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Archive for January, 2013

frostwick400x600Title: Frostwick
Author: Megan Derr
Length: 20,000 words
Publisher: Less Than Three Press
Genre: m/m contemporary romance
Rating: B-

Blurb:
To save the life of the crown prince, Starwick took a curse upon himself, but the curse leaves him in excruciating pain alleviated only by Tyrwick, the king’s bastard son and a man who has always despised Starwick. If he wants to live they must find the man who cast the curse and take back the ring he stole, but Starwick’s real challenge is not hunting a man—it is fighting his own despair, reinforced by Tyrwick’s cold disregard and his own shadowy life.

Review:
This book is a follow on from Wick, a set of shorts which deal with a group of wizards. I haven’t read that book and I didn’t feel like it was necessary to have read Wick first.

Starwick has spent years protecting the royal family, doing things that others would balk at. This has left him filled with self hatred. Now he’s been cursed whilst protecting the prince and the only person who can help him is the king’s bastard son, Tyrwick, who shows him nothing but contempt. Together the pair travel to the city where they are told the curser can be found in a race against time to save Starwick’s life.

Like many Megan Derr stories this one was original and entertaining. The world building was solid and the characterisation strong. The story hangs on how well you like the main character Starwick. He’s very morose and often reflects bitterly on his past, his lack of laughter and love in his life and his frustrations. He’s also very independent and whilst longing for human contact, he’s too proud to ask for it and too down on himself to believe that anyone would return his affections. The person he likes is Tyrwick but by being so aloof he is giving out the wrong signals. Instead of encouraging a friendship he ends up pushing Tyrwick away until a confrontation forces Tyrwick to take action. I enjoyed the interplay between the pair and the way that the romance built between them.

The slight mystery plot was sorted quickly but as it was secondary to the romance and a subplot which involves Starwick setting aside a few past ghosts, I wasn’t too bothered about that. The fun of the story is seeing Starwick begin to realise that he’s not as worthless as he believes and to stop taking himself so seriously.

My only complaint is that I found the fact that everyone in the story has ‘wick’ on the end of their name vaguely distracting and that I wish more time had been spent on the romance towards the end. However, that wasn’t enough to spoil my enjoyment too much and I would recommend this story to those who like fantasy, and especially those who like this author’s stories.

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newyear185Title: Absolute Virgin
Author: G.R. Richards
Length: 4,700 words
Publisher: Torquere Press
Genre: m/m contemporary m/m/m erotica
Rating: D

Blurb:
All through high school, Turner had a mad crush on his math teacher. Turner’s an absolute virgin, never been kissed, but there’s no point hitting on Neville. Teachers can’t hook up with students. The super-strict school board has a rule that says teachers can’t even start a relationship with a student right after graduation. They have to wait until the next calendar year. So, New Year’s at midnight, Turner waits outside Neville’s darkened house. When his former teacher arrives home with another man, will Turner run away crying or insist on getting his absolute cherry popped?

Review:
A couple of years ago I wrote a post on my Well Read blog discussing the lack of teacher/student relationships in m/m romance so when I saw this story it piqued my interest, plus I don’t often pass up an m/m/m. However, despite this being written by an author whose stories I often like, this one was a miss for me.

Turner’s got a plan. He’s been out of high school since the summer and was told that a teacher won’t start a relationship with a past student until the next year. New Year’s Day approaches and so Turner camps outside the house of Neville, his former maths teacher, in the hope of losing his virginity to the teacher he had a huge crush on. Neville arrives home with another man, Cass, who’s also a former pupil of Neville’s but is equally interested in Turner as well.

This story had the potential to be a hot and steamy read but instead comes over as a bit sleazy and creepy. Turner’s almost a stalker, having turned up at Neville’s house already in the past when he was still at school, and I found it strange that he would wait outside another guy’s house on the off chance he would consent to sex with a former pupil. I also didn’t buy the whole ‘I’ve stayed a virgin so I can give it to my teacher’ theme. Again this just made the whole situation uncomfortable for me. If the three had met at a nightclub and gone home together, I may have felt happier. Instead, Turner feels younger than his years and that just added to the general sleaziness.

Another part I didn’t like was the way the sex scene worked out. It wasn’t romantic in the slightest and ended up being about two older men taking advantage of the younger one. Turner consents to everything that happens but the scene becomes more about Cass dictating the action and getting excited about having sex with a virgin than a romance between Neville and Turner. Neville doesn’t even take his clothes off, instead he is almost clinical in the way he brings Turner to orgasm.

I finished the story with a bit of a bad taste in my mouth. If you’re the sort of reader who likes dirty and unromantic sex scenes then this story will be just to your taste. I’m afraid I was looking for something more romantic and Turner’s naivety was annoying rather than endearing.

