Sunday, January 22, 2012

"Little Boy Lost: Escaped (Book 5 of Little Boy Lost)"

Review - "Little Boy Lost: Escaped" by JP Barbaby

Fantastic addition to the series

Very Highly Recommended

***This is the fifth in the six book series detailing the story of Brian and Jamie.  While it is not necessary to have read the preceding books, it is HIGHLY recommended.  There may be spoilers involved otherwise.***

Brian McAllister has finally gotten the love of his life, Jamie Mayfield, back with him.  Out of the clutches of Steven, the man who rescued him off the streets, but who hooked him on drugs and forced him into a life of porn and abuse.

But Jamie is a wreck.  Physically, mentally and emotionally.  The last bout of drugs and assault have left him addicted and in pain.  Weak.  So it is up to Brian to keep him safe.  Well, Brian and all the boys at the boarding house.  And Leo.  These guys watch out for trouble and keep them safe until Jamie is well enough to move.

Because Brian has rented them an apartment together so they can begin their lives.  He will work in porn a little longer to allow Jamie to heal and kick his habit.  Then they can figure out what to do with the rest of their loves.  Lives they can plan together.

Only Jamie is afraid.  Afraid Steven will find them and kill Brian.  Afraid he can't kick the drugs.  That he is too broken for Brian.

Things so smoothly for a while for the two.  Until the oxy Jamie is taking for his pain begins to run out, and he makes a horrible choice.  One that could leave the two dead.

JP Barnaby has added the best book of the series so far to her resume.  This book hits every topic out of the ball park.  Jamie's self worth issues.  Brian's dogged devotion to Jamie.  How toxic the love between the two boys has become.  How love might not be enough.

These characters are so strong - the whole crew of boys, now men.  And the family that Brian has managed to create around himself.  So very touching and realistic for a kid who is so young and vulnerable.  Contrasted with the hell that Jamie's life became, he of the traditional nuclear family.

I was heartbroken by some of the developments, yet encouraged by others.  I want so much for these boys to be together, whole and happy.  I am invested in their happiness.

And THAT Is the sign of a fantastic author.  One who can pull me in and make me care and react and want for the characters.

So good, so wonderful and so frustrating that I have to wait for the final book in this groundbreaking, heartbreaking and humbling series.

Read them all.


Review  -"Thirst" by Lisa Worrall

Vampires and revenge and love OH MY

Highly Recommended

Max Bowman made a big mistake.  A cop should know better.  But he let the pretty guy buy him one too many drinks then followed him out into the alley.  And got the crap stomped out of him, robbed and left for dead.

When he wakes up, he is in bed.  A strange man's bed.  With only fuzzy memories of what happened to him.  But the physical reminders will be with him for a while.  Bruises, ribs sore as hell, barely able to stand at first.

Then he meets Carter, his savior.  Intense.  Gorgeous.  Lethal.

When Carter tells Max he eliminated his attackers - killed them - the news staggers him.  As does the knowledge that Carter is a vampire.  A hundred year old sexy vampire who is immediately attracted to this...human. 

Carter knows it's a mistake to not drain this man and eliminate the danger to himself.  But he can't bring himself to.  There is a connection there he cannot deny.  So he send his home and trusts it is done.

But Max is not done with Carter yet.  The connection they share is strong.  A link.  And he is shocked to find he can feel Carter's presence.  This is a dangerous thing for Max, because he is investigating a string of murders where the victims are drained of blood.

Surely it can't be.  Not Carter.

Unable to fight the connection, the two meet and the passion spills over.  Neither expect it, but they cannot deny they are made for each other.  Lust for each other.  But is has no future, Carter thinks.  He has no interest in seeing Max age and die, and he cannot bear to turn him.

But with danger breathing down on him from the vampire who made him, he may not be able to protect himself, let alone Max.

Will the two find a way to be together, or will Carter's past prove lethal?  Will Max let his soul mate slip through his fingers?  And will either live to see another day?

Lisa Worrall has crafted a smart and interesting story of soul deep connection and love against a backdrop of vampires, retribution and loss.  This is a hot and sexy romance first and foremost, and we never forget it.  Max and Carter steam the ink off the pages.

Ms. Worrall's strength lies in the characters she creates.  Strong, wonderful and complete men who dare to love.  Max is all bluster and cop attitude, but underneath a man searching for someone strong enough to make him his.  And Carter, so resigned to his life and how it has to play out, but so wanting and needing of a connection.

The background characters are wonderfully written also.  Lyle and Boyd add tension and interest.  Especially Lyle.  I would like to see his story told next.

Hot.  Rich.  Sexy. 

Great job, and another great book from Ms. Worrall.



Review - "Phoenix" by C.R. Guiliano

Betrayal, love and redemption

Highly Recommended

Thirteen years ago, Thad's world imploded.  He finally told his best friend, Haydin, that he loved him.  For that, he got punched in the face and cursed out.  Called horrible names.  Then, when he got home, he made the mistake of telling his parents what happened.  And got thrown out for being gay.  He left his Kentucky home for California.

Now an investigative reporter, he is recovering from wounds suffered by a deranged rapist he managed to track down.  In constant pain, at least he can walk.  And now, his parents have died and he is called home to Kentucky to bury them and see to the estate.  Whatever that may be - he thought himself disinherited.

Upon his return home, he finds he is the owner of his father's company, which is now highly successful and worth millions.  The guardian of his teen sister.  And to his surprise, and dismay, he will have to deal with the CEO of company.  Who is none other than Haydin.

When he sees Haydin out in public kissing his lover, his very MALE lover, it is more than he can bear.  Almost breaks his heart.  But then, meeting with Haydin on business, the sparks reignite and the two share passion.  Because Haydin has never gotten over Thad.  And is committed to having him as his.

Will the two lovers reunite for good, or will Thad be unable to forgive Haydin for ruining his life thirteen years ago?  And will a tragic accident come between the couple?

C.R. Guiliano is a writer I have been following for a little while, and I have been excited to see grow and find her voice.  And in this wonderful and rich story, she has come into her own. 

This is a nicely understated, heartbreakingly simple study of how one man can rise above the circumstances that shaped his life and somehow, find room in his heart for forgiveness and love.  Ms. Guiliano's characters are richly drawn, believable and textured.

With a heavier hand this would be melodramatic and angsty.  But she has reined herself in and let the story tell itself.   And a wonderful story it is.  Love.  Betrayal.  Redemption.  Tragedy.

Well done.  I hope to see more from Ms. Guiliano.


"The Gallows Tree"

Review - "The Gallows Tree" by RJ Scott

Broken man, healing, ghosts, love

Highly Recommended

Cody Garrett is a man on the run.  After almost being killed by Vince, the man he thought he could trust to guide him and love him as a newly out gay man, he is again stalked and threatened by him.

After months and years of dodging, moving and running around the country only to be found time and time again, he decides to visit his family's home in England and look into remodeling the Mill cottage.  The work will allow him to fight the panic attacks that grip him, and give him space to heal his bruised soul.

What he didn't count on is meeting the Toulson-Brown brothers.  One a cleric.  One the man he chooses to remodel the cottage  And then there's Sebastian.

As he begins to feel emotions and stirrings he thought buried, he also finds himself experiencing visions.  Hearing voices.  And discovering that he may hold the key to unraveling the mystery surrounding two long dead lovers who died tragically.

Will Cody allow Seb into his life and heart?  Will he be able to lay the spirits of the lovers to rest?  And will be survive it when Vince re-enters his life?

This book is fantastic.  Flat out great.  RJ Scott has interwoven the story of an abused guy looking for peace in his soul with the mystery surrounding two young people tragically separated in the past who are looking for that same peace.  And it works so well.

