Archive for November, 2012

someonelikeyouTitle: Someone Like You
Author: L.M. Brown
Length: 15,536 words
Publisher: Silver Publishing
Genre: m/m Contemporary Romance
Rating: B-

When Todd Hunter went to university he left behind his boyfriend, Deacon Jones. Todd knows Deacon is the one he wants to spend the rest of his life with, but for some reason Deacon has stopped returning his calls and is ignoring all his letters.

Now Todd is home for the holidays, and he wants to spend them with Deacon. It might not be so easy though. Neither Todd’s family nor Deacon’s are happy about their relationship and while Todd knows if they stand together they can make it work, convincing Deacon may be the greatest challenge of all.

This is the first of this year’s Christmas stories for me :). It tells of Todd who comes from a wealthy family and has gone off to university. He’s worried because his boyfriend, Deacon, who comes from a poor and disadvantaged background, has cut off all contact with Todd and now that it’s the Christmas break Todd is determined to find out why.

The story begins well with lots of great emotion behind Todd’s feeling of betrayal and Deacon’s reasons as to why he’s cut himself off from Todd. What could have been an annoying forced separation is instead handled with a deft touch as both men fight for each other and against those who would separate them. In particular I liked the role that Deacon’s boss and landlord plays in being the voice of reason and experience. It was nicely done in that he trod the line between being an advisor for Deacon, but with enough push to get him into action without being interfering.

Another part which worked well was the way that class plays a part in the story, making it a sort love across the tracks type of romance – Deacon’s dodgy family, in particular, are well drawn. The love that Todd and Deacon have for each other is shown well, with lots of references to their committed relationship and, apart from a few hiccups, how their feelings for each other will affect their future together. I liked both men and was pleased that they were sensible enough to seek to resolve their differences and problems by talking.

What didn’t work as well was the character of Todd’s father. Whilst the rest of Todd’s family are shown with a good mix of drama and humour – especially in Todd’s relationships with his siblings, Todd’s father just tipped the balance into being a little too over the top for my liking. I would have liked to see more of a balance in his personality which would make him less of an overbearing monster.

However, that was just a slight niggle in what was an enjoyable story of love overcoming the obstacles of class, money and family and I would recommend it to those looking for a Christmas story which will leave you feeling all warm inside.

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Title: Fair Love
Author: Spencer Rook
Length: 5,565 words
Publisher: JMS Books
Genre: m/m Contemporary Romance
Rating: D+

**This review contains some spoilers**

Blurb: When Devin finds his boyfriend cheating on him, he doesn’t know what to do. Alone in a town that he despises, he winds up at a world famous traveling fair, where everything seems to remind him of his now ex-boyfriend.

Devin tries to lose himself at the fair and winds up in the tent of a fortune teller. There, instead of the stereotypical psychic, Devin meets Ricky, who may know more about Devin’s future than either realize.

Review: As a rather simple short story, Devin tells the tale of his breakup from his controlling and cheating ex, while showing his life cut adrift among the surreal setting of the small town traveling fair. Though he should be glad the man is gone from his life, Devin’s ex still has a hold on him that won’t let go. Just the act of going out instead of wallowing at home is a step forward, but Devin feels cut off from humanity. That changes when he meets Ricky, a psychic who offers to read his palm. The two end up getting along swimmingly, and get to know each other as Ricky shows Devin around the fair the pair get to know each other.

There is a thematic message within these pages that brings the story together — the removal of Devin from life and community. The fair and Ricky’s influence negate this and show him, along with a spark of attraction between the two — that there is more for Devin out there. But, for me, that is where my understanding of this story ended. First, it seems as if Ricky has some true psychic ability (though one line suggests that maybe he recognizes Devin’s past because he’s had the same happen to him), but we never hear anything about his abilities again or get to know anything about Ricky himself. Second, not much really happens. Devin walks around the fair lamenting his breakup and pain, he meets Ricky and through a reading and walking around the fair, they talk about the fair and the people who travel with it.

