No matter how much I've wanted to read Jacob Flores' prior books, this is the first one that I really had the tim...moreReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
No matter how much I've wanted to read Jacob Flores' prior books, this is the first one that I really had the time to read. And I'm so glad that I did. More than anything, more than the fact that I found some parts of this book less to my liking than others and I didn't think it was perfect, it intrigued me. I immediately put back all of the books I have of Jacob's back onto my Kindle and I only hope that I have the time to read them soon.
Prepare for a LONG summary. Sorry about that, but I think it's worth reading ;)
Zach has always done what everyone told him too. Submissive to almost an extreme in his life (though not in the bedroom), he first allowed his father to dictate his life and self-understanding and later his partner of three years, Ben. The start of When Love Takes Over sees Ben unceremoniously dumped by Ben -- with no reason or explanation -- simply a get out. Zach is tired of being shuffled around and taking it, doing everything he can to change himself into the man that Ben wants. So he does the most impulsive thing he's done in his life. He takes the small bag he left with from Houston and jumps a plane to P-Town.
Zach has never been to Provincetown and the place dazzles him. There are men everywhere, half naked in the streets, holding hands and kissing. The place seems like freedom personified and there's no better introduction to the wonders of P-Town than the owner of the condo he's renting for the week, Gary. Gary and his partner Quinn convince Zach to take advantage of all P-Town has to offer, not to stay in his room and try to work on his novel. Zach still doesn't understand how his life took such a strange turn, but his writing seems to have suffered in relative fashion. Perhaps a change will be good for him.
Van is also at a crossroads. He's had a bad time in relationships and it seems like every time he gives away his heart, which always seems to easy for him to do, it gets pummeled and thrown back at him, damaged more and more every time. After his last relationship with a man named Jason who drove him into a terrible dehumanizing spiral of sex and pain, Van took it upon himself to never face that kind of damage again. That is how Hart Throb was born. Being Hart Throb on screen for thousands of horny gay men gives Van a rush and a self-esteem boost that he needs. He can do porn and still enjoy sex, even being pounded by multiple men, without the emotions that ended up crushing him before. As a power bottom that has quickly amassed a huge fan following, he has the power to call more shots and he's the one in control, not the men on top of him.
It's almost enough to convince him that he doesn't need an emotional connection at all. The pain of the past and his creation of his more powerful alter-ego have slowly started to shift his two identities and Hart Throb looks to be taking over. When Van runs into a geeky, shy and pale ginger beauty named Zach in a leather store, his previous conviction falls to pieces. Something about Zach -- perhaps his bumbling and sweet nature with mismatched clothes and messed up hair, or his personality which seems to be completely free of artifice in a town where looks and sex are all that matters -- appeals to Van. Even though their meeting is short, he can't get Zach out of his head and his feelings about someone that he doesn't even know only highlight that Hart Throb can't fully sustain him.
A makeover on the outside from an excited Gary and female friend Tara prove to Zach that he does have worth. He believe that it just might be possible to break out of his shell, leave the old, boring doormat he was behind and embrace P-Town. That's what everyone keeps telling him to do, after all. Embrace P-Town, because it will change you. And now that he's seeing other men, hot men checking him out and finding him very worthy of their attention, the sexually adventurous nature he always repressed starts to peek out. But no matter how much he embraces the sex in the air (with some very public and exciting naughtiness!) what he really wants is to find Van again. But will Van even recognize him? Or did P-Town get to Zach before Van could, changing him in ways that ultimately aren't good for him?
Whew! First of all, if you made it through that -- thank you! You deserve a chocolate or something :) Second, you saw just how long that summary was. I'd say that even though I did a bit of a character introduction to you as well, that summary probably only covers the first 1/4 of the book. The pace in this story moves rather quickly. I like that this author makes decisive choices for his characters. They don't dawdle, but the story moves along without pause. I appreciate that because no matter how you feel about those decisions, there's nothing worse than an author refusing to make them and then the characters stall. Van and Zach go through quite a lot to get their HEA, and it's hard-won, that's for damn sure! You can see just from the summary I wrote that the angst is already building. Wherever both Van and Zach go in this story they always seem to be looking for one another but at the same time moving in opposite directions, like passing ships in the night ;) When Van looks for the geeky guy he had a moment with in the leather store he finds just another shallow guy tricking. When Zach continues to look for Van, he finds what he thinks is a guy with a boyfriend. And no matter how annoying that was at the time, because I wanted to smack them both and tell them to actually communicate with each other, this author ultimately brings the story around so that their actions and thoughts make sense to the character.
I really liked both Van and Zach. Zach is someone who I felt like I could understand on a personal level:
He found it almost impossible to simply be who he was. He always felt the need to apologize for himself and change whatever people didn't like about him until he'd become whatever they might need.
The thought that he devoted three years of his life trying to conform to an impossible ideal for Ben haunts him, especially considering that Ben seems to have no appreciation of that fact. P-Town is important to him. His outside makeover soon starts to make him over inside and having men look at him as if they'd be lucky to have him is something that he's never really felt. This is why this book worked for me on this level. We have a tendency in the romance genre to equate the characters and their choices with the quality of the book. But, it's important for a character to grow and Zach needs to embrace his slutty and hedonistic side, no matter how shallow it makes him or that he becomes a bit of an asshole for a while, and he needs to fuck things up so that he can learn to be an active participant in a relationship. By definition, the end goal in romance is the HEA. The direction is important, but honestly, the journey there is the real point. This book is a good example for characters that you might not like at certain points in the book, but which (to me, at least) should have no bearing on the rating of it.
I think the real reason that I was intrigued about this author's writing from reading this book is the tone and mood of the story. The mood is festive and reflective of the setting, but the tone of the writing often seemed just a little bit campy. The tone seemed campy, mind you, not the plot or characters (except for Gary! and Penny :D). This gives the story a lift. Right away it draws you in. No matter the subject matter there's always a glass half-full feeling that carries through the story. It's a hopeful tone. I felt like that little bit of campiness was so right on to how I've felt before in settings with lots of gay men and a party atmosphere. Sadly, I've yet to visit P-Town, but the setting and tone gave off a sense of inclusion and freedom and that thread ran throughout the story, the tone affecting all of the book in subtle ways.
Originally, I gave this book a Pretty Good rating. I had some trouble with the ending, specifically the part from the ending of Zach's novel to the upstairs of the porn set setting. That conversation between the two was the culmination of the previous chapter or two where Zach starts to think in a kind of writer affectation. Everything became a bit melodramatic and I wasn't quite sure how to take it. Seriously? Or, as a subtle importation of his writer's mind? With an added day or two of reflection, I found those parts less important in my memory than the whole. I don't think this book is perfect by any means, but I cared less about those trouble spots for me and more about the overall story. And that is of two characters that I felt were explored rather well and of writing by this author that I grew increasingly fond of while reading. I can't wait until he writes something new. Or until I can get off my ass and read something off of his backlist. Recommended.(less)
The first of a three part serialized novella called Conflict, Contact sets up this science fiction and space expl...moreReview posted at The Armchair Reader!
The first of a three part serialized novella called Conflict, Contact sets up this science fiction and space exploration erotic story about a colony Lieutenant named Colton who is in lust and moving toward love with his Colonel. Before setting out on a dangerous mission to overpower the Earth Emperor's forces, Colton shares a mind-blowing moment with Vance, his Colonel, on the balcony during the party to celebrate their new venture. The problem is that no matter how much Vance shows interest in him as well, the fact remains that Vance is married.
Colton leaves with mixed feelings of lust, guilt and a little bit of love only to find that the Colonist's offensive is in serious trouble. Before long, Colton finds himself all alone in a battle where most of his men have died and his ship is alone fighting the Emperor's forces. In a bid to recover possible success in their mission, Colton heads to land and infiltrate the enemy base. What he finds there both horrifies him and confirms that the Emperor has been up to what they expected.
Shizu is a genetically modified human that was abducted as a child and has been through a horrible hell of testing and modification along with several others. Now, he thinks he's the only one left, at least in this base and the sight of a man who takes him out of the base and tries to get him to freedom bonds them together. But Shizu still harbors feelings for the man who was with him, who tried to escape with him before they were caught and separated forever. Hiding in a cave with Colton while they await rescue with a downed ship, the two get to know one another and forge a friendship of mutual respect and goals that might just be a bridge between the Colony forces and Earth's grassroots rebellion that could help them overthrow the planet's tyrannical rule.
