4.5 stars, rounded up. I got into this series here on book 3, and although that can be done and enjoyed, (as you see), I'm going to go back to book on4.5 stars, rounded up. I got into this series here on book 3, and although that can be done and enjoyed, (as you see), I'm going to go back to book one when I can and start from the beginning. The characters carry forward and the hints of past adventures are intriguing. I think it would enrich this book to read in order.
In 1895 London, Ira Adler is a one-time rent boy, one-time crime lord's kept man, now out on his own and making good. He's had a couple of easier years without violence, and has a lightweight relationship with a like-minded young man. But when his powerful ex-lover, the man he truly gave his heart once, wants to meet with him, he can't help going to the man's house. Only to see the place come down in an explosion. Ira is shaken and grieving, more than he ever expected.
So a friend's invitation to come along on a trip to California holds a lot of appeal. A new start, new adventures, good friends to cheer him up. There's no sign that from the first day onboard ship this too will get complicated.
This is a lighthearted adventure, with more adventure than angst. I wasn't deeply touched by Ira's emotions, but I enjoyed his character, the plot, the secondary personages and the historical touches. I've always wanted to see the historical black Marshall who is thought to be the inspiration for the Lone Ranger in a work of fiction, and there he was as a foil to Ira as the mystery builds across America to California. This series is clearly more mystery than romance, although Ira does form relationships for both sex and potentially more. But at the end of the book there is at best a tenuous HFN. I look forward to going and exploring the adventures that brought Ira to this point, and I hope there will be a book 4....more
Like the first two books in this world, Lord of the White Hell Book 1 and Lord of the White Hell Book 2, this is again really one story, cut into two parts, so this review will be for both together. You cannot read just Book 1 and stop. And you won't want to, because also like the first pair, this is a wonderful, imaginative, action-filled story with two great main characters. You could possibly read this as a stand-alone, but it will be a much richer read if you have read "White Hell" first, and have an idea of the secondary characters' past roles and relationships to each other.
Elezar is a lonely man. He was part of the tight-knit circle of young men who survived the crisis at the Sagrada Acedemy. That group split apart, splintered by flight and exile, by jealousy and magic. Elezar has spent his years since then dueling, for reasons good and less-good, and hiding his true self deep inside. His one remaining close friend has been Atreau, whose excesses of women and wine and the wrong beds end up driving them both into exile.
They are sent to the magical, northern country of Labara, for their safety and as eyes and ears for Fedeles back home. The situation in Labara turns out to be more complex than Elezar is prepared for, as magic, politics, money, religion, and the Old Gods are all driving events, and men and women, forward.
Elezar's self-concept and all his plans and expectations are further overset when he meets Skellan. Of course, he doesn't realize it at first, since he meets the young witch while Skellen is wearing the form of a red hound. Elezar's fundamental kindness leads him to protect the abused animal. Finding out that the dog he thought he was caring for is really a willful, brilliant, and uncultured young man with the most powerful magic in the city is a shock. Admitting anything beyond a simple willingness to protect Skellen from harm will be a slow surrender.
Skellen's life has been hard, from his childhood as a foundling in the company of witches, to his teens as a street urchin and secret witch himself. He saw the capricious foster-mother who sheltered him destroyed by the current ruler of the city. Since then, his long ambition has been to challenge and throw down that man. But in the moment he's ready to do so, a far more virulent magical force strikes first. Suddenly his ambition is changed, from simply taking the man's place as the most powerful witch in the city, to hoping the city and all his people can survive the onslaught of new magic.
Elezar is a puzzle to Skellen. He shelters Skellen's hound form, and has a core of kindness under his forbidding bulk and fighter's quick blade. But he clearly has secrets of his own, and while Skellen is happy to admit being attracted to the big man, Elezar comes from a land where attraction to another man is an abomination. Neither Skellen's route to power nor the route to true love will run in the least bit smoothly.
But then neither will the route to survival. Terrible forces are gathering, and Skellen's role, and his powers, are much less simple than he imagines.
It was also fun to see important characters from the first book show up and play an extended role. Javier and especially Kiram are a bit older, a bit more battered, but quintessentially themselves, and they add a lot to the richness of the story. New characters, like the troll, and a witch with rat-familiars, are only a few of the other unforgettable people who move through this new tapestry of magic, adventure, and slow, uncertain but inexorable love.
