Genre & Keywords:
M/M Romance, Contemporary, Holiday Story, Young Lovers, Living on the Streets
5 out of 5 stars
1.75 out of 3 flames ~~~~~
With this story author Sloan Parker proves once again why I'm such a huge fan of her writing. This is by far the best holiday story I've read this season. It's only 53 pages but it reads as a much longer story. Within these few pages Parker creates a full picture and a rich world of emotions when she tells about the young lives of her protags, Sean and Gavin. She keeps it clear and vivid by choosing for one perspective only (Sean's) and telling it in first person. Sean's thoughts and feelings are so real and moving that my heart squeezed for him and through Sean's eyes I fell in love with Gavin too.
Sean and Gavin are both homeless boys, the first got kicked out after his mother found out that he's gay, the other grew up as an orphan wandering from foster home to foster home and eventually ending up on the streets. They meet, a few months after Sean became homeless, at a shelter on Christmas Eve. These first scenes are intense and very touching. The guys connect during that meal at the shelter in a special way and we learn that they became friends, while the story skips to one year later. Via some flashbacks we get filled in on their lives on the streets, how they survived and how they became closer friends over the year, while in the present Sean is waiting for Gavin to return from a possibly dangerous, weeklong job.
After Gavin's return, they have some extra money that they spend on a stay in a hotel until Christmas. From that point on the story gets a sweeter and happier tone and less of an angsty one, because good things start to happen to them. The most important thing is them spending time together and talking about their real feelings for each other, which go beyond friendship and which they kept a secret until then. Their story becomes hopeful, sexy and sweet all at once during their stay in that hotel. I especially loved the scene where Gavin cuts Sean's hair, it was so symbolic and tender, my heart ached for them while it was filled with joy at the same time.
Talking about emotions: I admit that I couldn't keep it dry (and not just one time either) reading this heartbreak of a story. Parker played with my sad and happy tears as if it was nothing. And that in such few pages too. I don't mean that it's a tearjerker per definition, not at all, no, for me it was all about the depth of feeling connected to these young men and the layered characterization making it possible to sympathize and feel the heart tugs this easily and intensely. I love that kind of emotional connection in my romance reads.
What I truly liked as well, is that the story didn't end with Sean and Gavin exchanging their 'I love you's but that it continued and had a whole different happy ending for us in store after that. Some readers might consider this ‘extended’ happy ending a bit too sweet but I thought it was the perfect way to balance out all the harshness from the beginning. And after all, it's Christmas, so some miracle is in place here. Don't we all need 'something to believe in' every now and then? I think we do, especially when it comes in the shape of a story written by Sloan Parker. :) ~ (less)
Genre & Keywords:
M/M Romance, Contemporary, GFY, Coming Out of the Closet, Cheating, Angst, College, Room...moreOriginally posted at Rarely Dusty Books
Genre & Keywords:
M/M Romance, Contemporary, GFY, Coming Out of the Closet, Cheating, Angst, College, Roommates
4.25 out of 5 stars
2.5 out of 3 flames ~~~~~
This is one of the most intense coming out stories I've read in a while. The Gay For You theme is executed in a fabulous but heart-wrenching way. Told from the first person POV of college boy Adam, who is taking us for an emotional roller coaster ride that is his tale of falling in love with straight roommate Jesse. And what an unforgettable ride it was!
Adam's object of obsession is not only straight but engaged to be married as well. And let me warn you: Jesse is incredibly hardheaded and persistent to marry the girl back home (Anna aka Chirpy) for a long time into the story. In fact, he even sticks to this idea while he is starting to have mind numbing sex with Adam. So, he is a cheater with a capital C. That's part of what makes this story so intense, and if you can't handle that I advise you to stay away from this book. However, you'll be missing out on an incredible and fabulous love story with a HEA so realistic and heartfelt that I felt it in my little toe.
The GFY theme is one of my favorite themes when handled delicately, which is definitely the case here. With little steps at the time Adam and Jesse explore each other and Jesse’s curiosity of everything that is gay. The realization that he might be bisexual, or even gay, comes slowly but gradually and even started before he and Adam got physical. It's the coming to terms with that realization that takes him a lot more time. Jesse is a hero to love and to hate, and in my opinion the author managed to balance these contradicting feelings he evokes in me very well. His hurtful or stupid actions are not extenuated but shown as they are which makes you want to hit him hard, while in other moments we witness his excruciating inner turmoil which makes your heart go out to him too. Jesse is definitely a multi-layered character with actions that come across as painfully realistic.
Adam's character is at least as three-dimensional as Jesse's. Adam surely evolves throughout the story from an obsessed, love-sick puppy who is satisfied with each little bit of attention from Jesse he can get to a more mature, however equally faithful and devoted, man who stands up for himself and refuses to let Jesse use and hurt him again. Another character that stayed far from being a cardboard figure was Adam's friend Eric. He takes care of Adam when he falls apart and is a great friend. He shows Adam a different side of himself than his outgoing gayer-than-gay persona he presents the outside world. I'm curious to learn more about this flamboyant side-character in the second book of this series (titled Absolutely Eric).
