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Archive for July, 2011

We’re Off on Holiday

Jen and I are both off on holiday next week (Aug. 1-5). I’m not sure either of us is going to the beach, but we are definitely going to be spending some time with the family.

We’ll be back on August 8 with new reviews, and ready to roar into the last half of summer. *whimper* Although I think Jen is still waiting for summer to start in the UK. I’d gladly trade some heat for a touch of cooler air, but I suppose Mother Nature isn’t going to listen to me.

Have a great week to all our readers, and we hope that you are enjoying your summer (or winter to those in the southern hemisphere). See you soon.

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Title: As Seen on TV
Author:  Rebecca Leigh
Length:  X words (26 pdf pages)
Publisher:  Dreamspinner Press
Genre: m/m contemporary
Rating:  C

Blurb:

Graham Britner has never been one for travel or vacations. Work has been his life, but lately, life as a Fortune 500 stockbroker has gotten overwhelming, and he figures a trip to Hawaii will get him as far away from New York as possible. What are the odds that his fantasy man, hunky television actor Bruce Newsome, will be vacationing at the same resort as Graham? Probably only slightly greater than the chances that Bruce will want Graham as much as Graham wants him.

Review:

Workaholic stockbroker Graham finally takes a break from his job, and ends up at a resort in Hawaii. To his shock and delight, his TV crush is also checking in. Bruce is the famous front man for a soap company and has starred in many commercials, and in many fantasies for Graham. He’s sure that this is destined to be nothing more than lusting from afar, however when he runs into Bruce at a small local restaurant, he takes the bull by the horns and invites himself to join the celebrity, leading to more than just a fanboy encounter.

I decided to take this story with a grain of salt, as a bit of a spoof on the celebrity culture and rabid fans that develop, otherwise it could come across as creepy stalkerish. Graham actually travels with his own bar of the soap that Bruce promotes so as to always have his fantasy close. As well, Bruce is a model in television commercials but appears to be incredibly wealthy and is staying in the penthouse suite at the resort. Who knew the Old Spice guy was loaded? So I tried not put my own perceptions of reality on the story.

I did however, physically cringe during the restaurant scene. Bruce seems to delight in buying Graham cocktails, and not used to drinking much Graham is soon tipsy and let out a pick-up line that would have gotten him smacked down in reality. Once they get back to the hotel, Bruce takes over the seduction and Graham’s fantasy is now real-life.

I did think that the assurance that they would be together for ever and ever at the end seemed a bit unrealistic, and Graham’s fascination with Bruce the actor vs Bruce the man did border on a bit creepy, I again just kind of let it to as a bit of hyperbole that wasn’t meant to be taken literally. If you can look at the story from that perspective, it’s an entertaining short read, however I know some readers may find Graham’s behaviour, and his decades long crush on a commercial actor, a bit juvenile and off-putting.

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Title: Heart’s Desire
Author: Derek Adams
Length: 26 pages
Publisher: MLR Press
Genre: m/m contemporary
Rating: C+

Blurb:
Eddie Wickham, branded as queer from the age of five, has always been an outcast. When his hopes of escape from the confines of his narrow-minded small town life are dashed by a sex scandal, Eddie is forced to watch as his life slips away, day by endless Day. Then Charlie Ferris, another young man with a hard luck background, stands up for Eddie in a barroom brawl and opens a world of romantic possibilities.
Will the two men be able to face down small town prejudice to achieve love and happiness as they both seek out their heart’s desire?

Review:
This quick and dirty story with a touch of romance centres on the hapless Eddie whose life in a bigoted small town has never been easy. After losing the only chance of getting out of his small town, Eddie is stuck in a dead end job, generally despised by most people, until he’s rescued from a bar brawl by Charlie, another outcast.

I had mixed feelings about this book. In some ways I felt very sorry for Eddie who has not had an easy life, but his total apathy about his situation also irked me. He claims he is trapped in his situation but it felt more like that he couldn’t be bothered to find a solution to his problems. When he meets up with Charlie I liked his cautious optimism and happiness that he’d finally found someone. Charlie’s taciturn nature also worked well within the context of the story, although I would have liked to know more about him.

