I have a fondness (perversion?) for stories which contain prostitutes as heroes, so this story based in and around an all male brothel sounded intriguI have a fondness (perversion?) for stories which contain prostitutes as heroes, so this story based in and around an all male brothel sounded intriguing. On the whole I liked the story with only one or two minor niggles to dim my enjoyment slightly.
Declan is down on his luck. He’s been thrown out of his home when his dad found out he was gay and all his dreams about going to college are now up in smoke. He can’t get a job as he’s living on the streets so he’s starving and desperate. When a hustler tells him about the Chicken Ranch, an all male brothel on the outskirts of town, Declan decides that he’d rather sell his body than starve. After a somewhat unconventional interview with the owner of Chicken Ranch which included lying through his teeth about the fact that he’s a virgin, Declan is taken on. His first customer who wants more than just a blow job is Killian, a shy accountant, who makes Declan’s first time special. A few weeks later Killian and Declan come across one another in a local supermarket and arrange a date.
One of the best things about this novella is the contrast between Declan and Killian. Declan is quite happy-go-lucky despite his cares and worries about his father. In some ways he suits his job as he’s good with people even if he does find the job demeaning at times. He’s happy to make the best of the situation he is in and pragmatic enough so that even when he’s earned enough money to perhaps move on, he keeps his job because it earns more money than the alternatives. In contrast Killian is very shy and speaks with a stutter. He’s not good at relationships and his only friend is a bit of an idiot who Killian is too nice to get rid of. Killian likes his job mainly because numbers are less confusing than people. When the pair come together therefore they are a perfect match with Killian’s shyness and lack of self-esteem counterbalanced by the more outgoing Declan. It gave me a warm fuzzy feeling inside when they were together.
The other characters in the book were less well drawn, mostly because the length of the novella made it difficult to focus on anything other than Declan and Killian. However, I liked the descriptions of the other prostitutes working at Chicken Ranch and the conversations where they swap their reasons for working there were amusing and insightful without being overly harsh. In fact, although these men sell their bodies for money, the story contained an upbeat note which was perhaps not entirely realistic for brothel workers but worked with the optimistic theme of the book. The character of Killian’s obnoxious friend, Cash, was a tool only for the purposes of the story and as a result came across as very one dimensional.
As I mentioned there were a couple of little niggles. Firstly, Killian is completely accepting of Declan’s job which I felt was a little unrealistic. He doesn’t ask Declan to stop working as a prostitute, even when they are officially dating and having sex, when Declan’s job, no matter how safe he is, may impact on his own health. Secondly, there was a minor misunderstanding late on in the book which completely lacked originality. In fact I was hoping that the author was not going to wheel out that particular chestnut, but she did and I was disappointed as the rest of the story had a certain flair and originality which was, in my opinion, tarnished a bit by the use of this particular plot device.
Overall, Chicken Ranch: Hunger is a bright, breezy read that I enjoyed very much. You may find that you have to suspend your disbelief a little when reading it, but I didn’t mind that. Amanda Young writes interesting stories on the whole and this book is no exception. I’d recommend this book to fans of the author, those who like stories about prostitutes and anyone looking for a light, quick read. ...more
In the Rough is a sort of follow on from By Degrees in that the heroes in this book, Rick and Jay were minor characters in the previous book. Both menIn the Rough is a sort of follow on from By Degrees in that the heroes in this book, Rick and Jay were minor characters in the previous book. Both men are in their thirties, with only three years separating them by age. They both have similar backgrounds in that they ran away from home as children and survived on the streets for a time. They also both used martial arts as a way to survive their time during childhood. The similarity ends there as Rick was taken into Social care and Jay was allowed to sleep at the local dogo (a place where martial arts are taught) by the man in charge of it at the time. When we meet the men at the beginning of the book they seem to be complete opposites. Rick now owns and runs the dogo where he spent most of his childhood. He’s not making a lot of money – just enough to buy his own house and feed himself – but he works hard and gets a great deal of self-satisfaction out of his job. Jay is a drifter and a drinker. He moves from one job to another, never settling with anything or living in one place for too long. Jay has also been married and fathered a little girl who is now eight. He sees his daughter, Emmy, at the weekends and, although he loves her, is quite content to pass her back to her mother on Sundays.
All this changes when Jay discovers that his ex-wife’s new boyfriend has been acting inappropriately towards his daughter. He calls his lawyer, who calls social services, who takes Emmy into care. Jay’s wife won’t get rid of her boyfriend and Jay isn’t deemed fit to take Emmy as he has no job and no apartment at the moment. The authorities give Jay one month to sober up, find a decent job and get a home for him and Emmy. Otherwise Emmy will remain in care.
The story then follows Jay as he tries to get himself sorted out in time. Rick is there as a help for Jay but theirs is a strange relationship. For many years they have been ‘friends with benefits’ which has led to them sharing physically but not emotionally. I found this aspect of the book quite infuriating at times. Because of their pasts, both men are emotionally shut-down. They never share their pasts or even their own thoughts and feelings for each other. Rick is in love with Jay and has been for the past 15 years. However, Jay has rejected anything Rick has had to offer except for the occasional bout of sex. I was annoyed at both Rick and Jay because they could have solved so many of their problems if they had just talked to one another. Instead they hedge round difficult topics, keep everything firmly hidden away and even just leave when things start to become emotionally intense. On one hand I could understand that, given their past hurts, they didn’t want to expose themselves to further harm, yet on the other hand their actions and the way they deliberately shut each other out became annoying after a while.
I have to admit that I found this book quite heavy going. The themes within the book of physical and sexual abuse and low self-esteem meant that the book was unrelievingly bleak at times. A few times whilst I was reading I longed for a bit of light relief that even some of the scenes with Tim and Con from the previous book didn’t provide. This is a perfect book for those of you who like angst, which I usually do enjoy, but even I found it too much. It didn’t help that the book focuses almost wholly on Jay and Rick and their problems, especially Jay, whose past was brought to us by a series of flashbacks. One part of their relationship which was handled well is the way that their physical relationship changes incrementally throughout the book, each time becoming less just about sex and more tender and emotion-led. This mirrored the way that the men begin to open up to one another as well, so that by the end of the book, even though things are still not perfect, Rick especially had come to a better understanding of why Jay acts as he does.
