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Archive for the ‘Authors: J-L’ Category

lightsout185Title: The Haunted Halloween of Barnaby Sloan
Author: Jenna Jones
Length: 7,600 words (28 pdf pages)
Publisher: Torquere Press
Genre: m/m paranormal
Rating: C+

Blurb: 

It’s Halloween, and Barnaby and his friends plan to do their usual Halloween ghost walk at a local park that is rumored to be haunted. Barnaby worries his new boyfriend Liam will find their plans ridiculous, and he doesn’t even believe in ghosts, but he invites Liam to join them on the ghost walk anyway.

While their friends scare each other at the park, Barnaby confides in Liam about why he doesn’t believe in an afterlife. Then Barnaby hears a familiar voice whispering his name — and of course, he must investigate…

Review:

This is a sequel to The Wishing Book of Barnaby Sloan which was reviewed on the site last October, but which I confess I have not read. It’s not essential you read it, but it would probably be worthwhile. This story takes place only a short time after the last book. Barnaby has been seeing his older boyfriend Liam for a bit, although they’ve not really been dating, more falling into bed. This Halloween, Barnaby worked at a wedding that Liam attended and despite their relationship, Barnaby is not really sure they are “dating”. He can’t figure out why a great guy like Liam would be into him.

Liam asked him out after the wedding, but Barnaby declined as he had plans to go ghost hunting with his friends, and he’s sure a guy like Liam wouldn’t want to do that. His friends give him a bit of a hassle, and when Liam shows up unexpectedly, they push Barnaby to invite him, and to Barnaby’s surprise he’s more than happy to go along.

The event takes place in a local park, supposedly built on a grave-yard. After wandering around in the dark and taking some time to share some personal info, Barnaby hears something odd nearby and of course, like a victim in a horror movie, sneaks off on his own to check it out, getting attacked by some thugs while doing so.

There’s not much to the story. A hint of the paranormal, but I think for fans of the first book they’ll enjoy seeing the couple move forward and share some more intimate details about themselves. It’s more about Barnaby and his desire to believe in the paranormal for personal reasons, rather than a romantic story. If you enjoyed the first story, you will enjoy this one as well.

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ReturnToDestiny_cvr-2-210x330Title: Return to Destiny
Author: Vona Logan
Length: 16,000 words
Publisher: Wilde City Press
Genre: m/m time travel romance
Rating: B-

Blurb:
Wade Summers is a decent guy… who happens to have a ghost taking advantage of his body at will. His attempts to escape it have failed, not that Wade is complaining. But while his body is teased, tantalized and taken to new heights of pleasure, his soul longs to know more about this enigmatic lover.

In 2022, erotic dreams and déjà vu of a gorgeous man are driving Michael Turner insane. When a strange old man convinces him he’s let Mr. Right slip through his fingers, Michael desperately tries to figure out at what point he missed getting the man of his dreams and will stop at nothing to return to his destiny.

Review:
I have a fondness for time travel romance and this one had an unusual twist. It tells of Wade who is suffering from an unusual condition. Every so often a ghostly visitor caresses him to orgasm. On one hand, Wade finds the erotic interludes very satisfying but on the other, they happen at the most embarrassing and inconvenient moments. Nine years in the future, Michael is having erotic dreams about a stranger. He visits a New Age type shop to try and find some answers to these dreams and instead discovers a way to find his mystery lover.

The story begins well with a light humourous touch in the narrative as Wade abandons his family dinner when his ghostly visitor arrives. It was a an amusing start and I liked that the lighthearted tone remained for the rest of the story. There’s a bittersweetness to the story when we move to Michael and he is considering the missed opportunities in his life. Wishing he could turn back the clock and his reevaluation of some of the bad decisions he has made is something we can all identify with, and I felt a good deal of sympathy for Michael.

