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Archive for December, 2012

SipTitle: Ink
Author: Tory Temple
Length: 6,000 words (23 pdf pages)
Publisher:
Torquere Press
Genre: m/m contemporary
Rating: C+

Blurb:

Cade Tomlin wants nothing more than to tattoo people. He’s been drawing on himself with markers since he was little, but it can’t compare to the feel of a tattoo machine in his hand. When he finally discovers an artist who is willing to take him on as an apprentice, Cade learns more secrets and details about tattooing than he thought existed. However, his first real client, Kip Parker, teaches him much more about what a meaningful tattoo can say.

Review:

This is less of a romance story and more the story of Cade’s journey to fulfill his dream of being a tattoo artist. I liked how Cade became fascinated at a really young age and when the opportunity arose he found a way to make his dream come true. The difficulties of living in a small town with no opportunities to learn, and then in a larger city where he had to convince an established artist to take a chance on him was interesting and showed Cade’s determination to not give up. I also like his mentor who seemed like a great teacher and friend.

The romance is really only a beginning for the two men. Cade observed Kip getting a tattoo by his mentor and then is stunned when Kip asks him to do his next tattoo soon after, but Cade’s mentor is confident Cade can do it. Immediately following the tattoo, they end up at Cade’s place where I get the feeling that Cade is only expecting a one-off, Kip seems interested in more. You don’t get much of a feel for them as a couple, or why Kip was so enamoured with Cade, but for a short story, you can’t really expect much development of both characters and I did like Cade a great deal for his youthful determination and good nature.

So if you like stories about tattooing and tattoo artists, it is an interesting read as there is more about the process of becoming and artist than most books cover. Short and sexy and great for a quicky when you are in the mood.

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ThebrokenroadTitle: The Broken Road
Author: Anna Lee
Length: 19,132 words
Publisher: Silver Publishing
Genre: m/m contemporary romance
Rating: C-

Blurb:
Nearly a year and half ago, Kason Tyler’s life was turned upside down when a drunk driver hit his car. To make matters worse, Kason’s boyfriend Blake walked out on him while he was recovering. Now, confined to a wheelchair and insecure, Kason is afraid he’ll never find someone to see past it. Then he meets Ryen Moore in his coffee shop. Falling head over heels for Ryen is easy. When Blake reappears and tries to steal their happiness away, Kason puts his trust in Ryen and realizes that his broken road has led him to love.

Review:
I picked up this book because one of the heroes, Kason, is in a wheel chair and I’m always interested to see how the theme of disability is handled in romance. Unfortunately, I was only a couple of pages into the story before I realised it wasn’t going to be to my taste. Kason and Ryen meet when Kason spends some time in a coffee shop working on his play. Ryen runs the coffee shop and it isn’t long before both men are flirting and setting up a date. After that it all got a bit too sickly sweet for me. The story is an insta-love tale, with first date sharing of a traumatic past and within a week the pair are meeting the fanmily and claiming they will be together forever. It takes a little longer to get to the actual ‘I love yous’ but the thought is there from the very start.

Just when I was wondering what the point of the story is, except for me to watch two guys being increasingly more sappy towards each other, along comes the ex-boyfriend who not only turns out to be a selfish idiot, he’s also a total psychopath. It’s OK, though because Ryen saves the day and we can then move into a epilogue worthy of any romance movie made by Disney.

Now, I fully admit that this book didn’t work for me, but having said that, if you are the sort of reader who is looking for a very sweet story with nice guy characters then this would be just right for you. Kason’s disability is explored in a sympathetic way, showing some of the disadvantages both physically and mentally to being in a wheelchair. The theme of family is strong too, although I found it a little puzzling that Kason’s mom wasn’t given a name and just referred to as ‘Kason’s mom’ all the time. Disability access is a big issue in the UK, so I was also a little puzzled that Kason didn’t have more problems with access – or may it’s just different in the USA and access for the disabled isn’t as much of a problem.

