Thursday, April 26, 2012

"Who We Are:

 Review - “Who We Are” by TJ Klune

Worthy and most fine sequel

Very Highly Recommended

Note – If you have not read “Bear, Otter and the Kid”, you need to know there will be references in this review to events in that book. Don't read further, go buy the darn book. Then come back. If not, read on and take your chances...

“What is it about brothers that make us act so much differently than we normally would? Why is there a bond there that doesn't exist anywhere else?”

In BOATK, Derrick (Bear) is left to raise his six-year-old brother Tyson (The Kid) when their mom suddenly leaves with her boyfriend the day before Bear's eighteenth birthday. His girlfriend Anna and his best friend Creed and Creed's older brother Oliver (Otter), along with their families and next door neighbor Mrs. Paquinn support the two brothers as Bear has to give up his college dreams to take care of Ty.

During the course of the book, Bear slowly recognizes his love for Otter is more than friendly, and he and Anna break up over it. Bear and Otter begin a secret relationship, as do Anna and Creed. All hell breaks loose when the boys' mother suddenly shows up and threatens to take The Kid back with her unless Bear stops seeing Otter. Bear panics, breaks up with Otter and all the secrets come barreling out in the aftermath.

Ultimately, the family (because that's what they all are) come together, sans Otter, to help Bear file for custody of The Kid, and just when Bear's about to tell Otter what happened, Otter's old boyfriend shows up unexpectedly and makes a final play for him. Bear freaks out, necessitating another intervention, during which Otter is brought up to speed. Otter takes Bear to an ugly green house and tells him he bought it for him and The Kid, and they are his family now. In the Epilogue, sometime in the not -too-far future, The Kid is coaching Otter on how to propose marriage to Bear.

Got it all? Good, cause now we start “Who We Are”...

...and I really don't want to tell you too much about what happens here, other than to say it starts immediately after Bear and Otter visiting the Green Monstrosity for the first time. The three guys are getting ready for the move, the custody case is still looming, Creed has gone back to school and he and Anna are maybe sorta still dating, Mrs. Paquinn is still babysitting and serving as surrogate Mom/Grandmom to the bunch.

So much happens – The Kid goes back to school and skips a year and we meet his new teacher, who has a link to one of our guys. Bear also goes back to school. There's two new playmates for the boys, one a teen named Dominic and the other a college boy named Isaiah. Otter and Creed's parents come back from volunteer work in Africa and are none-the-wiser about the new relationships their kids are in. The dinner party at Casa Thompson where all the family members come together? Not. To. Be. Missed.

There's a visit to a gay bar, a...I just really can't tell you.

What I can tell you is this...

This book is beautiful. It's about brothers, first and foremost.

It's a love song to the relationship that exists between two guys, and the love that only brothers have for each other. And that love isn't about blood.

It's trust and respect and giving and putting your heart on the line for your guy.

It's crying on each others shoulders and pounding his back with laughter and celebrating life.

It's loving with your heart in your throat and being vulnerable and being scared to death and stepping out there anyway.

It's two guys who share a bond that nobody else can share, and that nobody can break.

And that's what this books is about. It's about Bear and The Kid, and Bear and Otter, and Bear and Creed. How, no matter what else happens, there's a bond of love and care and family that nothing can break.

There's love and death and surprises and confrontations and reunions and tears and laughs (so damned many laughs) and simple joy in this wonderful, open-hearted beauty of a story. And the end? It left me wanting more.

Bear. So much stronger than I thought, but still himself.

Otter. Still the heart of the book, but this time we see him with the blinders off.

The Kid. Still amazing, still the most exasperating, fabulous and breakable boy on the planet.

It's their relationship.

Brothers of the heart.

Set aside a few hours and just...soak it up.

Tom

Monday, April 23, 2012

"Country Mouse"

Review - "Country Mouse" by Amy Lane and Aleksandr Voinov

Wonderfully sexy and touching collaboration

Very Highly Recommended


Owen’s in England with his ex-girlfriend who’s also in a relationship of sorts with his ex-boyfriend, but she’s hooking up with another guy there too.  Very complicated for such an average country mouse, he thinks.  But, he tags along for the free ride so he can explore Europe for free.  After all, he’s just finished college and is unattached.  Why not?

His first night in, he’s exploring the area while his ex had a rendezvous, stops in for a beer, and sees a handsome, well-dressed guy in what’s essentially a London dive.

Malcolm is waiting for a hook-up of his own, but it looks like he may be stood up.  Then he spots the handsome young Yank (it’s pretty obvious – he’s in a jeans and a college hoodie after all) in the pub.  Warning him off the local beer, he instead orders the young man a shot of nice quality vodka.

It’s Friday and the two of them begin a dance of seduction.  Malcolm wants to dominate Owen.  But Owen, he’s done this before and knows the game.  Shrugs off all the moves and attitude and gets to the man underneath.

So begins a weekend that will change both men’s lives.

When I first saw this collaboration, I was excited.  Amy Lane and Aleksandr Voinov?  Two of my favorite authors in the M/M genre, but I had absolutely no idea where this may go.  Amy’s strength is her foundation in family and romance, and Aleks is gritty and not afraid of anything.  They would balance each other and meet somewhere in the middle or totally implode.

And what they produced is this beautiful and lovely character-driven minor masterpiece about connection, expectations and the power of letting the masks fall off.  The chemistry is instant, the love palpable, and the entire work sings with passion.

This is one of those rare pieces where the sex, while fundamental to the storyline, reveals so much of the psyches of the two men that would otherwise have taken pages and days to get to.  There’s a loss of control and dropping of false faces that drives these two men’s spark, and the connection they form – exquisite.

Owen is young but no stranger to love.  He’s all about forgiveness and finding a partner of the heart.  While at first Malcolm belittles and questions it as na├»ve, Owen’s ability to get to the heart of the matter and see through to the essential goodness of people allows him to see this man as the incredible human he’s capable of being.

And Malcolm.  So very complex on the outside, but only because he’s allowed himself to be wrapped in other’s expectations of him till he’s put on so many masks, he doesn’t recognize himself anymore.  But he allows this young big-hearted Yank in and allows him to see the real man, the wonder that is Malcolm. 

Remarkable.

This is a fantastic work, and so very, very satisfying.  I genuinely adore both writers, and to produce something like this – it just makes my heart beat a little faster and gives me hope.  That’s the point of romance, no?  Hope, love, and grace?

Just a fine, fine book.

Tom

Friday, April 20, 2012

"Laurel Heights"

Review - "Laurel Heights" by Lisa Worrall

Dark, edgy, funny, sexy, fantastic

Very Highly recommended

It's tough when you work with jerks.  That's what Detectives Scott Turner and Will Harrison think, and are constantly taunting each other about how rigid Will is and how much of a ladies man Scott can be.  Will has a long-term girlfriend and it irritates him that Scott is such a man-slut.  And Scott thinks Will should have the stick removed from his butt.

When there's what appears to be a murder/suicide at a gay housing community - think Knot's Landing cul-de-sac - the case is initially closed.  But some who live there think it's too...handy.  The guys were in love, not fighting, no depression.  It just doesn't track.

So Scott and Will are ordered to go undercover, as lovers, to investigate.  Holy. Hell.  No way, they think.  Neither wants the other to know he's really gay.  So this is their worst nightmare.

