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Archive for August, 2012

Title: Seasons of Change
Author: Allison Cassatta
Length: 19,256 words
Publisher: Silver Publishing
Genre: m/m contemporary romance
Rating: C

Blurb:
When Presley Howard loses his job and his lover of five years, control of his life is gone. His daily routine is thrown into disarray, bringing him close to a nervous breakdown.

On the advice–or rather, the insistent prodding–of his twin sister, he takes a vacation in Pensacola, Florida to relax and reconnect with parents he hasn’t seen in years. What he finds is a sense of hope and the only man who can rein him back in and save his broken heart, hunky pediatric surgeon, Dr Camden Brooks.

Together, they conquer Presley’s fears and temper his need to control everything around him, and their blossoming love gives Dr Brooks something new and beautiful to look forward to.

Review:
I’ve read and enjoyed a number of short stories by this author so I was looking forward to reading this one. It tells of Presley, who when he suddenly loses his job is dumped by his long term lover. Presley is one of those people who needs routine and order in their lives, and so when the structure of his job is removed he begins to unravel. On the advice of his sister, Presley goes to visit his parents in Florida where he meets a neighbour, Camden.

One of the things that worked for me in the story is the way that Presley’s illness is shown. He has a form of OCD, which leads to fears about the sea and a lack of focus. He acts in a way which I found a little irritating at first, almost selfish in the way he looks at things which leads to him not really being able to see things from another’s point of view. However, as the story progressed, I began to realise that Presley had some form of mental condition which meant that he not only found it difficult to be cut adrift, but he also acted thoughtlessly without realising. I could understand then why he couldn’t see that his previous lover only wanted him for his money, or why he came to Florida to see his parents but then decided that he didn’t really want to talk to them and disappeared all night without telling them where he was going.

Whilst Presley was an interesting character in the story, I wasn’t too happy about the way his relationship with Camden develops. It was too fast, and given Presley’s mental state I felt it seemed more like Presley had attached himself out of a need for closeness than anything else. The whole thing seemed rushed and I was left feeling uncomfortable rather than happy for them.

That, coupled with a few inconsistencies such as Camden being a pediatric surgeon and yet only now losing his first patient – after years of training and a job as a surgeon, I found this hard to believe – and also that Presley tells Camden that he could never move away from his sister, yet happily does at the end of the story, to name but a couple of examples, meant that I didn’t enjoy the story as much as I might have done. However, if you are interested in a story with different kind of hero, then this one may work for you.

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Title: The Bear
Author: PA Brown
Length: 9k words
Publisher: Amber Allure
Genre: m/m Paranormal Romance
Rating: C

Blurb: Scott Thompson discovers a dead bear, killed by poachers in the parkland he calls home. He is charged with investigating this tragedy and trying to bring the poachers to justice. Then a second bear shows up. Or so he thinks. But when Scott calls in his boss and mentor, a sturdy dark mountain man named Luke Stadler, to assist him, the “bear” turns out to be a naked man, seeking shelter in Scott’s barn, shot in the leg and seriously injured.

Luke and Scott tend the wounded man during a raging blizzard that traps all three of them in Scott’s isolated cabin in the mountain forest. During their forced confinement, Scott and Luke succumb to their mutual attraction and unleash a passion that burns hot and bright.

But what is the secret of the mysterious man who ended up in Scott’s barn? Where did he disappear to and where did he come from? Scott and Luke discover the answer to the riddle and stumble across a secret that hides in the isolated forests of the Rocky Mountains.

Review: Scotty works as a ranger for the forest service. Lately, they’ve been dealing with a large poaching problem and routinely find dead bears on their patrols. One evening, Scotty investigates a strange noise from his stables (where his horses are spooked) and is shocked to find an injured bear. Unsure of what to do, Scotty calls Luke, another ranger and best friend to Max (and hopefully more). Luke hurries over just before the start of a heavy blizzard. They are both puzzled when they go to check on the bear and find a man in his place. He’s been shot and needs medical help, but the three of them are stranded. Hopefully the mysterious man will give Scotty some answers as to how there was a bear in his stables one minute and himself the next.

This is quite a short story, but more than that, it seems short because there is little that is revealed. While the “secret” is revealed, along with another related surprise, I still felt like I knew very little about the characters. The character of the “mysterious stranger” means more in theory, while the focus is really mostly on Scotty and Luke. There’s too little time for me to get a feel of their relationship which moves swiftly from an encounter between friends to more without much in between but sex.