I suppose I just didn’t understand if the author was trying to subtly bring more to the story, and it just sailed over my head. But, as I saw it, there really wasn’t much more than what I’ve said. That, however, made this story frequently stall for me and only the rather short length helped me to read straight through without wanting to take a break.

I don’t think I’d recommend this story, even for a reader who might be looking for a low-key story. It seemed more like a snippet of a larger story that was therefore removed from becoming something more meaningful, like it could have been.

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Title: Once Upon a King
Author: Jambrea Jo Jones
Length: 12,000 words (55 pdf pages)
Publisher: MLR Press
Genre: m/m historical fantasy humour
Rating: C+


Flair Coruscate maybe be king of the dragons, but he doesn’t want to rule in the bedroom. Sometimes, it isn’t good to be the king. Saber Von Stein just wants to live a normal human life in the magical kingdom, but a curse has him hunting out an audience with the king in hopes of escaping the clutches of an evil wizard family. With a little Fairy Godmother magic and a royal ball can the King and the human have a happily ever after?


This is a follow-on to a free story Once Upon a Dragon that was written requiring certain prompts. I did not realize this when I started, but realized it seemed familiar. It’s not necessary for you to read the other story first, but it can’t hurt.

Flair is the new king following his father’s death and he’s miserable. He’s really a bottom, but no one would dare top the king, and to top it off, his father passed some kind if bizarre law that all servants have to drop their pants and be ready at any time for the king to have their way with them. He soon finds out a wizard family has petitioned him, because a dragon ate one of their family members (see previous book) and, oops, that dragon was his brother.

The brother is sent off to find the happy couple from book on,e to act as witnesses. The human mate from book 1 has a brother, who agrees to go with them and beg the king for leniency. Only now the king’s officials have said they will only repeal the law Flair hates, if he choses a mate at a ball. Before long, thanks to the family fairy god mother, Saber finds himself naked at the ball.

This is a story meant to be taken as extremely over the top. It’s a farce of a take on a fairy tale. Flair was amusing, though as he hates his current circumstance, from the weird laws, to his inability to get laid, and to the clothes he hates that always seem to leave him exposing himself. It was nice that while Saber may have been 100% human, he had a dom edge over dragon shifter Flair, which gave Flair exactly what he was looking for.

So I think this is a fun lark, as long as you take it all a bit tongue in cheek and over the top. But I do think that reading the first book would be useful and it’s a free download, so you get twice the fun for one price.

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Title: Fireborn
Author: Talya Andor
Length: 15,000 words
Publisher: Less Than Three Press
Genre: m/m Fantasy Romance
Rating: B

Thaniel has been chosen for the sacrifice that will renew the lands and bring sorely needed rain, and it is a duty he has always accepted. On his last day he ventures out to enjoy those things he loves and finds final resolve in all that he enjoys. But that resolve is tested in the moment when he must say goodbye to his dearest friend …

Thaniel has spent the last four years knowing that it is his role to sacrifice his life for his country. If the rains are to fall, he must give his life to the gods and has been chosen by the gods especially for this role. He’s been kept pure and untouched and now it is the day before the ceremony. Thaniel uses his time to say goodbye, especially to his friend Blaise before he is offered up to the gods.

The thing that impressed me most about this story is that it could have been quite dreary but actually, apart from a few bittersweet moments, it was rather upbeat. Thaniel is aware of his duty and is wholly willing to give his life so that the rains will come and his country’s drought will be over. I liked Thaniel and his quiet acceptance of his fate. There was something noble about his attitude. His friendship with Blaise showed another side to Thaniel, bringing out a mischievous part of his character which contrasted nicely with the sensible attitude he shows most of the time.

Another part I liked was the way that Thaniel’s past is wrapped up with the setting and how the heat and drought of the land has shaped him into the person he is in the book. The dry conditions and the hot weather feature strongly within the lives of those in the book and it was clever in the way this was integrated into the setting and plot.