If you enjoy epic fantasy with your M/M, this series is for you. Do start with the first of the four books, and enjoy the ride. ...more
I am a big fan of author Neil Plakcy's Mahu series, a gay mystery series which becomes gay romance. His writing style is smooth, well-chosen, and engaI am a big fan of author Neil Plakcy's Mahu series, a gay mystery series which becomes gay romance. His writing style is smooth, well-chosen, and engaging.
This new series highlights three gay roommates with different career paths, construction in the first book, website design in the third, and music in this one. The men find a path to love one after the other. Each book has its highlights (including a very authentic feel to the background of each character's occupation) and its weaknesses. This one is probably my favorite, even though I didn't fully warm up to Gavin, the model turned singer who is the POV main character.
What sets this story apart is the cast of interesting characters who surround him - his grandmother and her two sisters, his cousins, his parents, the roommates and even his coworkers at Java Joe's. The interactions feel natural, the characters all have their strengths and flaws, and they seem like real people. This was a strong point for "Mahu" series too - the presence of strong secondary characters. Where many romances seem to cast the two lovers in a little world of their own, this warm and well-peopled setting was engaging.
Gavin begins the story as a beautiful, rather shallow, pleasure-seeking male model for whom life has come fairly easy. He isn't wealthy, but his parents were well off enough. He can get pretty much any man he choses to take to bed. The hardest thing he does is get up early in the mornings for his work shift at a coffee-shop.
This is really his growing up story, as he finds a man worth being better for and working harder for, and a career goal that engages and energizes him. He also matures into a new family dynamic and begins to see his parents and the older generation as real people and not icons.
Miles, the music producer whose interest awakens Gavin's ambitions, is a good foil for Gavin - serious, work-driven, and careful. They are mismatched at the start, and it's not going to be easy for Gavin to step outside his own self-involvement and preconceptions to find out what being part of a couple with Miles really involves.
A somewhat lightweight but warm, character-filled and quirky story with the feel of being grounded in reality.
This is the third book in the series, and only the first of them is YA. This is now college, with plenty of erotic opportunities. I enjoy these two maThis is the third book in the series, and only the first of them is YA. This is now college, with plenty of erotic opportunities. I enjoy these two main characters, who got together in high school, and I'm happy to see them working out the kinks in their lives and relationship.
I do want to commend the author for avoiding the temptation to repeat the drama of the last book, and for not manufacturing angst. At the same time, that left the underlying tension of this story mainly internal for both characters, and a bit drawn out. There isn't quite enough story for the length, a bit too much sex as filler, and no real climax. But I'm a big fan of ongoing relationships and the details of daily life as things fall (or are wrestled) into place. The relationship discussions are lovely, if only more college guys were that introspective and willing to talk things through.
Do start with the first book - this series definitely builds over time. Although the author does a good job of giving enough background to allow this to stand alone, it will have more appeal if the reader is already invested in the happiness of these two MCs, and has seen them in tougher times....more
Although part of a series, this book could be read as a stand-alone. Penn is a young clothing designer who gets a first job out of uni in theater costAlthough part of a series, this book could be read as a stand-alone. Penn is a young clothing designer who gets a first job out of uni in theater costume production. He's young, talented, eager and optimistic.
There Penn catches the eye of Adam, an actor and sometimes playwright. Adam is stunned by Penn's appearance, not just out of attraction, but because Penn turns out to be the twin brother of Charlie, the guy whom Adam was dating and who just dumped him to leave without warning. Adam's not always sure whether his immediate responses to Penn are just an echo of his feelings for Charlie. But the longer he's around Penn, the more he sees that this twin has the sweetness and empathy that the other didn't. Penn is a far better fit for Adam than Charlie ever was, if Adam can just figure out where to go from there.
Adam also battles some degree of depression, or anxiety tied to worries about a family history of depression, that ties him up in knots. As he becomes closer to Penn, he values their relationship more and more. But after being the one pushing for more with Charlie, he now is the one holding back, not sure he can be what Penn needs. It only adds to his anxiety to be certain that Penn won't wait forever for him to figure it out.
On the whole, this was a smooth, easy read with two likable guys. I had a few quibbles. For instance, Penn is a bit too perfect. And the speed with which Adam moved from mourning his relationship with Charlie to pursuing Penn felt much too fast, making him seem shallow. But once the story settled into the ups and downs of their relationship it became more natural and less forced. I was interested to see where the story went. The main characters have good chemistry, and Adam's reactions to the paralyzing effect of anxiety and depression were plausibly portrayed. ...more
This is only the first installment of a longer saga, ending with a near-cliffhanger, although not an acute one. The title is very apt. Both main charaThis is only the first installment of a longer saga, ending with a near-cliffhanger, although not an acute one. The title is very apt. Both main characters live on the dark side of the law - Jack partly by force of circumstances, Sid by more deliberate choice.
