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Archive for November, 2011

Title: With a Little Help from My Friends
Author: JP Bowie
Length: 19,000 words (56 pdf pages)
Publisher: Total-e-Bound
Genre: m/m contemporary
Rating: B-

Blurb:

Drew’s friend Wendy means well, but her attempts to set him up with a new man is driving him crazy—then he meets Cameron—who drives him crazy in a very different way.

When Drew Weston’s six year relationship falls apart, his best friend Wendy is determined to find him a new love. It looks like she’s not going to succeed, until she introduces him to Cameron Murdoch, who is everything Drew admires in a man—both in looks and personality. There’s just one problem. Cameron has never been with a man before.

Drew is only too eager to ‘show him the ropes’ but in doing so finds himself falling in love with the handsome, charming man. The realisation saddens him, convinced that now Cameron is ‘out’ he will be a magnet for every red blooded gay male in the vicinity, and Drew will merely be the first in a long line of lovers.

Or will he?

Review:

This short story played on a couple of themes that both make me crazy and appeal to me. Drew has not been apart from his ex for long but his friends parade an endless stream of losers through his life, intent on getting him coupled up again. This is the theme that makes me crazy. What perhaps makes me crazier is characters who let it happen and don’t put a stop to it if they really dislike it. They seem to think if they confront their friends they’ll hurt their feelings, but if they are truly your friends you should be able to be honest with them, and what kind of friends think you are nothing without a man, or know you so little that they hook you up with people who are completely incompatible with? Rant over. So I found Drew’s friend Wendy extremely off-putting with her pushy ways.

On the other hand, the experience of someone newly out and exploring life as a gay man appeals to me, and thankfully Drew and Cameron away from Wendy were a great couple. Drew was willing to ease Cameron in slowly to gay sex and didn’t push for more, although his insistence that Cameron would eventually want to play the field got a bit tiring. On the other hand I loved how he stood up to Cameron’s ex/best friend when she essentially tried to push them apart. He wasn’t mean about it, but he gently put her in her place without causing hard feelings. If only he’d done that with Wendy. 🙂

I also have to say that I was rather pleased with the ending, where everything did not work out for Cameron with his family. I know we all like to see a happy ever after for characters in romance and we want their life to be perfect, and it’s nice to have parents or other negative characters “see the light” but I think it’s a bit of a rosy view of life. Many families don’t come around, many friends do vanish forever and while it’s not as uplifting to see that happen, I think it’s more realistic. So I appreciated that the author didn’t try to wrap everything up in a rainbow ribbon for the couple.

So on the whole the set-up is not one I enjoy with friends who seem to think you are nothing without a significant other in your life, thankfully once he met Cameron, that activity fell by the wayside and you could focus on the two men. I enjoyed that part of the story a great deal and think it is definitely worth a read.

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Title: Bearing Witness
Author: Lee Benoit
Length: 6,300 words
Publisher: Torquere Press
Genre: m/m contemporary BDSM
Rating: B

Blurb:
Even though he’s learned a lot during his time with Preston, Paulo’s still a novice sub. After attending a ceremony dissolving a Dom’s relationship with his sub, Paulo develops a fear that his and Preston’s relationship might have an expiration date. Preston is hard pressed to reassure his boy. Advice comes from family and friends, but in the end Preston will need to come up with something special to reassure his lover of his place in Preston’s life. His permanent place.

Originally published in Toy Box: Guiche

Review:
Bearing Witness is another of the occasional stories about Paulo and Preston, that crop up from time to time at TQ. I haven’t read them all, but have found them to be fairly easy to dip in and out of, mainly because the focus always just seems to be on the main couple, with only the occasional other character. Whilst there’s a sort of story arc within the story series, it’s not so important that you can’t read them as stand-alones.

One of the things I like most about these stories, and this one is a good example of this, is that, even though the books have a D/s theme, it’s more about the personalities of Paulo and Preston, than about the D/s lifestyle. This story follows the two men at a crisis point brought on by seeing the end of a ‘contract’ between a Dom and his sub. This upsets Paulo at how casually and easily a relationship can be over and worries it is the same for Preston and his relationship. Of course it isn’t and it’s Preston’s job to reassure Paulo. Unfortunately, Preston makes a bit of a hash of this and it takes a show of love and commitment to bring their relationship back on tracks.

