Such a wonderful story for my prompt earlier this year, I've been looking forward to it! I just read it, so I'll have my review up on 8/17 at The ArmcSuch a wonderful story for my prompt earlier this year, I've been looking forward to it! I just read it, so I'll have my review up on 8/17 at The Armchair Reader....more
I'm really happy that Sara Alva asked me to specifically review this short story of hers. Many of you will have rReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
I'm really happy that Sara Alva asked me to specifically review this short story of hers. Many of you will have read it, I know, because it's a free short from the m/m Goodreads Romance Group's LHNB event. I usually keep up a little better with the stories than I have this year and I also try to do a couple mass reviews of some of my favorites. But, I've really missed most of them, just because there have been too many new releases this summer! And way too many of them that I've wanted to review :) Thankfully, Sara did ask me to review this one and I'm really glad she did because it was so cute and a real joy to read.
Simon is with his father, mother and sister on vacation in Costa Rica where his father is in development of vacation homes. It's the few weeks after finals just at the start of the summer and Simon is in a bit of a quandary. His boyfriend back at college, Leo, has pretty much parted his company without much fanfare, giving Simon a "let's see what happens over the summer" goodbye that pretty much means he just wants to fuck whomever he likes until Simon is back to be his bedwarmer throughout the year. Leo is a little bit cruel, but even if he isn't what Simon really wants, he's what he's got and Simon figures that he shouldn't give up on a solid thing himself.
What better for him to do than try to find a summer fling himself? At least so that he doesn't go back to Leo having pined for him all summer. But Simon doesn't really know how to go about catching someone's eye. There are a lot of cute guys at the beach of their resort and it seems so easy for his sister Alyssa to catch a cute guy. It isn't until he stumbles up on the local migration of sea turtles hatching on the beach at night that he meets Juan.
Juan is a local that doesn't show much faith in another American tourist at first, especially when the two get off to such an inauspicious start. But Simon rallies and when he actually shows interest in the turtles, Juan invites him to help with his nightly duties. It doesn't take them long to find a chemistry between them, but even if Simon did start to have feelings for Juan, there's no chance of anything happening when he lives thousands of miles away.
This is such a perfect and sweet vacation fling story and this author does it in a way that sets it apart. There's no easy out that things could continue in the future, that one could stay or the other could follow at the end of their fling. There are real differences between them. But we get to that point by getting to know the two of them in all of their awkwardness and by doing so their relationship has heart where other stories with a similar premise might not. And that's because there are such differences between them. Juan is a local who has had only too many opportunities to get to know different kinds of people, but so many of them through the facade of the resort, bringing him into contact with a type of person that he can't understand might not be rich or spoiled. He's someone who has to work hard for what he has, battle his own family against his sexuality, and then battle the people he comes in contact with every summer to be seen as more than a stupid village boy. Though they come from different worlds, Simon is different. He can't seem to make himself believe that their fling could be no-strings attached. He just doesn't know how. And part of that is because he's the type of person who would find interest in the beauty of the turtles and understand the beauty in what Juan sees everyday.
I don't know Sara Alva well. And this is the first work of hers that I've read -- no matter how many times I've remembered how much I want to read Social Skills. But, I can see from reading this story that she's someone who really cares about what she writes and that she writes because she loves it. I'm not an author, but I can understand that. I want to read Social Skills now more than ever, because I feel into her prose and it was so easy and comforting to get lost in. I'm excited to see what to make of a longer story. It doesn't hurt that I've had so many people tell me to read it by now ;)
If you missed this one in all the crush of the free stories this summer, then definitely go get it. It's sweet and heartfelt and you'll probably find a new author that you like....more
No matter how much I've wanted to read Jacob Flores' prior books, this is the first one that I really had the timReview 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....more
I'm always eager to pick up a baseball book and even though I've been interested in several and still plan to revReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
I'm always eager to pick up a baseball book and even though I've been interested in several and still plan to review a few of them, it has been a while since I've picked up a book from DSP's young adult imprint. From what I gather in the acknowledgements, this is Will Parkinson's debut novel. Sometimes it's a gamble picking books to read by a new author or an author I've never read, but that's another part of reviewing that I like. Reviewing gives me the opportunity to read new authors and it feels like I get to enjoy more of the perks, like finding a surprise that's worth it. Often, it's different though and while I like some of those books I also don't like some of them. I'm afraid to say that this book fell into the latter camp for me. While it wasn't a total disappointment, I just didn't connect with the book.
Taylor is a gay sophomore in a Milwaukee, Wisconsin high school. His best friend Benny is straight and the only person alive who knows his secret. They're best friends and always have been and Benny is a rather special guy that is wise beyond his years, intelligent and loyal. Pitch opens on the day that a new student starts at Taylor's school. Jackson walks into Taylor's homeroom, looking nervous and totally sexy and Taylor immediately wants to draw him. What follows over the next year is an intense unrequited love that just doesn't seem to go away, no matter how hard Taylor tries and Benny cautions. No matter how much Taylor is told that Jackson is disgusted by his little boy crush from Jackson's cheerleader girlfriend, Taylor just can't seem to stay away.
