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Archive for the ‘Authors: A-C’ Category

NextStopFunnelCakeTitle: Next Stop: Funnel Cake
Author: Heidi Champa
Length: 19,000 words
Publisher: Amber Allure
Genre: m/m contemporary romance
Rating: C+

Blurb:
Travis Webber has been working at his uncle’s amusement park since the days of keeping money in his pocket during the summers of high school and college. But, with his college career cut prematurely short, it’s turned into a full-time job. To add insult to injury, he’s forced to spend the bulk of his summer driving the train that runs through the park. This isn’t a huge problem, however, until someone from his past recognizes him.

Andrew Baxter, the guidance counselor who helped Travis in high school, recognizes him immediately, in spite of the seven years that have passed—and Travis’s cheesy overalls. When he invites Travis out to catch up on old times, Travis is reluctant, but his long-dormant crush on Andrew from his teenaged years is still enough to make him say “yes.”

As the two men get reacquainted, demons from Travis’s past threaten to grind the reunion to a halt. Can Travis learn to trust again and let Andrew into his life, or will old hurts derail his future?

Review:
Travis is getting by, working at his uncle’s amusement park and trying unsuccessfully to save up to go to College. He’s not happy when his uncle makes him spend part of his job driving the train around the park and is embarrassed when his old guidance counselor sees him in a crappy job, with a crappy uniform. Andrew ‘Mr Baxter’ is pleased to see Travis and asks him out for a coffee.

This was a gentle story with a very sympathetic character in Travis who sometimes behaved in silly, slightly immature ways, such as jumping to conclusions without evidence and running away from his problems. However, I thought there was enough explanation as to why Travis behaves as he does to make his actions believable. This made me feel a certain empathy for him, even if I also wanted to give him a piece of my mind! Fortunately, Travis’ best friend was there to talk some sense to him. Travis and Clayton’s friendship was another highlight of the story for me. Their teasing interactions were realistic for men their age, but contained enough seriousness when it mattered.

My reservations about the story revolve around the character of Andrew, or Mr Baxter, as Travis calls him for quite a lot of the story – which certainly didn’t help my feelings towards their relationship. We don’t get Andrew’s point of view so I was wasn’t completely sure about his reasons for asking Travis for a coffee, but it’s obvious that he’s attracted to Travis. Travis tells us that he had a major crush on Mr Baxter when he was at school, and I felt slightly uncomfortable that Andrew may have had inappropriate feelings for Travis when he was his school guidance counselor, even if he is only now, several years later, acting on those feelings. Andrew also seemed rather pushy and lacking in insight when it comes to Travis and his problems which struck me as unusual for someone of his profession – if he still is a guidance counselor, we are never told what he current job entails or whether he still works at Travis’ old school.

So whilst I liked Travis and found the story to be an easy, undemanding read, sweet in some places with a touch of angst in Travis’ past and how that affects him now, the romance didn’t work as well. That isn’t to say it’s a bad story and if some of the things I’ve mentioned don’t bother you then I’d be happy to recommend this story.

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HeartoftheRaceTitle: Heart of the Race
Author: Mary Calmes
Length: 19,958 words (90 pdf pages)
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: m/m contemporary
Rating: C

Blurb:

Varro Dacien spends his life riding toward the next adventure. Brian Christie, his best friend and touchstone, the one person who’s always truly seen him, plays sidekick on these madcap adventures and subsequent trips to the hospital until he can’t take it anymore. While Brian can see Varro, Varro has never caught on that he’s breaking his best friend’s heart.

Without Varro, Brian builds himself a life that’s all about just getting by, doing his best to ignore the hole in his heart and his life. Without Brian to balance him, Varro pushes harder and takes more risks to reach that ultimate high. His job racing high-octane bikes on suicide-level courses makes it easy to get that rush… until it’s no longer enough and Varro realizes it’s not the race, but who’s waiting at the finish line that truly matters. Now he just has to convince Brian to be there.