When the guys get there and meet the residents, they realize they have to make it believable.  Hard line to walk when you're trying to keep a secret.  And of course, it explodes over - they really have an attraction.  A passion for each other.

Can the two guys discover the many secrets being hidden at Laurel Heights?  Will they be able to go back to being just partners?  Or will it prove to dangerous in more than one way?

Lisa Worrall has stepped out big time and written a funny, sexy and romantic mystery that succeeds on so many different levels.  The characters are well drawn and believable, the murder mystery puzzling, and the action hot and steamy.

Scott and Will are fantastic guys.  Manly, hiding in the closet, but truly nice guys at heart.  And both so afraid to be all of who they are.  It was only a matter of time before their not-so-friendly bickering flamed into something hotter and deeper.  They share so many similarities, and are so truly blind to each other.  And their snarking at each other?  Priceless.

This is a deeper and darker cut for Ms. Worrall, and it's hugely successful.  Many of her works are so delightfully lighthearted, and much of her success is in her innate ability to draw out the heart of her characters and make us like them first, then love them.  She layers that in this story with a here-to-fore unseen dark edge that I really, really like.

There's a huge twist in the last few pages that will work some folks up int a frenzy.  I loved it.  I like to be left on the edge of my seat, making up my own endings.  And I'm told by the author, there won't be a sequel.  Hooray!

Fantastic job, so well done!

Tom

"A Bar Tender Tale"

Review - "A Bar Tender Tale" by Melanie Tushmore

Fantastic, unusual love story

Very Highly Recommended

Nathan is not your average young man.  He's twenty-two, loves tattoos, loud music and...zombies?  Old horror movies.  Not exactly your mainstream guy.  And he's gay.  Not like there's a lot of guys who share his interests.

One day, he's doing a friend a favor by filling in for him as bartender in a pub, and in walks a good-looking guy.  Suit, tie, the whole nine yards.  And they strike up a great conversation and it turns out they have a lot in common.  Can quote silly old movie lines, and there's a spark.

Turns out his name is Auryn, and he's a friend of Nathan's buddy.  He's looking for something slow and serious.  But all Nathan's experience is quick meet-ups, relationships that flame out all too quickly, and one-offs.  It's a new experience for him to actually...date.  What a concept.

Is it worth it?  Can Nathan slow down and actually wait for the man of his dreams?  And will Auryn give him the chance?

I love Melanie Tushmore's works.  She introduces us to wonderfully off-the-wall characters, makes us see them in all their beauty and weirdness, and fall in love with them.  Then she slowly seduces us into her stories with romance and care.  This book is a wonder - funny, sexy, and oh-so-sweet, despite the horror movies and zombies.

Nathan is so young and so youthfully full of himself, but also very clueless.  He's a smile-a-minute, rip-your-heart-out gem of a guy.  He wants Auryn so much he can't stand it, and has to go against all his instincts to meet the man on his terms.

And Auryn.  Just a walking heart of a guy, every gay romantic's dream.  He's exactly what Nathan needs and wants.  And it goes both ways - Nathan brings out the spontaneity and fun hiding behind the laced-up serious guy.

Great pairing.  This books is so good, I had to turn around and start back at the beginning just to try to catch another smile I might have missed.

Ms. Tushmore knows her way around a love story.  Thank God!

Fantastic.

Tom

"Living Dangerously"

Review - "Living Dangerously" by G.A. Hauser

Great alternative tale of love

Very Highly Recommended

When Brandon Kennedy left the Navy, he lost most of his direction.  Married but unhappy and drifting, he's more focused on getting high, getting off, and trying to maintain some kind of friendship with his old SEAL mates.  They way he's acting, though, they may kick his butt for acting the major league fool.

He's also fighting his attraction to guys.  It may have been a mistake to go into business with Monty, his old squad leader.  The two men have a past, and now that Monty has a man, he can't even go on the down low with him.  So he cruises for a high and for something more.

That something more is Anita.  Beautiful and sexy.  And a hooker.  Brandon picks her up and has his way with her, then leaves.  There's more than meets the eye with Anita though.  She's really Andy, turning tricks to make his way through school.

As Brandon's behavior spirals out of control, he keeps showing up at Anita/Andy's door, wanting more and more.  But so very scared to have everyone else know this huge ex-military guy likes dudes.  What would the other ex-SEALS think of him then?

Do these two very different people have a future together?  Or will Brandon let all his fears keep him in the closet?

G.A. Hauser has given us a timely and in-your-face story about how love, no matter how it looks to someone on the outside, sneaks up on a man and takes his knees out from under him.  About the lengths a man will go to protect his false pride.  And how, sometimes, tough love is the best kind of love.

Brandon is so very unhappy at heart, and most people would not have given this broken man the time of day.  He's unlikeable, and working hard to lose all the goodwill and love his friends might have for him.  It's amazing that someone would see through all that anger, fear and belligerence to the loving and tender man underneath.

But that's exactly what Andy does.  A fringe person himself, he's using the drag persona of Anita to make money to keep his dream alive.  That Brandon can find both Andy AND Anita attractive, and want them both, makes Andy dream big.

These two are wounded souls who have found each other and, miraculously, bolster each others' strengths rather than pull each other down with their weaknesses.

I loved this story.  It's not for everyone, I realize.  It's not a traditional boy-meets-boy romance. 

Only it is.

Give this one a read.  A huge two thumbs up!

Tom

Thursday, April 19, 2012

"Fox Hunt"

Review - "Fox Hunt" by Chris Quinton

Hugely entertaining art mystery

Very Highly Recommended

When Robert Rees is called home to see his dad, who's taken a nasty spill and is hospitalized, the last thing he expects is to have to help around his house.  Especially when it's involving restoring some artwork the old man accepted on commission. 

Seems there are two panels that look to be pretty valuable, and perhaps of questionable provenance, and more than one person is interested in them.  After a break-in and a visit by two guys who can only be called hired muscle, Robert is a bit concerned.  Should he do the work, or hand them over?

While he's deciding, his ne'er-do-well brother decides he needs a bit of muscle of his own, and calls in a friend of his. Fox, a biker Robert's never seen before, but finds himself fascinated by.  The man, let's face it, is gorgeous.  So rather than turn him away, he accepts Fox's help.  For a day or two, he tells himself.  And the man can sleep on the couch.

But there's more to Fox than meets the eye.  And more to this whole mystery of the panels, where they came from and who wants them, too.  So Robert finds himself knee deep in art thefts, thugs, rich art patrons and danger. 

Will Fox be able to protect him?  Will the budding attraction between the two amount to anything?  Or will Robert miss out on another opportunity?

Chris Quinton outdid herself with this sexy, funny mystery involving artwork, family secrets and maybe a supernatural creature or two.  This is a nicely imagined, fantastically executed work with huge heart and soul. 

Ms. Quinton creates perhaps two of her finest characters here in Robert and Fox.  The two are so very different, but at heart not so much so at all.  Robert is headstrong, opinionated and proud.  Driven to help his family in spite of himself, he's furious at the circumstances, but takes on more and more of the work and responsibility to keep his father's name clean.

And Fox - mysterious, sexy, hardheaded himself.  His story we have to wait for, but it's well worth it.  He's less in-you-face, but every bit as family-oriented and responsible as Robert.