It isn't until he and Benny gain some perspective on their problems during the next summer, camp counseling for abused kids, that Taylor starts to grow up. He still has feelings for Jackson, but he's less likely now to follow him around like a lost puppy. So when a kid from a neighboring school asks him out during their Halloween dance, Taylor decides to take him up on it. He really starts to like Kevin, but he is prey unknowingly walking into Kevin's trap. It takes some extremely tough decisions and way too much heartbreak and drama to realize that much of what he thought before wasn't true, about most of the people he knew.
There are two aspects of this novella that I had a difficult time with. The first are the characters. This, especially, is subjective. Part of what oftentimes makes a young adult novel good are the bad choices of the characters. More often than not young adult stories have a moral and it can walk a fine line in the hands of the author between preachy and poignant. The style of this story went a bit over the top and that just wasn't something that I was really looking for. For high school students, who I freely admit can be some of the cruelest humans on Earth, many of the actions of these characters went beyond immature and foolhardy. I would have appreciated the characters and their decisions (even the bad ones) more if their actions had been more subtle and less ascribed to their particular archetype. Kevin's actions in particular required me to suspend disbelief a few times.
As I said before, those decisions and your own feelings about them are more subjective than usual. My other problem with this story was in the writing. I applaud this author for writing and writing and sharing their work. But like many new authors I think that there were some fundamental writing problems that this author needs to work on. Mostly it will just take continued writing, so even though this book wasn't for me, I sincerely hope that this author keeps up with it. Part of the novice prose problems were dialogue and restraint. In a way, the second has quite a bit to do with the first. This book didn't fall into too bad of a habit of telling rather than showing, but there is importance in letting the characters express themselves in their own ways instead of being a vehicle to express the author's view. I'm not talking about preaching about issues or anything like that here. I simply mean the difference between the characters' observations and personality and the author's. Almost continually there were times while reading this that I stopped and thought that a character wouldn't say or think that. The dialogue, in a similar way, oftentimes sounded familiar for all the characters and didn't seem to represent the individual characters. Restraint is important because readers don't need all the information. It's a partnership, you know? The readers picks up on the clues the author leaves and pieces them together and in that way one small action tells you more about the character than a whole page of narration.
Ultimately, this book just wasn't for me because of the more dramatic plot twists. I have seen a couple of 5-star reviews around so I'll be interested to see if any other readers/reviewers feel the way I do, or if this turns out to be a reader favorite. I've been a part of the more unpopular opinion before!...more
What a wonderful surprise for me to find another Aidan and Liam book out! For some reason, I thought thaReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
What a wonderful surprise for me to find another Aidan and Liam book out! For some reason, I thought that after book four, Olives for the Stranger that the series was finished, so getting a new book and the possibility of even more after this (it sure seems like it) makes me so happy! Liam and Aidan are a couple that I've kept with since I read their first book Three Wrong Turns in the Desert several years ago. Each book is heavy on action/adventure and a serious dose of hot and heavy macho action. How could I not fall in love? Besides, I've always been drawn to Mr. Plakcy's work. I really enjoy his style.
The fifth installment in this series diverges from the rest right at the start. Though we know Liam and Aiden well in Tunisia where they met and have previously worked as bodyguards, they moved at the end of the fourth book to France and are now living in Nice. Both of them think that they moved to primarily make the other happy, but the truth is that having less freedom is somewhat constricting to them both, because Liam doesn't always like being told what to do and because Aidan usually does what he can to defer to his more senior partner and lover and because he generally ends up trying to please him anyway. This results in it's own set of complications and when Liam and Aidan take on a new case in Corsica protecting a mine owner's family from threats by Corsican nationalists to preserve the island from drilling, they both spend much of their time there working through their own issues about their relationship. Aidan wonders if he's doomed to play the doormat when once again Liam takes the active role in their operation and Aidan feels that he's undervalued. Liam is forced to confront his past when they find that the son in the family they're protecting, Michel, is in the closet and secretly in love with his father's biggest adversary's son. It might be a classic star-crossed lovers tale with a bent twist, but the interactions between scared, closeted and teenaged Michel and his blithely criticizing father force him to confront his own feelings about his past and his development into his only real relationship -- with Aidan. Liam has never considered himself as any kind of commodity, until recently mostly avoiding his sexuality except in the basest of situations, but their friend Louis makes a comment that shows him he just might be attractive to other men. That leads him to consider his relationship with Aidan and his feelings about sleeping with other men.
Their main issue in Corsica, nonetheless, is keeping their client's safe, not angsting about the issues in their relationship.
This book (like the last one) was both an enjoyment to read and a bit of a disappointment. The pure adventure and excitement that I'm used to from the earlier plots in this series seem to have gone away. On the other hand, I think that Plakcy, better than most writers in the m/m romance genre anyway, seem to have a real knack for writing about the issues that crop up in long lasting relationships. They're the everyday issues -- communication, self-esteem in relationship to your partner, jealousy -- and they're handled responsibly. Sure they might cause a bit of angst, but I like the format of this series because the external adventure/mystery plot takes some of the focus away. The plot doesn't need to be built on those internal relationship issues to carry the story, so those real-to-life relationship issues seem to carry the modest weight that is natural. Of course they're important but they aren't life or death issues that need to much focus. I'm not saying that I don't enjoy a classic relationship-centric contemporary romance, but Aidan and Liam feel more real to me because while I might have to occasionally suspend disbelief at their gun-toting, crime-solving antics, the relationship at the center is down to earth and totally believable.
