Saturday, February 25, 2012

"Bonds of Earth"

Review - "Bonds of Earth" by G.N. Chevalier

Fantastically moving historical piece

Very Highly Recommended

The Great War was not kind to any of the men who were involved, but those who survived came back with horrible scars, both mental and physical.  And Michael McReady is no different.  He was an ambulance driver, and worked with veterans of the war in a hospital as a rubber, a masseur, helping with physical therapy.

But the past couple of years he's been working in a bathhouse, doing massages and having an outlet for the desires that could get him arrested.  Because sodomy is illegal in 1919 New York.  When he runs afoul of his uncle, who threatens to tell his only sister about his...proclivities...he agrees to take a job out of the city as a gardener.

While there, he meets the nephew of the matron who owns the estate, John Seward.  Another victim of the war, his wounds are physical as well as emotional.  And when Michael sees him, he feels pity.  Knows he can help.  But John's personality and attitude makes sympathy difficult.

But when he finally breaks through and takes matters into his own hands, forces John to take his help, the results are amazing.  Rewarding.  As the two men learn to connect, their bond grows.  And soon spills over into passion, which send Michael running away, the pain of caring too much.

Will these two men reconnect?  Will either move past the ghosts of war that come between them?

Typically, I have not been one for historical books or romances, but I will definitely have to reconsider after reading this.  G.N. Chevalier has given us a damned miracle here.  This is a book that sings - a romance that grabs first at the mind, then at the heart.  Treats both respectfully and with dignity.

Michael is a wonderful character.  He is edgy, ahead of his time, and a wonder to behold.  His bravado masks a huge wounded heart, and as we slowly get to see what caused that pain, we are amazed.  Because he is such a wonderful, caring and loving man.  But oh so very broken.

And John.  All gruff and bark and sharp corners.  But at heart, another sensitive broken romantic, loosed on the world only to have it break him.  Wound his body and break his spirit.  But not irreparably. 

These two guys, they were made for each other.  I hung on every work, every sentence, hoping for them.  Because I was moved, so very moved, by the hurt and the pain and the passion and the rightness of them being together.

God, this book was just so good.  I sound like a broken record, I know, but please, if you only buy one book this month, make it this one.


"An Unsettled Range (Range #3)"

Review - "An Unsettled Range (Range #3)" by Andrew Grey

Worthy and fine addition to the series

Very Highly Recommended

After walking and hitching for days with little food or water, it's all Liam can do to put one foot in front of the other.  When one driver after another ignores him, he just...collapses where he stands and hopes for a quick ending.  He's vaguely aware when he's lifted up and settled into a truck by two guys.

When he wakes up, he finds he's been rescued by two kind men.  Gay men, like him.  He feels such relief, and then acceptance.  Hope, where he has only had despair.  And he's offered a job by Wally, a vet who is partners with Dakota.  Dakota and Haven own the ranch, and it's a bit of an anomaly - a safe place for a gay ranch hand.

On his second day at the ranch, Liam investigates strange smoke in the air and wanders up on Troy.  Who promptly pulls a gun on him and orders him off his property.  Doesn't make a great impression on Liam, that's for sure.

But the two men run into each other several times, and there is an attraction.  One that Troy fights, because he believes he doesn't deserve to be happy, after ruining his life, and his family's life the way he did.  So he resists the heat he feels for Liam.  Because Liam, he know, he KNOWS, deserves better than him.

When Liam puts himself in jeopardy looking out for Troy, however, a small door opens for Troy.  Maybe, just maybe, there can be something there.

When Dakota and Haven's ranch might be threatened by a mining company looking to use the ranch's water rights, and people from his and Troy's troubled past reappear, will Liam's new-found home be in danger?  Will he and Troy manage to find a life of their own, or will their ghosts overwhelm them?

Andrew Grey has returned to give us more the "Stories from the Range" series, and this one is a winner.  It's always a pleasure to visit with Wally and Dakota, Haven and Phillip, and he's added two memorable guys to the mix here with Liam and Troy.  This is a well told, thoughtful and warm tale of two injured and hurting men who realize there is strength in sharing the load.

Mr. Grey has done what he does so well - created characters who make us think and feel, and put them in situations where they are forced to confront their fears and shortcomings.  But they also come to realize they are not so unlovable after all.  That love is deserved, freely given and received, and that they are, indeed, worthy.

Troy is one of Mr. Grey's strongest characters yet.  So self loathing, but so willing and open to want and need and have, once he gets he deserves it.  And that he has so much to offer.