I worked for me was the tone of the story. The cabin in the woods, an oasis of the forest gives the story a mood of restraint, like Scotty is holding back the forest from swallowing him. That juxtaposition between the wild and civilization (and Scotty’s voluntary separation from it) echo the problems with the poachers that is the catalyst for the story and therefore the relationship between Scotty and Luke to progress. I certainly liked that mood combined with the pacing and use of narration for much of the story, but I also wanted more; not necessarily in length, but in the romance and characters. While I found the writing artful, I didn’t really feel the connection between the two men. Also, the reveal at the end of the story only made me more curious about the things we weren’t told.

This seems to me like the prequel to a longer story, so I would have enjoyed reading more if that were the case. While there were aspects of the story I liked, as a whole it fell short for me. This is the first thing I’ve read by this author, though I’ve been curious to read some of her work for quite a while now. I’ll happily pick up more of it in the future, but I’ll probably steer clear of short stories and read a novel instead.

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Title: Seconds
Author: Megan Derr
Length: 10,000 words
Publisher: Less Than Three Press
Genre: m/m historical (Regency) romance
Rating: C+

Blurb:
Called to the be the second to a young, rash duelest, Alexis seeks out the appointed second of the challenger. But the man he expects is not the man he encounters, and Alexis finds himself thinking of things vastly more interesting than settling challenges put forth by hot-headed young men, things that heat his own blood and which he thought well in his past…

Review
This story is set in the same world as the Deceived series, and although I haven’t read any of those books, I didn’t find it a problem here, except for one aspect. I thought this was going to be a historical romance set in the Regency era, but it reads more like an AU Regency where being gay isn’t a crime and is instead accepted by society. It took me a few pages to realise this but once I did, I settled into the story.

The book begins with Alexis who has to call on an Earl, Haven, to settle a duel dispute between a family member, Henry, and a good friend of the Earl, Otis, who has named Haven as his second. Haven has recently returned from East Asia after his father named him, a bastard son, the heir. Since then he has struggled a little with society’s conventions but enjoys Alexis’ visit enough to hope they may become friends.

The parts of the story which worked for me was in the character of Haven whose frustrations at not quite fitting in with society, plus a good heart when it comes to his friend Otis, endeared me to him. Out of the pair he is the most rounded and I liked him. We are given lots of information about his time spent in the East and his feelings now he is an Earl and this helped to build a solid picture of Haven. Alexis spends quite a lot of time with his friends, who feature in previous books in the series. Whilst this showed him to be someone who valued friendship, he comes across as a little surly. There wasn’t enough space in the story to delve in detail with his past and so we are only fed snippets of what makes him as a character so I didn’t warm to him as well.

The story is lively and fun, the sort of thing I have come to expect from this author. The sub-plot involving the young duelling men was handled deftly and was amusing, especially in the final scene. I expect we shall see more of those two young men in future stories.

Overall, this was a lighthearted read and I enjoyed it, but didn’t like Alexis as much as I wanted to and so the romance fell a little flat at the end. The closing pages may have been satisfactory, but Alexis’ inconsistent behaviour towards Haven deserved a little more grovelling on his part, I felt. However, if you like this series then this free story will be to your taste. As for me, it whetted my appetite for the other books in the series which I shall be reading soon.

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Title: Roids, Rumps & Revenge
Author: Eric Arvin
Length: 30 pdf pages
Publisher: Seventh Window
Genre: m/m erotica dub-con
Rating: C

Blurb:

It’s bad enough that the Coach Mauler’s steroid abuse is about to be discovered, but when an angry ex-football player finds out about his salacious activities with the other players, things begin to get steamy. What happens when the star college football coach has not just one secret, but two?

Review:

I am torn on this book. I get what the author was doing and that this is almost like a comic book-type story, but I had issues with some of the elements that just couldn’t let me “go with the flow” and enjoy it as much as other readers have or will.

It’s told from the point of a few of a non-too-bright football player, who in an attempt to improve his game, is caught by the coach using steroids, and banned from the next big game. The irony is, the coach is equally using steroids and the angry player is determined to get the evidence and have the coach punished. However, the night he snuck into the coaches office, he’s trapped there when some of the key players arrive, wondering why they have been called to a meeting. It seems the coach feels they aren’t playing up to the best of their abilities because of a lack of sex, so he will offer up his body to appease them and make them play even better. This even though the coach is straight and most of the players as well, but they are college students, and no one turns down an opportunity for sex.