I think it's safe to say that A Life Without You is a character driven story. There's not much of a plot outside college life and exams, apart from a few twists and turns, like the girlfriend coming to visit Jesse, which mainly function as a catalyst for the next step in Adam and Jesse's relationship. I love character driven stories, especially when there's a good dose of angst involved and I can truly feel an emotional connection with one or both MCs. And that certainly is the case with this novel. Add to that the lifelike backdrop of college life with classes, studying for exams and parties; the presence of a small group of colorful gay friends who can become the potential main character in one of the next installments of the Boston Boys series; and the author's skillful pen that has the ability to keep your eyes glued to the pages, willing to skip some sleep in order to finish her book. And you have me content and satisfied like a purring cat in front of a fireplace continuously crawled behind her ears for hours in a row. Oh, and did I mention the scorching hot sex scenes? How could I almost forget about that? It's not for lack of steam, because these two college boys definitely have electrifying hot chemistry. And not only that, the sex scenes also mark each new step on their emotional path of building a relationship on top of them being hot. It's not only sex for the sake of sex, so these scenes never get boring. I found them very well written and highly arousing.
So, although this might not be an easy read for everyone, I can certainly recommend it if you don't have issues with stories about cheaters and don't mind reading with a couple of tissues at hand. For me this was an incredible and delightful read which showed me a few corners of the emotional spectrum and which kept me up all night until I finished it.
Genre & Keywords:
M/M Romance, Contemporary, Christmas, Kinky, BDSM, D/s, New Year, Toys, Anthology, Power...moreOriginally posted at Rarely Dusty Books
Genre & Keywords:
M/M Romance, Contemporary, Christmas, Kinky, BDSM, D/s, New Year, Toys, Anthology, Power Play, Pain, Bondage, Seasonal Gifts
4 out of 5 stars (for the anthology)
3 out of 3 flames ~~~~~
The collection of stories brought together by Sarah Frantz in this hot anthology is a wonderful mix of various holiday themed BDSM tales, that are all inventive, original, hot, surprising and well-matched. They never get boring, because they are all very distinct despite having a lot in common. Probably because the most important thing they have in common is their high quality. It's the first time Riptide brings a holiday collection like this, but I hope it's not the last time! Here's my take on the eight kinky stories:
Tree Topper by Jane Davitt
Blurb: Martin’s new to the scene, and his sub Stan has recently stopped taking him seriously. Their tree has floggers, clamps, and cuffs underneath it, but will they ever be used? Frustrated and confused, Martin knows it will take more than a star to guide him on his way to becoming the Dom Stan needs—but their path to happiness might be shorter than he thinks.
This was a nice opening story for the anthology. It has the right amount of kink with delicious use of wrapping paper and for such a short story it has a well developed story arc with an interesting conflict and a satisfying solution. I liked Martin and Stan together and their frustration was very tangible. It was sweet how they finally opened up to each other and the message came across loud and clear: communication and talking about your feelings is necessary for an equal relationship, no matter if it's a D/s one or not. I thought theirs was an erotic little encounter and I would've liked to have seen more of their sexual chemistry. Anyhow, I believed in their HEA. 3.75 stars
’T was the Night by Ava March
Blurb: Percival Owen yearns for the nights when he can kneel before his lover, even though no self-respecting gentleman willingly submits to another. Michael wants his first Christmas with Percy to be perfect, but is frustrated by Percy’s inability to ask for what he wants. The gift Michael offers Percy—and that Percy offers in return—is the best Percy could ever hope to receive: his will to submit.
Like with everything else I've read from Ava March, I was engrossed in this story from the first page to the last. This author has a special way to tell her stories from within, as if you're inside her characters' heads, which makes you a very close witness of everything that's happening. It's as if you experience the intensity of the character's feelings yourself. Like, in this case, Percy's insecurities and struggling and contradicting feelings about his sexual preferences on the one hand and Michael's love and patience with his lover on the other hand. It's so endearing how Michael is set to help Percy battling his reluctance to express what he wants. The scene they have is incredibly hot, one of the hottest in this entire anthology (and that says a lot!). And on top of that they have an obvious emotional connection which deserves a sweet HEA and we as a reader are left satisfied in that department as well. 4.5 stars
Fireworks by Katie Porter
Blurb: Rachel’s job is taking her to Tokyo, which means leaving behind her lover and submissive, Emma. When she summons Emma for one last hurrah on New Year’s Eve, Emma answers, hoping desperately to be able to break through her ma’am’s emotional barriers and find the spark of love among the glittering fireworks.