My only niggle was that the final scene of the book went on just slightly too long for me. It could have been cut a little with no bad effect to the story – although maybe part of my feelings about this were due to my impatience in wanting to know how the story ended.

Overall, I greatly enjoyed this fantasy story. There are touches of sadness in the story but mostly it was a tale of renewal and hope and should appeal to may lovers of fantasy.

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Title: Cleanly wrong
Author: Mel Eight
Length: 18,000 words
Publisher: Less Than Three Press
Genre: m/m Fantasy Romance
Rating: B+

Rung is a half-breed orphan brownie who can’t do anything right, much to the worry of his cleanliness teachers. When he runs away, Rung decides that he can resist the need to clean. Only, there is that one office that so desperately needs help…

This little story was an utter delight and managed to combine a charming tale with a very lovable character in Rung. Rung is a brownie whose brain doesn’t seem to want to clean in the same way as all the other brownies. He still has the same compulsion to clean, tidy, organise and sort but instead of strict alphabetical order or arranging things by colour, his mind takes a more logical and holistic turn. This makes him despised by his teachers and mocked by his fellow pupils. In despair Rung runs away and hides at the royal castle where he discovers his unusual organisational skills are just what is needed.

I absolutely loved Rung and thought the author had managed incredibly well to create such a well rounded and vivid character in such a short word count. He come across strongly in the story and all the intricacies of being a brownie and using his wiles to survive at the castle are described clearly and with flair. I want a Rung living in my house! I really felt all his shame and sadness at what he sees as his defects, which then contrasted with the pride and happiness he feels later when he realises that he can be of use.

I also enjoyed the secondary characters who, whilst not quite as vivid as Rung still managed to add to the story and the overall setting. The world of the brownies, and their rules and regulations, made me smile and I enjoyed the generally lighthearted tone to the story. The story fits well into the fairy tale genre, of which this Bestiary series seems to be a part of and I was hooked by page one and rather sad when the book finished.

My only complaint is that the romance is a little tacked onto the end and I would have liked a little more development in that area to be totally happy with the HEA. However, that was only a minor issue in what was a pretty wonderful fantasy story with an unusual hero in Rung. If you like fairy tales, then I would recommend this one which I guarantee will brighten up your day.

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Title: Snow and Mistletoe
Author: TC Blue
Length: 11,800 words (25 pdf pages)
Publisher: Torquere Press
Genre: m/m contemporary interracial
Rating: C+


Richard is stunned when he starts to receive very thoughtful but anonymous gifts during the holiday season. Between those presents and a new job, even if the work isn’t in his field, it’s a pretty good Christmas this year. After a while, though, he can’t help but wonder who’s leaving him presents and why.

His initial idea that it’s his friends trying to cheer him up proves to be wrong, so who is it? And what, exactly, do they want from him?


This falls into the oblivious friends to lovers genre. Richard has recently graduated with a degree in journalism, but he’s finding it difficult to find a job. He hangs out a local gay bar where he enjoys looking at the hot young bartender, but he is a bit on the chubby side and figures he’s not the type to attack hot guys anyway. One night, to escape his roommate and his girlfriend’s noisy sex, he goes to the bar to find it jammed and owner Ty frazzled. Richard offers to help out, and before the night is through, Ty has offered him a job since Malik has skipped town with a new boyfriend.

Richard has always thought Ty was hot, but again, no one would want him. But soon gifts start arriving on his door step, gifts from someone who obviously knows him quite well. He assumes his friends are doing it but they all deny it. After an overheard conversation between Ty and Malik on the phone, he finally puts it together and figures Ty is just messing with him. Ty has to spell it out for him pretty clearly.

