I get asked to read debut novels all the time, and I'll be honest, I usually grimace. It's an awkward situation when you're not thrilled with the bookI get asked to read debut novels all the time, and I'll be honest, I usually grimace. It's an awkward situation when you're not thrilled with the book and have to deliver an honest opinion which might not be what the author wants to hear. In this case, however, I was beyond pleasantly surprised. This story captured my heart, and the deeper I got into the story, the more invested I became.
As has been stated in several other reviews, the strength of the narrative is the layered characterization. With both main characters, there is a believable arc, where they at first appear to be a certain way but as you get to know them better they seem to change. In truth, it's like peeling an onion, and we're seeing who they really are on the inside.
Though the story eventually depicts some graphic sex, the gradual GFY plot is a slow build. A platonic relationship develops between the "straight" and gay main characters, then blossoms into a romance. As with most GFY stories, it clearly can be argued that the straight character was never truly straight to begin with, and I think the author demonstrates that quite clearly.
I wonder how well this book would be received had the author chosen to tell the story from Michael's POV rather than Carlos'. In my view, Michael was the sympathetic character, and though at first it appeared Carlos was the one in need of a savior, ultimately Carlos rescues Michael. I guess you could say they rescued each other, and perhaps this is what makes the story so special. It definitely contains two heroes, though each of them is noticeably flawed.
If you visit the author's website, you'll find a detailed map which depicts the setting of the story, and it's obvious the author devoted a lot of time and thought to the world building. You don't really consider world building and setting to be so important in a contemporary story, but I think when you read a story such as this, where the details are described so vividly, it is easy to appreciate the skill and effort involved.
I'm fairly transparent about what I like and make no pretense about how I personally judge and rate my books. I'm an emotional reader and cherish the stories that touch my heart and move me. This is one of those stories. Some of the plot is tough, I won't lie. Forced separation plots always tear me up, but the final outcome is worth all the angst.
You already know the formula. Two main characters are thrown together for a restricted period of time, both vowing not to fall in love. They fall in lYou already know the formula. Two main characters are thrown together for a restricted period of time, both vowing not to fall in love. They fall in love, anyway but are afraid to admit it to each other. Their time together expires and they separate, both of them miserable. Even though they each are in love with the other, they're both too stubborn to see how the other feels, hence big misunderstanding. Third party intervenes to give them advice. Grand romantic gesture ensues, hence lightbulb moment. They reunite and live happily ever after.
I don't even consider the previous paragraph to be a spoiler. It's such a common structure I think readers will recognize it instantly when they begin reading the book. And I could provide a LOOONG list of m/m romances that follow this exact formula.
That's not to say this isn't a great story. It's well-written. The dialogue is head and shoulders above most. I'd have to stress, however, that this is an angsty plot that is entirely character-driven. There is almost no action in the plot. Being a sports-themed story I kind of expected the big climactic come-to-Jesus scene would involve the big end-of-season game. It didn't. Or maybe there could have been an accident, a shooting, a car chase, a life-threatening situation...nope. The plot is driven forward by the interaction of the characters in much the way of a soap opera. There is no series of actions threading the time segments together.
For some readers this will be fine and dandy. Especially in m/m, there seems to be a consensus that this is the preferred formula for romance. Readers who want an action-filled, fast-paced plot will probably be bored. I personally loved the angst and got teary-eyed in all the right places. I wasn't disappointed because the story delivered exactly what I expected from the outset.
This story felt reminiscent of a black and white, gumshoe detective film. Told in the first person, the narrative read like a voice-over, authentic anThis story felt reminiscent of a black and white, gumshoe detective film. Told in the first person, the narrative read like a voice-over, authentic and laced with straightforward frankness, circa 1930-something. I kept waiting for the narrator to wax nostalgic about life not amounting to a hill of beans.
The irony: I found the story quite refreshing. Unique, maybe? It's so different than anything I've read within the m/m genre. Seems this author could easily write these kinds of novels but with heterosexual protagonists, and they'd appeal to a much broader audience. I'm grateful she's woven gay characters into her plot, featuring them center-stage. Overall, an amazing talent, quite impressive.
