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Archive for July, 2012

Title: Vulnerability – Inches of Turst #10
Author: A.R. Moler
Length: 5,200 words (21 pdf pages)
Publisher: Torquere Press
Genre: m/m contemporary
Rating: C+

Blurb:

Sometimes it takes an unexpected disaster to transform a perspective. Brian Townsend forgets some architectural plans that he needs for a project. He makes the mistake of going back and getting them–in a risky part of town, at night. Tristan Blake’s heart stops when he gets an emergency cell call from his lover Brian. When his heart starts beating again, Tristan’s view of his world is changed. It’s time to be brave. Is Tristan finally ready to knock down that last wall?

Review:

Well, I’m thinking that ten inches brings this series to an end. To quickly summarize, Tristan and Brian met at a Halloween party one Halloween and when Tristan had to leave suddenly without leaving his contact info, Brian, an architect, eventually tracks him down. However, Tristan has trust issues after being dumped by his lover of many years and his rich family looks down on his career as a cop. Over time, Brian has been patient and not pressing Tristan for more than he’s willing to give up.

In this edition, Tristan is working nights and getting frustrated with not seeing enough of Brian and starting to think that maybe he wants more than just a boyfriend. Brian’s work on a community centre project takes him back to a rough part of town to pick up some documents he forgot, and he is attacked by a mugger and slashed and badly injured. His near-death brush finally forces Tristan to make the ultimate next move in their relationship.

I really liked both guys and I loved all of the stories, but I believe the first story came out in October 2010. So it’s been a long haul in real-world terms to get them to this point. It was very frustrating at times to get the equivalent of baby steps in their relationship, although I was happy to see them finally make that commitment in this story to a permanent relationship. I also appreciated that after nearly bleeding to death, Brian wasn’t having wild monkey sex a day later, I think his recovery was pretty realistic.

Unless you are a follower of the series, this story may not be more than a guy who finally clues in that he loves his boyfriend and wants more. I would love to see the author someday put all of the short stories into a compilation, with the edges smoothed perhaps because I think they are a couple most people would enjoy reading about in one fell swoop rather than in little bites. Still, for those of us who have been following it, I was happy to see Tristan finally pull his head out and realize Brian is the perfect guy for him.

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Title: Making Camp
Author: Clare London
Length: 3,032 words (10 pdf pages)
Publisher:
 JMS Books (FREE)
Genre: m/m contemporary humour
Rating: A

Blurb: 

Nick’s a dedicated city boy, Max is from the West Country: the chance of a compatible date seems unlikely until Max invites Nick to spend a weekend with him. It’s the chance Nick’s been waiting for, the opportunity to get to know the guy he’s been mooning over at work, up close and personal. Nick just has to cope with the fact it’s got to happen outdoors.

Through various disasters and culture shocks, Nick tries to impress. But finding himself a fish out of water, albeit on a camping site, Nick demonstrates far too well the fact he doesn’t do canvas. Can town meet country, and he and Max find more common ground?

This story originally appeared in Tea and Crumpet.

Review:

Plain and simple, I am giving this story an A because it made me laugh, out loud. Nick is definitely a city boy and his way of describing his love of diesel fumes and the smell of the hot pavement in the city was chuckle-worthy. Really, those things are appealing? Why yes they are, to Nick. It’s only his sheer lust for IT guy Max that induces him to agree to go camping with the man, in the country no less.

I do like camping, at least I used to, but Nick’s disorientation as he awoke to the sound of crows, not the traffic, and the utter collapse of his tent, well, the descriptions the author brings forth had me laughing out loud. I have to confess, I am one of those people who will laugh at other’s misfortunes (if they aren’t injury inducing – and maybe even then if the injury is mild) and I laughed at poor Nick and his sad tent.