The two mesh together so well, and are so funnily at odds with each other throughout the book.  I loved the sparring, the slow dance of attraction, and the wonderful heat the two men have together.

This book is just ripe for a sequel.  Please?

So very much fun!

Tom

"Another Dumb Jock"

Review - "Another Dumb Jock" by Jeff Erno

Fantastic sequel, better than the original

Very Highly Recommended

Almost thirty years ago now, Jeff and Brett fell in love.  Jeff was a classic nerd, picked to tutor football star Brett.  The course of their love wasn't easy, but they stuck it out and formed their own family.  Now, their have kids of their own.  Their son Adam is fifteen, and their daughter Lisa a couple of years older.  They each donated sperm and it's pretty obvious to Adam, the baseball jock, that he's Brett's biological son.

And that's part of the problem.  Adam's getting into fights at school and it revolves around his two dads.  In Adam's mind, it wouldn't be so back if his Father, Jeff, were a little more like Brett and less...emotional.  More manly.  A guy.  The other part?  Some kids assume he's a dumb gay jock like his Dad.

Now he's fighting, failing two classes.  It's not like he's a dumb kid.  He's not.  Just distracted.  And behind in math.  So when he's suspended for his latest fight, his Father arranges a math tutor for him. 

But when he finds out his tutor will be nerdy Trevor, he just can't stand it.  But it's that or not play baseball, so he takes it like the little man he is.

What he didn't expect was to like Trevor.  Maybe like him too much.  Just because the kids assume he's gay like his dad doesn't mean he is,  Or isn't.

There are lots of lessons for this young man to learn.  About life and love and family and fathers.  Because, really, he isn't just another dumb jock.

I've been a fan or Jeff Erno's books for a while now, and this may be his best work yet.  This is a heartfelt tale about what happens when the heart wants what it wants.  Mr. Erno's lessons about family and being true to oneself and integrity and honor - well, there aren't many writers around who can take these themes and construct a beautifully written story told so very well.

His prose is straightforward and as honest as the day is long, and I so appreciate how he lets us SEE.

Adam is a wonderful boy, loving and rebellious.  Headstrong much like the Father he loves so completely but feels ashamed of.  Openhearted and caring like the Dad he adores.  And the best of both.  When he learns all the facts of his parentage, it's priceless.

Trevor is a hoot.  His personality shines, and it's obvious how much this kid adores Adam.  His circumstances grabbed at my heart and I wanted to bring him home and shelter him myself.  Having worked with abused kids, the abuse and bullying this young man endured set me on fire.

Mr. Erno always manages to end on a high note, wrapping his romance up and giving us a gift from his heart, bow and all.  I love it, and can't wait to see where he takes me next.

Excellent work.

Tom

"Vagabond Heart (Pearl Harbor #1)

Review - "Vagabond Heart (Pearl Harbor #1)" by AJ Llewellyn

Fantastic WWII era romance

Very Highly Recommended

Life in 1941 Pearl Harbor, not so easy for a gay male.  But especially difficult for Tinder McCartney, the only gay male prostitute on the island.  He has to have a special license, is held to the same standards as his female counterparts, and faces all the same challenges.

Not that he really wanted this life.  He didn't.  He trained on the mainland, but came home to be with his mother after being told told she was ill, but she died before he got there.  Now, there's nothing for him.  His relationship with his father is strained at best, and there are no other jobs to be had.

His boyfriend doesn't seem to mind, but that relationship is strained, too.  In fact, he seems to be more invested that does his lover.  And it seems more and more that he's just a dirty little secret.

When he meets businessman Jason Qui and is hired for the evening, the attraction is immediate.  But it's not a love match, merely a business transaction.  Jason is to marry and run the family business.  And use Tinder on the side.  But a guy can hope and dream.

Tinder's attacked one night by two men, though, and Jason comes to his rescue.  In more ways than one.  He proposes a business arrangement.  But can Tinder abide by the rules?  Or will his heart engage too much?  With December 1941 bearing down, will the two have a future?

AJ Llewellyn has written a beauty of a book here.  The undiscussed world of Hawaiian prostitutes around the Pearl Harbor Naval Station is almost lost in popular culture, and deserves to be told.  And told it is - with a huge heart and great sympathy and care.

This is a book highlighting the tenderness and toughness that was required of those that chose the profession.  Add to the mix all the racial components and the sexual orientation issues, and this could be a red hot disaster waiting to happen, but it's treated with dignity and respect.

Tinder is a sweet and wonderful guy, looking for love and being treated like a second class person at every turn.  He just wants someone to call his own, and a little dignity.  It's wonderful when he might find it.

I liked Jason - he at first seemed a little cavalier, but he grew on me very quickly.  His protection and fierceness towards Tinder forced me to like him.

This was a great read, and I look forward to reading the next books in this series.

Great, great job!

Tom

"Little Boy Dead: A Boystown Prequel"

Review - "Little Boy Dead: A Boystown Prequel" by Marshall Thornton

Fun, engaging prequel

Highly Recommended

Things better look up soon for Nick Nowak.  He's not on the Chicago Police Force anymore, money's running out, and his Private Investigator license is almost there.  It's 1979 and there's no room for gay cops on the force.

When he gets a part time temp gig for the Film Fest as a driver, it also leads to his being security.  But what he didn't count on?  Getting hit on by a hot actor, and being involved in a finding a critic's stolen wallet.  Then murder.  Never a good thing.

But that's how Nick gets his feet wet in the the business.

Marshall Thornton has released this as a prequel to his "Boystown" series, which is up to four volumes now.  And. It's. A. Blast!

Mr. Thornton has a snappy and dry writing style that suits the period and characters like a glove.  His Nick is a smartass man's man who's just broken up with his boyfriend.  In the series, he's outed and has to leave the force, gets his PI license and solves crimes in Chicago in the 1980s.

This is a terrific addition to the series, and we get to see a younger, less wise and edgy Nick, and he's a ton of fun.  The mystery unfolds in a crisp manner that allows us to enjoy the action as well as the character.  There's only hook ups for this Nick, no relationship to worry about, and the character is there for us to savor.

Read this one, then go buy the "Boystown" books - you'll love them.  Mr. Thornton is as good as any big-name mystery writer out there, and Nick is a revelation.

Enjoy!

Tom

"Paws on Me"

Review - "Paws on Me" by Silvia Violet

Hot bear men - woof!

Highly Recommended

Seth Morrison really just wants to do his job and do it well.  A Lieutenant on the police force, he's working twenty hour days trying to stay ahead of the crimes that just never seem to stop.  he just doesn't have time to deal with the complications men bring.  Relationships.  Especially with guys who flirt and tease.

Brandon Lord owns and manages a shifter club, and has seen the Lieutenant around.  Has seen enough to be interested - VERY interested.  But Seth won't give the bear shifter the time of day.  Until, that is, a murder investigation bring the man to Brandon's club.  Then he has to deal with the man.  Attraction flares, but Brandon doesn't mix business with pleasure.

But when the investigation points to someone Brandon's helped, he has to reach out to the man for help.  Especially now that he and his young charge are targeted.  When he's attacked and injured he reaches out to Seth for help, and their attraction takes over. 

Will their unexpected coupling last?  Will they stay safe long enough to protect a young man who needs their help? Or will the bad guys win?