Review:

A lot of co-dependence guilt-tripping caused my frustration with the story to detract from the overall feel. Brian was basically adopted by daredevil Varro’s family when he was in 4th grade. Varro and Brian were joined at the hip, Brian always there will Varro as he risked life and limb. When Brian reached his teen years, he realized he was not only gay but in love with Varro who was very straight. He found it very difficult to be around him, so went off to university and Varro started racing motorcycles.

After a particularly bad crash where Varro nearly died, Varro’s mother more or less guilt-trips Brian into quitting his job and going to follow Varro around Europe as he races to keep him safe. After watching Varro sleep with 3-4 women a night (stamina much?), Brian finally realizes that Varro is not going to change and he leaves to start his own life. A year later he’s doing well when Varro’s handler shows up begging Brian to come back, and Varro is right on his heals.

I found it frustrating that everyone figured it was Brian’s job to follow Varro around and keep him safe. It’s not the job of another human being to be a grown-ups babysitter. Everyone seemed to imply that what Varro was doing had more value than anything Brian could certainly be doing, so just make sure Varro doesn’t kill himself. Um. No. Maybe you should get Varro into therapy to find out why since childhood he’s been on the path to getting himself killed.

Also, the fact that no one ever talked about the real reason anything was happening was frustrating. Rather than explain why he was leaving, that he needed stability and his own life to be happy, he just walked off and said no particular reason why. I’m not all for talking it out forever, but some basic info sharing would be good. I think fans of the author probably will enjoy this. It has many of the hallmarks of her work, but I just couldn’t connect as I kept thinking that Brian’s 10 year obsession with Varro and Varro’s inability to look out for himself and needing Brain around, was leading to a very dysfunctional relationship.

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lightsout185Title: The Caldwell Ghost
Author: KJ Charles
Length: 4,500 words (17 pdf pages)
Publisher: Torquere Press
Genre: m/m paranormal historical
Rating: B

Blurb:

When Robert Caldwell inherits a haunted house, he calls on ghost-hunter Simon Feximal to rid him of the supernatural menace. But the ghost is stronger than either man realizes — strong, angry, and desperate for release. Trapped in a haunted house with a dangerously attractive ghost-hunter and a sexually frustrated spirit, can Robert survive the night intact…and will he want to?

Review:

This book has a bit of a Sherlock Holmes feel to it, in the time period and the language, but not directly. It’s written as a letter Robert intends to reveal to his editor upon his death. Apparently for some time Richard has been chronicling the exploits of famed ghost hunter Feximal, (reminded me of the Sherlock/Watson relationship) and he was never willing to reveal how they met, and this is that story.

In order to disprove the house he recently inherited is haunted, Robert moves in. He’s willing to ignore the screams and moans, but the walls bleeding blood is a bit too far. He gets trapped in the room with Fleximal as the exorcism of sorts is about to begin, and it seems the ghost was a bit of lecherous man who slept with all the boys and was murdered in bed during the act. The ghost has some “unfinished business” before he’s willing to leave.

There’s a rather light feel to the story despite a rather intense scene when Fleximal faces the ghost. There is also some interesting facets of Fleximal’s work that would have been interesting to see explored further. I also liked Robert a great deal. He is quite logical, with a calm head on his shoulders and it comes through in some of his comments.

I paid no mind to the screams in the night, which could easily have been foxes or cats (never mind that they sprang from the empty air of my bedroom). I scarcely objected to the muffled moans, which could have come from a neighbour’s pleasures (if the house had not stood alone, with no neighbour for a mile to either side).

But I did feel it was a bit much when the walls began to bleed.

It all came across as a bit of an inconvenience, rather than something terribly frightening. If you’re in the mood for a bit of a ghost story with a lighter edge it’s a good choice. I quite enjoyed the short time it too me to read.