Cody is wonderful - broken, scared off his ass, but so much stronger than he thinks.  And Seb - bubbly, caring, sexy and just what Cody needs.  When the two are together, there is a sweetness and a heat that is fun and exciting.

Ms. Scott was very crafty here.  She introduced the ghost story but allowed the more powerful story of Cody and his healing to guide and dominate the canvas.  We never lose sight of the really important issues at hand - love, healing, peace.

Even the background characters echo that theme.  The ghostly lovers get their resolution, as does Vince.

Just so nicely, nicely done.



Review - "Betrayed" by DC Juris

Twisted and dark tale of betrayal

Highly Recommended

Set in a world of ogres, elves, men and war, Meldrick is a captive.  Sent to war, in his arrogance and belief he can lead the kings men to easy victory, he instead is wounded and captured.  Along with a group of soldiers, he becomes the unwilling tool of the enemy, forced to brutalize his own men in order to protect them and keep them alive.

All that keeps him going is the memory of his love with Faldor, healer to the armies of the king.  That allows him to keep the secrets the ogre want.

But when his captor provides proof that his love is no more, that his Faldor is dead, he has no reason left to live.  So he betrays his king.  And is set free.

For two years, he lives in the forest, a broken shell of a man.  Until he spots Faldor.  Can it be?  Is his love alive?  When he shows up at his own door, the house and home he shares with Faldor, he learns his betrayal was based on a lie.

Will Meldrick be able to resume his life with Faldor, or has his captivity broken him for good?  Has his act of treason ruined his chance for love?  And will he manage revenge upon those who used him?

DC Juris has written an edgy and violently twisted look at the darkness that lingers in a man's heart and soul, and how love may not be enough to redeem him.  I was gripped by the levels of betrayal this man survived, and how he managed to swim among the shark infested waters of his memory, and remain a man.  This book is not for everyone, as is includes scenes of torture and rape.  But is is so very, very satisfying.

Mr. Juris has gotten under the skin of this man and shown us the anger, the fear and the strength of the man, but also the aftermath of his choices, however manipulated and sometimes ill-advised they were.

I was completely in his hands, and trusted Mr. Juris to take me there and back.

Take a chance and plumb the depths here.  It is gritty and dark, but oddly hopeful.

Highly recommended.



Review - "Lily" by Xavier Axelson

Dreamy and obsessive nightmare

Highly Recommended

A little over a year ago, Pryor's life changed for good.  His daughter, Lily, was dragged into the forest by a wolf, not to be found.  His life ground to a halt.

Until he  met Ned.  An artist, a silversmith.  Pryor had never really been attracted to a man before, and neither had Ned.  But they find a mutual desire and end up together,

But Pryor has been hearing Lily's voice on the wind.  A promise that she will return one day.  And once Ned sees the white wolf who may be Lily in the woods, his doubts lessen.  So the two men fashion a plan to keep Lily there for more than one day.

Will Lily return?  Will she be the same girl her father remembers?  And can they keep her with them?

This dreamy, fantastical story of grief, werewolves and a father's love for his child had me mesmerized.  I felt stuck in Pryor's grief and secret obsession, and wondered to the last is he was wishing or something magic and dark was abound.

Xavier Axelson has the gift of breathing life into dark and broken characters and healing them through love, time and belief.  His men are strong, flawed and searching.  And his stories are often tragic but never without hope and love.

Read this wonderful short work and enjoy.


Sunday, January 15, 2012

"Jumping at Shadows"

Review - "Jumping at Shadows" by R.G. Green

Good psychological tale of obsession

Highly Recommended

Eric Geller is on top of the world.  The case he has been working on for so long against Victor Kroger is in the hands of a judge.  He has the love of a good man.  A home with him.  A career he is proud of.

And then the case gets thrown out of court.  Suspiciously.  The judge throwing out key pieces of evidence, leaving no case. 

T.J. Briscoe is there to pick up the pieces and keep his man together while he figures out what's next.  Married for seven years, he is the rock Eric's life is built on.

So when he has the tacit approval to continue the investigation from his boss, Eric puts his team back together.  The investigation targets the judge who made the ruling.  If he gets caught, though, it will be looked at as a rogue investigation - no support from official channels.

But when photos arrive at his home of Eric and T.J. in various settings, spread out over the course of months, Eric is sure he is being watched.  Targeted.

And that makes him mad.

As unexplained occurrences continue to happen, Eric begins to look everywhere, at everything.  He is sure he is being tailed.  And T.J. has to be safe too.  He is doing all this to make sure he and T.J. are safe.

When he starts making mistakes, though, even T.J. has to look and think twice.  Is what Eric is sure happening real?  Is he being targeted?  Are the cars he sees following him then disappearing a set up?

This is a tense and sexy tale of what happens when dedication turns to obsession.  Eric is a smart man, dedicated, committed, but his vow to take down Victor Kroger nearly costs him everything dear to him.

The sex is hot, the action suspenseful and the underlying unease pervasive.  I was drawn in to this psychological thriller and wined, dined and sent home happy.  The passion these two men had for each other gave the story depth and meaning.  Because Eric, by story's end, was so deep into his obsession that even that underpinning felt weak.

This is a great cautionary tale for those who lose focus on what is really important.  And for what happens when the line between vigilance and paranoia blurs.

Great read.


"Galley Proof"

Review - "Galley Proof" by Eric Arvin

Fantastic, romantic, funny

Very Highly Recommended

Logan Brandish is a successful, accomplished writer.  Not a mega star, but with enough imagination and talent to have a nice career.  But lately he has been in a bit of a rut.  His writing has stalled and he has been running though editors.  And meeting his new one, he hoped to present a good front and maybe fake his way through it.

In walks Brock Kimble, a man as unlikely as his name.  Good looking, hot, smart, unexpected.  And he pulls no punches in shaking things up for Logan.  Telling him that lately his is crap and challenging him to do more and better.  And flirting all the time.  Keeping Logan on his toes.

And Logan reacts. Changes up his writing.  Breaks up with his safe and predictable boyfriend.  Start us an affair with Brock.  Starts to fall in love.

Oh hell.

Logan's writing is tied to his moods.  When it is going well, it flows.  Then when things start to fall apart, so does his writing.

And when it all goes to hell - his love life, his writing, his mind - he jumps ship and hauls tail to Europe and lands in Italy.

Will breaking his routines revive Logan's writing?  Will he get over Brock?  Will he ever go home again?

Eric Arvin doesn't fool me one bit.  He is an unabashed romantic.  This hilarious romp of a book is also one of the most insightful and touching books I have seen in a while.  All the while he is tickling our funny bones, he is aiming more for our heartstrings.  And damn, but he succeeds.

Logan is a wonderful character - snug in his safe world, safe little town, safe home, safe relationship, safe career.  All the while thinking he has everyone fooled, perhaps even himself, he is really an open book for anyone who cares enough to see to read.

And Brock.  All that energy, fun and sparkle masking a sad and lonely work in progress.

Both men yearn for the connection, for the love and passion.  When it it right in their hands, right there for the taking, both bail and run away so fast their heads spin.

Along the way these two learn so many lessons. 

Lessons about relationships:
"In real life, kisses are never as sweet and assholes only stretch so far."

Lessons about life:
"...if he could just stare a little bit harder at a problem he might find the solution.  But solutions to those types of problems are hard to find, because they're so locked up in other people's minds and hearts."

Lessons about themselves:
"'s a trap of my own making.  I want the attention, you see, but I'm scared to death when it's there."

And lessons about love:
" if love was a great blanket we were slowly unfurling through the night, appreciating every stitch and every thread.  Every intricate and unique pattern.  We kept ourselves warm wrapped up in it."

This is one of those books that is like that great blanket.  I take it and appreciate it and wrap it around me and learn about myself some too.

