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Archive for March, 2012

Title: Dirty Zero (Dirty Stories) (Zero to Hero #1)
Author: Kyle Adams
Length: 7,007 words
Publisher: Smashwords
Genre: m/m contemporary, BDSM (mild binding)
Rating: A-

Blurb: On the outside Wyatt is shy and geeky
Inside Wyatt’s a bit freaky and likes it kinky.

Brian’s nice, charming, and hot as hell
That stud makes Wyatt’s dick Swell

An invite to a costume party Wyatt can’t refuse
Was there actually a party or is it just a ruse

Wyatt gets a shock when he isn’t allowed to leave
The night is full of surprises that he can’t believe

If he makes it through the night
Things might turn out all right

Review: Please disregard the blurb for this story! It’s a bit ridiculous, and even though the story is too in a totally fun and cute way, the story is cute and wonderful and totally worth more than a crappy blurb like that. Anyway, this is all you need to know:

Wyatt has a total crush on Brian. It’s so bad that not only does he clam up any time Brian is hear him at work but he actually can not say anything. To make matters worse, Brian looks like a model and has everything going for him. He’s smart and sweet. Brian, however disgusts himself. Obsessed with superheroes and the quintessential nerd, he knows that he can never do anything to catch Brian’s eye and he hates himself for it. He’s very surprised then, when Brian stops by his to see him at work to invite him to a superhero costume party!

Is it because we all love to read so much that we love nerd stories? I know that’s probably a big reason for me. That and well, you know, I pretty much AM a nerd. Still, I love the story of the nerdy Cinderfella getting the prince and I like them even better when they’re funny. This story was a really delightful surprise that made me laugh out loud several times, yet was also downright steamy at times!

I think that I loved most was how the cos-play was used in the story. The act of putting on a costume, of assuming an identity is a lifesaver and a gift for someone like Wyatt who is so completely socially awkward. I like seeing the personality changes the two characters go through as they assume those identities, and then how their own private, “real” personalities end up shining through.

I sorta feel like this story is a diamond in the rough. It is definitely unpolished but has so much raw personality. The author announced recently that he’s writing a sequel, so I’ll be very excited to see what come next for these two, but I’d love to see these stories in the hands of a very talented editor. No matter how much I enjoyed this story in particular, I felt like it really could have shined with some more work.

Still, I had to much fun reading this story and I can’t wait to read whatever this author releases next! Definitely recommended.

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Title: Dirty Fornicators (Dirty Shorts)
Author: Kyle Adams
Length: 5,801 words
Publisher: Smashwords
Genre: m/m contemporary erotica
Rating: B

Blurb: One night. Two matches.

Two equally ruthless fighters.

Both will come out victorious.

But only one will end at the top

WARNING:
This book contains situations some readers might find offensive: violence, a little blood, copious swearing, sweaty men fornicating anally, dirty talk, misuse of jockstraps, a bossy bottom, and an even bossier top.

Review: I came across this short (and the other Dirty Zero) quite by accident the other day. First of all, it’s free — so that’s one thing it’s go going for it. Also, fighters? Immediately I pictured a sexy Edward Norton taking down a drenched Brad Pitt. Gay Fight Club!

So, this story is a trifecta of yummy goodness: sexy frustrated men fighting for some release (in one way or another), plus very dirty erotica… plus they’re gay! I knew I’d love it.

Of course, no matter how sexy this was, it is still erotica. In fact, I think it is more like well written porn, which is almost an oxymoron these days. I also appreciate that even though the focus of the story was the sex, the characters still come across as living, breathing men who have at least a little bit of personality. I could see that there could be a much bigger story there if the author had chosen to write it. That gave the story a little more life and still ended up driving the story forward.

I’d love to see what this author could do with a much longer romance story. if so, I’d be the first one in line to read it. So far this is one of two stories that Kyle Adams has published, but I’m looking forward to more.

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Title: Razor’s Cut
Author: Xara X. Xanakas
Length: 5,300 words
Publisher: Less Than Three Press
Genre: m/m contemporary
Rating: B-

Blurb: Playing a show on Valentine’s Day, Razor isn’t looking for anything more than a one night stand when he cruises the crowd during the show. When he hits the alleyway to meet up with a promising pretty boy, what finds him instead leaves Razor badly wanting an encore. Too bad he has no idea who the man was.

