Knock Out by Mallery Malone is a traditional (male + female) romance. This short erotic fiction about a woman boxer and her long-lost love and trainerKnock Out by Mallery Malone is a traditional (male + female) romance. This short erotic fiction about a woman boxer and her long-lost love and trainer delivers on its sexual promise with a satisfying undercurrent of emotional closeness achieved by the two romantic leads. Longer review here. I received a free copy via NetGalley.com from the publisher in exchange for an honest review....more
What an absorbing book! This was a one-sitting read for me. I could not put it down because its everyday, slice-of-life vividness drew me into the maiWhat an absorbing book! This was a one-sitting read for me. I could not put it down because its everyday, slice-of-life vividness drew me into the main character's world. This really felt and sounded like the American Deep South on every level even on down to the confrontational grandfather with a flair for creative exaggeration.
(My favorite quotation in the entire book, and it's difficult to choose from so many good ones, is about the grandfather: "“We don’t hide crazy,” I said. “We put it on the porch and let it entertain the neighbors.”)
The author is so gifted with dialog. The romance is also well-done, but it's really the father-son bond that shines here. Both Wiley and Noah are strong personalities that interact in a complicated, and fascinating way. ...more
Corruption by Eden Winters is a strong continuation of her Diversion series, which centers on the relationship between Lucky and Bo, two agents workinCorruption by Eden Winters is a strong continuation of her Diversion series, which centers on the relationship between Lucky and Bo, two agents working for the Southeastern Narcotics Bureau. This is the third book in the series. (Make sure you take a look at the very hot cover art!) As with the first two books, this one takes place in the irrepressibly lively and cynical viewpoint of redneck smartass Lucky. He and Bo continue to inch their relationship forward despite their demanding job, which not only forces them to stay deep in the closet, but also tends to separate them for extended, dangerous assignments. The possibility of a break-up (or even getting killed on the job) gives the story suspense. This is balanced with a strong sense of humor as Lucky gets strong-armed into participating in a training program by his boss Walter whom he grudgingly holds in high esteem. This exposes Lucky to some vivid supporting characters in his fellow students, including Ms. Johnson, a streetwise tattooed extrovert who steals every scene.
Meanwhile Bo has to go undercover in a biker gang that is dealing a new street drug known as Corruption. (This drug, which lends its users adrenaline-fueled super strength as they invariably go bananas while experiencing insane hallucinations, sounds like an unholy mix of LSD + PCP.) The story gets even more interesting as we see Bo’s struggles through Lucky’s eyes to keep his two identities straight – his real self and his undercover persona into which he seems in danger of disappearing. Bo bases his badass biker persona upon real elements buried inside his normal, kindly personality, and therefore starts to lose touch with who he really is. The eeriness of this wouldn’t have come across as strongly from Bo’s viewpoint because he would be too close to the situation to be so self-aware; Lucky, who is desperately worried about him, is perfectly positioned to observe him and understand what’s happening to him. At the same time, the always appealing Bo comes across more strongly as a person in this book than in the first two books.
The result is a story that might be the best yet, though I still have a place in my heart for the first book and its hilarious depiction of our two heroes meeting for the first time. The fast-paced plot is a real page-turner, and Lucky gives us one of the best examples of deep third-person viewpoint that I’ve seen in a long time. Highly recommended....more
SHIREWODE by J. Tullos Hennig opens three years after the first book GREENWODE (you should read these books back-to-back to get the best sense of theSHIREWODE by J. Tullos Hennig opens three years after the first book GREENWODE (you should read these books back-to-back to get the best sense of the story.) The three principal characters are Guy de Gisbourne (who was called Gamelyn in the first book), Robyn Hode, and Marion. Robyn and Guy were once lovers, and Marion is Robyn’s sister.
Now Robyn Hode is living in Shirewode forest with his band of outlaws, robbing from the rich and giving to the poor. He has changed the least of the three main characters: still cheerful, mischievous, and down-to-earth, though tempered somewhat with new awareness of his responsibilities as a leader. Meanwhile, Robyn’s sister Marion has lost her memory and now lives in Nottingham as a novice nun, working as a servant to the evil Abbess. She is still level-headed and capable, trying to overhear things and get her bearings even though she is at a grave disadvantage. And Gamelyn, once Robyn’s lover, has by far changed the most. He has returned from the Crusades with a new name, Guy de Gisbourne, and is now a stone-cold killer and a Templar Knight, haunted by his combat experiences.