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MediumSweetExtraShotofGeekTitle: Medium, Sweet, Extra Shot of Geek
Author: R. Cooper
Length: 66 pdf pages
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: m/m contemporary
Rating: C+

Blurb:

Former soldier Octavio “Tavio” Reyes works as a barista, a favorite with the customers—especially Tommy O’Shaughnessy. An avowed geek, Tommy comes in daily to flirt, usually under the guise of Trekkie talk. Tavio hesitates; now that he’s out of the army, he’s not sure how out he should be, or whether to take his chances on a geek devoted to sci-fi and comic books. But when Tommy compares him to an unemotional Vulcan, Tavio finally considers dating an out-and-proud nerd. Then Tommy surprises him again and introduces him to his daughter, whom Tommy loves even more than Star Trek or Tavio. Now Tavio has a whole new decision to make: Is he ready to romance a family man?

Review:

I really liked this story, but I had to give it a lower grade for what I believe was so much potential lost. Former solider Tavio is the silent type. He’s not good with people, he’s uncomfortable, but he’s good at his job making coffee. It seems Tommy has been coming in for months and basically stands around, ostensibly talking to anyone and everyone, but it’s pretty obvious that he’s there to see Tavio. The register girl even puts hearts on Tommy’s cup when she takes his order for Tavio to fill.

Things seem to be looking up, and Tavio is wondering if maybe, just maybe he might go for it, when Tommy shows up with his daughter. This completely throws Tavio off kilter since Tommy has talked about everything in his life, except this. However when Tommy invites him to watch the girl play baseball on the weekend, he agrees. Some time at the kids’ game, leads to a lot more fun for the adults after. That you don’t see.

Tommy is the kind of guy who can talk your ear off about anything and everything, but mostly sci-fi stuff. Tavio thinks a lot, he’s always in  his head wondering what something means, if he should say something, how he should react, worried about other people’s reactions. I suppose it’s a typical case of opposites attract.

When I mentioned “That you don’t see” I meant it. They go from kissing at the door, to Monday morning where you realize they spent the weekend together. Now I’m not one of the readers who insist on sex in their books, but with Tavio being so quiet and reserved, I would have loved to see how he behaves in the bedroom. Would he cut loose, or was reserved his way. There were also hints that Tavio’s mother may have suspected his sexuality, and I think she would have loved to see that he was hooking up with a guy who had a child, an instant grandchild. It was also nice to see Tommy as a character who was unashamedly bi and very open about it.

There was just so much more. Tavio coming out, the relationship building. Because it’s all told from Tavio’s point of view, you only get his perspective and I think the story was left with a lot of potential that remains unexplored. So while I enjoyed the story, I was left a bit bereft at the end. Sort of a moment of “That’s it?” I know it’s common of short story readers to say “I want more” but I think in this case, it would have enhanced the story greatly to dig a bit more deeply into the relationship. But maybe others will be content with the length. Still a cute read and I have to say I love the cover.

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SuperheroesVacationTitle: Superheroes on Vacation
Author: Helen Louise Caroll
Length: 9,000 words
Publisher: Amber Allure
Genre: m/m science fiction comedy romance
Rating: B-

Blurb:
When a secret agent and a superhero go on vacation, trouble follows.

Secret agent Gary Finn has been looking forward to this vacation for weeks. Besides spending some quality time in the Jacuzzi with his lover, Cole, he’s planning on asking him a very important question.

Cole, also known as the superhero the Crimson Bug, is looking forward to this vacation just as much Gary. His birthday is coming up and he needs something to distract him from the feeling that he’s getting too old for the job.

Unfortunately for both men and their plans, the casino they’ve picked for their vacation spot has just become the target of a supervillain…

Review
I rather enjoyed the previous story, Superheroes in the Suburbs, which provided an amusing pastiche on the world of superheroes and secret agent agencies. In this story we meet up again with Cole, AKA Crimson Bug, and his lover Gary, who works for a hush hush secret agency. Gary has planned the perfect getaway, setting the scene for a planned marriage proposal. Unfortunately things don’t go to planned when their casino is raided by an evil supervillain.

Like the previous book the best part of this story is in the amusing references to superheroes as it pokes gentle fun at heroes, villains and super secret agents. I smiled a lot at these references and got the impression that the author was having a great time thinking up ridiculous scenarios for the main character’s past exploits. Everything is over the top but that’s the point of the story and so I found myself vastly amused.

