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Archive for April, 2012

Title: Prove Me Wrong
Author: Bethany Clark
Length: 18,682 words (89 pdf pages)
Publisher: Silver Publishing
Genre: m/m contemporary paranormal
Rating: C

Blurb:

Coping with a genius is never easy and Tennyson Mycroft takes it to a whole new level with his quirky attitude and all-too-accurate ‘psychic’ abilities. He’s never let anyone get close to him. and thinks he’s perfectly happy as a solitary professor. Then Kristian Dawlish arrives on campus and suddenly everything is in uproar.

The pair engage in a battle of wits as Kristian tries to prove Tennyson is a fraud. A bet is made in a moment of lust, but soon Tennyson longs for more. Will Tennyson come to terms with the fact he is as susceptible to emotions as everyone else, and finally drop his walls? Even if he does, is Kristian willing to take the risk? Follow them on their journey filled with laughs, nosy students, and a discovery that uncertainty isn’t always a bad thing.

Review:

The paranormal aspect of this story is very light, however your enjoyment will depend on how much you like, or dislike Tennyson. He’s an anthropology professor who takes great delight in freaking out his colleagues with his “psychic” abilities. At first you aren’t sure he has any, since he takes great pride in twisting things to his advantage and he’s not above using information he found in more traditional manners such as eavesdropping, and then attributing it to his psychic abilities. However he does have a certain level of natural ability.

When Kristian shows up as a new professor, it doesn’t take them long to start a competition. Kristian is determined to prove that Tennyson is a fraud, however Tennyson soon turns the tables by giving Kristian ten chances to prove him a fraud, however each time he fails, Tennyson claims a kiss. At first Tennyson just does it to be an annoying ass, but soon he realizes he actually likes Kristian and they are if not more, at least good friends. I did not care for Tennyson all that much. He really does believe he is superior to everyone and that they barely merit his acknowledgment. However, I did appreciate that his feelings for Kristian threw him off kilter. But he still came across as an arrogant jerk, so I was never completely on his side.

I also found it hard to believe that two seemingly healthy men in their prime would do no more than kiss or hold hands for 8+ months. You only find out at the end that Kristian was married to a woman, but the details of that are never revealed and I wasn’t sure if he was gay or bisexual. Was his relationship with Tennyson a first? When they finally sleep together it doesn’t appear to be. I also found the ending a bit abrupt. Kristian demands the truth, but is not prepared for the answer, although Tennyson seems to prove it in record time. The end. HEA.

So if you like a slow-moving relationship story, with rather quirky characters, this might be right up your alley, but Tennyson was just a bit too quirky for me to get completely behind the relationship. Still, I found the writing smooth enough and I’d check out future works by the author, this one just didn’t quite hit the right notes for me.

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Title: Nineteen
Author: AJ Mars
Length: 58 pages
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: m/m contemporary romance
Rating: B

Blurb:
Ezra is nineteen, going to college in his blue-collar hometown, and still living with his mother. It’s all very ordinary… but Ezra is gay, and “ordinary” isn’t really what he wants or needs. The romantic in him yearns for a story-book kind of love, but he certainly doesn’t expect to find it at a party that starts in an old field behind campus. That’s when he meets Nick. Ezra doesn’t believe in love at first sight, not really. But there’s a first time for everything.

Review:
I’m always on the look out for decent stories with young heroes who actually act and sound like their age, rather than like they are in their 30’s. This one hit the mark exactly. It tells of Ezra who is hanging out at an outdoor party when he sees Nick. There’s an instant connection between them and they drive off to a remote location to chill and get to know each other a bit better.

The main draw for me with this story was very intimate use of the third person narrative, through a very closed point of view. We get only Exra’s thoughts and feelings and I thought the author had managed to convey all the mixed emotions that occur in a young man. We begin with a description of the party, the sights, sounds and smells, all seen with an almost detached eye, giving us the impression that Ezra isn’t really enjoying himself. Secondary characters flit in and out of the scene but it isn’t until Nick arrives that Ezra’s attention gains focus. I liked the way that the general scope of the story suddenly zooms into his feelings for this stranger, especially the great mix of attraction, but also embarrassment to the reader that he’s contemplating something such as love at first sight.