The book opens when the Sheriff of Nottingham (who is also the brother of the Abbess) hires Gisbourne from the Templars to hunt down and kill Robyn Hode, who has been become a serious threat to nobles and wealthy churchmen traveling through nearby Shirewode forest. Gisbourne accepts the job with barely concealed distaste because he dislikes the Sheriff on sight. Neither he nor Robyn knows each other’s identity initially.
From there, the book launches into an epic adventure, paying homage to some familiar events that should delight fans of the Robin Hood legend – daring escapes and rescues, an archery tournament, and the extended appearance of Prince John Lackland who is a flamboyantly nasty character. But SHIREWODE puts its original stamp on the legend with a rich foundation of pagan lore complete with real pagan gods, the Lady and the Horned Lord, who step in to inhabit their avatars, Marion and Robyn. There is real magic, used sparing and strategically, and vivid supporting characters. I especially appreciated the strong female characters of Marion and the daring Saracen archer Siham.
Gisbourne, however, steals every scene as he alternates between wounded innocence and cold, haughty menace. He is a terrific antihero, and in some scenes comes across as electrifyingly evil. Such a change from the character in GREENWODE, though traces of him remain. The intense sexual tension between him and Robyn finds release in only one sex scene. However, just the one scene seemed right for this book.
Will most readers enjoy SHIREWODE? I know I did, and I think others will, especially if they want less sex and more breathtakingly epic historic adventure. Some of the dialog, which is spelled to indicate a British country dialect, might be a challenge for English-as-a-second-language readers. But it is a stunning story that kept me turning pages even while I regretted coming to its end too quickly. SHIREWODE is a worthy sequel to the very good Greenwode, and I highly recommend both books....more
I had a great time reading Thorns (I was a beta reader) because it gave me so many of the individual traits or themes that I look for in fiction. UsuaI had a great time reading Thorns (I was a beta reader) because it gave me so many of the individual traits or themes that I look for in fiction. Usually, if I'm lucky, I just find one or two of my favorite themes per book, but Thorns gave me all of the following: a vivid setting, real jobs for the characters, multi-cultural elements, an interracial romance, strong supporting characters (two priceless ones are Will’s pushy editor and the homophobic old sports reporter who is Will’s source for the Nic-and-Louis story), humor, a fast pace, hot sex scenes, and grand passion.
Here, the setting in the French countryside is so alive with sensory details that I believe the author knows the place well. And the characters have real jobs portrayed with three-dimensional detail that makes you feel you’re viewing them in the workplace as the action occurs.
Will is a reporter in the fast-paced newsroom of a gay-themed newspaper struggling to survive in Los Angeles. Nic and Louis breed and train racehorses on their farm in France amidst the everyday details of mucking out stalls, dealing with accidents on the race track, coping with supercilious officials, and even getting covered with horse snot from time to time.
The realism of setting and workplace provides a strong foundation to an ambitious story that encompasses two love affairs – one just beginning, and one that has endured assorted tragedies for twenty years – and a complex mystery in which I could not guess the perpetrator. The whole thing has a strong pace, but the danger increases from the middle of the book onward, making for a real page-turner through the end.
Something I especially enjoyed with this book is a sense of the author’s attraction to different cultures and her fascination with how people of vastly different nationalities can overcome barriers of language and upbringing to form close bonds.
As with her previous novels Desert Falcon and City Falcon, Feliz has written a vibrant and strongly plotted story that stands out like a splash of color amidst all the usual offerings on the gay romance landscape. Highly recommended!...more
I think that Kaje Harper and I had a reviewer mind-meld on this book, and her review says it all, though I think she liked Jesse more than I did.
AparI think that Kaje Harper and I had a reviewer mind-meld on this book, and her review says it all, though I think she liked Jesse more than I did.
Apart from some choices on Jesse's part, I too loved this book. So much good stuff going for it! A vivid west Texas setting. A strong supporting character in the elderly cartoonist known as "The Original." A wonderfully appealing character in Lorenzo Maryboy, ex-Marine, combat veteran, Navajo, and cartoonist. Fascinating insights into art and military culture. Hot sex scenes. Grand passion. And, of course, gorgeous writing as always. Sarah Black remains one of my favorite authors. ...more
Seventh-century British hero Cai is not a typical Christian monk. Descended from Celtic warriors, he came to live in a remote monastery on the coast oSeventh-century British hero Cai is not a typical Christian monk. Descended from Celtic warriors, he came to live in a remote monastery on the coast out of a brief infatuation with a young monk. He becomes a skilled physician in an eccentric community of intellectuals in which gay relationships are accepted.
