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Archive for October, 2012

Title: Mystical Convergency
Author: Katherine Halle
Length: 4,500 words (18 pdf pages)
Publisher: Torquere Press
Genre: m/m contemporary
Rating: B-

Blurb:

It’s Halloween and Greg and Lane are celebrating with friends.  Lane promises the night will be uneventful, but honestly Greg is hoping for a little bit of action himself, but not the demon kind of action.  Take one horny chef, one demon hunter in serious need of a vacation, add in Halloween and see what brews.

Review:

This is a cute and sexy follow-up to A Watched Demon Always Boils. Greg and Lane have been together for a few weeks since they last met when Lane ended up ridding Greg of a demon that had attached itself to him. They are still in that romantic hot-hot stage, but Greg finds Lane’s second job of demon hunter rather stressful. Lane’s almost been killed twice, just since they started dating.

However tonight is Halloween and Greg has big things planned for his restaurant. He’s doing it up in full Halloween style with a special menu and costumed waiters. Lane and his two side-kicks are taking care of something and will be joining him for dinner.

There is lots of detail in this one about the restaurant decorations and the menu that Greg has prepared for the special night. It actually kept me quite interested as I am a Halloween fan and I thought it would be cool to attend a dinner like that, with so much atmosphere. I found myself thinking “Oh, I’d choose that option” off the menu and wondering about others. After a flirty dinner, their friends and coworkers practically shove them out the door and a little more sexy fun happens upstairs in Greg’s apartment.

You don’t HAVE to have read the first book, but you’ll understand more about Lane’s job and the whole demon hunting gig and how they met if you have. So I think it would be more rewarding, rather than just a sexy little stand-alone, but that’s okay too. It was fun to see them in those early stages when everything is new and exciting. On the downside, while book 1 is definitely a paranormal, this discusses demons and paranormal, but it’s noted that usually Halloween is very quiet on the demon front. I was kind of hoping for some big dramatic demon moment at the end where Lane could kick some butt. But alas, it doesn’t happen. The demons remain closeted celebrating somewhere rather than wreaking chaos.

Fans of the first book will want to pick it up, and I find the author’s writing style easy to read and her characters are fun and obviously into each other. It’s also nice to have a Halloween story that focuses on that part of Halloween most of us are familiar with, parties, costumes and dinner, rather than the paranormal aspects.

* Note: You have until midnight EST tonight (Oct. 31) to enter to win this book along with the predecessor.

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Title: The Mercy of Gulls
Author: Tray Ellis
Length: 4,200 words
Publisher: Torquere Press
Genre: m/m fantasy romance
Rating: B-

Blurb:
Sean escapes to the edge of a lake to lament his broken heart after a break-up. His damaged soul is as cold as the October lake and winds, and his keen sorrow is a siren call to something out there, something that comes for him. They’re irrevocably drawn together, and Sean’s wounded heart thrills to the offer of an entirely new kind of freedom.

Review:
This story was more fairy tale/fantasy than Halloween horror. It tells of Sean whose lover of 8 years dumps him out of the blue. Broken-hearted and almost suicidal, Sean, sits at the side of a lake in the cold of an October day, his heart in pieces as he tries to think what to do next. As he sits there a gull lands next to him, and something extraordinary happens.

One area where this story excelled was at producing a haunting setting through the use of the weather and the cries of the gulls. The weather is clear but cold and this reflected Sean’s absolute despair at the sudden change in his life. His lover’s betrayal was so out of the blue that Sean is in that numb stage of grief where he is unable to think about anything properly. The cold seeps into his bones but doesn’t seem to affect him. I found this to be a very powerful way of showing Sean’s situation and I felt a great deal of sympathy for him.

** Spoilers next **
The paranormal aspect of the book was also well handled in the description of the gull man. He’s a man but he’s also a gull with feathers and the eyes of a bird, but I could see how Sean still found him attractive. My only pause came when the gull man kisses Sean and he is described as having a taste like water. At that point I was thinking that he was more likely to have a mouth that tasted of fish, so that rather killed the moment for me! I could see how the gull man’s proposal was appealing to Sean but part of me worried that he was making a serious decision at a very vulnerable time, so whilst the ending could be seen as a sort of HEA, it left a slight bitter taste in my mouth.

Overall, this was a highly unusual take on shifter stories, packed with mournful emotion but which still managed to provide a hint of a special romance. Those looking from something different from the vampires, werewolves and zombies this Halloween may just find this a pleasant surprise.

