Kegan lands in New Zealand alone and lost. He'd been looking forward to getting away with his fiancee after his cReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
Kegan lands in New Zealand alone and lost. He'd been looking forward to getting away with his fiancee after his cousin and best friend committed suicide. His grief is wrapped up in his love for his fiancee, especially when she ditches him at the gate for the restroom only to leave the airport, and Kegan to realize that he's been left while flying over the Pacific. The loss is compounded by the fact that Kegan knows that his fiancee was the main reason he removed himself from his cousin's life. He doesn't understand how he could let himself choose a cheating and selfish woman over his best friend, and the thought that his actions might have contributed to his cousin's loneliness at the time he needed him most… it's almost more than he can bear. Kegan decides to take his vacation traveling around New Zealand alone and figure out his life and what he really wants.
Dominic is a Kiwi. We meet him first as he moves into a new house, finally leaving the home of he and his late partner. It's been two years, but Dominic is a shadow of the man he used to be. He has no problem admitting that he wish he'd died as well. Moving on without him is too hard. His best friend Lisa surprises him by coming to stay with him for a week, and it is during that week -- while Lisa drags him out of the house day after day -- that the two stop at a restaurant and end up sharing a table with a lonely American traveler, named Kegan.
The two guys have an immediate chemistry, but it takes both of them willing to move on and embrace a new time in their lives to have any chance at a relationship.
Of course, my biggest problem here was the insta-love. I mean, I would say that this ends in an HFN, but some might say an HEA. I just had a problem believing that after spending so little time together they could fall in love enough to propagate an around the world move to be together and also in that time have been able to move on with their pasts. I get that Kegan could maybe do it. I liked that the author made his move to New Zealand not only to be with Dominic, but also as a fresh start in his life and career. I could see him making the decision that he needed a fresh injection into his life and he might make that leap because he needed a chance anyway. But I didn't understand Dominic at the end of the story. There's a part right at the end, where Dominic… I guess he sees the ghost of his dead partner. It was a strange paranormal twist that I only partly grasped. But, I understood the message which was that he wanted Dominic to move on. It seemed like an easy way to make it okay for Dominic to let go and be okay for him to fall in love, when in reality it just seemed to rushed for me to accept and without a lot of the work he'd need to undertake. He was just so messed up in the beginning.
I'm sorry to say that I can't really recommend this. I've read one other story by this author which I enjoyed -- Return to Destiny -- but this story felt a bit unfinished to me. I think that I actually would have enjoyed learning more about Dominic's partner. In books like this that explore a new relationship after one person's (or two) previous partner died, I usually feel like it's important for the new love interest to learn about the previous one. And certainly, I think it might have helped this relationship between Dominic and Kegan to develop at a faster pace (since the time line was so short) because Dominic could let go of some fears and memories and share them with Kegan. I don't know, just a thought. But I definitely would have liked to know more about him. It would have shown us even more about Dominic....more
It's time for another Jack Greene review and giveaway! Jack is so wonderful because whenever he sends me a book tReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
It's time for another Jack Greene review and giveaway! Jack is so wonderful because whenever he sends me a book to review he always offers a giveaway. And was I ever excited to read and review this book. For the past few stories that Jack has published, I've known that a full novel, his first, was in the works. I was interested to see what kind of story Jack would write for his first novel and how it would pan out. I've been a fan of his stories for a few years now, but he has a definite style -- short and heavy on sex.
I was really pretty blown away by what I saw. I say I've been a fan for a while now, but I've never given Jack the top rating; I've never loved one of his books, though I've liked many of them quite a bit. Still, I warn you that this won't be everyone's cup of tea. While I loved it, I know many won't. A fundamental part of the story is cheating, no if ands or buts about it and that will bother many. But, it doesn't usually bother me, and I could see that there were steps taken to lessen the impact, like having Chris' wife be rather standoffish. Chris even wonders if she's having an affair too, and there are some details that lead you to believe that might be the case. There aren't any wallowing in hurt feelings. Still, those sensitive to cheating in all forms will definitely want to steer clear.
