I've been excited about this new story from Kate McMurray ever since she visited the blog in June for Kate McMurrReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
I've been excited about this new story from Kate McMurray ever since she visited the blog in June for Kate McMurray Week. It's another baseball story and though I first thought that it might be a spinoff/sequel, or in some way related to Out in the Field because the main character Mark works at Sports Net, it seems to have no connection.
The premise is a roommates-to-lovers story, when Justin visits Mark about a listing looking for a roommate to share his Brooklyn apartment. They find that though they're different in a lot of ways -- Mark is painfully shy in front of an outgoing and hunky Justin -- they also have some things in common. Justin was once a baseball player, a pitcher for the Brooklyn Cyclones, before an injury forced him off of the field and into a coaching job. Mark works for Sports Net, writing about baseball statistics, but he's never been an athlete himself no matter how much he enjoys the game. But most of all, Mark is just glad that a normal and sane person came in reply to his listing and actually wants to rent the room, no matter the fact that Justin is so hot it might be impossible for Mark to actually have a conversation with him.
After a little while, when the awkwardness of sharing a home with a stranger starts to abate and the two start to get to know one another, they both start to see that they're unhappy in their lives. Justin is having a hard time coaching those who he knows will go on to have the career that he always wanted and coaching isn't giving him the same thrill that playing did. Mark really wants to have a relationship and he confesses to Justin that he doesn't know if he could ever meet someone because he's so shy. So, the two decide to help the other out -- Justin tells Mark that he'll help him find a guy and Mark tells Justin that he'll help him find something he's passionate about, just as he was playing baseball.
Even though this had less baseball in it than I expected, I really quite enjoyed this story. It probably isn't going to get rave reviews because it's a short story and I have a feeling that a lot of readers are going to want more from this couple and feel like this story is too short. I don't really think that's true. We aren't presented with a couple here that has issues they have to work through, together and individually, that will take them a long time to process in order to get their HEA. They're more of a simple couple that takes a small amount of time and a little nudge to see that they could be good together. And that was fine with me, I finished the story enjoying it for what it was and feeling satisfied.
Fans of Kate McMurray will definitely want to read this story. All of the things that I like about her writing were presented here, like her love of Brooklyn and baseball, and I really liked how the food and cooking classes brought them together (food can definitely do that!). It was a nice story, sweet and light, and enough to tide me over for more of her work to come....more
Hot Hands was by far my favorite story in Erica Pike's College Fun and Gay series, so you can imagine my excitement when she said that she was writing a sequel. Cold Hands is almost as much of an antithesis to that first story as it's title. Hot Hands introduces us to Casper -- a college student who was brutally bullied, more like abused, in high school for being gay -- and his ex-bully and middle school crush Jaime. Casper shows up to college and is surprised and devastated to learn that one of the ring leaders of the guys who tormented him is not only there but also in some of his classes. He does everything he can to avoid Jaime, but doesn't know that a lot of Jaime's bullying stemmed from his own awakening homosexual feelings towards Cass. His physical and emotional abuse for most of his teen years have really impacted him. He's shy and doesn't understand why he's still attracted to one of the men who abused him, which also messes with his head. His attachments soon turn to another man, however, a man he starts to call "Hot-Hands" because of the way the man's hands draw him out and make him feel sexy and interesting whenever he's accosted by this same hard-breathing man in the dark. It's a serious case of having a secret admirer, but Casper has his suspicions and soon finds them proven wrong. All that time, Casper had inadvertently been giving himself up to the man who caused him so much pain and now he's more confused than ever.
Cold Hands resumes this story from Jaime's point of view, which is a serious change in how we understand the story. Cass is a thinker who constantly analyzes his feelings and thoughts, but because of their unique relationship he knows very little about what Jaime really thinks and Jaime's motives. The change in point of view starts this sequel off on a different foot. We immediately see that Jaime has real regret about the way he treated Cass in the past and that his feelings now are genuine, and also that he's a different man now. He understands himself and has grow up in the two years they spend apart. Now, he's out of the closet and over the shame that he grew up with from a conservative family and town. Still, Cass doesn't know that. He's still confused about Jaime's motives and his own. How can he trust himself and his feelings if he's seriously considering having a relationship with his abuser?
