This was a book of very different parts, yet they all added up to a whole.
I think some readers don't know what to make of this story because it is notThis was a book of very different parts, yet they all added up to a whole.
I think some readers don't know what to make of this story because it is not your typical romance. Underneath Man meets Man and falls in love is a book about writing: the love of writing, the frustrations of writing, the underlying desire for recognition as a writer, both in critical praise and sales. It is also about inspiration and the hard work that goes into creating the finished product.
As such it's possibly better appreciated by someone who has been there and done that.
Sound heavy? No. It's not.
We're talking Brad Vance here. One of our most under-appreciated writers. Probably because he's self published. After reading his blogs for a year or so, I know that over the course of his life Brad (like the book's hero) has put in hundreds of thousands of words onto paper. He knows exactly what he's doing when he puts pen to paper, so this theme about writing is woven into the story of a man (who happens to be a writer) searching for success and finding instead love.
The first section is the set up. Creating a situation where a writer is struggling to get his work seen. I enjoyed the scenes where he meets and gets to know the members of his book club. They form a collaboration as each has different skills. Once they do, they begin to write books that are modest best sellers. I liked that he created two interesting female secondary characters without falling into stereotypes. Friends.
Backed by this success, they head off to a writers' convention where the model they used on a number of their covers is making a guest appearance. After one fantastic night in bed with a god of a man, the words start pouring out of our hero's fingertips, almost turning to gold as they hit the page. Under a new pseudonym, he becomes a worldwide sensation.
However every gift comes with a price. Once he identifies past recipients, he realizes there is a time limit. Come the summer solstice, he won't even be able to write anything. Not even sign his name on a cheque.
He panics. Writing is what he wants to do. Success is wonderful, and if it comes in the form of writing het romances he can cope with that because it's what the market wants, but deep down he wants to write what really matters. Important books. He resolves to find the cover model that set everything into motion and see if there is some way to break the curse. He doesn't care if he can't write bestsellers when his time is up, but he just wants to write.
Finding the cover model proves impossible, so he heads off to Venice to chase down the man who photographed the god of a man on the cover. He finds him and the story continues in a totally dfferent vein as he negotiates the twists and turns of a foreign city.
The plot takes a further twist as they travel to a difficult to reach Greek island. Here the gods of old or their successors roam the land and their love and arguments inspire him to tell more tales. Here the romance author has morphed into the tale teller of old. The one who weaves tales whose words have a message for those who hear them.
This section alone is worth reading the rest of the book for.
But the book isn't over yet. His twelve months are up and the situation still needs to be resolved.
I loved the way Brad wrapped up the story. The hero found his love.
I'd like to think that this book helps more readers fall in love with Brad's writing. In a way this is Brad's story. Not the surface romance but the love that lies underneath. The desire to write. The yearning for success. The learning that eventually it will come if the story touches the heart of those who read it.
There's humor, hotness and words that make you think.
I really enjoyed beta reading this book for Kayla. She introduced me to a world I knew little about. Or more realistically, I needed to be re-educatedI really enjoyed beta reading this book for Kayla. She introduced me to a world I knew little about. Or more realistically, I needed to be re-educated about. I often queried her on a fact that seemed strange to me, and discovered she had researched that aspect, so in the end I just trusted her. You can read more about the historical background in my interview here: http://www.abgayle.com/my-blog---revi...
It helps if you can really get yourself into the mindset of people who believed that their gods sometimes deigned to live amongst them. Not as beings with lights flashing and magic oozing out of their pores, but in disguise. They could be the stranger seeking shelter. The beggar you pass on the street. Instead of living life fearing what happens after, you have to be careful not to offend the gods (and hence be kind to strangers) in the here and now.
So it works that the Gods (or particularly Apollo) play a large part in this book. They are watching (when they can be bothered), intrigued, amused and sometimes willing to use.
Does this make "A Spartan Love" a fantasy? Not in my mind. This is written from the perspective of someone who lives in the era. And that makes it an interesting book.
On top of that, you have the start of an epic journey about two different characters. Andreas, who leads a very restricted life, confined to his land and then only in the daylight, but who longs for company and takes delight in hearing stories of the world outside. And Theron who can roam the land at will, night and day, yet he yearns for the basic comfort and shelter of a home and, in his own way, the companionship of another man.
