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Archive for the ‘Authors: P-R’ Category

Say_EverythingTitle: Say Everything
Author: Gina A. Rogers
Length: 16,000 words
Publisher: MLR Press
Genre: m/m contemporary romance
Rating: B-

Blurb:
Gregory has no problem talking Atari, muscle cars or just plain dirty, but will he be able to open up his heart to Chad and just say everything?

Gregory put his past up for sale on Craigslist. He never expected Chad, a gorgeous black-haired devil, to waltz in and take it all. He doesn’t leave him empty-handed though, giving him friendship and new memories to fill the space. Torn between his past and the chance at a real future, Gregory has to decide if he can let down his defenses and open himself up to the chance of getting hurt again. But Chad isn’t going to wait forever and Gregory only has one chance to convince him to stay, but he’ll have to say everything.

Review:
This was a nicely written short, one of those which feels complete with a definite structure and story which satisfied without leaving me wanting more. It tells of Gregory who, after 20 years of mourning the loss of his best friend, has decided that it’s time to make some steps towards moving on. He advertises a room full of 80’s memorabilia for sale and this brings Chad who is a party planner looking for things for an 80’s themed party.

There was much to like about the story. The opening meet between the men sizzles with sexual tension and I liked that they weren’t afraid to go for what they wanted. Chad’s vitality and energy calls to Gregory who is at a turning point in his life. Chad helps him along this difficult road and I very much enjoyed seeing them develop as a couple. There was a lighthearted tone to the narrative which offset the theme of recovering from grief. The story never felt heavy but still managed to show how difficult life had become for Gregory.

The part which worked less well for me was at the end when the big secret is revealed. It wasn’t much of a secret to be honest and part of me was hoping that the story wouldn’t develop the way it did. That type of plot has become tired and a little cliched in my opinion and I wasn’t too happy to see it dragged out again here. I finished the story pleased for the characters and charmed by their relationship but slightly disappointed at the lack of originality in the final reveal.

Overall, this is a story I would recommend and maybe there will be many readers out there who won’t mind the cliche at the end. Certainly, the excellent writing and the characterisation compensates for that ending.

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MilordTitle: Milord
Author: Dusk Peterson
Length: 10,000 words
Publisher: Love in Dark Settings Press
Genre: m/m historical fantasy D/s romance
Rating: B

Blurb:
He was the model prisoner, respectful to his guards and loyal to his fellow prisoners. What no one knew was that he held the key to destruction.

Having pledged himself to assist in a popular movement by prisoners and guards to reform Mercy Life Prison, Llewellyn fears the future, when it is likely that the reform movement will face stiffer opposition from Mercy’s Keeper. But Llewellyn’s fear of the future is overwhelmed by the present knowledge that he is not what he appears to be. Until now, he has managed to hide his secret and to sway his guards to follow his chosen path.

Now he has been placed under the power of a guard who cannot be swayed and who is intent on bringing Llewellyn under his control. Can Llewellyn escape from his new guard’s control? Will he really want to, once he has seen the door open to a world filled with true respect, loyalty, and love?

This novelette can be read on its own or as the third story in the “Mercy’s Prisoner” volume of Life Prison. Friendship, desire between men, and the costs of corruption and integrity are examined in this multicultural historical fantasy series, which is based on late Victorian prison life.

Review:
As it says in the blurb this story is part of a series of books set in a AU similar to that of a Victorian prison. It can be read as part of the whole story arc, or as a standalone and I found no trouble slipping into the world that the author has created.

As the story begins Llewellyn is in conversation with another prisoner. Both have been working towards a set of rules which prevents prisoners from being beaten for minor infractions. However, Llewellyn secretly craves the beatings and manipulates the guards to get what he wants, until he’s paired up with Milord, a guard with honour and a tight control on his emotions.

This story deals with the tricky subject of violent BDSM and I know it’s not a topic which appeals to everyone, even those who like their BDSM to be a bit dark. However, whilst this story gives us a glimpse of the minds of two men – one who is fighting a sadistic nature and one who desires to be beaten – the violence itself is only suggested to the reader, with most of the beatings themselves being behind closed doors. I thought this was an effective way of allowing the reader to see the feelings of the characters without having to read graphic accounts of beatings.

The AU world itself was very interesting. It’s a mix of historical and fantasy, with enough detail given in this short format to be able to understand what’s happening in this story but with other details that are only alluded to and which made me want to seek out other stories. The story ends with some things resolved and some threads which are left to be picked up in future stories, presumably.

