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Archive for September, 2011

Title: Coming Out Wolf
Author: Julia Talbot
Length: 3,100 words (13 pdf pages)
Publisher: Torquere Press
Genre: m/m contemporary paranormal (shifters)
Rating: B

Blurb:

The worst thing in the world isn’t being gay. Not even close. It’s not even being a werewolf. The worst thing in the world is being in love with your roommate and having that love be unrequited. No matter what Steve does, Rick just isn’t responding. Will he give up too soon on making Rick his mate?

Review:

This cute little friends-to-lovers shifter short had me smiling several times. Rick and Steve have been roommates for several years and while Rick has been a werewolf since birth, Steve was turned about three years ago. He’s basically done nothing but complain about it since, however finally came out of the closet, being tired of lying about everything in his life. However no amount of subtle, or not so subtle, hints seem to have Rick clueing in that Steve has trying to get his attention. Finally he takes Rick up on an offer to hit some werewolf bars and Rick finally realizes what is happening. Rick then lets Steve know who the alpha in their little pack of two is.

Rick was such a typical guy. He plays video games, he drinks beer, he watches porn he doesn’t get the whole subtle hints and vague impressions thing. And he can’t be bothered really figuring it out either. Steve is the opposite, he’s stylish, a little more swish and probably thinks too much and should have just sat Rick down and said “let’s have sex”, but of course, boys will be boys.

There’s not a lot to this, just two guys figuring out, or admitting, their attraction to each other, but I found they were just opposites enough to be amusing in their interactions and it was clear they’d been roommates and friends for a long time and felt comfortable with each other in a way that two strangers meeting never could be. It’s a good choice when you are in the mood for a sexy light read with some subtle humour that will give you a smile or a smirk, an excellent inclusion in the charity campaign.

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Title: The Regent’s Capture
Author: Rebecca Leigh
Length: 30 pages
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: m/m paranormal
Rating: C

Blurb:
Raden’s heard all the tales about the vampire known as the Regent. As infamous for his power as for his irresistible good looks, the Regent doesn’t care about Vampire Law—he makes his own law. No one dares defy him. He does what he wants, when he wants, and what he wants now is Raden. Captured and dragged to the older vampire’s underground lair, Raden is about to discover the truth behind the tales… and what the tales don’t tell.

Review:
This story begins in a very atmospheric fashion. Raden is a vampire who has been captured by the henchmen of the mysterious Regent, an ancient vampire known for his cruelty. As he draws closer to the Regent’s lair he reflects on the circumstances leading up to his capture and fears that he faces a certain death.

For me the best part of the story was that opening scene as we see Raden trudging wearily towards the Regent’s lair, speculating on his fate whilst recalling his intimate and sensual first meeting with the man. The author puts you right into the heart of the situation and I sympathised with Raden and his predicament.

This next part is a bit spoilerish…

As the story progresses, my enjoyment of it waned. As we reach the Regent’s lair it turns out that he’s not the badass killer vamp that rumour makes him out to be. I couldn’t understand why Raden had to be treated so badly on the way to his lair if the Regent didn’t want to hurt him. The Regent claims that he did it to preserve his reputation – but from whom? We are not told whether there were witnesses to Raden’s capture and since only Raden and the guards know where he is going why does it matter if he’s treated badly or not? I was a little confused.  After this, the Regent claims that

“THE night we spent together haunts me. It was the most passionate I have experienced in a millennia.”

The hyperbole was jarring, after all a millennia is an awful long time. Then the story turns into a BDSM sex scene and we are told that this is something Raden has always wanted, even though he didn’t say anything about that earlier in the story. Finally the story ends with them promising to be together forever, despite not knowing each other for more than two nights of sex. In other words the last part of the book pushed a lot of my dislike buttons.

Overall, this was a story with a lot of promise that failed to engage me by the end. Some of the things which annoyed me may not prove a problem for other readers. In which case this book may appeal, especially since my problems were with the plot and not with the writing.

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Title: Acting Out
Author: Mia Watts
Length: 20,000 words
Publisher: Amber Allure
Genre: m/m contemporary
Rating: B-

Blurb:
Cree Radek is one of Hollywood’s hottest stars. He’s an unapproachable alpha wrapped in black leather and spikes, with ice blue eyes lined in black. And to most fans and those who know him well, he’s hard to read, and all sex.

Evan Walker works for Cree as his assistant. Long hours and living arrangements, however, make it impossible to keep things professional. So when things get steamy, Evan is an easy target. But for Cree, Evan is a lot more than a one-night stand.