The time travel aspect blended a certain amount of far eastern mysticism with a gruesome procedure, along with an interesting secondary character in the man who offers Michael the key to happiness. Once Michael has gone back nine years, we are teased a little as the lead up to the men meeting is delayed and built. Once they meet the story is sweet and satisfying and the story left me feeling happy for both of them.

If I have any niggles, it’s that out of the couple, Wade isn’t as well rounded as Michael and I would have liked to have seen a bit more of him. Aside from that very minor niggle, this was a nicely written and engaging story that I would be happy to recommend to those who like the time travel theme.

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MagicBroom[The]Title: The Magic Broom
Author: Teagan Loy
Length: 17,659 words (70 pdf pages)
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: m/m contemporary
Rating: A-

Blurb:

With the winter Olympics on the horizon, Cody Mikkelson’s editor assigns him several stories about athletes in the area with gold medal aspirations. But there’s a catch: Cody has to try all the sports when he interviews the athletes—and he is so not an athlete.

The day before his torment begins, four new guys move into the apartment down the hall, including the handsome Shane Spicer. Cody is immediately desperate to figure out if Shane is gay, but both men have busy schedules, leaving little time to socialize. So Cody heads back to work and goes to interview the local curling team, where among brooms, laughter, a sore backside, and an unexpected meeting, Cody finds he just might get his chance after all.

Review:

I’m not sure why it took me so long to read this, but it was naturally assigned to me being the Canadian. 🙂 Anyway, it seemed to hit all the right buttons for me. Cody is forced to try out all the sports of some local Olympic hopefuls, complete with appropriate dress. He is not an athlete, nor a fan of winter, however off he heads with his best friend Kira to try them out. Simultaneously, there are some new neighbors that they meet and while Cody’s gaydar is broken, Kira is so busy with one of the other guys she can’t tell if Shane is gay or not.

Cody’s experiences during the test sports was so amusing. The little side thread of the mean-spirited photographer who took great delight in taking pictures every time Cody fell or screwed up added a bit of levity. I felt for him. The did them all but if you are not an athlete I’m not surprised he could hardly walk at the end of the day.

Of course, when it’s time to try out curling, there is Shane. There wasn’t tons of detail on the curling and I think as the story is told from Cody’s POV, the fact that it comes off as a bit confusing fits perfectly. He doesn’t really understand it himself and between him working on the story and Shane practicing for the Olympic trials, they don’t have much time together after they finally hook-up. Shane invites him to go to the trials, even though they’ve only been dating a couple of weeks.

Just the light tone of the story, along with Cody’s moaning and groaning about his life and the sports make this a fun read. There’s not much angst, so when you want a feel good story it’s a perfect choice and I admit I snickered at the end.

My only complaint if I had one was the best friend Kira. She came pretty close to the line of the pushy best friend. She didn’t cross it but I found her rather annoying, but that’s me. I find those types of people annoying in real life. 🙂 You don’t find out much about Shane or his family and his background with curling or the team, but despite that, I really enjoyed the time it took me to finish it and would recommend it even if you have no clue what curling is.

 

Review:

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Bearded Caucasian tattooist creates a tattoo on a woman's shouldTitle: Skin Deep
Author: T.T. Kove
Length: 15,000 words
Publisher: Less Than Three Press
Genre: m/m contemporary romance
Rating: C+

Blurb:
Kian is dragged along as moral support when his friend Chloe goes to get a tattoo done. What he thinks will be a boring few hours standing around a shop proves exciting instead, when an attraction to the tattoo artist proves to be both mutual and scorching.

And if they can survive the challenges thrown across their path, it may also prove to be something beautiful and permanent.

Review:
This story is part of the same set which includes Reunited, a story I reviewed here. This takes place before that story and has Josh and Damien as minor characters – they are Silver’s roommates – and it’s not necessary to have read any of the other stories in the series.

Kian gets dragged along by his friend Chloe when she goes for a tattoo where he meets hunky tattooist, Silver. It’s lust at first sight and after a bout of sex, they manage to make that awkward move from lusty encounter to dating. The story then follows the pair over the next six months as they fall in love and their relationship is tested.