Overall, this story wasn’t to my taste but I can see how it might appeal to those who need something very romantic and sweet.

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misruleTitle: Lord of Misrule
Author: Alex Bekins
Length: 11,314 words (47 pdf pages)
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: m/m contemporary
Rating: C+

Blurb:

The Yule festival of Twelfth Night is a time when servants are the masters and vice versa, and tension and humor fill the air. Dan and his partner, Taj, have busy lives even without their duties as members of the Society for Creative Anachronism. When Taj is selected to coordinate the holiday activities and assigned the title Lord of Misrule, it encroaches on their time as a couple—until they negotiate their way to a happy holiday.

Review:

I did not read the blurb before I started this story, and I have to confess the author got me at the beginning. I’m reading away, thinking historical fantasy, then… Gatorade? What? Well done. 🙂

Taj and Dan are preparing for their first Christmas together and Taj has volunteered to help with the Christmas celebration of their Society. He’s pretty new to the whole thing (I got the impression introduced to it all by Dan) and is loving the active involvement in holiday celebrations. It seems Taj hasn’t really had a good Christmas history, so he’s throwing himself full-steam into this year, which is leading to a bit of burn-out and overkill. Dan is used to lots of family and friend celebrations and even he’s thinking it’s too much.

I liked the descriptions of the celebration, in which the better halves of the reigning couple (in this case Taj and another woman) are the king and queen of the celebration, forcing their partners to serve them. And the descriptions of jousting and the fair and the easy friendships they had with the other players was fun, however I think the fact that it switched from role playing (with different names and personalities) to everyday life and back and forth kind of kept me at a bit of a distance to the story. Others may not find that.

I also found that a couple of issues were raised, such as Dan’s fear that Taj likes it a bit “too” much when he gets rough were kind of thrown out but then not addressed at any point. So this was nicely written and different with the role playing and different traditions, however I think I would have been more interested in finding out how Taj and Dan met as it seemed an interesting story. Still, a nice change from the traditional “straight” contemporaries.

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Something_To_Believe_InTitle: Something to Believe In
Author: Sloan Parker
Length: 18,000 words
Publisher: MLR Press
Genre: m/m contemporary romance
Rating: A-

Blurb:
Two young, homeless men fall in love and search for a way to stay off the streets and build a life together.

After running away from the hatred and abuse of their teen years, Sean and Gavin have been hustling to survive for too long now. When some extra cash lands them alone in a hotel room until Christmas, they can no longer deny their feelings for each other. Now neither one can imagine watching the other walk off with one more trick. Even with no money and no job prospects, Sean is determined to not just show Gavin what a real home and holiday is like, but to keep them off the streets for good and build a life together.

Review:
I wasn’t sure about this book at first because the blurb makes it sound overly bleak and angsty. In fact this wasn’t bleak at all and although it doesn’t shy away from the realities of being homeless, it’s ultimately a book about hope.

The story follows Sean as he struggles on the streets at Christmastime. Kicked out of home for being gay and with no high school diploma, Sean has slipped through the cracks and now survives by prostitution. He arrives at a shelter where they are serving Christmas dinner and there he meets Gavin, whose life has been very different to Sean’s but who is in the same place. They join forces and the story flips on a year later where both men are trying to make the best of the situation, and shows them making decisions that will affect their future together.

As I said earlier, this book shows us the realities of life on the streets: The difficulties of getting a job, and therefore getting off the streets; the things that the men have to do to survive; the temptations of drugs or getting into a life of crime; the harshness of living among people who are desperate and will do anything to survive. All this is shown to the reader but with such a deftness that I didn’t feel weighed down by the theme. It wasn’t oppressive, more realistic and matter of fact which in some ways made it all the more heartbreaking. However, the main focus of the story is not on the past, but looking towards a better future for these young men, and there’s much to celebrate including their survival and their love for each other.