I look forward to reading the rest of the series....more
As I beta read this for Kayla, maybe I am biased, but I love her tales set in the ancient world. She puts a lot of research into her stories to make tAs I beta read this for Kayla, maybe I am biased, but I love her tales set in the ancient world. She puts a lot of research into her stories to make them as true to the era as possible, but they still come across as living breathing men. Just that their concerns are different from ours....more
Like the previous books in the series, this is a couple of stories rolled into one. The first section sees Ben and Nikolas head off into the Siberian TLike the previous books in the series, this is a couple of stories rolled into one. The first section sees Ben and Nikolas head off into the Siberian Taiga and, thanks to some dubious choices of fellow passengers and crew, their plane ditches in a lake. Thus begins an incredible tale of survival against ferocious odds. The pacing and action develops gradually through one harrowing scene after another. Surprises batter your nerves, startling the reader as much as the men themselves. The tension just builds and builds. Until Emilia is taken. Rubies and pearls and a price beyond measure. What follows is perhaps the best written action I've ever come across. It's like one of those breathless long uncut scenes in an action movie. You can't pause to take a breath. It is hard enough to stop and turn the page. In your heart, you know our heroes will survive and hopefully Emilia will as well, but at what cost? And you're not even half way through the book yet..... ...more
If I could give this book more stars I would. While the other books were good, this one was brilliant. For only the second time in my life, I pulled aIf I could give this book more stars I would. While the other books were good, this one was brilliant. For only the second time in my life, I pulled an all nighter. How could I not?
The story had everything. I made so many notes, marked so many passages as quotes that I need time to formulate them into a decent review.
This book has wonderful sex scenes, heartbreak, sadness, laugh out loud humor, it ticks every box without being a product of paint by numbers writing.
The sheer story telling craft impressed me as much as anything else. By now, we know the characters so well that you can almost anticipate what they do and say, yet, the author wove in such a brilliant twist that all bets were off for half the book, keeping the freshness and mystery alive.
Unlike the earlier books, this isn't a collection of novellas or episodes, but a story in two parts. The first is an action thriller and the second, which could only ever happen because of the climax to the first part, is much more cerebral.
And I'm not going to say any more about the plot because that would spoil it. Suffice it to say, this story is so good it could almost work as a stand alone. It certainly is worth reading the first three just so you can appreciate this one.
The old favourites are back but each plays such an integral part that they are not merely cameos or guest appearances. Everything and I repeat everything, once a specific action is set in motion is deeply rooted in what has come before.
This book first came to my notice when I saw it on a list of most underrated books for 2014. It had lots of very enthusiastic 5 star ratings.
The blurbThis book first came to my notice when I saw it on a list of most underrated books for 2014. It had lots of very enthusiastic 5 star ratings.
The blurb is worth repeating: "How do you love someone who exists entirely in the shadows? How do you love a man who describes himself as dead? How do you get that ghost to love you back? Ex-SAS soldier, Ben Rider, falls in love with his enigmatic married boss Sir Nikolas Mikkelsen, but Nikolas is living a lie. A lie so profound that when the shadows are lifted, Ben realises he's in love with a very dangerous stranger. Ben has to choose between Nikolas and safety, but sometimes danger comes in a very seductive package."
Once I started reading, I found myself being blown away as much as I was when I came across "Special Forces". There are parallels, ex SAS (British) and a man who we discover is not only Spetznaz, but belonging to the more sinister, Zaslon unit. And the author even admits to having read the first two books of that series "Soldiers I and II"). But it was more like fabulous fan-fiction, taking those bare bone parallels and going off in another direction.
For a start, these characters are more likeable (for me anyway). They both do and have done horrendous things. Some "on camera". They both hurt others, each other and even themselves, but underlying that, their love seems more honest. The men are monogamous for starters. (At least except for a blip in book 4 which was integral to the plot).
The first book is told entirely from the POV of Ben. He's a bit like Dan. Happy go lucky, good at what he does, straightforward, what you see is what you get.
He was head hunted by his current boss who now works for the British Government in a covert cell. (In later books, we get flashbacks to how and why) and Ben has become his right hand man, an efficent tool for carrying out different operations.