Silvia Violet has done herself proud with this hot, fun and exciting tale of bears, sexy men and murder.  This story rocks along with good, snappy dialogue, a coherent plot and great characters that grab the reader's attention and holds it.

Seth is a hot bear of a man - focused, committed but really in need of a partner.  He's a good guy at heart, wants to be loved, and is seriously in need of some balance in his life.  He takes himself way too seriously.

And Brandon is the fun that he needs.  He brings excitement, passion and life to Seth's solidity.  His sense of fun hides an honorable and committed man.

I really enjoyed this shifter tale.  Ms. Violet made her men hot, fun and easy to relate to - something so many other writers of shifter fiction miss.  I liked these guys and would love to see more of them.

Of course, being a bear makes it even better!

Tom

"Requiem for a Broken Dream"

Review - "Requiem for a Broken Dream" by Lori Hawkins

Good story, flawed but enjoyable

Recommended

Nick Conte left home to make it big in Hollywood.  Stars in his eyes, and a big dream, he's working in a coffee shop and writing a screenplay.  He hopes to lure Stone Carter, a fading actor, out of semi-retirement to star in his movie.  He's so focused, he barely notices his neighbor, Dean Winship, until the man drunkenly mistakes Nick's apartment for his own.

Helping the guy out, letting him sleep it off, Nick can't help but be attracted to the man's good looks.  But nothing happens, at least not yet.  A tentative friendship springs up between the two, but Dean is seeing someone, and that someone isn't very good to him.  He keeps the details from Nick, and it strains their friendship.

Nick shares his dream with Dean, who turns out to be an actor himself.  In fact, he's making a pilot and may be a star himself before long.  Even offers to try to get Nick's script to Stone, with whom he's worked before.  Nick works through an agent, also, but hopes to make a splash.

Then Dean disappears.  Nick hopes for the best, but fears the worst.  When Stone Carter agrees to work with him and picks up an option on the script, Dean's ecstatic.  Still worried about Dean, he agrees to work at Stone's home until the re-write is done.

What he doesn't know is how Stone and Dean are connected, and it may be a huge mistake to work with the man.  Will Dean come back and claim the man he can't quit thinking about?  Will Nick live out his dream to be a famous and successful writer?  Or will Stone come between the two men?

Lori Hawkins has written a very nice book about dreams and how they can make and break a man.  This is a story with a lot of heart and message, and I admire a writer with an ambitious story.  Unfortunately, the execution is slightly off in some area.  But, it never dims the wonderful core of this story.

Nick has a big dream, the hometown boy with talent who moves to Hollywood to make it big.  He's solid, loyal, knows what he wants and goes for it.  And the man has a huge heart - he wants Dean so much, but never pushes the man into something he can't deliver on.  He's the kind of man every guy wants to meet.

And Dean, full of secrets and dreams of his own.  He's just...lost sight of his goals and allowed himself to settle.  His past explains so much, and we see how he struggles with the ways he has to slowly allow his passion to be redirected, fade.  And when he's at his lowest, we want to hold him and make it better.

So many good things about this work jump out for me - the characters, a cogent storyline.  With a surer hand on the editing, this could have been spectacular.  Ms. Hawkins has a ton of talent and I look forward to more out her.

Good attempt - I enjoyed it, flaws notwithstanding.

Tom

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

"Final Admission"

Review - "Final Admission" by Sue Brown

Hard topic, beautiful treatment

Very Highly Recommended

Ethan Williams is one of the newest junior team members in the advertising firm of Bingwell, Brock and Bacon.  And already, he's heard about the infamous James Trenchard.  The man must be a horrible person, judging from the amount of fascinated gossip flying around about him.  And he's not even a partner - just an attorney.  Well, lead attorney.

So when Mr. Trenchard starts flirting with him in his first staff meeting, what's a guy to do?  Fight back of course, and let the man know he's nobody's fool.  Except he can't really control his body's reaction to the man.

When he's forced to work a late night project with his boss and James, he gets a totally new perspective on the man.  How firmly capable he is.  Somehow, he comes to respect him.  Which totally baffles him when James calls Ethan in the middle of the night to help him when he's drunk and injured.

What Ethan discovers, however, blows his mind.  This strong, intelligent and powerful man is being abused.  And allowing it to not only happen, but to continue.

As his feelings for the man continue to grow, Ethan finds himself in a quandary.  Whether to let his feeling grow for a man who is involved with someone else, or stop?  To fight his protective nature, or let James continue to suffer the abuse?  And will James ever wise up and leave his abuser?

Sue Brown is known for taking on the difficult topics and delivering powerful and insightful stories around them.  And she delivers one more time.  This is an unflinching look at domestic abuse and the consequences not only for the abused but for the friends and loved ones involved.  It's strikingly straightforward and unapologetic, and coldly powerful in its message.

Ethan is a love - strong, compassionate, fiercely loyal, yet so very vulnerable and honorable.  He guards his heart, but is moved to give it away.  Protective, he makes the perfect partner.

James, such a dear man.  So many wonderful qualities - loyalty, deep and abiding love, passion.  But wired so very very wrongly.  He makes the reader want to shake him, then hug the stuffing out of him.

I've seen how horrible domestic abuse can be.  My sister was a victim when I was a young man, and I could never accept how she could not only stay, but accept some responsibility for what happened.  And defend my brother-in-law.  I still shake my head, but having grown older and hopefully a little wiser, I understand the misguided sense of love and hopelessness that comes with it.

Hopefully, this work will do what some of us cannot - get through to some of those persons, men and women, who live with this horror and empower them to leave.

This is when writing makes a difference - when it touches lives.  It certainly touches mine.

Tom

"Immortal Valentine"

Review - "Immortal Valentine" by Ellis Carrington

Wonderful riff on the vampire tale

Very Highly Recommended

Caleb should really pay better attention to where he was going.  It's understandable he was distracted - it was Valentine's Day, and the one year anniversary of when his ex made love with him then decided to break things off.  So for him to get a little lost in his head, completely understandable.  Only, it put him in danger and walking in front of a car.

So when he ducks into an alleyway to catch his breath, the last thing he expects to hear is a wonderfully sexy voice asking him if he's okay. 

Angelo is out, as he is every Valentine's Day, searching for a lonely man with whom he can connect.  This once-a-year tradition starts with dinner and ends in a high-end hotel with the willing young man as dessert.  You see, Angelo is a vampire and treats himself once a year to a young man's blood.  One that will sustain him for the next year.  He indulges, makes the nigh memorable for the young man and then wipes his memory of the event.

But this year, he can't quite get over his attraction to Caleb.  The night starts out so well, but ends, well, with a slight case of food poisoning and Caleb hugging the toilet.  So Angelo leaves Caleb, not daring to take his blood and endanger him.  He chooses to forsake the blood he needs and leave Caleb be.

But neither can forget the other.  And when a chance meeting reunites the two, will both men get what they want?  Can their attraction bloom into something more?  Or will a hidden danger separate them forever.

Ellis Carrington delivers a wonderfully imagined riff on the classic vampire tale, with an unexpected sweetly-delivered Valentine's Day surprise.  This work is handled ever-so-rightly with a deft touch and a full heart.  Ms. Carrington really feels her characters, and lets us enjoy how much she cares for them along with her.

I loved Caleb.  His kind and gentle strength were so apparent, and made him very believable.  The humor and wit he had, along with the surprising streak of stubborn backbone was endearing without making him a chump.  He fairly jumps off the page with believability, and his actions backed up his heart.

