I have a pretty strange sense of humour. I like silly visual gags and people who are in potentially embarrassing situations. With that in mind, the opI have a pretty strange sense of humour. I like silly visual gags and people who are in potentially embarrassing situations. With that in mind, the opening chapter of this novella hit all my funny buttons and I laughed out loud. I mean, how could you not laugh when a gay man storms into a Catholic church during an Ash Wednesday mass, denounces his lover as a cheat and liar and proceeds to hit him over the head with a bible? It certainly got my attention, that’s for sure.
The gay man in question is our hero and narrator, Mark. Earlier that morning he discovered his live-in lover, Jamie, in bed with the landlord. The rest of the book follows Mark over the next 3 days as he comes to terms with his lover’s betrayal, makes more discoveries about Jamie, before finding that his perfect man was actually under his nose the whole time. The book is basically about relationships: The ending of one relationship and the start of another; the relationships between Mark and the townspeople of Smithfield; the relationships within families. This all takes place within the slightly oppressive atmosphere of a small town in the depths of winter.
I have to admit I had very mixed feelings about Mark. At first I had a great deal of sympathy for him as he realises the extent of Jamie’s betrayal. However, as I got to know Mark better, I began to see how really self-absorbed he is, to the extent that he has behaved quite selfishly in the past. Mark is also very reactive, as can be seen from the opening chapter. He doesn’t seem to think things through very clearly before acting, which then leads to further trouble later on. Even a simple thing like a misplaced remark has him over-reacting and on a number of occasions I wanted to give him a bit of a shake and tell him to climb out of his own arse. Having said that, he does redeem himself by the end and part of my delight in this book was watching Mark come to realise what an idiot he has been. I am hoping that my reaction to Mark is one that the author was hoping for. At least I had a reaction.
In contrast, the other hero, Tony, is very reliable. He’s strong, dependable, sensible and thoughtful. The complete opposite to Mark and just what Mark needs during the few days where his life is turned upside down. Tony reminded me very much of a certain LA cop, except that he is firmly out of the closet – but that was no bad thing. I liked that it was obvious to the reader that Tony was attracted to Mark – even if Mark couldn’t see it himself – and that Tony was man enough to admit his mistakes, even before Mark wised up to his own mistakes.
One plus point for me was the setting. The snowy winter in New England was a perfect counterpoint to the warmth of the people who live there. I have a special fondness for NE, having visited a few times (once in a very cold March) and the people there are very similar in temperament to my native Yorkshire. The secondary characters, especially Mark’s family, didn’t appear very often, but when they did, there was a real sense of love and commitment to each other. The descriptions of the cold environment, especially in the scenes at the end of the book, gave depth to the book and emphasised the importance of the setting within the story.
I really enjoyed this novella. It was a smooth, fast paced read with some lovely use of descriptive language. There was no overblown prose here, everything was written for a reason – as should be the case in such a short medium as a novella. Despite my reaction to Mark, I can see that this is a superb effort from a first time author and I’m giving it a grade of ‘Excellent’. I very much look forward to the next in this series. Oh, and that was another great thing, there were no scenes setting up the next heroes in the series. The whole book was focused solely on Mark and Tony and their relationship. Bonus!...more
I've put off writing this review for a few weeks now. Not because I didn't like the book but at around the time I was thinking about reviewing there wI've put off writing this review for a few weeks now. Not because I didn't like the book but at around the time I was thinking about reviewing there were several reviews of the book posted on other sites, many of which were saying exactly what I was going to say. So, I decided to hold off. It's an interesting experience waiting a while to review a book because your perception of it changes the longer you leave it. Some books fade into only a vague remembrance and others, like this one, remain strongly in your mind. These are always the best books, I think.
The story follows Dan who is a travel writer for a magazine. He's doing a story on narrowboat (or barge) holidays and as we first meet him he is struggling with working out how to steer the boat. His eye is caught by a good looking man on the tow path and this, coupled with his ineptitude, almost causes him to crash. The man on the tow path, Robin, is not impressed by Dan, labeling him a dangerous tourist, especially when Dan gets stuck trying to turn the boat.
There were lots of things to like about this story but the thing that interested me the most is the way that the narrowboat community is shown. I have to admit, I know next to nothing about this aspect of my culture, despite living not too far from the Leeds/Liverpool canal. I hadn't realised that people who choose not to pay for expensive moorings are seen in the same light as those travellers who camp out in caravans and therefore either scorned as 'dirty' or treated with suspicion. I thought the author had done a good job in showing the different types of people who live on narrowboats: From Robin whose boat is well maintained and very clean, to those don't have the funds to keep their boats as nice; from those who have families and well paid jobs to those with little or no income. The various personalities of those living on the canal intertwined with the lives of Dan and Robin bring a freshness of colour to the book which I enjoyed a great deal. I also liked how the difficulties of life on a narrowboat was shown without it overwhelming the story. As the story progressed I found out all sorts of information from the difficulties the boat owners face from British Waterways to how to cope with little fresh water or no electricity. Very interesting!
Dan and Robin were wonderful characters. Both are very flawed and at first seem to clash more than complement each other. Dan is a bit of a slut who always has an eye out for the next opportunity to get laid. He's not one for commitment, preferring to live in the now rather than look for long term. On the other hand he's also very socialable, making friends easily and winning people round with his charm and enthusiasm. he certainly won me round and I warmed to him almost straightaway. Robin is very different to that. He's quite quiet, a thinker who keeps to himself and doesn't make friends so easily. Those he does make, he keeps. He's not interested in short term relationships but Dan wins him round to a holiday romance. Robin's main flaw is his stubborn independence and also his inability to trust Dan. His misplaced jealousy drives a wedge between them. Both characters grow a lot in the story. Dan has to learn to keep it in his pants but also to tone down his flirty nature and to be more considerate of Robin. Robin has to learn to trust Dan and also to allow people to help him when he needs it. It was delightful to watch these men struggle against their natures to come together and stay together. They both had to work hard to make the relationship work, even failing at times, and that made for a very rewarding reading experience for me.