There were a few things I kept wondering about that niggled at me while I read. There are vague references to a car crash that killed Richard’s parents and left him badly scarred, but when he and Ty finally get naked, there is no reference to the scars, and you’d think Ty would have commented if they were that obvious, even in a non-negative way. Also, when the first gift arrives, he puts it in his room, goes out the bar and until the next day’s gift arrives he forgot about it. What? You got a mystery wrapped gift from a stranger and you FORGOT ABOUT IT? I would have been ripping that sucker open within minutes of getting it. 🙂

However Richard’s roommate and his girlfriend were nice characters. The girlfriend was first a friend of Richard’s, so she was very at ease with him and teased him about being a poor excuse for a gay man for being excited about getting a paperweight for a gift and not a cock ring and leather shorts. It was nice to have a straight friends who were just that, friends with no drama.

I do like stories with the shy guy with low self-esteem, and it’s always nice to see a character who has a few extra pounds and feels less than confident about it, get his man. So I did enjoy the story, but sometimes when little hints are thrown out, it makes me want to know more, and I end up thinking about that rather than focusing on what I am being told. Still, it was a cute winter story and not overly saccharine as some Christmas stories can be. A nice start to my Christmas themed reading.

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Title: Play Dead
Author: Julia Talbot
Length: 4,000 words (18 pdf pages)
Publisher: Torquere Press
Genre: m/m/m paranormal (shifters/vampires)
Rating: B


Werewolves Beck and Kayne are just looking for a place to hole up for a night or two when they enter a seemingly abandoned house in the French Quarter of New Orleans. They get more than they bargain for when they enter the bedroom, though. What on earth are they going to do with a vampire?


Beck and Kayne are werewolves without a pack. They were chased out of their old pack because of their relationship and as a result, Kayne has suffered a permanent injury to his leg which Beck feels guilty for. So they move from place to place, squatting in empty buildings. This time, the ramshackle cabin isn’t as empty as they expected, in fact there is a guy sleeping, or perhaps he’s dead. He won’t wake up so they decide to check out the fridge and sneak some food before leaving, only to find it full of blood. Uh oh. It’s also wake-up time for the resident. Only things don’t go quite as expected, Frank – yes, Frank – offers them some money for food and a place to stay if they’ll let him feed from them. Beck is cautious and wary, but Kayne is all in favour of the plan.

If you like your sex growly and bitey, this is the book for you. Between Frank feeding and the pups, as he calls them, nipping, there is lots of marking going on. You don’t find out much about Frank, he’s made this offer before, but most people run, but these two intrigue him and offer him some excitement and interest that he’s not had in many years. You get to know the two werewolves through their interactions with each other, and they do come across as pups much of the time, Kayne all bouncy and impulsive, Beck a little pouty and grumpy trying to keep him out of trouble and a bit jealous of Frank’s attentions to Kayne.

I’m going to be honest, the reason I rated this as I did, is simply because I liked it. It left me smiling and I liked the characters and the way they behaved more with a tinge of animal, than as humans who happen to shift. Also Frank’s pleasure as he found someone to pull him out of his eternal ennui, and his enthusiasm, was well written and made him seem more alive. There are moments of humour, especially when they first find Frank and in their play as well. I know others may find it a bit short with not much time to develop the relationship, although I found it seemed to fit pretty well. I think if you just want something fun and with a touch of teeth, it’s an enjoyable read that leaves you with a smile.

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skylar's salvationTitle: Skylar’s Salvation
Author: Nicole Dennis
Length: 100 pdf pages, 18,104 words.
Publisher: Silver Publishing
Genre: m/m contemporary romance
Rating: B-


Skylar Deering has suffered from schizophrenia since high school. Despite feeling safe with boyfriend Ben Radclyffe, Skylar slides deeper into his private hell. When Skylar enters a special clinic, he wonders: will Ben stick by Skylar’s side as promised?

Ben Radclyffe is a teahouse owner who sees a young man wearing colorful scarves come in for a cup of tea and pastry. He sees him count his money with care, but he sits in a corner to stare into the distance or speak to someone who isn’t there.