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BreedingTitle: Good Breeding
Author: J.L. Merrow
Publisher: JMS Books
Length:  5,941 words (22 pdf pages)
Genre: m/m contemporary
Rating: B

Blurb:

Adopted as a baby, Giles Frobisher has grown up with every privilege. Encouraged by his best friend—and secret crush—Oz to seek out his birth mother, he’s appalled to discover she’s loud, lower-class, and insists on calling him Wayne!

Giles’ snobbier-than-thou, none-too-faithful boyfriend Hugh is equally horrified, and Oz, who’s always been secretive about his own family, starts acting very strangely.

It seems Giles is about to learn that good breeding has nothing to do with who your parents are!

Review:

This is less a romance and more of a bit of an eye-opening journey for a young man, who happens to find some romance on the way. It starts with Giles’ friend Oz encouraging him to knock on the door of his birth mom. As probably many adoptees, Giles has an image of what he imagines his real mother is like, however he’s in for a rude awakening as she turns out to be a rather uncouth lower class woman who can’t even remember his father’s real name. After an awkward introduction to her husband and his two half-siblings, he can’t wait to get out of there. She is everything he finds repulsive, however a little bit of an eye-opening talk from his friend makes him wonder if he really is a snob. When even his mother confirms it, to his chagrin, it gives him something to think about.

The ultimate kick in the gut comes when his boyfriend dumps him after finding out that he is adopted and his birth-mother is not of the “right” class. It was interesting to see Giles wake up from the kind of cotton wool he’d wrapped around himself with his long-term boyfriend. His birth-mother and his mother both saw something between him and Oz that he was oblivious too. I think it’s easy to get in the position Giles was in, kind of caught up in the status quo without really thinking about why you do something, or think something, and what the wider implications of that were. Granted, his step-siblings left something to be desired, but he was welcomed into the family with open arms.

It’s got hints of the author’s humour, but it’s not a laugh out loud type book, more of a quiet contemplation with a some humour along the way to keep it from being too dour and angsty. Fans of the author will definitely enjoy the story and I think it would be a good intro as well to get a taste for the author’s voice.

 

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BBQTitle: After the BBQ (A Talmor Story)
Author: Matthew Lang
Length: 9,000 words (35 pdf pages)
Publisher: MLR Press
Genre: m/m contemporary interracial
Rating: C+

Blurb:

Trent Gaudeen was going to spend Australia Day alone–on principle, of course. When an invitation comes out of the blue to attend his ex’s holiday barbeque, he goes along despite himself. Will he open a can of worms or find the perfect match to his American pumpkin pie?

Review:

I did not realize this story was set in a series, but you can read it without having read the rest of the stories, although of course I may have missed some things. It is also noted as paranormal by the publisher and while it seems the Talmor stories have a paranormal aspect and it’s referred to, there is no paranormal activity in this particular story.

Trent is an American living in Australia. He doesn’t plan anything for the day, but his ex insists he come over to the BBQ he is hosting with his current boyfriend. Trent agrees, even if it feels a bit odd, but he’s soon distracted by good food and one of his ex’s graduate students Vijay, who is of mixed Indian parentage from New Zealand. They hit it off, and after the party decide to head to Trent’s place, however an attempted mugging of Vijay soon puts a cramp in their plans as they deal with the police and neighbours. Eventually, they get the chance to be alone.

As I said, I may have understood a bit more about the paranormal activity Trent refers to that his ex did, and perhaps why Trent was in Australia. There was little things about their personalities, about Trent being a body builder , and other little personality quirks that likely meant more if I’d read the other books, but it doesn’t detract from this book in any way. They also touch on the what appears to be the rather contentious issue of celebrating Australia Day, taking into account the way local Aboriginal populations were so badly treated by the settlers. I did like that Trent and his ex got along, and there wasn’t some kind of big drama surrounding their past, and even the new boyfriend seemed fine with it. It was nice to see a rather mature take on relationships.

So I think fans of the series will enjoy seeing characters from previous books, and perhaps seeing Trent start on what could be a HEA. It is just a story that spans a weekend, but both guys seem to be leaning toward something more long-term. I’ll admit it’s made me curious about the previous installments in the series which I may just check out.

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newyear185Title: The Baby New Year
Author: Rob Rosen
Length: 13 pdf pages, 3100 words.
Publisher: Torquere Press
Genre: m/m contemporary erotica
Rating: C+

Blurb:

Lewis is babysitting his sister Rosemary’s baby, Damien. Clark is trying to enjoy a blissful New Year’s Eve in his apartment, ten blocks away from Times Square. Worlds collide, as do certain other body parts, when Damien decides that blissful is no longer on the agenda. Thankfully, the new neighbor is way hotter, not to mention decidedly more limber, than the previous ones, so while no longer blissful, at least the New Year starts off with a bang!