Another thing that worked for me was the way that the awkwardness of new attraction is explored. The initial strangeness of spending time with someone you don’t know, the tentative discussion between them along with a desire not to look foolish, is shown accurately. Ezra spends time contemplating how different this meeting is to other times he’s ‘got off’ with people, it leaves him feeling a little unbalanced but with an undercurrent of excitement that Nick could be that one special guy he’s been looking for. Although we don’t get Nick’s point of view Ezra’s view of him manages to show the reader just how nervous Nick feels too. When they get physical, the descriptions give us a feeling of the awkwardness between them as they try and work out how far they are going to go, or what Nick wants from Ezra, coupled with a growing desire.

Any niggles I had were as a result of the narrative style. The intensity may be off-putting to some readers especially as it makes it very slow moving. Not much actually happens in the story and it relies on the reader becoming heavily invested in Ezra. I was, so the story worked for me, but it did take me a little time to get into the story and I re-read the first couple of pages a few times to try and orientate myself with the narrative style.

Overall, if you’re a fan of stories of young men falling in love then this will be a good story for you. I liked Ezra, and the story even moved me to tears in my eyes at the end. It’s happy, but there’s a moment or two when you think things are going pear shaped, which that made me sad for Ezra and I was pleased by the HFN ending.

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Title: The V in Vigilant (V Series #3)
Author: JM Snyder
Length: 17,341 words
Publisher: JMS Books
Genre: m/m paranormal romance
Rating: B+

Blurb: When Vic has a rough day at work, his lover Matt puts their telepathic connection to good use, tapping directly into Vic’s needs to provide some relaxing downtime at home. However their sensual massage turns to serious talk, and Matt finally asks Vic the question he’s been wrestling with for the past few months. The next day, Vic’s latest super power almost makes him call in sick. Then a disabled bus passenger is attacked, and Vic rushes to the rescue.

Review: **Review contains spoilers for those that haven’t read the V Series #1 & 2**

V is for Vigilant is the third book in the V Series, and this story continues the romance between Vic and Matt. In the second book, V is for Vengeance, we left Vic and Matt with a vandalized Jag after a date night out where Matt got giggly drunk and Vic got in his pants all the way home. Here we meet Roger, a wheelchair veteran who rides daily on Vic’s bus route. Also, once again in this installment there are the usual bits — Vic waking up with a strange superpower given to him by Matt’s sweet lovin’ the night before and finally the culmination of Matt’s desire to ask Vic to marry him, which he’s slowly been working up to over the whole series. The new superpower combined with their new awareness of the direction of their relationship lead Vic to watch over Roger, who consistently denies that he needs watching over.

The further I read in these stories, the more I love them. Though I’ve read several of the Vic & Matt stories JM Snyder has written over the years, they’ve been out of order. Yet with the V Series, there’s a real cohesion to their relationship that I love. There’s something so great about established relationships that is satisfying in a unique way in m/m romance. Vic and Matt are a great example of that and combined with the fact that most of the conflict is from an external source allow the couple to remain in a happy medium that is refreshing to read.

I love the cast of characters, who are better than ever here. Sadie is the cutest damn dog and has so much personality, just like the dogs we all know and love in real life. Roxie is as funny and annoying as ever. I really loved Roger, though, as a new character and hope he shows back up somehow in the series. For someone that has a pretty small part to play overall, I thought that he came through with quite a lot of personality, especially for a reserved and depressed man.

I was also happy (for someone who hasn’t read the other Vic & Matt series) to see more background on the duo. For the first time in this story we get much more about their past relationship, as well as their lives before they started dating, first from Vic who can’t believe that the solitary and depressed man he used to be was completely cured by falling in love, and then Matt, who has some very funny recollections about dating one of Vic’s co-workers and refusing to sleep with him because he was worried the resulting powers he’d transfer would go to the bodybuilder’s head, a man who apparently showed a little too much desire to have power over others.

Still, these stories are mostly easy going, as the ones before. They’re a delight to read and though easy and fun still have so much charm because of the characters. I’m very much looking forward to the rest!