In the Rough is incredibly well written. The characters of Jay and Rick were realistic as were the problems that Jay faces in getting Emmy back. The way that Rick feels alternatively frustrated and annoyed by Jay and his refusal to go back to school and better himself, was also done well. I was pleased that the ending reflected the overall realistic tone and whilst it was upbeat, still retained a subdued tone which fit the rest of the book.
Overall, this is another great book by JB McDonald which shows that she is a talented author who is unafraid of tackling serious subjects in her books. I would recommend that you read In the Rough: Its themes of abuse and the struggle to overcome the gripping effect of the past may not appeal to everyone but it’s still a book which I considered well worth reading....more
I've been eagerly awaiting this book. Sean Kennedy is one of my favourite m/m writers and I was interested in seeing how his writing would blend withI've been eagerly awaiting this book. Sean Kennedy is one of my favourite m/m writers and I was interested in seeing how his writing would blend with that of Catt Ford. I also have a great love of adventure stories, especially those in the mould of H Rider Haggard and GA Henty. It's hardly surprising then, that I found this tale of love and adventure in the forests of Tasmania to be a enjoyable romp, with a message of caution about how humans, and particularly the imperial British, have trampled over the spoils of their empire.
The book begins in London in 1934 where our hero, Henry Percival-Smyth, is working in the dusty basement of Ealing College as a researcher and archivist. His passion is the the Thylacine, or Tasmanian Tiger or 'Tassie' as it is nicknamed, now almost hunted to extinction. His dull life is interrupted by the arrival of Jack 'Dingo' Chambers, an Australian adventurer and fellow enthusiast of Tassie. Within a few minutes of meeting, Henry has been given a new nickname, 'Dash', and swept off to plan a trip to Tasmania to capture a breeding pair of Tassies to bring to England in order to start a breeding programme. The story then takes us to Australia via Bangkok and onto the jungles of Tasmania where our intrepid explorers search for the tiger but also find each other, all whilst being tracked and hunted by men who wish to wipe out the tiger for good, even if it means killing Dash and Dingo along the way.
In fitting with many adventure novels of the early part of last century, this book started quite slowly. There's quite a lot of scene setting, especially in building up a picture of Henry's life in England and the dusty bureaucracy of his job. Even once the two men are on their way there's still a stop in Bangkok and a stay with Dingo's family before the true adventure begins. As this was the first book in the series, the focus is more on the two men and how their differences at first repel and then attract as they grow to know each other so I didn't mind the time spent setting the scene and fleshing out the characters of Henry and Dingo. Once the setting moves to the forests of Tasmania the focus shifts slightly towards ecological matters. The forest is a mix of terrible beauty and fragility, and there is a strong message in the middle section of the book about protecting the environment and working with harmony with nature rather than riding roughshod over it.
Most of the book is taken from the point of view of Henry as he first struggles to realise his dream of seeing a Tassie in its natural habitat and then grows both in boldness and in his views about the tiger. At the beginning of the book Henry is your typical reserved Englishman and it was delightful to see him change and develop through the book as he tackles life in the jungle and the arduous trek to see the tiger. Most of this change is to do with Dingo, whose outgoing nature and lust for life and adventure affects Henry. In some ways I wished that I could get more of the book from Dingo's point of view because I never really felt I knew him as well as Henry. In fact, on occasion, Dingo slipped a little into the stereotype of a jungle adventurer and I felt that maybe this would have been avoided if I had seen more of Dingo's thoughts. Dingo is also a little bit too good to be true at times, as is his family, which is used as a way of contrasting Dingo with Henry. Dingo is friendly, charismatic, with a wonderful accepting family and a very PC relationship with the indigenous people of Tasmania. In fact Dingo pretty much can do no wrong in the book (except perhaps deliberately winding Henry up on occasion). As a consequence of this, Henry is the more interesting man out of the pair simply because he does have flaws. The relationship between Henry and Dingo is also done well. Their feelings grow gradually, helped by the pressures and stress of their situation and also because they are isolated and therefore forced into each other's company. This is also tempered by the historical setting where the men are very aware that, once back in civilisation, they must be secretive about their love. The way that this was highlighted through the use of the gay love song was touching, as was the tender sex scenes.
The place where this book really shines is in the description of the various settings. Cold rainy England is all dull colours; Bangkok is heat and spicy tastes; Melbourne is sun and brightness; and Tasmania is lush foliage and animals with sharp teeth. The comparisons were delightful and each place lovingly realised so that I felt that I was actually there alongside the two men and experiencing Henry's awe and amazement with him.
There were a few little niggles. Firstly, at the beginning of the book there are a number of occasions where there is a sudden hop from Henry's view to Dingo's for a sentence and then back to Henry. I found this distracting and it pulled me out of the story. Fortunately, this only happens a few times and only in the first half of the book. Secondly, is the villain of the piece, Hodges, who behaves in a baffling random way which is rather conveniently explained away at the end of the book. I felt that he veered strongly into pantomime villain and I didn't really feel that the explanation as to why he was hunting the men was in keeping with his subsequent behaviour. I also hadn't really got a clue as to the role of the Tasmanian government and Hodge's relationship to them. In some ways, I suppose this fits in with an adventure setting where the bad guy is often a megalomaniac, but when fitted into the realistic setting and the serious issue of ecological responsibility, his presence and behaviour was slightly jarring to the story.
Don't let these slight niggles put you off though, because I really enjoyed this ripping yarn with a serious ecological message. Even the epilogue was well written and necessary to the plot and general arc of the series. It was very obvious that both authors have a great love of the settings and themes of this book, especially the Thylacine, as that enthusiasm shone through in the their writing. If you like adventure books then this should be added to your TBR pile. I'm already looking forward to reading the next adventure starring Dash and Dingo....more
Ports of Call isn’t a romance per se, but more like a short interlude into the lives of an established couple. Jason and Pete are on the last day of tPorts of Call isn’t a romance per se, but more like a short interlude into the lives of an established couple. Jason and Pete are on the last day of their holiday at a beach in California. Prior to the holiday, Pete had been badly beaten in a mugging, and the two are carrying emotional scars from the fall out of that event. The story follows the way that these two men adjust to the fact that they have to return home to Reno and face the problems that they have been able to escape whilst on holiday.