When family business takes Evan away in the middle of filming, Cree wants him back. But will Evan ever believe that a celebrity can be faithful?

Review:
This story looks at the themes of lies and misjudgements but in a fairly gentle way. It follows Evan who is the PA to a famous actor, Cree. Cree’s rather demanding to work for but Evan gets on quite well with him, even if it is rather exhausting, because Evan is very good at his job. Both men fancy each other but are holding back for their own reasons: Cree because he’s worried about the ethics of seducing his PA, and Evan because he’s only staying in that job until he can track down his absent father and make him pay Evan’s mother for the years of no child support.

One of the things I liked about this story was the way that the character of Cree was portrayed. He’s almost the opposite of the usual feckless celebrities in that he’s dedicated to his job. He socialises when necessary, takes part in promo, learns his lines and is generally hard-working. The misjudgement with Evan is that he can’t see that in Cree, choosing a rather blinkered view of him because Evan knows that he can’t commit to Cree. I felt rather sorry for Cree and felt his frustration and hurt over being so unfairly judged. This made Evan a little unsympathetic, although I understood his motivations for wanting to keep his distance. He’s on this crusade and whilst it was all very laudable, it shouldn’t have been the barrier that it was to the relationship.  Having said that, I felt that by the end of the story Evan had grown enough that I had warmed to him as a character, and was happy for their HEA.

Another part I liked about the story was the writing in general, especially the flashes of humour that lifted the story from being too angst ridden. Cree’s playful attempts to get his own way, the fierce make-up lady and Evan’s hapless replacement towards the end of the story all helped to bring a smile to my face. The story was fairly swiftly paced too, focusing on a good mix of action and dialogue making it very much a character based romance but not static so it wasn’t at all dull.

Overall, if you’re looking for a nicely written story which plays a little with conventional characters, you couldn’t go too wrong with Acting Out.

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Title: The Best Damned Thing
Author: B. A. Tortuga
Length: 12 pages, 3200 words.
Publisher: Torquere Press
Genre: M/M, contemporary, erotica
Rating: B

Blurb: Jim sure doesn’t want to get into the middle of it when the guys on his construction crew start messing with Collin, the new, and queer, guy in town. He will if he has to, though, because he doesn’t believe in letting anyone call a man out for being gay. Foreman Walker doesn’t like the idea any more than Jim does, but he’s perfectly happy to let Jim get in the middle with him and Collin…

Review: This short is a slice of life, full of verve, with lively characters and plenty of m/m/m sex :).

It takes place in Jim’s point of view, though we don’t learn much about him except that he’s discreetly gay, he has little tolerance for his workmates’ casual homophobia, and that he’s alert to any other gay men in the town. The story opens with him and two colleagues, Dale and Cooter, eyeing up Collin, who’s returned to town after some time away. Collin, the man, is very obviously gay – we don’t hear how or why, except that he was into “weird art shit” at school, according to Dale.  Jim is angry at his workmates’ aggressive bigotry, though he doesn’t leap to challenge them at first. However, we get the feeling that he would if pushed to it – it’s not a matter of his principles, just that he doesn’t seek out conflict for the sake of it. He twisted his lips. He’d fight if he had to. He didn’t back down from assholes like Dale.

The dialogue is crude, with a lot of swearing. Fuck. Jim stared at Walker’s hand, his heart starting a hard, steady thud. That was so fucking hot he could hardly stand it. But for me, that suits the style of the piece: it’s narrated in both the thoughts and the words of Jim and his workmates. The dialogue is also witty and sharp and blunt. It fits the fierce, cheeky sexuality of the story.

Jim and Dale nearly come to blows, but then they’re interrupted by Walker, the foreman, who takes very firm control of the situation. And, it turns out, of Jim himself 🙂 . The rest of the story is basically a sex scene. Poor Jim is pretty bemused at first, but he goes along with it all. This was like… well, he couldn’t figure out anything that could be this good except this, so Jim went with it. Everything else would compare to this now and come up lacking. The sex is well written and not confusing like m/m/m can often be. The author makes sure we share Jim’s delight and excitement as he joins in with Walker and Collin.

I liked the brash style and the frankness of the men. The sex was hot, and the author made me believe in the fun that a threesome can have. It had a great ending line! It’s by no means a romance, and there’s very little we learn about the men and their lives beyond this one occasion. But I’d recommend it for a well-written, hot scene, and – a bit like Jim! – I’m very happy to have stumbled in on it. I rate it a good B.


by pettyprose…my opinion alone.