I'm trying to think of anything that bothered me about this book, but actually I can't think of any really off-putting negatives about it. I liked the flawed but likable characters; the setting was unusual and uniquely British (which is always a bonus for me); the sex scenes were raunchy at first but settled nicely into something more romantic by the end; and the plot moved quickly. Even a slight separation and misunderstanding at the end wasn't enough to detract from the book's overall merits. I can see it will be a book I read again in future....more
As many of you know I'm a fan of m/m historical romance so this book by Ruth Sims was very appealing. It's not your typical romance, although it contaAs many of you know I'm a fan of m/m historical romance so this book by Ruth Sims was very appealing. It's not your typical romance, although it contains two romantic story lines, because it breaks some romantic conventions - something I think some readers may not like. Instead it's a Victorian set drama about the creative life and frustrations of Dylan.
We first meet Dylan as a pupil at St Bede's where his inattentiveness in lessons and his compulsion to do nothing but compose music does not endear him to his tutors, especially when his compositions do not fit into musical canon. After an incident with a stolen key, Dylan is sent home in disgrace only to be brought back when the music teacher has an accident. One condition of Dylan being brought back to St Bede's is that he has extra lessons to make up for his poor results overall. His tutor is Lawrence, who sees that Dylan is ahead of his time with his music and offers him quiet support along with the tuition. When Lawrence realises that Dylan has fallen in love with him, and that he has feelings for Dylan too, Lawrence decides to leave St Bede's and move to Paris, only to meet Dylan there when the young man is taking his 'Grand Tour'.
There's was much to like about this story and hands down my favourite part was the way that the frustrations and difficulties of Dylan and his music was portrayed. I'm not a huge fan of classical music but this is Dylan's passion and that shines through the plot of the story. He's musically ahead of his time and as a result encounters nothing but indifference, criticism and downright contempt for what he is trying to do. The story is set in the late 1800's and maybe if Dylan had been composing 30-40 years on, then he would have had significant acclaim for his work. I liked that there is some comparison with what Dylan is doing and the Impressionist painters who were also reviled for the new techniques they were using in art. Dylan begins the story as a hot headed and arrogant young man, certain that he is going to set the musical world on fire, and part of his development as a character is coming to terms with the fact that no-one understands what he is trying to do. By the end he is still hot-headed and sure of his talent, but more resigned and mature. He spends a great deal of the book seething with frustration at the actions of others, and the way he is constantly blocked or prevented from doing what he feels is musically the best thing. The innate snobbery of the musical world also comes across strongly, and again leads to Dylan bashing heads with those who could possibly further his career.
In many ways I admired the tenacity of Dylan and his unwillingness to conform to what society and the musical world expected of him. However, he's also very flawed as a character because in some ways he's just as blinkered as those who can't or won't understand his music. At times his arrogance and self-centred attitude were not not most endearing qualities and his obliviousness to the opinions and feelings of others made him difficult to like on occasion. This is where the character of Lawrence was so successful. He balanced and soothed Dylan's brashness. Lawrence is a loyal supporter of Dylan and loves him despite his flaws but he also isn't afraid to gently steer Dylan in the right direction when needed. I liked Lawrence a great deal and he came across as caring and loving without being a pushover.
The story is divided into two parts, with part one ending with a shocking event which brought me to tears. It's a different Dylan who emerges from this event. He's less self centred and most of his frustrations are based on trying to get the musical world to accept a talented violinist, Geoffrey, who was born a Romany gypsy and therefore looked down on with disgust by society. The character of Geoffrey gets a lot of page space towards the end of the book and I found him to be an interesting character. He's a much more generous person than Dylan, more caring and affectionate but he's also more fatalistic and at times very naive. Despite this, I liked Geoffrey and was glad at the way things worked out for him.
One thing to say about this book is that it certainly puts you through the emotional wringer. There were times when I wasn't sure I could continue as time and time again things went badly for the characters. It's to the author's credit that the story never tipped into melodrama, mainly because the story is so firmly grounded in the time period and therefore felt realistic. It all works out for Dylan at the end and I was left feeling happy for him and optimistic that things would continue to improve.
Overall this historical has a strong sense of setting - Paris in particular was depicted with loving care; flawed but realistic characters; an unusual musical theme and a story which takes you on a number of highs and lows. I greatly enjoyed it and was so engrossed I could hardly bear to put it down. I'm highly recommend Counterpoint: Dylan's Story to all fans of historical romance....more
The opening scenes in this book perfectly set the tone for what is to come. We meet Freeman, our enigmatic hero, sitting in a seedy club, nursing a beThe opening scenes in this book perfectly set the tone for what is to come. We meet Freeman, our enigmatic hero, sitting in a seedy club, nursing a beer whilst watching a young man give the club’s owner a reluctant blow job. In fact the book reminded me very much of a British gangster film. It has all the classic characters: The dodgy businessman; the heavy muscle bodyguards; the handsome right hand man; the put-upon wife; the not-so-innocent young man; the honourable hero. Much of the book takes place in seedy clubs, back alleys, warehouses or in Freeman’s flat and nearly all the action takes place at night or in dark places. This lent a claustrophobic air to the whole book adding to the sense that everyone is trapped somehow by circumstance. Alongside this we are given the wry, bleakly humourous observations of Freeman, our first person narrator.
In fact this whole book hinges on the character of Freeman, but he’s a sneaky narrator. I got to the end of the book and realised that I still knew next to nothing about him. We never find out what his job actually entails, or his background, or even too much about his past. We have to glean all information through the odd offhand remark or throw-a-way comment; through inference rather than being told directly. It’s a long time since I’ve been made to work so hard for a character and I have to admit I found it a refreshing change. Added to this is the knowledge that Freeman is also an unreliable narrator. He deliberately hides important information from us, just as he does the other characters, letting us see what he wants us to see, so that at certain points of the book I was as surprised as the other characters when he chose to reveal what he’d been doing. Freeman isn’t perfect though, he is completely aware of his own failings as a person, especially his inability to open up to others or to hold a conversation.