And Liam - what a sweetheart of a young man.  Hated for what he is, abused, thrown away.  But so much stronger than his father ever gave him credit for.  Bent, but never broken.

These two men were terrific together, and I hope we see more of them as the series progresses. 

I truly cannot say enough about the skill with which Mr. Grey writes about his broken men.  In all of his series, he creates character after character I would love to know.  And I savor every book of his that comes my way.  But I truly love the "Tales from the Range" series.

Great job.


"Hard as Teak"

Review - "Hard as Teak" by Margie Church

Good,  solid effort


A nature photographer who is gaining a name for himself, Kevin is in a bit of a rut. His success is growing, but everything else  His work is beginning to bore him.  His relationship with his girlfriend is stagnant and he is having trouble completing sex with her.  And he's picturing men in his fantasies.

So he decides to pack it all in and take a working vacation to his cabin in Minnesota and gain some perspective.  As he gets there, he meets Drew, a local guy, and then Teak.  Teak, who takes his breath away, and inspires him to take new chances in his work. And in his personal life, especially when he finds himself sexually attracted to Teak.

The two share sparks, which soon ignites into a passionate affair that scares and excites Kevin.  The two men live in different states, have different lives.  And Kevin will be going back home in a few short weeks.

If he starts something with Teak, will it last?  What will happen with Kevin's girlfriend?  His gallery back home?  His life as he knows it?

Margie Church created some very nice characters in a hard situation.  One straight, in a relationship with a woman, but questioning his sexuality.  One bi and out, proud and certain of who and what he is.  And they are thrust into a highly charged situation where they have a mutual attraction.

I can understand Kevin's questioning.  He's not satisfied in any area of his life, and is looking for more.  That strikes us all, and I admire his strength in taking the steps to break out of that rut he's in.  And there the story works for me.  It's very relatable, very straightforward.

I loved the two men, and hoped to see more of Drew.  They were all great, fleshed out, interesting.  All good men in their own right.  I think a great book could be built around any of these three guys.  There was potential and chemistry.

Where the book falls a little bit short for me is in the execution of the story. 

I was left feeling a bit disconnected from some of the relationship aspects of Kevin and Teak.  Teak was very masculine and in-your-face, but then was doubting and...not manly.  Almost against character.  I found there to be a gap with his giving the power in the relationship to Kevin.

And Kevin.  Kevin wasn't a very sympathetic character to me.  He had a girlfriend he was stringing along, and he entered into a sexual relationship with a man.  Granted, Teak is a hottie, but Kevin had no experience with men and he seemed to be ready to jump without looking.

There was also a large time lapse in the last weeks of their relationship, before Kevin went home.  That, to me, would have been an ideal time to reinforce the care they were building for each other.  Instead, there was nothing.

I enjoyed the book, there is no doubt about that.  It was funny, there were moments of shot-to-the-heart "Oh Hell"'s and I was genuinely moved a couple of times.  And yeah, I would recommend it.  I just wish that the blanks had been filled in a little more for me.

Ms. Church is a good writer with great ideas.  Keep 'em coming!



Review - "Flamingo" by Sarah Black

Short, rich, beautiful

Highly Recommended

When he was a young man, William was strongly urged by his father to move to New York City where he might fit in better, find more "like him".  Because William sinned in the worst way.  He failed his Army physical and was gay.  So off he went, attending college and eventually taking over the bookstore he loved so much. 

Now, at 61, he predates the Stonewall Riots but is too old to do much more, be much more, than the owner of his little fading bookstore.  And enjoy the occasional night with Tommy, the young man who goes to school on GI bill benefits.  Tommy loves his books, and spends the night with William sometimes, when he is short of cash for food and has a need.

And so it goes, until Tommy's sometime boyfriend, Marley, gets them all involved in trouble.  Something that threatens all their safety.  And it may be up to William to be the man, the hero, he has always been afraid to be.

This wonderful little short story from Sarah Black knocked me off my feet.  It is a wonder - a gentle hymn to one man's strength and caring and, yes, redemption.

Because William has given up, in his own way.  Happy to have crumbs, he doesn't dare ask for a whole slice of life.  And Tommy, the beautiful young man who is everything he could ask for, is right within his grasp.  All he has to do is reach...

The prose in this story wowed me like nothing else recently.

"His evenings with Tommy were like bright flowers, like sunshine in a life the color of fog."

"It felt more like Tommy was his great love, and they'd missed each other somehow in another life."