I'm always excited to get a new Jack Greene story for review, but lately his work has been turning from more erotica to romance. He still writes highly erotic stories, such as this, but there's definitely more plot to work with and to keep me interested and I like the fusion of styles and his growth as an author. It certainly makes me look forward to the next two stories in this "serialized" story. As the first of such a series, a large part of this story serves to set up the world. We're presented with a world split into three factions: Earth, where a tyrant has united the world under one rule; the colonies, artificial worlds in space that use artificial gravity and other futuristic technological advances to create a sort of mirror earth in a controlled atmosphere; and lastly, the grassroots resistance on Earth, living hardscrabble lives with little food or supplies and actively defying the Empire while remaining under the radar. Conflict gives us the initial outlook in this conflict while paving the way for the next couple of stories through the connection made between Colton, Shizu and Shizu's lover.
The relationship between Colton and his Colonel, Vance, is a different matter. Vance appears quickly in the beginning and then later in the story, but is largely removed (so far) from the actual conflict. His motivations seemed hazy to me for much of the story before he seemed to do an about face and admit deep feelings of love for Colton, despite his marriage, which he claims is unhappy and more of convenience. There's one brief bout of cheating in the beginning of the novel, but it seems that there won't be anymore, going by what we learn later in the story. So if you find cheating a huge turnoff, you might be initially disappointed in the story. Otherwise, I found their interactions together to be really steamy and satisfying on an erotic level, but at the end of the story I remained unconvinced in any true feelings between them. Perhaps, hopefully, that will change in the next two stories. I'd rather have an all or nothing approach, all romance and development of those feelings, or pure erotica. But a mishmash of the two where I'm not shown any of that progression cheapens the story a bit for me.
I'm definitely excited to see what's in store for these characters. Of course, even though I had problems with some of the story, for the most part I'm pretty forgiving (always, of course, lol), but especially because this is the first story in a three part arc and there's room for the characters to grow into the feelings presented here.(less)
Well, Anne, you've made me do it again. Every time I pick up one of your (long-awaited) books I find myself even...moreReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
Well, Anne, you've made me do it again. Every time I pick up one of your (long-awaited) books I find myself even more in love than before. I think this time around I really fell in love with this book, simply because it had so many different qualities to love and pinged on so many different emotions from so many different characters. And, it was touching. Anne takes us satisfactorily deep into Collin and then allows us to experience the moments of clarity and insight as he feels them and deals with them.
In this third installment of the Theta Alpha Gamma series, we head back once again to the fraternity that first saw an open gay student with Brad in Frat Boy and Toppy. We meet Collin briefly (if I can remember correctly) as Brad's friend who gives him a pretty big failure of a blowjob, one that acts as somewhat of a catalyst in Brad and Sebastian's relationship.
In Sweet Young Thang we see that experience from Collin's perspective. He is.../was? Brad's best friend but not out himself. He did a pretty good job of pretending to be straight before that, but now he has a good circle of friends at the college that are all gay men. He's the Alumni Liaison for TAG, a position secured for him by his Uncle Monty, the President of the Alumni Association with a heavy hand in current TAG politics -- the biggest of which is the recent change in policy that says that Theta Alpha Gamma now accepts gay students. Of course, it always did, but it was more of a Don't Ask, Don't Tell kind of situation. Brad changed all that. Collin convinced his Uncle Monty to support him in his lobbying to change the policy and in return promises him that there will be no repercussions from those who might be unhappy about the change.
All of that is blown out of the water when someone plants a bomb and sets the TAG house on fire. A frat brother is injured and the house is totally a lost cause. And Uncle Monty starts putting on the pressure to change the policy back. But part of Collin's reasons for lobbying the change so hard were to see his Uncle's reactions in the first place. His whole life has been planned out by his uncle, his prep school, college, classes and degree, including his position in the family olive oil import business after graduation. It isn't until he meets sexy paramedic Eric (who has his own secret history with Uncle Monty), an alum of TAG himself in the bomb fiasco that Collin starts to feel like he finally has someone in his corner. But their relationship is picking up quick and heavy and the pressure from all directions in his life is starting to get to Collin.
This is quite a long novel, but it really doesn't seem like it because it's really jam packed with action and a super quick pace. The only real downtime in the story are the times alone with Collin and Eric, which thankfully are a fair few. Normally, I would probably prefer the story to be less sex heavy and more plot-centric, but Anne Tenino knows how to write sex and intimacy together, while keeping the relationship moving forward and the sex important to plot. And that's all while making it some of the hottest sex I've read this year! Whew, Eric and Collin have a serious connection from the moment they meet and it really shows throughout the book, slowly translating from lust into something real. Even though it's made known several times throughout the book how fast their relationship is moving (a week total over the whole book) this NEVER felt like insta-love. It isn't about the overall time that the couple has in getting to know one another, but about how they spend that time. Eric and Collin go through a lot together and each step along the way they communicate those changes between them, so that you can see them growing together.
All i can really do is urge you to read this book yourself. I know that this book will have a fair few amount of fans excited to read it already, because of the popularity of the series previously. But all I can really say is that I feel like this series gets better and better with each book, and while your preferences for the plot of each will change how you feel about each book (they're all fairly different), I think that Anne's writing has grown in leaps and bounds since Frat Boy…. There are so many great things about this book, a kick ass opening chapter which really introduces us to Eric well and some absolutely pure hilarity from the frat boys:
"Big mistake the Alunmi Association made. You should never threaten a fat boy's beer."
"Danny," Collin snapped. "Whenever sensitivity is called for in the future, I think you shoal ask yourself, 'What would Tim Gunn do?'"
This moment between Collin and Eric pulled it all together for me:
"Did you feel ashamed?" Collin felt as if Eric had just dropped his full weight on his chest, denting in his ribcage and making it harder for his lungs to expand. "No." Eric kissed his other palm. "Shit. Maybe. Why would I feel ashamed?" "I don't know. For not being what your -- what people wanted you to be." Oh God, now he felt nauseous. "That's so unfair." Eric smiled sadly. "It's unfair that you felt that way?" Collin swallowed, nodding…
I admit I did wonder a few times if Collin ever went to class! Of course, that doesn't matter, but it does illustrate the enormous pressure I felt for him. Collin has everything bombarding him at once with enormous pressure on him to hold the weight, to deal with it, to figure it out for everyone else. I really felt for him. And it made his time with Eric and their marathon sex chapters not just an expected byproduct of a romance novel, but needed as de-stressing time for him.
So, yes, I definitely recommend this one. I know a lot of you will be reading it anyway, so I'd love to know what you think. Please leave me comments!(less)
These two authors have been one of my favorite writing teams for a while now, and I knew that I wanted...moreReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
These two authors have been one of my favorite writing teams for a while now, and I knew that I wanted to review this book before I'd even heard of it or read the blurb. So when I finally did read the blurb I was even more exited, especially for such a long book. And finishing it took me a couple of days, mostly just because I wanted to enjoy it, so I spent my time reading it totally for pleasure and enjoying every twist and turn.
Evan St. John and Will Trask have a tumultuous past. Roommates their Freshman year of college at Columbia, they soon grow to be friends. Evan is openly gay and an art photography student, always carrying around his camera, while Will is a manly jock through and through. For reasons that Evan never understands, Will sticks by him and the bullying he was experiencing dwindles when people start to realize that Will will aways have his back. As they grow closer Evan starts to understand Will better, including Will's White Knight Complex, his need to protect and care for those he loves, to an almost fanatical, save-the-day to-the-rescue level.
Their dynamic changes when Evan's sister is dying of cancer and their relationship grows during the emotional period -- Evan is distraught and barely keeping himself afloat while trying to understand and come to terms with her turn for the worse. And Will picks up the slack, in more ways than expected. But the grief sends Evan running to Paris and three years go by, where Evan becomes a famous fashion photographer taken on by The House of Nadasdy, run by famous and infamous Elizabeth Nadasdy, and Will becomes an agent with the FBI.
We're first introduced to Evan in Like the Night as he escapes Paris during the day to fly to New York City and seek help from Will. He's a newly made vampire under the gruesome and tyrannical rule of Elizabeth Nadasdy, a modern day remnant of her famous human days as Elizabeth of Bathory. Above all (except herself), she loves beauty and hoards a collection of "children" all turned by her for their extraordinary beauty, which she believes deserves to be preserved for eternity. Evan was a prize for her, and his rejection of her extraordinary "gift" is tantamount to the ultimate betrayal, something she relishes punishing him for. But Elizabeth doesn't expect the trouble it will take to find and deal with Evan. With him, someone whose beauty hides his intelligence and cunning, are a group of allies who seek one common goal: the eradication of Elizabeth Nadasdy. And of course Evan has Will, his White Knight, ready to stand in front of any threat to his best friend.