And then:

"She nodded her head in approval and hesitantly shut the book, breathing a reader's sigh.  That wonderful inhale/exhale reaction one does after finishing a book that has somehow touched you.  Completion.  Inner peace.  Separate peace."

So did I.  It did.


Saturday, January 14, 2012

"Six Degrees of Lust"

Review - "Six Degrees of Lust" by Taylor V. Donovan

Suspenseful, hot and romantic

Highly Recommended

Sam Shaughnessy is a complex man.  He is the team leader of an elite group of FBI agents tracking a serial killer preying an gay men.  He is a family man, committed to his sister and his nephew, who he is on his way to fetch after his abusive brother in law takes it one step too far.  He is the still grieving father and ex husband.  And he is the flirt who has one night stands and never lets his heart come into play.

In the airport on his way to get his sister and nephew, he meets Mac O'Bannon.  Mac is a simple man with a complex life.  Gay but in the closet to protect his conservative family.  Gay but working for a gay boss looking to open a gay club.  Gay but the manager of a sports bar.  Former firefighter.  Looking for fun until his deal with his family us up.

The two hook up and their one night stand...falters and sputters.  Sam misunderstands a conversation he overhears. 

But Mac takes a chance, Sam takes a chance and the two share another encounter.  Then another.  Then the two decide to put some rules in place around their relationship that isn't a relationship.  Friends with benefits.  Monogamous friends with benefits.

And all the while, gay men are dying at the hands of this deranged killer.

It seems Mac and Sam have more in common than they know.  Friends interlink with friends, and the large cast of characters are all one step away from knowing each other.

All they way up the line to the killer.

When Sam and Mac take a vacation together, will it lead to a new understanding of their non-relationship?  Will Sam and his group find the killer in time to stop another murder?  Will the families of both men blow up on themselves?

Taylor Donovan is the devil.  No, she really is.

She has written a hot, sexy, romantic yet totally captivating character study of two men who slowly, surely are on the downhill slide into love.  And are fighting it tooth and nail.

And has created a stunningly involving suspense mystery involving a wide array of characters who are all within six degrees of separation.  There are easily fifteen characters to map and track and yet I had no problem keeping the relationships in my head.

And those character.  Very fully realized, interesting, funny, tragic, flawed.  And all operating in each others spheres and so totally, totally clueless.

I almost threw my Kindle across the room when Ms. Donovan left me with a HUGE cliffhanger and panting and wanting the next book nownownow.

She is the devil, I tell you.

And she has me trapped!


"Boys of Summer"

Review - "Boys of Summer" by Cooper Davis

Beautiful falling in love story

Very Highly Recommended

Hunter Willis has a problem.

He is in love with his best friend. 

His name is Max, and the two met through other friends while Hunter was with his then girlfriend.  The two became fast friends, and spent a lot of time together.  Everyone knows Max is gay, and that doesn't bother Hunter.  Everyone thinks he is straight, including Hunter himself.

But when they go on what amounts to a date, and share a kiss, everything changes.  Now Hunter is spending the night at Max's home.  Sleeping in his bed.  But Max is still a virgin, and isn't ready to commit himself to any man who won't be there for him all the way.

As in out.  Out of the closet and ready to love him in plain view.

Now the two men are vacationing together, on the beach thousand of miles from home.  And Hunter has a choice to make.  Can he be enough for Max?  Can he come out and tell all their friends he loves Max?

I adore this book, plain and simple.  There is something so lovely and touching about this beautiful and meaningful story of two men who find each other and slowly, shyly take that fall into love.

The story is written from Hunter's point of view, and gives us such insight into how he thinks.  All his fear, hopes, wants, needs.  And how utterly and solidly he is in love with and trembles for Max.

And Max.  Such a vulnerable yet strong man.  He knows what he wants and even though he obviously loves Hunter, he isn't willing to settle for less than he wants and deserves.

I found myself with a sense of quiet wonder reading this book.  It was like a spell was woven and I didn't want to wake up.  And it was such a sweet and loving dream too.

This one is a classic.  Great job, Cooper Davis.


"A Very Good Year"

Review - "A Very Good Year" by Patricia Logan

Fine follow up for Dmitri

Highly Recommended

***This book involves characters first introduced in "Captive Lover".  As such, this review may contain spoilers for that book.  I recommend reading it first, but it is not required in order to enjoy "A Very Good Year"***

When Dmitri Hernandez was eleven years old, he was kidnapped by Marcus Tucker,a vicious pedophile and brutalized for the next seven plus years.  He had given up hope, becoming numb, removed and a drunk to hold back the pain and fear and loss.  Until his captor made a mistake and was going to hurt another young boy, Jared Yates.  That brought Dmitri out of his daze and gave him the power to stand up and take his life back. 

Getting hurt in the process, he was cared for by Dylan Yates and Connor Black, the older brother of the boy Marcus has targeted and the man Dylan forced to kidnap and hold for ransom.  The three, along with Jared, became friends and support for each other.

After his recover, reunion with his family, and four years of college, Dmitri is back in Texas to become the new vintner for the Lazy E Vineyard and Dude Ranch.  His hard work has earned him a fine reputation, and he looks forward to this new chapter in his life.  After all, he will be working for the daughter of a now deceased professor from college, one who had a great influence on his young career.  And no one knows his past here.

What he did not expect to find was sexy cowboy Maverick Walker.  His years of abuse at the hands of Marcus left him divorced from his sexual side, and with an empty well where his heart was.  Mav awakes the lust in him and he begins an affair with the gruff cowboy.  But he warns Mav, he won't be falling in love. 

When Italian billionaire wine expert Carlo Degli Esposti arrives at the Lazy E to write an article on Texas wines and vineyards, the owner is ecstatic at the opportunity afforded the ranch.  And she counts on Dmitri to make a good impression and make every effort to accommodate Carlo.  But the beautiful Carlo ignites more than passion in Dmitri, driving him to distraction.

Will the newly ignited flames of lust Dmitri feels for both Mav and Carlo lead to more?  Or will the years he suffered Marcus' abuse keep him from opening his heart and allowing love to light him up?  And how will he choose between the two men after his heart?

Patricia Logan has written a fine follow up to "Captive Lover" and given us Dmitri's tale.  And what a tale it is.  Passion, hot sex, and hot cowboys fire up this fine take of Dmitri's gradual reawakening to love. 

Ms; Logan has an excellent feel for damaged men and how they grieve, hurt and need human contact.  She shows us their hearts, their pains and, bless her, their souls.  And gently and with care allows them to heal and find happiness again.

And if anyone deserves happiness it is Dmitri.  This poor man thought he was beyonnd redemption, and I was so happy he was getting his cowboy.  Then pissed when the smooth Italian playboy come on the scene.  I was prepared to hate him.  How dare he play with my Dmitri?

And then I realized, she had me hooked and protective of this man.  How did she manage that? 

By writing characters who matter, who care, who have the same doubts and fears and wants and needs as I do.

Damn her, she got me.  Bless her.


"The Island"

Review - "The Island" by Lisa Henry

Intense, heart pounding nightmare

Very Highly Recommended

The nightmare starts with Adam Shaw flying in to the small island owned by Vornis off of Fiji.  He is to broker a deal to sell a stolen masterpiece to the criminal boss.  The deal will open doors for him to make connections to other of Vornis'...stature.

When he settles in on the island, Shaw is introduced to Vornis' toy, a young American agent captured in a botched operation on his stronghold in Colombia.  The boy is broken.  Little more than an animal, a dog.  It amuses Vornis to give him to Shaw for his use while he verifies the authenticity of the painting.  And he will introduce Shaw to some of his acquaintances who are due at the end of the week.