In contrast to Freeman we have Kit. Kit is young, impulsive, selfish, proud and a magnet for trouble. Much of his behaviour can be attributed to his youth and a certain naivety. He’s managed to get himself caught up in a life of lies, drugs and prostitution, yet remains wholly optimistic that he could walk away from it at any time. He appealed to all my maternal instincts which wanted to take him home and feed him as well as give him a slap round the back of the head for being a fool. Freeman is attracted to Kit but for various reasons can’t act upon that attraction, mostly at first because he initially feels Kit only wants him out of a sense of obligation. Eventually, Kit is able to convince Freeman that he feels more than just grateful for his help, and they have tender, beautiful sex. Clare London always writes a great sex scene and this was no exception as she combined emotion with a good dose of reality, showing that sex can be clumsy as well as hot.
It’s very difficult to explain any part of the plot of Freeman without giving away spoilers. The reader is drip-fed information throughout the book and it’s not until a climactic scene towards the end that all is finally revealed. I have to admit I was completely fooled by the mystery and I hadn’t guessed at all what was going on so this was just a great scene for me where I sat, openmouthed as all was revealed. Actually, this scene links with the first point about the book being part of a gangster film as it was very stagy. All the characters had their positions and as each new aspect of the mystery was uncovered we were shown the reactions of the people in the room, like a camera focusing on them to gauge their reactions. Marvellous.
This book won’t be to everyone’s taste; for a start it was very dark, with only occasional black humour to lighten it. Everyone in the book is hiding something both from each other and the reader, which is quite disorientating, but also means that the characters are complex and, well, very human. There is a pervasive sense of hopelessness throughout the whole book and even the HEA doesn’t wholly dispel that feeling. Clare London’s prose can only be described as sparse, pared down to the bone and stripped of all unnecessary description – both in terms of character’s feelings and setting – so those of you who enjoy lush, overblown descriptions may find this rather disconcerting. These were some of the things that I liked about the book, things that made it a bit different from the usual m/m read. However, those of you who like your romance to be sweet and fluffy won’t like this book at all.
Along with everything I have said above, there is Clare London’s exquisite writing. Her vivid descriptions of the seedy underbelly of the city, the rank, fetid places where nice people just don’t go and the creation of this calm, cold, yet utterly sympathetic hero makes this one of the most unusual, interesting books I’ve read in a while. I highly recommend that you read this book and I salute the author for being brave enough to write something so refreshingly distinct....more
One thing I really like about Eden Winters is that on one hand she can produce some really dark and angsty romance books and then she can produce bookOne thing I really like about Eden Winters is that on one hand she can produce some really dark and angsty romance books and then she can produce books like this one which is a humourous fantasy story - what great versatility!
This story is set in the same world as the authors short story, Flame, which is quite a serious story. Although the fantasy setting is the same, the characters from that book don't appear in this (although there is some mention of strange men who can burst into flame and fly) so you don't even need to have read Flame to read this novella. The plot involves innocent young Galen who is heir to a decent sized smallholding in his village. He's looked after by his bad-tempered uncle, but finds comfort and solace in the home of his 'healer' aunt. As the story begins Galen discovers that his aunt's apprentice who is also Galen's friend has helped a young woman avoid censure by claiming the young woman's baby as her own. Galen's aunt wants Galen to take the baby to the Forest Lord to be cared for but Galen is reluctant to undertake such a dangerous journey through the forest. Events are taken out of Galen's hands though when he is suddenly banished to the forest, taking the baby with him.
This first part of the story is actually rather serious with a tinge of wry humour as we follow Galen's hapless attempts to do the right thing. However, as the story continues, the humour changes, especially when we meet Lord Erik and his court. Now that the danger has passed for Galen the plot becomes more relaxed and there are a number of funny circumstances centred around Galen's experiences with the various members of the court. Most of the humour in this section comes from Lord Erik as he tries (and often fails) to bring his court into some sort of order, as well as battle his own mixed feelings for Galen. The various machinations of court members are also amusing as they conspire to bring the two men together. The dialogue in this latter part of the book is pithy and I laughed on a number of occasions, especially at the internal dialogue of Lord Erik.
The relationship between Galen and Erik is that of 'fated lovers'. Whilst I often find this type of theme irksome in serious romance books, the humour of the situation meant that it worked for me. Erik and Galen are both adamant that they are not 'mates' and the rest of the court all know that they are. It's not insta-love though because the to men still have a lot of learning to do. Instead the 'mated lovers' is more an instinctual initial response on which the heroes build their relationship. This meant that when we leave them at the end of the book, they are more in lust than love, but that was OK by me and I was satisfied to wave them off into their potential HEA. I also liked that, despite his innocence, Galen is just as must an Alpha as Erik and much fun was had with that situation.
Overall, this was a very enjoyable read. I read it in one sitting because the story grabbed me from the outset and I read on both amused and eager to find out how it would end. The plot moves swiftly and the characters are sympathetic and engaging. The fantasy setting has some nice quirky touches but doesn't stray too far from a medieval-type fantasy, making it easy to settle into Galen's situation. Those reader who are looking for a light-hearted fantasy read to curl up with on a cold autumn evening can't go wrong with this novella...more
Sometimes Twitter can be a marvellous thing. If the author hadn’t flagged up on Twitter thatThis review can also be found at Brief Encounters Reviews.
Sometimes Twitter can be a marvellous thing. If the author hadn’t flagged up on Twitter that she’d published this short at ARe, I would have missed this absolute gem completely. The story is set during The Great Depression of the 1930′s in New York and follows Whit who, unlike many men, has a job. He’s a freelance reporter for the NY Times but has lost his heart for journalism in the face of all the horrors he sees daily. After borrowing a dollar from his boss, Whit has enough money to bypass the bread lines and buy a meal and a night in a flop house where he meets Peter. Peter’s not destitute, but is about to lose everything. Whit gives Peter a new lease of life in helping those who have nothing, to gain some pride, and Peter helps Whit to rediscover his talent for journalism.