The story is too short to get a real feel for the characters of these guys, but what came across very strongly was their love for each other. This is shown not just through the sex scene, but also by the way they joke and interact with each other outside the bedroom. Jason has a genuine concern for the wellbeing of Pete and Pete wants desperately to put the mugging behind him for the sake of Jason. It was all beautifully and realistically done, not too sickly nor too dispassionate. I felt for this couple and I wanted them to overcome their problems.
Overall, this was a well written, sexy, slightly angsty read. It kept my attention and had some really lovely description. The way that the men reflect on their time together on holiday and then move slowly towards accepting the inevitable return to reality was cleverly done. If I have any complaints at all it would be that the story was too short and left me wanting so much more from these characters. I wanted to know how they met, what they did for a living, and one hundred other details of their lives together. It made me thirst for more, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but was frustrating! Despite this, Ports of Call is firmly in place on my keeper shelf to be brought out when I want to read something short and engaging....more
In this novella, Josh Lanyon has stepped out of his comfort zone and written, not a mystery, but a drama set in 1st World War France. It tells the stoIn this novella, Josh Lanyon has stepped out of his comfort zone and written, not a mystery, but a drama set in 1st World War France. It tells the story of Bat, who is serving as a pilot and the equivalent of a squadron leader, in the RFC (the forerunner of the Royal Air Force). This involves patrolling over enemy lines twice a day, in what was basically an aeroplane made of wood, canvas and engine parts, looking for, and engaging with German planes. It's a dangerous job and nearly every time they set out they lose a plane and a pilot. There are no parachutes and almost no chance of survival if a plane is hit and goes down, thus the average lifespan of a pilot is less than 3 weeks. Bat is one of the lucky ones: an experienced pilot who has managed to survive for several months. As the story begins, Bat is mourning the loss of his lover and best friend. Gene was one of the very few servicemen in his squadron that Bat had allowed himself to become attached to and they had been in love and in a relationship together since they both joined the war. When one of the engineers, Orton, threatens to blackmail Bat by exposing his relationship with Gene, he loses his temper and accidentally kills Orton. This is seen by one of the other pilots, Cowboy, an American who is serving with them. Cowboy sends Bat away and deals with the problem of Orton, but then uses that situation to blackmail Bat into having sex with him.
There are a couple of themes which intertwine in this story. The first is the war and the effect that has on Bat. On the surface Bat is your typical upper class British man. He hides his emotions and fear behind a veneer of disdain and disinterest but underneath this exterior he is a man only just holding on to himself. He is ravaged by grief for Gene and feels a hopelessness about the war and the number of lives that are being lost each day. In order to protect himself from this he refuses to get close with any of the men, beyond the usual day to day dealings, preferring to keep his distance with all, except Gene and a couple of other men he knew at school. When Gene is killed, and then Bat kills Orton, things start to unravel inside Bat as he becomes reckless in the air and contemplates suicide. Alongside this, the story deals with the other aspect of war, engaging with the enemy, and contains a number of exhilarating action sequences involving Bat's squadron and the German fighters. These were always tinged afterwards with a certain sadness as yet another character is killed and Bat faces the knowledge that in a few short hours he will have to fly again and possibly face his own death. In fact it is the hopelessness of the war and the way it affects Bat and the other pilots which stayed with me long after I finished this book.
The second theme is the relationship between Cowboy and Bat. Cowboy rescues Bat not just from Orton but also from his own suicidal compulsions. Cowboy then makes his advances on Bat. At first I was appalled. The first couple of sex scenes (of which there are more than you might normally find in a Josh Lanyon book) tread a very fine line between consensual and forced seduction. I hated Cowboy for adding to Bat's already stressful life by making demands on him by blackmailing Bat for sex and I was also infuriated with Bat for allowing Cowboy to treat him like that and spent several pages hoping that Bat would take his service revolver and shoot Cowboy. However, as the story progressed I began to get glimpses into Cowboy and why he behaves as he does. This is wartime and people behave differently in times of war than they do during peace. Cowboy and Bat are aware that every time they go up in a plane they may never return and that tinges their relationship. It's obvious that Cowboy has feelings for Bat and has had for some time, even if Bat is never aware of it and initially feels nothing but a kind of horrified lust for Cowboy. There is no time for niceties, for courting or wooing. Cowboy seizes the opportunity to have Bat and takes him, even if it is with tenderness at times. Bat is reluctant to get involved again so soon after Gene's death, but craves the physical release that sex with Cowboy brings, despite being disgusted with himself, and eventually the two men do come to an, almost uneasy, understanding.
One thing that was very obvious when reading Out of the Blue is that Josh Lanyon has done his research. This came across strongly in the number of period details - from descriptions of the planes, flying formations and dog-fight strategies - and also in the way that the men, especially Bat, thought and spoke. I was immersed in the time period and felt all the hopelessness and despair at the number of casual deaths along with the tense thrill of the fighting. My heart was in my mouth several times during the action sequences and it ached with grief for the way that Bat is only 23 and yet is mature far beyond his years.
This story is not a nice wartime romance. In fact, I'll stick my neck out and say it's not a romance at all. How can it be? The year is 1916, two years before the end of the 1st world War. Bat and Cowboy fly over enemy territory twice a day, risking their lives each time they fly. It is not possible for them to have anything other than a very tentative and unlikely HFN - and thank goodness Josh Lanyon was not tempted to stick in a dreadful 'three years later' epilogue or the book reader really will have hit the wall! Theirs is a relationship based on the here and now and that's all than it can be, given their situation. I finished the book feeling extremely melancholy, but also aware that I'd read something truly extraordinary. I'm giving Out of the Blue a grade of 'Excellent', however, be warned that this novella will not appeal to everyone. It's not romantic, it doesn't contain any of Josh Lanyon's usual dry humour (except for one extremely black comic moment which surprised a laugh out of me), it is quite beautiful and also quite bleak, so those of you who like their m/m to be lighthearted with a solid happy ending would probably do best to look elsewhere which is a shame, to be honest, because you will be missing out on something special....more
No prizes for guessing what attracted me to this book. The title and cover just leaped off the page and, after reading the extract, I knew I had to reNo prizes for guessing what attracted me to this book. The title and cover just leaped off the page and, after reading the extract, I knew I had to read it.
