Reviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 stars" Freedom is a fascinating post-apocalyptic/dystopian story that takes place in an unspecified future time frame aftReviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 stars" Freedom is a fascinating post-apocalyptic/dystopian story that takes place in an unspecified future time frame after something called The Burst, which while not explained, I assume to probably have been an EMP or something similar. The bulk of the story takes place in New Las Vegas, where only a chosen few live and work within the city. The rest are pretty much relegated to the Outside, which appears to be the outskirts of the city and in between the two is the NeverNever. In this future society, there are Talents and Non-Talents. The Non-Talents are exactly what you might expect, just normal humans. The Talents are special humans who’ve developed various psi talents. They might exhibit as empaths, telepaths, telekinetics, or other psychic phenomena, some of which are only known to the Talent Management Center, an organization that seems to oversee the various operations around the country that were put in place to identify Talents. The TMC basically ignores Non-Talents, using them in menial type jobs, while those who exhibit a moderate amount of talent will be trained for more specialized jobs within the cities. However, those who exhibit talents that go above and beyond, essentially become lab rats, who are tested over and over to figure out their limits until they are mentally broken. Although most don’t realize it, the TMC rules with an iron fist and are a pretty evil organization. I would have liked to know a little more about them. Are they the new government in this futuristic society? The fact that they have the Marines at their command seems to suggest that they either are or have some sort of government backing, but overall, the author doesn’t go into that too much. They are, however, a very scary organization with equally scary people working for them.
While the dystopian aspect of the book is very intriguing, at its heart, Freedom is very much an emotional human story. Within this landscape, we’re introduced to Patrick, who is a mid-level empath, working in the psychiatric wing of a medical facility. He and his two best friends were tested years before. His friend, Charlie, didn’t have enough talent to qualify to move into the city, but Patrick and Charlie’s girlfriend, Evie, did. Patrick was trained for the job he now holds, while Evie was taken elsewhere and later released back into the Outside. After being tested, she was said to be too psychologically damaged to work and hasn’t been the same since. However, no one really suspects that it was the TMC who did the damage to her. Patrick is pretty content in his job and has just been given his first solo case working with a John Doe who was found nearly dead by the Escapeway. The man is practically wild and doesn’t appear to speak or write except in gibberish. Using his empathic talents, Patrick soon realizes that his John Doe is much more than he seems on the surface and the longer he works with the man, the more he comes to care for him in a non-professional way. He also starts to realize some things about himself and about what’s going on in a wider sense, not only within the facility but the world outside as well. Patrick eventually comes to understand that his patient is in grave danger and he knows he cannot betray him, but he must make a difficult decision about whether he can give up the comfortable life he has in the city for the unknown world beyond.
John Doe 439 is really a young man named Jac, who has partial amnesia. Due to severe injuries, as well as emotional trauma, he sustained when attacked by the Purples, humans who’ve gone feral, he’s forgotten who he is or how he came to be at the medical center. All he knows is that his older brother always taught him to fear the All-Whites, and now he’s locked up in a place that’s completely white and only tended by people dressed in white. Into this frightening landscape comes Patrick, who treats Jac with gentleness, dignity, and respect. Gradually Jac begins to trust Patrick, especially after they connect psychically. To say that Jac is a sweet and gentle soul is almost an understatement. To many around him, he’s viewed as weak and easy prey, because he possesses an almost childlike quality. Even after he remembers how to speak, he does so in the way a small child might, dropping syllables and sometimes mispronouncing words, something his friend, Rob, calls a form of baby talk. Jac has an interesting backstory as to why this is that I won’t spoil for readers, but one of the reasons is that it’s much easier for him to simply communicate telepathically. There aren’t a lot of scenes from Jac’s POV, but on the rare occasions we get a look inside his mind, particularly after he starts to calm for Patrick, we see an intelligent man with a tremendous gift. He has psi talents above and beyond anyone who works with him has ever seen before. Patrick isn’t even certain what to call some of his talents. Again, I won’t spoil anyone by saying what they are, but he truly is a wonder. He’s also a deeply affectionate human being who loves to give and receive touch from the right people and in the right way, which as a touchy-feely person myself, I loved. When he finds out that Rob also survived the attack and they’re reunited, Jac is like a clinging vine who must be physically connected to him at all times, which made me question at times which of the men he was meant to be with, Rob or Patrick. The answer is kind of both but in different ways.
Initially the bulk of the POV scenes belong to Patrick with a few glimpses inside Jac’s troubled mind, but as the story progresses and moves outside the medical center, we get more and more scenes from other characters’ perspectives. There’s Patrick’s top-level empath supervisor, Sam, who recognizes Jac’s talents early on and starts covering up some of the things he can do. Sam ends up being a whole lot more than he seems at first. Patrick also has a co-worker, Dana, who works with Jac, too, and ends up helping in a lot of ways. We get to see things from Rob’s POV as well, as he supports Jac and gives so much of himself to the man he thinks of as a brother of sorts. Then there’s the evil Julia from TMC, who’s a bully determined to get her man and break him, but she didn’t count on him having help and being so powerful himself. If memory serves I think these were the only characters who got their own POV scenes but there are plenty more supporting players such as Charlie and Evie, and several other Talents, as well as at least one Non-Talent who we meet as they make their escape and who played integral roles.
Overall, Freedom was a story that very much drew me in and kept me reading. I thoroughly enjoyed it, so that being the case you might be asking yourself why I knocked off the half-star. Well, the main reason is that as wonderful as it was, I still felt it had a few weaknesses. First, I was a little reluctant to even classify this book as romance, because that part of the story is rather subdued and kind of secondary to other events in the story. The plot simply doesn’t follow the two men on the same track that most romances do with them meeting, forging a relationship, and falling in love. These things do happen, but in a much different way than what I’m used to. There’s no explicit sex and I don’t even recall them saying, “I love you,” although it’s fairly apparent by their actions. So for me, this was more of a sci-fi story with a light romance on the side. Then there were the questions I mentioned earlier about the greater world outside New Las Vegas and exactly what was motivating the TMC. Lastly, the author wrote the book in a number of different styles. Patrick alone was written in first person present tense when he’s interacting with Jac, first person past tense when he’s taking case notes, and third person past tense when he’s interacting with other characters. Once we start getting into the other characters’ POVs, they could be either first or third person, and I can’t say I understood the differentiation on those. I did get used to it and was never confused as to whose perspective I was reading because each POV change is clearly labeled with the character’s name and setting, but for some readers this may be jarring. Despite these perceived weaknesses, I still couldn’t help giving the book keeper status. I’m fascinated by all thing to do with the inner workings of the human mind and psychic phenomena, so that alone kept me glued to the pages. I also loved all the characters and felt like I was very much a part of their world. This was such a good read, I was quite surprised and a little disappointed to discover that this is, so far, the only book Jay Kirkpatrick has written, but if she (yes, despite the male-sounding name, this is a female writer) ever writes another, I’ll definitely pick it up....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews In her Book Convention Romance series, my author friend, JossiLynn, has created a broad palette of characters with whom I coulReviewed for THC Reviews In her Book Convention Romance series, my author friend, JossiLynn, has created a broad palette of characters with whom I could see myself being friends. Being the misfit that I am, I can’t help thinking I would fit in quite well with this unusual bunch, and that if they were real, they’d wholeheartedly welcome me into their “family of friends.” All of the heroes and heroines have sympathetic backstories that never fail to tug at my heartstrings, and I’ve come to care about each one in turn. That said, however, the author doesn’t usually dig quite deep enough to suit me when it comes to the characters’ internal conflicts. Sometimes there isn’t much internal conflict to speak of, even though their backstories are ripe for that type of exploration. Instead, it’s more about the external conflicts. Four books into the series, I’ve come to the conclusion that JossiLynn is more of a plot-driven author, who focuses primarily on the things that happen to her characters, but despite being a reader who prefers more character-driven stories, I’ve still enjoyed reading her books thus far.
In K Is for Kismet, Kade and Molly are the “main” hero and heroine. Kade has been lurking in the background since the beginning of the series. He’s an FBI agent, who was also a reservist in the special forces. He was called up for duty and went to Afghanistan, where he was gravely wounded in battle, losing a leg. Upon returning home and finding out that his future with both the military and the FBI were basically over, he became suicidal, but he was stopped from killing himself by a nurse named Karin, who he later found out was a ghost who had appeared to several other characters in the series, always portending a soul mate match. Since then he’s been living and working on a ranch next-door to his long-time best friend, Blake (K Is for Kissed), and sharing a house with his new best friends, Randy and Oscar (K Is for Kindred). Blake hires Kade to provide security for his convention and there he meets Molly. Because of his knowledge of the near-legendary ghost of Karin Cross, he’s also quite open to the idea that Molly is indeed his soul mate.