Not only is the story an excellent period piece, but it's also a riveting mystery. The main character, Frankie, actually is not an official detective, not even a P.I. He's an insurance investigator trying to prove fraud when he suspects a client is trying to cash in by faking her death. The love interest in the story is Sam, the actual police detective.
Much of the backstory is presented in flashback, and in a couple instances confused me. I got the timeline twisted in my head, but it's all ironed out in the end. The cynical noir style of the book doesn't evoke emotion like most of the m/m books I enjoy, yet there were some touching scenes that tugged at my heart. For instance, I really felt the main character's grief when he lost his baby brother during a mob hit gone awry. And I really rooted for Frankie and Sam's happily-ever-after.
If I had to identify a weakness, it would be the mystery itself. Pretty straightforward and predictable. But I guess that's not necessarily a bad thing. The manner in which a story is told and the depth of characterization are far more important than whether or not the plot is predictable. One could argue that most plots, good or bad, are to a degree predictable. And that's not to say that there weren't a few twists and surprises along the way.
I don't really possess the credentials or education to be overly critical of a book this well-written by an author this intelligent and talented. Truly an enjoyable read, and I'll probably explore a bit more of this author's back list as a result....more
New to this author, I approached this book with no expectations and came away pleasantly surprised. The author's style of storytelling presents a seriNew to this author, I approached this book with no expectations and came away pleasantly surprised. The author's style of storytelling presents a series of fluid scenes that feel very cinematic. Not as much in a big screen sort of cinematic way, but more like an HBO series. An expansive, eclectic cast of supernatural characters are fleshed out masterfully, not with massive info-dumps but through shown revelations woven into the story itself. Told in multiple points of view, the story clips along rapidly, paced perfectly. At one point I suddenly realized I'd completed 85% of the book, and it was two hours past bedtime. That's exactly the level of engagement and personal investment I look for a story to evoke.
Readers often complain about dialogue not being realistic, and I have to say that most of the time I question whether it's realism they're really looking for. Good dialogue in a fictional story is punchy. It's engaging and funny, and it's laced with quick-witted sarcasm and snappy come-backs. I don't experience a lot of that sort of dialogue in real life. I experience stammering, unfinished sentences, interruptions. But entertaining fictional dialogue represents the things we all wish we were quick enough to think of in real life situations. And this author seems to have mastered this talent. And speaking of the cinematic feel of the story, this factor greatly contributed to that particular effect.
The story contains mystery, intrigue, lots of surprises. And the preternatural creatures, immortals, were cleverly and creatively fashioned in such a unique way that I didn't feel they'd been borrowed or copied from other fantasy stories. I found it most interesting that the supernatural realm seemed to be like a carbon copy - the photographic negative - of how we traditionally view the supernatural. Good is evil; evil is good. It's kind of a mind bender, and perhaps some might squirm a bit if their sensibilities are offended by blasphemy. But for me, it felt refreshing and delightfully naughty.
I have to separate the sex scenes from the stylistic aspects of the story and the truly entertaining plot. And normally I wouldn't be able to do this so easily, but this particular story is so well executed that I can honestly see an R-rated screenplay version of it in my mind's eye. The sex, regardless of what one might think of it (good or bad), is dispensable. However, there's no denying that the story does contain plenty of extremely graphic sex, and so I'd be remiss if I didn't comment. This is perhaps the only tiny bit of criticism I have with the story. Almost all the scenes involved very rough anal sex where no lubrication is used. It seemed the author was slightly obsessed with the fantasy of screwing so hard that it destroys the bottom's asshole. Not my thing, so I was kind of grossed out.
I get the power play... and I thrilled at the Dom/sub dynamic that was portrayed. My heart ached for the sympathetic characters (especially Kid). And I loved how flawed every one of the angelic beings were. The story ends with only partial resolution, sort of a cliffhanger, and I'm dying for the next installment.
Really, I wish every book I picked up compelled me to keep turning pages the way this one did. A fantastic story, and I want more, more, more....more
There are so many great things I could say about this touching romance. The writing is solid; the arc of the relationship is formulaic (which is preciThere are so many great things I could say about this touching romance. The writing is solid; the arc of the relationship is formulaic (which is precisely why you see all the 4 and 5 star reviews - readers tend to rate a romance book on that factor alone, whether or not they buy into the love story that's presented). There is a beautiful, happy ending. And the romantic scenes and sex are incredible--really touched my heart.