Another thing I like about these stories is that the men do not fall into that cliche of Dom and sub. Preston is definitely not a smug Dom as he makes mistakes and is often quite needy himself. Paulo suffers from insecurities but also doesn’t just follow Preston blindly, unlike many subby characters. Despite this, and their age gap, they work as a couple, and these stories always leave me with a smile on my face. One scene in particular was very romantic and quite unlike the sort of scene you get in a D/s book.

If you’re a fan of the Paulo/Preston books then this one should definitely appeal. However, this would also be a good place to try out this unusual and engaging pair of heroes, if you fancy giving them a try. I enjoyed Bearing Witness and would recommend it.

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Title: The Question
Author: Sean Michael
Length: 3,500 words
Publisher: Torquere Press
Genre: m/m contemporary BDSM
Rating: B

Blurb:
Sky and Will have been best friends for a long time and every Saturday they get together to watch the game. Sky has a question, though, which just might change their standing Saturday plans, and their relationship, forever. Will Sky have the guts to ask it?

Review
This nice little short by Sean Michael hit a few ‘like’ buttons for me. It tells of best buddies, Sky and Will, who meet up each week to watch the football. Will is a Dom and Sky plucks up the courage to ask him a question which changes the whole dynamic of their friendship.

What worked for me in this story was the great way that the sexual dynamics change in the book. It begins with two men who are obviously good mates. The banter between them was fun and realistic, and I really liked the way the casual insults added to a sense of two men who get on well and are comfortable with each other. Sky’s question changes things quickly, but that worked for me because you get the impression that things have been simmering under the surface for a long time now.

This wouldn’t be a Sean Michael story without a decent amount of sex. However, I liked that the focus of the short wasn’t wholly on sex, but also about healing past hurts and making up for mistakes. I don’t want to go into too much detail as that would spoil the story, but the author manages to show how much Will especially regrets the past, giving us glimpses into why that is, without taking away from his relief and happiness that he can now set things right. It was cleverly done.

Overall, I liked this short which manages to cram in quite a lot of background on the characters along with the hot sex and a touch of fairly tame BDSM. This will be a good quickie for those looking for something a bit hot and romantic to fill a gap.

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Title: The Cabin
Author: Jonathan Welford
Length: 7,458 words (39 pdf pages)
Publisher:
Silver Publishing
Genre: m/m contemporary paranormal
Rating: C

Blurb:

Hank and Bill are looking to buy their first home together, a weekend cabin in the mountains. They enlist the help of their realtor, Mitch, but they’re in for a surprise in what he shows them.

Mitch looks at this couple with interest and relives fond moments of his own relationship. It is only when he thinks that they are the appropriate people does he show them their perfect cabin, but it’s not all it seems.

Review:

This story is told from a couple of perspectives, from that of the couple Hank and Bill who are seeking their first vacation home together. Bill is somewhat older than Hank and after coming out of a rather messy long-term relationship he was hesitant to tie them together financially, but he finally feels they are ready and have been in touch with real estate agent Mitch who will show them a few places. It’s also told from Mitch’s perspective. He’s an older gay man whose partner died of AIDS many years ago, and he seems much of himself and his lover in the young couple he’s with.

His first stop is a rather typical American suburb where the men are not overly impressed to see the standard look-alike houses. Hank wants a “cabin”, not just another house. Mitch starts to reassess the young couple, maybe they aren’t like all the other gay men coming to check out vacation home, maybe Bill is not trying to impress his younger lover by buying him a house, they could be the real deal. He then takes them to another house out it in the country and Hank falls in love. It’s what all of us would imagine a vacation cottage is supposed to be, however as they are looking around Mitch seems to vanish. When they return to town to figure out what the heck happened, they discover the agency has no agent named Mitch and the house they looked at has been empty for so long because something always goes wrong, people get injured while visiting, mortgage approvals fall through, rather a bad-luck piece of property. Hmmm.

I found Mitch’s reminiscences about his own life with his lover very touching. You can feel that he still feels the loss many years later and while he moved on with his life and wasn’t wallowing really, he never found that kind of love again and seeing Bill and Mitch who remind him so much of his younger self was rather bittersweet. I found the writing a little choppy perhaps at the beginning, but once it got flowing it smoothed out and I got more invested in the story. I didn’t really connect as much with Bill and Hank for some reason, maybe because the focus for me seemed to be more on Mitch and his past. I did enjoy the paranormal twist though and if you are interested in stories that are a bit less typical, not boy meets boy falls in love, it is a good choice.