There’s so much I liked about this story that I doubt I will be able to fit it all into this review! Firstly the setting is poignant and realistic. We see it through Whit’s jaded, almost dispassionate, eyes and in some ways that makes it all the more heartbreaking as Whit shrugs off the sights of men crying in the streets and the huge lines for food. The oppressive atmosphere has affected Whit so much that he is suffering from a form of writer’s block and so he has lost everything and is trapped in a spiral of destitution he has no hope of getting out of. When he meets Peter, he’s jolted out of that spiral as he firstly sees how tragedy has affected Peter, then how Peter’s generous heart can bring hope to men without means to help themselves.
The fact that the main message in this story is that of hope means that what could have been a maudlin or bleak story is lifted into something much less heavy. It was proof of the skill of the author that she was able to tell the tale of The Great Depression whilst also providing a realistic romance and a happy ending for our heroes. The romantic feeling between the heroes was achingly tender and some of the best parts of the story were where the men were muddling through their feelings for each other. The historical setting was flawless, not just in the descriptions of 1930′s NY but also in the way the men spoke and acted towards each other. I was immersed.
I finished the story completely wowed by the intelligent writing, vivid setting and strong characterisation. As a short story this was absolutely perfect and I couldn’t recommend it highly enough. This story is free at All Romance Ebooks (although I would happily have paid money for it) so there’s no excuse not to download it!...more
This book is made up of two novellas both of which are very different in tone. The first novella, This Ground Which Was Secured At Great Expense:, isThis book is made up of two novellas both of which are very different in tone. The first novella, This Ground Which Was Secured At Great Expense:, is a sombre, bittersweet yet romantic story set in the first world war, and the second The Case of the Overprotective Ass:, is a lighthearted, almost comic, mystery story. On one hand this is a positive feature because it shows what a varied and talented author Charlie Cochrane is, but it's also a slight negative. I tried to read the novellas one after the other but gave up on that idea about two pages into the second. The lighthearted tone jarred with me after the very emotional, quieter tone of the first novella and I had to put it down. However, after a break of a couple of days I was ready to pick it up again and enjoyed the second novella a great deal.
As the two stories are so distinct, I shall take each one in turn:
This Ground Which Was Secured At Great Expense: This story begins in 1914 at the outbreak of war. Country gentleman Nicholas feels compelled to sign up at the start of the war and leaves for France, leaving his estate in the hands of his slightly crippled estate manager, Paul. Nicholas has loved Paul for a while now and is glad that his bad leg means he won't be drafted. Whilst in France, Nicholas meets Phillip and they become close friends, close enough that they confess that they are gay. On a trip home, Nicholas is determined to tell Paul of his feelings but things don't go to plan and he ends up in Phillip's arms, more confused than ever about his feelings for both men.
I said earlier that this is a quiet and sombre story which fits entirely with a WW1 setting. As well as this it's also achingly beautiful in the way that Nicholas' feelings are described. The whole story is from his third person point of view which allows the reader to see the changes in Nicholas as the story progresses. He's not a very young man at the beginning - he's just shy of 30 - but he's got a naive innocence about him that endeared him to me right from the start. The things that he experiences during his time in the trenches hardens him emotionally so that he becomes almost closed off on the surface but underneath he's still as confused as ever. The sheer complexity of Nicholas and his emotional development kept me reading as I longed for all to work out well for him.
The setting of WW1 is always difficult for a romance, after all it was a time of great tragedy and loss of life, but I felt the author had got the balance right in this story between showing the harsh realities of war in trenches and providing a story which was not too bleak or unromantic. Having said that, those readers looking for a story without sadness may not find this to your taste. I cried and even the HEA was tinged with a little melancholy.
This was definitely my favourite out of the two stories and one which stayed with me for sometime. I highly recommend it.
The Case of the Overprotective Ass: Alistair and Toby are darlings of the British silver screen. Their films with actress Fiona sends many women's hearts into a flutter and they've had great success with a Holmes and Watson pairing. Whilst waiting for their next film to start filming they get called into helping out a friend find his missing secretary. This leads them on a merry chase about London as they search for clues and avoid the newspaper cameras.
As I said earlier this had a completely different tone to the previous story. It's lighthearted with two leads who playfully banter with each other all the way through the book. Alistair and Toby are charming characters, obviously in love and frustrated at having to keep things firmly behind closed doors. They have a fun sense of adventure and you can tell that they really enjoy their foray into detecting as they go about London interviewing people and finding clues. The story is set just after WW2 and just occasionally the events of the time break through the comedy, as we are reminded of the bombing and the austerity of food rationing. This was never focused on for long but gave enough in terms of setting so that the feel was realistic. The mystery itself was cleverly done with enough in terms of twists and red herrings that I was kept from working things out before the end.
Although I enjoyed the story and liked the characters, there wasn't the depth of emotion that was found in the previous story. It was amusing and had a mad-cap comedy feel to it similar to many films of that era, especially in the fond way the two men verbally sparred with each other and I particularly liked all the humourous references to Sherlock Holmes. In the end it was an entertaining piece of frivolity.
Overall, I would highly recommend this anthology of two novellas. For those readers who are already fans of this author's Cambridge Fellows series, then this book is an absolute must. For those who've never read anything by this author before, then this would be a great opportunity to see what you've been missing!...more
This highly unusual short story from Ruth Sims is written from the point of view of Tony. He’This review can also be found at Brief Encounters Reviews
This highly unusual short story from Ruth Sims is written from the point of view of Tony. He’s an actor who spent his entire acting life in bit parts and later TV commercials. Now in his eighties he spends his days in a nursing home unable to get about due to weak legs. He uses his time making life awkward for the nursing staff and being grumpy about being an old man. Tony meets a young man, Drew, who comes to visit his friend Jesse at the nursing home. As the two get to know each other more Tony becomes attached to both Drew and Jesse, and in turn begins to see how life can be more than sitting about waiting to die.