Skylar Deering has suffered from schizophrenia since late high school. Even with Ben, who sees beyond the hallucinations, delusions, and voices, he continues to slide deeper into his private hell. When he finds himself in a special clinic, Skylar digs deep to climb back to recovery. Skylar can only wonder: Will Ben, the one man who didn’t turn away from him, be there, sticking as he promised, when he comes out?


I chose this book because I was interested in seeing how the author (whose writing I’ve never encountered before) would handle such a challenging, poorly understood mental health problem. I had great difficulty deciding on a grade because this is one of those books that I have very mixed feelings about, and certain issues with the writing itself really frustrated me. However, I have to admire the author’s bravery and accuracy in portraying paranoid schizophrenia, and there were some genuinely sweet moments that made me feel warm inside.

The blurb is deceptive as the first part in italics makes it seem as if the book will be written from Skylar’s perspective. In actual fact it’s all from Ben’s, and we don’t get a very clear idea of what’s going on inside Skylar’s head. Also, the whole clinic incident is towards the end of the story, and at least half of the book is taken up with their first day together.

Ben has apparently been observing his gorgeous customer for some time, but not yet spoken to him (it’s left unclear why). However, when he sees Skylar selling himself to a violent group of young men outside his shop, he runs outside to help. Lucky for Skylar, Ben is a martial arts expert and sees off the thugs in a few effortless moves. Even more fortunate, Ben is a natural helper and he takes Skylar in to patch him up. Ben isn’t fazed by Skylar’s conversational non-sequiturs and arguments with non-existent beings, as he had a schizophrenic uncle himself. Unable to let the vulnerable young man leave for a night of sleeping on the street or prostitution, Ben offers him a place to stay. A permanent place.

This was my first real problem with the story (aside from my issues with the prose): Ben makes an immediate decision to live with someone who has a serious mental illness. He hasn’t yet seen Skylar in a lucid state, so has no idea what he’s really like. I can understand why he does it and I suppose there’s a part of me that finds it romantic, but the bigger part considers him pretty naive. He seems to be thinking with his dick and his heart, but not with his brain at all. Fortunately the author didn’t take the easy way out and let it all be roses from here on. Skylar continues to slide into psychosis, and eventually Ben has to have him committed to a clinic. Unfortunately this is right towards the end of the book, and Skylar’s healing takes place entirely off page. I felt like there was enough material for a novel here, especially if we’d been able to experience Skylar’s narrative point of view.

My biggest problem with the story is definitely the writing, though. The whole story felt like it was in need of a good edit. Not only does it abound with clichéd descriptions and clunky—not to mention confusing—sentences, but the characters often end up talking like people only ever do in books. For example, here is Ben confronting Skylar’s trick:

“I’m someone who happens to give a shit about others. Let him go. Turn him over to me and I may let you walk out of this alley with your pride intact.”

“I don’t think so, you irritating bastard. Jump him, guys,” Jerry ordered.

Fortunately Skylar’s fractured speech is much more compelling and gave a pretty realistic approximation of how paranoid schizophrenics really do talk when in a psychotic state. It’s clear that Nicole Dennis has researched the condition extensively, and I was pleased to see her deal with many of the common fears and misunderstandings people have about schizophrenics. We are shown various different states of dissociation and delusion, and Skylar is clearly far more of a danger to himself by self-harming than he is to anyone else. He has also used prostitution as a pragmatic way of dealing with his lack of cash, which is another real danger for those with serious mental health problems.

I want to finish this long review by talking about a few of the things that really shone in this story. Skylar himself is like a bright gem, and his character provides most of the moments. There’s a lovely scene where he traces over Ben’s tattoo to discover the scars from childhood surgery. Also, his strange babblings really captured my imagination, as did his patchwork quilt made from scarves, and his love of SpongeBob plasters. He’s a compelling mix of childlike innocence, flirtation and opportunism, and a truly memorable character.