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Title: Poisoned Spirits
Author: Missouri Dalton
Length: 6,900 words (27 pdf pages)
Publisher: Torquere Press
Genre: m/m paranormal historical
Rating: B

Blurb:

Chicago Special Police Officer Ian Mulhaney has never been stood-up before, so when Billy doesn’t show up to the speakeasy, he’s not a happy camper. But anger quickly shifts to worry, and Ian soon discovers Billy is gravely ill, poisoned by magically tainted whiskey. Ian’s used to the paranormal, but witches might just be more than he can handle.

Review:

This short story has a quite unusual setting. It is set in Chicago in the era of prohibition, the time of Bugsy Malone and the St. Valentine’s Day massacre, but with a paranormal twist. The existence of witches, demons, pixes, etc. seem to be fairly common knowledge, although they keep a low profile, and our lead character Ian works for the special police force that monitors these creatures. As well, being gay seems to be fairly well accepted, or as well as it is perhaps today, given that Ian is separated from his family due to having a boyfriend, Billy. Ian also has  his own paranormal abilities.

A large part of the story is Ian’s attempts, with his partner and the help of a witch who works for their department, to find the coven who is poisoning “legal” whiskey and thus save Billy’s life. He does manage to find the information he needs, but at a price. The fairy king helps him, but in exchange for Billy’s life, Ian must work for the fairy king after 25 years.

I got a sense from this of some of the old movies that had the hard-boiled detective. This is set in a time when cops went around beating people up and getting in fights and no one though twice, but Ian has a bit of that devil-may-care attitude. He makes the odd slightly snarky comment about the people around him, and there are moments of humour tossed in with the seriousness of chasing down the witches responsible. It also forced Ian to look more closely at his relationship with Billy which has been up until this point kind of a on-off not so serious affair, but the though of losing Billy makes him rethink and decide to man-up and tell Billy.

So it’s a bit nontraditional in the romance department, as for a large part of the story Billy is semi-comatose and dying, but when they finally reunite it was sweet and a bit sad because you know Ian only has 25 years. I would be curious to see what happens in 25 years, when it is time for Ian to leave Billy or when he has to explain what he did in order to save him. I think there is potential for more of these men in a rather intriguing world. I would definitely keep an eye out for more stories set in this world as it rather appealed to me.

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Title: Lover’s Cross
Author: J. M. Snyder
Length: 25 pages, 8300 words.
Publisher: JMS Books
Genre: M/M, contemporary, paranormal
Rating: B+

Blurb: After a bad car accident, Jory’s lover Peter assures him he’s doing fine. But when Jory attends a get-well party at the house of a coworker, he’s surprised when no one asks him how Peter is doing. More disconcerting, Peter’s gold cross necklace is missing, and Jory suffers from headaches whenever his best friend Bruce brings up the accident. Where is the cross? And why does Bruce keep asking Jory to remember what happened to his lover?

Review: This was an entertaining and slightly spooky story, illustrating the enduring power of love.

The blurb already alerts us as to what’s coming, so I hope this review doesn’t give any spoilers! Jory has been in a terrible accident with his lover Peter, and the reader joins in as Jory’s recovering. He’s supported by a great group of friends, but they’re only paying attention to Jory, not mentioning Peter.  And when Jory tries to bring Peter into the conversation, or to think about where Peter is, or what he and Jory are doing now, Jory gets a terrible headache. It’s obvious from early on, that Jory and his friends are not seeing the world in the same way. His lover’s name floats through his mind as if looking for something to attach itself to, but Jory presses his palm to his forehead, pushing the thought away. Maybe he isn’t as ready for this as he thought he was—the camaraderie, the concern written on his coworkers’ faces.

The story is built around an evening with Jory’s friends, but also shows us a flashback of how Jory and Peter met. They’re both charming men, with an immediate attraction and deepening love, with no pretension between them. This is also interspersed with flashbacks to the accident and the bitterly cold, snowy night when the car crashed, trapping them both. The author uses description very well, creating these scenes very vividly, engaging all the senses. He needs to get out of this belt and he can’t move, he can’t breathe, he can’t do anything and it hurts, everywhere it hurts and tears sting his eyes and freeze on his cheeks and he’s screaming now. There’s far more of romance than sex in the story, but this is very powerful emotionally. The shock and suspense is built-up slowly, fascinating the reader.