The book begins with the death of our first person narrator Adam. He goes down “in the proverbial hail of bullets” and dies on the concrete floor of a warehouse, the victim of a police sting gone wrong. Except, as we learn later, it wasn’t quite as simple as that. However, I’m getting ahead of myself. After dying so dramatically and in the arms of his on/off lover, Peter, Adam wakes up in the morgue. I don’t think I’m giving too much away to say that Adam is now a vampire. The story follows Adam as he comes to terms with his undead state, tries to find out who ‘turned’ him and attempts to stop a new gang of vampires who want to rule the gang turf of LA. As well as this, Adam has to do some serious thinking about his relationship with Peter.
I have to be honest here and say that whether you like this book will entirely depend on your feelings towards Adam. He is not a nice man. In fact there is very little that is heroic about him at all. He lies, cheats, involves himself with criminal activities despite being a police officer, he treats Peter very badly, he’s selfish, unfaithful and so self-centred he is unable to see things from anyone’s point of view except his own. To make matters worse he revels in this and is completely unabashed in telling the reader what a dickhead he really is. What will probably really turn some of you off Adam though is that he sleeps around. He has Peter who he describes as his “fuck buddy”, but then he also has sex with at least 3 other men in the book (one of these times is when he’s on the way to Peter’s house) and he tells us in a very matter of fact way that he’s a complete whore when it comes to other men. There’s even a rather amusing aside to the reader about this:
Hey, you romantics are protesting. What about Peter? What, are you kidding? Have we met? I’m not a nice man. Excuse me if you thought otherwise.
Despite Adam’s rather unlovely character, I really liked him. He was such a refreshing change from many of the m/m heroes out there that I was drawn to him. Most of the time, a book like this would be from Peter’s point of view – the long-suffering beta male who puts up with the alpha’s arsehole ways. It was really great to read a book with an alpha where we get to see his thoughts and feelings. Adam is very self-aware in that he knows that he’s lacking in the social graces and apt to get himself into trouble. It was this self-awareness and the way he gradually started to change, to perhaps learn how his behaviour has affected others, especially Peter, that redeemed Adam in the end. Adam’s past behaviour also comes back and bites him in the arse and it was amusing and ironic that after lying and cheating his way through life, when he actually tells the truth no-one will believe him.
Another reason I liked Adam is that he has such a distinctive, sardonic voice. It’s difficult not to like people who make you laugh, as I did on a number of occasions, it’s also difficult not to like a character who is so upfront about his failings. The self-depreciating wit that colours Adam’s voice throughout the book went a long way towards my appreciation of his character. I didn’t like his actions or the way he behaved, especially towards poor Peter, but I did like him in general.
I feel I ought to point out at this point that this book isn’t really a romance. There’s a romantic sub-plot involving Adam and Peter, but for most of the book the two men are apart. The story is really a sort of mystery/action piece, with the romance as a sub-plot. Most of the book involves Adam’s cackhanded attempts to work out why he was turned into a vampire, what actually happened at the warehouse where he was ‘killed’ and also to discover who is behind the new gang of vampires. Most of this is done by Adam blundering his way around LA, avoiding the police and getting unintentionally caught up in the whole sorry business. Did I mention that Adam really isn’t a very intelligent man as well as all his other flaws? He never once uses his brain to work out what is going on (well, apart from one scene at the end) and relies instead on his off-kilter instinct. He has a number of gang member ‘friends’ who pop up in the book to ‘help’ him, most of who have their own agendas as well. I have to admit, I found this a little confusing at times and if I have one criticism of the book it is that I found the whole ‘gang culture’ and who was working for who and which gang they were in, rather confusing at times.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. It is a fast paced read with an unusual main character. The plot is complex but also a bit different to quite a number of books about at the moment. I ran through quite a lot of emotions whilst reading it: laughter, pathos, exasperation, disgust and yet it wasn’t a heavy read. I liked the book so much I almost read it in one sitting (and it’s not a short book either), eager to find out what interesting situation Adam was going to get himself into next. I highly recommend that you read Immortality is the Suck, especially if you like alpha anti-heroes....more
This short is a Halloween short from last year and tells the story of Goth boy Micky who lives in a university hall of residence. It's getting close tThis short is a Halloween short from last year and tells the story of Goth boy Micky who lives in a university hall of residence. It's getting close to Halloween and Micky is getting fed up that all the other students, who have spent the year so far insulting him, suddenly want to borrow his stuff for their Halloween costumes. Then along comes Rhys, someone Micky has a major crush on, who wants not only some help with his costume but also wants to go out with Micky and his friends.
The story is a slow burner with lots of sexual tension between the pair as they get ready to go out and spend time with each other. My fondness for goth heroes was always going to mean that I got some enjoyment out of the story, but Alex Draven's cute characterisation and realistic dialogue made this story a real winner for me....more
Travis is a college student with a lacrosse scholarship. He's gay and out to his family and a few friends, especially his straight, occasional fuck-buTravis is a college student with a lacrosse scholarship. He's gay and out to his family and a few friends, especially his straight, occasional fuck-buddy Dylan, but generally keeps his sexuality under wraps. One drunken evening, Dylan decides to spray paint an offensive word onto the walls of the dorm house of Omega Beta Pi, an openly gay and environmentally conscious set of students. Travis tries to stop him but when the campus police catch them, Dylan escapes leaving Travis to get into trouble. After an embarrassing meeting with the Dean, three students from Omega Beta Pi, and his father, Travis is told that his 'punishment' for covering for his friend is to accompany the three students, Kyle, Mac and Brandon on a week's 'holiday' in a state park where they will help the forest rangers clear a footpath. Travis is reluctant, especially since he is supposed to be going on a beach holiday with Dylan, but once he gets there he is won around by the beauty of the environment and the attraction he feels to Kyle.