Molly is a New York Times best-selling author and regular attendee of the convention, who first appeared in the previous book, K Is for Kindred. She was previously in an abusive relationship and was nearly beaten to death by her ex. As a result, she suffers from epilepsy and has a service dog named Maggie who can predict when Molly is about to have an episode so that she can get to a safe place to ride it out. Because of a self-consciousness associated with her disability, Molly hasn’t really dated in recent history, but during a couple of her episodes, she was also attended by the ghostly Karin. She only learns about the history of this apparition when she meets Kade, and at first, she isn’t quite sure what to think. But it’s not long before she becomes a believer too.
I liked both Molly and Kade, but I felt like things were a little too easy for them as a couple. It’s pretty much insta-love and everything falls into place for them with little fanfare. Their relationship also moves at light-speed with them meeting, falling in love, getting married, and being prepared to start a family, all within a week’s time. They perhaps took a little more time to get to know one another than some of the previous couples in the series did, but they were still falling into bed within a day or two of meeting. Nothing really happened that posed any kind of genuine threat to their relationship either. They even discover that they share the same “kink” of enjoying role-play. For the most part, their love scenes didn’t seem quite as hot as some of the previous couples. I also have to admit that their first love scene was a little jarring for me too, because they’re role-playing, but it’s all playing out in Molly’s mind. Even though they were using their real names, this made it seem like more of a story within a story, involving different characters. Another thing that annoyed me a bit about this scene is that even though Kade did the right thing by trying to put on a condom, Molly refuses to use protection even though she admits she isn’t on birth control. Kade then offered to pull out, but coitus interruptus is a notoriously unreliable form of birth control, not to mention wild assumptions were made about them being STD-free. I simply have a pet peeve about couples in contemporary romance engaging in unprotected sex when they aren’t in a committed relationship or haven’t had an adult conversation about it. However, given where things go later in the story it might not have been such a big deal for me except that Molly’s excuse was that condoms didn’t exist in the forties and it was ruining her role-play scenario. I assume she meant the 1940’s, and condoms most certainly did exist back then. In fact, the first rubber condoms were manufactured in the 1850’s and even long before that, there were other types of condoms available. So her argument didn’t hold water for me. OK, history lesson and mini-rant over.;-) Even though the stakes in Kade and Molly’s relationship weren’t high enough IMHO, I did like them as a couple, and I’m willing to accept that they’re soul mates like all the other couples in the series have been.
As with the other books in the series (except the first one, of course), the hero and heroine (or in this case two heroes) of the previous book, play a huge role in the present book. They probably get close to fifty percent of the POV scenes, which as usual is a double-edged sword for me. I always enjoy visiting with them again, but sometimes I can’t help feeling that they’re taking away valuable page time from the “main” hero and heroine. In K Is for Kismet, to be quite honest, Randy and Oscar really stole the show. They’re the ones who are having conflicts in their relationship, both internal and external. Internally, they’re both struggling with their past sexual relationships and what that means for their future. Randy has a BDSM fetish and used to go to sex clubs for his fix but doesn’t really engage in that sort of sex play with Oscar. For his part, Oscar is wondering if he can permanently give up having sex with women, since the only sex partners he had before Randy were female. While in Vegas, they both agree to feed each other’s sexual needs. Oscar will accompany Randy to a sex club where he can play the dominant with another man, while Randy will engage in a menage with Oscar and a woman of his choosing. Of course, both men experience some feelings of jealousy in the process. I ended up having very mixed feelings about all of this. It was great to see the characters have some internal conflicts, but at the same time, I felt like this was something they should have worked out before making a commitment to each other and getting their supposed HEA in the previous book. For me, it all called into question their true feelings for one another. Admittedly, though, that all kind of paled in light of the climactic events near the end of the book involving both of their crazy estranged family members that leads to a lot of heartache and that made me sad for this couple, but at the same time, very much solidified their relationship once and for all.
In addition to Randy and Oscar, there are lots of other supporting characters. We get to see a little more of Samantha and James (K Is for Kink), and Blake and Lily (K Is for Kissed), who are both happy and settled in their marriages with kids who are growing like weeds. Samantha’s dad, Dan, and Blake’s mom, Luciana, are also happy together and playing the doting grandparents. Oscar’s best friend, Pete, and his boyfriend, Mario, are still together as well. Oscar’s sister, Janel, is as bitchy as ever, but she takes things a step too far in this book and finally gets what’s coming to her. We’re introduced to Kade’s friend, Mike, who works security with him at the convention and also has FBI ties, as well as his young daughter, Heather. Mike, along with a mysterious woman who keeps turning up in Randy’s and Oscar’s lives but whose identity we don’t know until the final lines of the book, become the hero and heroine of the fifth and final book of the series, K Is for Karin. Then there is the ghostly apparition of Karin Cross who continues to work her magic. I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention the wonderful animal characters, particularly Molly’s dog, Maggie, who seems to have ties to Karin, and Lily’s horse, Bonnie. Both of these animals become major heroes of the book, but the ending for one of them left me very sad.
Overall, K Is for Kismet was a good read that I enjoyed. I may have had issues with a few things, but in the end, I didn’t feel like they warranted knocking off more than one star. Deeper character and relationship development for Kade and Molly would have been nice, but I guess, despite my mixed feelings on the matter, Randy and Oscar, pretty much made up for it. I hated the things that happened to them, but they did add a lot of excitement to the story. I’m sufficiently intrigued by Mike, Heather, and Mike’s mysterious lady love that I’m looking forward to reading their book soon.
Note: This book contains explicit language and sexual situations, including role-play, anal sex, some BDSM, and a menage a quatre that includes M/M, F/F, M/F/F, and M/M/F/F interactions, which some readers may find offensive....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews I’m still pretty much a novice to M/M romance. Compared to other readers, I’ve barely dipped my toe into the genre. I do enjoyReviewed for THC Reviews I’m still pretty much a novice to M/M romance. Compared to other readers, I’ve barely dipped my toe into the genre. I do enjoy them as much as any other romances, but for some reason, I typically only read maybe two or three per year. That’s why K Is for Kindred marks the first time I’ve read a “gay for you” romance. Now, I have to admit that I’ve been aware of this theme and its popularity for quite some time, but when I first heard of it, it raised my eyebrows. Doesn’t this somehow play into the belief that many people still harbor that being gay is a choice, I thought. Perhaps because of that feeling, I think I might have been avoiding this theme. Well, when my friend, JossiLynn, released her Book Convention Romance series, I couldn’t ignore it anymore if I was going to read the series in its entirety, which of course, I wanted to do. I approached it with a mixture of skepticism and curiosity as to how a (supposedly) straight man would turn gay, but I can’t say that I was disappointed. It was very obvious that Oscar and Randy were well-suited for one another and loved each other very much. The nerd in me, though, needed to research this “gay for you” phenomena, and I found a very good article written in part by Damon Suede, a gay author of M/M romance, who called the term outdated and that the theme would be more aptly named “out for you,” a term coined by author Marie Sexton. I like that phrase much better too, because especially after reading Mr. Seude’s remarks, it makes much more sense. So that’s what I’m going with.:-)
It also started me thinking about “gay for you” versus “out for you,” specifically in regards to how events play out in K Is for Kindred, and I realized again that “out for you” (or at the very least, bisexual) made a lot more sense. Everyone may have initially thought that Oscar was straight, but his best friend and roommate, Pete, is gay. He also doesn’t hesitate to strike up a close friendship with Randy, who as the other hero, is obviously also gay. Oscar has no trouble talking about sex, including gay sex. He’s extremely outgoing and flirtatious right from the opening pages, flirting like crazy with quiet, reserved Randy, and teasing him about the possibility of hooking up. He isn’t the least bit averse to sleeping naked with another naked man close beside him in the same tent, and he realizes that he isn’t particularly disinclined to something of a sexual nature happening between them. Since no fully hetero guy I know would do any of those things, yeah, I think Oscar falling for Randy was definitely a case of “out for you” or at the very least, him discovering that he’s bisexual. Now that I’ve satisfied my need to get all that off my chest, on with my review of the book.:-)
Randy is a shy guy who barely strings two words together most of the time, but I love how he instantly feels at ease with Oscar and is comfortable talking with him on a deeper level. Randy has worked for Lily (K Is for Kissed) for quite a while, helping her take care of her little ranch and her horses. He was her best friend and roommate through all of the pain and suffering she went through, following the rape, and was always there to wake her up from her nightmares. Now that Lily is so much better and in a strong relationship with Blake, it’s time for Randy to find someone of his own. There are a few things we discover about Randy in this book that were in turn intriguing and heartbreaking, but that I thought could have been developed a little more fully than they were. In the opening chapters, we find out that quiet Randy loves to play the dominant and usually goes to sex clubs to get his fix. However, the dominant side of him doesn’t really end up playing much of a part in his relationship with Oscar. Then we find out more about his background growing up, which explains his need for control. It’s a sad tale of prejudiced parents who never really cared for him and couldn’t stand him after he came out. Randy says his own father would do him bodily harm if he knew about his annual secret trips home ostensibly to see his mother. Randy’s love for his dog warmed my heart and broke it all at the same time, but I felt like there was a lot of fodder here for building his character in a deeper way that didn’t quite materialize. In spite of that, though, I loved Randy and was so happy that he finally found his own happiness with Oscar.