As you can see from my quick summary above, this is not your conventional romance. It does, however, contain a romantic subplot and a happy ending of sorts. The story is more than a romance though and in fact has a rather poignant and bittersweet theme of lost chances and making the most of life as it is. Tony isn’t the most sympathetic of characters at first. He’s rude and disagreeable to the staff; he’s mired in a bitterness about his old age and lost youth; and he deliberately refuses to make changes to his life to improve his situation. His meeting with Drew acts as a catalyst for change and one of the most pleasing aspects of this book was the development of Tony. By the end of the story I liked him a great deal.
This is a story which makes you think and leaves you pondering long after you’ve finished the last page. It’s not often that a short story manages to effectively tackle such things as old age, tragedy, loss and ultimately hope but this one does in a way which was both sad and uplifting. The quality of the writing is superb, as is the depth of characterisation in Tony.
Overall, I highly recommend Song on the Sand to those looking for an unusual short with a romantic subplot....more
**spoiler alert** How do you know that the book you are reading is something special?
For me it's by one of two different ways of reading. I either can**spoiler alert** How do you know that the book you are reading is something special?
For me it's by one of two different ways of reading. I either cannot put the book down; have to finish it; read to the exclusion of everything until it's over and I surface, blinking into the world or I savour the book by reading it in chunks; taking my time; thinking about the book when I'm not reading it; wake up in the morning to the happy thought that I've more of the book to read; feel sad when it's done, like I've lost a good friend.
I read this book the second way, taking over three days to read it - which is very unusual for me.
I wanted to write a review on this great book, spread the word and tell everyone what a wonderful experience reading this book is. However, after spending a couple of days with bits of a review going round my head, I've realised that I can't write a review without including spoilers, can't describe why I loved this book so much without discussing major plot and character developments and I don't want to do that.
Instead, I'm going to talk about two things in this book which struck me as unusual and which added to my enjoyment of the book as a whole. I think I can do this without giving anything away.
Firstly, the characters.
Like most books, Mitchell introduces us to the characters of Aaron and Joey early on and as a reader, I was left to make judgements about them. Nothing unusual there. However, as the book progressed I realised that the first impressions I got of these characters were actually not quite right. It's not that the characters changed or developed away from my initial assessment of them, but rather that my assumptions about them were wrong, and proved to be wrong later in the book. I hope I'm describing this in a way you can understand! It's actually a bit like real life when you meet someone new for the first time - you make very quick assumptions based on their looks and what they say to you at that first meeting. However, when you get to know someone better, they can be quite different from that first impression. This just blew me away when I realised what Mitchell had done. It was so clever and very unusual.
Secondly, the sex.
I've mentioned before how I get very bored with books which contain multiple sex scenes and can even get to the point of exasperation, wondering whether the book will ever get back to the plot. Well, in this book the sex was central to the plot. Each sex scene (and there were numerous) was written to show either something about one of the characters or something about their growing relationship. At no point did I feel bored or fed up with all the sex, in fact I found myself looking forward to the next sex scene to see what would be revealed next. Again, I was amazed when I realised what was happening.
I urge anyone reading this to go out and buy this book. Even now, three days later, I'm still thinking about parts of it - again the sign of an outstanding book. I'm giving it a grade of 'Excellent', but to be honest, Collision Course goes beyond that grade....more
I really like PD Singer’s writing so I was very pleased to see this short at DSP. Plus it’s set in Britain so how could I resist?!
The story tells of cI really like PD Singer’s writing so I was very pleased to see this short at DSP. Plus it’s set in Britain so how could I resist?!
The story tells of celebrity chef, Jude, who stars in one of those programmes where the chef travels the world eating the local cuisine, no matter how good or bad. Jude and his crew have to make a stop off in London en-route to New York where post production will take place so Jude decides to try out a good old British pub which will hopefully sell him something down to Earth and comforting. Jude isn’t too happy to discover that the pub is a gastro-pub until he meets Tommy the chef who asks for an autograph. Drawn into helping Tommy into the kitchen, Jude realises he’s enjoying himself for the first time in ages.
There was much to like about this book. PD Singer always has a light touch to her writing and I really enjoyed the gentle mocking of the sort of programmes that Jude stars in. I also liked how we see exactly how unglamourous the job is behind the scenes. Jude’s world weariness, his slight bitterness at no longer owning his own restaurant, and his own self-depreciation endeared him to me as a character. It also contrasted with the down-to-Earth Tommy whose hard work and love of cooking revitalises Jude. They work well as a couple, and the way they dance around their attraction at first was full of sizzling sexual tension.
The story has a slight misunderstanding at the end, but it didn’t bother me, mainly because Jude spends the last part of the book kicking himself for being an idiot and trying to work things out for the better. The scene in the airport with his crew had me laughing as he verbally sparred with his team in order to get his own way.
Finally, the story was chock full of lovely food! It made my mouth water to read about some of the recipes that Tommy and Jude concocted between them. It was nice to see that the author had also done her research about conventional restaurant kitchen practice which added to the authenticity of the setting.
Overall, I can highly recommend Prep Work. It had a lovely dollop of romance all mixed in with realistic and sympathetic characterisation. Marvellous!...more
One of my top comfort reads. I've forgotten how many times I've re-read. Not even sure what it is about the story that just gets me in all the right pOne of my top comfort reads. I've forgotten how many times I've re-read. Not even sure what it is about the story that just gets me in all the right places. It just does....more
I'd read the first book in this series Blue Ruin: Some kind of Stranger and enjoyed it, so when I began this book I was hoping that it would be as gooI'd read the first book in this series Blue Ruin: Some kind of Stranger and enjoyed it, so when I began this book I was hoping that it would be as good as the first.