What didn’t work so well was some of the roughness to the vocabulary and the situation. I winced at Eddie’s stupidity in trusting people who had never shown him an ounce of kindness and the scene that followed wasn’t pleasant to read. I also found some of the descriptions during sex a little crude, which detracted from the romance of the situation placing it more towards stroke fiction than something which is supposed to be more meaningful. Some readers may not find this a problem, but a couple of phrases pulled me out of the story.

Overall, this would be a good story to read if you’re looking for a quick erotic filler between books. It’s marketed as a 10 minute read and certainly fits that bill.

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Title: Army Green: Burning Bright
Author: J Rocci
Length: 7,300
Publisher: Torquere Press
Genre: m/m contemporary
Rating: B

Blurb:
It’s the annual Glenhaven Farms Fourth of July picnic and Cam is trying not to worry about his partner, Evan, as they help prepare for a large crowd of folks descending on the farm. Between running errands for Ms. Susan, setting up the backyard, and wrangling all four Hooligans, Cam catches quiet moments with Evan and reflects on the man he loves and almost lost to the war injuries that left Evan a disabled veteran.

Review:
I’ve been following this Army Green series by J Rocci and whilst this sip didn’t really add anything to the overall story arc, it was still a nice slice of life and a peek into the HEA of Evan and Cam.

It’s the 4th July. Cam and Evan have invited a fair number of people to the horse ranch/therapy centre for a celebration picnic. The preparations are hard work but the event is a huge success. After the guests plus the ranch workers head into town to watch the fireworks, Evan and Cam stay behind to have some private time together.

The strength of this series for me has always been the sensitive way that Evan’s disability is handled, coupled with a strong romantic story. That was still the case with this story, plus it effectively uses the Independence Day setting to highlight the fears that Cam feels over Evan’s time in the military. The hustle and bustle of the barbecue with the cameos from the people featured in previous stories contrasted nicely with the quiet time that Cam and Evan get at the end of the day.

What I liked most about the story though was the way that it showed a loving established couple whose warmth shone through their time together and even something as mundane as sitting and watching a film showed the reader how loving and comfortable they are together. Sometimes it’s nice to be reminded that, although hot sex can be great in a short, the best parts are the love and tenderness.

If you’ve been following this series then I’d highly recommend this short story. If you haven’t, then you could still read this from the perspective of an established couple, but I can assure you that you’ll be heading off to buy the other two books in the series once you read this one.

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Title: Horse Sense
Author: Vincent Diamond
Length:  7,776 words (14 pdf pages)
Publisher: JMS Books
Genre:  m/m contemporary
Rating: B+

Blurb:

Truckers have a reputation for doing more than driving on the road. Rough work, rough rides, and rough trade are often the game. But when Robert meets Sean, a walker looking for a way down to Florida, something shifts. Sean had been knocked around by more than someone’s fists, and it touches Robert’s heart.

Sometimes horsing around is just fun and games. And sometimes it’s something else entirely …

Review:

I do have a bit of a soft spot for this author’s horse stories. I think it’s a bit of taking me back to my childhood. Not that I lived on a horse farm, but there is something about agricultural people that seems universal that brings me that taste of the familiar.

This story is loosely connected to the Holding the Reins series. Robert works as a truck driver for Marcus of the other books, running around the country picking up and dropping off horses for the farm. He’s a bit of a self-professed slut, he doesn’t mind getting some on the road. He sees a cutie looking for a ride at a truck stop, but when the young man gets a ride with someone else, he doesn’t think much more until he stops for the night and suddenly finds he has a stow-away in the trailer, the young man who ended up being beaten by the man he had hitched a ride with, had snuck into his trailer when he’d stopped for dinner.

What I found particularly appealing for me in this particular story, was the characterisation of Robert. Perhaps this comes back to those childhood memories, but he sounded exactly like the farming type men that I grew up with. It’s an uneducated (but not unintelligent) way of speaking, speech peppered with slang and little sayings that I sometimes find amazing, since I grew up about as far as possible from where Robert is from. I liked Robert, he was a good hardworking guy with a sense of humour. His exasperation at some of the rich folk he works with, especially the use of bottled water for horses was something to which probably many of us could relate. You only see Sean through Robert’s perspective but you get enough to be satisfied for this particular story, however if there were to be more stories I’d love to see the rest of his story.