I think what I loved the most about this book is that Jack did exactly what I always wanted. In reading his short stories, they usually ended before we really got into the characters and their problems, neuroses, etc. We just didn't get to know them as well as we could have and most of the emphasis in those stories was based on the sex. I usually categorize them as erotica. That's great, I love erotica as well as romance. And I hope that he isn't upset when I admit how surprised I was to find this novel so different than those stories. Not only do we get deep into the characters, but the emphasis here is definitely on romance, no matter how gritty and raunchy their sex gets. (and it's goooood…)
The basis of the story is a classic "Gay for You" story. Chris has always been straight, and he's generally an honorable man. He's never cheated on his wife and he does love her. But they've grown apart after six years of marriage, settling into a sibling-like friendship and living like barely speaking roommates. So when he meets a man who shows him some attention on a business trip, he runs with it, surprising himself by his attraction. With little angst about what that attraction means, Chris dives headfirst into his illicit relationship. In fact, he has a bigger issue in trying to earn Leif's trust and get to know the surly and complicated man than in investigating his own feelings. He only knows that he's falling head first for someone he never thought he would, while at the same time trying to lesson the hurt he's causing to his wife.
I liked quite a bit about this book. I liked that we get to see the relationship past the "marriage" phase and into the two building a life together. I like that Chris straddles the line of his own honor but still remained likable to me. And mostly, I liked the character Jack created in Leif, who remains an enigma right up until the very last page, where I finally felt like I understood him. The delivery of information about Leif is subtle and given to us in small bits, so that we get to know Leif like Chris does.
I can only surmise that all those short stories Jack wrote simply gave him lots of writing practice for his first novel, because I was really blown away by how much I enjoyed it. I'll be thinking of this couple for a while and I would love for Jack to continue writing novels. Of course, I don't want him to stop writing those super sexy shorts either ;)...more
After taking a little over a week away from reading m/m romance (and reading Harry Potter again instead)Review posted at The Armchair Reader.
After taking a little over a week away from reading m/m romance (and reading Harry Potter again instead), I decided to read this as my first book back. I wanted something to ease back onto reading romance, and this worked rather well. It's light and sweet, contemporary with familiar tropes that are well-used and loved. It depends on how you look at those familiar tropes and themes as to whether you might find the same story I read and enjoyed as tired and unoriginal, but then, that's the subjectivity of reading. What I liked most about this story was that it was simple and sweet and didn't try to do anything new or outrageous.
Jesse is 22 and his six year relationship with his high school sweetheart, Janey, is finished. Back living with his Nan, his feisty and progressive grandmother, Jesse is facing the daunting thought of dating for the first time, something he doesn't really know how to do. His nan, on the other hand, has a different view. For some reason that she's reluctant to divulge, she believes him to be gay. They laugh about what seems to be her obsession with having a gay grandson, but it becomes more than a laughing matter when Jesse finds out that the month long cruise she booked him on as a surprise is actually a gay cruise.
Jesse finds comfort in his roommate, Daniel. He's gorgeous, which even Jesse admits, and depressed to be going on the vacation he had planned for himself and his boyfriend, who he found cheating on him months prior with more than one other man. Their common discomfort serves to bond them in ties of new friendship and the two spend the weeks sailing around the pacific getting to know one another and also watching out for each other's backs because of the attention they receive from the legions of young horny gay men on board.
The story is pretty straightforward, I'm sure you can guess much of it. The added Gay For You, or Out For You element means that the tension in the story comes mostly from Jesse's fear of what his new feelings for Daniel really mean, and the story's progression is marked by the baby steps he takes to reconcile his feelings. I might have liked this story less if I hadn't just had a break from reading m/m romance, honestly. There does tend to be an overabundance of stories like this -- sweet, short and dealing with one of a few major themes. However, what I feared this story might become (basically, that it would rely on melodrama to convey weight of emotion), especially in the hands of a new author, wasn't the case at all. I found the story took itself rather lightly and didn't succumb to the pitfall of major denial (on Jesse's part) and then quick resolution. In the perspective of the story, it was much more realistic than that typical approach.
I'm looking forward to reading more from this author. If I remember correctly, Lily said that she'll have a novel coming out from Dreamspinner this summer and I look forward to seeing how her writing will evolve. Recommended for those who want something light and sweet and short.
**Just a Note: the story is written in present tense from Jesse's point of view, so reader's who have problems getting into that style of writing beware. It didn't bother me, however....more
I am pretty sure that though I'm familiar with Tracy Rowan, this is the first booReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
3.5 stars (rounded up for style)
I am pretty sure that though I'm familiar with Tracy Rowan, this is the first book of her's that I've read. I was intrigued by the blurb -- this seemed like it would be a light, kind of funny book, tongue-in-cheek and pretty snarky. For the most part, that is what this is. But I was surprised by two things, the m/f scenes (with a pretty big dose of girly parts, for me anyway!), and the really serious romance ambits the humorous narration. The first half of the book, I wasn't quite sure how I felt about it. Frank is pretty emo, and while it isn't shown in an angst way or anything, I wanted the plot to move forward. That started to happen as I kept reading, and I found that I was really getting into the story and really liking the style of the writing.
