I didn't quite understand what Rolf and Ranger were trying to do until I remembered the name of this story. And the format (twelve short sho...moreBrilliant!
I didn't quite understand what Rolf and Ranger were trying to do until I remembered the name of this story. And the format (twelve short shorts with Christmas as their only common denominator) works beautifully for such a large cast of characters, especially since so many of them are still partially unknown to us, or we only know them from third-hand information through the main characters. Getting to see them like this, their history in just a moment captured from one Christmas in their past or present says so much about each one of them and introduces us to a lot of new information. Wade, especially, is someone that I feel I have a completely better understanding of now.
And the format really works and must have gone over really well, as seen with Rolf and Ranger's most recent FCR short story release, "Jackson High", which has the same vignette format.(less)
I loved this one. So great to see not only Paul when he was younger, and see him in a different light, but to see him from a new perspective, especial...moreI loved this one. So great to see not only Paul when he was younger, and see him in a different light, but to see him from a new perspective, especially Phillip's and David's when he's not totally put together and still finding his place. Plus, I love hearing him talk about Maine, his grandmother and the boarding house and tenants :)(less)
Dead in LA is the book that shows just how economical Lou Harper's writing is. It surprises m...moreReview posted for Lou Harper week at The Armchair Reader.
Dead in LA is the book that shows just how economical Lou Harper's writing is. It surprises me even now to write that this book of two stories is only 28k words simply because my memory from reading it is how full of plot and detail it was. Of course it depends on your style and preferences, but I always admire an author who can get their word across without a whole lot of words -- I'm the exact opposite! As you might have noticed and indeed bemoaned from my incredibly wordy reviews :)
Both of these stories, "Dead in the Hills" and "Dead in the Valley" focus on a separate mystery while the overall arc of the story that connects them is the building relationship between Jon and Leander, two completely fascinating characters! I say that because at this point (after reading the first two stories and waiting for the rest to come) I still feel them on incredibly shaky ground, no matter how far they've come from their beginnings as roommates in "Dead in the Hills". And they, in so many ways, are an opposites attract story, not in a sortof comically stereotypical way (like… the twink and the cop or something) but simply because when I first started reading this book I thought… wait, is Leander really going to become Jon's romantic interest? I just couldn't see it. It wasn't until after they were firmly established as friends with benefits (or roommates with benefits) that they both really started to open up for me as characters and I could see past their superficialities. Jon is an art student, but of course in a completely responsible way (art advertising) that he might not have ever really gone in to anyway, and Leander is a psychic who finds things that people have lost. Now, sometimes those are puppies (like the "unlucky Chihuahua" LOL) and sometimes those are missing people. Jon has a hard time at first believing in what Leander does until he offers his roommate a ride to a job and sees it for himself, not only the accuracy of Leander's visions but what it also does to him. His ultimate understanding of Leander's job is what slowly softens him to Leander's charms, even through all of the trauma and guilt that Jon still has after his wife's death.
Dead in LA was probably one of the most enjoyable books I've read this year, and in some ways that's because of the mysteries and in others the relationship. The relationship is also what makes this book like a really early part of a series. Of course, these are the first two stories in this series, but what I mean is that by the end of both there's still a great deal of uncertainty about their relationship and a lot they'll need to work through. Both of these stories, for me, were really about getting to know the characters individually and that makes me even more excited for the coming ones, because I get to see more about where their relationship will progress.
This book also shows how well the episodic mystery format is working for Lou. Making the mysteries somewhat shorter allows for more possible directions for the story to go because we, as readers, aren't completely committed to a long mystery plot while the characters are growing with their relationship. That is what makes the next stories in this series exciting to me.
Also, a note about the cover, which I really love. Lou mentioned that it doesn't really scream romance (which is true) but that it does really highlight that these are mysteries. That works well for me with these two stories -- the cover seems aligned with how I feel about them in any way -- but also, I think that the lack of a naked torso makes your book stand out in new ways these days, when I feel like most others I've heard from… we're just tired of those covers.(less)
This review is for both Poacher's Fall and Keeper's Pledge, and is posted at The Armchair Reader.
I hadn't read Pleasures with Rough Strife previously...moreThis review is for both Poacher's Fall and Keeper's Pledge, and is posted at The Armchair Reader.
I hadn't read Pleasures with Rough Strife previously when it was first released, and I admit that I'm a bit happy that I got to wait and read it now in it's second incarnation as Poacher's Fall, along with the new sequel, Keeper's Pledge. I'm not sure how much has changed between the first story and it's revision and new release, but I think I would have been a bit disappointed if I didn't have the second story to read after I finished it. No matter much I enjoyed it, it was a bit of a teaser. Not to say that it wasn't a well-rounded short story on it's own -- no, just that I was really glad that I got to see most of the relationship development in my first read and all of that comes in the second story.