The book is written in the third person from the view of Travis and Kyle. I have to admit I liked Travis very much. He's gone a bit off the rails after turning twenty-one and his friendship with Dylan isn't exactly healthy, but he's also intelligent enough to realise this and know that the trip to the wild will probably be good for him. Travis is baffled by his attraction to Kyle, who, apart from having a hot body, is the opposite of the sort of man that Travis usually finds attractive. Kyle is fiercely, openly gay; he's a vegan with strong views and principles on the environment, and he also finds Travis attractive, even though he initially despises him for his wasteful, unprincipled lifestyle. I didn't like Kyle as much. Although I admired him for his ideals, I still found him to be judgemental and priggish. He has the moral ground covered and sits atop his high horse on a number of occasions which was incredibly irritating. This is possibly because most of Kyle's disdain is focused on Travis and I found it especially annoying that Travis was willing to make compromises to make their relationship work, but Kyle refused to unbend even slightly in order to allow them to be together. The other two students were much more open and accepting and I especially liked how they were willing to get Travis a chance to redeem himself. Mac was a sympathetic ear for Travis and an example of a well written female character in an m/m book. Brandon too was fleshed out and his story of how Kyle had helped him get over a turbulent past was a nice insight into Kyle's character.
Overall, despite my dislike of Kyle, I did actually enjoy this opposites attract story. The descriptions of the forest park were lovingly done and there was a lot of humour to be had from the situation of two men being sexually turned on, but intellectually opposed and from Travis' 'fish out of water' reaction to the camping at first. I liked the fact that most of their sexual interaction took place in their tent, which became like a cocoon of lust and temptation for the men whereas outside the tent they clashed and fought their way towards a relationship. The final chapter is a 'one year on' end to the story and, although I'm not usually fond of these, I felt that this was one occasion where it was necessary. The book takes place over a week and Travis and Kyle leave the camp with a tentative start to their relationship, one which I wasn't sure would last. The scene after a year was needed for me to be convinced that they've stayed the course. There's also a lot in the book about our impact on the environment which was handled well, without being too preachy. All in all, this is another great book from Katrina Strauss. I'm giving it a grade of 'Very Good' and I'd recommend it to those who like an 'opposites attract' story and those who are interested in heroes who like to champion environmental issues....more
I've not read anything by this author and was quite pleased to find that she writes interesting little stories. George is a Dom who is cruising a gayI've not read anything by this author and was quite pleased to find that she writes interesting little stories. George is a Dom who is cruising a gay club. He sees a young guy dancing on a platform and decides he's going to be the pick-up for the night. However, before George can get to know the guy, he spies that he is wearing a collar and assumes that he is 'owned' by another Dom. Eric isn't owned by anyone except himself and is also attracted to George. George isn't interested in training up a new sub but Eric persuades him to take a chance.
I really liked Eric in this story. He has submissive tendencies but he also refuses to give himself wholly up to George. This was quite a nice change from all the D/s stories where the sub is so self-effacing that his personality is squashed. George spends his time with Eric alternatively exasperated and charmed by his behaviour. There were a couple of oddities: Firstly there is an editing mistake at the beginning where George refers to Eric by name in his head before they've exchanged names (I had to go back and see whether I'd missed a bit, but no, it's an error) and secondly, George spends a bit of time at the beginning bemoaning the 'good old days' of clubbing which made me think he was much older than he actually is (30). However, I still really enjoyed this light D/s story...more
This short story took the vampire myth and examined it from the concept of coping with immortality. The story is told in the first person by vampire AThis short story took the vampire myth and examined it from the concept of coping with immortality. The story is told in the first person by vampire Ambrus. He is wandering the trenches of WW1 when he comes across newly turned Edward. Edward is frightened and bitter at being turned against his will and rejects Ambrus' offer of help. Over the next century the two vampires meet and develop their relationship as Edward struggles to come to terms with his immortal state. Normally vampire stories are focused on the aspect of having to survive on drinking blood but even though that is mentioned briefly in this story the focus is really on Edward, through the eyes of Ambrus. Edward is frightened and disorientated by his immortal vampire state. Although the vampires in this story can live 'outside of time' in that they are not stuck within a chronological time scale, Edward clings determinedly onto a life similar to that as a human, despite his obviously ability to make himself invisible to humans when he wants. He is angry that he was turned against his will and it is only as he faces the death of his human friends time and time again that he realises that he has to take the advice and help of Ambrus. Alongside this are the growing feelings of both men for each other which becomes the anchor for Edward when he starts to accept what he cannot change. Although this was only a short story, there was a lot of complexity built into the world building and the characters of both vampires which made this one of the more interesting takes on the whole vampire myth....more
Michael and Bill are at a party where they get persuaded to pose for a photographer. Later, Michael spots a female vamp leading a young man away and dMichael and Bill are at a party where they get persuaded to pose for a photographer. Later, Michael spots a female vamp leading a young man away and decides to follow them to check that the young man is OK. They catch up with them at the young man's houseboat, something which both Bill and the female vamp are not happy about.
One of the things I love about the SO world that JCP has created is the way that she picks and chooses which elements of the vampire myth to include in her world building. Here the focus is on the vamps' fear of water which at first is amusing but later less so when circumstances lead to darker matters. This story is one from Bill's point of view and I liked that we see him as vulnerable and more world weary than usual, especially when he is frustrated at being a middle aged man in a young man's body. A great story which is designed to further the character of Bill within the series....more
Aside from the fact that Jordan Castillo Price is an autobuy author for me, I was attracted to Hemovore by the unusual premise. Vampirism as a virus wAside from the fact that Jordan Castillo Price is an autobuy author for me, I was attracted to Hemovore by the unusual premise. Vampirism as a virus which can be passed on via bodily fluids seemed just such an unusual idea and lent itself to creating a world where people affected by the virus (V-positives) have to live alongside those who don't have the virus. In fact, it was the theme of living and coping with the virus, for those who had it and their loved ones which I found the most interesting and moving part of this book.