Review: With an in-your-face persona, an almost outrageous larger-than-life caricature of the bad boy rocker, Razor is a man who certainly plays to the crowds. Not only the crowds he makes swoon from his x-rated gyrations on stage, but also everyone around him. Once the young fool Reynardo, Razor is older now and uses his assets to work the stage and his relationships, but he’s still a fool.

His sexy bad boy attitude has garnered one thing he enjoys immensely, however — his reputation. Each night, as he croons with his voice to the crowd, he also chooses which lucky man will warm his bed that night (or more likely, alley). After ending a show where his new conquest mysteriously disappeared, Razor is caught from behind in the alley by a strange and mysterious man, blindfolded, and well… teased.

So, has Razor finally taken the sex games with his fans too far? Or does it have something to do with that past man, Reynardo, that he used to be… ?

I love stories about rockers, and while they do often center around a bad boy character like Razor, they don’t always. Yet there is something about a man who makes music that goes hand in hand with a man who has so much swagger and sexual magnetism (though I will say that a few of his “moves” are a bit on the gross side!). Much of it is still an act. I liked that when the mystery man came into the picture, and Razor had to show a bit of vulnerability with not being in control of the situation as he normally is, that it broke down those walls a bit.

The nature of the plot means that we don’t know the identity of Razor’s back alley fumbler (oh, puns, fun!). No matter his real identity he becomes a mirror or soundboard for Razor’s character and for the reader as well. Therefore, we still know very little about the man, but the story’s focus then becomes the ultimate personal journey for Razor. Razor,who once shed loves left and right, is now begging for the chance to see the same man again. Perhaps that focus is what leads to the story ending in a more open-ended way that a typical HEA/HFN. While I enjoyed that to an extent, I still would have preferred to get to know the newly-revealed mystery man and their history

Recommended!

Note: While there are a few acts of mild Kink, there is no BDSM in this story

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Title: Just a Little Note
Author: J. Tomas
Length: 30 pdf pages, 9203 words.
Publisher: JMS Books
Genre: m/m contemporary YA
Rating: B

Blurb:

Bryan Lovett and Jesse Carter met in freshman year. Bryan fell for Jesse immediately, and they became quick friends. They both land roles in an upcoming production of The Who’s Tommy, where Bryan discovers fellow classmate Emily Harris has a crush on Jesse, too.

When she confides to Bryan that Jesse was the first guy she ever kissed, Bryan feels certain he’s been misreading the signals he thought he was getting from Jesse all along. Crushed, Bryan lets Emily talk him into helping her write a love note telling Jesse how she feels. Bryan pours his heart into the note, using his own feelings to describe hers.

When Jesse sees Bryan and Emily together, he suspects romance might be blossoming between them … and worries he’s waited too long and has lost the chance to turn Bryan’s friendship into something more. Then he finds the note from Emily, which only confuses him further.

But when Jesse tells Bryan about the note, he’s surprised to learn his friend knows about it already. Though it’s signed by Emily, who really wrote the note? And, more importantly, did they mean what they said about Jesse?

Review:

As I would expect from J. Tomas (aka JM Snyder), this is an engaging and well-written short story. There are no real surprises in store, however, as you get pretty much the entire plot given there in the blurb.

Just a Little Note is mainly told from the perspective of Bryan, a rather shy and cautious teenager. He’s been in love with his best friend for a while now, but doesn’t dare make a move, despite the occasional hints that Jesse might well be thinking the same way. In Bryan’s eyes, Jesse is godlike, and he finds it impossible to imagine someone so goodlooking and confident being interested in him.

I found the shift to Jesse’s point of view was the most interesting, as we get to see just how wrong Bryan is. We also discover that to Jesse, Bryan talking to Emily about her crush on Jesse, looks an awful lot like Bryan and Emily flirting. Misunderstandings abound, but such is the way of teenagers – particularly when they’re too scared to own up to their true feelings.

The story is set over just two days and entirely on the school campus. J. Tomas evokes the atmosphere of school perfectly, from the mayhem of the rehearsals to the desperate completion of Geometry homework in the canteen over lunch. I particularly enjoyed Zach, who is the quintessential class clown, and I wished he’d had a few more lines. Emily was also a very sweet character, and it’s to the author’s credit that I actually felt rather sorry for her, not getting her man after all. By contrast, though, neither Bryan and Jesse really grabbed me as characters. I liked them both, but couldn’t get particularly enthusiastic over their romance.