But then the Vikings come raiding from Denmark, lured by rumors of a treasure at the impoverished monastery. Cai organizes a successful defense force and even manages to capture a Viking left for dead on the beach.
As Cai nurses Fen back to health, they struggle with the cultural differences. Their mutual attraction is matched only by their mutual distrust. Due to power struggles at home, Fen cannot easily return to Denmark so he settles at the monastery, gradually forming close emotional ties to Cai and the others. But their troubles are just beginning.
Gorgeous writing and sensory details. Cai and Fen are beautifully complex – a true opposites-attract situation. Their sexual chemistry is intense and their eventual devotion to each other is deeply romantic. Highly recommended. ...more
Super intense. First-person narrator Merq is a sniper and spy in a devastating global war that is now experiencing a cease-fire. To celebrate peace tiSuper intense. First-person narrator Merq is a sniper and spy in a devastating global war that is now experiencing a cease-fire. To celebrate peace time, the five superpowers of the world have come together to hold the first Olympic Games in centuries. Merq will be competing in the rifle competition against his arch-nemesis Armise.
Armise was his counterpart on the enemy's side in the war: sniper, spy, special-ops. Though they cannot trust each other, they experience an intense mutual attraction. Whenever they have crossed paths over the years, they have come together in a rough, intense sexual encounter.
Now Merq has a dangerous mission to complete underneath the cover of participating in the Olympic Games opening ceremony. The present day action takes place within a night and day. Alternating chapters are extended flashbacks that examine Merq's and Armise's relationship (adversarial and sexual) over time.
The present day chapters involve introspection on Merq's part -- but it's good introspection that brings to life the complex futuristic world in terse, dyamic sentences; and builds a huge amount of suspense around Armise and around Merq's mission.
One thing I like especially about this story is the sense of vast changes that have been worked upon the culture of the Earth as we know it due to the ravages of war and time passing. None of the old boundaries and places and nationalities remain. Everyone seems to be part of a global tribe with much more fragile allegiances than that formed by ethnicity and history with certain locations.
For example, Merq is associated with the States / American Federation, yet he seems culturally Western European (British?). Armise is associated with Singapore, yet seems Eastern European (Russian?). Merq's coach rememembers rituals from a former Third World country in which no one has lived in generations. This is all fascinating and gives the book great atmosphere.
In the back of the book, there is a handy timeline, character list, and glossary of futuristic technology. You probably won't need it because it's all clear in Merq's narration, but those things are always nice to have.
The story's explosive ending sets up beautifully for the series to follow. If you love enemies-to-lovers sexual tension, futuristic dystopia, and military / special-ops stories, you won't want to miss this....more
Chase the Ace centers on first-person narrator Daniel, a British man compelled to re-evaluate his life as he uneasily approaches his thirtieth birthdaChase the Ace centers on first-person narrator Daniel, a British man compelled to re-evaluate his life as he uneasily approaches his thirtieth birthday. Daniel is an appealing hero -- attractive, nice, kind, and smart. But he’s not too perfect. Social networking sites such as Twitter and its terminology bewilder him, and he’s not sure if he’s supposed to “Twat” back his responses. (I’ll admit that made me laugh.)
He comes across as especially relatable because he has been unlucky in love, poor devil. The one time he got to try anything as thrilling as a little light bondage, his date fumbled his knots and ended up blubbering in a corner of my bedroom […] while I called him a taxi to go home. (Kindle location 338).
Daniel decides to track down his three best mates from a summer sports club they attended briefly at age sixteen. He is curious how the other three boys have turned out. Are they good men now, successful in love and life? Maybe he can get some perspective on his own life by looking them up.
Right there, I can’t resist a plot like that. Tracking down old friends is a situation ripe with potential for disaster, revelation, or both. Whatever Daniel discovers will change him and his memories forever. But it gets even better. The boys’ friendship held more significance than that of random buddies from one fun summer.
At age sixteen, Daniel and his three mates had just figured out that they were gay. It was through this shared identity that they bonded so closely. However, circumstances beyond their control pulled all four boys out of the sports club after only two months. They were never able to face the future together as gay men and lost track of each other after that summer. Each boy presumably had to struggle to gay adulthood on his own.