Review:

A fast and humorous little slice of erotica that helped pass a pleasant few minutes.

This really is a very short story, told from the point of view of Clark, a New Yorker spending a quiet New Year’s Eve alone at home with his Miller Lite (he’s resolved to lose some weight, although it doesn’t sound as if he’s particularly overweight in the first place). When a baby starts crying in the next door apartment, Clark calls round to give his neighbours a piece of his mind. Amazingly enough, though, the expected Mary and Doug aren’t there—they’ve moved without Clark even noticing. The new neighbour, Lewis, is a hundred times hotter, however, and dressed only in his underpants. Shame about the crying baby in his arms. Fortunately for Lewis, Clark is a bit of an expert uncle and has the baby calmed down in no time, giving the two new neighbours a chance to really get to know each other.

There really isn’t time for anything more than the set-up and the sex in this one, so don’t read it expecting character development or a happy ever after (although the “happy for now” ending seems pretty hopeful). Also, this the kind of gay erotica that seems to be targeted at a male readership judging by the earthy language and instant sex. I don’t have any problem with these aspects, but I have noticed that gay erotica written by women often uses different words for parts of the anatomy (you rarely see a female writer using the term “chute”) and there’s more emotional content before/during the sex.

I enjoyed the banter between Lewis and Clark, much of which revolves around the coincidence of their names. I did have to go and look this up as Lewis and Clark aren’t well-known over here in Britain. The dialogue rolls off the tongue easily, though, and these two felt like real guys getting to know each other.

The sex is spiced up by Lewis’s flexibility, and while I wasn’t entirely sure how sexy I found the picture created, it was at least amusing and different. I’m sure others will find it more exciting. I just kept thinking about how weird that would look…

I think this short is one for the gay erotica fans only as there’s not much here for an m/m romance devotee. However, it could be a fun intro to gay erotica for those who haven’t read much before.

On a sidenote, I’m intrigued by this Torquere range of New Year’s stories, and I’ve read several other Christmassy novels from other publishers this year that seem to focus more on New Year. Is this a new phenomenon? Are readers starting to tire of Christmas stories and are looking for something different?

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New Sip coverTitle: The Dragon and His Knight
Author: M. Raiya
Length: 7,400 words (29 pdf pages)
Publisher: Torquere Press
Genre: m/m paranormal (shifters)
Rating: C+

Blurb:
What does it feel like to belong to someone else? Body, mind, even soul? And what if the man who owns you is a dragon shifter with magic and immortality? For Wells, it means a thousand years of love, laced with danger, desire, and the freedom of the sky on Justin’s back.

But what happens when that bond is suddenly wrenched apart.

Originally published in the Mine anthology.

Review:

This story is set in the universe of Notice and tells you in part who Wells and Justin are, who showed up unexpectedly in A Sky Full of Wings. History has been that dragons capture knights to be their guides in the human world. Usually they are enchanted to stay, but Wells genuinely chose Justin and loves him. They have decided to spend time in the modern world and register for university because Wells wants to study history and see how it differs from the real thing and Justin indulges him by attending class (and usually sleeping through the lectures). However when the class discussions of dragons comes up, a painting of Justin’s brother being killed by a knight shocks both men. When they find out the artist is a young woman in the class and she jumps up and attacks them, all hell breaks loose.

She has a medallion which she slips on Wells which makes him lose his connection with Justin, but rather than freeing him, it gives him the strength to remove it and stop her from killing Justin. She is then carted off by the police and they try to find out if Justin’s brother was killed or is alive. It seems he is fine, but the girl tried a similar trick with him showing Justin’s picture. There is also a subplot of Wells wanting Justin to have sex with him in dragon form which Justin doesn’t want to, fearing he’ll hurt him.

I liked that the two men, especially Justin felt uncomfortable in the new world. Cell phones and bagels are all great mysteries and Justin tends to be a bit of one of those crotchety technophobes. So it was fun to see them adapting and realizing that the “few years ago” they saw his brother was more like 145 years.

Having read the follow-up stories, I wasn’t left with as many questions as I think those who read this one alone would be, such as who the girl is, and how she knew about them. I think fans of the other notice book will enjoy finding out a bit more about the mysterious Wells and Justin. It does give a bit more detail about the ancient dragons and how they function in the world.