After that, Nick rather settles down to enjoy his day in the country with Max, much to his surprise, leading to that moment when they finally acknowledge their simmering attraction and their agreed sharing of a tent since Nick’s is pretty much buggered up do to the collapse. It was just funny and sweet and you know these two guys are going to have fun, being two rather opposite souls, but perhaps able to appreciate the world they each find appealing. So when you are in the mood to come away smiling, snap up this freebie and take a few minutes to lighten your day, at poor Nick’s expense. 🙂

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Title: Top Mark
Author: Graeme Aiken
Length: 7,500 words
Publisher: Self Published
Genre: m/m contemporary
Rating: C

Blurb:
Meet ‘the Marks’.

It was strange at first for Mark, dating a guy with the same first name as him. But ‘the Marks’ developed nicknames for each other. Mark became ‘Top Mark’, a sly nod to his role in the bedroom.

But after seven years together, Mark hasn’t had much opportunity to be on top lately. There have been a lot of conversations avoided, unexplained absences, and some very unsettling phone calls.

From the author of the very popular Sydney based novels ‘Vanity Fierce’ and ‘The Indignities’, comes this new e-book short. In his trademark sexy style, Graeme Aitken explores the intricacies of a modern gay relationship with wit, insight and empathy.

Review:
This short isn’t really a romance, although it certainly charts the course of a relationship. It’s taken from the point of view of Mark who is having a very strange day. His relationship with (another) Mark, also known as Marx, seems to be at a standstill and Mark begins to realise that something is definitely wrong when he gets three very odd phone calls.

The objective part of me can see how this story might be amusing to some people. There’s a build up of suspense and a number of incidents which could be construed as funny. Sadly, for me it missed the mark (sorry for the pun), and didn’t really appeal to my sense of humour. Other readers, however, may find the story very funny in places. My main dislike was Mark as a character. I don’t think I was supposed to like him though, as we follow Mark as he works out what’s happening, and are told the stages of the breakdown in his relationship with Marx. To me he came across as rather dense, a foolish man living in denial and trying to emulate his younger lover in a way which made me cringe, but which other readers might laugh about. I couldn’t sympathise with him because I felt that actually he deserved what he got, which I know might seem harsh but is how I felt.

One part that I did like was the way it showed the change in the relationship. Mark tells us things about Marx, about how they meet and their early relationship, and then through the story we are fed bits of information about how Marx is now. I found this change interesting, and could see how the kind-hearted younger Mark could become the man we see in this story, and how his gauche (although well meant) behaviour led to him pushing his lover away.

If you’re the sort of reader who derives amusement at another’s misfortune, then this could be a story for you. I’m afraid I just found Mark to be a pathetic figure and he annoyed me. Having said that, the author writes well with a sparse prose which fitted well with this story and I’ll certainly look out for more from him in future.

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Title: Playing the Field: Batter Up
Author: JM Snyder
Length: 10,587 words
Publisher: JMS Books
Genre: m/m contemporary romance
Rating: C+

Blurb:
When the Wildwood Waves come to the Richmond Diamond, Rob Ritchie sneaks into the ballpark to watch them practice. He’s spotted by the team’s short stop, Mike Hennessey, a sexy man who takes a liking to Rob. Baseball banter turns into a date, and that evening Rob takes Mike to his favorite gay bar in the hopes of scoring a home run later in Mike’s hotel room.

Somehow, amid the flirting and the sex, Rob conveniently forgets to mention he plays for the home team.

It isn’t until Mike spies Rob on the baseball field facing off against the Waves that he realizes he slept with the enemy. Rob knows Mike’s upset, but can he talk his way back into the short stop’s bed after the game?

Review:
I often like these quickies from JM Snyder, but in the case of this one I was left slightly disappointed. The story follows baseball player Rob who’s sneakily scoping out the opposition before a match. When one of the players hits on him, they agree to go out together. Rob gets on really well with Mike and the sex is fantastic, but Rob feels guilty about not confessing his ties with the opposing team.