That is the reason I'm reviewing these together. In a way, they're just one story, and they should be read together as such. I'm not a huge fan of historicals, but I am a fan of JL Merrow and I'll always read whatever she writes. I know that in the hands of this author, I'll enjoy the story. And I really did. This is a beautiful story and in a period that I'm rather fond of in historicals, the time around the Great War in England, the early 1900s or the Edwardian period because of my love of Maurice by EM Forster (which I've read about a dozen times!). I can't claim any sort of historical accuracies or not, because I don't really know much about this time in history, but I thought that there was a seamless integration of historical detail that didn't detract from the story for a modern reader, which is something I think is important for readers who might not be huge fans of historicals either.
The story is rather simple -- poor man meets rich man and they defy their fear of persecution and even more to share a life together, no matter the lies they have to perpetrate to share that life. When they first meet, Danny is a young man who lives on the land of Philip Luccombe. Danny regularly poaches on their benefactor's land in order to feed his family, and after the death of his father, who used to work on the estate, he has to take care of his mother and younger siblings. Just before Christmas, Danny is on his way back with a few snared rabbits and decides to climb a tree for a sprig of mistletoe to brighten up his mother's Christmas. But, the tree and grounds are icy, and he falls.
Philip is a rather lonely man. People think him strange. He rarely leaves his home. But most don't know the real reason he's locked himself away -- he's grieving for the man he loved and lost to the Spanish Flu. Having a new person in his home over the holidays is at first difficult for Philip, but Danny's charm and vivacious zest for life bring him slowly out of his shell. They quickly become friends, talking over Danny's sickbed, as both learn more about the other man they are starting to have feelings for over the Christmas season.
Keeper's Pledge returns to the couple a short time later. Danny is now the gamekeeper of the estate and he and Philip have a carefully cultivated life and secret romance. It is the most they can hope for -- to be left alone and in love. But, some of Philip's relatives come to call over the Christmas season, disrupting their lives and putting a damper on their relationship. Having relative strangers in the house makes it almost impossible to sneak away for secret trysts, especially when one is rather openly queer and quite perceptive. At the same time, Danny must deal with family troubles in the form of his younger brother, who seems headed for real trouble and desperate to break away from the family.
I think that Keeper's Pledge is where this story really shines. I really enjoyed reading Poacher's Fall, but it's much like the setup to the real story. I'm so happy that Jamie decided pick this story back up, because it really turned out well. This story is sweet and clever and really, really well done in the amount of space, a short story and a short novella. It only further shows the talent this author has. Make sure you pick these up!(less)
I think, like a lot of people, I have a love/hate relationship with Sean Michael's work. But she must be doing so...moreReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
I think, like a lot of people, I have a love/hate relationship with Sean Michael's work. But she must be doing something right, because I keep getting the books! This one follows the typical style of Sean Michael for a short(er) book, almost all sex and lots of irritable dialogue, but I can't deny that once again I found it sexy as hell.
Alec has the idea for the best present ever for his partner Kono -- a week with his best friend and Dom, Swan. Only, Alec doesn't know Swans true feelings about him. While they messed around in college as roommates often do (yeah, in my high school dreams), they've remained only friends while Alec fell in love with sweet and incredibly sub-alicious Kono. So when Alec asks Swan to be his lover's Christmas present and satisfy his desires at the same time (he loves to watch), he readily agree's to Swans stipulation that Alec sub as well. After all, he'll just be watching, right? Nope, and Swan and a quickly agreeable Kono take the week to teach him the benefits of the sub-life, as well as hopefully fulfill Swans dreams of being a part of their relationship.
I always start reading Sean Michael's books (with the exception of a rare few) and I get really into them, they're super sexy, and then it seems like the minute I really start to like them, they start speaking in that strange language I hate. One word sentences -- Need… Want… and using those words as verbs, which grates on my last nerve, maybe more than any other pet peeve of mine in this genre. See how he needs to prettily? Barf. I'm sorry, it's just one of those things that drives me batshit. That happened more and more as the story went on, which really, really lessened my enjoyment.
However, I knew what I was getting into. I can't cry fowl, I understand that overtime Sean Michael releases a new books, I line up deciding that I'll take the sexy over the annoying and look past it. And somehow, I end up getting upset. Still, I'm either a masochist or have a short-term memory (probably both, knowing me), and I'm right there excited about the next book.