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ricochet185Title: Ricochet
Author: B.A. Tortuga
Length: 19,900 words
Publisher: Torquere Press
Genre: m/m contemporary romance
Rating: C

Blurb:
Holt is leaving his life in the city, ready to shed himself of the drama of his ex and get back to the simple life in Texas. His ex, Dave, disagrees with the idea. Violently. When Holt ends up injured and stranded, it’s his old friend, Teague, who comes to the rescue.

Teague has always regretted letting Holt slip away, and he’ll do whatever he needs to keep the man in his life now, even if that means enduring the agony of “just friends”. Will Holt ever realize how much Teague loves him, or will it be too late for both of them?

Review:
This author can be a bit hit and miss for me. I was pleased to see a longer story than usual but I think in the end it was the length that didn’t work so well for me.

The story begins in Chicago where Holt has been living with his lover, just about to be ex-lover as Holt has had enough of his clingy boyfriend and cheerless city life. Before he can get out the door his ex turns up and tries to shoot Holt. Holt is picked up at the hospital by his best friend Teague who has flown in from Texas to drive Holt home. Holt and Teague both have the hots for each other but neither is telling the other until sharing a house proves difficult to hide their feelings.

I really liked the first part of the story as the pair make their way back to Texas. Both men have been friends for a long time and I enjoyed their easy camaraderie. Holt is annoyed with himself for staying away from the country as long as he has, and regrets the time spent in Chicago. It did make me wonder why he moved away in the first place and why he stayed so long with Dave. It’s always difficult to understand past relationships like this, especially as Holt has nothing but bad things to say about Dave – which I suppose is understandable given the circumstances.

I also liked the portrayal of family life for Holt, especially his fierce Momma. Holt’s love of Texas, the slower pace of life and his family shines through the mid part of the book and adds greatly to the characterisation of Holt.

The parts that didn’t work for me was towards the end of the book. There’s lots of sex which became a little repetitive and my interest began to wane. This is because there wasn’t really anything new or extra given to the reader at this point, just several sex scenes and a reaffirming of how much the two men lust after, and love, each other. The reappearance of Dave forces a complication at the end which wasn’t at all necessary. I read this sort of ‘psycho-ex at the end of the story’ plot line so many times that it just makes me tired to read it nowadays.

Overall, there was much to like about the story and I always like how B.A. Tortuga writes her rugged cowboy men, but during the last third of the book I struggled to keep reading. However, if you’re in the mood for lots of sex then maybe you won’t have the same issues that I did and will enjoy the story a whole lot more.

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thirstingformoreTitle: Thirsting for More
Author: Claire Cray
Length: 8,494 words
Publisher: Smashwords
Genre: m/m Paranormal Romance
Rating: B-

Blurb: In the seven years since he became a vampire, Cal has suffered a painful unrequited crush on a fellow immortal. Cool, narcissistic, and loudly straight, Ira drifts in and out of his life at whim, leaving Cal despondent in his absence. After Ira’s latest departure, Cal has decided to get over him for good. But now Ira’s back with a shocking proposition that threatens to change their dynamic forever.

Review: This is the first story I’ve read by this author, but after hearing some good things about other stories she’s written, I decided to try this story that I got for free. It is now listed for one dollar at both Smashwords and Amazon, but it might be free again at some point, I really don’t know.

Seven years ago, Cal was turned into a vampire upon the vampire’s whim. He was left, floundering, until a cool and somewhat aloof vampire named Ira took up the reins and taught him how to hunt and live in his new life. And then, Cal promptly fell in love with him, only to find Ira gone one day.

Months later, Ira turned up, pretending that nothing had happened and things were normal, starting a pattern of staying and leaving that has lasted for the last seven years. Each time Ira shows up, Cal is happier than ever; each time Ira leaves, Cal is more brokenhearted than ever.

Now, Cal is adamant that when Ira next shows himself he won’t take the bait. When Ira does come, he seems changed as well, asking strange questions about Cal’s queer sex life that would have revolted him before. When Cal get’s the truth out of him, that he wants information in order to win the attention of a male vampire in China, Cal is angry and more broken hearted than ever. He’ll make a deal, but he has his own guidelines — namely, that Ira will forever leave him alone. Hopefully, that way Cal will be able to get over him once and for all.

This story isn’t much more than what the blurb and my summary describes, and there is no real surprise in the plot. I’m sure you can guess what happens just from the description. But that was okay with me, because even though I knew how this would turn out and most likely what would happen along the way, I found the writing to be good and of quality for a self-published work, Cal and Ira to have a real connection and good dialogue, and the sex within (both between them and with others/meals) incredibly sexy.