Sid is a lawyer, and an all-around bastard. His difficult childhood has turned his life-philosophy into "Do unto others, first and hard, before they get a chance to screw you over." He has rare moments of human caring, but for the most part he forges ahead with his own agenda, sometimes even with gratuitous cruelty.
Jack is a data-thief, while also hunting for answers to the disappearance of his sister - an environmental activist - years ago. He's a guy with a moral code despite how he earns his money, the prototypical American romantic hero (as Amy Lane describes them) who will choose his people and his family over the greater good or the law every time. He is fascinated by Sid, after a conspiracy of big oil firms and their lawyers brings them into contact, and his newfound determination to protect Sid, even from his own mistakes, makes Jack's life and that of his team difficult.
Sid's a hard guy to like, and he's not redeemed even by the end of this book. The author is skillful enough to make me hold out hope for his future, but it's going to be an uphill climb. I admit when everyone around Jack said how perfect Sid was for him, I didn't see it. I wanted Jack to find a real good-guy. But that wouldn't be the train-wreck fascination that is this story.
A fast-reading, exciting, sometimes violent, sometimes infuriating, twisty story. I'll have to pick up the second volume, since I can't stop here. ...more
A fun mid-20th century historical romp with a little bittersweet gut-punch in the middle. James Trevalyan, 18 year old university student and heir toA fun mid-20th century historical romp with a little bittersweet gut-punch in the middle. James Trevalyan, 18 year old university student and heir to nobility, had married the sweet sixteen-year-old girl he fell in love with, ready to take on the world and his parents' rejection for her. But things fell apart fast and soon Barbara was whisked off back to America and a divorce. Not a bad thing in the end, because it gave James a chance to discover that he really preferred men... or at least, one special man. Jeremy is the lonely son of a cold father, quiet, self-conscious, and exactly right for James.
James makes a very appealing narrator - self-confident, amusing, diffident, and very much in love. In the years following WWII, James and Jeremy can't afford to be an open couple but that doesn't stop James from making certain they are one in private. The two men work for British government intelligence in the field and the office, and celebrate life together at home.
I didn't read the blurb for this book, so I wasn't prepared for the middle of the story. I'm actually glad I didn't know in advance - the book has the light breezy tone through most of it, as James moves through years of his life. This was the moment that went deep. ...Major spoiler unless you read the blurb... (view spoiler)[After making the reader fall in love too, with quiet, self-deprecating, sweet and brilliant Jeremy, the author allows Jeremy to die. Which was fine - painful, emotional, but that's how life sometimes is - other than the little misdirection at the beginning of the book. The second half of the story is James's slow return to life, and to the arms of another good man. (hide spoiler)] I imagine the author had a struggle to decide whether to warn of a major plot twist, or face the wrath of readers unwarned... I don't think the blurb really weights the story elements quite the way they felt to me, and I'm glad I read it only afterward.
In any case, I really liked the whole story. I had a couple of small issues - a little paranormal thread that shows up out of nowhere near the end, and goes nowhere. It explains one plot point, but it didn't feel necessary, and once introduced it didn't feel half well enough utilized. And I also was envisioning a couple of coming out moments that never happened, that I'd have liked to have seen.
But over all a fun, occasionally affecting story with a fast, smooth, confident narrative style and just enough period detail as it moves through the decades. There are some sweet moments, and a happy ending, and I was left wanting more of these guys, but satisfied with where it ended.
Paul comes home from Korea to a world that seems the same, but is in very personal ways different from the one he left. His parents both died while hePaul comes home from Korea to a world that seems the same, but is in very personal ways different from the one he left. His parents both died while he was overseas, leaving him at loose ends, the owner of a big, empty house, with only a brother off in college for family. He has also figured out that he's gay, although he's not quite sure what he'll do about pursuing that. And he has gained more strength to speak up about his hatred for injustice and prejudice, after seeing friends die to preserve freedom.
He stumbles across a man being harassed by local boys for being gay, and although it takes time, that man, Kenneth, becomes his entry into the LGBT world of his hometown. It's a hidden world, meeting in a little bar while ignoring each other in public. And it's precarious, since the whisper of being gay is enough to lose a person their family, job, and home. For Paul, it's the beginning of a journey toward something he only glimpsed once, as a young teen, when a friend kissed him after a trauma. And then never again.