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Title: New Tricks
Author: Kate Sherwood
Length: 7,500 words (31 pdf pages)
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: m/m contemporary
Rating: B-

Blurb:

Quinn Donahue’s put in a long, hard day at his lover Aaron Miller’s family horse farm, and he’s looking forward to a hot bath and a good night’s sleep. But that’s before he finds Aaron waiting for him in their dark apartment, apparently in the mood to play a game. Aaron was a virgin when he’d hooked up with Quinn, while Quinn was the furthest thing from innocent. So if Aaron wants to experiment a little, then Quinn feels privileged to play along.

Review:

This is a sequel to Shying Away, which I confess I have not read. However based on the blurb for that book and the back story revealed in their short sequel, it seems that Aaron was a virgin who pursued Quinn. One of the ongoing themes is Quinn’s thoughts that Aaron couldn’t possibly really love him because it being his first love, his first lover.

In this short, Quinn comes home after a rough day working hoping for some food, a hot shower and maybe a little fun. However Aaron has something else in mind and aware that Aaron has little sexual experience, Quinn is always happy to play along with anything that Aaron wants to try. Tonight Aaron has decided that he’ll be the one in control and Quinn will do as he’s told, and keep quiet about it, especially when Aaron sets about convincing Quinn that he does love him and it’s not just infatuation or puppy love.

This is essentially a long extended sex scene between the two men, and it is hot with a delicious sense of anticipation on Quinn’s part as he’s blindfolded and is unsure of what Aaron is getting up to. However there are also some humourous moments  that break it up and keep it from being thirty pages of one note intensity. Aaron’s playfulness comes through and when he tells him to sit, and stay, Quinn responds with:

“Okay, we’re not pretending that I’m a dog. I’m safewording all over that one.”

However when push comes to shove, he would do puppy play if Aaron wanted. Fans of the first book will enjoy this little taste of Aaron and Quinn down the road, and will appreciate seeing Quinn accept what Aaron is offering him. It has made me curious about the first book, and I will probably pick it up when I get a chance as I imagine the dynamic in that first book was intriguing with two very different men.

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Title: Tryst, an Apples and Gin Story
Author: Jenna Jones
Length: 7,900 words
Publisher: Torquere Press
Genre: m/m/m contemporary
Rating: C+

Blurb:
Noah Kingston and Sawyer Shaw from the Apples & Gin series adore their friend David. He’s been a good friend to them for decades, he’s directing one of Sawyer’s videos, he’ll be the best man at their wedding, and they want to make him as happy as they can in return. They’re devoted to each other, but is there room in their relationship for one more?

Review:
In all these collections of short stories, whether here at TQ or at some of the DSP daily dose stories, you always get a story that’s really just aimed at the fans of a particular couple. Your enjoyment of these types of stories therefore depends on either how much you love the couple and long to revisit them, or whether the author does a good enough job of drawing you into the established couple’s story that it doesn’t matter that you’ve not read the source book. Tryst was this type of story. I happen to have read the previous story, Apples and Gin: Wedding Cake, but none of the others in the series. In the case of this book I don’t think it really matters because the focus is more on how the couple, Noah and Sawyer, try to help a friend by allowing him into their bed.

Noah and Sawyer are pretty established as a couple and are planning on getting married. Sawyer is a singer who has written a duet with Noah which is to be released shortly before their wedding in February (I see a Valentine Sip coming up here). The video for the song is being filmed by David, an actor friend of Noah’s who is quite a lonely guy. Noah can see that there’s an attraction between Sawyer and David, but is at first surprised when Sawyer asks him whether they can ask David to share their bed.

The positives of the book are that all the characters are well drawn and interesting. Sawyer and Noah are obviously in love, as it can been seen in all their words and actions. It was nice to see two men so comfortably in love and secure in their feelings for each other that they feel confident enough to bring in another man without it damaging that. David, too, was rounded as a character and I felt sorry for him that he’s a successful actor and yet can’t get that same success with relationships. The sex between the three men was well choreographed and inclusive and I was happy about the way the book ended in terms of the three-way relationship.

What didn’t work so well was that the story felt rather like a set-up both for a wedding story for Noah and Sawyer, as well as a possible off-shoot story for David. Whilst technically there’s nothing wrong with this, the end left me a little flat because very little is resolved or changed for the characters. The story ended up being a nice little slice of life for Noah and Sawyer, plus a solidly written m/m/m sex scene, but nothing that was particularly unusual or memorable.  Fans of the series, and these characters, will really like it, especially as the story is aimed mostly at them.