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Title: Don’t Judge a Book …
Author: Scarlet Blackwell
Length: 18,510 words (90 pdf pages)
Publisher: Silver Publishing
Genre: m/m contemporary
Rating: B+

Blurb: 

Bookworm Rhys lives in the idyllic town of Hawks Bridge and spends his days working at the local library, his evenings quietly reading. He thinks it’s all about books and even the occasional interruption ‘real life’ throws his way cannot change his beliefs.

When car thief Darren arrives to do his community service, Rhys’s world is turned upside down. Rhys thinks the man is uneducated, only to find him reading classics. He expects him to behave like the criminal he is, only Darren doesn’t. While Rhys isn’t exactly out and proud, Darren is in denial about his sexuality.

They are wrong for each other on so many levels, yet rejection only makes the need greater…

Review:

This story has a couple of things that appeal to me as a reader, a neurotic book nerd and a bad boy. Oh delightful, which was how I would describe this story. Rhys loves his job as a librarian, his house is full of books, he lives for books. He is extremely annoyed that he’s been assigned to supervise Darren, who is doing community service for stealing a car. Rhys knows about these kinds, and has little tolerance for their ilk. The two get off to a rough start with Rhys being aggressively condescending, and Darren reacting in kind. Eventually Darren is assigned another supervisor after things really blow up, however Darren’s friend and fellow car-thief doesn’t take kindly to Rhys “harassing” his boy and makes it known in a very physical way.

Rhys is hilarious and sweet, and a bit sad. When he freaks out and realizes that Darren simply randomly put books back on the library shelves, he just loses it. It’s like a crime tantamount to murder in his eyes. His reaction is priceless. However his reaction in general to Darren is interesting. Darren’s not as much of a low-life as he expected and he even finds himself attracted physically, however when he finds out Darren is not quite the book Philistine he expected, he has to reassess his life a bit. Which was nice to see him look at what he wants out of life.

However, Darren is very much in the closet and their first encounter, when Rhys knows he shouldn’t be doing this, that Darren will run after, and Rhys will feel like crap, but he can’t stop, was very well done. I think many of us have been there and done that and then banged our head against the wall and wondered what the heck we were thinking. Darren’s gay-bashing friend doesn’t help. The thing that bothered me, was after the first time Rhys is battered by the man, he doesn’t go to the police. I know, I know, maybe they couldn’t do anything, but I’d be filing a report anyway. The next time he’s almost forced to do so again, and also to get medical treatment, when it’s much worse.

It ends on a HFN note, with Darren, who’s had a rough life using his feelings for Rhys to turn his life around, and Rhys loosening up a bit thanks to his feelings for a boy who is all wrong for him, except maybe in the ways that count. So you have the lighthearted side of Rhys and his OCD (he denies it) bookish ways, and the drama of Darren coming to terms with his sexuality and the assaults, all nice wrapped up and woven together. It’s also very much set in England so you get a nice touch of local feel. I really really enjoyed this one so I think it’s worth a read.

Don’t Judge a Book … is to be released on April 28. 

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Title: Spirit
Author: PA Friday
Length: 70 pages
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: m/m contemporary romance
Rating: B-

Blurb:
It’s hate at first sight when Grant McDowell meets coworker Tristan Wetherby-Hyde. Working-class Grant fought his way up in the world and into a position at Spirit Advertising, and he can’t help but think that Tristan, son of the agency’s homophobic CEO, had everything handed to him on a silver platter.

But their differences aren’t enough to keep their mutual lust in check, despite Tristan’s fear of exposure and his father’s reaction. Both Grant and Tristan know exactly what they have to lose—what they don’t know is that their hearts are also at stake.

Review:
I love a British set romance and this one which looks at two men on very different side of the tracks hit a lot of ‘like’ buttons.

Our main hero is Grant who has worked his way up out of a rough upbringing on the council estates of Glasgow through a mix of intelligence and hard work. He’s employed at Spirit, an advertising agency, run by a very conservative CEO. The CEO’s son, Tristan, also works at the firm and from the start they both rub each other up the wrong way. Grant’s inverse snobbery means that he despises Tristen’s upper class background, whereas Tristan hates that he’s attracted to the rough, strong, intelligent Scot who brings out his feelings of self-hatred over his homosexuality. They begin a sexual relationship born of mutual desire and dislike but are both surprised when things take an emotional turn.