Soon things are hot and horny, and everyone is extremely well endowed/muscular (look at the book cover and imagine that magnified). Now the banned player has the time for the ultimate revenge. Not only is the coach starting to like what’s happening, but the player has sent a picture to the wrestling coach who is the football coach’s biggest rival. He too arrives to get in on the action.

Now I am quite aware that it is not meant to be taken seriously, this is hyperbole on steroids (get it?). But the whole dub-con/non-con situation made me uncomfortable. At a point the coach is clearly saying no, and he is tackled and not given a choice. As way of waving it off, he ends up liking what happened to him, but at the end, again as part of the revenge, non-con is implied to come next. I should have been able to say “this is just a fantasy”, but for some reason I just couldn’t get past the discomfort I felt when he clearly said no and it was disregarded. The writing is up to the author’s usual standards, so it’s not that, this was purely a personal issue for me

This will not be a problem for many. A lot of readers will take this story with the grain of salt it is intended and find it humorous and a lark, but it just didn’t work for me this time. I’ve read other stories by the author and enjoyed them, but maybe it just rubbed too close to some line in  my mind and I couldn’t let it go. So I’ll expect readers to use your judgement. If you are a fan of the author and can just go along for the ride, you’ll likely find it quite amusing, if however the situations I described make you uncomfortable, you may not find it as much to your liking.

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Title: Lost and Won
Author: Sarah Ann Watts
Length: 16,494 words
Publisher: Silver Publishing
Genre: m/m historical (1600’s) romance
Rating: C+

Blurb:
1651: the Battle of Worcester is lost and won. Charles Stuart is a fugitive with a price on his head and Cromwell has the ‘crowning mercy’ of victory. Philip, a sober, respectable young man, fought bravely for the parliamentary cause and is looking forward to peace at his own hearth.
Francis, his lover and childhood friend, returns to make peace with his dying father and to give back Philip’s heart.

Soon Philip finds himself reluctantly sheltering a royalist spy and protecting the witch in his family.
Philip’s duty is clear and Francis staked his life on his honour. All he has to do is let Francis go. But how can Francis ask Philip to deliver him to justice?

Review:
I picked up this story because it’s not often that you find a m/m historical story set during the 1600’s. This one is set at the end of the English Civil War. Philip has fought bravely for the roundheads and now returns home to his estate. That very same day his old neighbour, friend and lover, Francis, arrives at his house seeking assistance. Francis fought on the side of the Royalists and now is a wanted man. Philip struggles with his conscience. On one hand he knows that he should report Francis as an enemy, on the other he still loves and cares for him.

There was much to like about this story. In particular I liked the struggle that Philip feels over his feelings for Francis. He’s a good man, but also loyal to his cause and these two ideals clash in his mind, especially when he comes face to face with those who would exploit their positions as victors. At times Philip seems callous in his actions towards Francis, but that too fit with a man who struggled between love and a dislike of Francis’ political views. Yet, there were also periods of tremendous tenderness between them, especially in the scene where Philip takes Francis to see his father. The period feel was strong with enough in the setting to firmly ground the story without need of extra detail. This is reflected in the oblique sex scenes which worked for me, but may not satisfy those who wish for me explicit detail.

Where the story worked less for me was in the character of Philip’s half sister, Arabella, who is a sort of witch, although this is never fully acknowledged. She floats in and out of the story, sometimes meddling in Philip’s affairs and provides a paranormal aspect that I couldn’t really see the point in. I found her a little irritating. Another annoyance was the way that the end of the story suddenly speeds up, spanning several years at once. On one hand I could see why this had been done, otherwise there would have been no concrete HEA, and yet I couldn’t help but feel like I had been given a whole novel’s worth of stuff in a few pages. I would have rather read a much longer piece which focused on Philip in those few years, rather than have a huge rush at the end. It left me feeling like I’d missed out on half the story somehow, especially as more space would have allowed me to learn more of Francis, who isn’t as fleshed out at Philip.

So whilst I enjoyed this historical setting in this story and liked Philip as a character, the rush at the end left me disappointed. If you’re looking for a historical story with an unusual setting, then I could still recommend this one to you.