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Title: The Mask
Author: Clare London
Length: 6,079 words (17 pdf pages)
Publisher: JMS Books
Genre: m/m contemporary humour
Rating: B-

Blurb:

There’s a mixed reception for Joey and his friends when they go trick or treating at the exclusive Grosvenor Square Hotel — everything from hostility to humour to handfuls of caramels. They’re a motley crew — a swamp monster, a vampire, a red devil, and a ghost in a less than flattering sheet. Joey’s costume is uncomfortable and daft, his friends are unruly, and he’s tired of everyone dismissing his best friend Gaz’s awkward stutter. The novelty of the quest soon wears off.

But when Gaz goes missing, Joey learns some home truths about his apparently shy friend. And when they knock at the final door, a horrific masked figure tricks Joey into finding maybe the best treat of all — that romance has its own, often startling disguise.

Review:

This was actually an interesting read for me, having stayed at the hotel that the guys go trick-or-treating at, but obviously not on the sixth floor, since my room was the size of a broom closet. 🙂 The guys have decided for a lark to go trick-or-treating on the expensive suites floor of high-class hotel. They have done up their costumes to the nines, save for poor Gaz, who because they ran out of funds and time, is now using the classic sheet with holes cut in it for a costumes.

The joy in this is the encounters the five of them have on the floor. From doors slammed into their faces, to dog bites and not so subtle come-ons by the residents. It’s not quite the experience they had hoped, especially as Joey had ‘heard’ that Tom Cruise sometimes stay at this hotel. During a break, they suddenly realize that Gaz has disappeared. Joey assumes he was upset for some reason. They are best friends and have been for years, doing everything together, sharing everything. However his ignorance of the situation finally forces one of the guys to blurt out that it’s obvious he can Gaz are practically married and that Gaz wants him, but they didn’t want to say anything until they two of them had figured it out.

In typical guy fashion, Joey was totally oblivious, but now that they point it out… One last try at the trick-or-treating gives them a real surprise at door 666, when Joey is kidnapped by a monster, and the others take off leaving him to the mercy of the creature… who happens to wear the same boots as Gaz. This was a lot of fun and it was nice to see Joey finally grab a clue. My only couple of niggles was I wasn’t quite sure why the friends were so determined to keep quiet about the obvious attraction between the two. Given how they behaved, I didn’t think keeping their mouths shut would be a big deal. Still, it’s a fun Halloween romp that will leave you with a smile.

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Title: It’s Like a Party in my Closet
Author: G.R. Richards
Length: 20 pdf pages, 5000 words.
Publisher: Torquere Press
Genre: m/m paranormal erotica
Rating: B-

Blurb:

Dustin partied for ten years. Now he’s ready for a bit of rest and relaxation, farmhouse style.  He never imagined buying a house on his own, but he convinced himself he didn’t need a man in his life to settle down.  As soon as Dustin moves into to his big barren home, weird things start to happen.  Is that music he hears in the middle of the night?  And what are those weird lights coming from under his closet door?  Alone in a remote location, Dustin feels susceptible, lonely, even… scared. When he finally works up the courage to check out the closet of mystery, what he finds inside changes his life forever.

Review:

I picked this one up because I’ve found myself far more in the mood for ghost stories than vampires or werewolves, and because I know Richards can be trusted to write good erotica. This was a hot little story with an unusual twist on the haunted house trope, but could have done with a bit more fleshing out in order for the HEA to feel secure.

The story begins with Dustin deciding to leave his city lifestyle behind, settling in the country even though he doesn’t have the steady relationship he secretly craves. He’s pretty naive though, accepting the realtor’s evasive answer as to why the house is such a bargain without any further investigation. At this stage I was thinking he deserved to be inundated with dry rot and infestations, but the house itself is fine… all except for the mysterious music that only comes on at nighttime.

Richards manages to give us quite an impressive amount of information about Dustin, his family, his job and his previous relationship without it ever feeling like an infodump, which I really appreciated. There were also some appealing snatches of humour in how Dustin dealt with his fear:

He tried to breathe but his body wasn’t working. All he could do was stare at that door, at those supernatural lights. Were there aliens in his closet? Aliens who listened to techno music?

This story is definitely on the light and humorous side of scary. When Dustin finally braves opening the closet door, what he finds behind it is worlds away from a horror scenario. At this point the story ceases even trying to be creepy, and goes for fun instead, because inside Dustin’s closet there’s a nightclub complete with glittery confetti and a disco ball, but only one lonely dancer, Harry.