This story is slow and not overly dramatic. The flavor of the time is well-conveyed. There are conflicts and joys, well-told and believable. I wasn't pulled deep into the narrative, until the end. There, at last, the emotion made my throat catch as the arc of time, the changes through recent history, suppressed lives and losses, were powerfully rendered. I enjoyed this 20th century historical for the look back and for the affirmation of progress, with characters I cared about....more
The Vietnam War era was an intense period in American history, both for those who served overseas and for those who remained at home. And yet, if I waThe Vietnam War era was an intense period in American history, both for those who served overseas and for those who remained at home. And yet, if I was going to find one phrase to describe this story, it might be low-key. Some important events happen, but this is not an anguished war novel or an angry protest novel. Michael is serving in the American Air Force, posted in Vietnam, but he's assigned behind the lines, in Saigon, as an English teacher for some South Vietnamese military. This is his tale of self-discovery.
The story is imbued with the feel of Saigon, the sights and sounds, and the rhythms of both the Vietnamese city and Michael's military base. In the hot, rainy, densely-populated city, Michael slowly moves toward an understanding of his own sexuality, his emotional needs, and his reactions to the young men around him. His relationship with the young Vietnamese man, Thao, is very slow burn - so slow that if the story didn't open with a frame two years later with Thao central to it, one might wonder for a long time who Micheal was going to end up with. The first half of the story is travelogue, historical exposition, and slow self-awareness, very readable, sometimes fascinating, but not emotional.
As the story moves along, the emotional content does ramp up. The love story begins to take shape, and there is tension and expectation. With memories of the fall of Saigon in mind, the events in the book have an underlying note of risk and impermanence that makes them feel more intense. And yet, even as the press of history ramps up in the events, this story doesn't really become angsty. I worried about Thao and some of the secondary characters, and read straight through the last third to see what would happen to each of them. But when I closed the book it was the atmosphere, the history, the geography that left the strongest impact.
This is a well-written, slow-building look at a place and an era many Americans are no longer familiar with. Well worth a read, if you don't mind taking a slow and winding road to love, where the scenery and the context are equal players with the romance in the story....more
One thing I appreciated with this story is that it allowed life to be messy, to have two men whose instant attraction is complicated by the fact thatOne thing I appreciated with this story is that it allowed life to be messy, to have two men whose instant attraction is complicated by the fact that one is already in a relationship. It allowed the guys to be imperfect, to not always disclose what they should tell each other, to be tempted to do the wrong thing. This is a long slow burn, as Levi and Jake fall in love, even though Jake is with another man and they are not free to do more than "be friends".
I was not so crazy about the message coming from every single secondary character, that love mattered more than honesty and integrity. (view spoiler)[Jake has been with Victor for years. Sure, they've been growing apart and things aren't perfect, but the way everyone kept pushing Jake and Levi together annoyed me. Not one person seemed to speak up for Victor, for his right to be treated with respect and honesty first, before the two guys got any more involved. Levi was the only one with that viewpoint to any degree. I lost respect for everyone else in this book. (hide spoiler)]
The love was a bit instant, and it felt a little like the ending was written to a particular plot point. I liked watching the guys get there, but didn't quite buy it all. Major Spoiler: (view spoiler)[The book posited that it was possible to fall in love and propose in the same moment. When it happened, it didn't seem organic to me - it did feel rushed and premature. A couple of months of tense contacts and lusting from afar didn't feel like enough to base a life on, yet. (hide spoiler)]
At the same time, I loved Levi's character, the secondary characters were fun and flamboyant, there were some hilarious lines and moments mixed in with the emotions, and the read was smooth and fast. There is an ebb and flow to relationships, and I liked seeing a bit of a different dynamic here. I liked that Jake's boyfriend, Victor, while not heroic, was also not vilified to an unreasonable degree. So often the antagonist in a book relationship is turned into evil incarnate, to justify a change of heart. Whereas in real life, growing apart is far, far more common. It was interesting to watch all the relationship progressions in this book, and I felt for both men, in the difficulty of their positions. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
This book started a little slow, a little dry and expository. So I wasn't expecting the way it grew on me. I finished it with a smile on my face, andThis book started a little slow, a little dry and expository. So I wasn't expecting the way it grew on me. I finished it with a smile on my face, and a warm appreciation.