"Tommy came sneaking into his heart on little cat feet, like Carl Sandberg's fog, and curled there warm and safe.  William just tried to hold very still and quiet, so he wouldn't scare him away."

And, oh my God,

"Betrayal was the most painful way for the heart to break."

I loved this story.  I read it through once, then again.  Then I came back to it two or three more times to hold it close to my heart so I could break the chill on it's warmth and hope.

Good job, Ms. Black.  You made winter more bearable for me this year.



Review - "Latakia" by JF Smith

Utterly fantastic take on honor and courage

Very Highly Recommended

"Courage is faith and trust, Matt."

Matt is a great guy - just ask any of his friends in Richmond.  He takes food to sick friends, works with Doctors Without Borders as a volunteer, uses his talents to help set up tracking and record-keeping for childhood immunizations.  Plays softball on a gay league.  And has a hot boyfriend, Brian, to whom he would give the world if he only asked.

When he's offered the opportunity to use his talents to assist DWB in their mission in Syria, he jumps at the chance and will be leaving for a two week assignment.  Before he leaves, he begins to have doubts about how Brian feels, especially when Brian accuses him of being distant.  Picking fights and leaves him stuck with the check for dinner, again, the night before he's to leave.

So when he's kidnapped and fearing for his life, locked in a dark room alone, he resolves the be the man Brian deserves, to never doubt him again.  And when he's rescued by a group of Navy SEALS, his relief and gratitude are immense.  Even when he's confronted with what he thinks is homophobia and bigotry by the guys that risked their lives to save him.  But then he meets and talks to one of his rescuers, Mope - Travis - and some of what he thought he saw and felt, he begins to question.  How he acts, how he views the world.  

But when he's given the opportunity to repay that rescue, to risk himself, will he?  And what will be the cost be to himself?  His relationship with Brian?  To his preconceived notions about the men who rescued him - Mope, Petey?  And will he find he has more in common with these men than ever thought possible?

I have to just out it out there.  This book blew me the f**k away. 

When I saw it in Amazon for $0.99 I thought, nice, I'll get a short story that will be a quick and hot read, based on the blurb.  But what I got was so very much more.  This is a fully realized novel, and I would gladly have paid ten times the cost for the honor of reading this jewel.

JF Smith has written a quiet, amazing and satisfying book about one man's journey of honor, courage and self worth.  Matt is a revelation - a gay man who is already whole and complete and loveable.  And when thrust into a horrible situation, not only survives it but grows so much in the process. 

There are so many themes in this book that could have gone so terribly...sideways.  The role of the military.  The men who serve our country.  Patriotism.  Honor.  Courage.  Settling for what we as gay men can get in our relationships.  And every damn single one of these issues, Mr. Smith stands at the plate and knocks them out of the stadium.

As a reader, I can see what Matt can't, or won't, and at times, that's very frustrating.  We all know that Brian is a tool, and playing Matt.  But Matt, being the gentle man he is, doesn't believe it.  So when Matt, as he grows and opens his eyes, literally and figuratively, there is a huge payoff for him and the reader.

I love where Matt landed.  The man deserves a happily ever after, and I won't spoil the story and say what happens, but it's just so satisfying.  Hopeful.  And real.

And the supporting cast.  Has there ever been such richness from what we first see as testosterone fueled muscle heads?  Travis is a man with a giant heart and we grow to adore him.  His relationship with Matt, as his friend and confidante, begins an arc I loved.

But Petey almost stole the story away from Matt.  This guy - who is initially, we think, a homophobe and idiot - has the biggest heart and, I think, the biggest pain.  I loved him by the last page and wanted this book to go on and on and never stop.

That's the sign of a good book and a fantastic writer.  When I am so wrapped up in the world they create, so immersed in the characters that I don't want to say goodbye.  I hope Mr. Smith has plans for a sequel, and I hope Petey plays a huge part of it.

They don't get much better than this.  I'm so glad I stumbled into this fine, fine work.


"Chase in Shadow"

Review - "Chase in Shadow" by Amy Lane

Heartbreaking, real, and oh-so-damned good

Very Highly Recommended

Chase is a college student, working on his degree.  A baseball jock.  The All American boy.  Struggling, living with his girlfriend Mercy, the two work hard to maintain an apartment, and school, and plan, and save for a future.

Chase comes from a harsh background.  Raised by his father after his mother committed suicide when he was a young boy, he’s struggled to be the perfect son.  His father’s scorn drives him to be more, have more, make no missteps.