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Title: The Menagerie: Lynx
Author: Megan Derr
Length: 14,000 words (33 pdf pages)
Publisher: Less Than Three Press
Genre: polyamoury (m/m/m/m/m/m)  fantasy twincest
Rating: B+

Blurb:

All Ramsay wants is to live in peace and quiet. Desperate to find solitude and to escape personal tragedy and those who betrayed him, he settles in the country of Tavamara, in a remote little house far from everything. But returning home one day after a trip to market, he winds up saving a young boy and suddenly is introduced to a world he never knew existed and which tempts him from the solitude he thought was all he wanted…

Review: 

How could I resist a book that has six m’s in the description? Ramsay served as protector for the young prince in his kingdom for ten years, a job he trained for since childhood. However when those who swore to protect his own younger brother failed, he left his country, finding solace in living in the woods, only venturing into the city of the new country for supplies. However it seems his destiny is set in stone, since one day he rescues a young boy who turns out to be the king’s son who was kidnapped. He ventures to the city to explain to the king that he has his son and he is safe and things get a bit cocked up, but eventually he explains.

However his new home country as quite different royal customs. The king has five concubines, one of whom turns out to be a man he had an affair with years ago, however his duty as protector meant there was really no hope for them to have a relationship. He returns with one of the twins and another concubine to fetch the boy, only the boy’s kidnapping truly was an inside job. Ramsay may be small, but he’s vicious and he manages to fight off six attackers single-handedly, and take out the traitor. He’s started to realize that he’s really just existing, not living, but knows he could never have a life like the concubines, no matter how much he wants it.

I loved Ramsay. He’s adorable with the young prince and you know his heart broke when his brother was murdered. But he couldn’t just put aside his training and say “not my job”, he took care of the young boy, and as his grief is fading, he’s realizing that he’s not really living a fulfilling life, but accepts it. You don’t get to know too much about the king or the concubines, only what Ramsay tells you, but it was kind of sad that he had possibly found love in the past, but his duty didn’t allow him to truly experience it, but now many he has a second chance.

This author has a real way with fantasy. It’s light and fresh and always easy to read. The language is just different enough to be fantasy without seeming stiff and overly formal. For those concerned with the number of m’s up there, this is a non-explicit story. Beyond some kissing at the end between the king and Ramsay, the relationships are only hinted at, including twincest. Does it make me a pervy girl if that disappointed me? LOL Probably, but I was kind of hoping… I think it would have been interesting to see this as a longer story with the six men all interacting and getting to know each other. I was curious about who the other men were, how they came to be there, just lots of fodder for more, more, more.

But on the whole a lovely fantasy read with a hero, self-conscious of his small size and being underestimated, who after tragedy, may finally get his own HEA.

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Title: Men in Kilts: Brannan
Author: Celia Kyle
Length: 7,900 words (33 pdf pages)
Publisher: Summerhouse Publishing
Genre: m/m contemporary
Rating: C-

Blurb:

Seth Cooper has one reason—and one reason only—for attending the Highland games each year… Men in kilts for as far as his eyes can see. This year, just like the all the others, he’s on the prowl, hunting for a hottie in plaid to “get to know” better. Intimately better. Horizontally or vertically, it doesn’t matter which, he’s not at all picky. Lucky for him, he finds his hunk-o-the-day the second he arrives, and as for the icing on the cake, the guy’s an honest-to-goodness Highlander. The only question is… Will Seth manage to hang on to the kilt-clad man, or will the end of the day find him heading home alone?

Review:

So I’m all about a man in a kilt and was happy to pick this one up, but the insta-love vibe from Brannan along with what I thought was some rather out of character behaviour ruined this one for me somewhat.

Seth is off to the Highland games for one reason only, to hook up with a hot guy in a kilt. As he’s getting himself psyched up for the hunt, he opens his car door and slams it into Brannan. Instantly Brannan is onto his game, taking him under his wing and offering to escort him around the games for the day. In order to impress Seth, Brannan signs up for the caber toss (the big poll throw) and before long they are standing in the crowd kissing. Brannan’s cousin tells him to get a room and gives him the keys to his RV where Seth and Brannan have sex.

This story takes place in North Carolina, at an event which is generally renowned for it’s macho men, and Brannan and Seth are just going at it in the middle of the event with people all around them. Really? Somehow I think a bit more discretion would be called for given the surroundings. I’m not saying there aren’t plenty of gay guys there for Seth to scope out, but I didn’t even see people going at it like that at Pride, let alone at a Highland games in North Carolina. Then after the sex, Brannan is already making plans to take Seth back to Scotland to meet his mother. Granted, Seth was a bit more “slow down” than that, but Brannan had known the guys for a couple of hours and had decided he’s the one.

So, unfortunately, those two factors kind of took away my enjoyment of the story. I would have loved more descriptions of the games, but it is meant to set up an extended sex scene while wearing a kilt. Still, if the insta-love doesn’t sound like it will bother you, it is hot and the sex is steamy, but it wasn’t enough to make it work for me.

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