Daniel doesn’t know his mates’ current addresses, which is how he acquires a new friend Nick to help him track down flamboyant Gerry, sensitive Mark, and volatile Alec. Initially, Daniel contacts Nick through Facebook, mistaking Nick for a younger brother who had kept in touch with Gerry.
Fortunately, Nick remembers Daniel from that summer at the sports club, and is willing to hand over his younger brother’s address book. When Nick and Daniel meet and experience a mutual attraction, Nick wants to prolong their contact by driving out with Daniel to visit Gerry, though he plays it cool at first by claiming mere curiosity as a motive.
Daniel is thrilled to have Nick’s company on his quest. This plays up the suspense for us readers as Nick asks Daniel about each of the best mates, and Daniel shares some memories before we meet each in the present-day.
And it gets even better because there is a second, deeper emotional level of mystery beyond Daniel tracking down his first three gay friends. That sixteenth summer, the four boys had invented a card game they called Chase the Ace, which led to a startling encounter between Daniel and one of his mates. But he still doesn’t know which one. Now he wonders how he can find out.
Each old friend has the address for the next one, so Daniel and Nick find themselves on a road trip through England. Their encounters with Gerry, Mark, and Alec range from fun to disturbing.
Meanwhile, the burgeoning relationship between Daniel and Nick evolves with satisfying complexity. Their hot sexual chemistry only intensifies their emotional uncertainty as they fumble through the awkward phase of initial courtship. They come together and then wonder about each other. They fear to get their hearts broken.
Both are distinctly different men with different ways of reacting to what they find out about Gerry, Mark, and Alec – and it leads to some uncomfortable misunderstandings that they valiantly and realistically try to work out. The author does a great job of making Nick a distinct personality though he is only seen through Daniel’s eyes.
What I enjoyed most about this story is that everything has a deeper level of emotional significance than it first appears, and everything has a fascinating, and sometimes startling, emotional connection to Daniel and his sixteenth summer. There is nothing superficial about this story.
Chase the Ace is beautifully constructed like a puzzle box that surprises and enchants with its unexpected depths and connections. Recommended!...more
The story opens in Seattle, Washington. Seth works as a paralegal and is secretly dating his boss Lars, who is deeply in the closet. Seth has arrangedThe story opens in Seattle, Washington. Seth works as a paralegal and is secretly dating his boss Lars, who is deeply in the closet. Seth has arranged a romantic vacation for them at his aunt and uncle's kosher bed-and-breakfast, located deep in the snowy Canadian woods.
At the last moment, Lars refuses to go because his clients and peers might wonder about him taking vacation during the week of Hanukkah. They might guess that he is dating Seth, who is Jewish. Seth and Lars have a bad argument and break-up, and Seth goes to Canada alone, saddened and furious.
When he arrives at the bed-and-breakfast, his aunt and uncle are missing, and he has to let himself in with the spare key. He worries about what could have happened to them, but he has no time to investigate because the guests start showing up.
Eccentric and demanding, the seven of them expect the full kosher experience that they have paid for, complete with the lighting of the Hanukkah candles at sunset. There is even a rabbi among them, and he will know for sure that Seth is a non-observant Jew and totally unprepared for innkeeper duties.
Seth has to cover for his aunt and uncle, but he doesn't know how to cook beyond grilled-cheese sandwiches. The mysteries of kosher cooking lie well beyond him, and some of the guests have food-allergies as well.
Fortunately, Lars, who is a talented cook, arrives to beg Seth’s forgiveness. Now Seth must sort out his feelings for Lars, locate his aunt and uncle, and suppress each new emergency at sunset so that the Hanukkah ceremony can proceed smoothly.
Carol of the Bellskis is laugh-out-loud funny, offers complicated characters and real emotional depth. Seth and Lars are complex characters who both change for the better. Lars shows remorse and strong desire to win back Seth, who continues to hold out for the relationship that he deserves. This is a strong addition to the author’s much-loved series of Hanukkah stories, which include Carol of the Bellskis, Miracle of the Bellskis, Holiday Outing, and Love Ahead Expect Delays. ...more
A Roof for the Rain takes place in a futuristic USA devastated by global warming and war. Black blizzards of pesticide-laced dust sweep across the ariA Roof for the Rain takes place in a futuristic USA devastated by global warming and war. Black blizzards of pesticide-laced dust sweep across the arid landscape. The drought has lasted for almost twenty years during which the Water Lords have controlled access to uncontaminated water.