So when his friends mention a local gay filmmaking company that’s scouting talent, he thinks it may be a way to make some quick cash.  Not to mention, a way to fulfill the part of him longing for another man’s touch.  His fumblings with his best friend Donnie aside, he’s only ever been with Mercy.

Johnnie’s, the porn site, is glad to have him.  He’s mentored before his first shoot by Dex, and the two form an immediate friendship.  Then his first day on the set, he catches sight of Tango.  Hot, devilish, full of life, there’s an immediate attraction.  Chase – or Chance, his porn alter ego – fits right in with these guys.  He has no trouble with the performance.  Revels in it.  

Before long, he has the opportunity to meet and talk to Tango on a shoot.  The chemistry is there, but more, another friendship is struck.  They begin to get closer, and when tragedy strikes Tango, Chase is the first he calls to help and be there.

So begins a series of events that splits Chance in two.  On the one hand, he’s the dutiful boyfriend and fiancĂ© to Mercy.  On the other, he’s in a fledgling relationship with his soul mate, Tommy.  One he fights and which may ultimately blow up in his face.  Because he’s struggling to keep secrets from his childhood, live two separate lives, and keep his head above the red water that threatens to drag him under.

What will happen when his two worlds collide? 

This book – this beautiful, tragic and stunning book - was at once a revelation, a blessing, and a stake through my heart.  

A little background. I’m a 50 year old single gay man living in the suburbs of Atlanta.  I’ve been in a couple of relationships, the most recent one for thirteen plus years.  I’ve lost two men in my life to suicide, one a best friend and one a love who was living a double life.  And I’ve worked with abused teens in a residential setting as CFO for a nonprofit agency.

So the issues in this book hit me hard.  Young people with mental health issues.  Suicide.  Men living double lives.  Men who like other men, trying hard to live a straight lifestyle.  

I respect the hell out of Amy Lane.  She takes on these hard issues and makes them bearable. Relevant.  Painful but so damn… I don’t know, I can’t find the words for it. Brutally accessible?

I remember when “The Thornbirds” came out, and the legend behind it always struck me. The bird stayed silent its whole life, searching for the thorn tree.  When it finds it, the bird pierces its breast on it and, as it dies, sings a song so sweet even God stops to listen.

And that’s how I feel about Chase.  So repressed, so bottled up, and then, then when he finally sings, we all stop and gasp; want to hold him and heal him and make him our own.  My own.

God.  No wonder it was so easy. He’s been bleeding since he was a baby.”

This was a hard book to read for me.  And I would read it every day, just to hear Chase sing that hauntingly aching, soul searing song.

Bless you, Amy.  Now I’ll go wipe my eyes and take a deep breath and celebrate one sweet man who made it.


(Originally written for the Paranormal Romance Guild, where I am a sometime reviewer)

Saturday, February 18, 2012

"The Decisions We Make"

Review - "The Decisions We Make" by RJ Scott

Great and wholly unexpected YA book

Very Highly Recommended

Daniel Keyes was a very young boy when he entered foster care, and was placed with the Walker family.  A quiet and sensitive young man, he likes nothing better than to play his piano and stay unnoticed.  But in this household, that's not a possibility.  And with a boy, Jamie, his own age in the house, he's dragged into all the things normal boys do.  Making trouble for their brothers.  Video games.  Mischief.

As the two grow up, Daniel takes a different road than his foster brother.  Where he's still the more sensitive of the two, Jamie is the outgoing one.  Daniel is more bookish, where Jamie is popular and an athlete.  But he has come out of his shell somewhat.  Made friends.  Adjusted. 

Realized he's gay.  And attracted to Jamie.

After one ill advised but wholly passionate kiss, Daniel is eaten by guilt.  But for Jamie, some of his feelings are clarified.  He realizes he loves his foster brother in a wholly un-brotherly fashion.

When a violent and hateful incident threatens one of the brothers, their attraction is brought out into the light.  Will the two manage to stay friends?  Family?  Lovers?

RJ Scott delivers the goods one more time in this quietly stunning beauty.  She grabbed my attention on page one and my heart on page two.  And never let either one go.

Daniel is a wonderful young man.  At first self contained edges and angst, he blossomed as a character with all the love heaped oh him.  And by the end of the story, he was a young man I wanted to wrap my arms around and hold.

But Jamie, this young lad stole my heart.  He has the purest heart and I swear, I bled for him in this story.  So innocent, so whole and young and pure.  And then so...damaged.  But still with that big wonderful heart.