The real difference between the first story and the second isn't the point of view, but in the focus of their relationship. If you look at these stories together as one, then this story is the payoff. The first was the setup, the background and the premise -- the meetings in the dark with Casper's "secret admirer" and the subsequent reveal of his real identity -- but, Cold Hands is the meat and bones of their relationship. This story carries on to peel back the layers and find out if these guys have a solid base to build any relationship upon and how they go about doing that. The change in point of view facilitates that because by nature of their relationship as abuser/victim, Jaime automatically sees the bigger picture than Cass. Casper is still mired in confusion about his feelings and dealing with understanding Jaime and his actions and in evidence of how that abuse affected him, he's battling his own self-esteem.
I'm so glad that Erica decided to continue their story because I think that it is only in retrospect that this story feels as if it completed the first. Cold Hands makes the whole story better by giving us a chance to see them work through the consequences of their actions in the first story, and that in turn gives them the HEA they deserve. This also shows in the sex in both stories. So much of the first story takes place while Casper thinks "Hot-Hands" is someone else entirely that a lot of those scenes were exploratory, sexy and hot in a situational way, playing on the mysterious suitor with a dirty and exhibitionist twist. I read that story as a really good piece of erotica with an engaging plot. This story moves their physical relationship into a place of intimacy, so much so that it's often too difficult for Casper to really handle.
I definitely recommend these stories to all of you, though you absolutely have to read Hot Hands first. Well done Erica and thank you for writing this story so I could spend more time with Cass and Jaime!...more
The first of a three part serialized novella called Conflict, Contact sets up this science fiction and space explReview 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....more
Oh Carole… I just had so much fun reading that. You know, Carole has said several times that she thanksReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
Oh Carole… I just had so much fun reading that. You know, Carole has said several times that she thanks Fen for this book. Fen, for those of you who might not know, is her main character from the Wolf's-own series and his head is just a mess of angst. It's all for good reason because Fen lives in a really messed up world, but back to Carole. She has said that she needed to go somewhere happy, somewhere carefree after spending so much time (4 novels!) in his head. And I'm glad she did. This book is definitely the antithesis of those, of course with the exception of writing talent. I'm glad that I knew that about this book going in, because otherwise I might have been expecting a more serious style than her previous two series.
The book opens with one of the most hilarious chapters I've ever read. It is so easy to become endeared with Lucas, especially in the inner drunk ramblings of his mind at his first visit to a tavern. Trouble doesn't really come until he's had one too many and decides that it wouldn't be too unseemly to have a pee outside, where he promptly becomes entangled with a bush. In a cruel twist of fate, someone seems him -- pants partially open and wrestling with the arms of his coat -- a man with long silver hair and speaking a lot of nonsense. It doesn't seem too strange in his ale fuzzy brain when the man simply disappears after a whole lot of yelling words that neither understands back and forth but well, he's still stuck in the bush.
When the man starts turning up in strange places to again shout incomprehensible words at him, Lucas starts to become alarmed. Especially when the man starts stealing his books. But it isn't until his sister's suitor disappears and Lucas is begged to find him that he runs into the man again, this time speaking some words Lucas understands. What he hears alarms him, especially because it appears that the man wants something from him and in the meantime intends to kidnap his cousin the prince as a trade. Lucas is so dead for losing the prince, but he knows that he has to do something to get Laurie back.
Really, the best part of this book are the characters. There is such a wonderful cast of characters that all have their own well-rounded personalities, characteristics and motives. But they have such a great banter. In reading the prior work from Carole Cummings, I always admired her writing which is at the same time intelligent and accessible, but I also never knew that she could write in such a playful way! It is really a delight to read. And just the same as it was for her, I think this is a really good book to read when you need a break from something, or from reading a more intense book. When I first talked to her about this book she referred to it as fluff, to which I immediately replied that I thought she could probably never write fluff. But I know exactly what she means now. This is a book you should read just for the pure enjoyment of getting out of your own head and into someone else's for a while. And Lucas' head isn't a bad place to be ;)
There is quite a lot of banter between the characters, but mostly in the narration. Carole has written Lucas to have an imaginative mind that often banters with itself. That's why I think this is a good book to read when you really need a break, because while the plot in this story is interesting in and of itself, sometimes the focus wavers from it to Lucas' own thoughts, and those often take precedence over the action. Now, if you followed my advice then this is just a nice detour, but if you're really focused on the plot and pacing then you might find yourself swept away on the tide of his thoughts. Sometimes the banter -- Lucas' runaway thoughts -- seem to get in the way of the action a bit. And while I always enjoyed what he was thinking (and occasionally talking about with Alex) sometimes the timing is inopportune. Occasionally I wanted to smack him and tell him to pay attention!