Jory’s friend Bruce is obviously trying to protect him until finally he pushes Jory instead, trying to make him face reality. Bruce hurts for Jory, but needs him to see sense. However, Jory sees his own sense. We can hear the increasing unease in his thoughts, empathise with his denial, yet his love for Peter sustains him through it all. The title refers to Peter’s gold cross, a physical talisman of their love, of their connection. Jory’s a charming character who invites our sympathy for what he’s been through, and his friends are well described, especially Bruce, even if they’re only there as support for Jory’s story.

In my opinion, the author is a master of present tense narration, and it works superbly here, building the suspense as we live the scenes through Jory. We can easily feel the poignancy of their love, and as far as Jory is concerned, Peter is his lover and always will be, he helped Jory survive the crash, and will continue to help him. Who’s to say Jory’s sense isn’t right, if it works for him? I enjoyed the story a lot and rate it B+.

by pettyprose…my opinion alone.

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Riptide Winners!

Thank you to all of you who have left comments on the recent guest posts as part of the Riptide Grand Opening Blog tour.  It’s time to announce some winners!

Tiffany M wins a copy of any book from Rachel Hiamowitz’s backlist except Crescendo or Masterclass

Sarah M wins a copy of any book Brom Brita Addams’ backlist.

Lucia wins a Storm Grant Sucks and Blows swag bag

Maria wins a copy of a book from either Rachel Haimowitz, Aleksandr Voinov, LA Witt, Brita Addams or Cat Grant’s back list, excluding the Riptide releases.

Sarahs wins a copy of any of Aleksandr Voinov’s backlist, except the Dark Soul books and Counterpunch.

Tracey D wins a copy of either Infected: Prey or Making Contact by Andrea Speed.

Joder wins a choice of Pull, At Day’s End, Beneath Me, Rite of Passage, Behind Blue Eyes, Tough Guy, Best Unspoken, Coin Operated Boy, Trey #3, The Secret Ingredient, or the Zagzagel Diaries by Bryl Tyne.

I have all the email addresses from the above people except for Tiffany M, so if you could contact me please Tiffany at briefencountersreviews AT gmail DOT com, that would be great. I have passed all the winners onto the lovely Chris from Riptide and you’ll be hearing from her soon.

Congratulations to the winners!

Ah, but there’s more! Even if you didn’t win today, there’s still a chance that you’ll win in the prize draw at Riptide publishing. See here for more details of that, and good luck!

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The lovely Eden Winters has offered to give a copy of her upcoming Torquere Press release, A Lie I Can Live With, which is the third installment in The Match Before Christmas series, to a lucky commenter here at Brief Encounters Reviews. Please leave a comment before 11 PM GMT on Saturday 3rd December and a winner will be announced on the 4th December. Good luck everyone and thanks again Eden for thinking of our readers.

 

Here’s the blurb:

With a few extra pounds and a geek reputation, Otis Tucker despairs of ever finding someone to share his life with. When the GLBT dating service GetaDate.com matches him with handsome hunk Garret, he thinks it’s some kind of joke. But the more he learns of Garret, the more he realizes that even gorgeous people can be taken at face value and that Mr. Perfects come in many different sizes.

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Title: Moving Forward
Author: Lisa Marie Davis
Length: 16,450 words (56 pdf pages)
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: m/m contemporary
Rating: C-

Blurb:

Sequel to Dreams Come True

Three years after making their dreams come true, James and Payne are happily committed and living in New York. But just as they’re about to embark on a special weekend, their world turns upside down when Jamie’s mother calls to say that his sister and her husband have been killed in a horrific accident.

Helping Jamie’s mother with funeral plans and adjusting to the reality that they are now the legal guardians of Jamie’s three-month-old niece would be hard enough, but Payne and Jamie must also deal with Jamie’s alcoholic father, Russ. If Payne and Jamie want to move forward as a family, they’ll have to learn to deal with old pain, fresh grief, and new responsibilities.