Oscar is a model and bartender who’s worked at Blake’s convention and always shows everyone a good time. He’s the outgoing charmer, a playboy who quite simply loves sex. But since he’s limited his sexual encounters to women so far, he’s a little surprised by how attracted he is to Randy. His and Randy’s friendship is pretty much like any two guys would be, regardless of sexual orientation. They genuinely get each other and love one another’s company, so I really enjoyed the friends to lovers aspect of the story, which is a favorite trope of mine. Oscar has his own troubled background, with the sister from hell, and now a stepsister with whom he had an ill-advised sexual relationship and who has teamed up with said sister to cause him grief. His father is a pretty wealthy businessman, who intends to pass his fortune on to Oscar, but his family would not look kindly upon him having a relationship with another man. I really like that Oscar cared far more about Randy and the friends whom he thinks of as his real family than he did about his inheritance. All that said, though, much like Randy, I would have liked to be inside his head a little more. The whole idea of merely being attracted to another man, much less being in a committed relationship with one, is very new to Oscar, but we aren’t really privy to his thought processes on how he comes to terms with all that. Otherwise, he’s a great guy who I couldn’t help but like too.
Much like how Samantha and James (K Is for Kink) played a big role in their story, Blake and Lily play a big role in Randy and Oscar’s story. They get many of their own POV scenes, which are probably about equal to Randy and Oscar’s. I find this to be a double-edged sword, though. On the one hand, if Blake and Lily’s perspectives weren’t included, it might have given space to more fully develop Randy and Oscar’s characters. On the other hand, in my review of the previous book, I was actually wishing for this to be the case, so I can’t say that I’m disappointed either. I did very much enjoy seeing Blake and Lily taking that next step in their relationship and other happy events in their lives as well as the roles they play in helping to get Randy and Oscar together. So I guess I can’t complain about this. If the trend continues, I’ll be seeing more of Randy and Oscar in the next book of the series anyway.
Other than craving a little deeper understanding of the characters, I very much enjoyed K Is for Kindred. The story moves along at a good pace with lots happening for our heroes and their friends. I love the characters JossiLynn has created. I could see myself being friends with them, and that isn’t surprising since I’m friends with her. She gets a few extra points for creating this close-knit group who are more like family to each other than most of their own families are. I enjoyed seeing something good happen for Pete. Even though I knew he wasn’t the right person for Randy, I didn’t want him to get left out in the cold. Blake’s friend, Kade, who was working for the FBI but was a reservist called up for active duty in Iraq, comes back a changed man, but Randy and the rest of the gang help him start to put his life back together. He becomes the hero of the next book, K Is for Kismet, paired with Molly Wood, an author at Blake’s convention that we briefly get to meet. And of course, Samantha and James were there too, along with Samantha’s dad and more heartwarming sightings of her ghostly mom, whose appearance always seems to portend a soul mate match. So overall, there was a lot to like in this book, and I look forward to continuing the series soon....more
"4.5 stars" I haven't read any male/male romances in quite some time, but Daddy, Daddy & Me proved to be a perfect reintroduction to the genre. I"4.5 stars" I haven't read any male/male romances in quite some time, but Daddy, Daddy & Me proved to be a perfect reintroduction to the genre. I love hearth and home type romances, and this one definitely fits that bill. It's the story of two men who are brought together by tragedy and circumstance, but use the opportunity to forge a loving, patchwork family. When I first started this book I thought it might end up being a four-star read. I was enjoying it, but the writing was a little rough around the edges, which I'll address later in my review. But in the end, it was so sweet and heartwarming, I couldn't help giving it keeper status. Some readers may find it too sappy, but I love stories like this, so it was a great read for me.
Jeff is a man at loose ends. He volunteered to be a sperm donor for his best friend, Beth, who died from injuries sustained in a tragic house fire, leaving her two children behind. Before she passed, she asked Jeff to take the children so they could grow up with their father. I love how Jeff didn't hesitate to step up to the plate even though his involvement with the kids – an infant girl and a toddler boy – had been minimal up to that point. He has no idea how to be a father or how to take care of kids, but he's trying his hardest to make it work. Then his long-time partner up and walked out on him three days after Beth died, leaving Jeff to deal with everything on his own. His sister helped out for a while, but she's not really a kid person and she has a life of her own. Now Jeff must get back to work or lose his job as a chef, so he decides to hire a nanny. Jeff is a really great guy, who's had way too much dumped on him in a very short amount of time, but I think, under the circumstances, he was handling it admirably. I love a man who can cook, and Jeff definitely has a talent in the kitchen. What I love most about him, though, is his love for his kids. Even though he didn't plan on being a hands-on daddy, he wouldn't trade his little ones for anything and does everything he can to keep them safe, loved, and cared for. I enjoyed watching Jeff go through a growth process throughout the story, where he must not only rearrange his priorities in life, but also, he must figure out what he wants out of life long-term. When he was with his ex, things were much different. He thought he knew what his dreams were, but now he's faced with deciding whether those things are really what he wants now that he has a family and a new love in his life.
I absolutely adored Donny. He's an angel among men, who comes to Jeff's rescue at exactly the moment when he's most needed and sets things to rights not only in Jeff's household but also by helping him make those life decisions I mentioned. Donny always knew he wanted to work with kids and he studied hard to get his degree in early childhood education. But once he started actually looking for a job, a lot of doors closed in his face, because he's a man and also because he's gay. When he goes for the job interview, Donny instantly falls in love with Jeff's kids and knows it's his dream job. I so admire people who are patient, gentle, and creative with kids like Donny is. I can only wish I were that sort of person, but I'm not. He's also very organized, getting the kids into a routine right away. He has all the perfect qualities to make him an amazing nanny (and daddy), a regular male version of Mary Poppins. I would have felt extremely blessed to have a child-care giver like him for my kids when they were little. Even more so than his talent with the kids, I loved Donny for the way he's always so positive, looking for the silver lining in every situation. I also loved how supportive he was of Jeff in every way. Donny is a very easy-going guy, but he's also an emotional rock for Jeff when he faces yet another crisis.
The only thing that kept this book from being a five-star read for me is certain aspects of the writing itself. There are a number of typos and awkwardly worded passages that should have been smoothed out by a good editor. The author also has a habit of making lists of three things or actions in which he places the 'and' between the first two and a comma between the last two, which isn't really proper grammatical formatting. It should be the other way around. This drove me a little batty at first, but most of these seemed to occur during the first half of the book and smoothed out a bit more during the second half. There were a few things that could have been explained a little better, such as Beth's death, and a few places where a little more detail would have made it easier to envision what was happening. An actual comeuppance for Jeff's ex, especially since it was implied that he committed a crime, definitely wouldn't have gone amiss either. In general, though, these things didn't detract much from my enjoyment of the story.
Overall, Daddy, Daddy & Me was a sweet, endearing tale that really tugged at my heartstrings. Jeff's kiddos are absolutely adorable. Robin is a bubbly ball of energy who acted entirely age-appropriately. Kimmie is just a baby, so she doesn't really talk, but she expresses herself in her actions like any infant would. Jeff and Donny's relationship happens pretty quickly, kind of an insta-love. It was totally believable to me, though, because I could feel the emotional connection not only between the two men but also between them and the kids, making them the perfect family. This was my first read by Sean Michael, but I enjoyed it so much, I'm really looking forward to trying more of his work....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 stars" Bless Us with Content was my first M/M historical romance, and it was a very good one with which to begin my forayReviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 stars" Bless Us with Content was my first M/M historical romance, and it was a very good one with which to begin my foray into this new-to-me sub-genre of M/M romance. It was also my first book by Tinnean, and I have to say, she's hooked me already. I thoroughly enjoyed her writing style. Overall, it was very easy to read and free from distracting errors. Her main characters are genuine, lovable guys, and her story is very sweet and romantic. I really liked how she used authentic historical verbiage and jargon. I felt like it truly brought the setting to life by giving it a strong sense of time and place. The light mystery surrounding the disappearance of the family gem known as the Flame of Diabul took some unexpected twists and turns that I never would have predicted and which made me stop and think for a moment on how that all turned out. The twist the author used to give the book a true HEA was unanticipated as well, but very welcome. Everything simply came together to made Bless Us with Content a highly pleasurable and very romantic read.