So, depending on how you feel about this author, you'll probably know if you'll like it before you ever buy it. To those readers who like the brand of m/m Sean Michael writes, this goes right along with that and I recommend it to you. She's doing something really right, that's for sure. And I already know that I'll be reading another of her books, Mannies Incorporated, in just a few days. Though, her manny stories seem to be the exception to the rule and I often wonder if they're written by different people the writing is so strangely different.(less)
Charming, solid relationship story about a couple pushing their two year anniversary just around the holidays and how they're com...more3.5 stars, rounded up
Charming, solid relationship story about a couple pushing their two year anniversary just around the holidays and how they're combining their histories to make a life together. Dan wants to protect and take care of his younger partner and Taj needs to create a life and holiday tradition for himself to make up for his childhood. The two do this by mingling their lives, including taking part in a middle ages community called The Society for Creative Anachronism (I love the name!) where Dan is known as Sir Edric Bearsbane and Taj is known as Keegan, as yet untitled and new to the group. For the Twelfth Night celebration, Taj is named Lord of Misrule, where the titled and untitled switch positions. And for once, Dan is able to serve Taj after the stressed out holidays and be his servant.
I always seem to love Alix Bekins work and when I saw that she had a holiday story I couldn't wait to read it. It didn't disappoint, and I would love to see more of this couple away from the holidays and living their normal lives in the future. And maybe some more roleplaying too ;)(less)
William is a master vampire, surrounded by his minions that he created. They constantly frustrate him and never g...moreReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
William is a master vampire, surrounded by his minions that he created. They constantly frustrate him and never give him peace, especially during the one night a week when the love of his life is on television -- Ricky Joe Dash, a southern chef. Ricky Joe doesn't know he's the love of William's life, he's just trying to make his local show the best it can be, while trying to sidestep the innumerable advances of his boss. When William's minions get the idea that Ricky Joe would make the perfect Christmas present to cheer up their Sire, they'll go to any lengths -- including kidnapping -- to present William with their gift.
This story gave me a bit of whiplash and may be my most severe change in how I felt about a story in a while. It was a bit disappointing for me because I truly love Poppy Dennison and I look forward to everything she writes and releases. This won't change that, but I felt very different about this story than her others. Actually, I loved the story right to the very end (which is where the whiplash comes in). The tone of the story is great, it's so light and funny. The vampires are the least scary paranormal predators I've ever seen, in a completely tongue-in-cheek way. They're so over the top, I really took to it. It's a story to have fun with and not take seriously. Despite the lack of sex, i really felt a connection between Ricky Joe and William.
The problem came for me at the climax. It starts with the beginning of the story as the pace is set. It moves at a moderately fast clip because this is a rather short story, but there is somewhat of a buildup to the climax as William and his minions make plans. I don't know exactly what I expected, but I found the reveal to be a bit lackluster, and then a bomb was dropped that I wasn't expecting. And not only that, but it was a little confusing for me -- then, the story ended. I know that the very long list of information MLR includes at the back of every story didn't help, because I thought the story was far from over at that point (that has happened to me a lot actually, with MLR and Samhain), but it just exacerbated the problem in my opinion. And, I felt like it really could have been fixed in just a couple paragraphs, or at least a tiny epilogue or something. But, it just felt like the ending fell of a cliff somewhere and went completely missing. I even went back and read it several times to make sure I didn't miss something, but, I never really understood it or what the point was.
Sadly, the fact that I really enjoyed the first half of the story got lost in the ending as well, or I would have rated this much higher. Still, it won't stop me from being a big fan of Poppy's writing and I eagerly look forward to everything she writes. But, this one didn't work for me and I can't recommend it.(less)
Sweet and slow story about an established couple (one human, one shifter) with little in the way of plot, other than celebrating the holidays and some...moreSweet and slow story about an established couple (one human, one shifter) with little in the way of plot, other than celebrating the holidays and some bits about rescue work. I would have enjoyed the story more with maybe a bit more about Anthony's Ute past, but we actually get very, very little about him as a shifter. Mostly, in the story he's human and it just seems to be another side of him.(less)
Eva Clancy is a new author for me, and I felt like I was taking a chance reviewing this story, but… well...moreReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
Eva Clancy is a new author for me, and I felt like I was taking a chance reviewing this story, but… well, it's the season for it and I ended up finding a story that I really enjoyed.
Sam is completely dissatisfied with his life. It's the Christmas season and a time for looking back at the year, which leads Sam into a depression every time he thinks of it. Once on a career track rising through the London offices before being made redundant, and also losing his lover at the same time, Sam has had to move to a small town and work for a small firm and pretend to be thankful for even having a job at all. And well, it's not that he isn't thankful, but he can't seem to appreciate the fortune he does have when faced with all he's lost. On top of that, he's found that he doesn't actually seem to know much about his job, when faced with clients that don't have a boatload of cash and a firm with inexhaustible resources.