The stumbling block for me... which I repeatedly tripped over, to the point of frustration... was the disconnect from reality. Please, don't hate on me for saying this because I realize the statement itself is probably going to come across as hypocritical. I like all kinds of unbelievable stories. Vampires, werewolves, shifters, sci-fi, etc. But what I can't accept is a super busy, career-driven neurosurgeon who has no patients, who never keeps office hours or has any scheduled appointments, who never performs patient rounds at the hospital, who can come and go as he pleases without ever being interrupted by a phone call from work or without ever having a medical emergency (except for his grandmother). Who goes into work at nine or ten o'clock in the morning and leaves a few hours later without even talking to a single patient or consulting with any other doctor about his patients. To me, this is not a real doctor. This is a soap opera doctor.
I also don't know of any retail establishment that allows employees to just call without warning and say "I'm not coming to work today... or tomorrow... or maybe ever, because my boyfriend's grandma is in the hospital."
This type of disconnect drove me insane throughout the story. And when Micah did not even know the dangers an elderly patient with dementia would face recovering from surgery (it had to be explained to him by HER surgeon), that's where I just started (LITERALLY) screaming almost at the top of my lungs: PLOT HOLE! PLOT HOLE! That makes zero sense. He's not only a doctor, but a neurosurgeon. He would have operated on hundreds of elderly patients.
Where is the editor? Where are the beta readers?
Now let's assume that Doctor Micah clears his schedule in order to focus on his grandma. That seemed to be the implication. I just don't buy that a doctor can do that, not in this way. If he's as busy as he was supposed to be, he would not be able to just cancel all appointments for days on end. What are his patients supposed to do? Who is handling their prescription refills? Who is checking on them after surgery? What about follow-up visits? On more than one occasion it's stated that he has a backlog of email. I would think that in real life a surgeon would not have much time for email to begin with. He'd probably have staff that handled email. He'd be busy with patients.
Have you ever been to a doctor's office... or a surgeon's, specifically? They are almost always booked so solid that you don't even make it into the actual office until at least a half hour after your appointment time. A real doctor does nothing but move from one patient to the next all day long until at least five or six o'clock in the evening. Then they usually go back to the hospital for patient rounds. They do patient rounds again in the morning before even going to their offices, so they start their days really, really early and work until late into the evening. And this doctor specifically was supposed to be even busier than normal. He was said to be "married to his job".
Maybe I'm too hung up on the details. I loved the romance. I loved the writing style. I loved the sex. I just didn't see how it worked within the story's setting. Micah didn't seem like a doctor to me. (And please don't get me started on the lawsuit... that's another whole issue).
I'm looking forward to reading more of the author's books. Like I said, I think the writing is great. I just had some issues with this particular plot....more
This hauntingly gripping story became a one-sitting read for me, a page-turner the likes of which I have rarely experienced. Raw authenticity translatThis hauntingly gripping story became a one-sitting read for me, a page-turner the likes of which I have rarely experienced. Raw authenticity translated a Hollywood-esque, mystery plot into a heart-rending tear-jerker. Many of the elements felt so real I found myself wondering if the author had experienced some of what he described.
Child sexual abuse, PTSD, repressed memories, murder, abuse, panic attacks... and romance! Conventional wisdom suggests this would be an over-the-top mix far too incredulous for a reader to buy into. But somehow it worked, beautifully.
The main character, a psychotherapist named Tom, possessed a handful of sympathetic flaws. I quickly empathized with him, the way he over-invested in his patients, his self-destructive habit of falling for unobtainable straight guys,and his somewhat unhealthy introversion.
But the real star of the show, Kevin, grabbed hold of my heart and wouldn't let go. A thirty-something man who's haunted by nonsensical flashes of memory, he struggles to maintain control of his life as a series of stimuli trigger intense, debilitating panic attacks.
Tom, in his infinite wisdom, immediately sets out to "fix" his patient... or to be precise, his ex-patient. As the two begin to fall in love, Tom can't quite figure out how to support Kevin as his life-partner and lover rather than as his psycho-analyst.