The romance between Gavin and Sean is surprisingly tender and sweet, given their situation. I liked that it developed when the men could allow themselves to relax and be open about their feelings and the scene where this happens was just lovely to read. After being shown all the crap they have to deal with I had really bonded with these characters and I rejoiced in the small comfort they receive from each other.

Perhaps my only complaint about the story was that I wished I could have seen further into the HEA because I wasn’t wholly convinced that Gavin would find the new situation at the end easy to cope with and I felt there was more scope for problems that could have been worked through in a longer story. However, that wasn’t enough to spoil the story for me too much and I’d highly recommend Something to Believe In to those looking for a truly heartwarming seasonal tale.

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wrappedTitle: Wrapped Around Your Handlebars
Author: Azura Ice
Length: 13,915 words (79 pdf pages)
Publisher: Silver Publishing
Genre: m/m contemporary
Rating: C-

Blurb:

With Christmas weeks away, Oak finally ends a bad relationship that’s been dying for years. Traveling alone on his motorcycle seems the best way to clear his head. But once he meets Chandler, a waiter at a roadside restaurant, plans change.

After three years of trying to revive his relationship, Oak finally kicks his partner out. Christmas is only two weeks away, and he finds himself traveling by motorcycle up the eastern coast line. Everything changes suddenly when he meets Chandler, a waiter at a Florida City restaurant. Oak insists he’s not interested in the guy, but he’s drawn to his unique perspective on life, even if his enthusiasm for Christmas is overwhelming.

However, Oak hasn’t seen his family since his father kicked him out eleven years ago. Chandler thinks it’s time to visit Oak’s mother and sisters, so when Oak asks him to travel together, they embark on a path to redemption and a new, healthy love for one another.

Review:

While on the surface this is well written and sentimental, I was confused by some of the characters actions. Oak has kicked out his drug dealing boyfriend and decided to hit the road. He’s given the man three months to leave, but he’s not ready to give up yet and keeps calling Oak begging for second chances, however Oak doesn’t give in. He stops at a diner where he sees sexy Chandler, they flirt a bit, but nothing comes of it. As he’s getting ready to leave, he sees Chandler’s motorcycle and stops. Chandler invites him into the small room he stays in where he finds out more about him.

Following the death of Chandler’s brother, he’s been riding the country exploring, stopping and working for a bit then moving on. On impulse, Oak asks him to come with him, and Chandler encourage Oak to go back home and see his mother (his father died a bit ago) despite the bad terms he left on when his father kicked him out.

I had a few issues. Where was Oak going to go for three months? That’s never really indicated. Did he not have a job and have to pay the mortgage on his house? And I have to say, a couple of stories this year have featured parents who did not defend their kids when a step-parent kicked them out, and yet now, years later, everything is all happy happy when they get back together. Oak’s mother “knew he’d come home”. What? Why did you not defend him? You knew he moved to Key West, you knew your husband was responsible, and you never tried to get in touch? You claim you love him and never stopped, but you never stood up for him. I may be a Mama Bear mother, but I just can’t say “oh, that’s okay then, everything’s fine now.”

So I think in this case it may be entirely personal. I just find the “I’ll forgive anything so we can have a sweet family Christmas” stories more annoying than sweet. But as I said, that’s me and perhaps I am more unforgiving than most. I just can’t give a parent a free pass when they don’t stick up for their kid, not without a very good reason or some sufficient groveling, which did not happen here. Other’s may not mind this device so take that into account when deciding on this story.

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JoysTitle: Joys R Us
Author: Kim Fielding
Length: 9,082 words (49 pdf pages)
Publisher: Silver Publishing
Genre: m/m contemporary
Rating: C

Blurb: 

Reece considers holiday events wasteful. But when he’s coerced into standing in line for this year’s must-have toy, he gets trampled by the crowd. Store manager Angel rescues him–but can Angel also show Reece the joy of Christmas?