Ashton is the first-person narrator of the book, and I have to say that he has a very dynamic voice. As a child, he was deeply loved and doted upon by his parents, but sadly, he lost them at a young age. After that, he was sent to live with his uncle and aunt. His uncle was an abusive cur, who sometimes took out his rage on Ashton. Because of his sullenness over his parents deaths, his aunt and the servants mistakenly perceived him as an unlovable child. His aunt rarely paid much attention to him, especially after she took in three brothers and another young girl who were also orphaned and whom she obviously favored over him. These new children treated him with disdain as well, saddling him with the hated nickname of 'Awful Ashton.' Poor Ash had no one to love or understand him. He basically went through an emotional hell, but as he grew older, he tried to cover up his pain with a matter-of-fact attitude. Ash fell in love with John, the middle of the three brothers, when he was just a boy. As teenagers, John seemed to reciprocate the attraction, which thrilled Ash, until he realized it wasn't meant to be the grand, romantic affair, he'd hoped for. John still treated him coldly and basically just used him for sex, but Ash was so starved for affection, he was willing to take whatever he could get.
Ash's life changes when his uncle dies, leaving him the heir to the estate, and a man shows up at the door, holding 10,000 pounds in gambling debts his uncle had racked up. With the estate in dire financial straits, Ash has no money to pay, so the man makes a proposition that Ash accommodate him in bed as payment. Ash is so hungry for any scrap of love and affection he soaks up what Geo offers like a sponge. He soon finds himself having feelings for Geo, but he's still wary of giving the other man his heart, out of fear it will just be broken again. In his mind, he believes their relationship is nothing more than a business arrangement. Ash was an incredibly sympathetic character who I adored. He wears spectacles and thinks of himself as a pretty ordinary man who isn't particularly attractive. What I liked most about Ash is that even though he's been treated poorly for most of his life, he's still very protective of, and kind toward, those for whom he feels a responsibility, whether it's his aunt and cousin, his servants and tenants, or even his animals. Ash may be a loner and a bit aloof until Geo comes into his life, but he lives by his own code of treating others the way he would have liked to have been treated, even if they were never particularly kind to him. I also loved seeing Ash grow and change from a shy youth, who was uncertain of his own abilities, into a mature and more confident man, in part because of Geo's love.
Even though Geo started off by making a seemingly cold-hearted and scandalous proposition, he was never anything but kind and gentle with Ash. It was obvious from the start that he was fascinated by Ash and loved everything about him. It takes a while, but when we finally learn a little about his background, we discover that he's had experiences which make him uniquely attuned to Ash's pain. I loved how protective Geo was of Ash, caring for him when he's hurt and not letting anyone badmouth him. However, at least on an intellectual level, Geo seems determined not to fall in love. He may care for Ash, but he watched what loving someone did to his mother and has no interest in experiencing that kind of emotional pain himself. He tries not to feel anything for Ash, but that soon proves much easier said than done. I kept getting the feeling that there was more to Geo's initial intentions than meets the eye, but if there was, it wasn't really communicated. This is where I dearly would have loved to have been privy to Geo's POV, because there were times when I felt like it would have shed more light on his feelings and actions. In spite of wanting to know more about Geo, I can't deny that he was a great guy. He was just so sexy, seductive, and vulnerable, I couldn't help but adore him. We see just enough of him and his beautiful personality through Ash's eyes to make me fall for him anyway.
Ash and Geo share an incredibly romantic relationship. I really appreciated how the author strongly differentiated between Ashton's early sexual experiences before Geo and those with Geo. With John, it was strictly about the sex, at least from John's perspective, and rarely embodied any tenderness at all, which I think made Ash feel like it was sordid and dirty. With Geo, it's explosively passionate right from the start. The first time they make love it's so much more than Ash could have hoped for. It's everything he's always wanted but never had. Their love scenes are steamy, but embody a sweet warmth that conveys deep intimacy. The way Geo takes such good care of Ash and reads him so well is very romantic. I might have wished for these two to have more time together in the story (unfortunately they spend large swaths of time apart, which means no Geo for pages at a time), but when they are together, their scenes are laden with so much emotion, I had no trouble at all believing they were falling in love. Also, the longing Ash experiences (and later we discover Geo as well) when they're apart, simply adds to that strong sense of them being perfect for each other.
Overall, I really loved Bless Us with Content. It's one of the most romantic stories I've read, M/M or otherwise. I really enjoyed that there was an HEA ending, not only for Ash and Geo, but for some of the secondary characters as well. I also appreciated how well-written the book was. This is one of those stories that was often hard to put down and that I was always eager to pick up again. All this being the case, I was sorely tempted to give it the full five stars, but despite how good it was, I couldn't quite get past the lack of POV for Geo and the long separations for him and Ash. However, Ash is a tantalizing and compelling character who was a joy to read about, and I couldn't deny that I enjoyed his narrative voice very much. In the end, I couldn't bear to mark it down more than a half star. Bless Us with Content was a truly lovely read that I highly recommend to M/M romance fans, especially those who enjoy sweeter stories. It has certainly put Tinnean on my radar. Unfortunately, it appears to be the only historical romance she's written to date, but I'm very much looking forward to checking out her contemporary romances soon....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews One Night is a sweet M/M romance novella about two men from disparate walks of life who serendipitously meet at a vacation resReviewed for THC Reviews One Night is a sweet M/M romance novella about two men from disparate walks of life who serendipitously meet at a vacation resort while each of them is there for very different reasons. One is attending a winemakers' convention, while the other is there doing some soul-searching before entering into a marriage of convenience with a woman who his family views as the perfect choice for him from a social standpoint. They spend a few romantic days and one steamy night together before circumstances come between them, leaving them with some very important decisions to make about the future.
Liam is a very sweet beta hero who is confused and vulnerable. Three years earlier, he had married his pregnant best friend since childhood to give her and her baby the protection and stability of his family's name and wealth. She died mere days after the baby was born, leaving him a grieving single father. He loves his little girl more than anything in the world, so much so that he is about to enter into another marriage of convenience, thinking that his daughter needs a mother in her life. His fiancée is a woman who is socially and financially perfect for him on paper, but he doesn't love her. In an attempt to provide all the best things for his daughter and please his family, he became an attorney. He works long hours in the family law firm and doesn't see his little girl as much as he would like. Deep down, Liam is an artist at heart, who would much rather be out taking photographs than toiling away behind a desk or in a courtroom. Mere weeks before his wedding, he decides to take a vacation, during which he hopes to clear his head of all the confusion. Liam knows he's gay, but he doesn't have much experience at being gay. He's still in the closet, because of his fear over what his semi-famous family will think of him. Liam experimented with gay sex a bit in college, but he hasn't been with anyone since. He wants to find a guy who's amenable to a one night stand, thinking it will help get it out of his system, so that he can go through with his wedding. Because of his past experiences with sex, he's very confused about what gay sex is. He thinks it's supposed to be nothing more than quick and dirty with no tenderness and no commitments, and because of where he's at in his life, he believes that's what he wants. With that being the case, when Micah tries to take things slower and actually make love, it's scares him. Liam was an amazing guy to do what he did for his best friend, but since losing her, he hasn't really had any friends. He's a shy guy who doesn't make friends easily, so when Micah comes along, he finds himself longing for that type of connection again but afraid to take the necessary leap to have it. Liam's vulnerability over his sexuality was very touching, and I think Micah was the perfect person to help him sort things out. When Liam finally stood up to his parents and decided to take control of his life, I was cheering him on.
Micah is a well-adjusted gay man with strong family ties. He and his two sisters own and run the family winery business which he's been in charge of since their parents died when he was only eighteen. As such, he's a very responsible guy, who's something of a control freak and a bit of a wine snob. His sisters always insist on sending him on a trip to California each year to attend a winemakers' conference. Like Liam, Micah has his own introverted side. He hates being the public face of the family business and is much more at home in his role of vintner. He prefers growing the grapes and making the wine over giving tours of the winery or schmoozing with his competitors at the convention. When he meets Liam by chance on the beach one day, the attraction is instant and palpable. Part of the reason Micah's sisters sent him on the trip is because they think he needs to find a hot guy and have some equally hot sex, but that isn't really Micah's game. I loved that he was a relationship guy who wasn't into meaningless sex. The way he took care of Liam when he got drunk and refused to sleep with him while he was in that state was sweet and showed him to be a real gentleman. He really likes Liam and wants to give him far more than the other man seems to be looking for.
One Night is a fairly short novella that takes place over only about a week's time. I liked that the author took things slowly though, and allowed Liam and Micah a little time to get to know each other. They spend some really good quality time together, doing some very romantic things, before falling into bed. Even then Micah was a little hesitant, but Liam's overt sexual overtures and overall hotness proved a bit too much for him to resist. Still, I liked that he stuck around afterward even though Liam was trying his best to push him away. Of course, some unexpected circumstances temporarily tear them apart, while Liam makes up his mind about his life. Then they share a sweet reunion, which left the door open for a happy future for them together. Some readers may have to suspend disbelief to buy into the notion of these two men knowing they were meant for one another and Liam making the sort of life changes he did after having only spent a few days together, but it was just so tender and romantic, I didn't have much trouble. I really loved this story and almost gave it 4.5 stars. The only thing that held me back is that the ending, while somewhat satisfying, felt like it happened too soon. I would have loved to see Liam and Micah have a deeper reunion moment, and I would have loved to read more about them as a couple.