Overall, I enjoyed the story. The author has rather a literary style of writing that appealed to me. If I have any niggles it’s that there was a long section where we are told the back story of one of the characters. Whilst this allowed us to get a lot of information in a short period of time, it did detract a little from the overall story. I would have liked to have seen more focus on the pair together, but maybe that’s just the romantic in me. If you like dark romance stories then this would be a good one to pick up.

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New Sip coverTitle: Hot Shots
Author: Kate Roman
Length: 7,800 words (28 pdf pages)
Publisher: Torquere Press
Genre: m/m contemporary
Rating:  C

Blurb:

Disgraced lawyer Simon West has always called himself ‘bi-curious’. But when hunky photographer Russ offers him some modeling work to pay the bills, it quickly turns into something more. Simon can’t keep his eyes, or his hands, to himself, and it’s clear Russ returns his passion. The more Simon knows about Russ, the more Simon wants him — in every way. Can Simon find the courage to give Russ everything?

Review:

Something about this rubbed me the wrong way. Simon is forced to sell his convertible when he loses his job for being an ass and he runs into Russ. Before long Russ offers him a job as a model, and it doesn’t take them long until Russ and Simon are getting it on. Simon is a bit off kilter as he never considered himself gay, but Russ as him very twisted up.

Before long, Russ has offered him more modeling opportunities telling him that he’ll make more money if he’s willing to pose nude, but Simon realizes if he ever wants to practice law again, having nude pictures wouldn’t help his career. However before long he’s ready to pose in the buff, but they never seem to get that far as they end up in bed.

While there is nothing overtly sleazy in this story, the whole luring the guy who needs money up to his studio and then more or less offering him money to pose naked just seemed really skeezy to me. It’s what you warn your children about. As I said, it doesn’t come across and of course Russ claims he doesn’t do this with other models, but to offer a guy a modeling job came across as kind of creepy to me.

This is me, and my opinion. Others may not get that vibe at all. The story is well written, and Simon does go from being a bit of an ass to having a bit of self-awareness that he’s put himself in this position and it’s no one’s fault but his own, but I just couldn’t get past the premise which didn’t work for me.

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nightofthedragonTitle: Night of the Dragon
Author: Kate Roman
Length: 11,300 words
Publisher: Self Published
Genre: m/m fantasy romance
Rating: C+

Blurb:
Prince Colin of Astoria is turning 21 and must think of affairs of state and marriage — but all he can think of his lover, Drake the DragonRyder. Such a match could never be countenanced, but Colin knows he cannot give Drake up. With the help of Drake and the dragons, can Colin find the strength to stand against his father the king?

Review:
This fantasy story begins well with Colin attending his 21st birthday party. He’s being shoehorned into marrying the daughter of a neighbouring state and is willing to do his duty but his heart aches for his lover, Drake. At the last minute Colin cannot go ahead with the announcement of marriage. Drake takes him away but Colin is still torn between happiness with his lover or duty.

The first part of the story was very exciting with the tension in Colin between doing what his father wants and what his heart tells him. I felt very sorry for Colin as it was obvious that his father didn’t care for him at all. Colin also feels abandoned by Drake and vulnerable to his father’s bullying. When Drake appears it is obvious that they have tender feelings and the scene where they are reunited was more than just sex.

Another part I liked was in the depiction of the dragons and the hints we get of their lands. I would have liked to have known more about that and perhaps see the pair interacting with the dragons to a greater extent.

Where the story worked less well was after the pair leave the castle. This part seemed a little rushed and we discover a few things about Colin’s father that were thrown into the story but not explored. I liked both characters but the way the story concludes seemed a little forced and I couldn’t see how Colin could be content in the long run. The romance works and I was sure the pair would be happy together but the decision that Colin makes at the end seemed too much of a snap decision. Plus there were a number of loose ends left, especially surrounding the dragons and I wanted to find out how that would work out.

So overall whilst I liked the characters and enjoyed their strong romance, the setting and fantasy aspects to the story could have done with more development. Having said that, if you like dragon stories this could be one for you.