I remain a fan of this series. I probably always will be. But, I think I might need to shift my expectation of the future books. From here on, I'm going to look forward more to the relationship than the external plot. It might bring me some enjoyment, but so far the last few just haven't been nearly as satisfying as the first ones. I will say that I found Liam and Aidan's physical relationship in this book somewhat disappointing. I'm not sure why the author didn't include much sex (hardly any!). One of the draws to this series for me has been the hot and heavy sex between these two men. Maybe the author is trying to shift the overall arc in another direction? Or, perhaps, the plot in this book just didn't fit with the two getting hot and heavy. But I sure hope that when these two come back for book six that they'll be getting it on in all kinds of weird places like they used to!...more
It's been a while since I read a Hayden Thorne novel and now I remember exactly why I always want to reReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
It's been a while since I read a Hayden Thorne novel and now I remember exactly why I always want to read them! She has a particular quirky brain that makes her books unique in a way that always pulls me in. This wasn't my favorite of her books, but it might be hard to top the Masks books anyway. Still, by the end of this book, I liked it and I really liked Noah.
Noah is fifteen and out of school. After a bad situation at his last public school, where some kids bullied him and he fought back, getting suspended, his super awesome single mom Dot went ape-shit on the administration for their blatant disregard of the bullying in their school and pulled Noah out. Since then, he's been staying at home while his mother works two jobs and looks for a new, more inclusive school. Noah and his mom are pretty close, they're their only family and they stick together. Well, Noah does have grandparents (Dot's parents), but they really aren't considered family -- more like righteous stalkers. The calendar by the phone with bloody X's mark the days that they call to harass them about their wicked ways (which include that Noah is gay and that Dot had him out of wedlock). It isn't until his grandmother threatens to set The Soul Warriors on them that they get a little more worried.
When Noah and his mother decide to take a weekend road trip to a B&B to get away from all the phone calls, they find themselves transported to a strange alternate world that seems to be a ridiculous mockery of Hell -- a town called Helleville filled with residents with similar experiences as them, full of banned books like Harry Potter and science textbooks that teach evolution, and weird and strange creatures like ghosts, vampires, zombies and ghouls. The strange thing is that though no one there can really figure out where they are and why they're there (other than the fact that The Soul Warriors are behind everything), it isn't the classic representation of hell that you'd expect. They're well cared for with all the food they want for no money, the kids don't have to take school (although they can sit in a class with Satan as a teacher if they want), and they're surrounded by pristine nature with no need for jobs. The people there have formed a community of sorts with a mayor and everything, but they all have time to relax and enjoy the things that they didn't have time for in life. Dot decides to take up crocheting.
They are, however, haunted by one serious problem. Every so often someone disappears. Soon after Noah and his mother arrive in Helleville, the fourth resident goes missing and no one can ever find them, no matter how many times they organize search parties and a night watch to try to catch anything abnormal. It isn't until Noah makes a friend named John who loves to take pictures that they start to piece together the strange occurrences and what could be behind it all. But before Noah can get too attached to his new hobby of playing Sherlock Holmes he meets Alex, a boy his own age who seems to like him. Alex invites him to hang out with a few of the other teenagers in Helleville and finds that he's not the only one with a crush on the nerdy teen. Matt, a cool seventeen, muscular and gorgeous, highly intelligent and the most popular kid involved in the community has a thing for Alex and he doesn't intend for Noah, who he looks at like a bug under his shoe, to get in his way.
Before all of you m/m romance readers out there get excited, the romance in this story is kept on the back burner. Instead, this story is really Noah's coming of age tale and his road to self-discovery. Helleville and the alternate reality they've been sent to acts as a catalyst to force Noah to grow. Before he was sent there, a lot of his own exploration of himself as a teenager had been stunted because of the bullying he experienced at school. He calls himself an introvert, but he's really afraid to get back out into the world and try again, making friends and even meeting a guy he likes and taking a change. He has a lot of latent social anxiety and Helleville acts as a skewed kind of microcosm of the real world to get him to open up again. In Helleville, Noah can be someone new. He can meet and go on dates with a boy like Alex, he learns that he can have friends. And most importantly he learns that people can rely on him, that he has worth. Alex acts as part of that self-discovery, of course, and their relationship also is a somewhat significant part of the story, but it never progresses very far on page.
The pace and plot mimic Noah's journey in a way. The POV is strictly Noah's, so the first half of the book is quite sedate. I even read one reader's review on Goodreads before I started reading that said that this book was boring. I wouldn't say that, I quite enjoyed it. But there were a few times in the first half of the book that I set it down, read some other things and then picked it up later. I think that as long as you don't go into this book expecting it to focus on Noah's romantic life and that the story will be more about action than reflection, you'll enjoy it. Also, if you haven't read much of Hayden Thorne's work by now you might not realize that most of her work is cerebral. This book is a reflection of Noah's life, in almost an allegorical way. If you'd rather just read for fun and not want to focus on the meaning of it all, then you might find this story a bit slow … in the first half anyway, the second half was much more exciting.