I loved this story.  I know I've shared before in other posts, I worked with kids in foster care for ten years, and they hold a very special place in my heart.  Any writer that takes the time to give one a story, and a happy ending is halfway to heaven in my book anyway.

But to do it with such love, tenderness and grace, well, I'm a fan.  For life.

Bless you.


"The Rosas of Spanish Harlem"

Review - "The Rosas of Spanish Harlem" by Johnny Miles

Steamy and sexy

Highly Recommended

Tracey McCarthy just turned 18 and is ready to be a man.  It's 1977 and he's still living at home, stealing his sister's make up and panties, and fantasizing about how to lose his pesky virginity.  It's the summer after he graduated and he has nothing better to do, although his mother is after him to work with her at the factory.

But he's young and horny and...well, 18.

So one hot summer day he heads out to the beach, bakes his body and watches the hot men.  And is rewarded when he sees a hot Latino have sex with his girlfriend right there in the open while he pretends to be asleep.  Afterwards, he heads to the restroom and finds out why the men coming and going look so satisfied. 

And discovers his first glory hole.  Has his first encounter. Then the hot young man from the beach comes in and Tracey is smitten.  When their hook up is interrupted, the young man - Angel Rosa - tells Tracey to look him up in Spanish Harlem.

When Tracey does, he ends up meeting more than just Angel.  He meets Angel's father and brother William.  His attraction to the Rosa men is immediate, but he finds himself drawn to William.

When he discovers the Rosa's aren't the men he thought, though, it may be too late.  And he is placed in danger in a situation he never planned on.  Will he be okay, or will his obsession with the Rosas be more than he can handle?

Johnny Miles surprised me here.  Pleasantly.  His writing is steamy, erotic, and sensual and his men boldly sexual.  Tracey is a firecracker - all the bravado of 18 and the heart of a lion.  Brave, silly and full of himself, he's so ready to be part of a world he barely understands.  Ah, to be young again.

And the Rosa men.  Angel, the beauty of an angel and the soul of the devil.  Robinson, the father, whose mask is the most fully in place and the most...disturbing of the bunch.  But William - he is a bear of a man.  So unsure of himself, but so ready to be the man Tracey needs.

This is a highly erotic read, and probably not for everyone.  The sex is hot, and totally appropriate for the times.  The characters are sharply drawn, and there is one scene that may disturb some readers because it flirts with dubious consent.  But damn, I thought it a wonderful read.

Mr. Miles writes in that thin line between romance and erotica.  I enjoy both, and appreciate that he fulfills the romantic in me while satisfy the horndog that likes a good sex scene.  And he does it so damned well!

I loved Tracey, adored William, and would love to see Angel, well, get what Angel deserves.

Great job, Mr. Miles.


"Ranch Hands 2" Jerry's Season"

Review - "Ranch Hands 2: Jerry's Season" by S.L. Danielson

Fine sequel to "Ranch Hands"

Highly Recommended

Jerry Evans is turning his life around.  After having caused more than his share of trouble, heartache and grief, he turned the corner when he saved Roger's life.  That one act of selfless caring made him wake up and realize there's more to life than drinking, boozing and whoring.

When Roger's partner Sid asks him to marry him, the couple ask Jerry to be their best man.  So begins Jerry's quest to be the man he used to be.  The one that loved Patrick, his boyfriend in high school.  The man who cared about his friends.  Who rose above the tragedy of his parents' deaths.

Sid and Roger have taken him under their wings.  Helped him by giving him a job on their farm, fixed his teeth, given him hope.  So when Patrick returns to town, and a large farming conglomerate wants to buy out all the farms in the area, Jerry is turned up side down and inside out.

Will the two lovers be reunited, or will the past be too much to overcome for Jerry?  And will he have his greatest wishes in his hands, only to lose them all?

S.L. Danielson has written a worthy and fun sequel to Ranch Hands.  I loved Sid and Roger, and hated what Jerry did in the first book in the series.  That he was the one to save Roger from his ex was ironic, and the first step in his redemption.

But what is so good about this book is the slow path Jerry takes in his redemption, and how realistic it was.  His self doubt, while wearing, was done well.  There is no way a man who had done the amount of drugs and partying that he had would be able to turn his life around in a day.  And that showed in his actions.  He constantly questioned himself, his worth, and why people would want him.

That took a lot of guts.  Ms. Danielson didn't make him easy and loveable and whole right away.  She let us see his struggle, but at the same time, gave us his happy ending.

And that's what we really want when we read a good romance isn't it?  A happy ending? 

We get one here -  a nicely told story of a redeemed man.  Good for him.  And good for us!