Frank is… well he's a mess, really. He lives alone in the apartment above his landlady, an elderly and spunky woman. His life hasn't really moved forward since his high school days, and his emotions have stalled. He's still harboring the old hurts of high school, including his love of Rebecca Hansen, his very own Buffy. But Rebecca was a cheerleader, popular and had a boyfriend, a man that Frank loves to hate, even to this day for taking his girlfriend, as he sees it.
His life takes a drastic turn when he learns the truth of vampires. While coming home one night, he's accosted outside by his elderly landlady, Mrs. Carlson. She begs him for just a sip of his blood. The butcher gave away her pint of blood that day and she's unbearably hungry. The knowledge of the existence of vampires gives Frank hope that he can turn his life around. After all, everyone knows how dark and glamorous vampires are. It's the chance that Frank has been waiting for.
Mrs. Carlson obliges, but the change doesn't seem to … change him very much. He's still the same old awkward Frank. But he hasn't given up hope yet that something crazy and interesting will happen to him, and he knows immediately that he made the right choice when he runs into Will Chase, Rebecca's old boyfriend in high school and perfect in every way. He can finally get his revenge, targeting Will. He doesn't know how to handle the situation though, when Will turns out to be very different from what he expected. A strange kind of friendship forms between them when they find out how much they have in common. But vampirism did bring him something on value, a friend. A friend who can introduce him to Rebecca.
If you're thinking that this sounds totally wacky -- well, it really is. That's why I did have a bit of trouble getting into the first part of the story. Frank seemed very immature, even though I could see the charm in the story and in the writing. It's not outright funny, but I definitely had some chuckles here and there. But the characters, and their eccentricities are what are really funny here. And of course the real story is the developing relationship between Frank and Will as Will tries to set Frank up with Rebecca. To do so means that Frank has to make a lot of changes in his life, and the journey they take together to make that happen brings them even closer together.
I really quite liked the relationship between Frank and Will. While the rest of the story gave me a chuckle, the parts with these two characters together were the best part for me, and made this more than a so so book for me. There really isn't a "romance" between them until much later in the story, but I could see the development of their feelings long before that. Seeing them dance around that issues, as "straight men", made this an interesting dynamic.
I won't claim that this was a wonderful book. But I enjoyed reading it, and I really liked the main characters. Mrs. Carlson is also pretty awesome. So, if you're in the mood for light hearted and kinda funny, or are a fan of this author, this is definitely worth a read. It's cute, and at times beautiful when the two men finally get their act together....more
I want to preface this by saying that though there are a few universal problems I found with this book, it's largReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
I want to preface this by saying that though there are a few universal problems I found with this book, it's largely the style of the story that I didn't like, so my rating is entirely subjective in this case.
Caleb and Gabriel have been best friends since they were little. They grew up in the same town, the town near the boarding school they now attend. Gabriel is known as "The Prince", and he's very much perfect in every way -- his looks, his intelligence and academic dedication, and his good nature. Caleb is the bad boy of the pair, eager to defend his best friend, even with fists, and frequently being called out for bad behavior and marked down for his slovenly appearance. Both of the boys have their admirers at school, especially among the girls, who seem to take every chance to get one of them for themselves.
Caleb thinks their friendship is perfect -- well, he does feel a bit as if Gabriel doesn't need him anymore. Their whole lives Caleb was Gabriel's protector, confidante, and emotional lodestone. In many ways, Caleb acted as Gabriel's big brother until a few years ago, when Gabriel filled out, shot up and became even better looking than him. And suddenly it seemed as if he wasn't the vulnerable boy Caleb would protect to any lengths. In fact, things are changing. Gabriel still won't tell him and their two best friends (and boyfriends themselves) Elliot and Jinx, who he's in love with. For years he's been mooning over a secret girl, but just keeps telling them that it can't happen. Jinx, new in love and eternally optimistic, encourages Gabriel to visit the Bell Tower on campus at midnight on Valentines Day. The legend worked for him -- if you stand under the bell and listen to all twelve rings as you hold the picture of your love in your hand, your love will come true.
As I'm sure you've already guessed, Gabriel decides to chance it and it isn't a girl he's after. What he doesn't know, is that the legend is true, in a way.