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Title: Training Cats
Author: PD Singer
Length: 8,000 words
Publisher: Torquere Press
Genre: m/m contemporary
Rating: B+

Blurb:
The gloss is off Brent’s relationship with Tyler; the real man is showing through and his inside does not match the outside. Tyler’s handsome and glamorous, but that’s no longer enough to overcome his selfishness. Brent’s got a better chance of teaching a cat to sit and stay than of convincing Tyler to be thoughtful, and it’s time to stop trying.

No longer distracted by appearances, a newly single Brent is finally ready to notice the considerate, steadfast man who’s been part of the background too long.

Review:
This is the first of this year’s TQ charity sips that I’ve read. It will be interesting to see how the different authors approach the theme of ‘it gets better’ but in the case of this author, the thing that gets better is Brent’s love life. At the beginning of the story we meet him with his live in lover Tyler. They’ve been living together for 5 months and Brent is starting to realise that they may not be very compatible. Brent’s the one making all the thoughtful gestures whilst Tyler takes advantage of this. When things come to a head, Brent is left feeling foolish, but an unexpected friendship shows him that love was just waiting patiently for him.

The fun of this story was seeing the change in Brent. Almost immediately we can see that things aren’t going so well with Tyler and I shared the frustrations that Brent feels about that. He likes Tyler and is still really in that first blush of attraction when your lover’s flaws don’t matter too much. As the story progresses, the shine begins to wear off on their relationship. The point where Brent finally stands up to Tyler was one of those moments which cheered me immensely!

Another part I enjoyed was seeing the contrast between the very selfish Tyler and the thoughtful gestures by Evan. I thought it rather clever that the author was able to convey all Evan’s obvious disdain for Tyler, plus a feeling that Brent could do so much better, through a few shared glances and subtle action. I liked that moment when Brent realises what an idiot he’s been for not noticing what was right under his nose, but it’s a gentle recrimination, sweetened by knowing he’s got a chance of real happiness now. The whole story left me feeling very happy.

Fans of the On Call books will be pleased to see a small cameo by Keith and Dante, although it’s not necessary to have read the On Call books to enjoy this one.

Overall, this was a romantic read with a tiny touch of angst. PD Singer’s wonderful prose lifts the characterisation and the tone has a touch of humour to counterbalance the serious theme of a relationship break up. I highly recommend Training Cats and can only hope that the rest of the Charity sips are as good as this one!

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Can't Be His coverTitle: Can’t Be His
Author: Shawn Lane
Length:  25 pdf pages,  6000 words.
Publisher: Amber Allure
Genre: m/m contemporary
Rating: C

Blurb:
Exterminator Lonnie “Roach” Raines and ice skater Alexi Summerville have been friends and roommates for years, but they’ve never taken their relationship to the next level.

When Alexi’s coach wants him to train for the World Championship in another state, however, Roach is forced to examine his feelings before he loses Alexi, possibly for good…

Review:
A fairly sweet and straightforward romance, yet it failed to grab me. It’s the third story in the author’s His series, but you don’t seem to need to read them in any order and it stands perfectly well on its own.

I chose this one to review because I was interested by the pairing of a rough and ready exterminator and a figure skater, and this was one aspect of the story I found pleasing. Roach’s tattoos, piercings and lifestyle of casual hook-ups in local bars provided a great contrast to the disciplined life of pretty boy Alexi. They share an apartment and have been friends for years, yet as we find out in each of their point of view sections, they’ve always fancied each other but have never been single at the same time… up until now.

So, the set-up was interesting, but the story just wasn’t really long enough to explore it fully. I’d have liked to see more interaction between Roach and Alexi, but for much of the story they’re talking to other people about their feelings for each other. When they were together the story was much more interesting, however, and the brief sex scene at the end was sweet and hot. Don’t be put off or overexcited by the reference to “BDSM (light)” over on the Amber Allure website, though. I’m not convinced a couple of smacks to the backside really count as BDSM, but it was nice to see that the two guys had a compatible kink, at any rate.

Another aspect I’d like to have seen explored more was the very different jobs the two leads had. We get a scene of Alexi talking to his coach, and another of him talking to his mother (his parents were prize-winning figure skaters too), but no scene of him actually skating, which I found rather disappointing. We are also introduced to Roach after he’s been stung by a swarm of wasps while working, but we miss out on the excitement of that episode. I felt like opportunities had been missed, and that the story would have benefitted from a few extra thousand words to round out the characters and their respective worlds a little more fully.