"The 51st Thursday"

Review - "The 51st Thursday" by Mercy Celeste

Hot, sexy, sweet

Highly Recommended

Deacon's Place has come to be something of a shelter for Shelby Bainbridge.  The damaged man limps into the bar one Thursday and finds...peace.  Well, as much peace as he can, given what happened.  So he comes in every Thursday, has a couple of beers and then heads home.

What he doesn't know is he's been noticed.  Deacon has seen this man and is intrigued.  Wonders about him, and what his story is.  The fact he's hot as hell - an added bonus.  So he's taken to watching out for him every Thursday.  

When a hurricane forces most of his regulars out on the 51st Thursday, Deacon doesn't know if Thursday, as he's come to call his hot man, will be in.  When he does, and can't find a taxi to take him home, Deacon makes his move.  And the attraction he feels for Thursday - Shelby - well, it's returned. 

But when they wake up the next morning, will anything have changed?  And will the secrets that are exposed pull them together, or apart?

Mercy Celeste outdid herself with this steamy, sexy, hot but surprisingly sweet story.  The sex is some of the hottest I've read, and as I got to know these two men, the romance some of the sweetest.  This is a short story, so there's not time to flesh out all the daily things that make a relationship.  Didn't matter to me - I enjoyed the hell out of this.

Because these two men are broken and vulnerable, and try hide it hide it behind their rugged exteriors.  But at their hearts, they are so very tender and wanting. 

And that's Ms. Celeste's wheelhouse - sexy hot men.  Strong.  Damaged.  Hiding.  Tender.  She takes all these things, does her magic and creates men who I want to know.  Want for my own.

Very, very nice.


"Enduring Instincts"

Review - "Enduring Instincts" by S.J. Frost

Fantastic story for Daniel and Ryu

Very Highly Recommended

Daniel Valente is struggling.  After centuries of being the sometime lover of his Master, vampire Titus Antonius Calidus, he is on his own.  Cal - Titus - has met his love, Andreas, and the relationship between Daniel and Titus had to change.  Daniel ventures back to England, trying to find some normalcy for himself.

But the feeling of being watched, followed, sends him back to America and Titus.  But Titus has a plan in mind.  He calls in Ryunosuke Kimura, the Japanese Samurai vampire who has loved Daniel for untold years.  Because the threat to Daniel is very real.  Isaac, the leader of a group of rogue younger vampires, is seeking revenge on Daniel for what he did to his lover, Troy.

At long last the passion between the two men flares and becomes something real, something...possible.  Something fine.   But then, he threat to Daniel and his friends explodes and puts Daniel is the worst possible straits of his ling life.

Will the lovers be split?  Will Ryu lose his love forever?

These two characters drew my attention in "Natural Instinct", the excellent first book in this series, and I was thrilled they were getting their own tale.  Ah, but then, S.J. Frost created this fantastic, touching and heartfelt story for Daniel and Ryu, and it is one of those rare sequels that surpasses the original.

Daniel is a fascinating character - originally introduced as a somewhat capricious, self-centered diva, he was hard to take.  But Ms. Frost kept adding shading and layers and texture to him, and he wormed his way into my heart.  I wanted a happy ending for him.

Ryu is the quiet heart of this tale.  His backstory is so original, so tragic.  And the very real longing he felt, but hid, for Daniel was beautifully told.  The love story wove its way around me and pulled me in, mainly because the strengths these two men have compliment each other so well.  And the needs and wants make the romantic in me cry out for them to be happy.

But what really impresses me is the time Ms. Frost takes to tell her stories.  There is nothing wasted, no red herrings, nothing superfluous in the telling.  Just well told, lovingly crafted stories with fully imagined characters who make me root for them.

As a reader, this is nirvana.  Ambrosia.

I can't wait to see where Ms. Frost takes me next, because I guarantee this - I will be along for the ride.


Monday, February 6, 2012

"Ty's Obsession"

Review - "Ty's Obsession" by SJD Peterson

They just keep getting better

Very Highly Recommended

"Wanting is a bitch, isn't it?"

Ty Callahan is furious.  After being used and abused by his last Dom, he thought he found someone who might want him.  Treasure him.  Need him and love him back the way he wants.  Quinn Taylor, he thought, was that man. 

Until Quinn tossed him aside like yesterday's garbage when his ex Lorcan James came strolling back into the picture.  Then, Ty's anger has him at his breaking point.  In his mind, Lorcan was to blame.  If he were not in the picture, Quinn would be free to be Ty's again.  And his anger at Quinn and Lorcan builds. 