It is obvious the boy has been beaten, tortured, starved, and raped.  Shaw is not a good man, but he is not a monster.  While he is attracted, he will not rape him.  Quietly he tries to draw the boy out a little.  But the drug and beatings have taken a toll.

"What's the first thing you remember?"

It is what the boy tries to make himself remember every day.  One more day that he retains a little of himself before the torture and drugs beat him back into nothingness again.

Shaw does what he can, knowing he is being watched.  But he is there to do a job.  And nothing will get in the way of that.  As long as he keeps focus, he will be fine.  And he cannot let the boy take away his focus.  Not even if he has to lie to himself.  Or be honest about what kind of man he really is.

"Jesus, everybody had some delusion they clung to pathetically to convince themselves they were better than the next guy."

Every day with Shaw brings the boy back a little.  He remembers.  His name is Lee.  He dares to remember a little more.  Dares to hope.

"What was he risking now, except his hope?  And how much was hope worth?"

But when Vornis starts taking his toy back for use every day, and returning him...used...he starts to fade a little more again.  And while Shaw says he will send out a message to his agency, it may be too little too late.  They both know it.

And when Vornis' guests start to arrive, it looks as if time may be up. 

Will Shaw be able to help Lee, or will business come first, as always?  And will the arrival of his guests spell the end of Lee's time?  Will the island and the ocean claim him?

This book, this intense, grab you by the throat and choke you, hell of a book is one of the most intense and horrifying stories I have ever read.  The claws grabbed me from the first few pages and dug deeper into my gut as the pages were turned.  By the halfway point until two thirds of the way through, I was one moment, one page, one sentence away from vomiting from the ball of dread in my throat and stomach.

And. I. Loved. It.

I hated it, I hate losing hope and looking at the edge of a cliff and knowing what lay at the bottom of the hill, or even worse, not knowing and having it hinted at.  And yet I couldn't put this spellbinding and amazing book down.  I ate it, devoured it over the course of one night and feared nightmares.  Could taste the bile.

And then, then Lisa Henry flipped me over and fed me some hope.  She had me and I would have been okay, hated it but would have been okay since she wrote the HELL out of this book, but I would have understood.  But crafty lady that she is, she put out her hand and pulled me away from the wreck, let me lay my head on her shoulder and take a deep shuddering breath and remember hope.

"Zev wasn't with them in the dream.  It was just the two of them, their fingers entwined.  Just the two of them and the Pacific and the stars.  Stay with me, Lee.  And they drifted together in the Milky Way."

God, I drifted up to the stars with Shaw and Lee and it was just a bad bad dream again.



Review - “Burn” by TJ Klune

Fantastic, original work

Very Highly Recommended

“My name is Felix Paracel, and when I was nine, I became angry with my mother and killed her with fire that shot from my hands.”

There are perhaps 5,000 elementals in the United States.  Fire, earth, air, water – elementals have the innate power to control and manipulate one of the forces that make up the universe.  Felix is an elemental.

His dreams of fire and death and destruction make no sense.  Whose voice speaks in his head?  What does The Tree have to do with him?    Why is his mother secretly training him in his affinity with fire?  

No one knows the secret he keeps.  He can control two elements - fire and air.  And that makes him dangerous.  And wanted.  And his mother is one of those who want to use his power for her own ends. 

So he lashes out and sets her on fire.  But he gets trapped in fire of his own making, and is rescued by a huge teen who seems to know him.  There is an immediate connection.  And this is the first time Felix meets Seven.

“You are not alone in this.”

Fast forward almost 16 years.  His world has changed.  Felix Paracel is now Atticus Vanesco.  In the aftermath of the fire, after being left by Seven, he and his father have fled to Terra City, taken on new identities, started new lives.  Made new friends, like Jason, who took Addy under his protection.  

And the world outside has changed too.  The public is afraid of elementals.  There is legislation moving through Congress to restrict their rights.  The Mayor of Terra City is sponsoring the Elemental Registration Act.  And only one person knows about Addy.  Or so he thinks.

As he approaches his 25th birthday, Addy’s world is work, Dad, Jason and all the one night stands he has.  But it all explodes.  And when it does, his whole life will change.  All of his assumptions will be tested.  The truth of his life will be revealed.  And he will be reunited with Seven.

“Somehow I knew that my old life was over and a new one was about to begin.”

Now that Addy – no, Felix – knows the truth and has met others of his kind, he begins to recognize how rare his powers are.  How much of a responsibility.  And how Seven will fit in his life.  Be his life.  His strength.  His heart.  The Iuratum  Cor to his Findo Unum.  

But there are still secrets and before Felix can make this new life work, he must trust – in Seven, in the Council that governs his kind, in his new friends, and most of all, in himself.  Because that voice in his head is back, stronger than ever, still talking about The Tree and fire and secrets and lies and destruction.  And Seven is there, in his heart, his mind and his soul, to soothe him.

“My world had crumbled around me, and he’d laid the foundation for something new.  Now, he began to build it back up, piece by broken piece, brick by shattered brick.”

But will that be enough?  When all the secrets are laid bare, will his Heart, his Findo Unum, be enough?  Will lies and betrayals and deaths break him?  Tear him from his mission, his fate and his destiny?  And most of all, will it separate him from his beloved Seven?

This sophomore effort from TJ Klune is an instant classic.  This is a wildly inventive tale set in a brave new world of fickle gods, superhuman powers and grand themes – love, friendship, secrets and the lonely shouldering of responsibility and fate.

Mr. Klune grabbed me by the throat and dragged me - very very willingly - into this funny and heart-wrenching and glorious tale.  I was taken from laughter to tears to grief; this book moved me with the sacrifices and the secrets and lies and surprises.  I wanted to hunt him down and drag answers from him, hug him for the beauty that blossomed unexpectedly like roses, and rip his heart out like he did mine.

And the characters.  Felix is a red hot mess, an Ice Queen thrust unwillingly into a fate not of his choosing, so afraid and halting, but always willing.  Seven, so heroic and sure and solid.  And then they merge into each other and learn each others’ strengths and hopes and weaknesses and learn to lean on each other.  And find they are mates in the purest sense of the word – made for each other, the missing piece of each others souls.

The supporting characters are so well drawn, each locking into place and completing the puzzle of this world.  This world so close to our own, where any minority (gays) could be feared and vilified and gentled out of sight and then out of existence.

The themes are universal  - love, sacrifice.  The triumph of good over evil.  

But does it?

Read and find out.  

One warning.  This is NOT Bear, Otter and the Kid, remix.  Don’t expect it.  You will be disappointed.  

But this is the real thing.  I kid you not.  This is a step forward, sideways and through the rabbit hole.  

Enjoy the ride.


Thursday, January 12, 2012

"Delsyn's Blues"

Review - "Delsyn's Blues" by Lou Sylvre

Fantastic sequel, might be better than the first

Very Highly Recommended

Luki Mililani Vasquez loves Sonny Bly James. 

After the events of the previous summer, where former ATF agent and now private security consultant Luki and weaver and artist Sonny faced certain death, the two have moved forward with their relationship.  They share humor, smart ass attitudes, passion, and love for each other.  Luki has basically moved in with Sonny and Delsyn, Sonny's nephew, who managed to survive being bled nearly to death in the same events that almost killed Luki and Sonny.

But now Delsyn is dead.  Having overhead something he should never have, he was betrayed by someone...familiar.

Left behind is a shattered Sonny, an exiled Luki, and a huge mystery.  Who wanted him dead?  Why?  What purpose did it serve?

As Luki and Sonny love, fight, implode, explode and do everything couples do, they discover that, ultimately, the only ones that can count on are each other.