I really just loved this book. I took a while to read it because it is long, but it is also totally packed with plot and, just about everything under the sun, making the book seem even longer than it is. There's an economy to the writing which gives you SO much story for just the first book of a series that it gave me the time and the opportunity to really sink into the story. What came through in this story most strongly for me was the pervasive mood of fear and impending doom. This is all because of the fact that Elizabeth is built up to such supervillain status that she's made to be almost omniscient, with unlimited power. Add to this a connection between vampires and their sire, or maker, and the fact that Elizabeth could peek in on Evan at any moment and even make him do things or spy on his relationship with Will, or their planned resistance of her make the story suffused with tension.
I found the villainous characters in this novel to be quite interesting. We have Elizabeth who is the typical diabolical character. She relishes in the pain of others and not only causes death and despair because it gets her something (money, fame, power, etc.) but also because she enjoys the suffering of others. She firmly believes that she's more worthy than anyone else to have the status that she does because of her beauty and the vision she has for the future. But, sometimes diabolical is boring. No matter how outrageously cruel Elizabeth can be, she's still a character that doesn't take too much effort to understand. My favorite villainous character is her daughter Anna, who I suspect will become a crucial and central character to the future books. Anna is raised in the shadow of her diabolical mother. She's always second best, but raised to revel in the same cruelties as her mother. She's made a vampire both because of her beauty which is similar to her mother's, but also as a gift from her. But hundreds of years of oppression make Anna rather different from her mother. Though I suspect that they both have similar depth of cruel possibility inherently in them, Anna's choices are governed by her hate of her mother and her acceptance that her only meaning to her mother is what she can do for her. That makes her cruel, but much more interesting than her mother. And of course, it's going to be great when the two really turn on one another ;)
Anyway, I'm super excited for the second book. I hope it isn't too far away. But honestly, I can't really be sad because this is the first book in a while (that is the first book of a series) that actually gives us enough story to satisfy us for the first installment. 123k words is pretty long, yes, but it allows the book to give full and adequate world-building while also giving us a real story that will be carried on in the second part. We have a full and self-standing plot with only a few loose ends to pick up in the next book. If this is the case for the next books as well, then I can only imagine where this story will go before it ends!
Ever since finishing the finale of Poppy's Triad series with Soul Magic (reviewed here), I've been really excited about this new release. At the time, I almost begged Poppy to tell me that she was going to write a spin-off about the kids in that series (Garon & Riley), only to have my poor heart crushed ;) There is still a spin-off coming, also about cat shifters, but in the meantime this story isn't associated with that series yet still, in some areas, I found reminiscent, like the pack politics.
Dayton grew up with Hart's family, or pride. They welcomed him in as a kid with a mom who wasn't around much and took care of him, making him one of their own. He exists in a strange kind of half adoption. While he's part of the family and they consider him, a human, part of the pride, he still can't really understand what it's like to have a cat as a part of himself. Then there's Hart, the son of the Alpha who was born as a cross-bred liger and subsequently more powerful than his father. His banishment ensured his father's reign.
But even though Dayton doesn't think Hart ever liked him much, Hart has a good reason why he's willing to take the banishment. He's known since they were teenagers and his first heat came over him that Dayton was his mate, but as an outcast among his own family, he couldn't offer him much. In the years that Hart has been gone, forbidden any contact with the rest of his family, he's made a career and a name for himself, all in the hopes of going back to claim his mate with a life to offer him. Somehow though, Hart can't work up the nerve, knowing that accepting their mating may mean leaving his adoptive family behind. Having to face Dayton not choosing him is too hard, so they remain parted until Hart's meddlesome sister Tawny, Dayton's best friend, sets them on the same course. The ramifications, however, are more than any of them expected.
This was really a cute story and I think that it stands well on it's own. I'll say straight up, I was a little confused at first whether this was the spinoff that Poppy talked about, just because it has to do with cat shifters, but it's not at all. Still, with the recent release and a similar type of story, I wouldn't be surprised if people make comparisons. It's probably bad to do that, in fact, because the Triad series had a real forward momentum that involved an overarching series plot. This story is different because it does stand alone. And while it certainly leaves things open for a sequel, it isn't obviously just part one of a longer story. That means that the focus of this story is really the relationship, something quite different from the Triad series. And considering the characters and the setup of the plot, this story didn't need a convoluted journey, no matter how much longer I wished it could have been so that I got to know the characters better and all that. It worked well as it is and I'm really just being greedy.
The story works in the Alpha Man trope with a larger stronger man and a smaller, more emotional and fragile man. But it also doesn't play to stereotype, but allows the characters to become themselves as the story progresses and buck a few of those conventions. I think that the story could have benefitted from a little more concrete knowledge of the pack politics as well as some better knowledge of the secondary characters in the pack. Otherwise, the story mostly focuses on Hart and Dayton and uses the pack as a catalyst for the changes in their relationship.
I'm excited whenever I get a story to read from Poppy and this was no different. In particular, the two of these guys together are super steamy. Even though we don't get more than one intimate scene with them, it packed a punch! Recommended, especially for fans of the author and fans of shifter stories.(less)
Owing to staying sick for about a month between March and April, it's taken me quite a while to get back into the...moreReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
Owing to staying sick for about a month between March and April, it's taken me quite a while to get back into the swing of reviews and get caught up on some of them, especially the two serials from Storm Moon Press, which before getting sick I was thoroughly enjoying. I suppose it isn't so bad being able to read more than one of them in a row, especially with the Cari Z's Cambion serial.
We ended the second story in the Cambion serial ("Black Magic Woman") with the pair gearing up to flee Las Vegas. The City of Sin turned out to have more of a bite than these two were expecting and gave both of them a reminder that though they have some pretty powerful weapons on their sides, they aren't infallible. In the process of seeking a witch to divine the location of their quarry, Porter Grey, Devon lost his sense of touch for three days. What seemed like one of the better sense to gamble (rather than say, his sight) turns out to be almost impossible to deal with and Devon is relegated to letting Rio take care of him.
The pair flee Vegas to find Porter Grey, who according to the information of the witch Lynlis is in Seattle. But Devon is not up for any kind of mission, so they instead decide to stop in Oregon to visit Devon's dads. Ren and Emile are an enigma with many of their own secrets to keep. They're foster parents to cambions, teaching them to control their powers. But going home only highlights the growing feelings between Rio and Devon and puts Rio and his secrets in even more of a precarious position.
I think that what I liked so much about this third installment into the Cambion world is that it takes what we saw in the second and continues to develop it. Of course, some pretty big secrets come out, including the one Rio's been trying to hide, but while it was nice to find out what he really is, I liked seeing the developing intimacy between him and Devon even more. Devon's vulnerability stemming from losing his sense of touch brings that connection to the forefront; for the first time, Devon has to overlook his pride and accept help and seeing Devon in such a state shows Rio just how much he cares for the cambion.
Cari mentioned after my review of the second story that soon after this third one we'd get back to more of the action. It makes sense if you're considering it by the story. Now that they've gone home and their relationship is on much firmer ground than the casual sexual and professional relationship they had in the first story, it makes sense that the last half of this season will return the focus to their hunt of the demon summoner, Porter Grey.
I'm looking forward to story #4 (not long of a wait!) and in particular hopefully finding out more about Ren and Emile or seeing if they play any further part in the story. I also can't wait to see when Devon finds out what Ren is and by proxy what his dads are :)
If you haven't started this serial then this is a good time to get in on the action, with half of it now over (at least, these first 6 installments). If you buy the season as a bundle you get some free goodies along with it, the first of which was just sent out -- free story "The South Beach Job", which takes us back several years to Rio and Devon's earlier professional relationship when their sexual one is just starting. It's a good story that shows them before they change by their association with the other. Plus, it's always fun watching Devon in slut mode ;)(less)
This has the most eclectic mix of tags I've ever given a book. Surprisingly, they all went together! And even more, it kinda represents this book, whi...moreThis has the most eclectic mix of tags I've ever given a book. Surprisingly, they all went together! And even more, it kinda represents this book, which is a bit of a hodge-podge of different quirks and ideas, even plotting and pacing which I found rather refreshing. Definitely not typical vampire fare!
I hadn't planned on giving this book a proper review, but when Sunday rolled around and I was still thinking about this book, so I decided that it really needed one. For some reason, and I sincerely hope that this is just my 2D, rather limited view of the m/m romance reading community, this book hasn't seemed to have had a real splash yet. And that's a damn shame. Here's what I said on Goodreads immediately after I finished the book Satuday:
This has the most eclectic mix of tags I've ever given a book. Surprisingly, they all went together! And even more, it kinda represents this book, which is a bit of a hodge-podge of different quirks and ideas, even plotting and pacing which I found rather refreshing. Definitely not typical vampire fare!