This book was really Blue's story, rather than Derek's and whilst we do get some of the book from Derek's point of view, we spend most of the time in Blue's head. This meant that I was able to sympathise more with Blue, than I did previously. In the first book I had several issues with Blue mostly to do with Blue's submissiveness and his lack of focus or direction other than staying with Derek and being taken care of by him. In this book we see that Blue's contentment with being a 'pet' was actually reasonably short lived as it doesn't take him long to get bored with sitting around all day in Derek's apartment and I liked that Blue recognised the need to go back to school and make something of his life. When he starts an intensive class which would enable him to finish school, he meets some people his own age and it's then that we also get to see another side of Blue, that of older teenager with his friends, larking about and essentially acting his age. This also went a long way to improving my opinion of him as he becomes less of a 'type' and more of a character. Blue's friends also go some way to breaking up the claustrophobic feel of the first book, where Blue and Derek are the main focus for much of the story.
When Blue goes back to school he meets his former nemesis, Cameron, who, as a young teenager, had bullied and beaten Blue for being gay. Blue has very mixed feelings for Cameron: On one hand he hates him for causing such misery during his school years and leaving behind deep psychological scars. On the other hand, Blue recognises that, despite Cameron's behaviour, he has always felt an attraction to him. When he sees Cameron again and learns that he is not only gay but deeply sorry for the hurts that he inflicted on Blue at school, he is even more confused. He still feels the attraction, but he loves Derek. It was this 'will they, won't they?' that forms the main thrust of the plot in this book. Blue's reactions to Cameron, a mixture of lust, guilt and hurt, were complex and believable, as were his conflicting actions of responding to Cameron despite his love for Derek. Blue is a nineteen year old boy, who has only had one lover in Derek and so it was entirely understandable that he is ruled by his teenage hormones for most of the book.
Derek very much takes a back seat in this story. He is hurt by Blue's feelings for Cameron and yet he is also old enough to understand why Blue is acting as he is. At one point Derek even reflects that at nineteen he was less controlled than Blue is now. It doesn't stop him feeling jealous though and showing Blue that jealousy through the sex scenes. One part of the book that I liked especially is where Derek himself is tempted to stray, the results of that scene provided a lovely contrast to the behaviour of the much less mature Blue.
If I have any complaints about this book it would be how quickly Blue forgave Cameron for his past behaviour, although I can quite see that it fitted in with Blue's rather too trusting nature. I also felt, rather like the first book, that the serial killer mystery was rather over the top and perhaps a little tagged onto the main story. However, Looking at the blurb for the third book, I can see that the events in that mystery plot are going to feed into it so maybe once I've read number 3 I will feel differently about this aspect of the plot in book 2.
Overall, I really enjoyed reading this book. I felt that it built on what we knew of Blue and Derek from the first book, making them more rounded and less like yaoi stereotypes. I liked the dynamic of bringing in another man and how that impacts on the relationship of the couple, plus the added interest of Blue's friends. It was one of those books where I found myself thinking about the characters and the story even when I wasn't reading it. I highly recommend it to those who have already read the first book in the series and this gets a well deserved grade of 'Excellent'....more
Although Bullied is published by Dreamspinner Press, it's not a conventional romantic anthology. Instead it's a set of seven short stories aimed at adAlthough Bullied is published by Dreamspinner Press, it's not a conventional romantic anthology. Instead it's a set of seven short stories aimed at adults and YA, which all focus on the high school bullying of gay students. Apart from maybe two of these stories, the rest do not have romantic themes and there is no sex in the book. Instead the focus is on friendship, tolerance or lack of it, the effect of suicide and the reasons for bullying or being bullied.
I had a couple of concerns coming into reading this anthology. Firstly, I was worried that the stories were going to be depressing, or that they would all end up badly and I would be left feeling unhappy. Actually, despite there being some difficult scenes, all the stories are essentially about hope and mostly end well. Even the most difficult story containing suicide has an ending where there is a significant change in attitude and a reason for hope. My second worry was that because of the theme, each story would be too similar. Again, this turned out not to be the case on the whole. The only similarities in the story tended to be the physical characteristics of the victim - usually small, slightly effeminate in voice and mannerisms, and unwilling or unable to stand up for themselves - and the bully, who tended to be athletic, popular and and bit of a jock. However, given that, on the whole, those tend to be the characteristics of a victim of bullying and of the bully in real life, I could forgive that similarity.
What made this anthology very interesting in my view was that each story showed bullying from a different perspective. The first story, Blending In, which actually turned out to be my favourite, was written from the point of view of gay student, Bryan. He is not being bullied because he's quite straight-acting and not out to anyone except his friend. The victim of bullying is the rather flamboyant, Christian, who's over-the-top behaviour and actions makes Bryan cringe. At first he has little sympathy for Christian and genuinely believes that he brings the bullying on himself by not toning down his 'act'. As the story progresses and Bryan gets to know Christian a little better, so his attitude and willing to help Christian changes. I liked that the story highlighted that it's not only straight people who can be complicit in bullying incidents.
In fact this was not the only story to explore the idea that those who stand back and do nothing are just as to blame as those throwing the punches or making the threats and calling names. In what turned out to be the most emotionally painful story, Different, the story takes four separate narratives. The first narrator, Caiden, is gay and the victim of sustained bullying because of his size and lack of athleticism. The second narrator, Rick, is openly gay, but his confidence, athleticism and charm means that he's generally well liked and so doesn't get bullied. The third narrator, Tina, is a tough lesbian who despises weakness in others and uses her strength and sharp tongue to ensure she never gets bullied. The fourth narrator is the mother of a teen suicide who looks back, too late, on how her behaviour and words contributed to the death of her son. It was powerful and moving to see how the actions of all the characters, had they been just slightly different, could have altered the tragedy that occurs.
My second favourite story was the last story in the anthology, Kirby, which tells of Kirby who, as well as being gay, is also fat. His best friend from school betrays him in a humiliating way and Kirby feels lost and alone until he meets Dustin, a new kid in school. I like Kirby a great deal and rejoiced as he slowly gained self-confidence. The scene at the end, left me smiling and was a good way to end an anthology of stories containing what had been a difficult theme to read at times.