Undercover Blues is an historical counter-espionage story, set in England before the Second World War. Tom and Rob are partners - agents for a government department whose job is to identify and arrest those who threaten national security. In this case, various secrets are being obtained by blackmail, and passed to Hitler's Germany. A prominent scientist has a gay son who looks a lot like Rob, and a scheme is hatched for Rob to impersonate the son, to draw out the blackmailers and arrest them. Tom will pose as the son's love interest, and provide the blackmailer with ammunition.
Both Tom and Rob have been with men in their pasts, although they are both deeply closeted about it, in this 1930's era when gay relationships can lead to arrest and prison. Neither is happy with the stresses that come with their new roles. Their familiar, easy law-enforcement partnership will have to withstand some pretty close quarters and difficult moments. Between Rob's teasing nature and impatience, and Tom's dislike of his passive love-interest role, it will be tough to get through the assignment without an explosion. Of course, dealing with dangerous men means other kinds of pyrotechnics are also possible.
Over the course of the story, the two men gradually became distinct, interesting, sometimes irritating (Rob, I'm looking at you) characters and fun to watch. There isn't much angst, despite the potential, and the story has more of a light sketchy touch than deep emotion, but I did get pulled into it. (My lack of a good head for names did make me wish that both men didn't have a three-letter name with an o in the middle; I kept their undercover identities straight more easily than their real names. But that's my failing, not the author's.)
The author manages the difficult job of providing period flavor without over-explaining, and of giving us a dramatic situation - illegal relationships, temperament clashes, blackmail, espionage, and more - without ever falling into melodrama. I really enjoyed the way the plot played out. It was well done, engaging, and not OTT. There is a lot of unresolved sexual tension - this is the definition of a slow burn. And the ending is hot and sweet and funny.
If you enjoy a 20th century historical context, some espionage action, banter, and a light touch with plot and back-story, consider adding this one to your TBR. ...more
One of the things I really appreciate about The Lost and Founds series is that each book has a different flavor. EaAnother lovely book in this series.
One of the things I really appreciate about The Lost and Founds series is that each book has a different flavor. Each one shares the main character of Vin Vambly, the theme, the story arc. Each has the same playfulness, with a marvelous joy in language, with moments of humor and moments of deep emotion, but they resonate with me in different ways.
If you have not yet read these, begin with book 1 - King Perry - In this book we meet Vin Vanbly, magician, mystic, prankster, and adventurer, who finds the true hearts of lost men and helps them find themselves as Kings. The first book is glittering mirrors and breathless moments, unexpected, delivering laughter and heartache in sucker-punches, sometimes in the same damned paragraph.
Then King Mai, warmer, softer, sweeter, with a Vin who is less sure, more human. Then The Butterfly King, with Vin younger yet, moving back in time. Vin is shown grappling with his own issues, as he tries to find the vulnerabilities in a man of strength without breaking him beyond repair. That book had hurt and power and hidden depths.
And now this one... (beware, spoilers for the first books.)
King John shows us Vin in 2002, after the events of the three previous books. Vin is at Burning Man, the annual desert festival of self-expression and art, nonconformity and radical inclusion. Vin says it's the one place he feels at home, and it's clear why. This is one place where a man who bear-walks down the street will not just be met with smiles, but would probably find a couple of other people trying it out too, alongside him. Here, a man who considers himself a bit of a freak is among a crowd of such variety and such acceptance that he would find it almost impossible to really stand out. Here at last, all of Vin's tricks and masks can become normal, even though he doesn't let go of them.
With each book, I've become more and more fond of Vin. He's gone from sparkling, polished showman to a damaged, lonely, dedicated man who is doing his best at a task he himself only half-understands. We've seen glimpses here and there of his childhood, and the monsters that lurked there. Each book we get a better feel for how isolated Vin has always been, and how he has worked to keep an optimistic heart, and to explore the world for all the good things in it.
This book, for the first time, gave me a second main character and foil to Vin whom I didn't like at first. Don't get me wrong, I was fascinated by the story, loving Vin, and seduced by the language and writing. But Alistair? He annoyed me.
After a while, I realized that part of the reason was because I could see a lot of myself in him. Not in his lack of trust, but in his need to question everything. That sharp intellectual approach to the world that can't just go along, but must always ask "why?" and say, "yes, but what if...?" and which demands the reassurance of logical analysis. So in watching Alistair, I saw the reverse side of that - the way it gets in between a person and the experience. Plus he was bugging my beloved Vin, and demanding a lot from him on the one hand, while giving nothing back on the other. Grrr.