Now, the tags here are pretty much similar to the ones on Goodreads, but since I can more easily edit and add tags here at the blog, they of course have a bit more flair ;) I have to admit that I've fallen into a bit of a pattern in my mismanagement of my m/m reading, where many of the most exciting releases seem to slip through the net (there are many factors, though it still makes me a dolt) mostly because of reviewing duties, but Lou Harper is perhaps one on the top of the list of those stellar authors that I haven't given their due. Perhaps I should do a backlist read. Anyway, this book wasn't just well written, but it was a thoroughly enjoyable read, for many reasons I'll talk about later. But that brings me to another point. Another byproduct of my reviewing duties is that I tend to analyze first rather than enjoy the book first, and having not originally slated Spirit Sanguine as a review book and (imagine this!) actually making myself sit down and read a book for pleasure instead of work on reviews I should be getting up to date, meant that this one just slipped right through and knocked me flat. I didn't really have to think about an analysis of the book, of styles and pacing and plot and characterizations, but… I just enjoyed it. It was a refreshing read, and not something I was expecting from the vampire angle.
Bloodsuckers are everywhere; you can't walk down a dark alley without a couple of them jumping out and accosting you with their dark and broody eyes. They do that a lot--mope and sulk. That's what got to me, all the melodrama. I mean, they are practically immortal, don't get sick, grow old, don't need to watch their weight or work out. What the hell do they have to bellyache about?
(That's the truth.)
And that's the point. In a sub-genre where melodrama rules and/or kinky vampire sex clubs are the forte, humor takes precedent here, brought forth by the vivacious and quirky Harvey (I love the name, and not just the Feng/Fang part, the fact that her vampire is named Harvey), who isn't really like any other of his kind. In actuality, I'd rather not go into characterization here, because I'd rather not cut him into pieces to analyze him. He's best enjoyed as it's written… plus, you'll find plenty in other reviews, I'm sure. The same goes for Gabe, who is perhaps the undervalued of the pair, though it's important that he's the lens we see the world through, and even more in which we see Harvey through. His understanding of and feelings for Harvey are how we understand him best, in reflection.
What was really refreshing about this book for me was also in a second part -- the style, which is reflected in pacing but also the plot. Both were atypical in that they don't follow the usual structure. Broken into three parts, each concentrates on a different aspect of the story while they, in succession, follow a continual arc. Some readers might find this off-putting. I'm not really sure. I quite enjoyed it. Because while the first is a typical setup to the story and introduces the relationship between Gabe and Harvey, the second and third both have a somewhat separate plot, though they're tied together. But you do get the feeling, between the transition between Parts 2 and 3, that there's a bit of a jog. And consequently, you'll find two climaxes (one at the end of each part) around the 55% mark and the end of the book.
Nikyta noticed this as well and made a remark to me about it (in our many back and forth book gabbing emails) and probably described it better than I did, asking if I had noticed authors using this style more lately, the (in her words) "multiple mini stories in one book of the same couple" style. We both automatically thought of Megan Derr, who sometimes writes in a similar though pretty different style from what I'm describing in Spirit Sanguine. Perhaps it's that Gabe and Harvey really only have two distinct adventures and Megan Derr often writes books that are split between the many adventures one couple has, a sort of extended vignette style. Nik thought that maybe it was a style that was becoming more popular. I'm not sure, but suffice to say that it is something that we've both enjoyed. And definitely something that I found made Lou Harper's book infinitely more original -- though, of course, anything with a vampire named Harvey Feng could hardly be called conventional.
I've been eagerly awaiting this first "episode" in the Dorian Gray serial K Piet and SL Armstrong have written. I...moreReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
I've been eagerly awaiting this first "episode" in the Dorian Gray serial K Piet and SL Armstrong have written. I'm iffy about serials -- sometimes they work for me and sometimes not so much (I'd rather wait and read them all at once -- but episodic releases are different than a pure serial in the way that they're released. They're less of a chapter release and each one tends to be a little more self-contained. That's how I felt with this first episode. I'm even more excited to read the second episode, not only because I liked this one a lot and look forward to what happens next, but because the first release of a longer work like this will undoubtedly be a setup to the main story, which is this:
We meet many characters here and I'm not quite sure which ones will be important later, with the exception of three: Dorian, Gabriel and Michael. Dorian is now over two hundred years old and firmly ensconced in the modern age, yet still holding an old-world flair. He's a captivating sex god, firmly holding the strings of the puppets around him in an elaborate, hedonistic dance. He meets Gabriel when the man walks in front of his limo and interrupts his blow job. Gabriel is an American, new to the UK and on his way to a new job in his paranormal investigation business. And Michael… Michael is Gabriel's twin, dead and reappeared as a ghost in Gabriel's mind. They share one body and work together in their paranormal job. Dorian and Gabriel meet once again and share an afternoon of sex that goes beyond what both are accustomed to. Surprising Dorian is almost impossible, but Dorian can't seem to forget Gabriel, and his insistence that Gabriel come with him to his home in Scotland is an opportunity that will set the stage for a relationship over the series of episodes.
The first scene of this whole serial really sets the stage for is to come and especially this modern Dorian. The first scene is from the POV of a young college woman who is having sex with two men she just met, a man named Oliver and Dorian. The scene shows the level of sex and debauchery that surrounds Dorian, as well as his lack of discrimination in the gender of his partners. While I don't usually read anything with girly parts, this didn't bother me so much (even when there's another scene later in the story with a different woman), because I know that it's a small part of the real story. Nevertheless, the sex in this story pretty much blew me away. Even with that first scene I wasn't expecting quite the level of sex in this story, but I was happy with it anyway. I'll be interested to see in the future stories, once Gabriel and Dorian become more important to one another, how Dorian's sexual appetites with multiple partners will affect Gabriel. I can honestly say that I have no idea what to expect of the coming stories, and that is exciting.
So, getting in on reading this new serial at this point is all up to how you feel about serials or episodic releases. If they're not for you, then by all means wait a while and I'll be sure to update you every month how they're progressing. Otherwise, jump in and join me :)
Also, just a note about how I classified the genre in this review. Since the romance hasn't really started yet, I'm marking this first story as erotica. It sure has enough sex for it! ;)(less)
Take a cue authors! I have been super excited about this book for months now. Why? All because of that teaser story a year ago. The originally titled story "Dirty Laundry" was a free story about a rather nerdy and frightened young man who is rescued by a giant musclebound cowboy of a man when he's being bullied by a group of frat guys in a laundromat. The kid's gratefulness and awe of the cowboy drive him to thank the man, and that encounter leads to a very steamy public sex scene over the table and pile of unfolded laundry right in the middle of the laundromat. That's all the story was about. It was free and posted on the author's co-blog, Cup of Porn, for their first birthday bash.
I didn't know at that point, that this was part of the Tucker Springs universe. Actually, at that point I think that the first book, Where Nerves End was just being promoted by LA Witt. I'd really like the know the timeline and how that cowboy, Denver, came to be included in the story. That's why I'll be eagerly reading all the tour stops for Heidi Cullinan this week, to see if she details how that came to fruition. A bit of the story is on my blog today, so be sure to check out Heidi's guest post "For the Love of Series".
It must be because of those readers like me, who raved about the short "Dirty Laundry" that this became an expanded novel, and I can't tell you how excited I was when I first learned what the author was doing to this story. I so wanted to know what happened after that laundromat rendezvous. What I can tell you is this: The novel starts with the short story and carries forward with what happens afterward. Denver, who we got to know in the first two novels as a secondary character, is a bouncer at the local gay club run by Jase, from the first book. Adam is an entomology graduate student at the local college and currently getting over a breakup from his one and only boyfriend Brad. The scene at the laundromat affects both men and how they view their own lives and their own neuroses, and while it seems like Adam takes the award for the one with the most problems, Denver carries a secret weight filled with his own shortcomings, and it takes both of them working together to forge a better version of themselves.
I consider this to be the best book in the series so far. In her guest post today, Heidi Cullinan describes the Tucker Springs series as "a set of stories between several authors where each “episode” is unique, but the setting is familiar." That rather simple theme connecting the stories is really reflective of the books individually and as a series. It's true that each subsequent book, so far, seems to get a little better in my opinion, but they are all quite relaxed in theme. What I mean to say is that I found this book like the prior ones, focused solely on the relationship and less on outside connections. All that connects them is geography and limited personal connections. That means, however, that the relationship much carry each novel on it's own, and while I wasn't quite sure the first two books accomplished that, Dirty Laundry definitely did.