As well as having the views of the victims of bullying a couple of the stories are taken from the views of bullies. The first of these stories is taken from the view of a jock who bullies a weaker gay student and the way his girlfriend helps to show a different side to the victim. The second story focuses on a student whose Christian upbringing blinkers him to the fact that his intolerance towards his former best friend is a form of bullying, especially when he turns a blind eye to how others are treating his friend. I was a little concerned at first that this would turn into a 'all Christians are intolerant bigots' story, but that wasn't the case at all and the story was actually very balanced in its handling of the theme.
The theme of bullying means that there are some scenes in these stories which will be painful for some readers. There are descriptions of violence, casual taunts, cyber-bullying and sustained abusive behaviour towards those who have done nothing to deserve the treatment they get. However, as I said earlier, each story contains a thread of hope and many left me feeling happy that things are changing for the victim, mostly because of the actions of a friend and the knowledge that the victim is no longer alone in their struggles. I urge you not to let the more violent parts of the book put you off reading the stories. As well as being about bullying, the stories are also about the struggles that teenagers face in school, in their friendships and in their relationships with adults. It would the ideal book to give to a teenager who is struggling with bullying, as the YA theme is sensitively handled.
Overall, I very much enjoyed this anthology. Yes, it was a difficult theme, but it was also very rewarding and satisfying to read these stories. The quality of the writing was high and the use of the first person narrative was particularly effective in getting into the minds of the victims and the bullies. Even more encouraging is that the author is giving all royalties made in the first year of selling this anthology to an anti-bullying charity and DSP is matching those contributions too. Talk about putting your money where your mouth is! I recommend Bullied. It's a book you should read and recommend to your teenage children or grandchildren....more
Don’t be fooled by the cover, this isn’t an m/m/m ménage romance but rather a story of two psychic mediums, Quinn and Hunter who partner each4.5 stars
Don’t be fooled by the cover, this isn’t an m/m/m ménage romance but rather a story of two psychic mediums, Quinn and Hunter who partner each other in using their skills for hire. Sometimes this means that they help the police solve murders, sometimes they appear on cheesy cable TV programmes and sometimes they get hired personally to find things. In this case the person hiring them is a zombie, Dustin DeWind, who hopes that the pair of psychics will help him to find his ex-lover. In return, Dustin promises to use his ability to talk to the dead to help Quinn and Hunter investigate a haunting in an old mental health hospital.
There are two themes going on in this short novel. Firstly there is the romance between Quinn and Hunter. The story is written from Quinn’s first person point of view. He’s got a huge crush on Hunter and has done ever since a rather ill advised sexual encounter which then led to rejection. Quinn’s trying not to let this crush affect his working relationship with Hunter but he finds this increasingly difficult especially as Hunter keeps sending out rather mixed messages. I found Quinn to be a very sympathetic character. He’s trying to be wise and pragmatic about his feelings for Hunter, but frankly fails spectacularly. His longing for Hunter is difficult to control and I felt rather sorry for him. He never come across as pathetic though because he has a strong sense of the absurd and this also colours the way he thinks about his relationship with Hunter. The first person narrative means that we don’t really get to know Hunter very well, although I felt that the author had done a good job in showing Hunter’s conflicting feelings for Quinn.
The second theme involves Quinn and Hunter’s dealing with Dustin. This part was a little creepy in places, but that was balanced with Quinn’s humourous insights which shines through the narrative, making the story a little black in terms of the humour. The scenes in the hospital had a nice tension to them as the men look for ghostly goings-on and I liked that this part of the book acted as a catalyst for Hunter. Later as the men look for Dustin’s ex-lover the paranormal goings-on become a backdrop to the twists and changes in the relationship between Hunter and Quinn, until an end which was both surprising and gratifying. I really liked the way that the individual strands of the plot slowly knitted together to create a story which was firmly rooted in relationship and love.
In the end this story is about what people will do for love – whether that’s for good or bad. It’s an uneasy theme in places, but meant that the story never verged on the too sweet. In fact the book has quite a thread of darkness woven through the romance which I felt worked really well with the paranormal theme. It never became too heavy or overwhelming though because of Quinn’s distinctive narrative voice. Those readers who are looking for an unusual paranormal story will enjoy this book. The character of the zombie gives the paranormal theme a freshness, and the psychic heroes an unusual twist on the romance. I really enjoyed Abercrombie Zombie and have no hesitation in recommending it....more
I decided to buy this short story from Samhain and I'm very glad that I did. It's the summer and John is in his first job since leaving College. His cI decided to buy this short story from Samhain and I'm very glad that I did. It's the summer and John is in his first job since leaving College. His car's in the garage so he walks into a nearby diner for lunch where he meets Keith who is spending the summer working at a waiter to pay his way through College. John and Keith hit it off straight away both in their interactions and their sexual chemistry. Keith, however, doesn't want to end up as a notch in John's bedpost so he makes him wait. The result is both tender and explosive. I've mentioned before that I like this author's style of writing and this story complemented his descriptive style: I could feel the heat of summer soaking through the entire story and I felt deeply the frustration of John as he faced his first summer in a job, unable to go and enjoy himself at the beach as he had done in previous years. In many way this was a story about growing up and learning how to be an adult as much as a love story. Both John and Keith were believable, well rounded characters and I was entirely satisfied with the ending. Overall, this was an interesting and engrossing read with a grade of 'Excellent' and I'm going to look out for more published works by this author....more
I've said before how much I like rock star heroes, so I was pleased to see this release at Loose Id. It follows Shane who's the singer/songwriter in aI've said before how much I like rock star heroes, so I was pleased to see this release at Loose Id. It follows Shane who's the singer/songwriter in a successful band, Luck. Despite his success he's starting to feel a little jaded with the rock star lifestyle, especially when he looks in the mirror and sees the toll that the drink and drugs are taking on his good looks. As the story starts Shane is thrilled that his band have been approached by another band, Moonlight, who Shane admires a great deal. Moonlight want to tour with Luck, and Shane couldn't be happier about this, or the fact that he'll get to meet Kayden Berlin, the British singer whose good looks are just as attractive as his talent. However, Shane is mystified when Kayden treats him with utter contempt and resolves to find out why Kayden hates him so much.