I realise that I am probably not the intended audience for a young adult story, and perhaps those who are in the target age bracket will find the two main characters more compelling than I did. Regardless of that, though, it’s a solidly written and sweet story, so I definitely think it deserves a B- grade.

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Title: Love Eternal
Author: Wayne Mansfield
Length: 10,100 words (42 pdf pages)
Publisher: Torquere Press
Genre: m/m paranormal (vampires)
Rating: C-

Blurb:

Evan is a man lost in the modern world. He has a job, a house, and a best friend. He also has a hole in his soul that he hadn’t even realized was there until one night he meets a mysterious stranger, lurking in the shadows of a tree-lined lane where men meet for sex.

There is something striking and a little terrifying about this stranger. Evan’s initial intrigue is soon compounded when he discovers that they have met before. A long time ago. And that they used to be lovers. When the memory is awakened in Evan, his ordinary life is transformed. The hole in his soul is filled. But Evan can’t know how completely his life is about to change once more.

Review:

Fans of vampires and soul mates will likely enjoy this story, but I found it fell a bit flat for me. Evan spends his nights walking the streets, specifically down the lane where gay prostitutes proposition passers-by for a quicky under the trees. One night he’s stopped by an unusual man, but feeling flustered rushes home. His friend and next door neighbor tells him that a man was on his porch in the night, which freaks him out even more. However he finally gets up the nerve to confront the guy and find out why he’s following him. After they share a kiss, he soon realizes that Sebastian is a vampire.

His friend/neighbor, whom I really liked as a female character, encourages him, despite the vampire thing. Sebastian reveals his story that they were soldiers in ancient Rome, when Evan was killed. Sebastian ran into the woods in despair and was attacked by a vampire. He has been searching for Evan ever since. During sex, their past life comes back to Evan. They are deliriously happy for a few decades when Evan realizes he’s going to die and lose Sebastian again if he doesn’t change him as well.

There wasn’t all that much terribly original, but it wasn’t badly done. I did find the hop to many years in the future made sense, but I also felt a bit cheated that I didn’t get to see more of those happy years for them. I also found Sebastian goes from a rather formal way of thinking and acting, to a more modern way and then back again which threw me off slightly. I just didn’t feel invested in the characters. I’m not sure why exactly, it just didn’t catch me up in their story.

On the whole, for vamp fans or fans of the fated love through time, it’s a good read, but others might find it a bit superficial and have difficulty really connecting with the characters as I did. However, I am but one reader.

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Title: Playing Doctor
Author: SL Armstrong and K Piet
Length: 20 pages
Publisher: Storm Moon Press
Genre: m/m contemporary romance
Rating: B-

Blurb:
Valentine’s Day five years after the events of “Catalyst”, Logan sets to making it a memorable day for Kasper. He has everything he needs: dinner, flowers, chocolates, and a playroom eagerly waiting for them to play Doctor.

Review:
This free short is a follow on to Catalyst, which was a book I enjoyed a great deal. I liked that I got to see the characters a few years on and although this story is mainly centred around a BDSM sex scene, there was more to it in terms of seeing how the characters have changed and developed over the years since we last saw them.

Sometimes these peeks into a HEA don’t work so well because it’s more of the same, but this one wasn’t like that. Catalyst is rather a heavy BDSM book full of difficult themes and a lot of internal torment from the characters. At the end of Catalyst the future is still a little uncertain, more of a HFN than a HEA. This meant that this story was a welcome showing to the reader that they did make that HEA, plus it shows us two different men whose love and support for each other has caused a positive change. Gone is the hatred and self loathing that we find in both characters in Catalyst. Instead we see how relaxed they are in each other’s presence, how trusting but also how happy they are with their lives together and in the the choices they have made since the end of the previous book.

This leads me to a bit of a niggle. As a fan of the first book, I loved this short story and especially the fun, but very hot, role play aspect. For those who don’t know the original story, they may read this and decide to get the first book. In which case they are in for a bit of a shock because the tone of this story is so different from Catalyst. I expect the original intent of this short is to give us fans a bit of a treat, rather than act as a promotional tool for Catalyst, but it’s still a slight worry for new readers.

Despite that worry, I still enjoyed this story and was delighted to see the positive way that their relationship had affected these characters and the healing power of love. If you’ve read and enjoyed Catalyst, then this story is a must.