"You think you're the first person to walk away from me?"

Because how could that girly looking boy ever give Quinn what Ty knows he craves.  Lorcan can't give Quinn the pure gift of his pain and submission - he would break under the weight of Quinn's needs.  Not like Ty.  His mind made up, Ty begins a campaign against Lorcan to win Quinn back.  And it seems to be working, at least initially.  He can see the doubt in Lorcan, but Quinn is always there to make it better for him.  Be there for him.  Like no one has ever been there for Ty.  And his desire for revenge grows.

But when Blake Henderson catches Ty in a compromising position, his plan may be in jeopardy.  Until the man, the son of the rancher who tried to kill Quinn, begins to pursue him.  Thinks he may be able to give Ty the peace he craves.  And he makes Ty an offer. 

"One week, Ty.  Nothing heavy, and you have your safewords.  All you need to do is focus on me and my needs and be honest in  your reactions."

Because Blake is a Dom.  He can sense the struggle, the rage and jealousy that consumes and threatens Ty.  And he thinks - no, knows - he can help this bitter and broken man find a center.  Before he is lost in his fury and does something he will regret forever.

Will Ty accept Blake's offer?  Or will his demons prove too strong for them both?  And will Blake find redemption for his tragic past with Ty?

SJD Peterson has delivered a stunning character study of two men haunted by the losses in their lives who may find a chance at redemption.  This third book in the "Whispering Pines Ranch" series starts with the dull embers of Ty's hurt, and builds to the full inferno of what happens when love becomes obsession.  I was awed by the depth of the pain, only hinted at when we met Ty In "Quinn's Need".  How the layers upon layers of hurt heaped on him left Ty on the precipice of doing something horrific.

And then we meet Blake, all solid and sure of himself.  We think.  And as he takes Ty in hand and soothes the flames of hate and hurt in him, we then get to see the broken man living behind the hero.  And lose our hearts one more time to one of Ms. Peterson's sharply drawn and lovingly crafted men.

I'm not sure there are many writers in the genre out there right now who take such time and care in building their men from the ground up.  Make them complete and fully realized, and force me react so honestly and so deeply to them.  Quinn, Lorcan, Jesse, Ty, now Blake.  I feel almost guilty feasting on the buffet of richly imagined men. 

Almost, I say.  But don't tell Ms. Peterson.  Let it be our little secret and maybe we'll get Jesse's story...


Sunday, February 5, 2012

"Light of Day"

Review - "Light of Day" by Sue Brown

More of Max and Robert's story

Very Highly Recommended

In "The Night Porter", we are introduced to Max, the titular night porter of a small hotel in London.  Max is all about safe, non-committal encounters with men who never ask for more than a good time while visiting the city.  Until he meets Robert Armitage.  A young actor in London a few days early to prepare for his upcoming wedding, Max and Robert form a quiet friendship over the course of the handful of days that blossoms into a sexual encounter.

But Max finds his heart engaged in this tryst in ways he never expected, and when he has to face the man he has fallen for, he runs.  Calls out sick so he won't have to face Robert again.  Only, he is called in to replace a day staffer, and has one last encounter with Robert, sending him on his way to marry his fiance.

So ends "The Night Porter", and begins "Light of Day".

A year later, Max has moved home to Texas to lick his wounds but finds he can't move past his feelings for Robert.  At once relieved and yet utterly destroyed, he wonders if he meant so little to the man that he wouldn't even try to look for him when his marriage ended after just six months.  And is so tired of waking from dreams of the man, waking with tears on his face.

Until the day Robert shows up at his Mom's house looking for him.

What follows is a flat out terrific story of two men taking one weekend to explore their passion for each other, all the while asking themselves the hard questions.  Can this work?  I love you but is that enough?  Can Max live with the constraints Robert's career puts on the relationship?

Sue Brown has taken two of my favorite characters and given me some resolution of the bittersweet parting from "Night Porter".  And I adore her for it.  She has the gift of delving into a man's sorrow and letting us watch him heal and grow from it.  And she knows, not every ending is happy and sometimes all you can expect is to walk away in one piece and live to fight another day.

But here, Ms. Brown gives me what I wanted.  Maybe not Happily Every After, but certainly Happy for Now.

And I am okay with that.  Because, damn it, she gave let me share another exquisite few days with my boys.

Thank you.