This is the only F/F story in this anthology and, aside from perhaps one or two F/F stories in other anthologies, I don't have much experience with reading this genre, so that should be taken into account. And to be honest, so far I haven't found the same excitement yet in reading F/F stories as I have in M/M, and this story is not an exception. Maybe it's the story, maybe it's me, but I'll try to explain why this story couldn't enthuse me very much. Foremost, I didn't love the premise and plot line: Rachel leaving for her job to Tokyo and having one last scene with her submissive lover Emma, all the while convinced that it is best for her and Emma to end things this way. Somehow this made the sex scene they have on New Year's Eve pretty 'angry' and I thought Rachel was mostly cruel (and not in a loving bdsm way) and cold. I also didn't feel that we got much of an explanation for their emotional attachment (with their relationship being long distance), other than the match in kinky sex, for which they hooked up every now and then. That way it was difficult to feel or understand these characters and specifically Rachel's sudden and late change of mind and both their declarations of love at the end. However, I liked the writing style and inventiveness (glitter!) of this author duo and I'll definitely try one of their other titles that aren't F/F in the near future, because it made me curious enough. 2.75 stars
Candy Caning by L.A. Witt
Blurb: Nate is dreading the annual Christmas visit with his family, during which they will ignore or insult his partner and Dominant. Stephen tries hard to take Nate’s mind off the trip with the promise—and threat—of a three-foot-long candy cane. It’s a race to see if Nate’s resolve or the candy cane will shatter first.
With this fabulous Christmas story L.A. Witt proves once more why I'm such a big fan of her writing. It's one of my favorites in this collection. I absolutely adored how Stephen surprised his lover and how he succeeded in taking Nate's mind of the trip home. I can honestly say that I've never thought of candy canes in a sexual way, but wow, I'm sure I can never eat or even look at one again without thinking of this story! It's so freaking hot and adorable and sweet, it just left me all happy and sated. Nate and Stephen make a wonderful couple and I would love to read more about them in a longer story if the author ever decides to write one. 4.75 stars
Submissive Angel by Joey W. Hill
Blurb: After Robert found Ange bleeding in an alley, he employed the man in his vintage toy store as an act of charity. However, this Christmas, the eccentric young dancer will offer his thanks—and himself—to teach a brokenhearted Master how to open himself to love again.
I've enjoyed reading Joey W. Hill's D/s stories prior to this story and I'm in love with her voice. Also, her dominants are far from stereotypes and everything they do to their submissives is wickedly hot. Especially the way the subs get restrained is inventive and the emotional impact is made tangible. It's not different here. Robert and Ange have those elements all going for them. And I enjoyed them very much. However, what keeps me from rating this story higher, is the way their backstory is told and how the story has been paced. I felt as if the flow of the story was interrupted by too much pondering and looking back. Additionally, I didn't really care for the picture made by the manger introduced into the last sex scene. However, apart from these little struggles I was still entertained by this original and beautifully written story. 4 stars
Open Return by Elyan Smith
Blurb: Fifteen years ago, Zach left the small Midwestern town he grew up in, confused and scared and determined to figure out who he was. Now transformed, he’s drawn back by the memory and promise of the dominant couple he left behind. Laura and Scott are still together, and as the year draws to a close, they explore old feelings and new ones as they discover they’ve all been waiting for Zach to come home.
This is not the first transgender story I've read but its still rather a novelty for me. I liked how this is told from the point of view of Zach who left town as Hannah fifteen years ago. We learn about his feelings and thoughts and we see reactions of people through his eyes. This part is well done. Zach is back in town to reunite with Laura and Scott, a dominant couple he knows intimately from his past. It's heartwarming to see that they don't care about his gender change one way or the other. They reminiscence their past as a threesome together and end up discovering each other anew in a sexual way. Unfortunately, when the story finishes we are left with quite some questions, which confuses me about how I feel about this story. I think it packs too many different elements to make it work for me in the end: there's the transgender theme, the reunion with the former lovers (but also with his foster parents), the ménage a trois, de D/s element, the fact that Laura and Scott have children. I'm not even sure if it has a happy ending or not. It probably would've worked better a) in a full-length novel or b) when one or a few of the many elements were left out of this short story. 3 stars
Ring Out the Old and In the New by Alexa Snow
Blurb: Recovering from a mugging on the London Underground, Evan has barely left the house in weeks. His partner and Dom, Russell, finally manages to drag him outside on Christmas Eve, but it’s the surprise that Russell has waiting for him back home that helps Evan get past his trauma and remember what’s important: being on his knees for the man he loves.
Oh, this was a rather heartbreaking little story. Evan is scarred and traumatized due to a mugging during which he got sliced in the face with a knife. His Dom Russell has been very patient with him but now he wants him to go out to see some friends and to celebrate Christmas Eve together. That part of the story alone was heartwarming enough thanks to Russell's caring way, but on top of that Evan also has some serious doubts about his looks and Russell's feelings for him now that he's scarred. And being the loving Dom and lover that Russell is, he has the right answer to those doubts as well. Like most other stories in the anthology this one features an established couple with some temporary problems. It's a well-told and enjoyable story, in which nothing really stands out in a negative way. 3.75 stars
His Very Last Chance by Kim Dare
Blurb: Drew screwed up. So when his master, Kingsley, summons him on New Year’s Eve, he knows he deserves the punishment in store for him. Everything changed for Kingsley when he overheard Drew running his mouth to his friends on Boxing Day. Now, there’s only one way he can possibly ring in the New Year: starting over fresh, either with an ending or a new beginning.