Lou Sylvre has done a bad, bad thing.  She has taken two characters I loved and built them up and broken them down.  She made them hurt, gave them hope and then tore out their hearts.  She made them laugh and then she made them cry.

And she showed us every beat of their wide open, shut down hearts. 

Especially Luki.  The ice cold man with the warm heart only for Sonny.  And Delsyn, of course.  But really, he only has eyes for Sonny.

"If the heart can truly cry, Luki's did.  It hurt with overwhelming and bittersweet joy."

And that's the blues.  Sorrow transformed into joy through tears and pain.  Sung from the heart, regretful, defiant, triumphant.

"'Well, it's kind of like weaving, you know?  When you make a tapestry, you've got an idea and a bunch of colors.  Sometimes you weave them together to effect another shade, sometimes you carry one behind the other.  A lot of times you just have to set them side by side and hook them up.  It isn't until you figure out how each ties in to the others that you have the whole picture.'"

We get the whole picture.  Delsyn's gift.  The blues.  His life and death brought meaning through the love of the two men who mourn his loss.

Beautiful sadness.


"Stolen Summer"

Review - "Stolen Summer" by S.A. Meade

Wonderful insightful story

Very Highly Recommended

Evan Harrison moves from story to story, location to location in his career as a journalist.  Some places are dangerous, but he always gets the story.  He survives a bombing in Afghanistan by the skin of his teeth, and comes home to file the story.  But that just pushes him to chase after another angle, to chase down a warlord in Pakistan who supplies weapons to the insurgents.

At the same time, he begins to wonder about his feelings for his girlfriend as well as for college professor Colin Williams.  When Colin, his best friend since his college days, tells him he is in love with him, he questions if that might be why his relationships with women never quite work out.

The two men explore their feelings for each other, and Evan is surprised by how natural it feels.  And how right they are together.  He promises Evan that this will be his last trip and his last time to put himself in harms way. 

So he leaves, and the worst happens.  He is kidnapped and held captive, wondering for four long months if he will face the same fate as Daniel Pearl.  And wishing he could just share one more moment with Colin.  Tell him what he didn't before he left - that he loves him.

He manages to make it home, but will he manage to keep his word?  Will this be it for him and danger, or will he break his word, and Colin's heart, and leave one more time?  And will Colin be there if and when he comes back?

This book FLAT. OUT. ROCKS.  S.A. Meade has given us a beautifully layered look at a man who is so smart and insightful, but so very very blind.  Evan is able to peer out at the world and understand and explain it so well, and then stumble and hurt the one closet to him so badly.

I appreciated how it had taken Colin years to admit to his feelings and take the chance of blowing his friendship with Evan out of the water.  And then, when he did, he committed with his whole heart and expected the same. 

And then Evan, with his logic and clueless nature, just makes assumptions.  That love is enough.  That Colin will understand.  That he knows best.  That the Truth is worth the sacrifices he chooses for them both.

He is just such

And Ms. Meade takes him, and us, on the real adventure.  What happens when you open your heart and life to another person.  When decisions are for two, not one.  And when you finally, finally get that love is about making the rest of your life about about putting a smile on your partner's face and peace in his heart.

So very good.


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

"Always Faithful"

Review - "Always Faithful" by William Neale

Full of heart and care

Highly Recommended

***This is a sequel to "A New Normal".  It would be helpful to read it first, but it is not required.  But be aware, there may be spoilers from the next sentence on...***

Friends since a young age, Mark and Cade saw their relationship turn into love after their graduation from high school.  After committing to each other, they spoke vows to each other at the lake house Mark's father owns.  In front of the stars, Jake, his partner Cliff and each other, the two pledged their love, trust and fidelity. 

Then Mark left for college, and Cade started Basic Training and a four year stint in the Army.

As "Always Faithful" begins, Mark is almost ready for graduation after four years in college, and is waiting for Cade to come home from the last leg of his tour in Afghanistan.  They will have a relaxing week or so together, then Cade will spend the rest of his time in the States, safe until the two can be together.

Jake and Cliff are still together, and a happy couple.  Only Jake is spending way too much time at work.  As the Chief Operating Officer for the VA hospital, he has trouble delegating responsibilities.  And letting go.  Cliff is determined to have his man's full attention.  After all, his job as owner of a growing and busy residential building contract firm keeps him busy but he makes time for what is important.

Mark is committed to his happily ever after with Cade, but Cade is withholding information from him.  Information that could change their future together.  And Cliff has about had enough of being second in Jake's life.

When Cade finally comes clean with Mark, and Jake blows off his commitments to Cliff one too many times, will either relationship survive?  Can two men who mean well and have the hearts of lions remember what drew them to their men in the first place?  And will love be enough?

I very much enjoyed "A New Normal", and was very excited to see the characters revisited.  And with just cause.  This is a worthy, beautifully imagined and skillfully executed tale of what happens when lovers take their eyes off of the ball.  William Neale writes with his heart wide open, and always manages to draw me in with rich, full characters, romance, hot sex and believable situations. 

All four of these men are worthy, loving and caring.  But sometimes they forget.  Forget that happiness comes from their love for each other, not from their work, excitement, other men's notice.  But it is what they do with the knowledge, and how they redeem themselves that defines their characters. And these men - their characters are fine.

I appreciate Mr. Neale.  He is unafraid to be sentimental, have his men express their feelings, and fight for their love.

Great job.


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

"The Librarian"

Review - "The Librarian" by Lee Brazil

Fun and fabulous 

Highly Recommended

When Valentine Michaels and Adrian Gray were in college years ago, they were roommates.  Both gay, both experiencing life away from home.  Adrian's family was supportive,  Val's ignored him.  Adrian was rather straight laced and conservative, Val has blue hair.

They became good friends, and Adrian listened and supported Val through boyfriend problems.  For one brief week, they became more than friends.  Then Val moved on to his next boyfriend, breaking Adrian's heart.  But he decided to remain a good friend.

So for the next ten years, Adrian did just that.  Listened to stories and griping about Val's many, many boyfriends, all muscular jocks, just like the guy he dumped Adrian for.  When Val becomes a cosmetologist and works at a salon, then buys it, Adrian faithfully gets his hair cut there every Friday.

So when Val breaks up with his latest boy toy and swears off men, vowing to remain celibate, Adrian sees his opening.  He has been observing Val for all these many years and knows what he did wrong.  So he plans, plots and makes his move.  He will make Val his.

Will his plan work?  Or will Val shoot him down one more time?

This is a great and gratifying, fun and fabulous story about knowing what you want and going for it.  Adrian is cat - laying back and waiting for his chance then swooping in and getting his prize.  And Val, such a clueless guy who thinks he has all the answers.  So sweet and stuck.

This is a short work, but Lee Brazil packs a novel's worth of feeling, joy and heart into it.  He always manages to create memorable characters in...unusual...situations, and I always have a smile in my face and warm feeling in my heart when I finish one of his works.

Very very good.


Monday, January 9, 2012

"Love Means...Family"

Review- "Love Means...Family" by Andrew Grey

Comfortable and comforting

Highly Recommended

Robert Edward Hawkins, know as "Arie" to his family and friends, is at a serious crossroads.  His beloved sister has died in a terrible accident, which took his niece and brother in law's lives too.  His parents want him to marry and have another heir.  Forget the fact that he is gay.  And his music career is in limbo at the moment.

So he takes some time to get away and visit his friend Robbie and all the wonderful folks at Geoff and Eli's farm in Michigan.  Being away from the stresses at home gives him time to think and make some choices about his life.

Office Duane Keenan is just doing his job when he pulls over Arie for a moving violation.  And promptly gets nicknamed Officer Hunky for his troubles.  Of course, that just makes him chase after the hottest guy he has seen in a long while even harder.  And Officer Hunky has Mom problems of his own too.  As in her denying he is gay.