What really makes this story work is the consideration given to mental illness. I know very little about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, or severe anxiety issues, so I can't weigh in on the accuracy of the details. But what I did love is how the issues that Adam has (and to a small extent Denver's issues as well) are firmly entrenched in the relationship. Adam tries to hide them at first, but they're so much a part of who he is, it is almost impossible to keep the information from Denver. And I really felt for Adam. It's a tribute to the author's skill that his self-doubt didn't come across to me as annoying, but instead I felt like I had a good grasp on just how difficult his life is on a day to day basis. He has trouble with many things, but most of all is one of his major tics -- that people have their own space. He can't allow anyone inside his house without severe anxiety and he has a really hard time visiting other people's houses, or spaces of any kind. And besides the fact that this allowed Denver and Adam to show their creativity in getting to know one another in public places, I can't deny that the fact that most of the extremely hot sex in this book is in public places completely ramps up the heat factor. That laundromat scene was just the tip of the iceberg.
The BDSM element is more present here that I was expecting. It slowly becomes more central to the story and the relationship as the book moves forward, but it has little to do with sex and everything to do with creating a power structure helpful to Adam's OCD. Denver's commanding will was what drew the two together in that first encounter and is ultimately what Adam needs to cling to to categorize and then compartmentalize his brain to function at it's highest levels.
There is so much to recommend about this book and I could go on and on with more things that I loved -- both characters, the dichotomy between the two that makes them perfect for one another (their looks, their issues, their education, but not intelligence). Heidi Cullinan is a popular and well known author because of her talent and Dirty Laundry is just another example of her success.(less)
I've been excited to read this one for a while now ;) Okay, not only because I love Anne and her books,...moreReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
I've been excited to read this one for a while now ;) Okay, not only because I love Anne and her books, or because I really liked Whitetail Rock and The Fix, but mostly because I loved Sam so much in those stories and couldn't wait to see him get his own HEA. And come on, a character who is admittedly secretly in love with romance novels having his own book called "Too Stupid to Live"? That's gotta be awesome!
We first met Sam in Whitetail Rock with his best friend Nik. Compared to Nik, Sam is always seen as the tall, gangly, awkward one. Too skinny. Too underweight. When Nik finds Jurgen, Sam despairs of ever finding someone for himself, and adamantly refuses to believe that anyone as hot or as in demand as Jurgen would give him the time of day. He's enamored of Ian when he meets him playing rugby with a bunch of other hot shirtless men. He thinks he looks like his very own Highlander and for the first time risks the chance and asks him out -- only to be thoroughly shot down. Ian wonders about Sam too, and not only feels kinda bad about how he shot him down but also can't stop thinking about him, wondering if he made a mistake. Ian has been trying to change recently, after a horrible accident while fighting a fire and then later getting out from under the thumb of the chief, his conservative father. He's a renowned rake of the modern sort, and even though Sam might swoon at the thought of reforming him, the real-life possibility of a rather sensitive and vulnerable Sam not getting thoroughly heartbroken looks impossible.
When the two realize just what a small world it is (Ian is Jurgen's cousin, FYI) and are thrown together at a party thrown by Nik, Sam decides to take his chances under Ian's forceful seduction. He just promises himself he'll try to remember that Ian isn't anyone's idea of a perfect husband.
In many ways this is a classic contemporary romance, albeit approached from a unique angle. While we often seem to have a romance writer as a main character, here we're presented with a story that at least half of the time is told by Sam, an admitted romance reader and a writer himself. He's in a unique position to critique "The Romance Novel", and that experience in how a story is put together comes across in his critique of his own life.
And that's when it hit Sam. If Ian was a TGH [Tortured, Gothic Hero], that made Sam…
Too Stupid to Live.
Sam closed his eyes in resignation. He was TSTL. Stupid enough to investigate the locked fourth story of the manor house, where the human screams originated; stupid enough to run out onto the moors at night to find the howling wolves. Stupid enough to want to suck Ian's cock again. And the whole time, he'd be thinking he could somehow further the plot via his stupidity.
The thing was, whatever had happened between him and Ian was certainly fraught with internal conflict, because all romances -- okay, romance novels -- had some kind of conflict, and if it wasn't external it had to be internal. Since Ian wasn't saving Sam from international drug-smuggling terrorists, and he wasn't the captain of an enemy starship that had captured Sam in battle (ugh, revenge sex), their plotting -- his and Ian's -- had to center on internal conflict.
AKA emotional conflict.
Obviously, if an outside observer had to guess which of them had the more serious emotional conflict, they'd pick Ian. Sam wasn't the one who didn't even know what constituted a relationship. By default, that made Ian the screwed-up one, right?
Aside from his own charm, that connection to the reader makes the story immediately engaging. We can understand and empathize with Sam with his life because of the language he uses to explore it. He's the first person to admit that he's become TSTL and his fantasies are ones that we have as well, or at least know of -- "Reformed rakes make the best husbands." (I love that one).
While it might be unfair for me to compare this (as a novel) to the first two stories because of the length and time to explore this relationship, I did like it more than those. Nik and Jurgen make an appropriate presence in the story without relying on them to carry the story. And Too Stupid to Live carries on in a similar vein as those stories in similar plot, characters, style and tone. The first two stories were incredibly hot, and this novel was as well. Much of the relationship between Sam and Ian is physical (at least up front, and for the first half of the novel). They've created a carefully constructed fabrication over their true relationship to continue the lie that it isn't a real relationship at all, and to do that they rely heavily on sex. For me, it carried the story and I didn't feel the need for more, because it is actually there. The sex scenes are constructed with a careful eye to move the plot forward and subsequently, the relationship.
Fans of Anne Tenino will definitely like this story. Ian is every bit the roguish character he's made out to be and is sometimes difficult to warm to (so are Sam's decisions regarding him). But, those choices are balanced well with real feeling and the lens through which the story is structured (The Romance Novel) bridges the gap between them.
Definitely recommended! And I look forward to the next :)(less)
Jeez, I don't know if I can write a proper review. Honestly, I'll try. But mostly I ju...moreReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
HOLY FRIGGIN HELL.
Jeez, I don't know if I can write a proper review. Honestly, I'll try. But mostly I just want to sit, my fingers still on the keys and my mouth hanging open like…. guhhh. That was the hottest little scene I've read in a quite a while.
Reading this first foray into the new series (serialized chapter releases?), I have to say that I am very excited about what is to come in this series. The blurb definitely intrigued me and it's got pretty much everything I love. Rent Boys. Check! Threesomes and maybe more in the future? Check. Love among the dirty deeds? Oh yeah, I think it's coming because these two authors singed my Kindle with the chemistry between Tristan and Jared.
So, here's the summary: Jared works at the Market Garden, an exclusive club where he is available for rent. He's sort of half in love/lust/true-fucking-admiration with Tristan, a favorite among the men. Tristan is gorgeous and unattainable to Jared, at least he thinks. They're in a bit of a lull at the club as the story opens. It's just before Christmas and johns are maxxed out on other things. Jared isn't making the kind of money that he's used to and this will be his first holiday season working at the club. Tristan reassures him that it's all part of the season and business will pick up. In the meantime, Jared is surprised to find that Tristan seems to have an interest in him… and well, they're not getting any business at the moment. When a john asks if they work together, Jared wants to scream yes just to get the chance to be with Tristan, in whatever fashion. But the john has demands of his own, which include wanting to watch the two together, and he's willing to negotiate with Tristan, who is quite forward with manipulating Jared and showing him off to get more money. But, the real question that Jared has is how much is for show and how much is real? Because for him, it's all real.
I think that for such a short foray into what is obviously a much larger story to come, this first installment into the Market Garden series was very well done. These two authors work very well together, and I'm not surprised, being a fan of both. In a way, this works as a teaser, because we don't learn much about the characters, but I was immediately pulled into their connection anyway. I could see that they had forged something special, unique in their line of business, and that they had much to build upon. That came through in the writing very strongly. Still, it's little into the real story. I suppose it is really up to you if you'd rather read it now or wait until more has come. This story acted like a hook for me, and I really wished that I could immediately read more about these two characters. So, I'm a fan already and looking forward to where these two authors will take the story.
However, I will say this. This is some hot shit. Sorry, my brain is totally zoned out and I can't even make coherent sentences anymore. So, if you really want the relationship business, you might have to wait for more installments into the series. But, if you just want a really hot short and don't mind waiting for the rest, then definitely pick this up. I don't think you'll regret it. Like I said -- HOT shit. Yep. ;)
I think that was the most inelegant review I've ever written, I love it!(less)
Wow, it was really nice reading a story from Ms. Rhodes again! It was such a happy surprise for me to s...moreReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
Wow, it was really nice reading a story from Ms. Rhodes again! It was such a happy surprise for me to see this book come out, and not only was I happy to see a new book, no matter which one it was (really!), I was even more excited that it was a witchy one. I don't know what it is, but I can't help but devour every male witch story in m/m that I can find. Maybe it's because I'm such a Potter lover? Not sure, but when I went into a slump last week and couldn't figure out what to read, I opened this book.