Kim Dare's D/s stories always guarantee to give me a feel-good(-though-kinky) time. Her characters usually don't converse all that much, other than through body language. That's what makes misunderstandings as the one between Drew and Kingsley happen. And I love the way Dare makes her characters work through it all until a solution (and a delicious happy ending) has been reached. What did work very well for me in this story is the alternating point of view. And I liked how the scorching chemistry between them had this emotional layer added as well. As a last contribution in this anthology (also thanks to the fireworks and candles used in this story) it is a fabulous way to ring out the year and to conclude this bundle of kinky and hot stories! 4.25 stars
Genre & Keywords:
M/M/M Romance, Contemporary, Ménage, Kinky, Glassblower, HEA
4.5 out of 5 stars
2.5 out of 3 flames ~~~~~
Josh, Evan and Rai (and my secret stash of good chocolate) have given me the best Sunday afternoon I had in a long time. This gay threesome is so incredibly delicious and scorching hot that I'm surprised my ereader didn't black out from all the heat they were producing. I love some good gay ménage story every now and again, especially when it combines the erotic parts with a solid romantic arc. And although The Hot Floor is definitely packing a lot of highly erotic and kinky sex scenes, it certainly is satisfying my romantic heart as well. It's not easy to convince me of a HEA in a polyamorous relationship, so that's a job well done here.
What makes this ménage stand out for me is definitely the portrayal of the characters - the main characters as well as some of the secondary ones. They are all so colorful and lively drawn, you'd immediately like to move into that old building they're living in and become part of their lives. And especially the main characters are well-rounded, multi-layered persons, with distinct characteristics and personalities. Additionally, the three men each bring something unique to the relationship in a way that, eventually, they complement each other.
I loved Josh's voice in this story. He's the first person narrator and the third wheel (for a while, or so he thinks) in this relationship. Because Rai and Evan are already a couple long before Josh comes living in their building. Josh is a bit insecure, due to his ex-boyfriend, and very shy. But he lusts after his downstairs neighbors ever since he moved there. Evan and Rai couldn't be any different - a big, bold-headed, bearlike plumber with a goatee versus a small, octopus-like, young, Japanese, academic twink - and therefore Rai finds it hard to believe that Josh fancies both of them just as much. Rai is the more complex character of the two; he has his insecurities and a tendency to get very jealous. However, seeing Josh and Evan together evokes none of these negative feelings in Rai, so he welcomes Josh into their bed for more than just one time. It's a good choice to use Josh's POV to gradually get more insight into the workings of this ménage. We're with him when he faces his own growing feelings as well as his insecurities about the long-term status of their threesome, and when he learns to understand the personalities of the other two men. There's only a little bit of angst involved here, but nothing too heavy. Little bumps in the road are swiftly dealt with. I loved how everything could be overcome fairly easily with one of the 'discussions' that Evan and Rai liked to organize.
A nice bonus are the little things that make these men three-dimensional and special, like Evan's love for teenage horror flicks, Rai's fondness of spider plants and (macramé) owls and Josh's profession as a glass blower. Also their shared interest in 70s games and their visits to car boot sales. All these things combined with their personalities make them very memorable characters for me. And the scene where Josh crashes through the ceiling with bath tub and all, in the middle of one of Evan and Rai's kinky sessions, makes them even more unforgettable, due to their very intriguing uhh... appearances there. Plus, of course, their unrelenting passion and kinky fun in and outside the bedroom together only adds to their being memorable.
About that, the heat level of this novel is off the charts hot! Yeah, well, you kinda expect it to be, with three instead of two hot guys, right? But it’s not necessarily a given that this makes the sex scenes better. In fact, sometimes a confusing use of pronouns and an accidental case of head hopping can ruin the hot scenes more easily than with just two protags. Fortunately, both of these mishaps are successfully avoided here, thanks to the choice for the single, one person POV. More so, I think that Josh’s perspective specifically, makes the erotic scenes as hot as they are, because of his shyness and inexperience. Everything that’s happening is so incredible thrilling and arousing for him, which is excellently conveyed too. And of course, the mathematical spanking and armpit sex do help to make these scenes scorching and unforgettable as well. You have to admire Myles for her inventiveness and her humor, here and also in other scenes!