The other thing that knocked off half a star was that the story could have used a little better editing. There were lots of places where more contractions were needed, particularly in dialog, and some of the longer sentences should have been broken up to make things flow better. There were also a few spots, the ending included, where it would have been nice if things had been written out in more detail. I think this would have added even more depth to the story. The author had a tendency to skim over certain things, engaging in a bit of telling rather than showing. However, I did just discover that Ms. Scott apparently has gotten back the publishing rights to her stories that were previously released by Silver Publishing, one of which was One Night. She added to the content of the book before republishing it herself. For readers who purchased an old copy of the book put out by Silver, she is offering a free digital replacement copy that includes the updated material. I wish I had realized this before reading it, because she may have fixed some of the things I had issues with. If I discover that she has, I will update my review. In the meantime though, One Night was still a very enjoyable read that I would recommend to fans of the M/M genre who like sweeter stories....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews Tommy's Story is a sweet and tender M/M romance novella that is the second story in AKM Miles's Scarcity Sanctuary series. ItReviewed for THC Reviews Tommy's Story is a sweet and tender M/M romance novella that is the second story in AKM Miles's Scarcity Sanctuary series. It really tugs at the heartstrings with the story of two social workers who have known each other since the younger one was just a boy under the older one's care. They've both loved each other from afar for a while, and both are sweet, gentle beta heroes who I loved reading about. A traumatic event brings the pair closer together, giving them the courage to finally express their feelings for one another. Overall, this was another story in this series that I found to be very enjoyable.
Tommy appeared in Soldier, the first book of the series, as a broken and traumatized twelve-year-old child, who social worker Daniel placed with Dillon at what would later become known as Scarcity Sanctuary. Tommy had been through hell, abused in every way imaginable, at the hands of his mother and her boyfriends. In the nine years that have passed since, Tommy has managed to make an almost full recovery in the loving care of Soldier and Dillon. He's grown up to be a very caring, compassionate young man who wants to help other kids like himself find peace and love. To that end, he's training to be a social worker and has been working on various cases with Daniel. Over the last couple of years, Tommy has started to develop feelings for Daniel, but it takes a traumatic event that shakes both of them to the core for them to fess up about their feelings. Having read Soldier, I was privy to the things Tommy had been through, but I still would have liked to see the author delve a little more deeply into his background in this story to help build his character a little more fully.
The entire novella is told from Tommy's POV, so what little we learn about Daniel is only through Tommy's eyes. It seems Daniel has a somewhat sordid past of his own as a foster child, and like Tommy, it was his past experiences that also drew him into the field of social work. He's fourteen years older than Tommy, but if I recall correctly, there was a bit of an age difference between Soldier and Dillon too. The thing I loved about Daniel is his patience and tenderness. After everything he'd been through, Tommy wasn't sure he would ever be ready for a relationship with anyone. Daniel never pushes Tommy to do anything he's not comfortable with, and he's prepared to wait as long as it takes. Of course, some intimacies occur a bit faster than I would have liked, but having these two men know each other for so long made their quick relationship progression more believable. However, there never was a full consummation, which was a little disappointing.
While I did enjoy Tommy's Story, I felt like it could have been more fully developed in both characterization and plot. The villains are pretty one-dimensional and their comeuppance occurs very quickly. I'm a little disappointed to see that so far, only the female characters in these stories have been cast as absolutely horrible people and hope that this trend doesn't continue. It almost seems a little misogynistic, which is strange considering that the author herself is a woman. As I mentioned earlier, Ms. Miles could have gone even deeper with Tommy and Daniel's characters too. Like with the first book of the series, the writing itself is kind of on the simplistic side and would have benefited from a little more complexity and/or better editing. Sometimes there were a few too many words that could have been pared down for clarity and other times, the narrative could have used a little more description (eg. we don't even get a physical description of Daniel until the final chapter and there are no descriptions of Tommy). Overall though, like with Soldier, I can't deny that Ms. Miles made me feel very deeply while reading this story. She definitely has a talent for expressing emotions that are very effectively conveyed to the reader. I absolutely love sweet stories like this, and I loved visiting with Soldier, Dillon, and Gom again. I just hated what Gom went through, but I'll be looking forward to reading more about him and the work he'll be doing in his book, For Gom's Sake, which is the next in the series.
Note: This novella contains semi-explicit scenes of sensuality between two men, which may offend some readers.
Please note that this review is for the original version of Tommy's Story, which was published by Torquere Press. I see now that the story was re-edited and expanded by an additional 12K words before being reprinted by MLR Press. It's certainly conceivable that some of the issues I had with the story might have been addressed, which could have led to a higher rating. However, I didn't feel like shelling out an additional $5.99 (which IMHO is overpriced for a 32K word novella anyway) to get the extra 12K words in the new version. If Ms. Miles were to offer a deal like R.J. Scott has, where she is giving a free copy of the updated version of her stories to readers who purchased a previous edition, I'd be totally on board, but thus far I don't see anything on Ms. Miles's website to indicate she is doing anything like this. If at some point in the future, I'm able to get a copy of the new version, I will definitely update my review....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews Love Is in the Hallways is the second novelette in RJ Scott's Love Is in the... young adult series which follows brand new teeReviewed for THC Reviews Love Is in the Hallways is the second novelette in RJ Scott's Love Is in the... young adult series which follows brand new teen sweethearts, Cameron, the captain of the football team, and Luke, a math geek. This is basically the next chapter in their relationship. In my opinion, there was less romance in this one than the first one. Cam and Luke only have a couple of scenes alone together, and only one in which they really talk and get close. Instead, the story mainly tackles the issue of bullying at the high school level, particularly of gay students. The kids at school have known for a long time that Luke is gay, but Cam just recently came out and most of his fellow teammates aren't taking it very well. Cam wants to walk down the hallways holding hands and letting it be known that he and Luke are boyfriends, but past experiences with bullying make Luke reluctant. He'd rather keep their relationship on the low-down until they graduate, but he can't quite bring himself to explain his reasoning and feelings on the subject to Cam which leads to some mild friction between them. It didn't quite feel like there was as much of a wrap-up to this story either. As with real life, there are no hard and fast answers for Cam and Luke. It ends on more of a tacit agreement that they will be there for each other no matter what and that their respective best friends, Dan and Mitchell, will back them up and help protect them from the bullies. I really liked how supportive Dan and Mitchell were even though both of them appear to be straight, and that Luke's mom is there for him too. It looks like the bullying storyline will continue with the next novelette in the series, Love Is in the Message, so maybe there will be more of a resolution there.
Overall, Love Is in the Hallways was a pretty enjoyable read even though I would have liked a little more romance. This is probably one of the more sensual young adult stories I've read. Cam and Luke graduate from the sweet, tentative kisses of the first story to a passionate make-out session, including high sexual tension and sexual contact, though fully clothed. There is also some fairly strong language. I was slightly disappointed that the technical aspects of the writing didn't appear to be as strong as in the first two RJ Scott books I read. Some of the narration didn't seem to flow as nicely as it could have, and I detected a number of typos such as missing words. Both could be a little distracting, because I was putting effort into figuring out what was meant rather than immersing myself in the story. I didn't feel it was bad enough to warrant taking off more than the one star, and like I said before, it was a pretty good story anyway. I'll be looking forward to seeing what happens for these two young men next....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 stars" Loving the Boss is a sweet and sexy, M/M romance novelette. The characters are likable and the story was quite enjReviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 stars" Loving the Boss is a sweet and sexy, M/M romance novelette. The characters are likable and the story was quite enjoyable. Alan is a very conscientious employee, always arriving for work early to have his boss's favorite coffee prepared and his office arranged just so. I got the sense that he was a hard worker regardless, but part of the reason he does these things is because he's been in love with his boss from afar for nearly the entire three years he's worked for him. He just doesn't really expect anything to come of it. The entire story is told from Alan's third-person perspective, so we only get to know Kincaid through his eyes. Kincaid is an attorney who lost his partner, Ben, to cancer not long before Alan came to work for him. I thought it was sweet that even though Ben was really the animal person, Kincaid kept all of the animals after he died, and it's quite the menagerie. When Kincaid finally admits to himself that he's fallen for Alan, it led to a nice steamy scene. There aren't any unrealistic declarations of love, which is oftentimes a deal-breaker in a romance, but sometimes actions speak louder than words. I could still feel an emotional connection between these two, and this along with them having known and been attracted to one another so long, made me believe that they definitely had a future together.