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Title: Reflections
Author: Barry Brennessel
Length: 18,000 words
Publisher: MLR Press
Genre: m/m contemporary romance
Rating: B-

Blurb:
Brian Caleb made a lot of mistakes chasing his first love. A fleeting, confusing love that disappeared forever. He wishes it were a lifetime ago, but the pain is fresh and raw. Now he’s running away from love. And everything else in his life.

Then a chance encounter takes an unexpected turn: Brian finds himself falling for someone after something falls on someone!

They say true love comes when you’re not looking for it. That’s precisely what scares Brian. Can he find the courage to follow his heart again?

Review:
This was a most unusual story with a main character who trod the line between sympathetic and unsympathetic. It was only the knowledge that he had no idea how his behaviour could be seen as negative that saved him as a character in my eyes.

Brian is an American who is living in France to study the language. He meets a Czech man with whom he has a whirlwind affair and falls in love. When things fall apart it leaves Brian very hurt inside and very broke from a foolish attempt to chase down his lover. Back in the USA he meets an old classmate, Jason, but is so wary of love and so emotionally bruised that things are not plain sailing for the pair.

From the blurb and from my description above you would think that Brian is a very delicate person emotionally. Actually that’s not the case at all. His problems are all of his own making due to being brought up in an emotionally cold environment. In some ways this makes him emotionally stunted and he doesn’t understand the need to open up and tell people how he is feeling. Instead he’s so afraid of pushing people away by being too keen and enthusiastic, he clams up and thus ends up doing just what he’s trying to avoid. I felt very sorry for Brian whilst also being annoyed with him over his behaviour. Brian also has a tendency to avoid problems by running away, and it was nice to see this change as the story progresses.

Brian captivated me as a character and yet he also annoyed me. I didn’t like him for much of the book, wanting to shake him and tell him to stop being so foolish and self involved, but I also wished him well and wanted him to find love and heal.

I had some problems with the story, especially the plot which moved about all over the place and contained a few pointless scenes – the whole section in Tokyo for example, was a bit baffling to me. I also found the characters of Brian’s sister and aunt grated on my nerves.

Having said that, the character of Brian, despite his many problems, stayed with me long after I finished the story which doesn’t happen all that often. This means that I’d happily recommend this story for those who are not necessarily looking for an easy read but would like something a little different with an anti-hero character.

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Title: Sam’s New Family
Author: Serena Yates
Length: 7,500 words (31 pdf pages)
Publisher: Torquere Press
Genre: m/m contemporary
Rating: C+

Blurb:

Sam is free of his meddling family but hardly manages to make ends meet working as a waiter. A hungry kitten in the restaurant’s back alley distracts him into missing two thugs until it’s almost too late. When Theo, Sam’s old neighbor, saves him and offers a ride home it is almost too good to be true. Sam has admired Theo for years but is afraid to become dependent again. But Sam’s apartment has been trashed and Theo insists on taking Sam home with him. Will the two men be able to build a future together?

Review:

I think we all have that trope that just works for us, even when others find it tiresome or cliché, but there it is. This one contains mine, the rescue of the struggling young man whose family have either shunned him or for whatever reason he can’t go to them for help. I’m a sucker for it every time. In this case Sam is working as a waiter, but barely scraping by, living in a dump in a dangerous part of the city. While in the back alley feeding an abandoned kitten, he is nearly attacked by two men but rescued, by of all people, his older brother’s friend and the man he had a crush on as a teen. It’s not so coincidental though. Now that Theo’s business is up and running, he came looking for Sam, as despite being seven years older, he was always crushing on the young man as well.

When he drives Sam home, they are stunned to find that Sam’s landlord’s idea of an eviction notice, is to trash his place. Theo offers him a place to stay, but as Theo lives right next door to Sam’s homophobic brother, he’s concerned that he might think Theo is gay simply for associating with him. Theo soon, to Sam’s astonishment, informs him that he is gay, so no big deal. Despite Theo’s vow to move slowly, it doesn’t take him long to confess his feelings, and it’s decided Sam will go to cooking school, live with Theo, adopt the cat, and despite Sam wanting to sleep with him, Theo insists they won’t do anything until they are ready.

