropping hints in the last half.
I can tell that this isn’t Burke’s first time at the rodeo. Her writing is self-assured and smooth, and her characters are very realized, from sincere Roman to persistent Sean to protective Kristian to controlled Bracket to the gruff Colonel that runs the homeless shelter with her iron fist. Each comes off the page, lived in and very believable, each with their own voice. I’m not usually a fan of multiple POV stories, but this one was handled well and each character was very interesting, so it was easy to travel on these different paths through the story.
That writing ease probably comes from the fact that this is the first novel by “Sam Burke” but not by the author. She has written novels under the penname of Sam Cameron, has won a Lambda Literary Award under the name of Sandra McDonald, and writes fanfic under the name of sendal.
I see City of Soldiers as a compelling, character-driven novel that is partly a thriller, and has some romantic elements. There is no cheating, but multiple relationships are explored as these characters try to find a balance that will fit for their mix of desires and needs.
My main issue with the book is that I did have some unanswered questions in the end, and I found the climax a little drawn out as characters were coming together, but overall, it’s a gripping read.
No spoilers, but the ending is good for those who are wondering, and for those who are like me, who asked this question to another reviewer before starting, “Is Roman ‘Fixed’ at the end?” Meaning, is his asexuality nulled or removed to have a more “traditional” romance story?
And the answer is “No.” He is not “fixed” or made “normal”. His trajectory is consistent with who he is, which I was very thankful for. I don’t think I could read a story where an asexual character is dramatically changed to fit a more mainstream-accepted relationship or for a wish-fulfillment fantasy where the wish is for them to not be asexual.
Recommended if you’re looking for a compelling read with complex characters and an interesting story. Also recommended if you want to see how an asexual character can be handled since I think Burke did a good job overall. My one misgiving is about the exploration/underlying need for poly, but for these characters, I can only wish them to grasp and hold on to what happiness they find with each other. Because they all deserve it so much.
My hope is that as more awareness comes out about asexual people, more love stories will also follow. Because everyone should have that chance of a love story, especially those who fear that it will always be out of their reach....more
3 - 3.5: Not my favorite Cochet. A lot of GR friends though have dug it, and I recommend Ami's review for another, more positive viewpoint.
Briefly, w3 - 3.5: Not my favorite Cochet. A lot of GR friends though have dug it, and I recommend Ami's review for another, more positive viewpoint.
Briefly, what hadn't worked for me:
- I LOVE action romance. LOVE IT. And I was coasting along well for the first half or so, but I found some of the dialogue, especially anything that was to be funny or show camaraderie, felt forced and leaden.
- I found Dex and Sloane fine at first, but as things progressed, found their pairing a bit dull. Dex is the hot-shot rookie that pisses people off (but also wins everyone over--when this latter trait was mentioned a few times by characters, I got some Mary Sue flashes), and Sloane is the alpha-tough lead with a big emo, angst side, especially when remembering his murdered partner from before.
As things moved forward, I had a harder time connecting to them and at around 86% got stuck for a long time, but then just finally pushed through.
So, seeing that Dex and Sloane are the primary couple for the next three books, I definitely felt less enthused.
I like the ideas; I liked the mixed group of agents, and dig the thought of Cochet launching, in a way, her version of Cut&Run (with shifters), but basically an ongoing action romance series with lots of thrills and sexy times and some relationship angst for added will-they-stay-together tension. It's a neat idea, and there's not a lot of Cut&Run-like series, so jump in and enjoy, y'all.
Will I read the next one? ....Ummmm, maybe. Again, a little bored with primary MCs, but I won't lie--I'm a "Cash" fan, or the secondary pairing of Dex's younger brother Cael and Sloane's alpha-tough buddy Ash. So, going forward, it would probably be for those hints, and it's always hard when you're going in for a secondary pairing because then everything else feels less interesting.
So, I think Cochet's historical romps are still my favorite of her work, but it is pretty cool that she's launching this series, and again, buddies have really dug it, so try it for yourself, especially if you're like me, and you dig action romance.
Psyched to Death is the sixth installment in Perry’s Jamie Brodie Mysteries, a series that stars intrepid UCLA librarian Jamie, his dedicated boyfrienPsyched 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.)...more
Temper Sanguine is the sequel to the Rainbow Award-winning paranormal romance Spirit Sanguine, about a vampire slayer new to Chicago who finds that hiTemper 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.