And Angelo.  So very different from the cold-hearted creatures we so often see in these kind of stories.  He's another gentle soul, a victim of circumstances.  Yet the care he takes with Caleb and the respect he shows him, and indeed all his "victims" over the years, make him all-too-human.

The pairing was sublime, like a wonderful chocolate dessert paired with a heady, full-bodied wine. 

Fantastic.

I'd love to see more of these two.

Tom

"Continental Divide"

Review - "Continental Divide" by Laura Harner and Lisa Worrall

Great teaming of talent

Very Highly Recommended

Yet another young boy in Phoenix is missing, and Detective Remington is hot.  Not just because of the weather, but six boys, barely in their teens, are gone without a trace.  While he struggles to put the pieces together, he can't help but feel all these cases are somehow related.  Young boys, troubled homes, sudden disappearances.

Meanwhile, in London, Inspector Jamie Mainwaring is coming to much the same conclusion.  Six missing boys.  All from unhappy home situations.  All missing.  No clues.  So he goes digging, looking for similarities.  What he finds triggers involvement at much higher levels of government.

So it's no surprise when Remy finds himself on a plane to England.  But what IS a surprise is the attraction he feels immediately for Jamie.  But, he can't - no, won't - act on it.  He's there for a job, not to make friends or find a trick.  So he puts on his best Cowboy attitude and snipes and snarks at the man.

Doesn't work, and the attraction deepens.  On both sides.

But when Remy discovers Jamie is a little upper-crust, and wealthy, he shuts down.  Again.  Frustrates the hell out of Jamie.

Then they catch a break.  Five boys are reported missing in much the same fashion.  This time back in the States.  And if the pattern holds, maybe they can bust this case wide open before the sixth boy goes missing.  But that means working together closely, with a secret government agency and each other.  Going undercover.  And trusting each other.

Will they catch the break they are looking for, and save these boys?  Will we find out what Remy is hiding - why his past and these boys are so troublesome, and why he's pushing Jamie away?  Will their romance last?

Laura Harner and Lisa Worrall have pooled their considerable talents and come up with a wonderfully written, brilliantly executed story involving two men of vastly different backgrounds that manage to find some solace in each others arms.  This is a great read, made all the better by taking the strengths of these two women - the skill with which they create their characters and the way they weave plots so very well.  In this case, the sum is greater than the whole.

Remy is a great character - strong, but oh-so-broken.  He hides his vulnerability behind Western bravado, but we see how he lonely he really is.  He's a loveable hard-ass, giving his all to his job and neglecting himself.  When things get "too real", he shuts down.  But we see behind it to the loyal, giving man he really is.

And Jamie - all spoiled rich boy, but underneath a core of steel.  He is the flip side of Remy.  He believes in himself, goes after love with both hands and damn the torpedoes.  He leads with his heart where Remy thinks first.

They are so good together, and play off of each other so well.  I loved the story line, even though it was difficult.  Child sex trafficking.  There's no easy way to tell a story like that except straightforward, and Ms. Harner and Ms. Worrall take it on in style.

I can't wait to see what they do next.  The ending - had me split between flying to Phoenix or London to kick some writer tail.

I expect the next edition to be as explosive.

Great job, ladies.

Tom

"Not That Type of Guy"

Review - "Not That Type of Guy" by Sara York

Great romantic adventure

Highly Recommended

Aiden Johnson is trying really hard.  The CIA assassin walks the straight and narrow, doing his job, dating gorgeous women, being the man his dad would want him to be.  He's never really done anything about the lingering thoughts he might have about other guys.

Until a fellow agent, on a mission with him, goes down on him as part of dodging the bad guys.  That may have been taking their cover a bit far, but it did the job.  And made Aiden think those thoughts again.

When he meets Dr. Trace Williams, he's determined to stay straight, be who he knows he is.  Then Trace kisses him and throws his whole world into a tail spin.  Makes him question himself, all his decisions, who he chooses to be.  And scared him back into the arms of women.  Only...it doesn't work anymore.

He can't fight his attraction anymore.  Trace hits all his hot buttons.  But he can't be gay.  Can he?

Now his life is in danger - he's the target after a blotched job.  And his fledgling relationship with Trace?  It may be over before it really starts now that Trace knows what Aiden really does.  He may have to leave the love of his life in order to keep him safe.  Is he really THAT type of guy?

Sara York has captured all the joy and stomach-wrenching fear that comes with admitting to oneself the truth that one is different.  Gay.  And she nails it.  This is a sometimes funny, sometimes sad, sometimes heartbreaking story of one man's journey up to and through the fire.  And, it's a hell of a good action story too.

Aiden breaks my heart.  So much angst, history, uncertainty.  He has to come to terms with what he's suppressed and hidden for so long, and it almost destroys him.  He's built such a self-image of manly stud, and now he's forced to deal with the fact he's still that same guy.  Just, he likes men now.

And Trace - he's funny, self-righteous.  Sure of himself and knows what he wants.  Isn't afraid to admit he wants a relationship and wants Aiden.  Then his whole world is turned upside down and he isn't so sure he can be that man for Aiden anymore.

I liked the romance here, but I loved the front burner story of who is behind the attempts on Aiden's life too.  There's a great tie-in that brings the two men together and I. Loved.  It.

Ms. York has a great touch with her story-telling, and kept me totally involved, bouncing back and forth with the adventure and the romance. 

Great story.

Tom

"Sullivan's Yard"

Review - "Sullivan's Yard" by Chris Quinton

Wonderful tale of new starts

Highly Recommended

When he comes to work at the Alhambra, one of the premier restaurants in Modesto, Cal Beaufontaine is looking for experience.  Coming from a family that owns a successful chain of Cajun restaurants, he wants to separate himself from the name and the family and stake his own claim.  This should be just the start he needs.

Only there's one complication.  Luis, the nephew of the owners, freshly in from Spain.  The one night stand expert who keeps hitting on Cal, only to be shot down time after time.  Well, that and the strange laughter and noises Cal hears in his small apartment.

He's also fascinated by the deserted peach farm that adjoins the apartment.  He can smell the peaches and is fascinated by the history of the area.  When he ventures up to the old family home on the property, Luis in tow, he falls in love with the place and can imagine it as a restaurant.

All his dreams, so very clear now.  He can see what he wants.  How will Luis figure in though?  And will he be able to make his visions a reality?

Chris Quinton has written a short, exquisitely sweet story of love, history repeating itself and fresh starts.  Cal is a wonderful character - driven to be successful, willing to put his love life on the back burner and wait.  So very focused.

And Luis, so spontaneous and fun and the perfect counter to Cal's seriousness.  He brings a lightness to Cal that is so nice, so needed.  And when the two spar and have fun, he chips away at Cal's resolve.  But his changes are lovely to watch too- the two are extremes that slowly crawl towards each other and meet in the middle.

I loved this story, and the only flaw?  It wasn't long enough! 

Give me more of these two lovely and fun men, Ms. Quinton!

So very good.

Tom

"Scar Tissue"

Review - "Scar Tissue" by GL Roberts

Great Watergate period tale of love

Highly Recommended

Bob Elkins is walking a very think line.  In 1976, government DEA agents are scrutinized in all aspects of their lives.  And it's not a good career move to be gay.  Especially for a third year agent looking to move up the ranks.  Former military, all man, willing to take the dirty jobs, he's exactly what the Powers That Be are looking for.