Having read a few of Myles’ other novels and stories, I started to notice that the remarkable choice of her characters’ professions fascinates me and adds to my reading pleasure. In this case I learned a few things about Josh’s profession as a glassblower, among them the use of the term hot floor, which has something to do with the oven they use and the temperature of the glass. It’s one of the hot floors in Josh’s life, the other of course being the floor that Evan and Rai live on in his building. I like it when a title makes sense like this. I also like it that there’s always a lot of creativity and arty/crafty or cultural references in Myles’ novels. And can I just say, I really adored the cute glass owl Josh made for Rai and I would love to have one made for me by my lover as well (and if I was really lucky it would come with the glass gift Josh made for Evan too *cough*).
Although this was Myles’ first ménage story, as far as I now, it’s certainly a genre she masters just as well as regular m/m romance. Except that maybe some of the other titles of her I’ve read so far went a bit deeper on the emotional level than this novel. But even taking that into account The Hot Floor is better written and from a much higher quality than a lot of other gay romances, ménage or otherwise. So, this is definitely a recommendation for readers who like steamy, sweaty hotness mixed with a good dose of romance! ~(less)
4.5 stars This was my first book by this author and I picked it up because it has a firefighter hero and a cop hero, the GFY trope and the friends to l...more4.5 stars This was my first book by this author and I picked it up because it has a firefighter hero and a cop hero, the GFY trope and the friends to lovers trope. As a result I wasn’t expecting much originality, so in that sense it couldn’t disappoint me very much. And although this was a bit of a schematic story with quite some predictable events (stalker!) it certainly did entertain me. We have an openly gay firefighter, Vincent, and a straight, divorced cop with kids, Carl, who hit up a friendship which turns into more when one day circumstances force them to kiss each other. One thing leads to another and the reader gets treated to some hot scenes. The characters are drawn out well and both are very lovable. Vince and Carl have good chemistry together, and there’s a little bit of angst, but not too much, in the plot as well. Apparently this is the first book in a new series. I can see myself pick up other books by Charlie Richards whenever I’m in the mood for a quick fix of comforting, hot manlove.(less)
4.5 stars I enjoyed this very much! I picked it up because the premise intrigued me and didn’t sound as something I’ve read other variations of already...more4.5 stars I enjoyed this very much! I picked it up because the premise intrigued me and didn’t sound as something I’ve read other variations of already. It’s about Riley who met his two best friends, Jason and Eric, six years ago and soon thereafter his friendship with Eric turned into something much more. That relationship ended almost as soon as it began, and Riley hasn’t let anyone near his heart since. Jason however helped pick up the pieces. Six years later they ran into each other again and he’s once again part of Riley’s life. Riley is slowly letting Jason past his defenses and is starting to see how good they are together. Then, out of the blue, Eric calls, claiming he wants Riley back. What follows is very emotional and heartbreaking. This book also was frustrating as hell sometimes, but let’s say in a good way. Not unimportant either, it has some of the hottest scenes I’ve read in a while!(less)
4.5 stars. I loved this magical story, although it has some hard to swallow abuse scenes as well. Overall, it's a thrilling and sexy read with wonderf...more4.5 stars. I loved this magical story, although it has some hard to swallow abuse scenes as well. Overall, it's a thrilling and sexy read with wonderful characters and a good plot.(less)
Genre & Keywords:
M/M Romance, Contemporary, Coming Out of the Closet, Grief, Angst, Guilt
4.25 out of 5 stars
2.5 out of 3 flames ~~~~~
When Jay’s wife dies in a car crash he has quite a burden to carry. He not only has to deal with his grief but also struggles very hard with his guilt over not telling her that he’s gay when she was still alive. He finds understanding for his feelings and much-needed compassion in Scott, the funeral director who he meets at his wife’s funeral. Jay and Scott start out as friends but then they start to develop sexual feelings for each other as well, and soon their friendship turns into something more.
With a premise like this for a romance you know as a reader you’re getting yourself into some serious angst, heavy soul searching and deep feelings. And indeed, that’s what I got. This is definitely not a light, fluffy type of read. It’s rather emotional and it’s demanding a commitment from the reader to sit through some depressing and angsty stuff before you get the satisfaction of a happy ending.
If there’s one author I trust to guide me through this kind of thing, it’s definitely LA Witt. Her skillful pen always makes sure that I enjoy myself and feel deeply invested in her characters. Witt masters playing the spectrum of deeper feelings like no one else and she doesn’t disappoint in this novel either when she takes her readers on an emotional journey with her main characters.
However, at times I also felt a little uncomfortable with the ‘therapeutic’ nature of Jay and Scott’s relationship. Especially since they stayed on that track for a long time, until far into the book. On the one hand I really liked that Jay’s feelings of guilt are handled this seriously and not brushed aside once he found a new lover for the sake of the romantic developments. On the other hand I would’ve loved to see more of this couple after Jay had dealt with these unbearable feelings and after he had forgiven himself. So, for me the balance between ‘before’ and ‘after’ could’ve been a bit different. But I guess that’s just a matter of preference.