I suppose that my first problem with this book was that it just wasn't what I was expecting. I mean, it's YA, but I didn't expect that from Dreamspinner. I figured that if it was YA it would be at Harmony Ink. And more than that, the characters are all really emotionally young. The problems they go through are all incredibly and easily solvable, but they're too young to have enough maturity to deal with them. Second, the prose is a little too overly sweet for me. It is something that might completely charm another reader, which is why I prefaced the review by saying how much more subjective this review is than normal, but I kept getting frustrated by how the characters acted. A lot of their actions and dialogue was supposed to be… cute, I think. But I just didn't really get it.
So, I really can't recommend this reader. I'm conflicted, in a way, because I'd actually like for many of you to read it so that I can hear what you think. I think many will feel the same as me, but I have a feeling that there will be many readers who really love this, something that I kept thinking the whole time I was reading it. So, if the blurb and summary interest you, give it a try. Maybe since you have an idea now of the story (YA, really sweetly written), it might not come as a surprise and therefore you might enjoy it more. If you read it, let me know!...more
Your feelings about this story will hinge upon how you feel about the I Know What's Best For You plot dReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
Your feelings about this story will hinge upon how you feel about the I Know What's Best For You plot device, also known as I'll Be Miserable so You Can Be Happy Without Your Choice in the Matter, or I Don't Want to Take a Chance and Ruin Our Friendship. That pretty much sums up this story where Henning, a gay man in love with his straight best friend Roar, can't believe what he's hearing from his friend as they talk over breakfast. Roar has just had his heart crushed in by another woman, and is thinking about giving them up all together. But, not as Henning thinks, for celibacy, but maybe to try out being with a man instead. It smacks of a ruse immediately, but Henning doesn't seem to catch on, no doubt under the impression that despite his feelings of secret love for his best friend, Roar could never want him in the same way. He's further surprised then, when Roar admits that if he is going to do this, have sex with a man and see what he thinks, he wants it to be someone he's comfortable with -- of course, Henning.
Overall, I doubt this story will be a big winner with many readers, for a few reasons. First, the GFY angle is a bit of a stretch, like a gay adolescent fantasy. It isn't the story itself, but the way it's approached from the beginning with the sudden revelation. Of course, it's incredibly sexy. Much of this story is centered around their sex scene and another m/m/m scene later where Roar really works through his feelings about Henning. I think that a lot of readers also have a bit of a problem (or, if not a problem it makes them roll their eyes a bit) when a character decides to not talk and ignore an issue for the good of another character, not allowing them to make their own choices. And while I can handle that in some instances (it isn't a problem for me outright), the fact that this is such a short story does mean that we don't get to know the characters or their situation well enough to pull off a good reason why Henning shouldn't confess his feelings for his best friend. It leaves the story in the midst of friendship where they're not talking about real issues or being honest, and that miscommunication takes up the whole story.
So, my positive feelings about this story really were only how sexy it was. Other than that, I didn't know the characters well enough to get past the whole "setup" feel of the story. Also, I just can't believe their names. Roar? Henning? Maybe… I don't know. This might not be the place to state how annoying I find the names recently in m/m, but I just can't stand that we're having such crazy names now. These were a little too out there for me. It made me wonder if this was set in a fantasy world or something!
So, I have to give this story a So So. The reason that it didn't get a Not Feeling It rating, which it almost did, was that while I was reading the story, I did enjoy it. It just made me roll my eyes a bit and made me frustrated trying to dig deeper into it for a review when I felt like what is there is really just what is on the surface....more
Finally! Another Heaven Sent/Indigo Knights book! It has been a long stretch since the first Indigo KniReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
Finally! Another Heaven Sent/Indigo Knights book! It has been a long stretch since the first Indigo Knights book, Squire, came out 2 years ago. The spinoff series from Heaven Sent centers around the up and coming band by the same name, Indigo Knights, who is produced by Brent from the former series and band, Heaven Sent, and whom which the character in the first book, Rabin, occasionally showed up in that series. Of course, with all the Heaven Sent guys paired up in their Happily Ever Afters, the guys in the new band need some loving. This series follows the same format as all the books before it -- they're all gay rockers, usually flamboyant, deal with the same issues of being gay in the public eye, having a relationship with groupies around, and having to spend time apart and usually are based on some form of the Gay For You trope. And I fuckin love em. It is a format for sure, they don't differ a whole lot, but it is a perfected one because for some reason I tear through each one wanting more. They're sinfully delicious and Champion follows in the same vein.