So I definitely recommend this one. I really like Hayden's work and I'll always pick up her books when a new one is out. She always has a really great point of view coming from gay teenagers that it's so easy to connect with. That, and sometimes this book just makes you go -- What the FUCK?...more
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
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
Well, Anne, you've made me do it again. Every time I pick up one of your (long-awaited) books I find myself evenReview 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!...more
I have to admit, I have a bit of an addiction to Barry Lowe erotica stories. I suppose… it's my secretReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
I have to admit, I have a bit of an addiction to Barry Lowe erotica stories. I suppose… it's my secret guilty pleasure. Barry Lowe writes the dirtiest, the raunchiest, the sometimes nastiest erotica and very often his stories seem to have a cheating kink. This one doesn't, thankfully, because I swear I'm masochistic about those. I want to read them even though they tend to bother me. I don't know what's wrong with me!
But I recently noticed that the place Barry Lowe used to publish, loveyoudivine alterotica, has seemed to shut it's doors. Normally I hear about these kinds of things (love the gossip!) but I've been out of the loop lately. So I have no idea why they've disappeared, but all of Barry's stories with them (which have to be over 100) have disappeared as well, even from Amazon (except in print format, if you really want them). So I was really happy to see that Barry was now publishing with Wilde City Press. And I knew that I had to read this new short story, especially with a name like Trucker Fucker. That promises to be dirty!
Read the blurb. This author and this story is less about if you want to read what it's about and more about if you like the style of writing or not. So, read the blurb. It's pretty obvious that the story is full of sex and raunchiness and that the writing displays this, although thankfully Barry tends to keep the numerous euphemisms to a bare minimum (no 100 slightly different repeats of fuck rod). Nevertheless, there is a bare-bones plot here. Jez is a trucker that is caught with speed (something all the truckers do to stay awake on long hauls) and the judge offers him a deal instead of jail time -- for six months, Jez has to chaperone and mentor a young guy named Atom who got caught tagging his art all over town and whom the judge says showed an interest in trucking. To his mistake, Atom actually replied to his question of what he was interested in, Truckerrs. Jez finds that out when not an hour into their first drive Atom is trying to suck his cock. He makes no mistake about it and loves being called a slut. But no matter how many times he sneaks away and comes back from other trucks at their stops smelling of cum and looked pleasantly mussed, Jez holds out. He's straight, he reminds himself.
it isn't until they spend more time together that Jez starts to care about Atom, looking out for him when he's being hounded by groups of men looking for action. And no matter how much he tries, no matter how many guys are chasing Atom down like sex zombies, no matter how underhanded they are in trying to get Atom to themselves, Jez can't help but be aroused watching Atom love it all and want some of Atom himself.
If you made it through that, then you might actually like this story! Or you're repulsed ;) Either way, this story is FULL of sex, one on one, blowjobs, gangbangs, spit-roasting, blackmail by cops for a gangbang in the station… you'll be entertained, for sure.
This is the reason that I like reading Barry's stories. I go into them almost laughing at how ridiculous Barry has made this story and then I start to get pulled into it and by the time I'm finished I actually found it pretty hot. I'm not ashamed to admit it.
But, this is for pretty hardcore erotica readers! I had to add some pretty interesting tags for this one, LOL....more
It has been a while since I read and reviewed one of Karenna Colcroft's short stories -- that last oneReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
It has been a while since I read and reviewed one of Karenna Colcroft's short stories -- that last one being Chance Met, which I gave a So So rating -- but I was excited to read this one because of the rocker theme. And I'm glad that I did, because this story did what a short romance does well. It doesn't try to pack a whole romance into a short format but it gives us a glimpse into the life of the characters and their romance.
Kieran is a forceful presence, a musical star combining country and rock with a solid fan base, and publicly gay after coming out over a year before this story starts. But he also has a secret life that he's held in check, mostly at the urging of his manager and boyfriend, who just wants to support his career and not jeopardize it. Kieran is a forceful presence, yes. He knows what he wants and he takes it, which makes him successful. But he also likes to carry that power into the bedroom, and he has a permanent partner there who likes to submit to him. Secretly, Kieran has been dating the man who works at his right hand, doing much of the behind-the-scenes work for his music and on his tours. Deacon is known to most as his best friend, but they've been lovers in a part-time BDSM relationship for a year now.
But Kieran is tired of hiding. He finally made the leap and convinced his management and studio that he should come out. But so far they've convinced him not to admit to his relationship with Deke, hoping to continue to play on Kieran's heartthrob status and unsure if the same people who supported him coming out as gay would feel similarly about him as a gay man in a relationship. For Kieran, however, it is past time. When a man from the studio tells him to record a cover on his next album of the song "When I See You Smile" from the 80s, it serves as a catalyst for Kieran to stick it to the man. Kieran West doesn't do covers, and he sure as hell isn't going to keep Deke a secret any longer. But will Deke agree?
As I mentioned at the beginning of the review, this story works as a glimpse into the lives of our characters at an important moment in their relationship, without using conflict to drive the plot. Of course, there is a little bit of conflict. The people around Kieran are pretty adamantly against his decision to go public about Deke, but there's no real conflict because Kieran has already made up his mind, and like I said, he's a strong personality. His resolve only serves to make us closer to him because we always respect people/characters who are steadfast and self-aware, especially in defense of their partner. And Kiernan's decision to go public is really about honoring Deke, who deserves to stand up as his boyfriend as much as Kiernan wants to stand by his side. The BDSM flows outwardly from that, in the sense that it's an extension of their personalities, but also that their sexual lives take a backseat to their romantic lives and their public lives. There is a touch of BDSM in the story, but it isn't the focus.