I was in the mood for a dramatic read and even prepared to shed some tears, and I’m glad that that’s exactly what I found when I picked up For the Living! ~ (less)
~~~~~ Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars Heat level: 2.5 out of 3 flames ~~~~~
The cover and the name of Amy Lane attracted my attention and made me, along with the blurb, want to read this book. Lane's cowriter Voinov is a new to me author, although I've heard of his name, I've never read any of his books. All I've heard about them is that they are sort of dark. Add to that tidbit the fact that I know and love Lane for her angsty stories and one's expectations of Country Mouse can be easily predicted. But... to my surprise this novella was actually a rather light and angst free read! And I immensely enjoyed it, even though I never mind some angst in my m/m romances.
The back blurb is introducing the heroes quite accurately. Owen and Malcolm seem to be an odd match at first sight, the American country boy vs the slick business man from London. Malcolm presents himself as a dominating male who's looking for a one night stand, but Owen is not as submissive as Malcolm expected and one night with him does not seem enough once they get together. Owen's openness disarms Malcolm pretty fast.
What happens between them, happens over just one weekend, which is a very short period of time and makes this an instalove story. But despite that, it doesn't feel unrealistic at all. I think that's mainly due to the writing skills of these authors who succeed in giving a detailed and believable insight in their characters' feelings with very few words. Also, the heroes' personalities are distinct and clearly presented while there's a wonderful character development at work as well. Apart from that, I interpreted the ending as sort of a solid HFN (Happy for Now) rather than a real HEA, because a HEA would've made the instalove harder to swallow and much less believable. The book ended when Malcolm asks Owen to stay in London with him instead of going to Paris for the rest of his European vacation, leaving the option open for a sequel where Owen and Malcolm actually have to learn to live together (I would love to read such a sequel!), although it's not a necessity.
The layered personality of both characters is what makes this book stand out for me. I loved the exploration of deeper emotions compared with the witty banter between the heroes, which showcased all the detailed aspects of their unique and irresistible chemistry. Owen and Malcolm are both a one-of-a-kind character and they are a perfect match in the end. There is a bit of a kinky side to their sexual relationship as well, that I wouldn't call BDSM per se, but which certainly has some D/s aspects and spanking, restraining and naughty games involved. The sex scenes are definitely on the hot and erotic side of the scale!
Everything combined makes Country Mouse one of my favorite reads this year. It's entertaining, emotionally satisfying, adorable and yet hot, funny, definitely memorable and special; especially when you realize that this is 'just' a novella. ~(less)
4.75 out of 5 stars
2.5 out of 3 ~~~~~
Writing a review about a book that you absolutely loved and read in almost one sitting is never easy. Doing so, when it concerns a book from an author whose other work you also couldn’t put down and totally adored, is even more difficult. What makes it hard is to find the right (and new) words to express how enjoyable and emotionally satisfying the book was. Sloan Parker is becoming one of those authors who I doubt can ever disappoint me with her writing. I love her voice, her plots, her flawed, three-dimensional heroes and their chemistry, the emotional impact her books have on me, and the intensely gratifying sexual tension and hot love scenes her stories have no lack of.
I was thinking that maybe her third novel, Take Me Home, wouldn’t be able to live up to the high expectations I had after loving her first two novels, More and Breathe, so much. I even postponed reading it for a bit, because I didn’t want to be disappointed. However, I should’ve known that she would deliver again, even while I had my extra critical glasses on. Looking through those glasses I only noticed a little bit of too much perfection – if that is even possible – regarding the pace of the mystery plot in this book. So, if I had to mention one niggle it would’ve been that it felt sort of over-plotted when it comes to the mystery. Parker is using the old trick of the mystery genre of handing out bits and pieces of information at well-planned moments, and especially the holding back that goes along with that trick becomes a bit frustrating at some points. However, this paradoxically enhanced the reading enjoyment this book offered for me too.
Let’s talk about the heroes of Take Me Home. Evan and Kyle are old friends that once shared a hot kiss about ten years ago. Since then, Evan has been in a relationship that ended 6 months ago, while Kyle never had a serious relationship during those ten years. They seem to want opposite things when it comes to commitment and that’s what kept them apart all those years. Now, however, Evan stays in Kyle’s guest room after the breakup and the sexual tension between them is building steadily. When they make plans to travel home for the holidays together by train, which means sharing a small sleeper car for days, there’s bound to happen something between them. Problem is, Evan thinks Kyle isn’t interested in a long term relationship, while Evan isn’t looking for a temporary hot fling, especially not with his best friend Kyle, whose friendship he could lose over it. Fortunately, we know from an early stage in the story, that Kyle’s one-night-stand behavior is rooted in his love for Evan. It just took him years to admit those feelings to himself. And now he only has to share them with Evan, were it not that whenever they are alone ‘the talk’ that would clear up all the misunderstandings, gets delayed by one reason or another.