Danny Champion is the lead singer of Indigo Knights and frontman for the up and coming band. They're pretty much set, they just haven't got the fans yet. They're really good, they're a solid group of guys that really mesh, and they've got the backing and support of Heaven Sent. It looks like it is all in the cards. For now, it is a waiting game -- a broke waiting game for Danny. He's the poorest of the group, working at a pizzeria in Chicago as they wait for their club tour to start and for Heaven Sent to finish recording their album and sharing an apartment with a computer nerd who rarely dresses or leaves their building. Cash is still adorable though, even though he's straight. Danny has a major crush on him. When they start talking about romance, and Cash seems completely befuddled with romance of any kind, Danny sets out to get closer to his roommate, with very unexpected consequences.
This is one of my favorite pairings of the stories so far. I occasionally grew impatient with how insanely clueless and stubborn Cash is, but overall I found the dynamic created by the sexy uninhibited Danny and the naive Cash who is out of touch with own feelings and emotions. It is as if Cash has never learned how to connect with himself. He's never asked himself the questions most of us do and he's coasted through life without a connection of any kind with another person. Sure, he's straight, if you consider that he's never really even thought about his feelings or characterized them. This made one thing prominent in their romance that I really liked -- Cash is an open book, lending their relationship to all different kind of possibilities (which Danny has a lot of fun exploring!).
There are a lot of fans of these series, as well as Jet Mykles in general. I can say that I completely understand where the admiration comes from. These books combine serious issues in a light and sexy tone. They don't diverge into uncharted territory and are sexy as hell. Fans of this author will definitely want to read this newest book. Reading it make me want to go back and re-read the entire Heaven Sent series over again… except for the girly one ;)
I've learned that reading Mary Calmes' books are the ultimate in guilty pleasures. Not because you shoulReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
I've learned that reading Mary Calmes' books are the ultimate in guilty pleasures. Not because you should be ashamed to read them, oh no, simply that they're decadent in romance in a way that not many other books are. There's something about them that really hits the spot when you're in the mood for a sweet, adorable, whirlwind romance (most of them, anyway), and Steamroller definitely fits the mold. Lately, this author has been releasing a lot of novellas similar to this and I've really come to enjoy them. While this one wasn't my favorite, it was definitely a nice way to spend an afternoon.
Wade, who seems to go by several names with different people, is different from most of the other students at his college. He was kicked out during senior year of high school when he came out to his parents, and was taken in by his friend's family. Now, he's one of the kids and like brothers with Mike, even though they're on the rocks since for the past year Mike has pretty much dumped him for his trashy girlfriend Barbara and left him to pay the steep rent of a shoebox apartment alone. Now he has to work twice as much on top of school to keep up both halves of the rent. He meets Carson one night just as the copy store is about to close. As manager (and a self-admitted prickly asshole at time), he can't help but get pissed off at Carson and his friend who want special favors to get their copies made before closing. The interaction with Carson, whom he doesn't know the real identity of yet, leads to a friendship and a secret romance that seems to him to have no future. But, Carson is determined…
Fans of Mary Calmes will definitely like this one. Of course, Mary has a distinct style that sometimes shows more than at other times. This story came a little close to insta-love for my tastes, perhaps because there isn't much time for them to really get to know each other for an HEA. It was held off from becoming insta-love completely by the feelings that Carson has had for Vin for some time, so while it didn't bother me much in the end, I still wished that there had been more (but that's every reader's dream!).
The dialogue in this novella is really snappy and quick witted. This is a style that some will like and others won't. I'm not honestly sure how I felt about it. At first, it bothered me. I felt like the characters were talking a lot and not saying much, which the majority of the words on the page in dialogue. As the story progressed, however, that changed a bit. Whether I started to get into the flow of the characters' words or the dialogue changed as they moved forward in their relationship, I'm not sure. In the end I seemed to find it more charming and funny.
This one will probably come down the lines that this author's book usually fall under -- the readers that will like this are the ones who usually like this author. I usually do, so I was really excited to read this. I love a sports book and even though there was little about football here other than some college jocks, I enjoyed this one and thought it was really cute....more
This is the second book in the Tucker Springs series, all set in the same town but with different, barelReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
This is the second book in the Tucker Springs series, all set in the same town but with different, barely related, characters and written with different authors. The first book, Where Nerves End by LA Witt, was only okay for me. This one really excels and a lot of you will really love it, I know that without a doubt.
Paul is a mess. His girlfriend of seven years and fiancee has left him for another man and he'll do anything to get her back. He's looking for a gift for her in the only place he can afford one (a pawnshop) when he meets El, the owner and all around cool guy with his feet propped up and smoking a cigarette. When Paul is forced to return Stacey's gift the next day, El takes him out for drinks.