As time went on, of course, the story unearthed both the deeper, softer side of Alistair, buried beneath his need for appearances and need for control. And I learned more about Vin, saw that in these post-Perry days, he's in some ways going backward, losing his certainties in new mysteries. Vin has successfully guided many Lost Kings to become Found Kings, but the toll it's taking on him is starting to show at every level. Something will have to change...
In the next book, I suppose.
And so with a sigh, I finished reading "King John." As with every book in this series, I saw redemption and change, loss and gain, in an unfamiliar setting I could almost feel and taste. I laughed at the word play, smiled at the absurdities, hurt for the boy Vin was and the man he still is, and loved the journey. I'll even forgive Edmond Manning for the little unresolved hints at the end - not cliffhangers, because the main plot thread is set in its path, but just a bit more mystery than ever before.
And so now I'll wait for Chapter 12 of King Daniel-book 6... If you haven't yet found King Daniel, go to Edmond's website and do so; it's coming out a little at a time, between volumes, whetting our appetite with hints of joy and pain, and more freaking mysteries... such fun. And then book 5 to come, and more of Vin Vambly's adventures Finding the Lost Kings. A favorite series, now one glorious, magical, hot, dry, sandy, fascinating installment longer. ...more
This story of a quiet, once-bitten twice-shy man and a rent boy does several things right. First, I really appreciated that Angel did not quickly giveThis story of a quiet, once-bitten twice-shy man and a rent boy does several things right. First, I really appreciated that Angel did not quickly give up prostitution and become monogamous after meeting Micah. A guy who's turning tricks generally has strong motivation to do so - money, power, threats, to get back at someone... That doesn't change on a dime. And I also liked that Micah didn't ask him to. The author let them develop a relationship slowly, in fits and starts, so that progress and setbacks were believable. Angel's ability and eagerness to keep his sex-persona and real life separate were well portrayed.
I liked the guys together, and appreciated that the emphasis wasn't usually on the sex, but on the other parts of their relationship. Both men were appealing, and the mystery of Angel, whom we see only through Micah's point of view, was revealed at a plausible and intriguing pace.
The secondary characters were good for moving the plot, although I was glad of Micah's mother to balance out the flamboyance of his best friend and sister. All the women were rather excitable, but since Micah's reluctance to stand up to their curiosity was part of what drove the initial story, it wasn't a problem for me.
Where I took off a star was in the tendency for things to be a bit too black and white. Brian, Micah's ex-boyfriend, had to be a negative character to motivate Micah's subsequent self-isolation. But did he have to have been bad at sex, and never romantic, and uninterested in Micah's job, and demanding, and disliking everything Micah liked, and the one who cheated, and the one who broke up with him, and, and, and? It got to where each new revelation of "Brian had never done this right" became less a reason for sympathy and more a moment of wondering "Why did you ever stay with him?" It would have been a more interesting (and plausible) book if Brian had occasionally done something better than Angel did.
The antagonist was also so vile that it took away a little of the suspense. (and warrants tags for abuse) Major spoiler - (view spoiler)[If Angel had been blackmailed by someone who wasn't violent and totally reprehensible, then what? As it was, they got Angel extricated from his grip, but he was so awful that I really wanted them to have discussions and some angst about how to bring him down anyway, safely, to protect the next young rent boy he might get his hands on. I was a bit disappointed in where they left it. (hide spoiler)]
And Angel was a little too perfect. No drugs, no grit, no disdain for his customers, no real hardness (although I grant you he started high-end, never on the streets.) The reason he got into prostitution in the first place felt a little under-motivated. (view spoiler)[Feeling like he had to support his parents? If he'd given the impression of having been always striving, desperate for parental approval to that point, or adoring them, rather than indifferent to them, it would have seemed more plausible. Given the existence of older siblings, his need to shoulder the whole burden alone without discussion would have been less unfathomable. (hide spoiler)]
But I did enjoy the story. In all, a smooth, mildly angsty, sometimes sweetly romantic book about the value of treating everyone as human and seeing past facades. And about how real trust can develop if you don't push too hard. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
If you enjoy cop/mystery stories with an unusual angle to the plots, snarky characters, and a hot and complicated relationship, start this series withIf you enjoy cop/mystery stories with an unusual angle to the plots, snarky characters, and a hot and complicated relationship, start this series with Diversion and read through to this fifth book in the series. (There may be spoilers for previous books below.)