When he sees new recruit Mike Wells, he knows he's in trouble.  Tall.  Dark.  Handsome.  Former military, proud and sure of himself.  Deadly for a man like Bob.  And what's more, Mike seems to sense the attraction and returns it.  They begin a slow dance of seduction.

The trouble comes in when it's time to become physical.  Mike begs off, wanting to take it slow.  Worst of all, he doesn't want Bob to see him naked.  Blames it on tiredness, fear of being caught.  Bob begins to doubt Mike is all that interested.

Will their attraction fizzle?  Is Mike into Bob or playing some kind of game?  Or is there something more about Mike than meets the eye?

I'm a big fan of GL Roberts, and she scores a knockout with the crisp, beautifully written story of love, fear and old pain.  A child of the times, I remember the political climate and fear of being gay in 1976, and Ms. Roberts nails the underlying tones of the times just beginning to change.

Her characters, as always, are her strong suit.  Bob is a wonderful man - masculine, sure of himself but with an underlying vulnerability that's so very attractive.  He knows what he wants, and is willing to pay the price to have it.

Mike is really the one who sets the pace for this romance, however.  He matches Bob strength for strength.  Similar in background, the two men understand each other so well.  But the shyness and pain that's just under the surface made me want to know this man.  Shelter him even though he is so very strong.

When all the truth are revealed, it's a very touching tale, for all the trappings of honor and masculinity.  As it very well should be.  The best, truest men know how to show all their scars, mental and physical.  Own them and heal and be healed.

Just a fantastic story.  Read it and wonder.

Tom

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

"Prisoner"

Review - "Prisoner" by Megan Derr

Beautifully constructed fantasy romance

Very Highly Recommended


Three countries at war.  No one can really remember what started it, but generation after generation, Krian, Illussor and Salharan men and women are sent to the battlefield to die for a disputed piece of land held by Kria.

When General Dieter von Adolwulf, leader of the Scarlett Army of Kria, prepares his troops to leave the battlefield after a long summer campaign, escaping before winter, he never expects to have scores of his men killed in a cowardly ambush.  He has the assassin brought to him, and is amazed to find it’s a Salharan using magic to decimate his loyal men.  And is even more shocked to find the man is one of an elite group of twenty-one men called the Seven star – a pack of Salharans deadlier and more cunning than any other.

The Wolf cannot abide this, and orders the man in chains.  When threats and beatings fail to shake the man’s name from him, Dieter names him Beraht, a Krian name, the ultimate insult for a Salharan, who take pride in their names and the power they convey.  And it’s doubly insulting that the man has no name of his own yet, not having earned it.  The only way to redeem himself is to make Dieter retract it.

When an Illussor regiment ambushes and kills all but Dieter and Beraht, the two must trust one another to remain alive and reach the Winter Palace.

Along the way other characters are introduced – Illusors, Krians, Salharans – who weave a beautifully imagined tapestry of magic, love, jealousy, and treachery.  We find out what caused the war, why the Illussors tried to kill Beraht, how the two lands got their magic.  And why, most of all, Beraht is so focal to all thee lands.

Megan Derr has created a wonderful, multi-layered and deep work here.  What I love best is how she takes her time and builds this fascinating world filled with magic and swords and men and delicate romance.  Her characters come alive with detail and depth, and she weaves the tale so effortlessly back and forth among the major and supporting cast members.

Dieter is a fascinating character.  In the beginning of the story, he is all bluster and gruff and even hate.  His treatment of the unnamed assassin is horrible.  And we despise him for much of the book.  Until we finally are allowed to know his backstory.  Then we see all, get the context, and bleed a little for him.

Beraht, the nameless, grabs the heart, though.  Unnamed for most of his life, forced to do horrible things in the name of his country, used and abused at every turn.  But always a survivor. 

The romance is unexpected here.  There are couplings obvious and some that evolve slowly.  But all are true to the tone and tenor of the story. 

I recommend setting aside two or three uninterrupted nights when you can curl up and spend quality time with this book.  It demands and deserves nothing less.  There are layers and layers of history, characters and subplots that wrap themselves around the reader and draw you in.

Great story.  Great book.  And fantastic job.  I can’t wait to read the other books from this author.

Tom

"Earthly Concerns"

Review - "Earthly Concerns" by Xavier Axelson

Eerie, wonderful read

Very Highly Recommended


Anson has a very special talent.  He doesn’t share about it, but since he and Barrett were seeing each other, he thought it safe to tell him.  He really didn’t think he would remember not care that Anson was…sensitive…to things on the other side.  Especially since Barrett backed away, didn’t want to see him any more.

But when Barrett is in a car accident and his daughter mysteriously disappears, he calls and asks for Anson’s help.  The police have investigated and can’t find her.  And Barrett is slowly going crazy.

Will Anson be able to help?  Will what he discovers draw him in too?  Or will he be able to make sure all three of them are safe?

Xavier Axelson has produced another eerie and wonderful tale of the supernatural, loss and wonderfully damaged men looking for solace.  He does what he does so well – sets up a premise that can go one of two ways, draws us in and slams the door behind us and shuts off the lights.

His set-ups are plausible and commonplace.  A car accident.  A missing child.  A pair of lovers who cannot make a go of it.  But somewhere, somehow, it all takes a left turn and events veer off center.  And the men, they bend, sometimes break. 

Anson and Bennett are central to the story, and we learn just enough about them in drips and drabs to be fascinated.  Enchanted.  Worried.  Then we find out what really happened, and we realize exactly how broken Bennett is.

What I love about Mr. Axelson’s works is his redemption of his men.  He brings them to us is pieces, then lets us watch as they slowly rejoin and become whole again.  He makes us care, and that is now small feat.

This story is wonderfully creepy and leaves me wanting more.  I want to know more about these men.  And isn’t that the sign of a great writer?  Leaving the reader wanting more?

Terrific.

Tom

"Stolen Dreams"

Review - "Stolen Dreams" by Sue Brown

A beautiful second chance story

Very Highly Recommended

Morgan and Jase are happy.  They really are.  Morgan's an up-and-coming director's assistant, Jase an actor.  They've been together three years and are preparing to marry.  Life is wonderful.

Until Shae walks into the coffee shop Morgan owns.  Shae, the man Morgan's known since kindergarten.  His first friend.  First kiss.  First love.  And the man he thought he would be with forever.  Until Morgan cheated on him and Shae walked away for good.

It took him eighteen months, but Morgan put himself back together and when he met Jase, he found he could love again.  Five years should be long enough to be over Shae, shouldn't it?

But when Shae came through that door, even Jase could see what it did to Morgan.  How those feelings were just buried, not gone.  So for the sake of everyone, Morgan shoved those feeling down and decided to try to be friends with Shae.  If that's possible. 

Can Morgan and Shae be...friends?  Is the love they shared dead?  Or will Shae's arrival back in town to see his sick dad mean stolen dreams for Morgan and Jase?

Sue Brown just never stops, does she?  In "Stolen Dreams", she has created two more amazing characters, Morgan and Shae, and given us a beautifully realized love story between two men who were meant to be together.  The strength of this book is in its characters, how Ms. Brown makes us fall in love with them as they discover their feelings.  And, of course, in her lovely writing style - never an extra word, an economy and restraint of phrase.