The story moves quickly into the erotic at this stage, and I wish there had been a page or so more of conversation between the two men. Harry was an intriguing character and I loved his explanation as to how he ended up in disco limbo, but we only get to find out a few sketchy details about him. Although I thought the ending was sweet, it was a bit of a stretch to considering them a viable couple based on one sexual encounter.

In short then, I really appreciated the new slant on the haunted house/falling in love with a ghost trope, and there’s some nicely written erotica here, but don’t expect a grand romance in such a short story. However, it’s definitely one for when you’re in the mood for something light, cute and quirky.

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Title: A Fairy’s Tale
Author: G.O. Noce
Length: 7,900 words
Publisher: Torquere Press
Genre: m/m fantasy romance
Rating: C

Blurb:
As the youngest and forgotten son of a local baron, Nathaniel Jones often seeks out adventure wherever he finds it. Then, one Halloween night, he encounters a mysterious stranger who seems as lonely as he is, only to have him disappear the next morning. Fourteen years later, after returning from the Napoleonic Wars, he meets an otherworldly — yet, strangely familiar – man in the woods who changes the course of his life forever.

Review:
This historical story begins well with boy Nate getting lost and meeting a strange man in the woods who looks after him. Fast forward 14 years and Nate is returning home after the Peninsula Wars where he rescues the same man from vicious hounds, getting bitten in the process. The bite gives Nate abilities to see visions and the pair use these to track down a special key.

I really enjoyed the beginning of the story. Nate as a young boy was filled with bravado and fear as he gets lost in the woods. That same bravado is evident in Nate as a man, as is shown with his tackling the hounds who wish to attack Kellan. This part of the story is spookily atmospheric and I liked Nate’s confusion over who Kellan is.

It’s after that point that things didn’t work as well for me, mainly because there’s too much crammed into the story with little chance for development. We are told that the men get on well, and that later Nate considers Kellan a friend, but since we are not shown any of this, I couldn’t feel any of the emotion behind it. The end comes out of the blue, and nothing is properly explained. I found as a reader that I had far too much to do – too much filling in and supposition – for the story to really work for me. The same went for the romance since apart from some trouser stirring from Nate, there was little in terms of romantic interaction to make the end believable.

Having said that, I liked Nate as a character and the story managed to successfully blend a historical setting with the fantasy. The initial set up was engaging and the writing is good. Those readers who think that the setting sounds interesting may enjoy this story but I couldn’t shake the feeling that this would have been much better as an expanded novella rather than a short story.

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Title: Bewitched at the Pumpkin Patch
Author: Jackie Nacht
Length: 45 pdf pages
Publisher: Extasy Books
Genre: m/m
Rating: B

Blurb:

Pumpkins and corn mazes—can Lawson stick it out long enough in his hellish holiday job for a chance to be with Hayden?

College football player Lawson’s funds are starting to get a little thin for him to make it to the end of the semester. Finding the flyer to work at the Pumpkin Patch seems to be the answer to his empty pockets, until he starts working there. Now he finds himself stuck in a job from hell. The only motivation he has is hoping that the pumpkin artist—art major Hayden—will notice him before the season ends.

Can he stick it out long enough to ask Hayden out? And will Hayden run screaming for the door when he finds out where he lives?

Review:

This is a very cute story about opposites, and first love. Lawson hates his job at the pumpkin patch, but he doesn’t quit like his friends, only so he can see Hayden who carves and paints pumpkins. Finally, after a few weeks he invites Hayden to come and watch TV at his frat house. Hayden is less than certain. Lawson is a football player, and their fraternity has a very scary reputation. Hayden is sure that he’ll be pummeled because there’s no way they won’t figure out he’s way gay, but Lawson tells him that they are fine with him being gay. However, when Lawson freaks out that night, he shoves Hayden into the “friend zone”. He then spends the next few weeks hanging out with the guy and kicking himself that he pushed Hayden away. Finally the frat Halloween party is the opportunity for him to make it clear to Hayden that he wants to be more than “just friends”.

I’ve never been to a frat house, we don’t have those in Canada really, but I’m thinking the author has been, or has a vivid imagination. Oh my. The smells and the condition leave Hayden reeling. However he is surprised that Lawson’s room isn’t so disgusting, and everyone at the fraternity does seem pretty accepting of them as a couple. It is a very sweet story about two guys who are nervous about facing the physical side of a relationship, and Lawson kind of screws it up in a panicked moment. His friends help to push him in the right direction, since by now, the fraternity loves Hayden as much as he does.