But closer the two do get, in spite of the fact that Arie is only visiting for a couple of months.  Both men are fighting hard to protect their hearts.  And failing.  And fighting.  And making up.  And then there is the little matter of the bullets that keep finding themselves WAY too near Arie for Duane's comfort.

Will Duane manage to keep Arie safe until he discovers who is behind the attempts on his life?  Can the two manage to protect their hearts?  Does their love have a future?

Andrew Grey has given us a warm, inviting, comfortable and comforting tale.  His characters always are well rounded, emotionally available both to the reader and to each other, and very genuine.  His books are sweet without being saccharine, gentle without being maudlin, and altogether comforting.

Once again, Mr. Grey delivers a home run with two men who are made for each other, who take risks and are willing to put their hearts on the line.  There is a sub plot of slight danger, and it adds the the nice romantic feel of the book. 

And best of all, we get to re-visit old friends from the "Love Means..." series.  Geoff and Eli get to welcome new addition Jakey.  And I got to spend some time with characters as comfortable as my favorite flannel shirt on a cool winter's day.

Good job.


"Blood Howl"

Review - "Blood Howl" by Alex Kidwell and Robin Saxon

Funny, touching and great!

Highly Recommended

Jed Walker is many things - gun for hire, loner, smartass, slut.  He is used to going in, getting the job done, and getting out.  No entanglements, no feelings, just work.  Same with sex.  Of course, that's the only time anyone really sees him anyway.

Redford Reed has lived alone in the house he inherited from his grandmother.  He has had no interactions with other people, other than getting food and necessities, since he was five years old.

So when a new client, Fin, hires Jed to take the most valuable thing in Redford's house, it should have been easy.  Then he figures out the kicker - Red is what the client wants.

Not gonna happen.

So he takes Red and decides to protect the man and figure out what the heck is going on.  It doesn't hurt that Red is a good looking man.  And so very...different.  And then when they are attacked, all bets are off.

And then Red drops the biggest bombshell.  He is a werewolf.  And the full moon is the next night.

No. Damn. Way.

But when Jed sees Red change with his own two eyes, everything changes.  It suddenly explains why Red is wanted by this mysterious Fin.  With the attraction between the two sparking brightly, Jed promises to do everything in his power to keep Red safe.

But when his new found feelings making Jed uncomfortable, will he be able to deliver on that promise?  Or will Fin get what he wants?

This book knocked me off my feet.  It is a funny, exciting and altogether fun lovethrillermysteryromance.  Jed is a pistol - cracking jokes, blowing up things, flirting like crazy, but at heart a vulnerable guy scared of getting close.

And Red.  What a character.  Innocence with a dry wit.  A pup who learns to bite back.  And just what Jed fears hardest and needs the most.

"There was a difference, Jed was learning, between being content and being happy."
And that's what sets this wonderful and touching book apart.  It made me happy.


Sunday, January 8, 2012

"Blue Notes"

Review - "Blue Notes" by Shira Anthony

Like a jazzy fall night, smooth and satisfying

Highly Recommended

After walking in on his fiance and a strange man in his bed, Jason Greene needs a break.  A long break, far away from his Philadelphia home.  So he arranges a two month sabbatical from the law firm he is with, and makes plans to stay at his sister's apartment in Paris.

Yes, two months in Paris, the city of lights and love could be just what he needs.

On his first night there, he stumbles on a small jazz club, and decides to stay for the show.  The relaxation is just what he needs, and jazz soothes his damaged soul.  And there, he meets Jules, one of the jazz trio playing that night.  Their music is a revelation, as is the man.

Seeing Jules standing in the rain waiting for the next bus, Jason makes the impetuous decision to invite him home with him.  And somehow Jules ends up staying.  And the two become fast friends, exploring Paris.  As it turns out, Jason lived in Paris and knows is better, some ways, than even Jules.

As the friendship between the two deepens, so does the attraction.  Before either can think, they fall into a passionate affair.  Jason is new to loving a man, but has thought about it before.  Jules is gay, and no stranger to it. 

But both are surprised by how quickly the attraction flames into more.  Could it be love?  For Jules, for sure.  But Jason is only there for two months.

Will the two be able to make an affair into something more permanent?  Or will the past that haunts Jules, and, indeed Jason's past, come between the two?  And can a long distance relationship work with them?

Shira Anthony has composed a bluesy take on love and relationships with this relaxed, sure riff.  She has created two very likable characters in Jules and Jason.  I wanted them to come together, and I wanted them to stay together.

The chemistry is hot, and the romance and sex hotter.  For Jason, it is a revelation, as he explores what it is to reconnect with his passion.  For music, for life and for love.

And Jules.  He is a genuine man.  At once so sure of himself, then so vulnerable.  The perfect mate for Jason's strength and surety. 

This book was as sweetly satisfying as a night of wine, John Coltrane and beignets.

Give it a read.


"Blue Moon"

Review - "Blue Moon" by Rowena Sudbury

This caught me by surprise!

Very Highly Recommended

Brad Fraser is young man floating through life.  He is a success on the B level wrestling circuit, but allows his restlessness to get him in trouble.  His latest mistake - allowing a drug dealing bully on the tour to use him a little too roughly.  Because that's what Bruiser does - traded drugs for sex and favors.

Until Scott O'Doul steps in and makes a deal.  He will take Brad under his wing and maintain the illusion of control, and in exchange Brad will have Scott's protection.  Scott will use him for pleasure, their mutual pleasure. 

This arrangement works well for over a year.  They have fun, pleasure, a good time.

But is that all it is?

This is a very short tale, but OH so effective.  I have read novels ten times the length that did not touch me one tenth as much.  The two men are drawn so sharply, and there is a tight, controlled sense of wonder to this fantastic story.

Because this is a story about how love is about belonging rather than control.  Surrender means strength not weakness.  And two men can fall into love if only they allow themselves.

Beautifully written.  Short and so very very sweet.


"Stolen Moments"

Review - "Stolen Moments" by Ariel Tachna

Very nice coming out story

Highly Recommended

Jacob Peters tried.  He really did.  He thought he had met the man of his dreams, and he would have his happily ever after.  But living in East Nowhere Alabama, neither man could come out without consequences.  Jacob is a schoolteacher at a conservative Christian private school.  And his man, Beau Braedon, is a judge.  So they have to manage their time together very carefully.  Very discreetly.

When Beau cancels their infrequent meetings one too many times, Jacob has had enough.  He calls, leaves Beau a message that he will be going out and will pick someone up and have some fun.  He doesn't hear from Beau, and as a result, he is now married, to a woman, and has a beautiful son he adores.

But it's not enough.  He misses Beau still.  And is still furious with him.

Beau is a country judge, deathly afraid that someone will find out about him being gay.  He has lived in the closet all life, and sees that continuing.  He pushed Jacob away out of fear.  His mother is ill with Alzheimer's, in a nursing home, and he has to be nearby for her.  He doesn't want to face what might happen if he comes out. 

But living without Jacob is hell.  And he wants him back.  So he calls Jacob, wanting a second chance.  Asks for a meeting, so they can talk.

It might be the worst idea ever, but Jacob can't forget Beau any more than he can forgive him.  But when Beau proposes a deal - give him six months.  Six months to prove that he can work out a way for them to be together.  Worst. Idea. Ever.

So of course Jacob agrees.

As they embark on an affair, will Jacob be able to forgive Beau?  Will Beau be able to convince Jacob it can work?  And when it all threatens to blow up in their faces, will their love be strong enough to keep them together in their conservative Alabama town?

This is a thoughtful, loving look at two men who learn to be enough for each other.  Ariel Tachna has created a beautiful story of two men who prove the idea of synergy - that the sum of two coming together is so much more than the individual strengths.