This was my first read by Shawn Lane, but certainly won't be my last. Loving the Boss is the first story in her Loving series. It introduces Alan's best friend, Lorrie, who becomes one of the heroes in the next novelette, Loving the Assistant. I'll definitely be checking that one out, as well as Shawn Lane's other work. It appears that Ms. Lane has only written short stories and novellas so far, but she definitely has a talent for it. Her writing in general is quite solid, telling a satisfying story within a short space with few technical errors. All in all, Loving the Boss was a very pleasant way to spend an hour of my reading time.
Note: This book contains a scene of explicit sensuality between two men which may offend some readers....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 stars" Lover at Last was yet another novel of The Black Dagger Brotherhood that left me with a contented sigh and a smileReviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 stars" Lover at Last was yet another novel of The Black Dagger Brotherhood that left me with a contented sigh and a smile on my face. Qhuinn and Blay have been there since the early days of the Brotherhood when they were both pre-trans in training to become warriors. They were the very best of friends and even though they'd drifted apart more recently, there was still an unbreakable connection between them. It was so good to finally see everything come together for these two males and for them to get their HEA ending. This book had so much going on though, besides the core romantic relationship. There's a lot of forward progression of the overall story arc, and while it wasn't the least bit difficult to keep up with all the sub-plots, I did sometimes find myself wanting to hurry through them to get back to Qhuinn and Blay. I laughed, I cried, and as always, I had a great time reading this latest installment.
Qhuinn is every bit as tortured as all the other members of the Brotherhood, and for the first half or so of the story, it still seems like he can't quite catch a break, which only seems to solidify his low opinion of himself. The opening flashback scene to Qhuinn's past in his parent's house was heartbreaking. He was treated lower than dirt by his aristocratic family who couldn't abide any imperfection in their offspring, even one as small as having mis-matched eye colors. As a result, Qhuinn rebelled and became as different as he possibly could be, and then, when he saved his friend from a vicious attack, resulting in injury to another aristocratic vampire, his family disowned him all together, even sending an Honor Guard to beat him nearly to death. He was left all alone except for Blay, his best friend in the whole world, but when Blay admitted he was in love with him, Qhuinn couldn't handle it. He was taken in by the Brotherhood and fights alongside them, but is still pretty much a loner. Blay moved on with his life, taking another lover, and Qhuinn's other best friend, John Matthew is already mated, leaving Qhuinn kind of floundering on his own, but his life is finally about to change for the better. After what Qhuinn did to save Wrath's life in the last book and what he did early in this book to save Zsadist's life, the Brothers are beyond impressed with this guy. He's smart, brave beyond measure, and a leader when he needs to be. Qhuinn truly is a male of worth, something his family never recognized. He didn't in any way, shape, or form deserve all the crap they put him through, but I can't think of anyone who is more deserving of the honor the Brotherhood bestows upon him. In the last book of the series, Qhuinn serviced Layla through her needing and now she is pregnant with his young. I love how he tenderly looks after Layla, and what he did to Havers for the way he treated the female was priceless. When Qhuinn talked to his unborn young it was such a sweet moment. As for his relationship with Blay, Qhuinn has finally realized that he wants the other male so badly he'll take any piece of him he can get, but in some ways, getting what he's wanted for so long leaves him even more broken and vulnerable than before. I rejoiced right along with him when everything finally worked out. All Qhuinn ever wanted was a family to love and accept him, and now everything has come full-circle, giving him more than he ever could have hoped for. I'm so happy for him.
Blay is the solid rock who's always been there for Qhuinn through thick and thin. He was the one who got him through all the nastiness with his family and gave him a safe place to stay. Blay has loved Qhuinn since they were pre-trans, but when he finally revealed his feelings, Qhuinn immediately shut him down. Since then, their relationship has been strained to say the least, and when Blay became lovers with Saxton, it only distanced them further. Even though they haven't been close for a while, deep down, Blay still loves Qhuinn, but when Qhuinn finally offers himself up on a silver platter, he can't quite bring himself to believe that it's going to last. Blay intimately knows Qhuinn's sexual history and doesn't want to be just another notch on the guy's belt, but after all the times Qhuinn pushed him away in the past, he thinks one time is all they'll ever have. Because of this fear, he ends up allowing Qhuinn to believe some things about him that aren't true, which was a tad frustrating, but I understood where he was coming from. In contrast, to Qhuinn, Blay has loving, supportive parents who also have loved Qhuinn for years and hate what his family did to him. I adored Blay for how sweet and gentle he was with Layla, understanding how very much the young she's carrying means to Qhuinn. What Blay secretly did for Qhuinn and Layla was incredibly generous and unselfish. Blay truly is a gentlemale who has always been there for Qhuinn when it mattered the most, and I'm so glad to finally see them happy together.
As a couple, Blay and Qhuinn's chemistry is off the charts. Right from the beginning, all the pent up longing and desire between them is so thick you can cut it with a knife. When they finally unleashed it on one another, it was amazing. I knew that first love scene was going to be good, but it even exceeded my wildest expectations. It was beautiful, intense, passionate, raw, powerful, emotional, and smokin' hot. It left me weak in the knees and breathless and sent a shiver down my spine. Whew!;-) Then they did it all over again a few chapters later. Unfortunately, they both harbor uncertainties and insecurities, which makes the aftermath of their love-making rather awkward. A part of me wishes these scenes could have ended differently, but what happened made sense. When Qhuinn finally started to open up to Blay emotionally, it was a very touching moment that reminded me why these two were best friends, and when they finally allowed themselves to enjoy their love-making, it was very sweet and poignant. In spite of that, they still struggle with their feelings for one another, with Blay being afraid of getting hurt and Qhuinn being afraid of who he is. This lasts right up until the final pages, which was also a little frustrating, but what occurs in those pages is so romantic it made the wait completely worthwhile.
As with all the Black Dagger Brotherhood books, there are lots of secondary characters and sub-plots. I'll start with Layla, because she was probably the most important supporting player. As I mentioned earlier, she is pregnant with Qhuinn's young. During the early stages, she's very much alone in her pregnancy. She and Qhuinn haven't told anyone about her going through the needing and him servicing her, so she's trying to keep the pregnancy under wraps. Unfortunately, she experiences complications that end up making that impossible, but in the meantime, she goes through a lot on her own. Qhuinn is very attentive to her, but she knows his affections lie with Blay and she's trying not to be burden. I felt really bad for her during this time, because she's struggling to be independent and not being treated very well by Havers and his staff when they find out who she is. Layla is such a sweet person, I really enjoyed seeing her get assertive with them. It was funny how she yelled at them and blackmailed them in order to protect herself and her young, but still remembers her manners and thanks them when they comply. What she did to protect Qhuinn from Phury was really cute too. Layla is a truly wonderful character who deserves to be happy with someone who'll love her to distraction, and it looks like that someone may be Xcor. She can't stop thinking about her encounter with him, even though she feels guilty for caring about an enemy of her king.
Xcor is another warrior in this series who seems to have been brought to his knees by a little thing called love. He spends the entire book pining for Layla, and her sweetness and gentleness have spoiled him for any other female. I loved the way that Layla has made Xcor go all gooey inside and want to protect her, but I also respected him for not acting on his instinct to try and take her from the Brotherhood, knowing that he can't give her what she needs. Deep down though, he knows he's not worthy of her which really tugs at the heartstrings. He's never known real love, only the harsh reality of being a warrior, but in his heart of hearts, he really wants to be loved and doesn't believe that will ever happen for him, not only because of his disfigurement, but also because he knows he's a bad boy. I haven't forgotten that Xcor tried to assassinate Wrath and is still trying to dethrone him, but I also can't help feeling sympathetic toward him. I'm now convinced that he can be redeemed. I'm just not sure how or what would have to happen, but I look forward to finding out.
The Band of Bastards are all still backing Xcor up. All five now have names which is pretty cool. As a group, they're out fighting lessers every night just like the Brotherhood, but behind the scenes they're plotting with Xcor to take the throne from Wrath. Even though they do need to pay in some way for what they did to the king, I don't really want to see anything too bad happen to them.
Wrath continues to work with Saxton on the old laws, moving forward with exactly what I expected him to do at the end of the last book, while Beth spends a lot of girl time with Layla, talking about babies and such. Beth really wants to have a young, but the prospect scares Wrath to death. I do believe that the author is foreshadowing a future little one for this couple who are slated to be brought back to the forefront in the next book of the series, The King, which is scheduled for release in the Spring of 2014.
Saxton finishes his work for the king and stays on at the Brotherhood mansion as Wrath's personal solicitor. I couldn't help feeling rather bad for him. Even though he never intended to fall in love with Blay and knew that theirs was a limited love affair, he did fall for the other male anyway. I have mad respect for the guy though, for bowing out extremely gracefully, while still maintaining a friendship with Blay. I hope that perhaps he can find an HEA in a future book.