Still, that is minor criticism on my part and I really, sincerely hope that Carole continues to explore this quirky side of her writing. Hopefully in the future we can get those style alternately -- a book like Fen's that rips out your heart and completely sweeps you away and then something later to cool you down and look on the sunny side of life.
**I didn't categorize this as a romance. This is really a fantasy book to me. Sure, Lucas is madly in love with Alex and vice versa, but the story isn't about their relationship. Their relationship is part of the story....more
To see my review of And So It Begins from last Friday, click here.
I will admit that I'm a little bit confused. This review came down to the wire, writing this right at 7am Monday morning because I wanted to get the review up for release day. So, I didn't have time to look around and try to find out more about this series. So, if anyone does know and I make a mistake in my review, please let me know. From what I can gather only from reading these two books, they were one book that was broken in two. For some reason I had assumed that there were more after this but from the way this ended, which pretty much everything wrapped up and with and HEA, this is the final book in the Prince and Trader series.
We left And So it Begins with Kherin in Gravlorn at the northern border of Llarien in a war against the people of the Northern Plains. They have been sneaking into the Defender camp seemingly at will and no one, including the princes, can figure out how. Or, more importantly -- why. And then after their confrontations no one can figure out how they slink away back across the border. Kherin's plan, while his brother Adrien is still getting better from his own run in with the northern tribes, is twofold: either try to figure out what is going on and get some information from the northern prisoner he captured, or try to sneak across the border with a small contingent of Defenders to find some information about the people they're fighting.
In the meantime, Kherin's new relationship with the King's trader, Derek, is on the rocks. Though they committed to one another on the eve of Derek's departure to gain more information in the seaside port of Dennor, where a revolution has been stirring among the children of the city officials to find the magical power of the ancient people to use for themselves, Kherin and Derek's separation leave them both unsure of the other's real feelings. Still, Derek has his duty to the King, Kherin's father, to find out all the information he can and no one has a better idea of how that information might help Kherin's current war more than Derek. The information he finds in Dennor is more than he ever expected. The scholar Dar is there, waiting for him in his alley way and still denying the uprising their information. But, Derek meets another man there he never expected, Tristan. The man who was fired from his job in the royal stables because of his sexual relationship with the prince has grown violent in his anger, and may pose a threat that the trader and prince never expected.
It is only when the two can find themselves reconciled and able to share information that they might finally understand what is going on and find a way to save Llarien for good.
As I mentioned before, I do think that some of my enjoyment of this book was robbed. Maybe that's a harsh word. But, all I know is that because this was labeled as a series I suppose I had the idea that this wasn't the end. So my mind kept expecting the book to go farther than where it did. I don't lay the blame for that anywhere in particular. I certainly could have done more research to find out if this was just really one book that was broken up and I wouldn't have had that problem. But I will also say that I probably wouldn't have had that problem if this book was presented as just a standalone book, even if it was around 150k words in the end. Maybe that's a hard sell, such a long book for Dreamspinner. I don't know all the reasons that went into the choice to split this book up into two, it might be something else completely that I don't know. So, it's fine and I understand. But, I would like to see more from this couple. Because even though my expectations weren't met, that doesn't mean that I didn't really like this book (counting as one, of course). The writing is simply beautiful and I've already gone back to find the books that I've missed by RG Green to read.
Because of the split, I did feel like I lost a bit of the romantic momentum in the second book. The first book is continuous in the relationship between Kherin and Derek, right up until the end where their relationship solidifies. I think that the split in the book added with their separation in the book for the first half of this sequel lost some of those momentum and I never quite found the same tension between them. This book, the second half of the story, was almost entirely about the external plot. And while it did come together nicely, I think I did feel a bit of a letdown because I was expecting the book to go further than it did, so the wrap-up seemed a little too nice. I'm not letting that affect the rating, because as I said before I don't want to place the blame for that in any specific place, especially when I could have, hopefully, found out that information myself, but it is the way it is.