Jacob is the strong one at the beginning of the tale, and Beau, seemingly, is the lesser of the two.   In fact, Beau is rather unlikable.  And as they move through the story, Jacob stumbles, and it is up to Beau to be the strength in the relationship.  And to my surprise, Beau stepped up and proved proved his meddle.  Be the pillar Jacob needed. 

That is what love is all about.  Being there for each other, sharing strength and weakness and joys and sorrows.  And Ms. Tachna has gently shown us that.

And without beating us over the head, she shows us that one should never underestimate people in a small town.  As a black police officer tells the two:

"I know what hatred look like.  I've stared it in the face since I was old enough to know what I was looking at.  It wasn't right when they hated me because I was black.  It ain't right that they're hating you because you're gay."

Well done.


Saturday, January 7, 2012

"Truth in the Dark"

Review - "Truth in the Dark" by Amy Lane

Beautiful take on Beauty and the Beast

Very Highly Recommended

In a small coastal town on the Archipelago, Naef was born.  Club footed, awkward, pained and shunned, he was nonetheless loved and cherished by his sister Gwen and his mother.  Gwen was his protector, companion and confidant.  He could at least feel normal with her.

Then, when he was but twelve, the young men of the village, in the way such boys will do, attacked and violated Naef.  In that moment, the young man decided there must be no value to him.  So he started to become as twisted and pained inside as he appeared on the outside.

And his sister Gwen, ever the guardian, took her knives and settled the score.  Nobody would harm her brother again.  And he took up his knives, apprenticed to the woodworker of the village, and grew very adept at making finely carved items and small little knives to keep those who wished for trouble in line.  And took on the nickname the silly children have him - Knife.

So he grows up, more and more isolated and bitter. 

"My insides matched my outsides...I had spent years...I had spent my entire life twisting myself inside so that I could match the body and the face with the fates the fates plagued me with."

And then one day, Gwen meets a nice young man, a captain on a ship from the harbor.  He wants to marry her but she won't leave Knife.  So Knife strikes a deal - Gwen's suitor has a cousin looking for a companion for a year.  He would get paid and leave, Gwen would marry her beau, and his mother would leave the village and they would have a happy life without him. 

And when Airie-Smith shows up to strike the deal, Knife sees he is cursed in his own way.  Because Airie-Smith is under a curse, forced into the shape of a lion who can walk and talk like a man.  So Knife agrees to the bargain.  He will accompany the man to his home on an island south, and at the end of one year, perform on small, regrettable and unpleasant task. 

So off he goes, and when he nears the island, he discovers that all the people on the island are cursed to take the form of animals, like their Lord.  And the task he is to do - it will help break the curse.  And when the sailors on the ship carrying him turn into monkeys, he himself wakes to find...he is in the body of his dreams.

The two grow closer, as friends, then more, as the year progresses.  When the deadline approaches, Knife discovers what the small regrettable task he is to perform is. 

Will he be able to do it?  Will the curse be broken?  And what will the costs be to everyone involved?

Amy Lane has taken the Beauty and the Beast legend, twisted it like Naef's leg and spine and created a work of beauty, pain and richness.  The love, the sacrifice, the terrible cruelty of the task - all combined to make this beautifully imagined and lovingly executed tale one of the most touching pieces I have read.  Ever.

This stunning book grabbed me from page one had had me in tears - real tears - in the first five minutes of reading. 

And the prose.  Just so damned good.

"Every beat of my heart ached like an abscessed tooth."

"What must it be like to have such faith in the world, in plans, in your own ability to control your fate?  It was contagious, that's what it was.  I could not help it.  I caught his hope like a plague."

"I could not disparage - not even in harsh jest - a man who offered me the kindness of touch."

"A man like me...a man like me did not take kindness for weakness.  Kindness in the face of all the tiny knives the world had to throw at a body - that was real strength."

And then, then the one that was a knife in my heart.

"It was the capacity for love that made me beautiful after all."

I felt beautiful.


"Life After Joe"

Review "Life After Joe" by Harper Fox

Two broken souls who heal each other

Highly Recommended

Matt was dumped.   His partner Joe decided to bow to family pressure and settle down with a woman, have kids, the whole dream come true.  So he left his committed relationship with Matt, cheated behind his back with a woman, proposed to her and then calmly told Matt he was leaving him. 

And that did it.  Drove Matt over the edge, and six months later he is drinking every night, sleeping with any man he can find, and getting very close to blowing his residency at the hospital and not becoming a doctor.  And it is when he is out drinking and looking for the lay of the night that he sees Aaron. 

Aaron is a mystery.  Handsome, built, sure of himself.  But he never does more than exchange pleasantries with the men who try to chat him up, and never leaves with anyone.  But when Matt catches his eye, drunk, getting tossed out of the bar for having sex in public, he breaks his own rules and gives Matt a hand up and a walk home.

And right then, Matt takes a look at himself, his decisions, his behaviors.  Joe's wife drops by to tell him he needs to sell the home he and Joe shared, as Joe wants his equity out.  And decides it's enough.  No more limbo.  No more drinking and whoring.

"No point in an autopsy, picking over all the points at which my life had slowly died."
And so the two become lovers and friends.  Matt hears Aaron calling our for Rosie in his sleep, and assumes he has a wife, another life.   But the attraction is strong, and he knows he wants Aaron.  For as long as he can have him.

"It was welcome, protest at the size of him, wild-excitement - a sudden grief that, of all the men I'd let inside my body, for the first time I wanted one."
Then Joe reappears, wanting Matt back.  Will Joe go back?  Or will he take a chance on Aaron?  And will Aaron tell Joe the truth about Rosie?

Harper Fox has written a gentle and joyful book about two broken men who somehow find their way to each other and find the strength to love again.  Their pains shape them, both men thinking they would ever emerge from it.  And when they do, man, it is beautiful.

I loved this book.  The quietness and care and love shine through.

Fine job.


"Shades of Gray"

Review - "Shades of Gray" by Brooke McKinley

Exciting, thrilling and touching read

Highly Recommended

Danny Butler is a criminal.  End of subject.  A means to an end.  The lieutenant to a drug lord, he is the key to bringing down the head honcho.

And that is something Miller Sutton has as a fact in his black and white world.  He has been building the case against Roberto Hinestroza for years, and he will do whatever to takes to finish the case, put the man behind bars and move on to the next scumbag.  That is his life, his mission, and who he is.

But when he has to protect Danny when he enters the Witness Protection Program, the certainty that Miller feels comes into question.  The black and white, not so clear cut anymore.  Because he begins to see the shades of Danny.  Gets the story of Danny's life, sees the man behind the rap sheet.

And it challenges his world.  His straight laced, factual, passionless world.  Because behind the job, the badge, the case, the fiance, there is an attraction he feels for Danny.  Because Danny is loyal, spontaneous, fun, passionate.  Vibrant colors to Miller's cold whites and blacks.

"You're always so quick to think people are all one way, Miller.  It's more complicated than that."

Miller embarks on an affair with Danny, and it turns his world upside down.  It is a betrayal of his job, his commitment to his fiance.  But it feels so right.  And it awakens things in Miller he had kept hidden for years.

Will the two men have a future together, or will Danny's criminal past catch up with him?  Will the very real danger to Danny's life keep them apart forever?

This is a terrific, exciting and surprisingly touching book.  The two main characters are so dissimilar, and yet when they come together, they fit so well.  Danny is all sparks and fire, honest in his feelings and sure of who he is.  Miller is quiet, strong but so very self contained and insular.

But when they come together, they begin to move towards a center, and the two extremes begin to fade away.  Danny gains some of Miller's strength, and Miller loosens up and allows Danny's fire to warm the stillness and cold in him.