This was an interesting format in that it took several snapshots of the relationship, showing significant points where they encounter difficulties in their first six months but make it through to allow their relationship to strengthen. Unfortunately, the format also meant that it wasn’t easy to get to grips with the main characters because once they have worked through their problems we skip forward. This misses out on really getting an indepth knowledge of either man and so when it came to some painful revelations towards the end of the story, I felt detached from them. Another slight niggle was the inconsistencies in the London setting. One minute the characters sound like they are from EastEnders saying ‘blimey!’, and the next they are going to the ‘store’ instead of the shop or supermarket. That’s only a minor niggle though.

Despite the niggles, I still enjoyed the story. This author writes emotion well and I was caught up, especially with Kian as the pair work through any problems. I liked the way that everything was handled sensibly and that the couple talk through their issues. I wanted them to succeed. There was a good balance between hot and heavy, sweet and sexy, and a dose of angst. I’d definitely read more of this pair.

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lightsout185Title: Grave Appeal
Author: Kassandra Lea
Length: 3,600 words, 13 pages
Publisher: Torquere Press
Genre: m/m contemporary paranormal romance
Rating: D

Blurb:
All Aidan Harker wanted on his Halloween was to spend time with his best friend watching horror movies and to stuff himself silly on little chocolates. Instead Aidan gets a visit from a coworker that makes his evening sweeter than any number of bite size candy bars ever possibly could.

Review:
Aidan usually spends his Halloween night with his best friend watching horror movies. This year his friend has been called away on a family emergency and so Aidan is all alone, until a late night knock at the door.

The first 5 pages of this story set the scene of lonely Aidan feeling sad because his Halloween tradition with his friend isn’t happening this year. I felt rather sorry for Aidan and curious about the knock at the door. The man standing there is a doctor from the hospital where Aidan works (I think as a nurse, but that wasn’t made very clear), so far so good in the attraction Aidan feels. Then suddenly things take an abrupt left turn and I was left struggling to catch up. A whole heap of ideas are thrown into the story. Dante is a gargoyle, Aidan can see ghosts. They fly off through the air. There’s mention of someone called Brim who I think is an ex-boyfriend of Aidan’s, but again that’s not really explained. I was left baffled as to what was happening and why. I even thought that the story may be a sequel because so much of the characterisation seemed to assume some sort of prior knowledge that I didn’t have. However, a quick look showed me that there were no other stories by this author at TQ. Lines such as “It wasn’t the first time that Dante had used his magic to transport them, though usually it was to take them out of harm’s way” were also baffling. I thought they were a doctor and nurse, when had Dante needed to rescue them?

I finished the story utterly confused as to what had happened and why. The romance left me flat because I wasn’t sure where Brim-the-sort-of-ex came into the equation, plus there seems to be no point to the story when Aidan doesn’t even get his man at the end. Overall, the best thing about the story was the opening promise and the fact it was very short at less than 4,000 words so I’m afraid I can’t recommend this jumble of a story even to those who like a good Halloween tale.

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The_Ultimate_FindxTitle: The Ultimate Find
Author: Anna Lee
Length: 13,000 words
Publisher: MLR Press
Genre: m/m contemporary romance
Rating: C

Blurb:

Kevin Stokes, an antique picker is searching for the ultimate find. He thinks he might have found it in delivery driver, Aaron Nichols, who to him is anything but average.

Kevin Stokes is an antique picker and sci-fi geek. He has a crush on delivery driver, Aaron Nichols, but thinks the feeling won’t be returned. Still, he can’t resist asking Aaron to join him on a trip. He’s searching for the ultimate find. He thinks he might have found it in Aaron Nichols, who to him is anything but average. Aaron believes he’s just an average guy with nothing to offer but a complicated life that sends most guys running, that is until Kevin comes along. When Kevin invites him to go picking, will Aaron’s nephew tagging along and a near accident spoil the day? Or will the two finally hit it off?

