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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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