Rehvenge's former right hand men, the Shadows, Trez and iAm, return for more action. They both continue to run their respective businesses, but things really start hearting up for Trez. It seems he has an obligation to his race which he is not fulfilling and is trying to avoid the high priest who is looking for him. Trez desperately doesn't want to have anything to do with what his people have planned for him, and perhaps as overcompensation for it, has turned into a man-slut. He has sex with virtually every woman he meets, sometimes several times a day, and the implication is that he has a sexual addiction. In the midst of all this craziness though, he meets the woman of his dreams, a female who has been on the canvas for a very long time. I'm looking forward to seeing where things go for these two.
The lessers are still around, but are only one of several villains in this story. There's a new fore-lesser in town, Mr. C, who is trying to rebuild the lesser army to it's former greatness. In an effort to do this, they form an unholy alliance with a vampire. There also appears to be some kind of “new and improved” lesser that we don't really get to learn much about, and in a major plot twist, the Brothers discover something important the lessers have been hiding for a long time.
Last, but not least, are the vampire, Assail, and a new female character named Sola. I'm not entirely sure where J. R. Ward is going with their storyline, but sadly, it was the only one I never quite warmed up to. The fact that she set these two up in a dance of desire makes me wonder if she's planning a prominent story for them in the future, but if so, I think she's going to have to dig a little deeper to get me to connect with them. Assail has helped the Brothers in some ways, but ultimately, I couldn't quite get past his drug-dealing, drug use, and arrogance to see him as a hero type character. I can't help feeling that he's really loyal to no one but himself, and his attraction to Sola is more lust that love at this point. Sola was an interesting character. In the realm of private investigations and security, she does a little bit of everything, including some illegal stuff, to make a living for herself and her elderly grandmother. I have to admit that I like her style. What she did to get back at the Benloise brothers when they stiffed her on payment for services rendered was very fitting. Assail and Sola's story was my least favorite sub-plot in this book though, which is the main reason I bumped off the half-star. It just didn't hold my attention well, which is unusual for this series. However, it did end on a cliffhanger which makes me a bit curious as to who Sola's enemy is and how Assail finds them.
Otherwise, Lover at Last was a great book that was a pleasure to read. There may have been some parts that moved a tad slowly, but most of it held my attention throughout. The scene with Qhuinn and John Matthew at the drugstore in the first chapter cracked me up, and the plot twists near the end certainly woke me up. All the Brothers are here as well as some of the shellans. Payne has a small but very pivotal role to play. I might have wished for just a little more Qhuinn and Blay action, but all their scenes together were awesome and the ending left me with a sweet sigh. Overall, Lover at Last was another solid read in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series, and I'll be eagerly waiting on the edge of my seat for more Wrath and Beth action in The King. Trying to be patient for the next book is always the thing I like least about this series.:-)
Note: This book contains quite a bit of strong language and explicit scenes of sensuality between two males, as well as a M/M/M/M/F menage between five supporting players, all of which may offend some readers....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews Straight Cowboy is a M/M romance novella and the first story in Jan Irving's Uncommon Cowboys series which appears to be an unReviewed for THC Reviews Straight Cowboy is a M/M romance novella and the first story in Jan Irving's Uncommon Cowboys series which appears to be an unusual mix of contemporary and paranormal romances. Straight Cowboy is a contemporary about two young men who are on a trail ride in search of a band of wild horses. City boy Matt is hoping to do a little first hand research and photograph the horses for a book he's writing. Josh is a cowboy, working for the trail riding outfit Matt hired to lead him into the wilderness. Josh is also on a personal journey to accepting who he truly is. He's always considered himself straight, but in need of some quick cash, had participated in the production of a gay porn film the previous year. When he starts having lustful feelings toward his guest, Josh is confused, so him finally accepting that he's gay is a gradual process throughout the entire story.
I admired Josh for his commitment to his family. He seemed to be the sole provider for an elderly grandmother and a half-brother who he had only recently found out about, because the boy had been in foster care. I would have loved to have seen some actual interactions with his family, but I got enough hints from the narrative to know that he was an upstanding young man who cared about them very much. Matt is a well-adjusted gay man from an affluent and accepting family, and as such, we don't learn as much about him as an individual. I did like that he had an awestruck appreciation for the wild horses and that he didn't seem to mind being out in the wilderness. Having seen the porn film Josh was in, Matt doesn't understand at first why he's fighting their attraction, but once he figures it out, Matt becomes more patient with Josh. Overall, I thought they were a well matched couple whose love scenes are frequent and ultra-steamy. However, even though they didn't overtly declare their love, they were both thinking that they were falling in love and entertaining the idea of a longer-term commitment once the trail ride was over, which was perhaps a tad too quick to be entirely believable.
Straight Cowboy had a few other minor issues. First, I thought it stretched the bounds of credibility a little to have Matt recognize Josh from the porn movie since he'd only been filmed from behind. I realize that Matt had watched the movie numerous times and had been lusting after the “straight cowboy” for quite a while, but despite that, I honestly don't know how he could have known the two men were one and the same when he had only seen Josh's back. I think this would have been a lot more believable if Josh had some sort of distinctive mark like a birthmark or tattoo or at the very least something unique about his physiology. The editing also could have been a bit better as the author occasionally uses some awkward wording that doesn't always flow well. Lastly, the majority of the story is told in relatively small snippets with the scenes changing pretty frequently, leaving me feeling like there were gaps in the narrative. I would have loved to read a longer story about these two men with more of those breaks filled in and more getting-to-know-you and romantic moments to make their growing love more plausible. However, despite it's weaknesses, I can't deny that it was an appealing story. I liked both heroes, especially Josh, because he embodies a sweet honesty in his struggles. Straight Cowboy was my first read by Jan Irving, but it has definitely left me open to trying more of her work and continuing with this series. Straight Cowboy can be purchased as a stand-alone e-book novella and in print as part of the multi-author anthology, Saddle Up 'N Ride or the single author anthology, Uncommon Cowboys: Vol 1.
Note: This book contains scenes of explicit sensuality between two men which may offend some readers....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews Love Is in the Title is a short novella that is the first in RJ Scott's Love Is in the... series which follows teen crushes LuReviewed for THC Reviews Love Is in the Title is a short novella that is the first in RJ Scott's Love Is in the... series which follows teen crushes Luke and Cameron. It is a sweet romance that was written with a young adult audience in mind. It contains a small amount of strong language, but no other objectionable material unless a loving, kisses-only gay relationship is of concern.
The story is written from Luke's point-of-view and he is a very endearing character. He is a math geek who has been admiring football jock, Cameron, from afar. I thought it was really sweet that Luke kept anonymously requesting songs for Cameron on the radio and always seemed to know just the right thing to say through the music for whatever Cameron was feeling or going through. I liked that even though Luke had been bullied for both being a geek and being gay that he still held his head high, and it was great that Cameron had defended him. I also thought it was very brave of Cameron to come out to the football team. Most didn't take it well, but he got to be true to himself and find out who his real friends were. I loved how Luke and Cameron spent most of the story just whiling away the night talking and kissing. It was enchantingly romantic and reminded me of the days in my own youth when I was first falling in love. Love Is in the Title is the second story by RJ Scott that I have thoroughly enjoyed. It has earned a spot on my virtual keeper shelf and Ms. Scott a spot on my favorite authors list. I'm eagerly looking forward to spending more time with Luke and Cameron and further exploring RJ Scott's backlist....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews KTL23 is a steamy e-book quickie told from the first-person point-of-view of a soldier who falls for the genetically engineereReviewed for THC Reviews KTL23 is a steamy e-book quickie told from the first-person point-of-view of a soldier who falls for the genetically engineered warrior that he's been guarding. When the man, who Horatio has dubbed Kelty, starts exhibiting symptoms of illness and the scientists believe the cure is sex, Horatio is more than willing to volunteer himself to “heal” Kelty. Thinking this was probably a one-time thing, Horatio wanted to keep some emotional distance between them, but I love how once he was in the same room with the hunky guy he'd been admiring from afar, he just couldn't help himself. Having been created in a lab and never ventured outside the walls of his room, Kelty, of course, was a virgin, and Horatio very patiently and lovingly tutored him in the art of sexual pleasure. Kelty was absolutely adorable in his innocence and eagerness to please, but much smarter than he at first seems, as the clever little plot twist at the end attests. There were no unbelievable declarations of love in this short story, but there is plenty of tender, loving interactions that were also quite spicy. I had no trouble believing that Horatio and Kelty were perfect for each other and would have a happy future together. KTL23 was my first read by Missy Welsh, but it was so fun and enjoyable, I'm looking forward to trying something else by her soon.