"The Price of Falling"

Review - "The Price of Falling" by Melanie Tushmore

Fantastic, gentle love story

Highly Recommended

To anyone looking, Mike Miller was an average high school kid.  A jock, not too bright but not a dumb kid either.  He dated, hung out with his buds drank and partied.  Average for any kid in 1988.  He was in his senior year, within a few months of graduation.  Then he caught sight of Jason Reilly.

Red headed, pale skinned stoner Jason Reilly.  The kid who cut classes, hung out with the strange kids and listened to weird music.  Left in cars with strange men.  That Jason Reilly.

And Mike became intrigued, but he wasn't sure what he wanted.  Till he found out what Jason did in those cars for those guys.  Then he had to have it for himself.  Try to scratch the itch he never knew he had.  But once Jason agrees, and Mike pays for his services, he is hooked.

Thus begins Mike's obsession with Jason.  One that has him spending all of his cash, his college funds, and which may cost him his family.  Because when it gets out what he has been doing, and who with, there is a huge price to pay.

Melanie Tushmore has crafted a remarkably sweet and romantic tale about two total opposites who discover they have more in common than just money.  Mike and Jason find themselves, reluctantly and oh-so-bittersweetly, in love.  I was drawn into Mike's life and world immediately, and utterly charmed by his naivety. 

Because Mike is the loyal, one man kind of guy we all hope for.  Shy but bold, sweet but silent, he so desperately wants to be liked by the object of his affections, and is so very clueless as to what he is wanting.  My heart ached for him, and I found myself rooting for him and finding an unlikely hero.

And Jason, if there was every anyone so apparently undeserving of a man like Mike, it was him.  Until, until we meet him on his turf and discover all his secrets and desires.  He is as hidden as Mike, only so much more in-your face about it.  And such a tragic boy.  What happens when he thinks Mike deserted him broke my heart.

Ms. Tushmore wrote her heart out with these two, and I would love to see some follow up to their story.  For all that these two boys, then men, are so strongly drawn, there is such a lovely fragility and quiet to their love story.  I found myself holding my breath in places, afraid a noise might scare them away.

This book will stay with you, making you want to revisit it again and again.

Loved every word.


"Something Like Summer"

Review - "Something Like Summer" by Jay Bell

An Instant classic about  love, acceptance and youth

Highly Recommended

"Life isn't meant to be hidden away and life is too short for shame."

That's the way Ben has tried to live his life.  He's openly gay in his high school, and can't wait to finish up and move out into the real world.  Away from the piss ant Texas town where the only boys who want to have anything to do with him are in it for sex only, and don't know him in the light of day.

When he sees a new boy around during his summer break, he makes it his mission to find out who he is.  He doesn't recognize him and begins stalking him.   Well, following him around at least.  Discovers he is a new student at the high school and runs with the jock crowd. 

After a run in with the boy - literally - he helps him, Tim, home and discovers he's home alone for two weeks while Tim's parents are traveling.  When Tim's sprain sidelines him from school and driving, Ben worms his way into helping out.  And soon falls for the boy.  only to have his interest returned.

But Tim isn't willing to admit to being gay, or really even bi.  That leaves Ben in a moral dilemma - stay true to his principles or be Tim's dirty little secret.  When circumstances force the boys closer to being out, Tim and Ben find themselves at a crossroads.  And Tim chooses. 

Over the next decade, the two move from lovers to enemies to reluctant friends, with huge gaps of time in between.  The course of love never runs smoothly, but will these two find their way back to each other?  Will Tim ever find the strength to be true to himself?  And will Ben forgive the past?

Jay Bell has crafted a timeless classic here.  He's taken all the hot button items of a young gay teen - acceptance, puppy love, heartache - and carried the themes through into adulthood.  His hand is sure as he guides us through the rollercoaster of emotions involved in loving someone not willing to be proud of that love.  The laughter and tears, along with the bruised heart.

Ben is a wonderful character, so full of youthful optimism, piss and vinegar.  And when his heart is broken, we ache along with him because who among us haven't been there?  Felt that sense of betrayal and questioning at loving a "Straight" guy who won't come out.

And Tim.  I find him easily the most fascinating character in the book.  By turns loveable and caring, then despicable and manipulating, he has the toughest road to travel.  Self centered and a coward, he has the most to lose and the most to gain.

I loved Jace.  A writer with less talent would have made him brittle, shrill or two dimensional.  But Mr. Bell has rounded him out and made me love him.  I cared that he and Ben were happy, and what happened to him was important.  And made the story even richer and more meaningful.

This is a terrific book about first and long lasting love, being true to one's self, and discovering the strength in love.

Just damn good.