Unfortunately I don’t have much more to offer on this one. There was nothing really wrong with it and the writing is solid, but it didn’t go deep enough into the characters and situation to make it memorable. Still, it’s a pleasant enough way to while away a half hour, should you find the set-up appealing.

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Title:Stablemates
Author: Linda Hines
Length: 16,159 words (55 pdf pages)
Publisher: DreamCraft
Genre: m/m contemporary
Rating: C-

Blurb:

Yates Whitaker is an ambitious accountant who avoids close relationships, choosing to concentrate on his career instead. His brother, Colin, is serving in Afghanistan, and he’s caring for Colin’s horse, Rouge.
When Rouge is injured, Yates rushes to the stable, where Gavin Blalock’s horses are also boarded. Gavin seems familiar, and Yates soon recalls him from school, where Gavin – even then gay and out – defended him from bullies. Rouge had already been treated when Yates arrived. While he recovers, the men ride, have lunch … and admit their powerful mutual attraction, but Yates is stubbornly focused on work. Once again he seems about to let romance fade away – until the phone rings.

Rouge is reacting badly to the antibiotic, and he could easily die. Gavin and Yates stand a painful vigil which compels Yates to face the realities of loss, death – and a man’s need for love.

Review:

While I had some major problems with this book, the plot itself was not one of them. Yates is a workaholic who uses his quest to get ahead in part, as a way to avoid relationships after one gone bad a year ago. When he’s called out to the horse farm where his brother boards his horse, he connects with Gavin who is a bit older than him. They end up spending time together which leads Yates to reassess his life.

For those who like horses, there is a lot of information about the horses, they go riding together and  the descriptions of the farm and the care of the horses is quite extensive, perhaps a bit much for some who don’t really care that much. However where this story fell down for me was in the dialog and even the narrative style. It felt clunky at times and unrealistic.

A few times I felt that I was reading a historical based on the phrasing they used and a few words that are not commonly used threw me out of the story. An example is slickened which I wasn’t even sure was a word until I looked it up on dictionary.com. I’ve never read that before ever, but yes, it’s a word. As well there was a lot of the use of must, wish and shall, that while grammatically correct seemed awkward when used amongst two mid-20’s men who both had worked in construction jobs in the past where crude language is more the norm.

Phrases such as “laugh at me if you must” “I only wish the chance to know you” and after their first time having sex Gavin is afraid he hurt Yates and his reply is “I’ve enjoyed your company and felt pleasure in your touch.” It came across as awkward and not very realistic to me. There were also several places where I felt a contraction would have been more appropriate, “we shall play” vs “we’ll play”.

These issues I found with the story may not bother others and as I said, the plot itself was fine, I particularly liked Gavin who had taken steps to change his life and discover what was important to him and how that pushed Yates to do likewise, but I just found it hard to focus on the story when I found myself wanting to make edits to the phrasing and dialog as I went along.

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Title: The Next Best Day
Author: Kelly Graves
Length: 3,700 words (15 pdf pages)
Publisher: Torquere Press
Genre: m/m contemporary
Rating: B-

Blurb:

It’s Jamie and Rory’s anniversary and Rory had big plans. He ends up working late though and needs to adjust things to fit the night. Jamie’s waiting at home with a hot supper and no wish to go out. Rory resorts to trickery to get Jamie where he wants to go and sets his plan in motion. Will this be the next best day of Rory’s life or will Jamie break his heart?
Review:
The blurb pretty well summarizes this sweet short about an established couple celebrating their anniversary. Rory is a construction worker who had big romantic plans for their anniversary, however mandatory overtime forces them to toss those plans out the window and Jamie takes care of his man, getting him relaxed and preparing them dinner. However Rory must now come up with an alternative way to fulfil his anniversary plans and cajoles Jamie in going to the mall with him for “boot shopping” when he makes his declaration in the exact same place they met at the mall.
I liked both men a great deal and you could tell that Rory absolutely adored the ground that Jamie walked on. The story of how they met was also cute and humourous. Rory is not allowed to go to the mall alone because he’ll shop forever, and Jamie hates the mall with a passion, so convincing Jamie to go to the mall took some work on Rory’s part. The sex between the two was still hot and had that sense of urgency of a relationship that still holds that passion and excitement that hasn’t faded yet.
It’s just a few short hours in the life of this couple, but the ending was very romantic and sweet and never really in doubt despite what the blurb leads you to believe. After all, it’s a romance. 🙂

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