I found Hemovore to be a bit of a slow starter. At the beginning we are introduced to Mark who works for V positive artist Jonathan. Jonathan paints art for vampires, which looks like a plain black canvass to those who do not have the virus. This concept itself was one of a number of nice touches added throughout the book to the world building. Mark's job is like a PA: He organises the selling and distribution of Jonathan's paintings and keeps up his diary, just like a normal secretary would, but he is also in charge of collecting blood for Jonathan. Jonathan is very picky and won't drink anything other than cat blood as he refuses to drink human blood and claims that cow's blood slows him down and makes him docile. He has a point because another one of those nice world building touches is that V positive people do start to take on the characteristics of the animal blood they imbibe. Dealing with the cat blood dealer is one of the less pleasant aspects of Mark's responsibilities.
Most of the first part of the story is taken up with Mark's day to day dealings as Jonathan's secretary. Mark is one of life's moaners. He spends quite a lot of time bemoaning the fact that he has to do all the rubbish jobs for Jonathan, being excessively cautious with his use of antiseptic wipes in fear of catching the virus from Jonathan, and inwardly ridiculing the way that Jonathan insists that he drives a complex route to wherever he needs to go.
I could have taken numerous routes—and I’m not talking about normal-person routes, such as, “Should I stay on Halsted, or would it be faster if I turned down Clark?” No, I mean Jonathan-routes, dozens of maze-like paths designed to thwart a would-be pursuer. Not that I ever actually believed someone was following me. It was more that I suspected Jonathan might be checking the odometer to make sure I had followed his instructions to the letter.
All the time Mark is grumbling away in his internal monologue he is also lusting after Jonathan, even though he knows they can never touch one another, never mind kiss or more. This theme is taken up and explored in more detail later in the book when Mark meets a group of people called V-Luvv, who are a support group for those who have loved ones with the virus. The precautions that V-neg people have to take to avoid the virus and the way that they try to conduct normal relationships with their V-pos partners was quite affecting.
Then the story starts to pick up the pace as Mark and Jonathan come under attack. They are forced to flee together and go into hiding when a V-pos man from Jonathan's past, who has a grudge against Jonathan, finds him. Mark is completely bewildered at first but manages, with the help of the V-luvv group, to stay one step ahead of the bad guys. Then there is another twist to the plot and I was glued, unable to put the book down until I'd finished it.
Although the book is quite high on drama, it still retains a fairly light tone. This is due mainly to Mark's self effacing, dry internal humour and also because the story moves around a lot from place to place. There are many different characters who move in and out of the story, but the focus is mainly on Mark and Jonathan and their growing attachment and companionship. There are also many quirky funny moments which help to keep the tone from being too heavy and these were interspersed with periods of high tension and action. The scene where Mark is waiting in line to collect some money is an example of this as the pace moved from quite slow and a bit funny, to a sudden horrific realisation and all action car chase which shows a mastery of form and pacing that I've come to expect from Jordan Castillo Price.
Despite the slow beginning, this book grew into a compelling read with excellent world building and believable characters. Mark may have been a bit of a whiner at the beginning but he grew and matured as the book progressed so that I liked him a great deal by the end. If you've never read a book by Jordan Castillo Price then this would be a good one to start with as the horror aspects found in her other novels are toned down in Hemovore. To those who have read her books and love them as I do, this will be another one for the keeper shelf....more
This story of ghostly goings on in England begins with everyone's perfect fantasy. Our hero Michael receives a phone call from a London solicitors telThis story of ghostly goings on in England begins with everyone's perfect fantasy. Our hero Michael receives a phone call from a London solicitors telling him that he's a beneficiary in a will and that he has to travel to England straight away. After travelling in first class splendour, Michael arrives in London to be told he is the new owner of a stately home and has millions of pounds willed to him by a man Michael has never heard of, on the understanding that he continue to solve the mystery of the disappearance of a man named Jonathan which occurred during the 1940s. Michael has been plagued by very explicit erotic dreams where he seduced by a man named Jonathan. Things grow even more eerie when Michael meets a man named Jonathan who looks like his dream lover and the man who disappeared all those years ago.
There were a number of things which I liked about this book. The main one being the contrast in personalities between Michael and Jonathan. I liked Michael who quickly adapts to his new situation and looks upon life quite optimistically. At 26 he's still young enough to have a naive, trusting nature as can be seen in the way he has allowed his ex-boyfriend Steve to take advantage of him and by his quick acceptance of Jonathan into his life. He also has a lively sense of the ridiculous, spending his first few days in England poking gentle fun at the very English way of life that he encounters. Jonathan has a more subdued nature than Michael but is also very passionate. It is Jonathan who takes the initiative when the men first meet and Jonathan who advises caution throughout the book, especially when Michael gets impatient and puts himself in danger. The two men fall in love very quickly - in the space of a few days - but this actually worked well within the context of the story. There's a sense that the two men are fated to be together and that, coupled with the erotic dreams that they have about each other before they meet, made it believable that they would fall hard and fast for each other in a short space of time. The sex scenes between the men were as erotic as the dreams with an added tenderness which was lovely to read. The only downside to the relationship is that because they get together so quickly, and also because there is a sense that they were 'meant to be' there isn't actually any romantic tension between them. Even any arguments are resolved quickly - a little too quickly perhaps - and so although I was happy that Michael and Jonathan were so perfect for each other, any drama in the book comes from the mystery rather than the romantic relationship.
Depending on your views of this matter the ghost story could either be seen as a beautiful, tragic story of fated lovers torn apart by a greedy jealous man or as pure hokum. My views veered a little between the two. The romantic in me liked the idea that Jonathan and Michael were destined to be with each other and that their relationship mirrored that of Jonathan and his lover in the past. On the other hand the tale of warlocks and dastardly goings on was a little over the top, especially as I never really understood exactly why it was necessary to involve Michael. There was far too much coincidence in play for many of the scenes involved in the mystery - some of which was believable and some stretched my incredulity a little.
The parts which worked best in the book were those involving Michael finding his feet in his new role as 'Lord of the Manor'. I liked the secondary characters of the butler Matthew and his wife, and the way that Michael attempted to subvert the class distinctions within the household. It provided a little light relief to the story and allowed the reader to gain insight into Michael's character. This was also done through Michael's relationship with his brother where we get to see him relaxing and joking around.