Is this story erotica? Most definitely, some hot sex in a horse trailer (although I refuse to believe that hay is soft – it was pokey where I grew up). Is it a romance? Maybe. Robert knows he’s fallen a bit for Sean, the young down-on-his-luck young man, so maybe there will be more. Maybe Robert has had enough of anonymous hook-ups on the road. I’d like to think so. 🙂 Call me a romantic.

So I think if you’re looking for an earthy story, with an everyday guy doing his job, and maybe unexpectedly finding something special, it’s a well written little piece.

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Title: Lost Between
Author: Shawn Lane
Length: 16,000 words (72 pdf pages)
Publisher: Amber Allure
Genre: m/m contemporary paranormal
Rating: B-

Blurb:

Famous horror author Curtis Macintyre has recently rented an apartment in an historical building in San Francisco. But the apartment comes with more than just old charm. It also comes with the spirit of Aaron Carmichael, a man murdered five years before.

After Curtis visits a medium, Aaron’s spirit comes to him and asks for his help in finding peace since he’s lost between two worlds, the living and the afterlife. When Curtis decides to visit Aaron’s boyfriend, Robbie Henley, a beautiful hairdresser, Aaron comes along…inside Curtis.

Now with Robbie’s help, it’s up to Curtis to find out what happened to Aaron so he can finally have peace. And maybe, together, Curtis and Robbie can find their own happily ever after…

Review:

There are two stories going here, the solving of the five-year old murder of Aaron – which is in essence solved easily once Curtis puts his mind to it – and the eventual romance between Aaron’s ex Robbie, and Curtis, who now lives in Aaron’s old apartment. Aaron is at first freaked that there is a ghost in his apartment. His family already thinks he’s a bit “off” for writing such gruesome fiction, and maybe he’s crazy like they think. However after a trip to a medium, which appears to be a bust, Aaron materializes in his living room, but he is unable to remember what happened to him. He believes if he can solve the murder, he can be released to the next world, and that Robbie may be able to help Curtis figure it out. In order to leave the apartment, Aaron “possesses” Curtis so they both exist simultaneously in Curtis’  body.

This leads to a bit of awkwardness because of course Robbie thinks Curtis is nuts, but eventually he believes and Aaron, wait, no Curtis, no Aaron? Can’t keep his hands off Robbie. Aaron’s family accepted he was gay, as long as he didn’t have a boyfriend and were not fans of hair stylist Robbie, but Aaron’s younger brother agrees to meet with Curtis – in the guise of writing a book – to help solve the crime. The crime is solved within about 30 minutes and I can’t believe the police didn’t figure it out, but that’s not the primary reason for the book, it’s a romance first and foremost so I let it go.

This is one of those plot devices that I have issues with. The whole “in my body while I’m making love” thing kind of freaks me out. Who is it who’s feeling, touching, acting out. Did Curtis really find Robbie attractive or was that Aaron’s feelings and to know that you are having sex with a man’s ex and he’s experiencing it at the same time? That just weirds me out.

I really liked Aaron and to be honest I may have sniffled a bit when he was trying to find answers, and he was so unhappy just existing with no frame of existence. He was sweet and loving and Curtis and Robbie were both nice guys too, so it wasn’t the writing which is very typical of the author and I find enjoyable, it was the device which makes me feel a bit uncomfortable. However those who don’t mind the possession theme will likely not have the same feelings about it that I do.

For fans of the author, it holds many of her hallmarks, and before they were joined, or when I didn’t think about it much, it was better for me. So this is one of those personal issues that does not reflect the quality of the book which is what I based the grade on, not my own feelings about a particular trope.

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Title: The Wedding Thief
Author: Derek Adams
Length: 22 pages
Publisher: Extasy Books
Genre: m/m contemporary
Rating: C

Blurb:
Jeffrey is heartbroken at the thought of seeing his manipulative sister married to the man he loves. He has always admired Dave from a distance, but as they get to know each other a strong bond forms between them. After Dave’s bachelor party, the two men are alone on the shores of a moonlit lake and their feelings for each other can no longer be ignored. Will it be a single moment of passion, followed by a lifetime of regrets, or will Jeffrey manage to wrest the prize from his sister’s grasp and enjoy a lifetime of happiness?