Emrys is a witch and lives in Salem, Massachusetts. His family dates back to beginnings of the town and though most of the town is now non-magickal and makes light of their history, Emry's family and a select few others know the truth and hide their secrets well. Emrys loves magick, he just can't do it very well. He's the runt of the family in that way -- all his siblings are rather adept, as well as his parents.
Emrys has to watch himself well, especially when he's drunk, or emotional in any way. He tends to just start tingling all over and then who knows what will happen? He's learned his the hard way over his childhood, but the lessons never seem to stop coming. Drunk at a football game with his friend, Emrys makes a mistake that will set his romantic life in forward motion. When he sees the new kid at the school, who swept in and took the quarterback's spot to lead their team to the first victory in a long time, making him the hero of their school -- he literally swoons. He's never felt such a powerful attraction. So when the gorgeous quarterback passes by him on the shoulders of his teammates, Emrys just wants to touch him (remember, he's drunk). And when the power of his attraction seems to draw the other boy's gaze and brings a smile to his face, his power lets loose, tripping the group and ultimately injuring the boy, David, and taking him out for the rest of the season.
Emry's feelings don't change after that. It doesn't matter how sorry he is, how mortified he is… He ruined everyone's hopes and hurt David in the process. It's his secret how it happened though, known only to his sister Morgan who saw it and thankfully, didn't tell on him to his family. Years later, at their graduation, Emrys notices that David doesn't seem himself. Of course, he doesn't know David at all, not really, but he's watched him from afar their whole high school years and come to know him in a way. David is down, really down and something seems terribly wrong. He's the last person that Emry's expects to run into at a party that night (or down the street from one), while trying to fulfill a dare to enter the town's haunted house. The misuse, or misfiring, of his magic once again makes a scene, but David doesn't react the way Emrys expects, and their night of getting to know each other once and for all surprises him in more ways than he could ever expect.
He doesn't expect that David could ever have feelings for a geek like him, nor that David's life might not be the one of popularity and glory that he sees it as. But the revelations shared between them that night change their lives in unexpected ways.
First off, I'm going to get this out of the way before I even try to have a serious critique of this story -- GODDAMN that was hot! ML Rhodes is one of my top authors for writing the sexiest scenes and this didn't disappoint. Remember that scene in True of Heart in the cave? OMG! Yeah, she can really write the hot stuff. Emrys and David have an immediate connection, on purpose (more on that later), that really comes through sexually.
In many ways, this is just such a feel good read, and that's something that definitely draws readers. It's not fluffy, but it is light without sacrificing darker issues or scenes. Part of that comes from the connection between Emrys and David. Of course, we never expect a story to end in anything less than an HEA and we usually know beforehand if that's the case. So there's always a sense of security there for a happy ending. More than this, the "mating books" and the reason why I think readers find shifter books so popular is that there is an added layer of security there. We know when we're reading a classic shifter book that the characters won't consider hurting the other in any way because they're feelings are almost magical in power. Of course some readers don't like that, but that's what makes that style and type of book more in line with a certain type of fluff, and we often find fluffy books about shifters. This story takes that "mating" type connection and plays with it a little. I won't describe why because much of the realization of their connection comes to Emrys later in the book. Suffice it to say, the relationship is based on a type of security that the characters are meant for one another on a cosmic scale, and that comes across throughout the story and through their emotional and sexual connection.
I was really happy to see that Ms. Rhodes didn't rely on any typical format in structuring the story. It is a second chances type story, but their time apart bisects this book almost cleanly in half with a space of three years. That might throw some readers off as they're rounding the halfway-point, but I didn't mind. And really, besides the fact that this was ultimately just a cute, sweet, easy story to read, it was really nice to see another work published by this author. I know that readers have been waiting patiently (or some impatiently by now!) for more of the Draegon Lords, but I enjoy pretty much everything this author writes, and it was nice to see an addition of her's to the writing released in 2012.(less)
I think I liked this one better than the first story. A little more relationship interaction and the writing in sex scenes was done very well. It was...moreI think I liked this one better than the first story. A little more relationship interaction and the writing in sex scenes was done very well. It was nice to see the POV from Jurgen.(less)
This book once again fell prey to my misread of blurbs tendency. Why do I do that? If...more**spoiler alert** Review posted at The Armchair Reader.
This book once again fell prey to my misread of blurbs tendency. Why do I do that? If you read the blurb, you'll see that this book definitely is about a love triangle and not an m/m/m romance, though the majority of the sex is m/m/m. So, read the blurb carefully people! Why do I never learn my own lessons? For the sake of my own sanity, I'll not write up a summary for this one, and let the author's blurb suffice!
Despite my misread of the blurb, I still enjoyed this story, I was just waiting for all three men to get together. I don't think that it is a spoiler, since the blurb makes mention of it, that the focus is rather on two men who have their sights set on Tate, and not three men together. That said, I liked this story even though I usually hate love triangles. It did what it needed to do in making one character more known to the reader and one more removed, otherwise I would have ended this story being upset one way or the other. The author didn't use the convenient trick of making one of the possible suitors unlikeable, which is handy but overused, and I appreciated that. Still, I did end the story wanting the man who wasn't chosen to get his own HEA, and hoping that the author will write his book.
The sex and BDSM play in this story deserves it's own paragraph, maybe more than one! Though the development of the relationships do get a lot of page time (and I had no criticism of them, which is why I'm not talking much about them), the focus of the BDSM is play rather than lifestyle, or even psychology. Very little is said about that, and the BDSM is focused to scenes. I must admit that I prefer a little psychology in my BDSM books even if the characters aren't looking for a BDSM lifestyle, because I like how it develops the characters. So I did miss that. It made much of this book about sex rather than relationships, even though that does slowly evolve as the book progresses, just not as part of the BDSM. That means that the characters aren't really subs or Doms. Actually, I'm still a little unsure of this. For most of the book, Tate and Sebastian are both subs, but since we never really learn what it brings them, why they need it or want it, etc., I just didn't know what to think when they both change it up. Then, it seems as if the whole time they were working with James to become Doms someday. I think it would have helped to have some clear direction from the beginning, because I got rather confused once all the roles started changing. Perhaps it was my preconceived notions coming into this book that I didn't expect the BDSM to be play only, but then I don't think it was only play. It seemed as if it was just never quite explored.
The murky and less defined rolls bothered me quite a bit, which is the main reason I didn't rate this book higher than Pretty Good. Even if that was the point, however, I still think that the framework of those changing roles should have been outlined in the beginning. There's also some puppy play. I didn't let my feelings about this to affect the rating, because my feelings about it are personal and not a reflection of the book, but it is something that readers might like or not like, and should be mentioned.
In all, I really liked the book and enjoyed it, but I didn't love it. I liked that it was heavy on sex, but I would have preferred some exploration of the BDSM aspect and some reflection on their desires to sub, Dominate or switch. The lack of that discussion made the BDSM in the book more of a tutorial and about play, and while that is fine it wasn't what I was expecting. Also, it took up the majority of the book, with the exploration and development of the relationship to take place apart from the scenes, and there wasn't a lot of time for that to happen, although it wasn't done terribly. I would just have liked to see those two parts of their lives married together a little more.
Thanks for sticking through this jumbled review -- I needed to work through my thoughts about the book. I think the previous paragraph sums up my feelings the best.(less)
The first book I read by CB Conwy was A Russian Bear. I loved it, but at the same time it traumatized me in...moreReview coming soon to The Armchair Reader.
The first book I read by CB Conwy was A Russian Bear. I loved it, but at the same time it traumatized me in some ways. There is one scene, earlier on in the book that deals with CBT (which makes it's return here). That's Cock and Ball Torture to those of you who are uninitiated to the book. I'm not sure if it's because I'm a guy (and not into that sort of play), but I couldn't handle it and fled the book, only to pick it up a few months later, wanting to finish and conquer my fears. To my surprise, nothing was that intense for me after that and I ended up loving the book. It remains one of my favorite m/m BDSM books, even over the sequel with a different couple, Alphabet Soup. I was really excited to see that the author was continuing the series with a sequel of the original couple, whose story really hadn't ended. The end of that first book is where this one picks up.