Twenty-five year old Jacob lives with the resistance movement in an underground bunker away from the walled cities. The rebels recycle every drop of water and those younger than twenty remember no other life. Ever since Jacob lost his parents to the environmental disaster, he has allowed himself emotional closeness with no one.
The story opens when Jacob and his nineteen-year-old lover Ethan journey topside on a scouting mission to check out damage from a recent earthquake and look for water. Many hope the drought may be ending its long cycle. Clouds have been sighted on the horizon and plant life is starting to return, though Jacob tries not to expect too much. Ethan is optimistic and full of energy.
Their reconnaissance throws them into peril from both the Water Lords and a dust blizzard. This triggers an extended memory in which six-year-old Jacob views the early days of the environmental catastrophe.
Normally, any flashback interrupting present-day action would send me into a fit of impatience, but here it is compelling. It occurs at a natural lull in the story. Meanwhile, Jacob is the type whose painful memories would emerge against his will. It is suspenseful to piece together his glimpses as a bright but very young child of how the resistance movement began.
You might be wondering if a novelette of 11,720 words can handle a plot as big as a futuristic, environmentally damaged world with its struggle between the resistance and the Water Lords. It succeeds by narrowing its focus to that precise moment in time when change is possible both on a global level and on a personal level.
It is true that we don’t get the overall scope of the conflict. However, in showing Jacob's decision to allow hope into his heart, the story foretells the healing of his world. This is beautifully done. ...more
Uneven is a BDSM story that blazes its own trail, which has nothing to do with stale ritualism and everything to do with outbursts of passion. It centUneven is a BDSM story that blazes its own trail, which has nothing to do with stale ritualism and everything to do with outbursts of passion. It centers on sadomasochism, but not as erotica. Instead, Uneven is a wrenching drama told in the close third-person viewpoint of Rase, who gets a wake-up call to stop living a lie.
Rase is a smart, good-looking man in his forties, who is the wealthy and powerful CEO of a successful international company. His second marriage is failing, but he is a loving father to his college-age son Takis.
However, Rase has sexual secrets that he has deeply repressed. For years, he has been sleepwalking through a false life to please his tyrannical father, his stockholders, and his wife. In reality, he's gay, he's a sexual submissive, and he's a masochist.
That last part is the hardest for him to admit even to himself. Almost no one understands a need to experience pain. But Uneven casts no judgments. Rase is a masochist because that is just the way some people are. There doesn't have to be a reason.
The story opens when one of Rase's stockboys sets off a metal detector with a pair of handcuffs hidden in his pocket. It's Gabriel, a handsome man in his twenties, who has a cool, indifferent poise. Without thinking it through, Rase confiscates the handcuffs and tells Gabriel to come to his office at the end of the day to get them back.
Though Gabriel doesn't get a viewpoint, we readers can guess what he must be thinking – that a powerful authority figure is going to play mind-games with him. He returns at the end of the day as ordered. He and Rase have a shocking encounter, which opens Rase to all his old cravings. In the next few days, Rase teeters on the verge of a psychological breakdown.
Finally, he seeks out Gabriel’s tiny apartment in a bad section of town. Gabriel lets him in and they have an intense and brutal sexual encounter. They come together out of need, but each is still blinded by his misconceptions.
Rase suffers self-loathing over his masochism. Gabriel is filled with anger and the pain of isolation because his sadistic predilections have caused him to be used as a sex-toy by wealthy men like Rase.
However, they experience a strong emotional connection. The wounds of both men’s past make it hard to trust, but Rase becomes increasingly convinced he wants a relationship with Gabriel. Now he has to convince the younger man.
What makes this story unusual is how emotionally vulnerable Gabriel is, even though he’s a sadist. He is smitten with Rase. Often in BDSM stories, we get a tedious, smirking dom who is always in complete control of the situation. Part of what makes such a character so boring is that he can muster no stronger emotion towards his lover than the fondness someone would feel for a pet.
But look at Gabriel and Rase. They are two broken halves that come together like soul mates.
I had no problems with Uneven other than I would have liked one sentence on what product or service that Rase’s international corporation supplied – just a concrete detail for realism.
Uneven doesn't sugarcoat the physical beatings that Rase suffers, so it may be a hard read for some. But it is definitely worth reading and will probably become a classic in our gay romance genre....more