In fact, Cray’s Author Note at the end of this story summarized my feelings better than I can even write them, she said — “I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: if there’s one thing that never gets old, it’s hot vampire guys doin’ it.”

‘Nuff said.

I’ll be looking for more of Claire Cray’s stories to read in the future.

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lightthefireTitle: Light the Fire
Author: J.L. Merrow
Length: 6,623 words
Publisher: JMS Books
Genre: m/m contemporary romance
Rating: B+

Blurb:
Two years after the death of his lover at the hands of bigots, Kurt’s still not looking for another relationship, even though the big old house he bought with Raoul seems cold and empty these days. But there’s a perky kid at his gym who just won’t take no for an answer.

Matt can tell there’s more to Kurt than just a great set of pecs. He’s drawn to the big guy’s caring, protective attitude as much as to his muscles. But when push comes to shove, can Matt show Kurt he’s not just a big mouth in a small package?

Review:
A hot muscly man and a twinky guy with hidden talents. What more could you wish for in a story? Except perhaps for J.L. Merrow’s trademark quirky sense of humour which shines through the world-weary narrative of Kurt. His lover died 2 years ago, leaving Kurt and the house they shared feeling cold and empty. When irrepressibly perky and talkative Matt pesters him at the gym, Kurt only seeks to brush him off. Matt has a way of getting under Kurt’s defenses though and eventually he agrees to go out for a drink.

I really liked the understated way that this story develops. Kurt comes across at first as a bit of a grumpy grouch, but as the story continues we see the reasons why he uses that grumpy exterior to protect himself. The story shows a turning point in Kurt’s life but I liked that Kurt’s ex-lover Raoul is given some space to be a real person, not just someone to be forgotten in a new romance. It lent credence to Kurt’s feelings at the beginning of the story. Matt also manages to be fairly well defined as we get glimpses of past hurts and that his confident bouncy exterior may hide a few uncertainties. I could see the attraction for Kurt as Matt calls to his protective nature, and yet Matt’s not helpless which allows Kurt to feel able to rely on Matt.

Overall, this story about moving on, striking out into a new romance managed to be both poignant and fun.   Parts  of it were moving, parts tense, parts amusing. Some parts had hot sex, and other parts tenderness. We leave the guys at the start of something special and I was happy to leave them there, confident that they would last the course. I enjoyed Light the Fire a great deal and I would recommend it.

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16204833Title: Chevalier Book 4: The Chaste Ring
Author: Benji Bright
Length: 35 pdf pages
Publisher: JMS Books
Genre: m/m fantasy historical
Rating: C

Blurb:

There are tales of dashing knights and blushing ladies, and there are stories of bravery bound to become legend. Then there’s the life of a mercenary.

Four swords-for-hire — Giovanni, the supposed magician; Solister, the armored giant; Casic, the virtuous fighter; and Farrbiner, the drunken healer — try to make their pockets heavy and their grief light. On their way to fame and fortune, or maybe just notoriety, they encounter every twist and turn the criminal underworld can throw at them. In a world full of double-crosses and shady motivations, can’t a man just find a warm place to thrust his sword?

In Book 4: The Chaste Ring, the mercenaries head to the riverside city of Shelsby where Casic discovers his estranged sister may be in danger. To protect her, he’ll confront foreign magic, dangerous secrets, and his own tragic past.

Review:

The focus in this book is almost exclusively on Casic and his past and relationship with his sister. Her female lover has found Casic and asked him to help free his sister from a lover who intends to use a mage and a ring to destroy her desire because he fears she is cheating on him. You find out more about Casic and the fact that he and her sister were adopted as teens, but their “father” used their special talents to hire them out as prey for his friends who would hunt them, then a mage would heal them only to do it all over again. Each member of the quartet have a pretty horrific childhood/early adulthood.

However it seems perhaps his sister doesn’t need the assistance her lover thinks she does. In this case, Casic goes undercover as a whore to try to get close to the mage who is hosting a massive gay orgy. Thanks to Giovanni’s spells, he is able to avoid having sex with anyone and manages to destroy the mage. I’m still trying to figure out what the deal is with Casic. I’m not sure if he’s straight, gay, bi or asexual . He seems a bit turned on by the groping he experiences, but it seemed to be a new experience for him. Not sure where that will go.

I’m finding it interesting getting the back-story of the men, and now I suppose we’ll see where it goes. They are on the run again and know that a Chevalier is after them, so an additional challenge to the trouble they seem able to find on their own. There’s not much that happens to push the story forward in this one, it’s more background and has significantly less sex than others, but little pieces are given that I presume will play out in a larger story arc. I know not everyone enjoys the serial nature of stories, and some may find it an interesting way to enjoy a longer story.

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