I think the mystery element of the story proved most riveting. I couldn't pull myself away, and when at last the big reveal occurred, my emotions were so frayed (more like ripped to shreds) I wasn't sure if I wanted to hug the author or punch him square in the mouth.
I confess I have a tendency to over-rate stories, to give authors the benefit of the doubt. In this case, I don't think I can possibly rate this story high enough. To me, it's beyond a five star read. ...more
Certainly this book deserves a four or five star rating, if for no other reason than the strong writing craft and meticulous editing. But I also thinkCertainly this book deserves a four or five star rating, if for no other reason than the strong writing craft and meticulous editing. But I also think the story itself delivers in the way its author intended. The story presents a powerful yet disturbing portrait of a young man who has embraced his identity as a slave. He surrenders himself to the training and domination of a strict master who molds him into a top-notch slave. This relationship exists within the context of an underground BDSM community referred to as "the Market".
I have to offer a caveat to readers, though. Personally I felt a clear disconnect when I read this story. A key element was lacking for me: Love. I'm a big fan of BDSM stories, but I approached this one unaware of the precise dynamic that exists between the main characters. Although I think many stories depict BDSM partners who are Master and sub, such a relationship is quite different from that of a Master and true slave. A slave needs and craves authority, control, and ownership... with or without love. In fact, I'd argue that it might well be easier for both the Master and slave if love does not enter the scene at all.
For me, I yearn to read of loving couples who each embrace their identities as Master and sub but who are both committed to the other. In some ways their love for each other enslaves both of them. But such a story is far different than this one. Slave in Training is a story which makes romantics like myself uncomfortable. It made me squirm, and at times I was angry or tearful. I could not understand how a Master could be so cruel and selfish. I could not understand how a sub could allow himself to be treated so poorly.
But this story is not about me, nor is it about the types of characters I idealize. It's about a type of relationship that does exist and that is significant, meaningful, and fulfilling to a number of people. The story is educational, if nothing else. And it's very entertaining fiction.
This beautiful story really tugged at my heartstrings, beginning with the aftermath of a horrible tragedy. Orin, the main character, returns to his hoThis beautiful story really tugged at my heartstrings, beginning with the aftermath of a horrible tragedy. Orin, the main character, returns to his home town after his parents' death. They've been killed by a tornado that took out their house. And Orin not only faces the devastation and grief from such a monumental loss, but also much face some of the horrors of his past. He comes face-to-face with his childhood best friend, Thomas. But after they got to high school, they became estranged. Orin came out of the closet and everyone at school discovered he was gay. Thomas not only dumped him, but also turned on him and became his enemy and his bully.
Now Orin must deal with Thomas all grown up. And he's a police officer. He must decide if he can find it within his heart to forgive him. And he must decide whether or not to pursue an unrequited love from years past....more
This little gem was a delightful afternoon quickie. At the risk of dropping a spoiler, the ending proves to be a bit of a mind-bender, leaving the reaThis little gem was a delightful afternoon quickie. At the risk of dropping a spoiler, the ending proves to be a bit of a mind-bender, leaving the reader with multiple possible interpretations. That's not to say it isn't a feel-good, happy ending. I could see where some might complain the ending came too abruptly, but I sort of liked that it did. It gave me pause and made me think for a bit about possibilities.
Be careful what you wish for. Sometimes what we think of as a perfect life can prove to be far less than perfect after all. ...more
What a thrilling pleasure read! This story and the writing craft of the author pushed all my buttons. The fast paced action had me on the edge of my sWhat a thrilling pleasure read! This story and the writing craft of the author pushed all my buttons. The fast paced action had me on the edge of my seat, and the emotional struggles of two truly endearing protagonists pulled at my heartstrings. Add to this the heated, sensual sex scenes--and you've got m/m romance at its best.
Luxorian Fugitive is a sci-fi romance featuring an all-gay cast of interesting characters. Captain Danaverse is a stubborn, dominant alpha male (my favorite). He wants to have his cake and eat it too... and he does. The main love story, though features Security Chief Liam and an enigmatic passenger on their commercial/freight spacecraft. The mystery man, Hadrian, at first appears to be a criminal fugitive, but as the story unfolds, he becomes more complex than he at first appears.
Overall a quick read (because I couldn't put it down). Look forward to future stories in the series....more