I really enjoyed the majority of this story. The author had done well in showing the dilemma that Rob feels. He has plenty of opportunities to ‘fess up’ but lets the moments pass by. I liked Rob enough that I could buy into his excuses, even if they were slightly self-centred, but since the story is leading up to the big discovery I could forgive that. The climatic scene where all is revealed was both tense and rather amusing in a manly fashion.  Rob and Mike’s attraction zings off the page leading to a sex scene which had me fanning my face.

Rob’s attempts to seek forgiveness was also amusing and I was looking forward to seeing more of these guys together, developing that spark between them. Except, I didn’t because the story ended rather suddenly, leaving me dissatisfied and with a few questions about the situation. Questions like, is this just a one off shag before they go their separate ways? Are they going to try and meet up, and perhaps pursue the slight emotional attachment which is developing? I’ll never know because the story finished way before I wanted it to!

So whilst I found the story to be engaging, sexy and at times amusing, I was a little fed up by the ‘up in the air’ way the story ended. It made me a bit grumpy, which goes to show how much I liked the characters and wanted to see them happy. It may be that this won’t bother you, or that you’ll be happy with the open way we leave these guys. In which case I can recommend this story to you.

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Title: Miami After the War
Author: Jay Starre
Length: 32 pages
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: m/m historical romance
Rating: B-

Blurb:
At nineteen, Danny Ramirez is the youngest of the tiling crew working the postwar construction boom on Miami’s beachfront. When veteran Jake Tyler needs a roommate and asks if he’s interested, Danny jumps at the chance. He’s been hot for Jake since they day they started working together. Jake never talks about his wartime experiences, though they’ve obviously marked him in more ways than just the scar on his leg. Danny wants to offer comfort, but can he make the first move without driving Jake away?

Review:
This historical set just after the second world war in Miami, tells of a time and place I know little about. It’s taken from the third person point of view of Danny, a young man on a team of builders who is partnered with a tiler, Jake. Jake is very quiet and aloof but the pair get on well together and Danny is delighted when Jake asks him to share an apartment. Their friendship turns to more, but Jake is haunted by his experiences in France.

I very much enjoyed the little pieces of detail in the historical setting, especially the descriptions of the buildings or the beaches of Miami during the late 1940’s. The war missed Danny but he can see its shadow in Jake and I thought this aspect was handled sympathetically. Danny has an earnestness which I found endearing and that contrasted nicely with Jake who could have come across as dour were it not for Danny’s obvious admiration of Jake. He wants to help Jake and is curious about his past, but rather clumsy in the way he broaches the subject. Their romantic relationship happens slowly, with a tender gruffness to it that fits with Jake as a character. I enjoyed seeing how it developed and felt happy that Danny feels so excited about his feelings for Jake.

Any problems I had with the story are mainly stylistic. Danny is often referred to as ‘the young Cuban’ rather than his name and this was a little jarring. I also find some of the descriptions used by this author in his sex scenes are more likely to have me sniggering than getting into a sexy mood, “pouting butt lips” is an example of this.

Those niggles weren’t enough to put me off the story too much though. If you’re looking for a sweet romance with a realistic touch of drama in Jake’s experiences, then you may well want to read this story.

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Title: Oscar’s Soul
Author: Missy Welsh
Length: 7,000 words (25 pdf pages)
Publisher: Amber Allure
Genre: m/m paranormal
Rating: B-

Blurb:

Satan, himself, has discovered love in the form of a beautiful young man whose soul he’s been forced to reap. The poor devil’s desperate for sweet Oscar’s affection, actually does get it and more, but then The Big Man Upstairs wants Oscar up where he truly belongs.

Now, Satan can’t say “no” to his boss…or can he?

Review:

This little short, which was apparently offered as a freebie at some point, is told in a breezy style as if the narrator, in this case Satan, is addressing the reader directly and recounting his story. I’m sure there’s an official name for that. Satan is just doing his job, he’s a regular guy, and he’s sent to pick up Oscar, a young man whose father sold his son’s soul for success. It’s not big deal, the usual job, however he’s instantly smitten by the young man and protects him in hell taking him almost immediate to bed. However it soon becomes clear that unlike most souls who have been in several bodies, Oscar is a relative newbie, only having been on earth once, which is highly unusual.