The removal of real conflict works here if you're looking for a light and sweet story, and it isn't really needed to push the plot forward at 16k words. The story is short enough to keep a steady pace just from getting to know Kiernan and Deke, and the little bit of conflict that propels the story in the beginning as we start to see the dynamic in their relationship and how it changes when they move out of bed and return as equal partners. Deke remained a bit of a mystery for me, and to rate this story higher I would have liked to get to know more about him. The story reads well as it stands, however, and is definitely good for you if you're in the mood for something sweet and heartwarming. And of course, rocker characters always draw attention and Kiernan does well playing the bad boy with a heart of gold....more
Shadows in the Night is the first book I've read by MA Church. I was really in the mood for a shifter stReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
Shadows in the Night is the first book I've read by MA Church. I was really in the mood for a shifter story when this book came up in the review rotation just prior to release, so I decided to take a chance. After all, I've been interested in several other books by this author, but I've never tried any of them. I got what I wanted, this is a shifter story. And while it would maybe be insulting to call it a simple shifter story, by which I mean maybe a classic shifter romance with mating bonds and all, that's really what this is. And because of that, it was a satisfying read.
Chip grew up in a loveless home. His spoiled and cold mother and a workaholic absentee father made his relationship with his Granny grow and grow with age. Granny lived in a small town in Mississippi and every summer Chip escaped there to run in the grass, swim in the ponds and fish and play with his "horsie", a very large black animal that he used to ride like a horse. He remembers those days with fondness when he loses his job and his Granny dies. It's a low period for him, but it's important to return to her home and the small town to pay respect to her and to remember such a wonderful, independent and loving woman, the only real mother Chip ever had.
His grandmother's last words to him -- "Trust him. He's the one." -- baffle him, but Chip puts them out of his mind as he goes through her arrangements and her will. She left everything to him, which was surprisingly a large amount of money and her home and land. He no longer has to worry about finding a new job, which is freeing. Chip can spend the time he needs to go through her things and then live as he's always wanted to, there in her house in the country. He soon meets the colorful characters of the town, her wizened lawyer, the creepy realtor, and his neighbor Jason, with beautiful Native features and long black hair. Jason seemed to know his Granny rather well and rather quickly Chip grows to know him well also. The two form a quick bond that seems perfectly right. It's only when he's nearly attacked by a tawny brown cougar and rescued by a black cougar -- one that by all means shouldn't exist -- that things change drastically.
As I said before, in many ways this is a typical shifter story. We have a shifter and his secrets from the man he's recognized as his mate, and the man himself who knows nothing of the paranormal world. There's a mating bond and a threat coming from one of the men's past that acts as a catalyst to move the plot and relationship forward. It makes an enjoyable read, but not a wholly original one. But, that's okay. It's all about what you like to read that will make this book good for you or not. I know that shifter stories such as this one do really well, because there are so many fans of shifters out there. There are also some of you that don't like to read these stories that much. I fall somewhere in between. Every now and then I will always want a shifter story to fall back on and read. It's comforting and why I'm a big proponent of not hating on the "fluff". Sometimes that's what you want to read, and there's nothing wrong with that. In fact, most people (or those that don't read romance) would call all romance fluff as a blanket term (so let's not nitpick people).
Anyway, sorry for going tangential on you. While I maybe wouldn't define this completely as reading candy (in the fluff sense), it is mostly a lighthearted read. I found the shifter culture in this book to be rather interesting, in that there didn't seem to be highly defined pack structure. The community of shifters are all related by Native American culture and Jason, when he finally must tell Chip everything, talks a bit about the creation of the shapeshifter. I liked this part of the book the best, and I found the author's genesis of the shifter and their human's relation to the animal totem to be pretty interesting. There is mention of a little detail about a representation of their totem that I really wanted to know more about that isn't much explained, but hopefully that will come up in the next book. This story focuses mainly on Chip and Jason and their world in this book is incredibly insular. There are a few moments where other characters are present, but this book is highly focused on their relationship and their internal conflict, with the external conflict I mentioned before acting as a catalyst to their relationship's progression. I'll be really interested in reading the next book because I'd like to see if there is more of their native cultural history.
This is a fairly quick read and definitely a book that you should know if you'd like from reading the blurb and from reading this review. If you're a fan of shifter stories then this is definitely something you'll want to pick up. It's not trying to push any boundaries or re-define the shifter romance novel, but that probably opens it up to a wider audience as well. Sometimes what you want to read is something that you know will give you pleasure and which you won't have to stress over while reading. It makes for a pleasant experience and this was a book that I enjoyed. Plus, you'll love Jason in bed. HOT!...more
These two authors have been one of my favorite writing teams for a while now, and I knew that I wantedReview 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!