I like a book which explores the dynamics of unwelcome mutual attraction. Both men in this case are drawn to one another, seeing a need that the other can fill, but not liking it one bit. This leads to some very intense almost painful sex scenes at the beginning. The relationship is explored through the sex, so there’s quite a lot of it. I never felt that it was unnecessary though as each scene builds on the last showing the shifts in emotion. Tristan both loves and loathes the way Grant dominates him, and it takes the emotionally stronger Grant to see that Tristan needs him to take that first step. The move from sexual antagonism to romance was handled well and I liked that Tristan becomes more confident in himself thanks to Grant.

My main niggle was that the end seemed a little rushed and we get told about events which I would have liked to have seen on page. For example the first time the men take a step away from their sexual relationship by going for a drink is only told about and I wanted to see how they reacted to each other out of their usual roles. Then we are told they start to make a routine of meeting outside work but again I would have liked to see some of that.

That niggle wasn’t enough to spoil what was a very engaging story. It’s worth reading for the way the sexual dynamics dominate the story and the way that changes. Grant and Tristan are well rounded characters and this made me invested in their relationship. If you’re interested in a story about two characters across the class divide or even like the idea of hate turning to love then this could be a story for you.

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Title: Professor’s Keeper
Author: Nicole Dennis
Length: 16,282 words, 86 pages
Publisher: Silver
Genre: m/m contemporary romance
Rating: D

Blurb: Professor Alistair Tarrellton knows everything about algorithms but little about relationships. After ex-Marine Rhys Blackwood rescues him from a botched robbery and a panic attack, Alistair finds himself with a new keeper, but can he afford the distraction?

Child prodigy, scientist, and, professor Alistair Tarrellton knows research, not people. Hiding behind glasses and an overstated vocabulary, he faces panic attacks and headaches if situations become too uncomfortable. As head of the college’s bioinformatics area of study, he teaches classes and runs two labs, but he prefers to hide in his private one at home.

A stop at the grocery store on his way home one night puts Alistair in the middle of a botched robbery. While a panic attack freezes him, he watches former Marine Rhys Blackwood take command with ease, and one touch from this powerful man pushes away Alistair’s fear. Rhys quickly invites himself into Alistair’s home and life, and while part of Alistair doesn’t believe he can afford the distraction of a relationship, the rest of him wants the other man to never leave.

Review: Alistair, who is simply called “The Professor”, is definitely absent-minded and quite mad, though his constant time in the safety of his lab is not to brew up crazy experiments, but some very important chemical research for several world governments. After a very difficult day of having to stand up in front of his students and teach, where he feels the most uncomfortable, The Professor stops at a nearby store he frequently visits on his way home to get some ingredients for that night’s dinner. Only, just as he is greeted by a very handsome Marine, the store is robbed and gunpoint. The very forward and competent veteran quickly takes care of the situation, leading The Professor into another anxiety attack. To his surprise, the close proximity of the sexy Marine named Rhys does much more to calm his nerves than the tension ball he constantly squeezes in his pocket. The real problem, though, is that apparently Rhys has taking a liking to The Professor and sees that he needs a keeper, thus inviting himself over for dinner and into his very structured life.

Though the heart of this story is quite cute, I had several problems with the writing that took most of the joy for me. First, I didn’t quite understand what Rhys saw in The Professor. He is completely socially inept and has no clue how to have a personal relationship with anyone. Therefore, the relationship is completely one-sided. While I could see Rhys maybe being a masochist and taking care of The Professor without anything in return for a while, I just couldn’t see it happening in the long-run. After all, his behavior isn’t just something he can turn off on a dime, it is the fundamental way he was raised and his very early and established behavior of deflection. Something like that just doesn’t change overnight.

Secondly, I had a huge problem with much of the writing. Much of this should have been caught during editing, because I really felt like the writing choices didn’t serve the purpose they were obviously meant to have. There’s a very specific way that the author writes The Professor’s speech when he is nervous (which is most of the time, honestly.) The best way to describe it is that he speaks just like Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory. Here, in response to Sam’s (the shopkeeper) inquiry into his health after the robbery and his panic attack:

I’m reaching an acceptable level of normalization. I find myself rather embarrassed for my reactions,’ Alistair said.