Somehow, all of that might be okay without the constant reminder of Nick, the "Wonder Boy". The man whose position Sam filled seems to be everyone's favorite person, his coworkers, his boss, and well, he's pretty amazing, so Sam grudgingly admits to himself. He's handsome, nice, the clients adore him. And he could do Sam's job better than Sam ever could, making his cocky entrance to a job he thought would be below him frighteningly embarrassing. It becomes even worse when faced with Nick, again, at the Christmas party. Is karma finally collecting it's due for Sam's arrogant attitude, or has his misplaced depression colored everything he sees about his new life?
What I most liked about this story was that the characters aren't who you think they are, not only Nick. Sam's coworkers, as well as Sam himself change over the story, all because of Nick's influence as Sam opens up and starts to see his life in an honest way. That was done quite well, in a major part by a rather honest style of prose which shows the characters in a pretty harsh light. Not only does the character change make the story interesting, but it is a perfect compliment to a holiday story, where we want to see the good in people. The story then becomes a bit of a holiday classic, in the sense that Sam is shown his misdeeds in a harsh light, all brought on by his own influence. It is somewhat subtle, yet still the focus of the story, so it didn't overpower it in any way and worked well.
The romance here was part of that, but came in second in my enjoyment. Much of their relationship is somewhat of an afterthought -- or at least implied at the end of the story. Most of what we see is an attraction and an encounter, and are left to our own thoughts about what will happen in the future. I suppose I would have liked to see a little less than perfect Nick. Sam would have a hard time seeing that, because it takes him a while to understand that Nick isn't the "Wonder Boy" he thought and that he might have misconstrued many things about his workplace, but I would have liked to see Nick be a bit more honest with Sam. Sam finally breaks down and admits it, and I agreed wholeheartedly, that Sam is a bit of an asshole. He whines through a lot of the story and is pretty vain and has a high opinion of himself. Much of this is a front, and like I mentioned before, a front that is shed during the length of the story, but a bit of honest from Nick instead of Nick always saying how wonderful and perfect Sam is would have made their relationship seem a little more honest.
That is really my only critique of the story however. There were a few laughs on the part of Sam's coworkers, especially a game of Secret Santa. And I liked the story, most of all. I'll definitely recommend it.(less)
Adorable!! I love that Charlie is branching out :) and even better that her first non-historical story was about the North Pole! I don't know why, but...moreAdorable!! I love that Charlie is branching out :) and even better that her first non-historical story was about the North Pole! I don't know why, but every year there's usually one story or so about elves, Santa, etc at the North Pole and they're like crack to me, so thank you for writing this Charlie and it was completely charming!(less)
I felt like this could have been a solid story, a solid erotica story, if the plot had just slowed down just a bit. As it was it moved too fast and th...moreI felt like this could have been a solid story, a solid erotica story, if the plot had just slowed down just a bit. As it was it moved too fast and those who aren't fans of cheating will probably take issue with David's actions.(less)
I've come to expect cute, short and easy to read stories from Mell Eight, and this was no exception. In many ways...moreReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
I've come to expect cute, short and easy to read stories from Mell Eight, and this was no exception. In many ways it is a prelude to a story, because at only 8k words we really only get some background, the "meeting" between the romantic pair, and the mating between the two.
Neero's older brother Lex is the alpha of their little pack of misfits, and the power has gone a bit to his head. They've become somewhat disreputable after the death of their former Alpha, who was loved and revered, but with Lex's ascension to the role as their currently strongest wolf, the pack has fallen on hard times. They're broke and live in squalor and have very little protection. In the past, Neero has had to take numerous jobs to earn money to feed the pack, but lately he's been having to do it to earn money to feed Lex's obsession with showering the woman he's courting with the jewels and finery that she requests.
Lex approaches Neero and compels him to sell himself for $10,000 -- enough money to keep Lex's girlfriend happy and buy her the diamonds she wants for her Halloween costume. Yet, the man that Lex ends up staying with is a complete surprise.
Okay, obviously Lex is an asshole, right? Yeah, that's what I thought too. I felt like we got to know him enough that we could understand his motivations for what he did, but I also didn't quite feel like we got to know him any further, or enough for me to forgive him for being an utter asshole, a TERRIBLE brother, and an extremely poor leader of the pack. It isn't a huge deal, because he isn't the main character in this story, but he does relate directly to the actions of Leero and the man he goes to meet that night and then comes to mate with, simply because of the way they treat him. This was basically the whole story and while I liked it… it just wasn't enough for me.
I'm still having some trouble with this author's work because while I always like what is presented to me, with this story I again feel like I was waiting for more of the story. We don't really see any romance between the main couple and we get to know only the bare bones of their lives. Sure, this works well as a Halloween snippet (though it isn't scary in any way, that's okay though), but as a standalone story and even more as a romance, I didn't get what I needed for the story to feel complete.
So I'd say to go into this story without expecting a full story and you might enjoy it if that is what you want. Sometimes that is nice to read and I certainly liked the story, but again I felt like this was a Mell Eight story that ended before much really happened or was explained.(less)