A great deal of the suspense in this story is caused by that postponed ‘moment of truth’ between the two lovers. Thankfully, they don’t hold back on the hot sex on their way there! Another part of the suspense stems from the fragmentized delivery of the journal entries from Kyle’s grandfather. There’s a secret to be revealed in the journal, we know that much because a TV show is after the journal and wants it bad, while at the same time mysterious things happen on the train ride. So, external factors keep derailing Evan and Kyle from their big moment of revelations regarding their feelings. At the same time their intimate scenes keep us readers on the edge of our seats every time they interrupt the mystery plot. It’s a fine balance Parker is trying to hold, and as I said before, it gets quite frustrating at times because she forces her readers to be patient on both levels. The snow storm only adds to that suspense arc. The ‘break’ during that storm that led them to the cabin where they stayed one night, started out rather nerve-racking. I admit, I loved that Parker is so incredibly in control of the pacing, to the point of frustration.
Another well directed aspect of this story is the richness of the secondary cast. There are just enough characters to keep it accessible and at the same time interesting enough regarding the riddle who the ‘bad guy’ is. Also, Evan’s ex-boyfriend wasn’t just a figure in the background, but came out to play a small role and functions as a catalyst as well. I liked that. As much as I liked the glimpses we got from Kyle’s grandfather’s life through his journal entries. Additionally, the scenery of the train ride, the landscape and the frightening snow storm were all described in a colorful and expressive way. For me they added to the enjoyable reading experience that this book provided as well.
In the end the heroes arrive at their parents’ houses right in time for the holiday celebrations. There all the plot threads come together in a very satisfying solution. The wrap up is perfectly done, no open ends are left, and Kyle and Evan finally get their hard-worked for HEA! It took them a while to get there, but in the meantime we got treated to buckets full of sexual tension, delicious anticipation, suspense, wonderful emotional build-up, hot smexing and finally ultimate satisfaction. This couple and their adventures still cross my mind every now and then, months after I read the book. It’s their chemistry as much as the feelings they put me through that makes them unforgettable.
~~~~~ Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars Heat level: 2.5 out of 3 ~~~~~
The heroes of Barging In, Robin and Dan, have very different lifestyles and make a classic case of opposites attract. One lives on a narrowboat, the other in London; one lives a secluded life in the closet, the other is an out and proud city-boy; one has sworn off sex, the other is a slut; one is covered in body piercings and tattoos, the other is not. When they first meet they clash hard in more than one way, namely also quite literally when Dan runs into Robin’s boat with his, because he doesn’t have a clue how to handle the boat. He’s on it because he’s writing an article about a narrowboat holiday. The sight of Robin’s hot, bare and tattooed torso distracts him to the level he loses control over his boat altogether. Robin’s reaction is not as pleasant as his sight though. He’s quite surly and wants to be left alone. Yet the men keep encountering each other in this small community Dan is writing about, and gradually their mutual attraction grows until they give in to their physical needs and end up having hot, debauching sex. In the bedroom they match perfectly, and they steam up the sheets more than once, all in the knowledge that it will only be for one week the most. After all, after that one week Dan will return to his city life and his one-night-stands and Robin can continue being alone and surly on his boat.
Yeah, except we know better of course. No matter how much they resist and try to deny their feelings, they can’t help but fall for each other. As expected their physical connection finds an emotional match as well. However, once their week of hot sex and falling in love is over, their story isn’t. And I truly liked that the author didn’t choose for an easy ‘I love you’ exchange followed by a ‘they lived happily ever after’ kind of ending. No, the HEA is postponed a bit, and the MCs are left to work out their differences and find some solid mutual ground for their future living arrangements instead. There’s room for some more insecurities, a small fall-out and some hard working to earn each other’s trust and to make a relationship succeed in the long run.
It’s all very satisfying, not in the last place thanks to Myles’ talent for creating likable characters that are layered, three-dimensional, flawed and going through some needed insights about themselves. The heroes grew on me and I experienced it as a small loss once I finished the book and realized I wouldn’t be spending time with these complex but lovable men anymore. The background of both MCs is interesting, well written and memorable (and I should know how memorable, since I read Barging In ages ago). I still remember Robin’s pain and tragic past relationship, both men’s families, Dan’s sunny way of making a situation special, and lots of other things. This is a character driven story par excellence and these type of stories are my favorite as you might know. Aside from the excellent character development, we get a nice and entertaining backdrop with the narrowboat setting and the colorful inhabitants of this community. Myles gives a wonderful peek into this fairly unknown way of living, with interesting, realistic details, while at the same time creating a unique and unforgettable setting for her love story.