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MulliganTitle: Mulligan
Author: Nora Roth
Length: 16,943 words (66 pdf pages)
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: m/m contemporary
Rating: C+

Blurb:

The only thing between Jesse Yates and the top of the air hockey leaderboard is Cameron Greene. When Cameron returns home from college unannounced and knocks the win out of Jesse’s reach, the last thing Jesse plans to do is strike up a friendship with the guy he dislikes on principle. But Cameron charms Jesse without even seeming to try, and the attraction and friendly rivalry between them soon leads to something more.

Everything is perfect until the world as Jesse knows it comes crashing down when Cameron’s secrets are revealed. Before Jesse can find his balance, Cameron is gone without a word, leaving Jesse alone with anger and grief—hoping against hope for a second chance.

Review:

I like this story, but at times it felt a bit disjointed and like I was missing something. Jesse is ready to take the top title in the air hockey tournament when he’s up against a stranger. Going by the way the guy looks, he figures it’s a sure thing, only he soon changes his mind and after a close match, the other guy wins. That’s when Jesse finds out he’s the local champion of air hockey. He’s mad at the fact that he didn’t win and that he didn’t recognize the guy.

They end up meeting at the arcade again and before long there’s a bet, about who will jerk who off. This is the first time Jesse’s been with a guy, but he can’t resist, although he admits to Cameron it’s his first. They soon start hanging out and fooling around. However when Cameron’s family collapses, he disappears leaving Jesse acting out as he finishes high school.

I found it a bit weird that Jesse never asked Cameron why he was home from university, or asked around at school. I know teens can be pretty self-centred and clueless about the world, but it seemed like it would have come up in conversation. Also, they were only hanging out for a few weeks and Jesse was completely lost when Cameron vanished. I could understand being angry he just took off without saying good-bye but to spiral to drunk driving and sex with strangers seemed a bit extreme.

Still, I liked Cameron a great deal and you could see he was the more confident college student, Jesse the unsure high school student, but still both good kids, definitely teen/young adults. So others may not find it leaves them quite as off-kilter as it did me. I’m not exactly sure why. I just felt like some link was missing. But I’m not sure what exactly. If you like young protagonists, it’s a good choice for a quick read.

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LuckoftheDiceTitle: Luck of the Dice
Author: Pinky Rae Parker
Length: 6,566 words (30 pdf pages)
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: m/m contemporary
Rating: C-

Blurb:

Gavin Gage has never been much for sports, but he does love fantasy-based role-playing games. Though his social life is quite active, Gavin feels like he’s botched his roll in the love department. Then he receives a mysterious invitation to an exclusive gaming tournament at a comic book convention, and Gavin meets a mysterious suitor. Between one roll and the next, Gavin realizes that when it comes to love, everything is just a game of chance.

Review:

As a romance, the interaction between the two main characters is so limited as to be barely there and I just couldn’t connect with the story. Gavin likes his life, although he would enjoy a boyfriend, however his geekiness tends to chase them away. He likes his job at a comic book store and playing the games with his friends and was lucky enough to be asked to be in a tournament at a local game show of his favourite game which is being re-released.

The moderator of the game at his table is someone wearing a goat mask, one of the characters in the world. Everything is going well and he receives a note from the moderator asking him to meet at midnight in a hotel room, where the game starts with a twist.

Large portions of this story are the game itself. Descriptions of what the gaming characters are doing. However these long tracts of text have little, if anything to do with the story. They are completely separate and have no bearing on the romance or progressions of the story. I found myself skimming over them because it just didn’t matter. The romance itself is only revealed on the last page and ends with a quick peck of a kiss. I didn’t get any great feeling of satisfaction from the two getting together, it seemed rather an after-thought to me and certainly not really any great passion or interest on Gavin’s side.

Perhaps those who play these type of games will find it interesting, but the focus was clearly on the game play and not on the relationship and I just couldn’t connect.

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FlexibilityTitle: Flexibility
Author: Maja Rose
Length: 6,104 words (27 pdf pages)
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: m/m contemporary
Rating: B-

Blurb:

Jared Glass thinks he’s got a pretty sweet deal. Andrew Blackwell is his best friend and roommate, they both live for gymnastics, and Jared’s on his way to the 2016 Olympics. Then Jared’s teammate breaks his leg, and Andy is named his replacement … except no one tells Jared, and isn’t that something you’d tell your best friend? Then again, they’re good at bending around the obvious: Andy’s been in love with Jared for years but stays silent; Jared denies it could even be possible. Surely two friends this close can be more?