3.5 stars - First off, this book will be appreciated by those who like gay mysteries, especially the historical kind, and are fine with diving into a3.5 stars - First off, this book will be appreciated by those who like gay mysteries, especially the historical kind, and are fine with diving into a *very Sherlock-inspired* mystery that has little to no heat between the detective and his live-in lover who also helps him solve crimes on the dark gritty streets of Victorian London.
I didn’t know what to make of Colin, to be honest. This is VERY MUCH an homage to Sherlock Holmes, but an homage where Sherlock and Watson were together, like together-together, albeit under the radar since this is Victorian England.
In this homage, Sherlock is named Colin Pendragon, who is the brilliant and handsome son of a high-ranking government official, is in his late 30’s, solves mysteries, has a cranky woman who runs his house (who is NOT named Mrs. Hudson), and who lives with his lover, Watson, but in this case, Watson is named Ethan, and is NOT from the military, but is from a well-to-do family that had fallen on hard times and had been an opium addict in his youth. Sometime in his terrible drug-addled travels, he was rescued from that life in the slums by Colin, and they have been together for over a decade.
That is all hinted backstory, and you only get a few glimpses when Ethan angsts about his past and falling back into his addiction, especially when their current case of solving an Earl’s murder takes them to a local opium den to find answers.
I didn’t know which Sherlock Harris was most tapping into, and I am not a Sherlock scholar since I think I only made it through the Hound of Baskervilles way back in my teens. Colin is very arrogant and rude, which made me ponder this Sherlock.
But he is also very handsome and athletic, features described in the text by his random habit of lifting dumb bells and doing pushups in the middle of a conversation, participating in fighting matches, and also having women literally fawn over him (while they side-eye Ethan with a “What’s HE doing here?” air.
Which made me ponder this Sherlock, since that version had some of the fighting, and Colin is mentioned to be shorter and more strapping/broad.
I also got the feeling that he was a bit of a Marty Stu, but maybe I’m just annoyed by characters who are brilliant and excessively attractive, who are fawned over by women, and who are really unlikeable. I didn’t understand why Ethan stuck around him, and assumed they must have some killer back-story with the whole getting-rescued-from-opium-den-youth.
Colin and Ethan as adults in their 30’s were a little dull, and I almost would have preferred a story set when they started their relationship, just to see how that happened, as opposed to the worn, comfort level that they are at now.
How was the mystery? It wasn’t bad. It kept me guessing, and is really very cozy and a closed-room mystery. Only a few minor thrills here, and I would have been much more involved in there was a dash or three more excitement, but if you like cozy, closed-room mysteries, this should be an interesting read. There were definitely some twists I hadn’t expected, so kudos for that.
What drove me nuts: There were a couple words I really wished the author stopped using, including:
Colin and Ethan snicker and smirk A LOT, as well as chortle, tease, roll their eyes, and drolly say things, and I found it hard to picture these two men in their mid-to-late 30’s smirking and snickering this much. It made it hard for me to take them seriously, especially when it would lead with a line of dialogue, which I would imagine them saying seriously, and then end with the tag of “I snickered” or “Colin smirked,” and I’d get kicked out of the scene as I now imagine these men laughing about. I wanted to cull all those tags out.
The romance is very low-heat. Seriously, don’t go in looking for a smoochfest between Sherlock and Watson, because you will be disappointed. I almost wondered if their love was subtext until a non-explicit, fade-to-black bath scene. There are a few mentions, and a few touches, but very low heat. In that way, it might be more in the Doyle style, but the romance-fan in me wished for a little more, especially since I hoped for Colin to be a little more human and caring in a way that showed why Ethan stuck around.
But if you like mysteries, especially those that are Sherlock-esque, then I’d say try it and see what you think. I got my copy at the library! That was a nice bonus, so I recommend also checking your library or if they don’t have it, asking if they’d purchase it. I also noticed that this volume is part of the Kindle Unlimited plan, for those using that....more
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 Alle4.5 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 myOut 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....more
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 BlooBloodline 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.