Review:

This is the sequel to Dreams Come True which we reviewed here. Three years have passed, Jamie and Payne are living happily in their new lives and Jamie’s sister has had a baby. They are notified that she is killed in a car crash along with her husband, leaving Jamie and Payne as guardians of the baby along with dealing with the stress and pain of their deaths.

This book definitely falls into high melodrama mode. Everyone is devastated by the death of the couple, which I can understand, but the book focuses on the absolute grief of the family, how they can’t seem to function, or the dysfunction in their family, as since Jamie’s father’s rejection of him and Payne, he seems to have turned to alcohol, has moved out of the family home and doesn’t even show up to deal with the funeral arrangements, leaving Payne to save the day by confronting the man and making him see reason.

There is little development of the romantic relationship here. They are living happily ever after and there is no doubt that will continue, granted, with the added stress of an instant baby, but it never a bone of contention for the couple. The main conflict revolves around the family crumbling under the weight of their grief and perhaps the healing that begins thanks to Payne. Many may find the continual depiction of grief rather overwhelming and look for the story to move forward beyond that, it felt a bit one-note for me and never really moved anything forward, except perhaps the relationship between Jamie and his father somewhat.

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Title: From Ashes to Flame
Author: Allison Cassatta
Length: (25 pdf pages)
Publisher: XOXO Publishing
Genre: m/m paranormal
Rating: B+

Blurb:

Archer thought he’d have the fairytale life with the man of his dreams, until those dreams were torn from him by hateful words and a heart that didn’t have the will to go on beating. He lost the man he loved, the man he’d been ready to make life’s biggest commitment to, and Archer was left a broken, empty shell….

Until Phoenix came along and saved him.

Life started looking up for Archer. An angel had pulled him from the abyss and renewed his world, gave him hope and a new lease on life. But again, fate was cruel and Heaven’s guard wanted to take his savior away. Only through the cruelest, most rigorous trials could Archer possibly see his angel again. Will they both be strong enough to survive?

Review:

This story could be considered bittersweet, no wait, it’s a HEA, no wait, it’s bittersweet, or wait, there’s a HEA. It’s a rollercoaster is what it is, that required tissues. The story begins with heartbroken Archer. He has been unable to recover from the suicide of his lover of ten years. It’s worse that he died only days after asking Archer to marry him and coming out to his family. However in the park one day, Archer is approached by a gorgeous man who seems to know too much about him and finally confesses he’s an angel, sent by Archer’s lover to help him get over his grief.

This first part required tissues on my part. Archer’s absolute pain at the grief he felt and the anger at both his dead lover for leaving him and his lover’s family for driving him to suicide just flowed off the page. However he’s been managing to keep it all inside for months and Phoenix just cracks open that reserve and the emotions rage. However, it seems to be what he need. He and Phoenix connect and start to create a life together, and Archer comes back to life. See, happy ever after.

Oh wait, Phoenix is an angel and his bosses consider his job done, Archer’s not depressed any more so they pull him back, leaving Phoenix vowing to return to Archer. Okay, the next part of the book was when I got annoyed. Not with the book per se or the author, with the “heavenly host” for lack of a better term, as there were a few of them. If that’s who’s running heaven, I’m pushing the down button when the time comes, because they HAVE to be more hospitable down below. Phoenix is then tortured and if he lives he gets to go to earth, if he dies, too bad. Because of his connection with Archer, Archer gets to experience it all along with Phoenix.

I didn’t quite get the logic of the angel bosses. The guy was depressed, so you send an angel to perk him up and make him happy, you remove the angel, then the guy gets depressed again (my heart broke for poor Asher when Phoenix had to leave), so what, you sent another angel to fall in love and make him happy, then pull them out so he gets depressed again … I could see a vicious circle set-up here that kind of confused and annoyed me. And Phoenix’s punishment is pretty graphic and horrific, but yes, they do get their HEA finally at the end.

So I was rather torn, between saying I didn’t like this because it was sad and the angels were mean, but … I have found myself lying in bed thinking about it more than once since I read it, so I think that says that somehow, despite perhaps a subject matter that I might not have gravitated to, the author managed to get the characters and the story under my skin, and that’s no mean feat when often stories come and go through my brain and never linger for more than the time it takes me to read it. So when you are looking for something that will be a bit heavier, but want something with quality writing and the emotion that will leave an impact, it’s the one to choose. And have a tissue handy.

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