Note: This novella contains a scene of explicit sensuality between two men which may offend some readers....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 stars" From the moment I first read the synopsis and excerpt of The Christmas Throwaway, I was drawn into the story and wReviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 stars" From the moment I first read the synopsis and excerpt of The Christmas Throwaway, I was drawn into the story and wanted to know more. I was almost positive I would enjoy it, even though at the time I had never read a male/male romance, and I have to say it did not disappoint. The Christmas Throwaway is the heartwarming holiday tale of a young rookie cop and his mom who willingly take in a teenage throwaway who he found half-frozen, sleeping on a bench in the churchyard on Christmas Eve. Is this a story that would likely happen in real life? Probably not, or at least not often, but it certainly is the type of story that we should, in my opinion, hear about all the time. In this day and age, taking in a stranger can be an understandably frightening prospect (even Ben's brother initially thought that Zach might be a drug addict or in some way dangerous to his family), but The Christmas Throwaway gently challenges the reader to look beneath the surface and see the individual. It is also the truest expression of the Christmas spirit, yet at the same time heartbreaking, because I know that there are teens out there who are experiencing the same kind of rejection that Zach did. If there were more people like Ben and his mom in this world, it would certainly be a much better place.
Zach was a sweet young man who was extremely polite and kind. He was wary of Ben and his mom at first, but still treated them with the utmost respect and was very grateful for everything they did for him. He had been a straight-A student who had never been in trouble for anything. The only thing he did “wrong” in the eyes of his family was being gay, and as punishment for this “transgression” he was denied the school he enjoyed, was no longer allowed to associate with his friends, was regularly beaten by his father, and ultimately, thrown out of the house at gunpoint when he refused to enlist in the military. As a result, he ended up on the streets in the dead of winter, cold, hungry and nearly freezing. What Zach's family did to him was utterly sad and appalling, but it allowed Ben and his mom to show Zach the true meaning of Christmas not just at Christmastime but all year round. Zach's wonder over spending Christmas with these strangers who treated him like he was one of the family was deeply heartfelt, and yet I could still sense his fear. It was like all his dreams were coming true, but he dare not believe it.
Ben was an extremely well-brought-up young man whose mother has always loved and accepted him for who he is. He obviously adores his mom, and even though he has his own house, he can't resist coming home frequently to visit and get some of his mom's good cooking. He also loves his small hometown and serves them faithfully as an officer of the law, cheerfully doing all that was asked of him as the rookie, including working the holidays. I thought it was great that Ben had chosen to specialize his training by learning more about teens in trouble, especially throwaways. I loved the way that Ben felt so protective of Zach right from the moment he met him, and it was readily apparent that looking out for Zach meant more to him than just a job. All he wanted to do was keep him safe and ease his pain, both physical and emotional in whatever way he could. I also liked that even though Ben was strongly attracted to Zach, he acted in a very professional and adult way by not allowing things to go any further between them than a hug or a tender kiss until Zach was of age and had time to sort through some of his problems.
Overall, The Christmas Throwaway was a lovely story of redemption and new beginnings. My only complaint and the only reason I didn't give it the full five stars is that it wasn't quite long enough to suit me. The bulk of the narrative takes place over about a week's time, but toward the end, the author quickly advanced the plot by about six months and then again by about a year. I realize that Ms. Scott did this to allow time for Zach to age and work through some of the emotional turmoil from all he'd been through before he and Ben gave into their feelings for one another, and I truly respect her for that. However, I couldn't help wondering what Zach and Ben had been doing during those big time jumps. Obviously, they were falling love, but we don't really get to see much of that. I would have loved to have a few more romantic interactions building up to the consummation. I also would have liked to see more of Zach's metamorphosis. As is, he goes from being a frightened teenager just trying to survive to a more confident young man in charge of his life in a matter of a few short chapters. Otherwise, The Christmas Throwaway was a well-written story that I very much enjoyed. It really tugged at my heartstrings. This was my first book by R. J. Scott, but definitely won't be my last. I look forward to checking out some of her backlist titles soon.
Note: This book contains scenes of explicit sensuality between two men which may offend some readers....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 stars" Soldier was my first foray into the male/male sub-genre of romance, and I have to say it was a pretty good book wiReviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 stars" Soldier was my first foray into the male/male sub-genre of romance, and I have to say it was a pretty good book with which to begin. This was a very sweet story about two men who are terribly wounded in both body and mind but find love and acceptance in each others arms. They in turn are able to pass that love and acceptance along to the seven abused little boys who are in their care and even a poor scruffy dog and a little puppy too. The interactions between the pair and their seven charges were utterly heartwarming, especially as a couple of the more severely abused boys slowly come out of their shells and begin to blossom under their care. It's readily apparent how much they all love each other, and they truly are one big, happy family. They couldn't be a closer, more caring bunch if they were related by blood.
Dillon is a sweet, wonderful guy who really stepped up to the plate to help these poor kids who no one wanted and who have completely gotten lost in the traditional social services system. Life is tough for them. The borrowed house they live in is falling down around their ears, and Dillon has to scrape on a daily basis just to provide food and the necessities of life for everyone in his care. As hard as he has to work though, I know Dillon wouldn't change a thing. He loves the boys just as much as if they were his own flesh and blood. After he was attacked as a teenager by his homophobic peers and left with facial scars, Dillon was resigned to probably spending the rest of his life alone until luck shone on him, bringing the man of his dreams right to his doorstep to help share his burden.
Soldier, as his nickname suggests, was in the military and fought in the war (presumably Iraq). His heroic actions saved several of his comrades lives, but he was severely wounded when a bomb exploded near him. He is now recovered from his injuries, but was left with extensive scarring on his face and body. Soldier has become something of a reclusive loner, a wanderer without much direction or purpose in life, until he finds a gorgeous guy with a bunch of kids living in one of his houses. Suddenly, Soldier knows what he wants to do with the rest of his life and the wealth that his dad left him. It's like he was just looking for a worthy cause, and Dillon and his boys were certainly that. I really admire Soldier for wanting to put his money to good use. I've often thought that if I had extra money that's exactly what I would be doing, searching for a philanthropic cause. Soldier had a lot more to offer than money though. As a military man and a big, strong guy at that, he was used to protecting and hadn't been able to do that since being injured. Now with Dillon and the kids, he has several someones to look out for. On the outside Soldier may have been a big, scary-looking dude, but underneath it all, he was just Gom's (and Dillon's ;-)) big, snuggly teddy bear.
Soldier and Dillon's first meeting, coupled with Gom coming out to ask a bazillion question and then fall asleep in Soldier's lap had just the right mix of awkwardness, emotion, sexual tension and sweetness. After that, things did kind of go from 0 to 60 really quickly in more ways than one. Normally, I wouldn't go for the love at first sight angle, nor the idea of an abused kid trusting a stranger so easily, but I think that they all just sensed something special in each other, a kindred spirit who could understand and relate to all their past hurts and share their fears of what the future might hold. In spite of knowing that, I did wish that there had been a little more development in Soldier and Dillon's relationship and a bit more exploration of their backgrounds. The reader is given just enough information on both men to get a feel for where they've been and what their lives were like before meeting, but not much else. I was a little surprised that Dillon didn't share his traumatic past with Soldier at any point in the story. However, I can respect that the author seemed to want to keep the focus on the present and how these two men interact with the boys and are trying to build a family unit together.
All the boys are a great bunch of kids, but two, Gom and Tommy, are stand-out characters who get quite a bit more face-time than the others. Little Gom (short for Montgomery) is just too cute for words and a real scene-stealer. He's been through a lot having been physically and emotionally abused by his drug-addict mother, but is still such a sweet, sensitive and thoughtful little boy. He doesn't sleep much until Soldier comes along and makes him feel safe and protected. Tommy is a little older and wise beyond his years. He too has been the victim of horrible sexual abuse and child prostitution. He's a quiet, gentle kid, but with Soldier there to back him up, he's able to face down his abusers. Even though these boys are just fictional characters they really got to me (probably because I know there are kids in the world just like them), so it really warmed my heart to know that they were being loved and cared for by two great dads like Soldier and Dillon.
Even though I loved the story, I did think that the writing itself could have been stronger. As is, it was a little too passive (too many “be” verbs), rather simplistic, and in need of more details. However, in spite of the mechanics of the writing being somewhat weak, I can't deny that Ms. Miles managed to create a story filled with heart and soul that really tugged at my heartstrings which is why I decided to give it keeper status. I haven't read a romance that embodied this much tenderness and emotion in a while. Soldier is the first book in the Scarcity Sanctuary series. Tommy and Gom grow up to get their own books next in the series, Tommy's Story and For Gom's Sake, and after falling in love with these little guys in this book, I can't wait to see what kind of young men they grow up to become. Soldier was definitely a pleasant introduction to male/male romance, and I'm really looking forward to not only continuing with this series, but seeing what else this genre has to offer.
Note: This book contains scenes of explicit sensuality between two men which may offend some readers....more