Review:

I think if you like characters who are rather flighty and self-deluded you’ll enjoy this, or he’ll make you crazy. Jared doesn’t handle change well, and just in advance of the Olympics, his roommate suddenly becomes his team-mate which throws him completely into a panic attack. He also sort of admits that he is into Andy, but has managed to convince himself that it’s normal he’s jealous of Andy’s boyfriends, and that he never wants him to leave. Besides, Jared’s had girlfriends.

Even Jared’s twin sister gives him grief over his hidden homosexuality, but he continues to deny it, until Andy is hurt in a car accident and he finally realizes the reality of it all.

I did enjoy Jared, even if he is totally over the top. His internal monologue as he convinces himself that he’s not in love with Andy, and that finding him attractive is normal, and telling himself that he’s totally self-aware, were amusing. Even though they cuddle and hold each other, he’s padding happily down the Nile.

Plus, Jared refuses to believe he’s that dumb. No way is he emotionally constipated enough not to have noticed he’s in love with his best friend. That would seriously be the worst example of self-awareness ever. Anna is totally wrong; he is like 300 percent innate emotional awareness, 200 percent muscle. Like Batman. Actually, bad example on the awareness slot.

The banter between Jared and his twin was cute. A typical sister she wastes no time in tell him he’s an idiot, and I liked that Andy was letting him go at his own pace, but I could see that Jared’s drama-queen antics could put some readers off. However it almost reminded me of a sitcom. Everything has to be just a little bit extreme to show how ridiculous he’s being. I found myself smiling while reading and the length is just right for that kind of humour as I doubt it could be sustained for a novel length book or it would make you crazy long before it ended. Great if you need a pick-me up.

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coldhandsTitle: Cold Hands
Author: Erica Pike
Length: 13,900 words
Publisher: Ice Cave Publishing
Genre: m/m romance
Rating: B+

Blurb:
“Hot-Hands” and Casper have been dating for a month, but their relationship is about as smooth as shattered glass. It doesn’t help that Hot-Hands is racked with guilt over his high school bullying of Casper, or that Casper darts away whenever his boyfriend gets a little too frisky.

Desperate to hang onto Casper, Hot-Hands tries to earn back the trust he destroyed years ago, so they can face their disastrous past and have a chance at a happy future.

Cold Hands focuses on high school bullying for being gay. This is the sequel to Hot Hands and contains big spoilers if read first. Hot Hands can be downloaded for free.

Review:
I really enjoyed the previous story to this one Hot Hands which Cole reviewed here. That story managed to combine a sexy read with some serious themes of high school bullying and loss of self confidence. That theme is still present in this story but it’s taken from the point of view of Jamie, the man who used to bully Casper when they were at high school.

My one disappointment with the first book is that it ended before many of the major issues surrounding the bullying had been addressed. This story sets out to right that and by taking it from Jamie’s point of view we see the utter remorse that Jamie feels over his past actions and his desire to make things right with Casper. In some ways this was more effective than seeing everything from Casper’s point of view, and I thought the author had done well to show how much the past still effects Casper and the conflicting emotions he feels about Jamie, despite never hearing his thoughts on the page.

We begin the story a little time after the end of the first book. Casper and Jamie are effectively boyfriends but Casper finds it difficult to trust Jamie. He throws out lots of mixed responses to Jamie – one minute they are making out and the next Casper freezes and has to escape – and Jamie finds this both upsetting and frustrating. He’s at a loss as to how to make things better but he loves Casper and can’t let him go. I felt a great deal of sympathy for both men because I understood the difficulties that both were facing and I wanted things to work out for them.

As I said earlier, the theme of past bullying is a main feature of the story and here we get some difficult scenes as Casper tells Jamie of some of the things that happened to him when Jamie wasn’t around, or Jamie remembers the way he acted towards Casper in high school. There was a good balance between the reader understanding some of the horrid things that Jamie did and the feelings he has for his behaviour now and that allowed me to see him as a sympathethic character, even if I couldn’t condone his past actions.

The key issue of the story is trust and I liked seeing how Casper’s trust grew as he began to forgive Jamie. The ending was lovely and very romantic. I can’t say that all the issues between these guys have been sorted, but I finished the book hopeful for their future which for me was the best possible outcome.