I’ve been so excited for the release of this book! It’s been a long time since I read something by thisReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
I’ve been so excited for the release of this book! It’s been a long time since I read something by this author. In fact, I don’t think I’ve read a novel by this author since I read Finding Zach, a book which remains one of my all-time favorite m/m romances. So I knew going into this book from the blurb and from loving that book that this would most likely be an intense read. In some ways it was, but less so than I think I was expecting. But, it did live up to my expectations and ended up being a good read.
Joshua Chastain is a shade of the man he once was — a strong, confident, healthy and intelligent undercover FBI agent. Those qualities were all taken away from him during his three year undercover mission infiltrating a ruthless and dangerous gang in Chicago that heavily trafficked heroin. And though he did everything he was put there to do — bring down the operation from the inside — he also did other things, made sacrifices to himself and others to get the job done. And now, after leaving the FBI and in rehab for his heroin withdrawal and addiction and the unbelievable depression from his memories of death, Joshua is so far from the man he once was that his family no longer recognizes him.
His mother and his uncle Tucker conspire to bring him out to his uncle’s ranch in New Mexico. It’s a place he frequented and loved as a kid, but it’s also the perfect place for him to start to come back to himself. In an ironic twist, the ranch’s main operation is the rehabilitation of abused horses, a program run by Tucker and the ranch’s foreman, Elian Kelly. Eli is more than a foreman to the ranch, but also Tucker’s good friend. And seeing Tuck’s young nephew is heartbreaking. He sees him as a broken man he can try to put back together just like the horses that he has a gift with helping. The fresh air, good and hearty food, and reliable and loving family are what Joshua needs to put the past behind him and learn confidence in himself again. The connection and eventual relationship between Joshua and Eli wasn’t part of the plan.
Much of this book was what I was expecting from this book and this author. This is a hurt/comfort story of epic proportions, something that was similar to Rowan Speedwell’s other novel, Finding Zach. Joshua is not much a guy who needs a little rehab, but a severely traumatized person, emotionally, physically and chemically, from his forced addiction to heroin. And Eli is the gentle giant, reliant and safe and perfect in a lot of ways. I mean, this makes for a good setup, something that has worked well for this author in the past. And I liked this couple together. I felt like a lot of time went by setting up the story and I would maybe have liked to get to know Eli and Joshua actually together in their relationship for longer than we got, but they have a crazy amount of chemistry that came through for me, and the dynamic works well for them and goes hand in hand with the setting really well.
So the problems that I had with the book didn’t really spoil my enjoyment of the book — it remained something highly enjoyable to read. Maybe it’s that Finding Zach is such a hard book to live up to for me, especially with a character like Joshua who so reminded me of Zach with all of the emotional turmoil he has to work through throughout the book. Still, this wasn’t a perfect read for me. Some of the behavior of the characters seemed a little too… contrived, like the totally happy-go-lucky family atmosphere at the ranch. On the one hand this made the book not overly filled with excess problems but it made Joshua’s problems seem overbalanced in counterpoint, which made their behavior and constant support grating (not their support for Joshua, but just in each other, day to day in the way they act). That probably makes no sense, but I don’t know how to describe it better without making it seem too nitpicky and as if it was a bigger deal than it really was. It just bugged me a bit. The real difficulty I had with the book was the ending.
I was hoping that this book wouldn’t end with (view spoiler)[a resurgence of the gang and the men who would obviously love to come after Joshua if he wasn’t so hidden. Thankfully, that didn’t happen. But, I still would have probably preferred the ending to be a bit more subtle. I liked that Eli and Joshua were getting to know each other and work through their problems and I would have admired the story more if it continued in that direction without needing an outside conflict to come in from seemingly nowhere to act as a catalyst for the couple. And the way it was done made it a little worse than that, with the whole gay basher thing having been written so many times. (hide spoiler)]
So while I wasn’t quite happy with the ending, I still enjoyed the book and I liked the first half in particular. It really held my interest. The fact that the main character is dealing with a shitload of issues is just something that depends on the reader to like or dislike. I mean, on the one hand it does seem a bit much because poor Joshua’s life just kept going from bad to worse over and over again. So much of whether you like this book or not will depend on how you feel about that kind of character and conflict. In general, I don’t so much like that, but as I said before I was interested in seeing how I liked this one since I did like that kind of conflict in the hands of his author previously.
The other early reviews I’ve seen for this book have so far been raving, which is good. I think I’m maybe a little pickier than many other reviewers and that’s fine. Rowan Speedwell remains a great author and I’ll continue to look forward to her books....more
Skylar Jaye is a new author for me, and probably will be for most of you as well. From what I can see, this authoReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
Skylar Jaye is a new author for me, and probably will be for most of you as well. From what I can see, this author only has a couple of short stories in anthologies and The Flame is their first solo publication. In a way, that shows in this book, but I also saw a lot that I liked and overall, I enjoyed reading the book.
Jeremy Ashe is a sophomore at Samuin College, the mage college where almost all magi train. He's a private guy with just a couple of solid friends. He also has a secret… one that involves his family and all the trouble they have brought upon him, simply for being related to them. It's a drag, and so something he has kept secret from everyone. Jeremy is at the college studying runes, though he has an innate wind elemental ability, something that he clashes on in fundamental theory with his family and the general mindset of the magical community. He sees it as another way to work his magic, through the runes he casts rather than using his wind ability directly. And it does show in his versatility. It helps, of course, that he's a pretty serious student, but his arcane course of study is one of the least popular, and in a world where power is measured above all else (including even family lineage), he's seen as an unwanted castoff of a larger system of more important magi.