Review:
I liked the idea for this newish series of stories by MLRP which feature characters who are just average people because there’s only so many stories you can read about super-spies, hero cops and rich businessmen. The down side to this is the possibility that the characters just won’t be interesting enough to capture my attention which unfortunately was the case with this story for me.

Kevin works as an antique picker and has a huge crush on Aaron the UPS man. However, he thinks Aaron is straight with a kid. When it turns out that Joey is Aaron’s nephew, the flirting finally leads to a genuine date but Aaron’s selfish brother may get in their way when he leaves Joey with Aaron.

Whilst these characters are decent, hardworking guys I have to admit I found them to be too perfect, and therefore rather dull. Aaron sacrifices his own life to take care of his nephew at the drop of a hat. Apparently Joey is a ‘great kid’ but I found him irritating and spoiled. This made Aaron seem weak and too much of a nice guy. Perhaps it’s just that I’m a fan of a flawed character and Aaron is anything but that, so I didn’t really warm to him. The same goes for Kevin. He’s also unselfish and unfailing nice and kind. Whilst I was happy for the pair of them, their uncomplicated, straight path to instant happiness meant that I finished the story thinking ‘well that passed the time, but what was the point in the story?’. Even the possibility of familial discord between Aaron and his brother turns out to be a misunderstanding and all is hunky dory by the end.

I feel like I’ve been quite negative here but to be honest this is not a bad story. It just didn’t strike me as anything special and so I could see myself forgetting the story and the characters quickly. The writing was good, and I liked the shared nerdiness of Kevin and Aaron – the weeping angel part made me smile. If you are looking for a sweet story which is completely lacking in complications or angst then you may find that this story is more to your taste than it was mine.

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New Sip coverTitle: Get Him to the Geek
Author: DC Juris
Length: 7,100 words (26 pdf pages)
Publisher: Torquere Press
Genre: m/m contemporary
Rating: C

Blurb:

Two years is a long time to swear off love, but John Daily is doing just fine. Sure, he’s lonely, but he’s not risking his heart again. Not after what he went through, watching the man of his dreams wither away and die. His best friend, Sylvia, has other plans. She’s set him up with someone who will be perfect for him. Now, if she can just get him to the geek…

Review:

A couple of things rubbed me the wrong way about this story, but I know they are mostly my own issues with the interfering female best friend. John has been resisting his best friend’s efforts to set him up on dates. He’s just not ready to start dating again after his boyfriend died. However after she bullies him, and throws in some tears, he agrees to the blind date she set up with someone who will be “perfect” for him.

When he sees the guy, he agrees, the guy looks perfect. But when talking, he gets the impression that the guys is holding back and pretending to be something he’s not. He’s also an adorable clutz. He agrees to let John come back to his house and then freaks out and won’t let him in, finally admitting he’s a total nerd and has a house full of Trek memorabilia and other TV stuff. Which of course, John loves too.

Again, some may find the friend’s concern heart-warming and caring, I found it really pushy. And then to pull out the “you aren’t the only one to have lost him” card and start crying, came across as guilt-trippy to me. Others likely won’t find it so. I also didn’t understand why the friend told the date to not talk about his sci-fi interests and act “suave”. If she knew John so well, she should have known that he would be attracted to a guy with similar interests. It just didn’t make sense.

On the other hand, both guys are a bit on the chubby side, Neither one with rock hard abs and model good looks, so it’s nice to see a romance with “normal” looking people who aren’t physically perfect. There are lots of references to current and older popular TV shows like Walking Dead and True Blood which I really didn’t get since I don’t watch those shows. I’m afraid the Star Trek ones were the only ones I caught, but fans of the other shows will probably know exactly what items and plot points were being discussed.

So while the best friend set-up didn’t work for me, I know there are others who won’t mind it and will probably enjoy most of the pop culture references that went a bit over my head. Not a poorly written story at all, I just didn’t connect with the characters in this one.

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