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New Sip cover

Title: The Celestine Room
Author: Jared Rackler
Length: 5,100 words (20 pdf pages)
Publisher: Torquere Press
Genre: m/m fantasy vampire
Rating: B-

Blurb:

In the city of Melinoe, necromancer Nikos Aristos summons the dead for king and country. Yet, in the frozen depths of winter, bonds are easily shattered and he may yet find himself under the spell of the very thing he once commanded. Love knows no heartbeat between a necromancer and a vampire.

Review:

If you like your stories with a rich sense of sights and sounds and textures, this is the story for you. Nikos is at a formal ball, when to everyone’s shock, the rulers announce that he has struck a deal with the vampires, allowing them to live in the catacombs below the city. Vampires are knowing for attacking and killing humans, so Nikos is not sure how this can possibly work, however when the ruler speaks…

Before long he is tracked down by Rune, a vampire with an aptitude for smug innuendo. It’s soon clear that Nikos and Rune have had a relationship of sorts (which seems to have started by Nikos trying to kill Rune) and despite knowing better, he has trouble resisting Rune’s allure. Before long they are sneaking off to a bedroom in the palace Nikos decides to go for it, even knowing it’s probably a mistake. Although after sex, perhaps Rune’s smug attitude is a bit of a mask to hide his real feelings.

As I said, the rich work created here is very much a large part of the story, especially the sense of smell, where Nikos can smell the dead and how that mixes with his own powers. My biggest complaint if you will, is what exactly a necromancer does and how he became one. He says that most lovers don’t want to be with him because of his connection to the grave, but I wasn’t sure exactly how that fit. A few more details of the background of Rune and Nikos would also have been welcome. Trying to piece it together I’m not sure I got the proper view of it. However this is a short that takes place over a few hours as they reunite, so you aren’t going to get much more than you do. It’s worth a read if you like lush vampire stories.

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RiskingItLGTitle: Risking It
Author: Posy Roberts
Length: 6,760 words
Publisher: Dreamspinner
Genre: m/m Contemporary YA Romance
Rating: C+

Blurb: August Farrell doesn’t have a clue how to go about finding a boyfriend. He’s eighteen, a high school senior, has barely been kissed, and the thought of flirting with a boy terrifies him. What if he gets punched? Or worse? It would be easier if he at least knew the rules of the game. Then during the state basketball tournament, August meets Luca Knutson, who flirts with him shamelessly, but is this connection worth it? Will August play it safe by sitting on the sidelines or take a chance on Luca and the freedom to love he offers?

Review: Though, technically, August and Luca are of age, the story is told from the point of view of August who is quite inexperienced and the content of the story is sweet rather than sexy. I’d definitely classify this as Young Adult.

Most people don’t know August is gay. It’s his last season on his high school’s championship-winning basketball team. Dylan, his best friend knows, but unfortunately so does Zane, another teammate who is also gay. And in the words of August, “Zane seemed to think they should just automatically hook up and be boyfriends or whatever.” Zane has become a bit of a bother, following him around and calling him “Auggie,” which really gets on August’s nerves. Zane just can’t seem to take a hint that he’s not interested.

August is interested in finding a boyfriend, though. He just doesn’t know how to go about it. Does he approach a guy? Someone whose gaze lingers? But how does that work, really? If he looks to see if a guy’s looking, what if he gets punched in the face and called a faggot? It’s exhausting, but August is naturally shy and just thinking about trying to flirt with a guy freaks him out.

Anyway, they’re preparing to play in the state championships. Over the course of their stay in the hotel with the other teams, August meets Luca, a cute boy from an opposing high school who flirts with August shamelessly. And better yet, they’ll be going to the same college in the fall.

This wasn’t a great story but it was really quite simple and cute. I think that it kindof masquerades as a simple story but in the end it really works because August is quite simple at that age. Of course, he’s confused and everything like all the other teenagers, especially about being gay and how that works, but his point of view is direct, to the point and simplistic in the sense that all he really wants is for their team to work together to win the championship and to figure out how to find someone to love and to love him back. That’s all he really wants. And rather than being confused and angst-ridden over the fact that he is gay, he’s more upset that he’s shy and doesn’t have the courage to make the next step with a guy. That’s why meeting Luca is so wonderful for him. Before August knows it, he’s found a guy who is obviously trying to pick him up and that he doesn’t really have to do a lot of work.

I liked this story. I felt that it really worked for a story that is only 6-something-k words long. Often, stories that short have trouble fitting in characterization and plot without feeling rushed and crammed. But, the simplicity of this story, and in a sense, the purity of August, work for such a short format.

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