At the end, Lawson starts making plans for the two of them, which seem a bit fast, but I can deal with that when the character acknowledges he’s kind of racing ahead and thinking long-term a little early. It’s when the characters aren’t aware of what they are doing that it’s annoying, and hey, young love, first time, you can forgive a lot with 18 and 19 year olds. Another appealing aspect was Lawson and Hayden’s experiences in the pumpkin patch with the customers, from foul-mouthed kids to back-seat pumpkin carvers. When you are looking for light and fun, it’s a great choice to leave you with a smile.

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In honour of next week’s upcoming Halloween special, we are giving away a few Halloween books. leave a comment with your fave Halloween candy and you could be one of the three lucky winners. You have until midnight EST Halloween night to enter.

We have a double-bill first up from Katherine Halle.

A Watched Demon Always Boils:

Lane is a professional photographer hired by Greg to do a photo shoot and magazine spread about his restaurant in hopes of making his business more profitable. Trouble is, Greg’s got a demon on his back, literally. Now Lane must race against time to save Greg from the demon and convince him that Lane isn’t crazy; he wants to help Greg.

Take one stubborn chef, a determined photographer, mix in an evil demon and a slightly crazy best friend, and watch it come to a boil, every time.

AND

Mystical Convergency: (sequel coming Oct. 31)

It’s Halloween and Greg and Lane are celebrating with friends.  Lane promises the night will be uneventful, but honestly Greg is hoping for a little bit of action himself, but not the demon kind of action.  Take one horny chef, one demon hunter in serious need of a vacation, add in Halloween and see what brews.

Bewitched at the Pumpkin Patch by Jackie Nacht

Pumpkins and corn mazes—can Lawson stick it out long enough in his hellish holiday job for a chance to be with Hayden?

College football player Lawson’s funds are starting to get a little thin for him to make it to the end of the semester. Finding the flyer to work at the Pumpkin Patch seems to be the answer to his empty pockets, until he starts working there. Now he finds himself stuck in a job from hell. The only motivation he has is hoping that the pumpkin artist—art major Hayden—will notice him before the season ends.

Can he stick it out long enough to ask Hayden out? And will Hayden run screaming for the door when he finds out where he lives?

Earth Boys are Easy by Tam Ames

Aran loves Halloween. It’s the one time of year when he gets to reveal his true form without fear of the mythical government agents coming after him. When he meets shy, sexy Booker at a Halloween party, he breaks his rule of never taking someone home when he’s in his alien form. Now he’ll find out if having an alien lover is something Booker can handle, or if Area 51 will become Aran’’s new address.

Promises to Keep by Jules Jones

Middle-aged and ill, a computer science professor assumes the obvious when he’s propositioned by a young man. But the man isn’t young, he’s offering more than sex, and it’s not good exam results he’s after. He’s an immortal vampire who needs the professor’s help to stay on the right side of the law. A vampire who wants to show him that it’s still worth making a fight for life…

Perfection by Clare London (Horror – No HEA)

James is surprised when co-worker Vic disappears, but even more so when Vic shows up months later as James’s manager. As a single gay man with few responsibilities, James takes his fun wherever and whenever he can. He’d even played around with Vic a few times. But now something’s changed, something James can’t quite put his finger on. In fact, almost everything about Vic is subtly different — and maybe not so subtly, when it comes to them resuming their affair. James never used to think Vic was hot, but now Vic’s like a new man and he wants James. James should be flattered, shouldn’t he?

Unfortunately, things don’t develop quite the way James hopes. He’s just out for a good time, but Vic wants something more than mutually satisfactory sexual games. He’s obsessed with finding out James’s idea of a perfect man. And what’s more, Vic seems determined to do whatever’s necessary to become that person — whether James is a willing participant or not.

The Mask by Clare London

There’s a mixed reception for Joey and his friends when they go trick or treating at the exclusive Grosvenor Square Hotel — everything from hostility to humour to handfuls of caramels. They’re a motley crew — a swamp monster, a vampire, a red devil, and a ghost in a less than flattering sheet. Joey’s costume is uncomfortable and daft, his friends are unruly, and he’s tired of everyone dismissing his best friend Gaz’s awkward stutter. The novelty of the quest soon wears off.

But when Gaz goes missing, Joey learns some home truths about his apparently shy friend. And when they knock at the final door, a horrific masked figure tricks Joey into finding maybe the best treat of all — that romance has its own, often startling disguise.

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