So yes, it hit my trope buttons, but I had some issues. The landlord ripped cupboard doors off, smashed in his door, damaged the property in an effort to tell him to leave. Why? Now he has to pay out of his own pocket to repair it before anyone can rent it, and he had the key, just simply dump Sam’s stuff on the street. It didn’t make sense that he would damage his own property. I also didn’t get Theo’s refusal to do more with Sam. Sam was 20, and yes a virgin, but he was willing, they’d known each other for years, so I didn’t quite get his refusal to have sex with him. I also wondered what happened with the brother. Apparently he accused Sam of being gay, so Sam just left. It just came across as too coincidental to be realistic for me.

If you’re in the mood for a sweet read with this particular trope, it’s an okay choice, but I just found myself dwelling on some of the incongruities of their story rather than on the romantic storyline.

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Title: Brass Knuckles and Silk Sheets
Author: Vic Winter
Length: 5,400 words
Publisher: Torquere Press
Genre: m/m contemporary romance
Rating: C

Blurb:
Rich kid Swift runs into a trio of thugs walking home one night, literally, and they’re planning on taking their pound of flesh in retaliation. Before they can really go to town on him, though, a homeless man comes to his rescue.

Wanting to return the favor, Swift invites the man, Foster, back to his place for a shower, a meal and possibly more. Can these two seemingly disparate men find common ground in each other?

Review:
Swift is walking home quite late at night when he is accosted by a group of man and dragged into an alley. Rescue comes in the form of homeless man, Foster, who Swift brings home for a shower and food.

This was a nice little story which suffered a little from being too condensed for the romantic story to work for me. Swift is a sweet little guy who comes from a rich and influential family but prefers the simpler life of living alone. He is rather naive but that worked in his favour for me, and also allowed some of the way the story develops to seem realistic. I liked that Swift had a habit of putting his foot in his mouth and that he was hands on and liked cuddling. I also liked that Foster seemed to be genial and not mind when Swift says things that might be considered insulting. We are told Foster’s story but not much else about him, and given that Swift is the narrator, Foster remains a bit of a shadowy figure.

The story fast forwards through time quite a bit, telling rather than showing us about the developing friendship and feelings that the pair develop. This was my main gripe about the story. The initial set up made me like the characters but I felt I was cheated a little out of seeing them together except for the inevitable sex scene. I found that I wanted to know more about their backgrounds as well as what they liked to do in bed and we didn’t get that in the story because there wasn’t the space for that sort of development.

This wasn’t a bad story and would be a great quickie for when you have a spare few minutes. I think I’m just finding myself increasingly frustrated with stories that provide great characters but fail to capitalise on that. Hence the C grade. Or maybe I’m just turning grumpy in my old age!

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Title: Four Years On
Author: NicoleWilkerson
Length: 5,600 words (22 pdf pages)
Publisher:
Torquere Press
Genre:
m/m contemporary
Rating: C+

Blurb:

Jason thought he’d left it all behind when he went to college: the family who couldn’t accept him, the boyfriend he might have outgrown, the small town with even smaller minds. The past, however, catches up to him on the day of his graduation, when Jason is set to give the valedictory speech. Thanks to his new boyfriend Kale’s meddling, this might just be the closure Jason needs, for better or worse.

Review:

The blurb is a little misleading in this story, however the gist is there. Jason is preparing for his graduation and has the support of his boyfriend Kale as he is a bit nervous about giving the valedictorian speech. He’s a bit sad his family won’t be there, but since they walked in on him and Kale, his mother refuses to speak to him and he’s not had any contact in some time. However as he’s preparing for the commencement of the program, he sees his first love there, a boy he basically ran away from with nary a word, and has always felt guilty about. You discover he felt that he forced Thomas to be “gay” as they were best friends, but he’s finally able to see that it was mutual. Even further to his shock, his father and teen sister are there to see him, however his mother and brother are still not “over it”.

There’s not much to the story, just Jason and Kale interacting and then finding out the background of Jason’s life. You get enough from his thoughts to understand how things came to an end with Thomas and you even get a little bit about Kale and his past, I didn’t feel any great need to know more than the information I was given. The reason I say the blurb is misleading, is that Kale is two years younger than Jason, and his family never flipped until they caught him and Kale doing the deed, oops, so it’s only in the year perhaps that he’s been estranged.

It was sweet and showing how some maturity can make all the difference. I liked both guys, but it was very much just a little slice of a few hours in the life of a couple of young men who are really just growing up and starting out. A nice little read.

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