Now Satan (or Stan as Oscar calls him) is a decent guy who usually lets the souls of those sold by their parents go to heaven because he knows it’s not their fault, and especially really pure ones like Oscar, only this time he’s not prepared to do so because he has fallen head over heels for the young man. However when heaven and God find out who Oscar really is, neither Stan nor Oscar have a choice in the matter.

The story maintains a very light tone until the end when they pair are separated when things get a bit more dark, however overall the story is meant to be amusing and give you a slightly more sanguine view of the devil. I won’t reveal who Oscar is, but I admit I was surprised by the reveal, however in the end, Stan and Oscar get their HEA.

I have to admit I have a bit of a softspot for devils who are just kind of regular guys who have a job to do and like to watch TV or read books in their spare time and this book certainly delivers that in the form of Satan/Stan. He’s not a bad guy, he’s just doin’ his job. You get less of a feel for Oscar, beyond being young, beautiful and perhaps a bit innocent. I enjoy this author’s style, she’s very readable and accessible and fans who like a bit of humorous twist on the heaven/hell story line will enjoy this short story.

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Title: In All Your Ways
Author: Cari Z.
Length: 10,329 words (24 pdf pages)
Publisher: GoodReads: Love is Always Write (FREE)
Genre: m/m paranormal
Rating: B

Blurb:

One angel, one demon. Ancient enemies. Lifetimes of yearning. For millennia the demon Renat has loved the angel Emiel from afar. One kiss was all they ever shared, ages and ages ago. When Emiel is captured and imprisoned in Hell, Renat knows he will risk anything to rescue Emiel and return him to Heaven, even if it means facing the wrath of Satan himself.

Review:

This short starts when all hell broke loose in heaven (ah, religious humour 🙂 ), when Renat knew that he would be going to the newly formed hell with Lucifer because in his heart he had put his constant companion Emiel first over God. He confesses his love to Emiel and asks him to join him, however Emiel refuses to go against God and Renat spends the next millennia mooning about it essentially. When he hears of an angel arriving in hell, he quickly realizes it’s Emiel and he fights another demon for possession, thus alerting Lucifer to Emiel’s presence and possible death/torture for Emiel or both of them.

I enjoyed the descriptions of Hell, if you can enjoy such things, it was a bit different from what I’ve read in the past. Also, for a demon who enjoyed torturing human souls by making them focus on their own misdeeds, I liked Renat and his continued love for Emiel. Despite “doing his job” he never really adapted to hell, and still mourned Emiel. You don’t get much about Emiel or what he’s been doing the last centuries, just that he shows up and claims everything will be fine.

It was interesting to see a big bad demon thrown off by what would be considered a more innocent angel, in part by his efforts to protect the man he sees as more vulnerable, which is not necessarily the case. Emiel takes the lead in their new relationship, assuring Renat that it will be fine, confident when confronting Lucifer, and seeming having planned everything in advance of his arrival. Of course there is a way after all this time for them to be together (it is romance), and I think it would be an interesting story to see Renat coping with life out of hell as he always refused to spend time on earth.

The author has a knack for revealing a lot of information without overwhelming you. The short format doesn’t allow for a lot of world building, but the fallen angel trope allows most readers to fill in the gaps. Definitely worth a read, and it’s a good chance to try the author’s style if you’ve not read her other stories.

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Title: Doubtless
Author: Cat Grant
Length: 10,000 words
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Genre: m/m contemporary romance
Rating: B

Blurb:
Loving another begins with loving yourself.

On the surface, Steve Campbell seems to have it all: a beautiful home, a snazzy car, and a dream job as one of the country’s top 3-D optics researchers. But underneath, he’s restless and dissatisfied, tired of empty encounters with leggy lab assistants and endless evenings alone.

A chance meeting with a handsome escort lifts Steve’s spirits and opens his eyes to his long-repressed attraction to men—and his love for his best friend and business partner, Connor Morrison.