The first was busting open an animal right's potential terrorist group. Ben has to infiltrate the group by gaining access via the man they see is the ringleader, Tim. Tim is a Professor in Ethics and gay. This last fact isn't too abhorrent to Ben as he has been fucking his boss almost ever since he started working for him four years ago. His boss is married.
Ooh, cheating, infidelity. How could this man be termed "nice"? Well it turns out that this is a marriage of convenience and a cover. The lovely twist being that not only is the marriage a cover for Sir Nikolas, it is a cover for his wife who is having a long term affair with a member of the Royal Family.
While the emotional arc of the ongoing changes in the relationship between these two men forms the backbone of the book, the plot is actually in a number of discreet parts. The next case Ben has is the abduction of a child on behalf of the father. The ethics of this one sits uneasily with Ben and he gets back in touch with Tim, for advice. For the operation Ben and Nik purchase a scruffy dog from the pound with the idea of using him to gain access to the target child's current family and then taking him back to the pound.
So, running along in the background of this book are all sorts of themes of ethics, lies, manipulation, using people and things and how far you are willing to go to achieve a goal.
In this book, the action is paramount. The sex scenes are pretty unemotional and because we only get Ben's POV, it's not that introspective (again shades of SF). But we do get introduced to some wonderful side characters. Including Radulf, the scruffy wolfhound, who in many ways, steals the series.
Critics will argue that the scenario is unrealistic, Nikolas turns out to be a billionaire. But he is so much more than that. How he came to be one: his family, his past, his enemies are only gradually revelaed to Ben and the reader.
Nikolas is a tortured hero who is willing to lie and manipulate to get what he wants, but his dark vision of himself is continually being challenged by Ben's love.
The story itself may not be perfect. The characters certainly are not, but in many ways these imperfections give the series somewhere to go. Everything that happens has repercussions down the line. And the books just get better and better.
What a wonderful book, but the cover is all wrong. It should have angel wings and an Irish wolfhound! I had no idea what to expect when I bought and rWhat a wonderful book, but the cover is all wrong. It should have angel wings and an Irish wolfhound! I had no idea what to expect when I bought and read this. I'd just finished reading the first book Love is a Stranger in the series about an ex SAS guy and a Spetznaz (which brought back many memories of Special Forces) so I was expecting a bit of the same.
This story is also about an ex-soldier but it is starts off as an amusing comedy, but morphs into something more serious which brought tears to my eyes. Once again there is an adorable wolfhound, but this time being owned by a park Ranger whose job it was to reintroduce wolves into a National Park.
It's a story about a man acknowledging the truth about himself and finding love along the way.
It all starts when his guardan angel falls to earth outside his back door and his life is never the same again.
I could explain the plot and the characters, but I think part of the charm of this book was that I didn't know what was going to happen next and I was kept guessing right to the end. Thoroughly recommended....more
Not perfect but a real page turner and such a good read. Especially good when compared to a lot of the other forgettable stories around. If there's aNot perfect but a real page turner and such a good read. Especially good when compared to a lot of the other forgettable stories around. If there's a sequel brilliant, but if not, my imagination can fill in the blanks for what went down that we didn't see and the future. It's in the same world as A Company of Shadows but works as a standalone....more
Really enjoyed this. Longer review to follow. The description of the bushfire was spot on. You could hear the crackle, smell the smoke and taste the aReally enjoyed this. Longer review to follow. The description of the bushfire was spot on. You could hear the crackle, smell the smoke and taste the ash. Loved the banter amongst the friends which, for once, seemed real. Bitchiness and all. The punctuation threw me for a bit until I discovered it is UK non fiction style. Sort of....more
This might be the most read of Dev's stories, but to me it doesn't match up to the others. So, for those who weren't super impressed by this one, don'This might be the most read of Dev's stories, but to me it doesn't match up to the others. So, for those who weren't super impressed by this one, don't let it put you off trying the others.
I think my main problem was the lack of tension and the resolution of the main conflict of the story. The main character was paralysed by his anxiety (at times) but this was never really dealt with.
There was a short reference to the fact his father always disapproved of everything he did and gave him a hard time. I think this aspect could have been expanded much more. Perhaps if his brother had come home and they discussed this, that might have worked. But the cause of his problem needed more book time. IMHO!! :)
Because he was so shy with Seth around, and hence scenes with them were either abbreviated or one sided, perhaps story development wise, exploring this could have come in conversation with him as their relationship progressed.