Review:
This story could have pushed a lot of my ‘really dislike’ buttons if the blurb hadn’t prepared me for some of it. The plot is a quick piece of erotic romance involving Jeffrey who has been in love with Dave for a long time and is heartbroken that Dave is going to marry his harridan of a sister. Things take an interesting turn for Jeffrey at Dave’s bachelor party when he learns that Dave has taken a liking to him too.

Let’s face it, the sister was a horror. I expected that and as a result I didn’t mind because it made the infidelity much more palatable. What I was more interested in was why Jeffrey’s sister was such a bitch towards Jeffrey. It couldn’t have been just that she was suspicious of the way Jeffrey and Dave got on so well as it seems they’ve never really got on well. A bit more explanation here would have helped me understand both Jeffrey and his sister.

The lead up to the encounter at the bachelor party was done well, especially in the way that Jeffrey shows his confusion over the mixed messages he’s getting from Dave. I really wished that part of the story had been from Dave’s point of view too as it would have been interesting to know why he asked Jeffrey’s sister to marry him. We’re given hints to this as the men talk after sex, but Dave’s thoughts on the matter would have given more depth to his characterisation.

The sex scene was hot, and managed to mix the fumblings of two men who don’t really know what they are doing with some tender emotions, although I winced at the lack of lube or preparation before the penetration.  The was also a strong romantic thread through the story that meant I liked Jeffrey and wished him well.

Overall, this was a decent story which left me with a vague sense of dissatisfaction because I wanted to know more about these characters, their past and also the future of which we get a tantalising glimpse at the end of the story.

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Title: Haji’s Exile
Author: Alan Chin
Length: 33 pages
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: m/m historical
Rating: B+

Blurb:
Nathan has cared for horses all his life, but Haji is the first he’ll train on his own. When the Arabian stallion arrives at Bitter Coffee Ranch, Nathan thinks he is the most beautiful thing he’s ever seen. And then he lays eyes on Haji’s handler, Yousef. Nathan has much to learn about horses, about pride, and about love, but with the ranch’s hopes riding on Haji, he’ll also learn that all things have their price.

Review:
This is one of the Bittersweet Dreams titles that DSP put out every so often, and so armed with the knowledge that this wasn’t going to have a happy ending I girded my loins and started reading.

Instead of a conventional romance, I got a story about love. In this case the love the narrator Nathan feels which follows two strands: that of his love for horses and one in particular, Haji, a proud North African stallion; and the love he develops for Yousef who travels from Africa to America with Haji. In both cases this love develops slowly over the course of the story as Nathan has to adjust first of all to the stubborn horse and then the strange feelings that Yousef brings out in him. It’s all rather cleverly done, the narrative taken from a much older and wiser Nathan looking back fondly at the first time he fell in love. I really liked the youthful arrogance of Nathan and how that is slowly transformed into a young man whose wisdom we see in the older narrator. I’m not a huge fan of horses, but the author manages to bring to life some of the beauty in horses, plus their very distinct personalities and I found that I didn’t mind the section where Nathan describes his love of horses.

Another part which worked for me is that this is a story of growing sexual awareness in the narrator. There were pleasing touches in his feelings for Yousef which burn hot and strong, like all young men. Despite knowing that the story was not going to end well, the way things work out was a still a shock. it comes during the time of a huge climactic action scene where our emotions are switched suddenly, just as that of Nathan in the story. It was powerful and affecting.

Overall, I really enjoyed this story. There’s a lyricism in the writing which pleased me greatly, as well as a sympathetic hero in Nathan. I was left wondering whether he ever did find love again and that thought really did leave a bitter-sweet taste in my mind.

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 Title: Orlando 1: Stupid Cupid
Author: Barry Lowe
Length: 10,055 words  (60 pdf pages)
Publisher: loveyoudivine
Genre:  m/m  m/m/m erotica paranormal
Rating: C

Blurb:

Although Orlando is the youngest and newest of Cupid’s helpers, he’s a natural when it comes to pairing and tripling up gay lovers although he sometimes does tend to get a little too involved – physically – in the task at hand. As punishment for one misdemeanour too far, he’s assigned a hopeless case that has defeated even the most seasoned of helpers. Jesse is an unapologetic slut who doesn’t understand his best friends’ preoccupation with ‘love’ until the day he catches Orlando sniffing his underpants at the Laundromat.