Alongside the pastiche is a sweet romance between Gary and Cole as both consider retirement and a peaceful life with each other. In many ways I wish there had been a bit more of a focus on that aspect to the story. It gets squashed in between all the silliness and I was slightly disappointed that there wasn’t a bit more of the romance added to the end once all the action was over and the bad guy defeated.

Having said that, this really was an amusing and fun story. If you’re looking for something lighthearted then this would be a good story to pick up.

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AnInchAtATime_500x750_0Title: An Inch at a Time
Author: Heidi Belleau and Amelia C. Gormley
Length: 15,700 words
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Genre: m/m contemporary BDSM romance
Rating: B

Blurb:
James Sheridan is failing history. Luckily, his professor is a rumored pervert, and James isn’t too proud to pay for a better grade with his body. Professor Carson lives up to his reputation, but he’s not unethical enough to take sexual bribes. What he can offer is some highly unconventional tutoring . . . creative use of a ruler included.

The deal? Studying, followed by a “quiz.” Wrong answer? Spanking. Right answer? Reward. Ace the final, earn some mindblowing sex. It’s harder work than sexual bribery, but it beats the volunteer tutors at the student center.

After a few study sessions, James realizes he wants way more than a grade from Professor Carson, even if he’s not sure what that is. Carson’s a silver fox, all right, but James isn’t “bent” the way Carson is, and for him, the spankings are only supposed to be a means to an end. But the better he gets at history, the more he realizes he likes getting answers wrong just as much as getting them right.

Review:
Let’s start with a warning here, this book contains a consensual relationship between a college student and his current history professor. If that strikes you as completely unacceptable, unethical and unprofessional then you are not going to like this book. It didn’t bother me and so I enjoyed this prequel to the previous book Giving an Inch.

James is failing history which could mean getting kicked out of college. As a last resort he decides to act on some gossip which claims that the class professor, Carson, would be willing to give a good grade in exchange for kinky sex. Things don’t go quite according to plan though when Carson offers to tutor James instead to ensure he passes the class, especially as the lessons involve a strict punishment for a wrong answer and delicious pleasure for a correct one.

The fun of this story for me was in the way it filled in the back story from the first book and allowed me to see things only hinted at previously. James is very different to the confident young man in the first book and it made me appreciate how much he had changed. In this book James is not only nervous but he has a large streak of self-loathing as he tries to come to terms with his submissive masochistic nature. Carson leads him through that change but I liked that Carson too has his problems and was’t the all-knowing, powerful Dom. Carson makes mistakes and finds it hard at times to keep his equilibrium at times. Their struggles made both characters seem human and real. The age difference between them wasn’t pushed under the carpet and instead used to show the differences between the two men. There’s an immaturity about James which fit with his age and situation, and this contrasted nicely with Carson’s calm experience.

The BDSM scenes are well orchestrated as well as being hot and I particularly liked the way that James (and the reader) is teased with delayed gratification until the end of the story.

Overall, this was a strong and sexy read which helpfully filled in the gaps and allowed me to see the development of the relationship hinted at in book 2. I liked James and Carson and would be interested to read another story furthering their broken relationship from book one.

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CH_Fringes_100dpi_cvrTitle: Fringes
Author: Shae Connor
Length: 12,000 words (48 pdf pages)
Publisher: Wilde City Press
Genre: m/m/m sci-fit BDSM
Rating: B-

Blurb:

“Imagine, two horny guys, one small spaceship and exotic planets to explore! Each destination the perfect place for hot sexual fantasies and one on one action… But what happens when someone else catches a glimpse of the erotic play? What kind of show does the man with the sexy voice, watching through the ship’s cameras deserve? These two know exactly what to do and how to show it off for their mysterious third. This one is a voyeur’s ultimate fantasy and an exhibitionist’s wet dream!”