But this book really made me appreciate this author's writing. These two books are the first I've read by RG Green, and I'm looking forward to reading more in the future. Hopefully, she'll continue writing fantasy as well even if she's finished with this couple and world. It would be nice to see their journey's however, if she does have anything more planned for them :) So, definitely, I recommend these books. I really liked them and I had a great time with this story. Just make sure you have both books handy to read back to back ;)...more
I won't be the first to rave about how I love Amy Lane (and her books too), but I really, really love when she coReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
I won't be the first to rave about how I love Amy Lane (and her books too), but I really, really love when she comes out with a lighter story between all those angsty ones. I'm trying to work my way back into reading all of those (the Johnnies booksscare me), but I think that the fluffy and sweet ones will always be my favorites -- at the moment that crowning achievement goes to the Knitting series books, which I gleefully reviewed last year.
This novella is a bit along those lines. While not really fluffy, they're definitely light and sweet compared to some of her other work. Carson fucked up. He hasn't had sex in months and his boss' nephew Stassy has been giving him all kinds of come-ons at the restaurant. So when Stassy follows Carson into a pantry closet in the kitchen and then promptly flees, a look of upset confusion on his face after a full body kiss from Carson, Carson feels like a douche. Obviously the kid is gay, but it seems like he isn't quite sure about it. And Carson thought he was finally going to get some action in his dry spell, even if the small and cute Stassy isn't quite his type. He might have been able to put the whole incident out of his head if Stassy hadn't run away to Florida the next day. It's been two weeks and the boss wants Carson to drive down to Florida and bring the kid back home. He doesn't have much of a choice -- the boss is worried about Stassy -- but it isn't just that the boss of his restaurant is another kind of Boss in Chicago, but that of all things, Carson feels guilty that kid ran away right after he kissed him. Doesn't seem like a coincidence.
The biggest surprise of all awaits Carson when he reaches the small beach town in Florida where Stassy is holed up. The Bates Parrot Motel turns out to be just like it sounds, which isn't much comfort. The place is so run down it looks like it's growing it's own species of serial killer. Parrots in crusty, shit-lined cages squawk over his hearing of the undead looking lady at the reception desk. Though his boss is paying for the room, not even the prospect of getting to Stassy quickly can quell his fear of staying in this place for the night. A tour of the place shows everything from mold to insects to dried jizz, or whatever that mystery stain is. The Motel 8 across the street looks much comfier.
It isn't until the next morning that Carson prepares to visit Stassy and load him up to drive back home. A breakfast at the diner across the road turns up a killer plate of fried heart attack and a heaping dose of too-cute waiter. Flip-flops, cutoffs, and a charming smile continually come back to his table to chat him up. An equal opportunity Carson wouldn't have a problem taking Dale the waiter back to his room for the afternoon, it's only the women he seems to want to settle down with, but the disarming smile and quick wit soon have Carson spilling way more info than he intended. Before he realizes it, Carson has company on his trek across the road to the Bates Parrot Motel to find their runaway. Unfortunately, what they find in the room isn't Dimpled Blondie, but dead body covered in lye.
It looks like some major trouble for Stassy. Carson knows his task has changed -- now he has to take care of the kid too, and by extension the kid's new boyfriend -- and it looks like it won't be difficult to surpass the small town police in the intelligence and sleuthing departments. Dale is along for the ride, wanting to help his friend (Stassy's new boyfriend) and using the time to get to know Carson better. It doesn't take a whole lot of time to see how good they are together. They're both men who have small town dreams and are more content to enjoy today than plan tomorrow's.
Every now and then Amy Lane pulls a page out of Mary Calmes' book and really gives the language and rhythm of her book a makeover. The beauty of this one is all in the words, thick in Carson's voice and then shared by Dale in their rapid-fire dialogue. That, and Carson's humor (though he often fails in comparison to Dale's), are what originally bring these two characters together. Yes, they're working together to solve a mystery, but it's largely on the back burner for most of the book. The time they spend together is mostly them driving around, eating and talking and getting to know each other. And I found their conversations completely charming.
Speaking of the mystery, I thought that it wasn't really the focus of the book. For the largest part of the book they aren't actively working on it. Instead, it's used as a device to bring them together and keep them together while they find out enough about each other to want to stay together. So, in some ways, the mystery failed for me. Or, perhaps I shouldn't use the word fail, since that would imply that the mystery was the focus of the book. Rather, I found the mystery a bit anticlimactic. It was really funny, in it's own way ;) but it wasn't what held my attention about this book.
Amy Lane fans will want to snatch this one up, of course, if they haven't already. It's short and funny and charming, so you can't really go wrong. Carson's voice might be somewhat difficult for some readers to get into, but that probably depends on how you usually feel about strong voices. As for me, I love them. And I continue to love Amy Lane :)...more