When I started reading Barging In I didn't know what to expect because I'd never read anything by this author before. To be honest, I made an attempt to start to read it a few times only to get distracted by something else in real life again and I saw the opportunity to read in all quietness go up in smoke time after time. I suspected that I needed to have a good stretch of time available to read it because it could be one of those books that you never want to put down once you've started it. And I was right. I've read Barging In in one breath and I'm glad I've waited for the right opportunity to be able to do so. Moreover, I found myself returning to Dan and Robin's story in my head more than once in the weeks after I finished their story. The story's originality and the memorable characters won't make it easy to forget about them anytime soon either. And I'm certainly going to read everything Josephine Myles has published so far and will write in the future!(less)
M/M, Romance, Historical, Bohemia & Prussia, 1866, Soldiers, Battlefield, Aristocratic Berlin, Loss of Memory
Why I Recommend:
I absolutely loved the premise of this story and thought it was handled with care throughout the whole book. The amnesia Rudolph suffers from is such an agony for Mathias, especially since Rudolph only misses memories from the past two years. He believes he’s still with his ex-lover Ernst, which causes some extra tension and angst. The historical setting makes Mathias’ pain even more unbearable because he cannot only not tell Rudolph the truth, but has to keep their relationship a secret for everybody else as well. I really felt for Mathias who was so lonely and hurt and yet very strong thanks to his love for Rudolph. I may have needed a tissue or two… The author’s style and narrative skills made Muffled Drum an emotional page-turner for me. My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Recommended to Readers Who:
Like historical gay romances; love some angst and emotional tension; enjoy page-turners; don’t mind sex scenes that aren’t between the MCs; like stories about amnesia; don’t mind when one of the MCs is married; appreciate skillful writing. ~ (less)
4.5 stars. Nearly perfect, if it only would've been more than a HFN ending. Agreed it was a very solid HFN, but it would've been even better if we'd g...more4.5 stars. Nearly perfect, if it only would've been more than a HFN ending. Agreed it was a very solid HFN, but it would've been even better if we'd gotten more than the 24 hours of hot, sexy, physical and emotional connection. I'm hoping for a sequel in which we get more of Sam and Jared's amazing chemistry and a view into their everyday life together, because I'm curious how they will handle with the reality of their very different lives and demanding jobs, once they leave Venice.(less)
~~~~~ Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars Heat level: 1.5 out of 3 ~~~~~
After reading the backblurb of Mere Mortals I had no clue of what to expect from this historical romance. Especially not in the romance department. Well, it actually stays unsure until far into the story who will ‘hook up’ with who. And I can tell you that it’s not the couple I was expecting at first. Now, after finishing the book, I can see why the blurb has been kept this vague. Great part of the allure of this excellent story lays in the uncertainty of the romantic and dramatic developments. Its build-up is slow but suspenseful and in my opinion brilliantly done.
Mere Mortals is actually the first book by Erastes I’ve read and I’m glad that she asked me – a long, long time ago – to review it, because I tend to steer away from historical romances most of the time. It’s probably why it took me so long to finally pick this book up. But now more than ever I have to admit that my subconscious reluctance to read this particular genre is really unfounded. With authors as Ava March and Erastes and their skillfully applied pens it’s impossible to not like the genre.
What I probably loved most about Mere Mortals is how it’s a character driven plot with layered and three-dimensional characters. The story is told from Crispin’s point of view throughout the book, but yet we get a good deal of character development on the part of the other protagonists as well. Crispin and his two fellow wards, Myles and Jude, are all three very differentiated young men with each their own way of talking and acting. Although it’s a character driven story there’s still plenty of plot development too. But especially in the beginning not much is happening. When the suspense is building and building we get a few more action scenes, which are highly dramatic. By that time I was turning the pages as fast as I could and I refused to put the book down no matter what. Unfortunately I can’t tell much about the plot developments, or it will take away the thrill of your own reading experience.
Another aspect I truly enjoyed in Mere Mortals is how vivid and detailed the surroundings are described. The three boys are transplanted from their schools to their benefactor’s, Philip Smallwood’s, house on an island on the beautiful but remote, Horsey Mere in Norfolk. It’s midwinter, snowy and cold, which only underlines the isolation they are in and the grisly desolation of their situation. The descriptions of the mansion and the area are beautiful and lifelike, and they made me feel as if I was there. I could see myself wandering from room to room in that big house, together with Crispin. And I loved the historical references and idiom. The vivid portrayal of the setting made this novel in the end even more breathtaking for me.
There’s actually not much that I didn’t like about this story. It has great characters, has plenty of suspense and drama (but not too much), it’s well written with a vivid setting and the plot surprised me (in a good way) more than once. One thing I haven’t spoken about yet is the romantic arc. I don’t want to spoil anything about the possible relationship(s) in this story, so it’s not easy to discuss this aspect. But I can say that it was satisfying to see which characters found their HEA together. Their relationship isn’t very much on the foreground, only towards the end a bit more. And if you expect a lot of hot and elaborate sex scenes you will be disappointed. It’s not that there isn’t any on-page sex at all however. For me the balance between the romantic, dramatic and suspense elements in Mere Mortals worked really well. It is a memorable, compelling novel that definitely goes on my Favorite Reads shelf.(less)