I think there was only one part of the story which didn't work particularly well and that was the parts involving Steve, Michael's ex-boyfriend. I didn't feel that his role was particularly important and didn't actually bring anything of value to the story - except perhaps to show how trusting Michael is, which is shown in other areas of the book as well. The book was quite long and I did feel that Steve could have been cut from the story entirely and it wouldn't really have changed anything about the plot or interfered with any character development.
Overall, Time After Time was an interesting read with likable characters and a creepy ghost story. JP Bowie always has a lively written style and he doesn't disappoint with this book. I'd recommend Time After Time as a great book to read for those who like a mixture of creepy, Halloween chills and sweet, tender romance....more
This intricate novel is more fantasy than romance with the relationship between the two heroes taking a back seat in favour of elaborate world buildinThis intricate novel is more fantasy than romance with the relationship between the two heroes taking a back seat in favour of elaborate world building and a breathtaking tale of magic and manipulation.
Ghost Star Night begins with three men: Thomas Myrdin is a lord in the court of the king. He has been the king's favourite bed-mate for a while until recently when the king married. Thomas comes from a wizarding family but has not been able to practice magic since his parents were found guilty of treason and executed. Zach Drake is a wizard who has not affiliated himself with any of the four 'courts' of the aristocracy. One day a courtier from the west court, Adam Wexley who is loyal to the queen's mother, calls on him on behalf of his employer to ask for his help. Zach is attracted to Adam, but Adam is attracted to Thomas, whom he has seen from afar and spoken to briefly. All three men are caught up in events that follow the sighting of the 'Ghost Star' which foretells of drastic changes in the life of the city.
There are two distinct yet intertwined parts to this complex book. Firstly there is the world building. The fantasy world created by Nicole Kimberling is a lush, colourful mix taken from different areas of fantasy, all blended together to create a unique world. On the surface the world is similar to that of medieval England. The city is ruled by four 'courts' yet under the banner of the King. Each court has its own ruler and colours. However, within this world there is also evidence of the modern world with cars, electricity, clubs and clothing similar to today. Alongside this is the magical aspect of the story where magicians are highly favoured for their ability to extract the souls of people and either place them within an animal, another body or an object. Thus many of the menial tasks are done by the soulless - people whose souls have been removed by wizards and can only function at a basic level, like animals - or by animals such as monkeys or gorillas whose bodies are inhabited by the souls of people. This whole aspect of being able to remove souls was quite chilling and yet the characters have a, sometimes uneasy, acceptance of this part of their world.
Politics also plays an important role in the world building and magic is used to reinforce and dominate within the political structure. For example when the queen's baby is born, wizards representing all four courts stand guard with a magical shield to prevent any enemies from cursing the baby as it's born. All wizards have 'familiars' which are animals connected to them containing the souls of people owned by the wizard. these familiars act as servants and spies of the wizard. In fact it is the political machinations which causes Zach so much disgust and prevents him from affiliating himself with one of the courts.
The second theme in this book is the odd triangle between Zach, Adam and Thomas. For the first half of the book I wasn't quite sure which of the three men would end up together until an event, both misguided and horrific, changes the course of their relationship. This had the effect that I felt distanced from all three men and I found that, although I was glad that there was a definite pairing at the end, I didn't really feel that there was any great depth of feeling between the men, other than sexual interest. This could also have been because I was far more interested in the story and the events leading up the the tense, thrilling climax than I was in the romance. Certainly those of you who need to have lots of sex and close romantic bonding in your m/m novels need to look elsewhere than Ghost Star Night as this book is firmly plot rather than sex based.
There are so many secondary characters in this book and all of them were well written. From the ambitious Lady Langdon; the two senior wizards whose plotting causes no end of suffering; the selfish king and the numerous minor characters; all were necessary to further the plot. Despite this, I never lost track of who each character was and their role within the novel which can sometimes happen with complicated fantasy worlds.
Overall, I found Ghost Star Night to be a fascinating read. I have to admit that I am a great fan of fantasy novels, so this book was ideal for me. I was engrossed from start to finish and applaud the author for creating such a distinctive setting for her novel. I would recommend this book with a grade of 'Excellent' for fantasy fans like myself and for anyone who wants to read an m/m book which is completely different from what is normally found from m/m publishers. ...more
This book begins with a bang when Adder the titular hero, punches the drummer of his band and causes a fist fight on stage. The drummer is high on druThis book begins with a bang when Adder the titular hero, punches the drummer of his band and causes a fist fight on stage. The drummer is high on drugs and can’t keep time properly so, in Adder’s thinking, deserves all he gets. Adder gets up off the floor, kicks the defeated drummer, picks up his violin and continues the set, much to the delight of his screaming fans. Thus we instantly find out three things about Adder: He’s got a quick temper, he’s an exhibitionist, and he takes his music very seriously. The rest of his band, comprising of Harpo and Vi are also serious about their music and share Adder’s dream of hitting the big time. At the moment they are only playing small clubs but Adder’s got his eye on fame, fortune and adoring fans – and what Adder wants, he generally gets. Their drummer is replaced by Harpo’s friend Kalil. Adder takes one look at Kalil and wants him in his bed. He then sets a determined pattern of the most unsubtle seduction in history in order to achieve that goal. Kalil wants Adder too, but he’s sworn off sleeping with band members. Added to the mix is the band’s increasingly quick rise to the top and the pressures that puts all the band members under.
Adder is one of those characters who you will either love or hate. I really liked him. He’s completely shameless, dyes his hair green, wears outlandish clothing and exudes sensuality through every pore. He has a charisma both on and off stage that proves irresistible to most people and Adder, being bisexual, takes advantage of this to sleep with anything on legs. He even sleeps with Vi occasionally in a ‘friends with benefits’ relationship that they both seem quite comfortable with. Some people may not like that fact that he is an unabashed man-slut, but I felt that it fitted in with his larger than life personality. He is single minded in his pursuit of fame, but has the talent to back that up. He is also single minded in his pursuit of Kalil so much so that Adder even puzzles over why he should be so determined to have him, especially as Kalil has told him that he won’t sleep with band members. In the end, Adder resorts to some pretty underhand methods to get Kalil, which again I can see may put some reader’s off. It’s all for a good cause though when Adder eventually breaks down Kalil’s defences and Adder becomes, almost overnight, a changed man in that he loses interest in sleeping around.