Having to rise to the occasion and overcome fears in order to help someone else when needed is one of the best ways to achieve self worth. Putting someone else's needs before yours. These are aspects that could have been built on.
Plus possibly spelling out how he gained more of an understanding of his own condition by watching Seth deal with his dog. Mark never made friends with it. That fact could have been expanded on. Why couldn't he? Why didn't he?
He panicked when he caught sight of the dog after an intimate moment. Maybe if he had worked through that (with Seth) instead of shovelling it under the carpet as just generally "his condition" that might have helped.
The author is noted for tackling characters with backgrounds that have led to them having issues to overcome. Here's how Wikipedia describes what I gather Mark's problem was: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avoidant...
Perhaps more time could have been spent on tnis.
I'm not sure the keeping his gayness secret from Lisa really added much to the plot. Her being oblivious to his social problem was more of an eyebrow raiser for me. Similarly his brother knew all along.
What I like about most of the author's other books is the way her characters are gay and okay with that. This book had to deal with coming out issues, his anxiety, as well as all the plot dramas accompanying secondary characters. An uneasy mix.
I repeat. Her other books (especially the re-edited ones) are much more satisfying. Give them a try. ...more
In this era of endless series and sequels, it's refreshing to find a whole swag of standalones. It means the author has to come up with fresh characterIn this era of endless series and sequels, it's refreshing to find a whole swag of standalones. It means the author has to come up with fresh characters, plot and setting each time. Not easy. But very rewarding when it is done well. While on the surface this is a series because at least one of the heroes is Jewish and the observance of religion at some point touches on the story, the only other connecting link is that the world they live in is loosely interlinked. So if characters from other books make a cameo appearance, it's more wondering how they got together as a couple or what their story is. Hence the books can be read in any order. In fact, the last in the series actually began first. They are not cut and paste jobs either. Each story is unique and the characters are quite different. There are no MM stereotypes or cliches. Sure older professor and student has been done before, and if that is all you see in a story then you might not agree with me, but I love the detail the author has painted around that central premise. These feel like real people, not story book characters. I liked the way the author took her time to establish their personalities, because this is what makes each rendition of this religious holiday theme different. Nathan, a professor of ecology, is painfully aware that his youth is slipping away and fears that he is destined to spend the rest of his life alone. At first, the constant attention of a young good looking student is flattering, but Nathan is a stickler for the rules so he ensures lines are not crossed. Isaac is smart. He keeps pushing at this barrier, feeling correctly that they can meet each other on equal terms one day. But they're not equals in other ways. Isaac is a student having difficulty paying for his education. Nathan is comfortably off. Isaac was thrown out by his family when he came out. While Nathan comes from a supportive family. He even noted that Isaac, being Jewish and attractive was exactly the sort of boy his mother woud approve of. Then something happens that neither can prevent, and the attraction that had been simmering explodes to the surface. Once there and acknowledged, they need to work through the ramifications as it pertains to their lives. As the author states in the acknowledgements, the religious context comes from Passover, and the fact that it celebrates the freedom from bondage. Religion per se isn't so much present as an observance of religion. This mirrors Nathan's observance of the rules pertaining to relationships with students and men much younger than himself. It also allows us a glimpse into the lives of others. And isn't that one of the reasons we read? Dev is gradually re-editing these books as they come of out of contract and reissuing them. Chronoligically, it was the second book she ever wrote and like most authors, her skills have developed since then, allowing her to see flaws and places where it could be improved. I have only read the latest version and it is more than fine. ...more
I read the revamped version, so have no idea what the first one was like.
I gather as Dev's writing has developed and with some good suggestions from aI read the revamped version, so have no idea what the first one was like.
I gather as Dev's writing has developed and with some good suggestions from a new editor, she has fleshed the relationship and plot out.
The setting, the plot, the characters are great. If you're hesitant to tackle this book because of shortcomings pointed out by other readers, don't. Chances are those are the things that were addressed in the rewrite.
And for those who aren't interested in the detail of the setting, that's like saying the Lord of the Rings movie was okay, Orlando and Viggo were hotties, but they could have spent less time on the scenery and world building.
The setting and professions and the research that goes into both is what makes Dev Bentham's books five stars for me....more