"The Flame", or better known as Marcus Smith, is a fire elemental and a prodigy at the school. A senior and a TA, he's the most popular guy in school and it isn't really unwarranted. His looks and personality help, of course. But, owing to the nickname, his talent shines above all. He's one of the most powerful fire mages alive in the world, giving him unparalleled choices about his direction in life, though everyone knows that he's going straight to the top. It's enough for the magical community to overlook his non-magical parentage, a rare and sudden ability, especially for one so powerful.
Jeremy and Marcus become acquainted through Jeremy's roommate Aiden and from there begin a slow courtship. Jeremy prefers to stay out of the limelight -- making his feelings for Marcus incredibly ill-fated -- and his history with his family has taught him that he's the unwanted shadow not good enough for someone who burns as bright a talent as Marcus. Their relationship seems doomed to fail, simply because Jeremy believes it so, when the two become caught up in an arsonist mystery around the college.
To be completely frank, this story is a good one, but it could have easily been twice as long with the amount of plot involved here and all the various tangents that were brought in. In the shorter novella format this book is in now, there's simply too much extraneous information that really took away some of my enjoyment in the story. There were several details about the magic that were a bit confusing and stated outright without much explanation as if I'd understand them naturally. And there's a couple of plot threads that fizzle out and don't seem to go anywhere. While reading, I wanted this story to either pare down the detail and give a more streamlined plot to give the story focus and more drive, or either take all that detail and fill in the gaps, making a much longer novel. In that case, I would have enjoyed having that extra detail to flesh out the world, but there wouldn't be a rush to get it all in and the details could settle as the story progressed in a slower pace. A lot of this is really just novice writing issues that will flesh out the more Skylar Jaye writes and publishes, and I don't really hold it against them. Assuming that they are still a novice writer anyway, and that Skylar Jaye isn't a new pseudonym for another author, which you never really know, I suppose. Still, this seems like an author who has good stories to tell, such as this one, but which get a bit bungled up in the execution. I'm looking forward to future stories where Skylar Jaye has a bit more practice in getting the story down. Because more than execution problems that I had with this book, the core story was still interesting and engaging for me. And I had fun reading it. That makes this a solid So So read for me....more
I shouldn't apologize for my feelings and I try not to usually, but I will, because I tend to do that. Sorry aheaReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
I shouldn't apologize for my feelings and I try not to usually, but I will, because I tend to do that. Sorry ahead of time to those who put a lot of love and care into the creation of this book, this isn't really going to be a positive review :(
I have a love/hate relationship with angel stories. I think that maybe people are turned onto angels for a few different reasons, but a lot of it has to do with the loss of innocence. There are so many directions an author can take an angelic character -- an exploration of literary history and popular angelic mythos, playing on the fallen angel theme and the dichotomy of innocence and corruption, angelic and human. Many romance novels place a lot of importance on world building as a backdrop to the reason their angel falls and then some place the romance itself as the focus of their story. Many of those stories are where I find myself not as interested. I like seeing an author's imagination in world building of angel stories. I think that what I really don't like is that I sometimes find angels in romance stories to be somewhat… vapid? without personality? They convey all of that innocence but it seems one dimensional. It's hard to connect with a character like that, and even though it might be a purposeful choice because angels are in fact, not human (who knew?!), that doesn't necessarily make it a good choice for the story.
That's where I started to encounter some problems for me with Angel's Redemption. I like this author's prose, no doubt about that. And that is probably why I continually come back to read her stories even though, in the past, I've not been very kind in my reviews. So for me, taking a gamble on this story for review was… well, a gamble, what with the angel theme and my past history with not liking some of this author's characters so much. The premise of this story is the freedom of an angel who is bound in a statue. Blaine received the statue, which has always mystified and alternately unnerved him, from his father's best friend, an artist who worked on the statue for a long time and for some unknown reason left it to Blaine in his will. When Blaine moves to an apartment with enough space to showcase the beautiful rendition of the male form (au naturel), he puts it in a place where he can showcase it, even adding a spotlight to show it off.
In the meantime, Blaine is trying to make his sucky life better. Ever since the age of 8 he's been terribly unlucky. Prior to that, his life was wonderful. Now that he's 24 and with a band he's proud of he thinks he might be able to master his own luck and make his life happier. There's a chance for his band to play a weekly gig at a popular club, which will give them lots of visibility and even a bit of cash. His life and luck is looking up, if they can actually get the gig. It looks promising, if only his bandmates would get their shit together.
But Blaine is still mystified by the statue of the beautiful angel. Sometimes… he swears that when he walks by the eyes follow him and occasionally he sees a feather ruffle. It can't be true, but further investigation of the statue reveals a strange phrase in latin marked on the base. Blaine's curiosity could be the best, or worst thing that has ever happened to him.