A Russian Bear tells the beginning of the story of Tom and Mischa. Their relationship evolves quickly, powering through scene after scene while Mischa initiates Tom into the scene. It's almost a who's who of sexual variety, with more types of BDSM and kink play than I've seen in any other book. At the end of the story, Tom is attacked and beaten in a hate crime and spends the end of the book guarded and removed, with Mischa unable to help and both unsure if the Dom/sub side of their relationship will ever come back to them while Tom is constantly afraid and Mischa refuses to hurt the boy he fell in love with.
Happily Ever After tells the rest of that story and lives up to the title. The book starts as they work through the issues the assault caused Tom and the wedge it forced into their relationship. They have to find a new way to work together, a new way of understanding each other and communicating. Finally, they realize that they're going to have to start over again, and once they do, their rediscovery of the play that brings them such intimacy shows them that their relationship has a real future.
This book is so much of a continuation of the book that I think only people who really liked the first book will be fans of this one. Not only because it is essentially the same story, but because it is really very similar to that first book. The majority of the story is again scene after scene, with a different variety of techniques and devices. I won't say they were boring, however. I didn't feel that they were as intense this time around, but that is perhaps because I've read more since that first book and am somewhat desensitized in comparison to before. In some ways, the scenes go further, especially because they have more history and therefore the scenes have a more impactful meaning.
I have the same difficulty with this book as I did the first one. Their relationship is so insular, with hardly any time outside the scene, that the ending seems surprising. The first book that was the assault, which seemed to come from nowhere. In this book, that is Tom's future as he finishes his master's degree. While we do get more time outside the house and their play this time around, with more visits to the club and time spent at the dojo, that doesn't have anything to do with preparing us for the ending and the issues they'll have to work through. Therefore, the end once again seemed to come out of the blue, and on top of that was dealt with rather hastily in the last 8% or so of the book. Otherwise, I still enjoyed this and am a fan of CB Conwy's writing and will encourage other fans to read this book. Anyone who liked A Russian Bear will want to read this and see the end of Mischa and Tom's story. Though there could always be more, this feels like the most natural end for them. Hopefully we can see Toby's story next.(less)
Cain is the owner of La Terraza, a 1920's apartment complex left to him by his grandmother who cared for it and i...moreReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
Cain is the owner of La Terraza, a 1920's apartment complex left to him by his grandmother who cared for it and its tenants lovingly her whole life. He has taken over that cause, dedicating his life to the upkeep of the building and it's colorful inhabitants. But he's barely holding on. Nothing seems to be going right. It is falling apart around him and someone is trying to buy him out -- bully him out is more accurate. He can't find a bank to give him a loan to keep him afloat and he's barely holding on by his grandmother's memory and his own feeling that La Terraza has been his only real home his whole life.
Things look up for Cain when he meets Henry. They have an immediate connection that both want to see grow. Cain is worried, at first, when he finds out that Henry was headhunted by Hamilton-Bach and now holds an architect position there. They are the representation for the unnamed buyer who Cain fears wants to tear down the apartments. Trying to keep the two parts of his life separate seem to be a full time job, but as time goes on and he and Henry get closer, he can't decide which he'll choose if he's forced to make a decision -- the home that he has always loved and the people that depend on him, or the one man who has made him happier than any man has before?
There is so much here that fans of Ethan Day will be excited about -- his usual collection of funny characters and wacky RomCom scenarios, couples that remind me of guys I know in the real world, and a flair for character voice and storytelling that almost sounds as if the author is right there reading to you. But what I love about the books that Ethan has published in 2012 is that he's really progressing as an author. Of course, A Token of Time was a real progression in his craft, where he played with a lot of new themes and genres. Here, Ethan has taken what was once his usual faire, and more subtly crafted it. The evolution of the romantic comedy in his hands is exciting to me. I was so excited to see him branching out, succeeding in writing things other than what we know he does really well. I never really thought to expect a story like Love in La Terraza, which is solid Ethan Day RomCom, but has benefitted from his other new experience to be more finely crafted and honed than his previous books.
I purposefully decided to wait to write my review for a few days after reading this book, because all I wanted to do when I finished it was gush about it. It deserves more than that though, because there is real progression and craft here instead of just a book that I really loved. Sometimes I can LOOVE a book like nothing else and it still be kinda crappy (I know you've all been there). You overlook it's faults because you loved it so much it didn't seem to matter. I didn't want anyone to take my gushing of this book that way because it deserves my sober thoughts ;)
The success of this story is twofold, in my opinion. First, the structure and pace of the story work well together. It is a solid novella with just the right amount of plot for length, which makes the pace natural and easy throughout. It doesn't try to do too much, but focus on the relationship between Cain and Henry (who I adored together) and allow Cain's troubles in keeping La Terraza together unfold. Perhaps it seems so natural because these two plotlines are so well integrated. Much of the story is overtaken by the relationship, but slowly weaved into that as the two get to really know each other is the one obstacle in their path, their opinion on the buyer situation. They both follow their character in their choices which brings them at natural odds. Cain's reluctance to deal with the situation pragmatically (because either way will bring the way of life he knows to an end in some way) is expected and something I understood. Henry's selflessness (be it natural, or his own choice of relationship over career) shows the reason they seem to fit so well together. Their actions and choices form a natural division leading to realistic internal conflict.
Second, the style of the story is reminiscent of an old movie. I'm going to show my lack of knowledge here, but bear with me please. The style and cast of characters is something we all love and can relate to because it has been so successful in the past. There is Cain, the perennial bachelor in the center of couples. He's the lonely captain of a sinking ship surrounded by an eclectic cast of characters. They're drawn together by a love of the setting, and while anything would do in theory, the arrangement of them all in an apartment block or courtyard makes this even more powerful. Cain, as the captain, is the only single welcomed into the fold, but in a way all other singles in the story are suspect (at least where the "family" and the courtyard of La Terraza is concerned). Henry is given a trial period, and everyone else is suspect of the other single in the apartment complex who keeps to himself. This backdrop to the story pulled me in immediately because it is something that we can relate to in common experience through film and literature. Plus, it gives the atmosphere something special, a way for us to feel special and connected with the story, and it allows Ethan to write some truly zany characters (I'll let you discover them on your own!) but still keep some of the humor for Cain and Henry, though albeit, maybe a little toned from characters past.
In the end, I adored Cain and Henry together. What I love so much about them is that they're funny, yes. But mostly, they have fun together and so much of what we see is them building a the relationship that people have in real life. It isn't just what we see in most fiction, or the bullet points that are important in the evolution of a relationship. We also get to see the behind-the-doors camaraderie they're creating together that make them part of a pair, the shared jokes and experiences. We don't often really get to see that in fiction, or at least where it serves a more prominent role than what is typical. That made Cain and Henry really leap off the page for me.
Fans of this author will undoubtedly want to read Love in La Terraza, but I think this is a good entry place for readers not familiar with Ethan Day. It is indicative of his earlier romantic comedies, but a bit shorter and better crafted. Definitely Recommended!(less)
Finally! Another Heaven Sent/Indigo Knights book! It has been a long stretch since the first Indigo Kni...moreReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
Finally! Another Heaven Sent/Indigo Knights book! It has been a long stretch since the first Indigo Knights book, Squire, came out 2 years ago. The spinoff series from Heaven Sent centers around the up and coming band by the same name, Indigo Knights, who is produced by Brent from the former series and band, Heaven Sent, and whom which the character in the first book, Rabin, occasionally showed up in that series. Of course, with all the Heaven Sent guys paired up in their Happily Ever Afters, the guys in the new band need some loving. This series follows the same format as all the books before it -- they're all gay rockers, usually flamboyant, deal with the same issues of being gay in the public eye, having a relationship with groupies around, and having to spend time apart and usually are based on some form of the Gay For You trope. And I fuckin love em. It is a format for sure, they don't differ a whole lot, but it is a perfected one because for some reason I tear through each one wanting more. They're sinfully delicious and Champion follows in the same vein.
Danny Champion is the lead singer of Indigo Knights and frontman for the up and coming band. They're pretty much set, they just haven't got the fans yet. They're really good, they're a solid group of guys that really mesh, and they've got the backing and support of Heaven Sent. It looks like it is all in the cards. For now, it is a waiting game -- a broke waiting game for Danny. He's the poorest of the group, working at a pizzeria in Chicago as they wait for their club tour to start and for Heaven Sent to finish recording their album and sharing an apartment with a computer nerd who rarely dresses or leaves their building. Cash is still adorable though, even though he's straight. Danny has a major crush on him. When they start talking about romance, and Cash seems completely befuddled with romance of any kind, Danny sets out to get closer to his roommate, with very unexpected consequences.