Their connection is immediate. While El is certain to deny the possibility of happiness, both in the world and his own life, Paul is finding old feelings for men returning. What was the real reason he was with Stacey? Because it was right, or easy?
Paul and El are the absolute winners with this story. It wouldn't be a story at all without them -- there isn't really anything more here than their friendship and later relationship. Their personalities are so different, yet harmonious right from their first meeting. They each have a lot of issues to work through and though some of them are quiet heavy I never felt as if they were overwhelming. Paul, of course, has never really had to face his own fundamental character head on. He's clueless about everything in his life, and he's clueless that he's clueless. Meeting Stacey so young and breezing through life comfortably meant that he never had to consider whether he was truly happy or only content. Never having to make choices combined with a deep seated self esteem issue (because no one could really want him) makes it safer to leave his curiosity smothered. When Stacey takes away the comfort, Paul flounders, unable to see any other way of living if it isn't to constantly curry Stacey's favor.
El is a different puzzle. He's convinced that there's no such thing as real happiness for anyone, so why try to look for it himself. He isn't maudlin about it, he simply accepts it as a fact of life, telling himself that he's a realist and is happier for never searching for an elusive prize that only ends in heartbreak. This is highlighted very well by his family troubles. He's portrayed as having a typical loud and obnoxious Latin family, but the focus is shifted to his mother's hoarding problem. This allowed his family to be real instead of stereotypical, and by showing the role that El plays (stern mediator) that while he loves his family he's constantly seeking to separate himself from them. After all, his sister is constantly dating a new man who screws her over and his mother seems to care for her possessions as living things. They are attachments to disappointment and superficiality, and even while El rants against them, his lonely life and his later actions to court Paul's favor (a straight man), betray those feelings as falsehoods -- a smokescreen for fear of disappointment. I wondered where this came from. We never hear of a failed relationship in his past that might have made El so jaded, so I could only assume that his feelings have grown in response to his family.
There is so much to recommend about this story and like I said earlier, this short novel is going to be a hit with most readers. I sometimes have a hard time getting into contemporary unless I'm not in the mood for any other genre. I didn't have that problem here because the writing was so superb and kept me interested from the beginning. I can only hope that Heidi and Marie continue to write together. Both of these authors are wonderful, to which their numerous fans will attest, but together their strengths compensated for the other's weaknesses.
I'm still not entirely sure what draws this series together. Obviously, the town of Tucker Springs which is the name of the series. Aside from that, I haven't noticed any overall thematic connections -- though perhaps I will have to wait for further installments. Definitely Recommended!...more
This is a bit of a difficult book to review. I wouldn't say I had a hard time getting into it, but I didReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
This is a bit of a difficult book to review. I wouldn't say I had a hard time getting into it, but I did take some breaks early on while reading, trying to wrap my head around what was going on. There's no mistaking that this book is the setup to a series, but I found on one of my breaks a comment by NJ Nielsen on GoodReads that this is a 3-part series (3 Lines of Marsden, which are family descendant lines), which total 18 books, 12 of which were already mostly written. So that helped me wrap my brain around why I felt like the questions were mounting and mounting and I wasn't getting many answers… at the least, this is much like a 6 part, very long novel. That helps, because I like reading vast works and now that I know what I'm getting into and I can understand that this book is The Setup.
The difficulty I think with writing a review for the first part of such a long story is that we're still really getting into the story by the time the book ends. I still have WAY more questions than answers, and while I'm a pretty lax reader when it comes to this kind of thing, reviewing such a setup book does pose some challenges. Mostly, my rating of Pretty Good reflects this, because I have to rate how I feel about this novel as a standalone book, and that is difficult. So while I feel like later installments of this series could really wow me, the rating for this first one is probably on the low side.
I won't say much beyond the blurb, because I liked how little the blurb reveals. With the nature of this first book, a book that is really about setup of the world, the characters and their relationships, and beginning the lines of questions, I think it was important for me as a reader to go into this story knowing very little. The characters know very little. They've in essence, all woken up as some type of vampiric creature and for a couple years been trying to figure out what they are. What does it mean that they feel they've been "chosen" to be this way and live this existence? Their only answers have come from gravitating to each other and forming a family.