And the prose is so beautifully written, the voice so clear.  When Danny fears that he and Miller cannot be together, it is so gorgeous.

"'Then what's the point?' Danny demanded. 'What's the point of trying to do anything different?'"

"The point's like this old patchwork quilt my momma used to have...each piece on that old quilt meant something.  And some of those pieces were the damn ugliest things you've ever seen...but some of the pieces were so beautiful they hurt my eyes to look at...That's the best you can hope for, Danny.  That your life turns out like that patchwork quilt.  That you can add some bright, sparkling pieces to the dirty, stained ones you've got so far.  That in the end, the bright pieces might take up more space on your quilt than the dark ones."

When a writer can create a character who speaks words like this, it is remarkable.  And this is a fine, fine book written by a talented writer with a beautiful heart.

I cannot wait for Brooke McKinley to let her voice loose again.


Sunday, January 1, 2012

A Bear's Take on the Best of M/M and Why the Genre Grows

A Bear’s Take on Why M/M Grew in 2011

Simple.  The quality of the books just keeps improving, and there are AMAZING writers in the genre who know how to captivate, enthrall, touch and, most of all, entertain us.  That being said, I came up with 25 reasons 2011 rocked, and why I am looking so forward to 2012.  In alphabetical order:

1.  Woke Up In A Strange Place by Eric Arvin.  I am not sure anything touched me more than did this powerfully simple book about death, forgiveness and TRULY happily ever after.

2.  The Incident by Xavier Axelson.  Cop in danger of sliding under the waves into the darkness, finds an unexpected chance at love.  Great writing and great characters.

3.  Moonlight, Tiger and Smoke by Connie Bailey.  This book took six children, kidnapped at a young age, inducted into a brutal secret society and wove a touching love story.  So well done.

4.  Nothing Ever Happens by Sue Brown.  Nobody can tell the story of denied love like Sue.  And then to have a second chance.  Just so damn good.

5.  Amor Prohibido by Ellis Carrington.  Beautiful story about recovering from abuse, finding love and making sacrifices.  Not nearly long enough!

6.  In From the Cold by Mercy Celeste.  There were moments of quiet wonder mixed in with unbearable tension in this fantastic book.  My hands clenched and my neck ached by the time this book ended.

7.  Maybe with a Chance of Certainty by John Goode.  Very few writers understand what it’s like to be a young gay man.  John does.  The sequel, The End of the Beginning, is just as wonderful.

8.  Simple Gifts by L.B. Gregg.  Two broken men reunite after one night together ten years before.  Then must part again to heal.  The story is so hopeful.  Origami in prose.

9.  Ty Hard by Laura Harner.  Cowboys.  Hurt and damaged men.  Suspense.  Damn, Laura knows how to put a story together.

10.  Of Wolves and Men by G A Hauser.  Fascinating new take on shape shifters and voodoo.  Cowboys, federal agents.  Fantastic. And The Order of Wolves, the sequel, explains so much more.  

11.  When Love is Not Enough by Wade Kelly.  A suicide.  His best friend and his lover, who have never met, come together in their pain and discover his secrets.  And maybe love.  So intimate and powerful

12.  Blood Howl by Alex Kidwell and Robin Saxon.  Funny, gritty and altogether hot take on shifters.  The characters are so skillfully drawn – made me fall in love with both guys.

13.  Bear, Otter and the Kid by TJ Klune.  Boy forced to be a man too soon, falls for his best friend’s older brother.  But boy isn’t gay.  Is he?  Skillfully drawn and unforgettable characters.  Best of the year.

14.  Living Promises by Amy Lane.  Jeff is everybody’s uncle, taking care of the family he has struggled to put together for himself.  But he deserves love too, and Colin might make him see it.

15.  Boots by Angel Martinez.  Take a fairy tale and spice it up with male on male (well, demon) fun and you have a fun, original work that delights and touches..

16.  Secret Light by Z.A. Maxfield.  Man meets man in 1950s California.  Secrets abound, and can be deadly  Tense, slow building and so damn satisfying. 

17.  Quinn’s Need by SJD Peterson.  Continues Lorcan’s Desire and shows us four men, all strong and all with flaws.  Sometimes love means letting go and sometimes it means waiting.

18.  Caregiver by Rick Reed.  AIDS in the 90s and how we all dealt with it.  And how love can bloom amidst tragedy.  Rick has taken a very hard time for us and shown us the hope.

19.  Ink by Isabelle Rowan.  Tattoo artist falls in love with vampire.  But Isabelle brings humanity to the characters, and shows us it Is never too late for love, forgiveness, and hope.

20.  Maroon: Dugal agus Jimmy by PD Singer.  Leonardo was not the only man to find love against the backdrop of the Titanic.  So shyly and boldly done.

21.  Visible Friend by K.Z. Snow.  A child’s imaginary friend come to life.  Love story like you haven’t seen before.  So touching, and with an epilogue that will leave you in tears.

22.  Hot Head by Damon Suede.  Firemen.  Best Friends.  Love.  This funny, thoughtful and very satisfying story was so good.  The 9/11 towers falling analogy is heartbreaking.

23.  To Adam with Love by Adrienne Wilder.  Harsh world of dragons who take the form of men, half breeds and what keeps up human.  The next in the series, Worth, shows abuse and hope hand in hand.

24.  Unshakeable Faith by Lisa Worrell.  Amnesia victim finds his soul mate.  Then gets his memory back and finds he really is a cold prick.  Lisa shows a light hand and a romantic heart and tells us love matters and will find a way.

25.  Candy G by Carol Zampa.  Cop trying to take down a gangster falls in love with his ex-lawyer.  Carol has such a romantic voice, and it makes her story shine.

So if you haven’t given these artists a chance, do!  And if you have suggestions for books you would like to see featured on my blog, please let me know.


"Secret Light"

Review - "Secret Light" by Z.A. Maxfield

Tense, tight and terrific

Highly Recommended

Rafe Colman is handsome, slick, personable.  He is the top commercial real estate salesman at his agency, perpetually Salesman of the Month.  Everybody likes Rafe.  But he is a man with secrets.  A fraud.  And is 1955 Los Angeles, having the kind of past Rafe does can be dangerous.  Even more dangerous than being perceived as German, with the hard feelings lingering after WWII.

When his home is vandalized, Officer Ben Morgan investigates what could be a crime motivated by Rafe's Germanic background.  When he sees Rafe's dog, it is love at first sight.  Then he catches sight of Rafe, and thinks he sees a glimmer, a glint of commonality.  But he cannot be sure, and his partner's bigoted comments keep driving home how dangerous it could be for HIM.  Because there are no out gay cops.  It just doesn't happen.

As the two men become friends, the attraction is there.  But the secrets the two men have make this a difficult and potentially deadly dance.  But when Rafe is violently attacked, Ben knows he has to do more.  Be more.  Protect Rafe.

But how?  How can he be what he wants to be, have what he wants to have, make Rafe his?  And will Rafe be able to overcome his past and trust Ben?  Or will the man who has it out for Rafe succeed in his vendetta?

This book takes Z.A. Maxfield into a new ballpark.  And she knocks this out of the park.  The grasp she has of the times, the fears and tensions, the barely hidden xenophobia and homophobia, the tension that permeates anything and anyone different is superb.  How even the hint of gayness could ruin a man forever.

The claustrophobia and tension in this story are choking.  And it is sustained from the beginning through almost the last page.  Make no mistake, this is a romance and a love story, but DAMN, the tension ratchets up the attraction  Makes it feel more intense.  Deeper.

This is what happens you let a master at characterization loose in a new area and let her have free reign.  You get a diamond. 

Take a chance here - this is not what you might expect, but so very much more.