4.5 stars - I honestly don’t know what the deal is with KJ Charles. Did she sell her soul to the Devil? Has she been secretly writing for years excess4.5 stars - I honestly don’t know what the deal is with KJ Charles. Did she sell her soul to the Devil? Has she been secretly writing for years excessively readable works in some other genre, say, gothic thrillers or werewolf comedy-of-manners or Pre-K fiction? Maybe under the sly secret pseudonym of JK Charles? I ask, because I just sit back sometimes and stare at my much-loved ebooks of The Magpie Lord and Think of England, and ponder that if they were paperbacks, they would be bent and creased and probably wine-stained from all the reading, and hugging, and page-turning and rereading, and to think this just started...last year? When her first book came out? LAST YEAR.
I steered away from the Magpie Lord when it first came out, because I dunno, new, unknown author, whatever, seemed like a commitment, and two weeks from running a conference, so wasn’t doing anything new, but I couldn’t miss all those surprisingly gushing reviews on my GoodReads feed, and a couple days before running my first gay romance conference, I found some time and read it.
And I loved it. I thought it was delicious and thrilling and sexy and surprising, and it ended up being my favorite book of the year. And with this series, and Think of England, which is one of my favorites for this year, Charles is in this auto-buy group in my mind now with Josh Lanyon, Ginn Hale, and Jordan Castillo Price, where I don’t know what they’re doing next, maybe it’s a werewolf comedy-of-manners, but I’ve already mentally pre-ordered it.
Stop gushing. What about book 3?
Sorry, I just get...carried away when I go back and think of the Magpie Lord journey over the series, and what’s transpired for poor overworked Stephen and his demanding, entitled, and sexily supportive Lord Crane, and what terrible things they have survived, including attacks by hair(!!!), killer giant rats, invading spirits, and a group of merciless warlocks that want nothing more than to rip the Magpie Lord’s power from Crane’s bones.
So how was book 3? Well, did you like book 1 and 2? Because if you did, then you’re going to like book 3. It’s a similar style and tone, still surprising with some shocking turns (as the villains are very villainy!!), similar wit and sexy banter between Stephen and Crane as they push-pull each other about their relationship, about keeping secrets, and about whether committing to each other is what’s best for them, especially since being gay is still illegal in Victorian England. (But even with the fear of the Law or blackmail, these two can’t stay away from each other, thankfully for us hungry readers.) Also, like in past books, you will find some more hot sexy times as Stephen leaves his obligations outside the bedroom, and willingly surrenders control to his Lord.
Have you not read book 1 or 2 yet?Then don’t start here. It would be a crime against your possible reading pleasure to jump in at this point. What I would recommend is to go try book 1, especially if you’re a fan of historicals and paranormal, since Charles’ world is a mix of dangerous magic and Victorian morals, with a grateful dash of face-punching, thanks to always-good-back-up manservant Merrick and the not-really-all-that-noble Crane.
Was it a perfect read? No. There’s one development where I shared Stephen’s shock, and it felt less organic than other parts of the series. As a reader, I didn’t “buy it,” and it did feel like a convenient move to comfortably pair other characters off. But even with that point, it was still easy to be carried along with the story’s quick pace and plot.
How do I feel about the series overall? I think it’s a stellar trilogy, and if there are no more novels, I think it is reads great as is, and any reader who has enjoyed the ride thus far with Stephen and Crane should feel good about the ending these two so much deserve after all that they have survived.
What’s next? There actually IS a new Magpie story coming in early 2015, but it’s labeled A Charm of Magpies 2.5, so is set technically before this volume. Also, early next year, there is Jackdaw, which is a related book that follows a secondary character from this volume and his adventures, and by the hints in the blurb, we may also see some Magpie Lord sightings there as well.
Would I read more of this series? Of course! I’m a greedy reader and if the next book was just Stephen and Crane talking about the weather (“Looks like rain.” “That it does.”) I’d pick it up in a heartbeat, but end of the day, even for this greedy reader, this journey settles very well in this volume, and I think other greedy readers will be quite pleased.
I do wonder what Charles, her pseudonym JK, and their Devil companion will come up with next though… I am hoping for more Feximal myself, and of course, the sequel to Think of England...
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'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' 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...more
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 in3.5 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....more
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 flyin3.5 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....more
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 ofOverall 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)A 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 deb4.5 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....more
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’sA 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?)...more
Researched to Death is Perry’s fourth volume in her Jamie Brodie Mysteries, following the first book Cited to Death, and the subsequent books HoardedResearched 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.)...more
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 Ne3.5 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....more