Connor might’ve loved Steve like that once, but now it’s too late for their happily ever after; Connor’s about to ask his boyfriend to marry him. Fortunately, it’s never too late to learn about yourself, and maybe Steve can find a happy ending on his own.

Review:
This story is what you might consider a bridge between two books. It follows Steve, the business partner and friend of Connor from Priceless in his journey of self discovery. Steve’s at a point in his life where he’s financially secure but is missing that special someone to share it with. He looks at Connor’s happiness and wishes he could have that too. By chance, Steve meets an escort, Dylan, who reawakens in him a bisexuality that he only explored at college.

I spent much of the book feeling rather sorry for Steve. He comes across as a bit of a sleaze with practiced chat up lines, outward self confidence and a wallet full of money. However, underneath he’s suffering a sort of emotional crisis. Meeting Dylan changes the course of his life and makes him face up to things he had buried and the story is mostly about Steve coming to terms with this. There’s unrequited love and an off page sexual encounter but there’s no solution for Steve by the end, just a resolve by him to make a step into the future with a different mindset. By the end I felt admiration for the way that Steve had changed both in self-confidence and in his plans for the future.

This all meant that this story is more a character study in Steve, rather than a romance, especially when any possible romance between Steve and Dylan is negated because Steve is paying for his time. I’m hoping that the next book will show Steve getting the happiness he deserves, and maybe this will be with Dylan, but maybe not too. I liked Steve and thought the author had done a good job in showing a hard working, academic man changing the way he thinks about himself. I also liked the way it showed the change in his friendship with Connor and I was sad that Connor had allowed their friendship to slide a little because of his relationship with Wes. The way this was addressed in the story seemed realistic and showed both Connor’s general cluelessness about people and Steve’s confusion over the change in his feelings.

Overall, despite the fact that this is not a conventional romance and doesn’t end on a traditional happy ending (it’s still hopeful though), I enjoyed this story. I’m looking forward to reading more about Steve and his search for love in the next book in the series.

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Title: Loving Samuel
Author: Martin Delacroix
Length: 62 pdf page
Publisher: Noble Romance
Genre: m/m contemporary
Rating: B

Blurb:

Nick’s parents are lower-class. Domestic violence has plagued his Florida childhood. A closeted gay man, he vows he’ll avoid personal commitments as an adult. Nick tells himself, Who needs love? It’s all bullshit, anyway. But on a Costa Rican surfing trip, Nick meets Samuel, a beautiful California surfer who makes Nick’s heart race. Nick’s willing to reconsider his vow, but the two men are so different. And Samuel has psychological problems. Does love between Nick and Samuel stand a chance?

Review:

While this story is billed as an “erotic romance”, I found it less on the erotic side on more on the introspective “what is real love” side.  I think this initial short paragraph from the beginning of the book sums up the gist of the story.

Listen: love never drops into your lap. What you see in movies isn’t real; you have to work for love. Sometimes, that takes years; the journey can be difficult. You give, and then you give more. It is always a struggle, but you mustn’t quit, because—in the end—love’s worth the price you pay for it.

The story is told a bit in the sense of looking back at how Nick and Samuel got together, starting with 19-year-old Nick on a surfing vacation in Costa Rica. He runs into Samuel at a restaurant and ends up staying with Nick for a few days. While Nick’s interest is clear, Samuel states he’s in a relationship, however one night they do have sex, and the next morning Samuel is gone, leaving only a note. Samuel was the first guy Nick though might be worth more than one night, but life goes on. A few years later, he’s graduated and working as a teacher and on summer vacation goes to a surfing competition in California. While out surfing, he runs into Samuel and his boyfriend who was with him in Costa Rica.

Nick agrees to talk to Samuel, even though he’s hurt by seeing him again, and they yet again have sex and make arrangements to meet. When Samuel doesn’t show, Nick goes to his house and it seems he’s in an abusive BDSM relationship with the boyfriend, however he can’t make Samuel leave. Some time later, Nick attends a film festival with a coworker and Samuel is the director of the movie. They reconnect, only this time Samuel has broken up with his boyfriend and is getting therapy. They begin a long distance relationship which gets harder and harder to leave each other each time.