Of the family, there is Kerr (who I loving call Jam, because of the canning jars :D), who is the big brother, first of the family and all around leader of the group. Then there is Charm, who like her name is the heart of the family even while driving them all crazy with her prophetic dreams. Then, there's Doyle, who remains a real enigma to the end of the book. Is he gay? Is he straight? All we know is that he seems to have a very secret and important role in the future. Lastly, we have Christian, who in a sense is the strangest of them all. He's covered in scars he can't remember getting, nor can he remember his previous life at all. Sometimes he remembers things and then forgets them again, and he often has wild mood swings, wise at one moment and downright childish in mind at others, as if someone else is controlling him. And from the moment he sees Michael, our main character, dying in the park as the change overcomes him, he's in love (or obsessed?) with him. He saves Michael's life by feeding him blood, and then takes him home.
Though these four have been a family for almost two years now, Michael really becomes the sun in their solar system once he joins them. He's also the catalyst for the changes that start happening in their lives. It seems like someone is following them. They're all having strange, sometimes conflicting prophetic dreams about him and others in the family. At the same time, while Christian and Michael both say they aren't gay, they feel an almost visceral pull towards one another and the sexual nature of their feelings surprise them. They both have a bit of angst trying to reconcile their feelings in this book, and why they feel them so strongly. Lastly, there's a side plot. Michael misses his real family, especially his twin sister Gypsy and wants to try to find a way back to them, even though to them he's been missing for over a month.
I did had a few problems. There's quite a bit of head-hopping in the first half of the book, and while it doesn't switch sentence by sentence, it does often switch every few paragraphs. I would have loved a little separation between these POV switches, just so they didn't jar me as much while reading. I was worried as I got further and further into the story. I knew there was a lot coming in future books, but I didn't want the story to end without answering enough of my questions to tempt me into reading the second book. I think there's a very subtle and sometimes difficult line to maneuver in this situation between using answers or a cliffhanger to resolve this, and I was partly happy with the way it was finished. I didn't get as many answers as I wanted (and I wasn't asking for a lot, there's so much setup for what is coming in the future, including names of characters we haven't met or have barely met, and whole factions of this story only glimpsed at), but there was a cliffhanger as well. Perhaps that's unavoidable in a series with so many parallel story lines, so I let it slide. Plus, though there is a cliff, the author took the high road, I felt. There could have been a terrible cliffhanger, and we weren't forced to endure that. So while the story does end in the middle of much action, it isn't at the height of it, and I really thank the author for that! Still, here's hoping that if 12 of 18 books are nearly completed then we won't have to wait long for the second book.
I'd recommend that readers interested in this stick around for future installments and reviews. Unless you're a reader that likes to read as books are released, no matter what, then go for it. But I know many of you would much rather wait until you can get much of the story at once.
I'm definitely intrigued by this story. I can't say I'm in love with it, because I'll have to wait until there's more to read, but I liked this one and I'm eager to see what happens to the characters in the future. I have a feeling they have a shitload of crazy plot-twists coming in the future :)
Just a Note: This is one of the best covers I've seen from MLR, so kudos! It was what drew me to the novel in the first place....more
The writing is good overall, I just wish that more had happened. There really wasn't much of an original plot despite what potential there was. I likeThe writing is good overall, I just wish that more had happened. There really wasn't much of an original plot despite what potential there was. I liked the characters. I suppose my real complaint is just that it seemed like very little was happening, and that made the pace rather slow, especially for a short novella such as this....more
Though this was Lou Harper's first published book and the first one I ever bought of hers, itReview posted for Lou Harper week at The Armchair Reader.
Though this was Lou Harper's first published book and the first one I ever bought of hers, it lingered in my vast online library for just under two years before I decided to start reading her backlist. You could say I caught the bug to read all of her books after reading and falling in love with Harvey and Gabe (and Denton too) in Spirit Sanguine, and that unexpected review of such a wonderful book is what made me decide to go back and read this one. It didn't hurt, of course, that I'd only heard good things about it.
What I found when I read it (and this was the first one I went back and read), was not only that Lou had started out with some pretty good characterization under her belt but that I really liked her style. I get really upset when I so often read books that end preemptively, just when things are getting good. The best ones are where the couple plods along and you don't just get to see the honeymoon phase but what their lives are like as an actual couple and how they deal with that. That's what makes a real romance in my opinion, and I've found that the more romance I read over the years that I really need that in a contemporary romance where the central plot is the romance. That's what I really liked about this book -- it didn't seem to follow a typical romance plot structure, which meant that it kept me on my toes.