In this instalment, Bo and Lucky are back from their near-disastrous Mexico adventures in book 4. But both of them, particularly Bo, are feeling the after-effects of the undercover mission they were on. Their relationship, which had been well on its way to solid, has been shaken by the trauma they are each dealing with. For once, it's Lucky who is trying to move forward together, and Bo holding back, as he fights to get through rehab and to find the person he was before it all began.
This is the most personal and relationship-centered book of the series, more emotional, less snarky. There is some progress in the mystery, wrapping up several dangling plot lines by the end of the story. But I thought those were in some ways the weaker part, particularly one excursion and arrest sequence that didn't quite seem motivated for all the participants (although by the end of the book you gain a new appreciation for some of it.)
I really enjoyed seeing Lucky becoming more human, willing in his fears and concerns for Bo and their life together, to let go of some of the tough and careless persona he had built up. I'd love to see something from Bo's POV at some point but I still very much enjoy Lucky's narrative voice. Although the end of this book ties up some dangling threads, there is room for another instalment, and I look forward eagerly to reading it....more
I really enjoy this series. Gideon and Lee are wonderful characters, great together, human and fallible, and yet honest and palpably in love. In thisI really enjoy this series. Gideon and Lee are wonderful characters, great together, human and fallible, and yet honest and palpably in love. In this instalment, they see the birth of Lee's sister's child, whom they have promised to adopt and raise. But things don't work out as smoothly as planned. And the savage murder of a local farmer, in the middle of the most stressful time of their lives, strains everything.
The paranormal in this one was atmospheric, but a little harder to pin down. Maybe that was just me and a failure to follow the hints and descriptions, but I'd have docked a star for that. Except that the relationship between the two men is so palpably real, so sweet and warm and painful and necessary, that it deserves all the stars. Through pain and fear and pleasure and joy, these two are a couple that nothing can shake now. But watching them live their complicated life is a total heart-catching fascination.
Read this series from the beginning - you must see the two men evolve separately and together, to the point they reach in this book. Very much worth the time of any lover of paranormal contemporary M/M and mystery....more
This story is set in prison, and as it opens, Jack has just arrived as a new inmate into the vicious, stultifying, compassionless world that is incarcThis story is set in prison, and as it opens, Jack has just arrived as a new inmate into the vicious, stultifying, compassionless world that is incarceration in America. There are multiple rapes on page, and a relationship that begins with rape. Jack is put into a cell with Adder, the most feared and emotionless man in the block. At first, Jack's only goal is survival, whatever that takes. But in the calculated process of trying to win some measure of safety around Adder, Jack also begins to see flashes of a different man beneath the huge, cold and impersonal facade.
This book is an indictment of the prison system, where torture is casually handed out by the inmates, and little effort is made to control or prevent that. The relationship develops very slowly, and feels like a Stockholm syndrome situation for most of the book. Or perhaps, "better the devil you know". I wasn't completely satisfied with the emotional connection between the two men, but both were damaged souls and coming together was better than any other option they had.
I was a little thrown, after half the book in only Jack's POV, to suddenly be handed some of Adder's history and back-story in his third-person POV, on the page. Those leached some of the force of the book for me.
Because Adder is electively mute and doesn't speak, it was clearly going to be hard for the author to give us readers a good feel for what was going on with him, but that's part of the appeal. Jack is desperately curious, needing to know more about this man he is beginning to connect with. His curiosity and frustration move the story forward. So this info-dump to the reader, but not to Jack, felt a bit like undercutting the story - Adder was a mystery, which Jack longs and needs to solve. By handing readers a key to Adder which Jack does not yet have, the tension and driving force of the story is drained away. It does serve the purpose of helping us understand and perhaps sympathize with Adder, but I was annoyed, wishing that I could remain in Jack's head only and track the mystery of Adder in time with Jack's own discoveries.
There is a HEA to this book, and it's plausible and well-earned. Jack is a very well-drawn character, and Adder a force within the story, particularly in the first half. If you are interested in a prison romance that begins in brutality and ends in sweetness, this is a fast and smooth read. ...more
This second story in the series is about Rico, Adam's cousin and once-protector. Rico thought he was on his way to the life he wanted, with a job andThis second story in the series is about Rico, Adam's cousin and once-protector. Rico thought he was on his way to the life he wanted, with a job and a sweet boyfriend. But the boyfriend was his boss's son, and when it all fell apart, Rico was minus the job and the relationship. Bruised in both his heart and his confidence, Rico went home to Sacramento and his old apartment, now crowded with Adam, his boyfriend Finn, the dog and the cat. They are a new version of family, and Rico desperately needs that, but he also needs something, or someone, more.