In short, for all its faults this story definitely made a strong impression on me, and I won’t forget it in a hurry. I hope more m/m authors are inspired to write about characters with serious mental health problems, as I’d love to see this theme dealt with again.

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Title: The Staff of Kyade
Author: James L. Craig
Length: 13,000 words
Publisher: Less Than Three Press
Genre: m/m Fantasy Romance
Rating: D+

When royal soldiers attack his village in search of a magical relic, Kenji watches in horror as all that he loves is destroyed. Determined that they will not get what they want, he takes the staff they seek and flees, vowing to avenge those he lost as soon as he can.

I usually love the fantasy stories which come out of this publisher and the quazi-ancient Japan setting of this story was another draw. However, a clumsy execution and some errors in continuity and style made this a story I couldn’t recommend.

The story begins with an old woman who sits down to tell her young grandchild a story – the story of how their village was once rescued by a young man. I have to admit, I’m never fond of these ‘let me tell you a story’ narratives because it allows for a bit of a dull narrative style in that we are being told a story rather than being allowed to experience it. Throughout the story, I found that the knowledge that this is a story being told to a child made some of the parts jump out as being not the sort of thing you would say to a child and therefore distracted me from what was happening on the page. For example, quite early on in the story the grandma uses the word ‘plethora’ which is rather an adult word to use when talking to a child. Later on, she describes the two protagonists having sex:

They embraced each other and kissed, eventually giving into their passions. As the night went on, they became one with each other. They spent their lustful nature before embracing with one last kiss and drifting off into sleep again.

Whilst this is relatively tame for a sex scene, an adult would not have even mentioned sex within a story and so again, despite it being a tender moment, it distracted rather than added to the story. Later this is turned into a bit of a joke between the boy and his grandma, but that didn’t prevent my initial thoughts on reading the scene pulling me out of the story.

Another aspect which jarred slightly were some inconsistencies in the story. For example, the heroes are told that when the time comes they should point a staff in the air and call upon another character. In fact when this moment happens, they break the staff instead. It seemed odd that they should be given such specific instructions and then fail to carry them out properly.

The story wasn’t all bad. I liked the setting and the overall theme of love overcoming evil was done well. I liked the two main characters, even if they fell into fairy-tale type tropish characters. I just wish the boy/grandma framing had been taken out and also some of the unnecessary dialogue tags. Then I think I would have enjoyed the story more than I did. It may be that some readers may not find the framing as annoying as I did, in which case this story may be to your taste, especially if you like fantasy stories.

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Title: The Party
Author: Vic Winter
Length: 3,700 words (15 pdf pages)
Publisher: Torquere Press
Genre: m/m contemporary
Rating: B


Dressing up as Robin, the Boy Wonder, for this year’s GLBT ‘pairs party’, Ricky is on the hunt for his very own Batman. This is his fourth, and last, year attending the party, though, and he’s worried he’s going to come home alone again this year, just like he has every year. Is there a Batman out there just for him?


This is a cute little Halloween themed story that made me snicker out loud when I read it. Ricky is prepping for his last “pairs party” and going as Robin, in a suit that has blow-up muscles. He has had a silly romantic dream that he will find his other half at one of these parties, and this is his last chance. And there’s not even another single Batman in the room. So he decides to drown his sorrows in cherry pie at a local diner. Who should arrive? But Batman.

A brief conversation and confirmation that both are gay, leads back to Ricky’s place and some sex. The humour came in as Ricky tries to get out of his pumped up costume. There’s not much to the story. Two guys meet, get together, and a short epilogue shows them a year later, but it was just cute and sweet. Both are nice guys, Ricky wants to find Mr. Right, while his roommate is happy to date around and attracts men like flies. So you just want Ricky to find his man.

It’s difficult sometimes to do a review for such a short story, but I recommend it when you want something light and fun, perhaps a palate cleanser after something heavier and with lots of angst. You’ll end up with a smile on your face, which is always a good thing.

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