I hate to sit and list the problems I had with this book. I mean, for the most part I still enjoyed reading it and I definitely didn't hate it. But, I also found some things here that have bothered me with past Azalea Moone books and stories. One of those things, and the one of the biggest problems that I had here was the world building. It's almost non-existent. I read through this whole book having no clue what was going on. It wasn't because the characters were purposefully keeping secrets -- they were -- but, we're often given references of things that have happened in the past. This is great because it helps us put the pieces of the story together ourselves, but there has to be a framework in which to fill in those gaps -- a world. I read the blurb again when I finished the book and it had more detail than was in the actual book. Also, throughout the book, Lynsael continually asks Blaine to help him find out what happened with the statue. Both of them don't understand how he broke out, how he was bound, or what the sculptor (Blaine's father's friend) really knew about any of this, including Lyn. Blaine offers to help, about a million times but something always seems to come up to distract him. This is just one of my pet peeves. It didn't seem like a very good reason to stall them, to put off talking about their situation and finding out what is going on. It seemed more like an easy way to stall them until the ending of the story. It was just… frustrating to read, honestly. I would have liked to see them talk, not only to figure out why everything was happening as it was, but also to get to know one another -- their history, their lives, their feelings -- and by extension for me to get to know the characters.
I ended the book feeling like I didn't really understand the story, only the few events that happened but no background at all to fill in the details and gaps. I also felt like I didn't really know the characters well. I understood Blaine a bit better than Lyn, but not well. So I didn't connect with them and I didn't really see a connection between them. In another story by this author that I read and reviewed ("On Clouds of Obsession" in the Fraternal Devotion anthology, reviewed here), I felt like I didn't really like one of of the main characters. And I felt that way about Blaine somewhat too. While he wasn't the kind of asshole like in "On Clouds of Obsession", he still pissed me off most of the book with his words toward Lyn and his refusal to help him and his general attitude of pissy and then, suddenly, he loves him. I didn't get it, really.
I think that pretty much says everything. I didn't really like the book and I feel like it needed more work to fill out the story. That and I just couldn't connect with both of the characters. Unfortunately, I can't recommend this one....more
I've been looking forward to reading and reviewing this book for months now, and I hate that I had to keReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
I've been looking forward to reading and reviewing this book for months now, and I hate that I had to keep pushing back my review, especially after hearing so many of you talk about it in such a tantalizing way. And even though I think I may not have loved it in the way that some of you did, I can't deny that it was a seriously sexy piece of story that I had to put down a few times just to take a breather.
It's a pretty simple and embarrassing premise that leads to oh so much of something more. Adam's computer is pretty crappy and he only has twenty minutes to log onto the university's server online and turn in his paper. But his computer is once again crapping out on him. So, in order not to be marked down for his tardiness, he sneaks onto his roommate's computer to send it in. But when he starts to shut down and erase all his work with a series of quick closing clicks before his roommate is due back to their room he stumbles upon something he never would have expected from his supposedly straight jock roommate -- a gay porn folder full of guys in leather and an array of erotica BDSM regalia.
Then the worst comes. Adam's roommate Josh opens the door before Adam can get his hand out of his pants -- because he was obviously turned on and out of his mind -- leading to a rather embarrassing situation for Adam. But Josh surprises him. They don't know each other very well, even though they've shared the same room for six months of their freshman year. Adam took one look at all of Josh's sports gear and assumed he was the same kind of jock who used to shove him in lockers in high school. College is supposed to be a chance to get away from all of that, to start over. He never knew that not only was Josh gay and apparently in the closet, but that they do have some things in common after all, because Adam is seriously turned on by the pictures of submissive men, skinny like him, tied up and dominated.
What might tear their relationship apart forever very soon crosses a line to bring them together. Instead of accusing Adam of violating his privacy, Josh starts to open up and ask Adam all sorts of naughty questions about what he likes in the pictures.
This story is rather short and had a different sort of dynamic than what we usually read, especially with characters this young. This could easy be in the New Adult set, but with so much sexual debauchery between the two, for pretty much the whole book, it really is very firmly an erotic novel, but also a romance. The dynamic is at once explicitly sexual, frank almost and at times for me riding the edge of uncomfortable. Told from Adam's point of view, he quickly learns that what he wants is not just to be dominated by Josh, but also to be debased. And it isn't the actions themselves that provide the intensity between them but their discussions. They talk out almost every scene before and during and they're both very open to the other about what they like and want, but at the same time the newness of it all is uncomfortable. For most of the story they're working around each other, feeling out their limits and their feelings about one another, and the frank openness with which they go about doing that was at times, almost a little embarrassing for me to read, lol.
On the other hand, I really liked the smooth transition between their frank business of sex setup and the intimacy that grows between them to a real relationship. In many ways, this is a very sweet story, because both of them are so refreshingly new to not only BDSM but also to sex that their scenes ride a line between extremely explicit and endearing. I admit that it did take me about half the story to really understand and get in the groove, but after that the story was cute.
This is definitely something that BDSM readers will like, but it makes it difficult for me to recommend in a way. It's such a cute romance on the one hand, but the BDSM in other parts is intense. It isn't intense in a play sort of way. There aren't a lot of strange toys or play that crosses boundaries, but Adam finds that he very much likes the debasement aspect of submitting, to be embarrassed and made to feel dirty, and that might be a line for some readers. Honestly, with so many people liking this one already (and it's a pretty cheap price), I'd say go for it and try it if you haven't yet and at least see what you think of it ;)...more