The strength in this story for me was Nick’s reluctance to give up his life and move to California to become in part Samuel’s keeper and touchstone. I could understand his feelings. He loved Samuel, but it was no secret that Samuel had issues, that he could fall into depression or moods and did Nick really want to take that on for the rest of his life. When Nick’s commitments to his little brother (as in the organization, not biological) mean that he can’t run to Samuel when’s he’s feeling stressed, nearly being killed by his ex finally triggers Nick’s decision.

In some ways it was a symbiotic relationship. Samuel needed someone to lean on and take care of him and Nick needed someone to take care of. It was interesting to watch their relationship develop over the years. Yes, there were a few “coincidences”. What are the odds of two people in California ending up surfing at the same beach? But that was okay, sometimes you want to see the story develop and you are willing to let a few things go. I appreciated that it didn’t gloss over Samuel’s mental illness, but it didn’t make it an insurmountable object either, just another challenge.

Yes, there is sex (condomless for those who have issues), but the story is really about so much more than an erotic romp and I did enjoy the descriptions of Costa Rica, somewhere I’ve always wanted to visit. I think it’s worth a read if you’re in the mood for a book that touches on several sensitive themes like domestic abuse and mental illness, but always with an undercurrent of love.

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Title: Lost in my Waking Dream
Author: Charlie Cochet
Length: 30 pdf pages, 8400 words.
Publisher: Torquere Press
Genre: m/m historical
Rating: B

Blurb:

George Fitzpatrick is a troubled man and former soldier from the Great War. Ever since his return fifteen years ago, George has been hearing another man’s voice in his head, causing him to question himself and his reality. His engagement to his fiancée has steadily been going from bad to worse, and with every passing day George is finding it more and more difficult to deny his long-buried urges and the feelings brought about by a man he’s never laid eyes on. Is it all in George’s head, or is there something more behind Noah Baxter, the man whose soothing voice invades George’s dreams and his heart?

Review:

This is a really tough story to review without giving spoilers, and please don’t look down at the categories if you don’t want a major clue. However, I think a large part of the enjoyment in reading this is in figuring out what is really happening, so I’m going to do my best not to give too much away. It might end up being a shorter than usual review, however!

George Fitzpatrick is a man with many troubles: not only is he engaged to a sweet woman he doesn’t love, but he’s suffering from post traumatic stress after serving in World War One and finds living in the crowded city of New York often triggers panic attacks. His most guilty secret, though, is his homosexuality–something we later learn he’s only been able to admit to himself over the last ten years, with the support of Noah, the voice in his head who he also happens to be in love with.

Confused yet? Well so is George, who worries that he’ll be carted off to the loony bin if anyone ever hears him talking out loud to his imaginary friend. He’s willing to go to great lengths to facilitate Noah’s sexual fantasies, though, even visiting a prostitute who Noah assures him is his doppelgänger. This scene is incredibly poignant and one of the strangest threeways I think I’ve ever read, what with Noah watching and talking to George all the way through it.

I loved the descriptions of Jazz era New York, and George is a lovely character: broken and confused, but refusing to wallow in self-pity while he has Noah to keep him company. The two of them have a strong relationship, despite them not being able to meet physically, and only Noah being able to see his lover.

Some readers who don’t like cheating characters might be a little put off by George being engaged to Ann, especially as we later find out that the engagement started some years after George first starts hearing Noah’s voice. I felt this was all in keeping with the era and George’s confusion about his situation, however. Rest assured that in the end it all wraps up in a very satisfactory, if hurried, way.

I’d not read any Charlie Cochet before this but I’m certainly intending to hit up her backlist, as this is a historical era she seems to specialise in and one which I find fascinating. I can recommend this strange little tale, but those readers who prefer their historicals not to mix with other genres, might be better off with one of her other titles.

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