Kalil is quite opposite to Adder in many ways. He’s just as committed to the band and his music, but this is overlaid with a caution which causes friction amongst the band members. The other three people in the band are more willing to take risks, whereas Kalil likes to think things through before making decisions. He is also rather possessive, especially when it comes to Adder. He burns with jealousy whenever Adder flirts with other people, even when Adder repeatedly tells Kalil that he is not sleeping round and has no interest in doing so. Later in the book Vi tells Kalil:
“It’s unbalanced, that’s what.” “Unbalanced?” “Yeah. Like I said before, you’re too possessive, and he’s not possessive enough. Unbalanced.” Kalil peered through the heaving press of bodies to where Adder was now slow dancing with a girl who looked like she didn’t even remember what planet she was on. The sight made Kalil’s gut burn. “I see your point.” “Uh-huh.” Vi drew back enough to look Kalil in the eye. Her expression was solemn. “If you and Adder are going to last, something has to change. Y’all have to restore the balance.”
It is Kalil’s possessiveness and his overly cautious attitude which eventually begins to draw a wedge between his relationship with Adder, leading to the inevitable misunderstanding. This part of the book was the only part which didn’t ring true. Adder fights tooth and nail to have Kalil at the beginning of the book and then just lets him go, even when he knows that he loves him. I felt that, if Adder had been acting in the way I would’ve expected from the start of the book, then he would have chased Kalil down and forced him to talk to the band and clear up any misunderstanding quickly. In fact, this is what I expected to happen. I was rather disappointed to find that Adder just gave up which was so wholly unlike him that I read that section in frustration, annoyed that the book had taken such an irritating turn.
Apart from the Big Misunderstanding, I felt that Adder was an interesting book about the pressures facing an up and coming band. All the parts to do with their ascension to the heights of fame were done with an obvious inside knowledge of the music industry; all the main characters were well rounded and, Adder especially, unusual; and the relationship between Kalil and Adder was a realistic representation of how possessiveness and jealousy can damage even the strongest of bonds. I would recommend Adder to those of you who enjoy books about the music industry and like larger than life characters....more
I bought this book because it sounded interesting especially as I hadn't read any spec. fiction before, or so I thought. As soon as I started readingI bought this book because it sounded interesting especially as I hadn't read any spec. fiction before, or so I thought. As soon as I started reading I was reminded of the middle section of Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell. The same ideas were present in both books: A catastrophic event in the past; a society clinging onto its identity; trying to survive in a world stripped of all modern amenities.
In the case of this book the catastrophe was a sudden ice-age which swept down from the north, engulfing most of the northern hemisphere in ice. This ice-age happened nearly 100 years before the events in this book and we are occasionally given glimpses of the times before the ice came and shortly after, a decidedly chilling reminder that society constantly hangs in the balance. In fact this theme of 'before and after' runs throughout the novel. The 'before' time is represented by the Grandma character, who can remember the time before the ice. The after is represented by our hero, David, who, at 16, has only ever known the time after the ice.
But I'm getting ahead of myself here. The novel is written in the first person from David's POV. As I have said he is sixteen and on the cusp of manhood - children grow up quickly in this harsh environment. He is the son of a farmer and trapper, who loves the hills of Virginia where he lives. I really liked David. He was an interesting mix of innocence and experience. In one sentence he would describe the beauty of his surroundings and in the next he would be checking the traps and killing the animals caught for their fur. Throughout the book he is straining towards manhood, desperate to be taken seriously by the men in the town, and yet he often acts in a rash and impetuous manner, like the boy he still is. It was this mix in David that makes him a sympathetic narrator.
As the novel begins we are introduced to our other hero, Callan who has recently moved into town as an assistant to the 'healer'. In many ways Callan is opposite to David. He is well educated; from a lonely, yet sheltered background; from the warmer, southern climate; delicate and blond to David's dark. However, despite being 6-7 years older, he seems the less mature of the two, often drifting through the events, seeming unable to control what is happening to him - unlike David who tries to take control of his life. David and Callan form a friendship and then more. This might have been a little uncomfortable, given David's age, but the author has given David such a mature voice, that it didn't bother me at all. Many young people discover love and sex at the age of 16-17, and it was nice to see this reflected in a novel. The relationship between David and Callan is a dangerous one, as homosexuality has been outlawed at this time. The ice-age was attributed to the 'wrath of God' and many of the liberal laws from the past have been overturned. The consequences for David and Callan as their relationship develops forms most of the story in the first half of this book.
Alongside the romantic plot is a secondary plot concerning a government conspiracy. Dragons have been let loose on the countryside, killing sheep and children, burning houses and terrorising the community. This plot runs seamlessly alongside the romance and becomes intertwined at the end. If I have any complaints at all, it would be that we never really find out why there are dragons.
I really enjoyed this novel. It was another one of those books where I thought about it even when I wasn't reading. I savoured the book, not wanting to read it too quickly. The author's prose is concise and beautiful. Using the speech pattern of David, she draws us into a cold, bitter, harsh world, and yet makes it seem wonderful. The warmth of David, his interactions with his family, his love for Callan come shining through the darkness of a post-apocalyptic world. I'm giving this a grade of 'Excellent'. It was a compelling, thoughtful, layered story which I will read again and again.
One last thing: This book is a re-release from Lethe Press (along with that fabulous cover) - the author's previous publisher closed down and there was a time when she wasn't sure she would find another one. The book ends with many loose ends and the author has indicated that at one time she was going to write a sequel. However, due the publisher problems above, she is now no longer sure she will write the sequel, especially as she wrote this book four years ago and feels that her writing has 'moved on'. I, for one, feel that it would be a great shame if the sequel is never written as I've now invested time and emotions in these characters and want to see how their story is concluded. let's hope that RW Day changes her mind!
ETA: Fortunately RW Day did change her mind, a sequel is published and I'm really looking forward to reading it....more