This is one of my favorite pairings of the stories so far. I occasionally grew impatient with how insanely clueless and stubborn Cash is, but overall I found the dynamic created by the sexy uninhibited Danny and the naive Cash who is out of touch with own feelings and emotions. It is as if Cash has never learned how to connect with himself. He's never asked himself the questions most of us do and he's coasted through life without a connection of any kind with another person. Sure, he's straight, if you consider that he's never really even thought about his feelings or characterized them. This made one thing prominent in their romance that I really liked -- Cash is an open book, lending their relationship to all different kind of possibilities (which Danny has a lot of fun exploring!).
There are a lot of fans of these series, as well as Jet Mykles in general. I can say that I completely understand where the admiration comes from. These books combine serious issues in a light and sexy tone. They don't diverge into uncharted territory and are sexy as hell. Fans of this author will definitely want to read this newest book. Reading it make me want to go back and re-read the entire Heaven Sent series over again… except for the girly one ;)
Your reception to this story will depend on how seriously you take it. It is written with a bit of a laugh at its...moreReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
Your reception to this story will depend on how seriously you take it. It is written with a bit of a laugh at itself, not to be taken too seriously. I could see that from the start, which is why I ultimately liked the story and was able to get into it right away.
Larry and his boyfriend Greg have been together several months now and both want to take their relationship further. Though his feelings are deepening for Greg, that presents a couple of problems for Larry. First, Larry is feeling stifled by Greg's rather careful sexual appetites and his insistence on bottoming, when sometimes all Larry wants is to be thrown to the ground and ravaged. And second, some very telling signs are adding up that make Larry very suspicious. Greg has been gone several days a month "fixing" things for his family. It looks very much like Greg is hiding an affair and Larry wants the total truth, or he's gone. The answer he finds though, is definitely not what he was expecting, and he doesn't know if he can believe Greg's story that he turns into an Alpha personality. When he sees the tape of the transformation, he's awed, excited, and confused. Greg seems to change into another person entirely -- a huge man that looks and acts completely different. And no matter Greg's warnings that the man he turns into, Deke, is dangerous, Larry is excited to find out first hand.
I was a bit confused initially why Deke, the alter-Alpha Dominant was called a werewolf, but I ran with it. It is an interesting concept. They don't turn into wolves at all but rather a personification of the attitude of an Alpha wolf. All Deke really wants is to eat and fuck, and Larry's poor, neglected ass is thrilled at the opportunity of Greg finally laying into him after being so carefully reserved in their relationship. But what Larry doesn't understand is that Greg and Deke really aren't the same person. Like the wolf inside the man in most shifter stories, Deke is a separate part of Greg that the virus caused in him (also by a bite). When the full moon comes, Deke appears and he is not happy that he's being kept locked and chained indoors while Greg lives his life. In the past, Deke had been let out to play at night until Greg became scared he couldn't trust him. Deke is on a mission though, a revenge plot to kill the Alpha who turned him and killed all of his friends in a fire. That Alpha, Blayne, is now in town and he wants Larry to unlock him, feed him and service him so that he can get on with his mission.
Larry is a bit of a slut, but that's okay and all in keeping with the tone of the story :) He's simply begging for it, and also won't be turned away from following Deke on his mission. He finally balks at the idea of going to a sex club where he has to play the slave, but eventually does what he needs to do to help Deke find Blayne, while finding that he enjoys the play as well. And Deke needs him. His desire for sex is so strong that it lies like a fog over his rationality, and in the middle of a sex club, the fact that Deke might be able to concentrate on his task is laughable.
I liked this in keeping with the spirit of the story. It doesn't take itself seriously and is funny and sexy and playful. There really isn't much romance here, or at least not a plausible one, though I liked the way that Deke and Greg changed over the course of the story when forced to work together. Greg isn't in the picture much, and it is hard to reconcile that he and Deke are (of a sense) the same person. The lack of his presence in the story when Deke takes up so much of the time with Larry meant that Greg's return was a little anticlimactic for me. Ultimately though, it is hard to take even the criticism of this story seriously because of the way the story is told. So, while I didn't love it, I liked it and it was definitely fun to read!(less)
If nothing else, this spinoff story of the In This Land serial is a wonderful excuse to get to spend some more time with Orinakin and Bade, the origin...moreIf nothing else, this spinoff story of the In This Land serial is a wonderful excuse to get to spend some more time with Orinakin and Bade, the original couple and one that -- now that we've moved on in the serial to other brothers and their love stories -- have made less and less appearances as they travel around the world, separate from the main story.
As a story itself, it's similar in many ways to the main serial. Of course, the few main characters are ones we already know quite well (Orinakin, Bade and Rini, oh Rini!). There's also the trademark excess detail which outlines something that is probably most important to anyone interested in reading this: while it's possible to read this as a standalone, the world here would mostly fall flat if you haven't read at least the Purple Book of the In This Land serial (Chapters 1-77). If you were to read this story without knowing these three main characters, anything about the Seven Siblings, the children of the gods, Anosukinom, Orina Anoris, or the tangible impact that the gods have on real life, then you're only getting half of the story. And yes, there's a lot of extraneous detail. One of the biggest problems I had with In This Land (which, keep in mind, I totally love and am addicted to) is some of the outrageous detail, especially in names and stuff. But the more I kept reading the serial, and the more I became invested in it, the less it mattered to me. I think if I had read this book without reading any of the serial first, I wouldn't have appreciated it nearly as much. Some of those things might have really bothered me. Keeping the characters and their respective countries straight in this book is a bit of a nightmare, but I just rolled with the punches and eventually, around about the end of the book, LOL, they finally sorted themselves out in my mind.
The mystery was sufficiently difficult for me to be interested but not too overly complicated in the end. Some of that detail in keeping the different parties separate from one another played a part in that. And throughout it all we get to see Rini behaving in his naturally slutty ways. That breaks the tone nicely and keeps a similar light and erotic mood similar to the serial.
If only we could get some more spin off stories like this! The serial just doesn't move fast enough for me. It's so in depth into their lives, that even though I feel fortunate that we get a fairly long weekly update when we could get bi-monthly updates or even monthly updates or less often like other serials, the story still moves at a glacial pace! I suppose I'll just have to start it all over again *sigh*. What a hardship!(less)
A Christmas story in July, Laura Baumbach's latest paranormal short story is at once contemporary and historical,...moreReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
A Christmas story in July, Laura Baumbach's latest paranormal short story is at once contemporary and historical, recounting the beginning of the relationship between Ian, a vampire and lover of the theater, and Trevor, an actor in a stage adaptation of Frankenstein in London in the early 1800s. Told through one long flashback and bracketed by their present time relationship, Ian and Trevor both have emotions and guilt that they've not completely worked through over the centuries they've been together. These issues come to a head every Christmas, keeping them apart until they can hopefully overcome them.
The blurb pretty much tells the story here, and I wondered after I started reading and realized how central the theme of Christmas is to the story if it were published now so as not to fall into the masses of Christmas stories later this year. Possibly, it definitely stands out more this way, and the theme of Christmas, of the savior and the will of good to all that are so central to these characters stand out thematically instead of as a prerequisite backdrop to the events in the story.
Overall, this is pretty typical vampire fare. There isn't anything new, but it is still solidly well written, like the rest of this author's writing. Much of the relationship is shown through Ian and Trevor's passionate sexual connection, most especially in the historical section of the story. Whatever the reason for this is, be it the short length, or the combination of the newness of their relationship at the time (and therefore highly sexual as they are) and the dichotomous contemporary scenes where their relationship has matured, I would have been a bit happier with more of the growing relationship, especially in relation to the climatic scene where Ian must make the choice to save or not save Trevor from death. The way this middle section is give to us is with little narration bridging the scenes of them together, and with many of those scenes being sexual, it left less room for other relationship growth.
I had no qualms with the historical detail in the story. It is certainly underplayed, but is still sparks subtly against the modern portrayal of London. The back alleys of London which set the scene for two of the critical pieces of the story both contrast and compare in subtle but important ways that neither distract from the story, but also differentiate.
This wasn't a story that really wowed me, but then I can see it isn't meant to. The story works nicely and is written well on the vampire lore we are already familiar with, making this a story that is great for readers who are looking for something simple, and perhaps a little bit of Christmas during the dog days of summer.(less)
Not a lot more than some hot smut. It was pretty sweet and pretty short for being split between two couples, but I needed to tur...more2.5 stars (rounded up)
Not a lot more than some hot smut. It was pretty sweet and pretty short for being split between two couples, but I needed to turn my brain off for a while and this was good for that. Plus, I mean, it's brothercest and I always love that!(less)