Morgan is a great character.  Strong yet breakable.  Firm yet soft.  Vulnerable yet steely.  I liked him, and forgave him for his flaws immediately.  He so wants love, and is his own worst enemy.  His headstrong ways get him far in business, but so totally screw him in romance.

And Shae - a delight.  A man who loves hard and fully, knows what he wants and goes for it.  But, like Morgan, is so very willing to be his own worst enemy in getting what he wants.  The secrets he keeps made me want to knock his butt out.  But then, I understood him so very well.

Which, I think, is why I love Ms. Brown's books so very much.  I read them and find myself there, splayed across the page.  Her men want love, bleed for it and yet, yet they seem to go out of their way to make it so very difficult to have and keep it.  Which makes it all the sweeter when they do make it.

I loved this story.  Great job.

Tom

"Whistle Pass"

Review - "Whistle Pass" by KevaD (DA Kentner)

Great, great 1950's action/mystery/romance

Very Highly Recommended

Sometimes the past should stay there.

Charlie Harris works for a logging company now.  During his stint in the Army, in WWII, he became more than just a little close with Roger Black.  But that was ten years ago, and after the war they separated and never looked back.  That is, until Charlie gets a telegraph from Roger, asking for his help.  Using the same words they always used with each other.

What Charlie finds in Whistle Pass, though, is anything but a friendly welcome.  He's attacked on his arrival at his hotel, even though nobody should know he's there.  And when hotel manager Gabe Kasper recognizes the post-war trauma an flashbacks that paralyze Charlie, he jumps in to help. 

Roger is now the Mayor, married, keeping secrets still.  Secrets that, if Charlie isn't careful, will get him killed.  What's worse, Roger didn't send for Charlie. 

Can Charlie get to the bottom of who sent for him, and why?  Will his attraction to Gabe be enough to make him forget Roger?  Or will both men end up dead?

I loved this book.  From the first page to the last, there is action, mystery, romance, and just a damned fine, well-written story.  KevaD has crafted a fantastic book about love, regrets, and starting fresh. 

Charlie is damaged goods, living with memories that haunt him from his time in combat, but also not quite over the feelings he has for Roger.  He can't quite escape the love that lingers, but in America in the 40's and 50's, he can't live openly gay either.

Roger is a mystery.  He's married now, mayor and not the man Charlie remembers and loves.  He has an agenda, but won't share it with Charlie.  What little love he held for Charlie seems to be gone.  Although he might not mind another roll in the sack.

Gabe is the heart of the book, though.  He lives a quiet triple life; he thinks no one is aware of his liking for men, but most in the town are aware.  And his buttoned-down nature belies the fact that he's drifted into being a high priced call boy.  He's dreamily slipping his way through life in Whistle Pass, but Charlie wakes him up with a bang.  When he's called upon to be a hero, he's so wonderfully, beautifully there.

This book is a gem.  Spot-on storyline, characters that draw me in and make me care, and fast paced, tightly woven prose.  Just...damn.  Stunning.

Can't get much better than this.

Tom

Saturday, April 7, 2012

"Distant Rumblings (Lords of Arcadia #1)"

Review -  "Distant Rumblings (Lords of Arcadia #1)" by John Goode

Terrific worldbuilding, characters, story

Very Highly Recommended

The problem with Athens, Iowa was that it was not normal enough for Kane Vess.  That's a funny thing for a young gay guy to think, but it's true.  The town is full of eccentrics, and the more outrageous the personality, the better.  So for Kane, he just wants to get the hell out of high school and go to college.  Find a boyfriend.  Be...normal.

Then this gorgeous hunk of a guy, a new student at school, runs Kane through with a sword and everything in his life changes.  There's no damage, but what. the. hell?

Prince Hawk has been sent - exiled -  from Arcadia by his parents for his safety.  With his shape-shifter protector, Spike, to protect him, he's trying to adapt to mundane human life.  And not doing a great job of it.

Then he runs into Kane.  The two dance around an attraction, finally landing on a fragile truce of friendship an budding romance.  As Kane tries to show Hawk how to fit in, Hawk teaches him lessons in life, responsibility.  New ways of looking at himself and his own world.  And the favor is returned.

When his enemies find him, and betrayals become apparent, Hawk is in danger.  How far will Kane go to help his friend?  Will their romance happen?  And will Hawk live to fight another day?

I don't want to give away too much, because John Goode has done a terrific job of world building here.  He starts with simple Americana, adds layers of eccentricity with the local townsfolk.  Then we get to meet Kane's family; his flautist father, his lovely mother (who I suspect we will find out a lot more about in the near future), and his best friend.  Then we add Prince Hawk. Spike. Arcadia. 

And it just keeps getting better and better, richer and deeper.  Mr. Goode's characters come to life and stretch and yawn and fill the space he built so lovingly built for them.  Kane goes from bored young gay-boy to thoughtful, funny, interesting and honorable young man.  Hawk - he flexes and we see him grow from spoiled princeling to courageous, regal, loyal man with so much potential.

Mr. Goode does what he does so well.  He starts us on a journey with wonderful characters, entertains us with their humor and goodness, then blinds us with the sheer real-ness of their hearts and souls. 

I look forward to each of his books with a little touch of bittersweetness (if I may coin a term).  I want to read it, can't wait to unwrap it like I used to when was a kid and saw my birthday cake.  My mom used to bake it from scratch and we would savor every crumb.  And then it would be gone.  That's how I feel about his books.  They leave me full, satisfied, but wanting just one more crumb.

I can't wait to see what comes next.  The cliffhanger - I almost took off to Texas to wring Mr. Goode's neck, but then I might not get my next fix.

Ah, hell.  Guess I will have to be patient.

Good night, sweet prince.

Tom

Monday, April 2, 2012

"His Hero"

Review - "His Hero" Anthology

Quietly wonderful

Highly Recommended

"Uniform Desires" by Simone Anderson 

Marine Corp sniper Cade Donovan is home on leave, visiting his family.  The out and proud Marine can tolerate many things, but not bullying.  Especially when it's a smaller man being ganged up on outside a bar.  Turns out it's Jason Carlson, the younger brother of a bully who tormented kids in the town.

After coming to Jason's rescue, he is immediately attracted to the handsome young man, and makes his feelings know. Hopes they will be returned.

As the two young men grow closer, will Jason's brother and his terrible past come between the pair?  Or will Cade's posting back to the Middle East stop what may be a happily ever after? 


This is a nicely told tale, with strong characters and a wonderful sense of integrity showing through.  The theme "Hero" shines here, and Ms. Anderson has a nice feel for simplicity and straightforward storytelling.  I was touched with the feeling Cade showed for Jason, and how it was touching without being smaltzy.

"A Ring and A Promise" by Devon Rhodes

Military Academy graduates Cary Barrientos and Owen Marsh managed to forge a relationship, of sorts, prior to graduation.  But the pressures of Cary entering the Navy and Owen the Marines make any sort of future unsure at best.  As a last ditch measure at holding onto the man he's come to love, Cary switches their Academy rings.


Is there a future for the young men?  Or will the pressure of DADT keep them from being happy?