Derek is a good foil for Rico, as a man who has been out for a while, whose family is supportive, and whose confidence seems unshakable. But as they make progress around Rico's need to heal, and Derek's uncertainty about how hard to push, it also becomes clear that Derek has a few insecurities of his own.
I enjoyed this book, although I loved the first one more. This one is softer and less angsty, mostly about the process of moving from one relationship to another, without a lot of worry about where things will end up. Rico and Derek dance around obstacles, but their goal of being together stays pretty solid. There are also themes of family and support, presenting a bit of a stark contrast between the Sac parents and siblings, and Rico and Adam's family. It's tempting to call them exaggerated, except that I just read about another real life teen tossed out with nothing by his parents. I look forward to the day when characters like Rico's grandmother and father are unrealistic anachronisms. But sadly we're not there yet.
Rico was pretty resilient through all his changes, and I found myself still worrying more about Adam. The relationship between the cousins was as vivid as the romance. This is not Amy Lane in heart-ripping mode, but I always connect with her guys and I did read straight through to see how things worked out for Rico. It's pretty clear who the next couple will be too, and I'm looking forward to that....more
This is a fast-paced mystery with two great main characters. I really enjoyed Rook, with his prickly defensiveness and his good heart and his unapologThis is a fast-paced mystery with two great main characters. I really enjoyed Rook, with his prickly defensiveness and his good heart and his unapologetic life. Dante is a lot of fun as the cop caught in an attraction to a suspect against his will. The secondary characters were very well done too, with a mix of attitudes that were fun to watch. The sex is hot, even if it happens to an injured Rook a bit too often. The guys really spark together and I totally bought their attraction.
It was on track to be five stars until the climax included a major unprofessional TSTL moment from the cop (a huge pet peeve of mine) and an explanation of the crime and motivation from the bad guy (a minor pet peeve.)
Still a fun read if you like the genre, enjoy great characters, and can overlook the plot hole that produces the climax. ...more
4.5 stars, rounded up. I really enjoy stories with imperfect guys who do the wrong thing and manage to redeem themselves in plausible ways. Add a vari4.5 stars, rounded up. I really enjoy stories with imperfect guys who do the wrong thing and manage to redeem themselves in plausible ways. Add a variety of conflict, and some good, absorbing writing, a great sense of place, and you have me hooked. This book did exactly that.
Fergus is an architect by profession, and he loves it, but he's also a football (soccer) player by avocation. He's a gay man leading an LGBT team in a straight league, which says a lot about his character. But Fergus took an emotional beating when his boyfriend left both him and the team at a critical moment. Evan's ill-timed departure broke the spirits of both man and team, and they're only slowly rebuilding. Fergus has grudgingly accepted the abandoned mantle (and armband) of team captain. He's trying to overcome the laid-back habits of a lifetime and become the take-charge leader the team needs, so they can forget Evan and become successful again.
Fergus has to move on past Evan's personal treachery as well, but it's hard. The last thing he's ready for is a powerful attraction to a new man. Especially a bold, pushy, secretive, confusing guy like John Burns. But Fergus is also not willing to let Evan have ripped out his heart and guts forever. Moving on would show he's past being that damaged guy, and John's heat and charm and joy in living are hard to resist.
John grew up poor, and gay, protected only by his older brother and by his family's local associations. He's no longer happy with his silence and acquiescence to family demands, but he's in a difficult position. His father has heart problems, which are only sometimes fake. His mother has left, his brother's in jail, leaving a girlfriend and small son without much support. Simply walking away from family isn't possible, and defying their opinions while staying doesn't seem possible either. John is caught in an impossible dilemma, trying to negotiate between his growing relationship with Fergus, and his old ill-fitting family life. Sometimes half-truths, or outright lies, are the only way he sees to make it work.
John is a man with an optimistic soul and a flair for the grand gesture. Fergus is battered and wounded, just beginning to get over having been hurt, deceived, and dumped in a melodramatic way, and he's allergic to drama. In some ways they fit wonderfully together. In others they're a disaster just waiting to happen.
This book has two great, flawed MCs whom I really cared about, just the right amount of sports action, a lot of local color and charm, and a touch of historical and current-event seriousness that I really appreciated. It was a fast, smooth, engrossing read that I hated to put down. I immediately picked up the 0.5 novella that comes before it (but which after reading both I still recommend you read after this one, not before, although either order is probably fine.) And I'm looking forward very much to the next book in the series....more