Charlie Harding

Review:

This is a fun sexy read that combines voyeurism, exhibitionism, along with menage in a sci-fi setting. Jace and Tal have been a couple for many years and find an abandoned ship on a planet. They decide to check it out and see if there are any salvageable parts. There is nothing of note but they come across a wooden table that is perfectly set up for BDSM, which is a large part of their relationship. Despite the risks on a strange planet, they can’t resist giving it a try, only to find out that the owner of the ship has been watching them. He makes a deal, he will pay them to repair and bring the ship to him, in exchange he gets to watch them perform periodically.

Despite some unease, the money would be nice and hey, they aren’t ashamed of their relationship. Before long they begin to form a friendship of sorts with Cruz whom they talk to regularly as they work. I thought the way the friendship develops, starting as just a voyeur/exhibitionist relationship and then getting deeper. Tal is one of those people who is a whiz with machines, but feels he’s not as smart as Jace and is less confident and forming a friendship with Cruz helps him work through some of his insecurities.

When the ship is repaired and delivered, both men decide they want to try to develop a relationship with Cruz, who is not quite what they expect. I won’t ruin it by spoiling it, but I thought it was sensitively handled and sweet and romantic. This is very much a feel-good story, that is both hot at time, and sweet as well. It’s just a little slice of an established couple. It gives you some background about how they got together, but not much and leaves you at the beginning of a possible new menage romance, however if you looking for something not too angsty but is sexy and fun, it’s definitely worth a read.

 

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theothermanTitle: The Other Man
Author: L.M. Brown
Length: 13,330 words
Publisher: Silver Publishing
Genre: m/m/m contemporary romance
Rating: C

Blurb:
Simon’s open relationship with Jeremy takes an unexpected turn when Max, Jeremy’s American lover, shows up on his doorstep. The attraction is instant, but when Jeremy returns, can it become something more?

Review:
I liked the sound of this love triangle story and the fact that it’s a m/m/m was another bonus. It tells of Simon who’s been in a relationship with Jeremy for many years. He knows that Jeremy has another lover in the US, and has reluctantly agreed to an open relationship. When Max turns up on the doorstep Simon is surprised but also finds Max very attractive. Jeremy has gone AWOL and it gives Max and Simon a couple of days to get to know each other.

As I said, the blurb appealed to me and I found that I really liked the character of Simon. He obviously loves Jeremy, is willing to allow him to have another lover and sticks with him even when he takes Simon for granted. Simon does come across as a bit of a push-over with Jeremy dictating the terms of their relationship, but he’s also a sweet and sexy guy who happily holds up his hand to being a bit slutty so it was easy to like him. Max too is likeable. He’s got his own insecurities and these made him an appealing character. The situation between them had a nicely awkward touch and I enjoyed the humour of it, as well as their reluctant lust for each other.

Where the story worked less well for me was in the character of Jeremy. I couldn’t see why either of the men loved Jeremy who comes across as a bit of a controlling selfish prick. I wasn’t too far into the story before I was hoping that Simon and Max would ditch Jeremy and run off together. This meant that when Jeremy finally appears in the story, I had already formed a dislike for him and so the m/m/m part of the story was a bit of a failure for me. Another dislike was the character of Simon’s sister, a complete harridan who comes into his home, insults his guest and then makes unwanted sexual jokes about Simon. She made me cringe with embarrassment and I was annoyed at yet another ‘interfering female’ character in an m/m book.

So overall, whilst I liked the humour of the story and the characters of Max and Simon, there were other factors such as Jeremy, and Simon’s sister which meant that this wasn’t as satisfying a read as I was hoping.

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dirtydrag1Title: Dirty Drag
Author: Kyle Adams
Length: 6,341 words
Publisher: Self Published (and free!)
Genre: m/m Contemporary Erotica
Rating: B

Blurb: Ashley is on a mission, but is he willing to take all the risks to show he’s got what it takes? Rick is a man who knows what he wants, and he is willing to do whatever it takes to make sure he gets it. When a gorgeous redhead walks into his local bar, wearing sexy heels and a mini skirt, he knows exactly who wants. But, looks can be deceiving, and sometimes you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover.