Ms. Rhodes crafted a lovely tale here, with honest emotion running through both men.  The pressures of military life threaten the two, and the fine line between duty, honor and commitments of the heart is explored very well.  I was moved that the story did not resolve in a day, and that the characters had to work to ensure their happy ending.  Very well done.


"Only Sam" by Em Woods

When Dylan Brooks' restaurant goes up in flames, firefighter Sam Carter is there to help put the blaze out.  Turns out he's been visiting it for months, and has a 'thing' for Dylan.


The two begin to see each other in the aftermath of the fire, and get close.  But will their lives be in danger after it's determined the fire was deliberately set, and the arsonist isn't finished?


This tale was done nicely.  Ms. Woods told a complete story with an economy of words, and made me care about Dylan first and foremost.  The two men fit together well from the start, and the tension only adds to the story.  Sam is a great character; I'd love to read more about these guys.


"Zane's Inferno" by Sara York

Firefighter Zane Wilson was trapped in a fire, and treated on the scene by paramedic Nick Dubois.  Then, he's kissed crazy by him in the locker room.  He didn't even know the man noticed him!


The two are soon dating, then living together.  But when it's Nick who's trapped in a forest fire, will the two find their happiness is short lived?


This is a great story of two men who hit it off immediately and go full steam ahead!  Ms. York dove right in with them and took us right along with them as they fall into love and passion.  A nicely told story of two men who 'get' each other and know what they want.


"In the Name of the Law" by Sue Holston


Baltimore Detective Mitch Dawson is in love with his partner, Ivan Stanislav.  The problem?  Ivan is straight, and engaged to be married.  After his fiance dumps him and he goes on a drunken bender, Ivan has an encounter with Mitch that never gets mentioned.  Maybe Ivan doesn't remember it, Mitch figures.


But when Ivan is shot and nearly dies, will it be too late for Mitch to tell him how he feels?  Or will he chicken out one more time?


Probably my favorite of the stories.  Ms. Holston gives us a hard premise - one secret crush and one straight man.  So many things could have gone wrong here, but her strong hand kept the story moving, believable, and interesting.  Mitch is Everyman, but a hero too.  Bravo!



"Wings of Fire" by Kit Sands


Trapped upside down in his wrecked car, Jamie Peele thinks he sees and angel coming for him.  Only later, when he goes to the fire station to thank his rescuers does he find out his angel is just that - Salvatore Angelico.

Will he find true happiness?  Or once more be left with a broken heart? 


A truly sweet tale of a man with a past, who meets the man of his dreams.  Nicely told by Ms. Sands, sentimental and just plain good.  Strong men, stronger attraction.  I wanted to know these guys.


Overall, a very strong anthology.  I would be proud to know any one of these heroes!


Tom

Sunday, April 1, 2012

"Cowboy Blues"

Review - "Cowboy Blues" by G.A. Hauser

Cowboys, bears, love

Very Highly Recommended

The rodeo life isn't easy.  It's especially hard for those on the Gay Rodeo circuit - little money, homophobia, being away from your loved ones so much of the time.  But Ken Marsh has a vision.  He sees his rag-tag group, the Rainbow Rough Riders Rodeo, as having huge possibilities.  Along with Cheyenne Wheeler, he's put together the nucleus of a team with possibilities.

Rob Grafton and Victor Sarita, two bears who not only feed the guys, carry equipment and serve as roadies, but keep the cowboys on track.  And the potential star of the group, Mike 'Clint' Wolcott, is young but so willing to learn, and wants a career on the circuit.

But as with all men and their dreams, the road to success is never a smooth one.  Ken hates being separated from his boyfriend, Country-and-Western singer Lyle Jackson, and fears the life they have being on the road may never end up with a commitment from Lyle.

Clint was the victim of a hate crime, and still suffers physical and emotional repercussions from his hospitalization.   And his crush on Cheyenne?  The man won't pay him the time of day.

Cheyenne is just out of a relationship that drained him and left him with a distrust of men in general.  When he sees young Clint lusting after him, it tempts him but sends up all his warning signals too.

The bear couple, Rob and Victor, paired up almost immediately and seem to have found love.  A home.  Maybe they can serve a a source of inspiration for the others, they think.

After leaving out for their first event, the men will all face trials that will test their commitments.  To their loves.  To each other.  Where will they all stand after the weekend ends?

This books is a slight departure for G.A. Hauser, and I have to say, it is fantastic.  The thoughtful examination of three different relationships and how these men fit together within themselves and with each other was remarkable.

Ken and Lyle appear to be at cross purposes with each other, and it seems they have different goals.  Ken, the leader of the group, is an astute businessman but at that point of life, in his forties, where he wants to be someone's world.  Lyle is a musician, and at first glance a player.  We get to watch as Ken struggles with what to do, how to be, and what he wants.

Cheyenne has been burned, and doesn't think he's ready for a relationship.  But along comes young buck Clint with his charm, his swagger, but most of all, his young vulnerable heart.  What man can resist that?

But Rob and Victor are the emotional heart of the story.  These two men settle into a loving and caring relationship and show the other guys how love can be.  It's not flashy and showy, not hot and muscular bodies pounding each other, but it's sexy, loving real men who lead with their hearts.

And that's what Ms. Hauser has done so well with this book.  She let her men lead with their hearts and find what's true for them and each other.  From hot-shot Clint and his cocky-ass attitude to Rob and his MamaBear love, these men fit one another and are a family.

Another hit for Ms. Hauser.  One of her best.

Tom

"Touch Like Breathing"

Review - "Touch Like Breathing" by Theda Black

Complicated, frustrating, amazing

Highly Recommended

***This may contain spoilers for those who haven't read "After Anna" - be warned!***

When we first met Tyler and Will in "After Anna", the two men were dealing with the aftermath of the death of Will's girlfriend, Anna.  She had been addicted to drugs, cheating behind Will's back and Tyler found out.  Rather than deal with the problem, she overdosed, and Tyler was left feeling responsible for her death. 

Add into the mix Will's depression, Tyler's guilt over feeling he caused Anna's death, and the simmering sexual attraction he feels for his partner.  It all spills over and the two become lovers.  But it doesn't last, and the two have trouble finding the easy friendship they shared.

In "Touch Like Breathing", Tyler and Will are still partners on the police force, and work on a case involving the kidnapping of a young teenaged girl by her stepfather.  Will is close to being out of control, and the two are struggling to find a balance in their relationship after their failed romance.

The two start up again, and Tyler crosses a line within himself, and believes he hurt Will once again.

Did he?  And when Will disappears, will Tyler be able to find him before the unthinkable happens?

Theda Black had brought back two of my favorite characters - Will and Tyler - and shown us again how addictive the two are.  Will, with his broken heart, fear and self righteousness that make him so very brittle and edgy.  And Tyler, with his deep heart and tragic sense of responsibility and guilt that renders him so very heartbreaking.

The two together could either complete or destroy each other.  And mostly, it's a coin toss on any given day which way they will go.

But that's what draws me to these two men.  They are so very complicated and harsh and hurt each other, but are also so bonded by their love for one another, they can't let go.  They make love a struggle, neither knowing how to let their walls down and connect. 

When they do, though, this story flies.  And it takes me with it.  Ms. Black doesn't make this easy, and that's why I love it.  These two guys, they drive me crazy when they make each other crazy.  I want them to be happy, but I understand why it can't be a smooth sail. 

Good story.  Great ending. 

Fantastic job.

Tom