There was much to like about this book especially in the characterisation of Shane and Kayden. I felt that the authors had done a good job in showing Shane as an ex-bad-boy turned rock star. He's got a talent but wastes a lot of his potential on sex, alcohol and drugs to the extent that he's feeling the strain. It takes Kayden's harsh but fair assessment of Shane's wastrel lifestyle to give him a kick up the backside and I liked seeing that development in Shane as he tries to prove that he's more than just a slacker. The scenes between Kayden and Shane fairly crackle with tension and sexual undercurrents which continually build the more that Kayden pushes Shane away. It's this tension which held my interest through the book as the plot propelled me along and I eagerly read on wanting to see how they would resolve their differences.
Another part that worked well was in the portrayal of the rock star lifestyle. The scenes where the two bands are playing on stage were electric in their intensity and I also liked the realistic peeks behind the scenes as the band wait to go on stage, or take part in promotional work. The interweaving of the life of a rock star with the growing romance worked well within the narrative, grounding it firmly within the setting.
Shane's an interesting narrator as he's a little bit unreliable. He lies to himself, especially about his feelings for his ex-boyfriend Jesse. I found it particularly effective to see these lies laid bare by the end of the book, although this did lead to my one big niggle with the story. There's a revelation at the end of the book which causes a misunderstanding between Shane and Kayden. It doesn't last for long but when they are reconciled there's a lot of apologising which takes place. In my opinion there wasn't enough grovelling from Shane over his past actions. Both men have been deeply hurt by each other and I wanted to see some atonement on both sides. Instead Kayden is the one who apologises whereas Shane almost shrugs off his past misbehaviour when he really had a lot to apologise for. However, this wasn't enough to spoil the story for me completely and maybe some readers will feel that Kayden's actions were enough to cancel out the hurt inflicted by Shane.
Apart from that niggle, this was a very enjoyable book. The writing flowed well and I was pulled completely into the story, so much so that I read this in one sitting. I can recommend Moonlight Becomes You to those readers who are looking for an engrossing contemporary with sympathetic characterisation and I'm looking forward to the sequel which I think is going to feature Shane's brother, Nick....more
Confessions of a Rent Boy was one of those books I may never have read if the author hadn't sent it to me to review. The author is new to me and I'd nConfessions of a Rent Boy was one of those books I may never have read if the author hadn't sent it to me to review. The author is new to me and I'd never heard of the publisher, and since I'm one of these rather conservative readers who tends to stick to the bigger league m/m publishers this book would have passed me by entirely. What a huge shame that would have been because I found this book utterly compelling.
I have to admit the title of the book led me to believe that this was going to be one of those red-hot, sex filled books where the hero loves his job as a prostitute and everything is rosy but this, thankfully, was not at all the case. Whilst the book is certainly filled with a lot of sex scenes, the subject matter is a realistic view of life as a rent boy with some of the good, bad and in between points of selling your body for a living. Having said that, this is not a bleak book, although the hero does suffer at times. This is for two reasons: The strong narrative voice of Andy and the way that the sex is used to show the better clients whilst the worst ones are glossed over a little.
The book is set in Britain, mainly London, and Andy has the voice of many typical British men. He's a bit of a lad, with a tough inner core. He's self-deprecatory with a wicked wit and humour. He's also very honest about his feelings, unapologetically so. It's this 'take me as you find me' attitude that I found very sympathetic. He's also unstable at times, mainly because whilst he's had a lot of sex in his life, he hasn't had much in terms of love and genuine affection. At times I felt so sorry for him as he struggled with loneliness and disappointment, with betrayal and unrequited love. This is then balanced by the pride he feels in his job, the act of giving of himself to provide a service to other lonely men. I also liked that he's not conventionally handsome, and even struggles with lack of confidence in his looks and body. It made him all the more human than these heroes with rippling muscles and movie star looks. The character of Andy was entirely rounded, filled with depth of emotion, realistic feelings and actions. He made me laugh, but at times I also wanted to cry.
As I said earlier there's a lot of sex in the book. However, each sex scene was used to show us something of Andy's development as a person. We see the extreme nerves he felt with his first client, the way he slowly builds up a client base, the different types of men he encounters, and even the way he gentles the nerves of a virgin. The sex scenes are all so tightly well written and sensuous, even when what is being described isn't always a positive experience. There's a freshness about the writing and Andy's feelings, especially during the sex, that lifted it beyond mere titillation and made it a part of Andy's experience.
The question for me by the end was how much of this book is a romance. There's a change in direction towards the end of the book where in a time of weakness Andy goes back to a previous lover. I wondered whether that would turn out to be the focus of the romantic core of the book, or whether he would begin a relationship with one of his clients. I'm not going to spoil things by giving too much away, but the romance is almost secondary in this book to the drama of Andy's life. The book ends on more of a promise of romance. I found this satisfying enough as my imagination supplied the rest. However, some readers may feel that they want more of a solid happy ending for Andy.
Before I conclude, I want to point out that Andy is bisexual and as such there is some m/f sex in the book. This didn't bother me because it's only briefly described but it may not appeal to all readers of m/m books. I'd urge you not to let it put you off though because you would be missing out on a great book.
Overall, I found this book to be a surprising gem. The writing is engaging, the character of Andy vivid and extremely sympathetic. I may not have heard of this author or publisher before, but I'm definitely intending to check out further books from them in the future. I highly recommend Confessions of a Rentboy with a grade of 'Excellent' to those looking for a book which is strong on character, emotion and drama. I couldn't put it down and intend reading it again very soon....more