Review: I love a good x-dress erotica! What I didn’t expect was for the two sequels of this book to move into a romance rather than stay erotica. It doesn’t happen until after this story, even though this story shows the immediate connection that Ashley and Rick have, so I still think of this one as erotica. And it’s really hot, just as I’ve come to expect all of Kyle Adams’ Dirty Shorts to be.

Ashley likes to dress up as a woman sometimes, but he’s gotten really tired of his friends making remarks about it. So he decides to do something new. Ashley dresses up as a bombshell and goes to a little dive bar where he’d never be recognized to meet a straight guy and seduce him. What he doesn’t expect is for the hottest man in the bar to realize straight away that he is trying to pass.

But Ashley knows that sooner or later Rick will find out that she is really a he trying to trick him and does everything he can to hurry along their encounter. Rick sees everything that Ashley is trying to do, the dirty talk and over-the-top come ons, so he plays it slow no matter how much Ashley is driving him crazy. Rick fully expects that he’ll have Ashley back in his bed at home, but neither can wait to leave the bar and end up in the dirty bar bathroom.

This was a really fun short and a good first introduction to this couple. Ashley is hilarious at times and I love Rick because he immediately sees through Ashley’s affectations, something that Ashely worries about because the idea of a guy he likes actually seeing the man he really is — the one who also likes to be Ashley the girl — frightens him. This first story shows Rick affirming Ashley’s feelings through his actions, by showing Ashley that he’s sexy as a woman even though he knows Ashley is really a man.

Perhaps I’m wrong about this, but I never really thought that Ashley identified as *trans. Simply that he identified as a man who occasionally liked to dress to pass, or even might prefer above all to dress in an androgynous way. So that’s why I didn’t categorize this as a *trans story.

I’ll be back in the next two weeks to review the next two installments of the Dirty Drag series. You can get them all in one volume now and they’re free, so there’s no reason no to pick them up now! Get them here at:

ARe: https://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-dirtydragcollectiondirtydrag123-1194150-145.html

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Brennessel_Running_Up_That_HillTitle: Running up that Hill
Author: Barry Brennessel
Length: 13,000 words
Publisher: MLR Press
Genre: m/m historical (1986) romance
Rating: B

Blurb:
For Jeremy Saura, a song by Kate Bush holds all the answers. Pushes him onward. Sends him running up that road. Up that hill. Up that building.

Jeremy gets chills as he listens to the lyrics. The song, a beautiful powerhouse of determination over despair, only gains in impact as he replays it. Seven times. “I adore you Kate Bush,” he whispers to her photograph. For Jeremy, “Running Up That Hill” gives him the momentum he needs to navigate the trials and tribulations of a new job, a complex friendship, and a budding workplace romance.

Review:
I have a fondness for this author’s books as they often manage to blend the serious with gentle humour. This book was no exception. The story is set in 1986. Our narrator, Jeremy, has started a new job at a publishing company, dealing with editorial mistakes. It’s mostly tedious paperwork but his day is brightened by a trip to the upper floor where he helps out hunky editor, Adam.

There were two themes within this story. firstly, there’s the romance between Jeremy and Adam. It’s not an easy start for them but I thought that the author had managed to capture that moment of ‘is he/isn’t he?’ and the awkwardness of a new beginning. The uncertainty continues through the next few days and the story ends on a HFN which left me smiling.

The second theme is linked with the 1980’s setting and covers different aspects of life in 1986. This was a pleasing nostalgic trip for me (the story begins the day after what was my 14th birthday) and it showed a moment in time when the technological world was starting to take off. Jeremy buys 45s instead of LPs but CDs are starting to become popular and some of the bands mentioned in the story made me smile at the memory – although my taste in music at that age leaned more towards Wham and Madonna than Kate Bush :). Most of Jeremy’s job involves bits of paper but there’s much fun to be had in the reactions to the new Word Processors that have been introduced to the office. There’s serious stuff too with AIDS being a part of life for gay men but even this was handled in a fairly lighthearted way.

Overall, this was a bit of a trip down memory lane for me but was intertwined with a nicely written romance and I’d definitely recommend the story to those who remember the 1980s.

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