Review:

Orlando is a rather irreverent employee in the cupid brigade, and he’s once again called on the carpet for pushing the envelope on cupid activities. As punishment, he is given a hard case in which no one has been able to succeed. He has two weeks to find true love for self-proclaimed slut Jesse, who has no desire to be paired off and is rather annoyed all his friends have done so.

A bit to Orlando’s surprise, Jesse can see him at the laundromat where Jesse is preparing for a big night out. There is an underwear rave (such things exist?) and he invites Orlando to go with him. When they get to the party, Jesse’s best friend Todd decides he wants Orlando. Orlando allows for the start of three-way sex by the bar, then uses his powers to slide out, leaving Jesse and his friend to get on with it. Both men are angry and freaked out when they realize what happened, and Orlando leaves them to work it out now that he’s set the wheels in motion.

However his boss is not happy, and Orlando quits, sort of, and decides he wants to know what sex and love are all about, as cupids are not allowed such earthly pursuits. He sets up a three-way with Jesse and Todd to further the bond between them. Oh yeah, and he gets to try sex too which blows his mind. The primary character in this story is Orlando. Sure he’s helping Jesse and Todd get together, but it’s really about the beginning of Orlando’s experiences with the human emotions that he works to inspire.

It’s more erotic than romantic. There is still not much of a romantic connection between the friends as Orlando uses his cupid powers to convince them to have the threesome. And the language is more of the raw stroke-material variety. Also, Jesse doesn’t seem very likable, he’ll sleep with his friends’ boyfriends without a blink, and he and Todd’s delight in doing as many guys as humanly possible in a night, but yet you know that lurking underneath there just MIGHT be something more that both men are looking for.

I’m curious whether book two will continue with the Jesse and Todd storyline, or if Orlando will go off in another direction on his own, searching for his own love and romance with some hot sex along the way. Orlando is an irreverent hero, who doesn’t care for authority and rules, but is likable and does get the job done, so it makes for a fun if light and fluffy erotic read.

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Title: Impromptu
Author: Carole Cummings
Length: 32 pages
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: m/m historical
Rating: C+

Blurb:
Ailin knew there was something wrong with Garreth the moment his lover arrived with a storm trailing behind him. The man who’d just walked through the front door wasn’t his normally bright and brash Garreth, as if he’d been ensorcelled into someone darker and maybe even a little dangerous. But while Ailin finds the difference disconcerting, he’s also finding it surprisingly, shockingly erotic.

Review:
On the whole I rather liked this story but there were a couple of things which bothered me slightly. The story begins when Ailin is disturbed from his bath by a banging on the door. In sweeps his lover in an unusually foul temper which sparks an encounter between them which treads the border between rough and heavily erotic.

The parts which worked for me centred mainly around Ailin and his reactions to his lover. The story drops us into an established couple and through Ailin we get to see his concern, surprise, desire and love for Garreth. This was shown to us, not just through Ailin’s thoughts but his actions, such as when he attempts to soothe Garreth when he first comes through the door. The sexual encounter between them takes up most of the book, and whilst some of it was a little rough and made me wince a little, I was caught up with the excitement that Ailin feels.

What didn’t work so well was that the book is awfully wordy. I know that might seem a little strange, given that the whole book is made up of words, but the action and dialogue was often broken up by lengthy paragraphs of Ailin’s thoughts which slowed the beginning of the book especially and was a little frustrating for me as a reader. Secondly, the story read a little like a scene from the middle of a book rather than a complete piece. Past history and future events are mentioned with little or no explanation, relationships with family are brought into the book but never explored. It all seemed a little odd and I wanted to read the full story, see why Garreth is so angry and to understand the past history of the heroes and their lives.

So whilst I really liked the character of Ailin and thought the emotional content was vividly realised, I wanted so much more than the story gave me as a reader. Having said that, this author has certainly intrigued me enough that I will look for future stories from her.

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