Where this overly stilted dialogue works well in a comedy, I felt like it fell a little bit flat here. That’s pretty much how he talks about… 50% of the time. I felt like the author wanted to show through the writing how The Professor’s nervousness alienates him from the world, because he erects his wall of intelligence in front of everyone else. The problem I found with that is that it is really the only way we’re shown his behavior through the writing. If this were written in first person with The Professor as the narrator and some other behavioral things thrown in to make a unique voice, it would have worked, but as it is, I felt like it alienated me from the story. Not only did the strange way of speaking throw me out of the flow of the story, but I often found that the words just didn’t seem well chosen, in the dialogue and the narration. “…slipping back into scientist mode at the sight of his beloved laboratory lighting up with his presence in the room”,  and “…you lit all the right buttons inside me.” Now, I know that I got picky as soon as the dialogue started bothering me, but little things like awkward word choices (buttons lighting up instead of being pushed, and the personification of the laboratory) and Rhys’ voice bleeding into a quasi-Professor tone at times become much more visible when something else drew my critical eye.

I hate saying “I really wanted to like this book because…”. Most of the time that doesn’t make much sense, but here I think it does. I felt like this story had a lot of potential, but unfortunately I couldn’t get past the writing and never really felt the connection between the couple. Therefore, I have to grade this one lower than I wanted to. D

Professor’s Keeper is to be released on April 28th.

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Title: Devil’s Eyes
Author: G.R. Richards
Length: 6,110 words (21 pdf pages)
Publisher: JMS Books
Genre: m/m contemporary paranormal
Rating: C+

Brief:

Synesthesia isn’t always a useful gift for a recording engineer, as Graham reveals during a film interview for Noah’s documentary on the topic. Synesthetics are people who see music. Some see colors or shapes in the notes they hear. Graham’s a little out of the ordinary — he sees images. Often, entire scenes play out before his eyes.

Graham’s come up against a stumbling block because of his synesthesia. In the bizarre death metal tracks he’s working on, the devil’s eyes appear at every turn. He’s scared stiff, and if he’s afraid to listen to them, how will he ever get the tracks edited?

As Noah and Graham discover, confronting the devil’s eyes is a job for two.

Review:

This was an interesting story that touches on the subject of synesthesia. I really enjoyed the descriptions as Graham, aka Skunk, tells Noah about what it is like for himself and for another popular artist who shares the diagnosis. His friend sees colors, but Graham has full one images, like movies or dreams. He has been putting off working on a death metal album because the first time he heard them play he saw devil eyes and was so frightened by the images he hasn’t been able to bring himself to work on the album. However he offers to let Noah hang out after their interview, however the song he plays sends him into this wild hallucination, once again bring up the devil’s eyes.

When the song ends, he runs to the other room to check on Noah, but the song restarts and he falls immediately into another hallucination. This time it’s rather a split personality thing and in his hallucination, he ends up having mad sex with Noah. Only, wait, when the song ends … they’re naked and did have sex. Hmmm.

Okay, I loved the descriptions of synesthesia and how it manifested for Graham, but I couldn’t get past thinking “What if he had hallucinated that he’d had to kill Noah for some reason, rather than have sex with him?” It’s one thing to have images going through your head, it’s another thing to be so into it you act on your hallucinations. Luckily Noah was all on board with the sex, but would he have raped him if he hadn’t? He didn’t even realize hewas having sex with him in real life. The book is billed as a paranormal but I wasn’t sure if the experience was due to his synesthesia or was there some paranormal aspect to it. The hallucinations while listening to music were not new for Graham, so I’m not sure.

Perhaps I’m just too logical and needed to let it go and just enjoy the fantasy aspect of the story, but I couldn’t help but think working in the music industry with a reaction that throws you into full-on acting out hallucinations seems awfully dangerous. So I think if you can just let the fantasy/paranormal aspect of the story work for you, the sex is certainly hot and primitive and I particularly enjoyed the first part of the story, but I just found myself thinking about other things rather than the romance.

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