Reece is a practical, orderly man, a financial analyst who considers most holiday events wasteful. But his sister coerces him into standing in line overnight for this year’s must-have toy. Supplies of Daredevil Danny prove smaller than expected, and Reece gets trampled in the resulting stampede. Toy store manager Angel tends to Reece’s wounds. When Angel discovers Reece’s cynical attitude, he invites Reece to spend Christmas Eve with him. Over the course of the day, Angel shows Reece what Christmas means to him. With Angel’s guidance, maybe Reece can finally understand the joy of the holiday–and maybe even find love as well.

Review:

Flashes of humour in this story made it entertaining, but I felt a bit like I was being preached at, or rather Reece was. When his sister “blackmails” him into going to the toy store to get the latest gift for her son, Reece is not impressed. He thinks the kid would be better off with money in his college fund than a hunk of plastic, but he agrees to go. It’s worse than he imagined and even though he got a number indicating he was guaranteed the toy, he is trampled by the stampeding mob and while being tended by hot Assistant Manager Angel, he loses his chance to get the toy. However Angel asks him out, so all is not lost.

Their date turns out to be Angel’s opportunity to imbue Reece with the Christmas spirit, taking him on a variety of charitable outings, including serving at a soup kitchen and wrapping gifts at the shelter for homeless LGBT people, showing Reece that there is more to gift giving than just greed and crass commercialism. This is where it kind of lost me. I find the “let me show you all the poor people and how you can improve their lives” message rather preachy and over-done. Is Reece, an intelligent educated man unaware of homeless people or banished youth? And does one experience with them really change you? I suppose it’s the Christmas Carol method of awakening, but I find it rather as if I, along with the main character, am being lectured to. But that is just me.

I didn’t really connect with either man that much. While I like curmudgeonly characters, Reece was just annoying and Angel seemed to go the extreme opposite. I’m not sure two such disparate mind could really meet, but this is just my opinion. It’s a bit more of a sentimental story than some others and if you like that “touched by the Christmas spirit” trope, you’ll probably enjoy this one a bit more than I did.

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TraditionsTitle: Traditions from the Heart
Author: Bru Baker
Length: 7,128 words (32 pdf pages)
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: m/m contemporary
Rating: B+

Blurb:

When Aaron finds out Ben is missing out on some important Christmas traditions to be with him, he starts thinking of ways to give Ben new ways to observe the holiday. Can a homemade bear, a friend-made video, and a sock-eating goat become the traditions that keep Ben and Aaron together?

Review:

This was a sweet story about an established couple. Aaron traditionally spends Christmas with his sister and a group of friends who have no where to go, rather than with his rich father. Christmas has never been much of a big deal. However, this is his first Christmas with Ben who has lots of family traditions and usually spends Christmas with his mom and uncle on the family farm, along with his best friend/roommate Will and his mom and the family pet goat. 🙂 However this year, they head back to the city on Christmas day for Aaron’s dinner, leaving Ben a bit blue, but wanting to be with Aaron.

Okay, this story started out one way and completely caught my off guard when what I expected did NOT happen. I’m not going to spoil it but I had to share it with my daughter it amused me so. There are lots of sweet moments as Aaron understands more of what Ben needs/wants for a Christmas celebration and what he himself needs. Aaron is more reserved and uptight and comes across as a bit of a stick in the mud, but he really has a very sharp sense of humour and his comments about the goat, and Ben’s friend/roommate were really quite snarky and funny. Okay, I am in love with the goat and we don’t even meet him on-page.

“Just because he ate your sock doesn’t make Cornelius a bad goat. You shouldn’t have left it out.”

“It was in my room, Ben. Goats should not be house pets!”

You also get to meet Aaron’s sister and some of their friends who share the holiday and they all have an easy camaraderie which lends itself to joking and teasing, especially aimed at uptight Aaron. Also, Aaron realizes that while they practically live together, he wants to make it official, after which they christen the kitchen table. 🙂  The humour and the difference in the two men added interest to this story, and while sweet at the end, not overly schmaltzy. A fun little story and I’d love to meet Cornelius. 🙂

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