Hanging Loose starts with Nate, a new transplant to LA. He's unfamiliar with the way the city runs, the weather, navigating public transit, which leaves him on Venice Beach and night without a jacket and miserable. He's approached by Jez, and while initially wary, agrees to his invitation to stay at his home. The two get to know each other and eventually come to a roommate agreement. What follows is is a pretty standard GFY, or maybe more accurately OFY story (more on that in a bit). Nate is straight and Jez is openly gay. They become pretty good friends as Nate settles in and they come up with a routine. Nate starts to make friends, one of which is the old man Jez bakes for and spends time watching over. But Jez is mysterious in a few ways. One is the attraction between the two, which Nate takes a while to understand and Jez is of course, wary of, being that Nate has until now apparently not been attracted to men. The rest is Jez's romantic history and his family history and the tales of Old Hollywood passed down from his grandmother Adelle.
Lou mentioned in her interview with me earlier this week about the reason she first wanted to write and publish this story:
I started writing Hanging Loose after reading a GFY story I didn’t find convincing. To me, the core of the story is that sexuality is complex and there are many shades between straight and gay. Following the character’s journey coming to terms with his own nature and desires was what I wanted to explore.
That's always been a problem for me as well, that a GFY story done right needs a depth of character study to keep the realism instead of knocking me out of the story. But I didn't know her feelings yet when I started reading Hanging Loose, so I wasn't sure what to expect. What I found was a really interesting dynamic between Jez and Nate as they first get to know one another. Right away, just in the first few pages when Nate meets Jez, he feels a little tingle of connection between them:
“I’m straight,” I blurted out at last. There was a tiny voice deep down telling me I was full of shit. I gagged it. I felt myself blushing in embarrassment as soon as the words left my lips. I didn’t even know why I just assumed he was gay…
“I won’t hold it against you,” he said, smiling…
That dynamic made it more plausible later for Nate's sexuality to be more fluid than originally expected and I liked how Lou made that issue ultimately intersect with Jez and his history and his own secrets that he's keeping from Nate, who in a way becomes the aggressor the future into the book you read.
This is really a "Loved It" book for me -- I was with it and totally engaged through the whole read -- so I don't have any criticism at all. For a novice writer this book was simply wonderful. There's a lot more that I really loved about this book, but in effort not to spoiler you about some pretty significant pieces of the book, I'll mostly leave those alone to say that I thought the last 35% or so of the book was where the characters really shined… when everything is finally out in the open. One of the relationships I love the most in the book is Nate's friendship with Arthur, which was ultimately what tipped this book up in the 5 star rating for me. I thought it was portrayed beautifully and aligned well with Nate's development.
So, by all means do I recommend this one. Going back and reading this book wasn't just something that I had always wanted to do but really it cemented Lou's talent in my mind and made her forever an author that I'll cheer on and get excited about....more
I've meant to read this for quite a while now. I originally put it off for the angst factor, but it ended up not being nearly as angsty as I expected.I've meant to read this for quite a while now. I originally put it off for the angst factor, but it ended up not being nearly as angsty as I expected. I liked both characters even though Charlie pissed me off sometimes, and I absolutely adored Gregory.
I think that there were two things that made this work for me, even though I did end the story thinking it was just very good, rather than wonderful:
1) The GFY plot is difficult to sometimes pull off, if I believe I'm supposed to take it seriously, in a story such as this. It does take a certain suspension of belief to get me to trust a character that was straight suddenly fall in love with a man. I think it can really only work (for me) if the man in question comes to terms that he might have been gay all along and is only, for some reason, now realizing it. That is, after all, something that does happen, if a gay man really doesn't want to admit for some reason or another that they're gay. And, looking at that from another direction, that does look an awful lot like GFY. So this part of the story worked for me and I enjoyed it.
2) I do sometimes get upset with contemporary romances because it feels like the story always starts after some traumatic event. Now, I realize it takes conflict and a place for a story to grow to push a plot forward, but I don't see how anyone could really argue with me that it seems like the more I read the more drastic these past traumas become. And then, as a consequence, the past traumas all seem to blur together for me and no matter how horrible something would be in real life, it ends up making less of an impact than it should.
Even though it wasn't really explored with any extent, the fact that a criminal plot was involved with this one and jail time did make Charlie's past differ for once from those other blurry characters and I felt like the ensuing drama for Charlie did in fact make more sense. Even though part of me wants to scoff a bit (which makes me feel a little heartless, I will admit) that Charlie's past has taken one more drastic measure over the others, I thought it was actually dealt with well and, in the end, I thought the author made it work. So, she made a believer of me, thankfully.
I'm excited now to read RJ's story, and then go back and read Josh and Laurence's prequel....more