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Archive for the ‘Romance’ 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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BodyLanguageTitle: Body Language
Author: Katrina Strauss
Length: 15,013 words
Publisher: Self Published – Amazon, Smashwords
Genre: m/m contemporary romance
Rating: B

Blurb:
Seth Winters has a dirty little secret: he likes to be watched. When he discovers online playground Body Language, he finds a world of anonymous men eager to watch him perform naughty deeds on cam. Anything goes, so long as viewers only see him from the neck down. If only he could broach the topic of his taboo fetish with offline love interest Logan…

Logan Chase blogs food reviews by day, and gets off to online exhibitionists at night. He repeatedly deletes his profile at Body Language, vowing to focus on real-life pursuits like his sexy new friend Seth, only to return to his guilty pastime again and again. When the voyeur gets up enough nerve to reveal his true identity to his favorite cam performer, will it be a match made in heaven? Or the biggest mistake of Logan’s life?

Review:
It’s been a while since this author released a new m/m romance story so I was pleased to see this self published short. I was even more pleased when I got a sneaky peek of one of my favourite D/s couples – Blue and Derek from the Blue Ruin series – whetting my appetite for their new book coming soon :).

This book isn’t about Blue and Derek, but rather Seth who works in his aunt’s cafe. When a sexy guy, Logan, comes to the cafe, it sets off a curious chain of events which leads to Seth discovering that he’s a closet exhibitionist.

Body Language has all the hallmarks of this author’s books. The writing is crisp and the characters are well rounded enough to suit the word length, especially Seth. I liked the way he begins to explore his new-found exhibitionism – the slight worry and shame about posting explicit pictures of himself, coupled with excitement, bravado and pleasure at the response he gets from those viewing the pictures. The explicitness of the act, alongside the thoughts and emotions of the characters made the story a sexy but also satisfying read for me.

I also enjoyed the tentative relationship between Seth and Logan and the way their dating ran alongside their online interaction for a while. When the inevitable happens and they discover the truth about each other, I was a little irritated by Logan’s response and the fact that he makes Seth seem like the bad guy when they were both to blame. However, this was only a brief part of the book and so I forgave him his temper tantrum. Seth seems the more emotionally secure of the two, despite being younger and new to voyeurism, and it gave me hope that they would be able to last the course when he was able to own up to fault.

Overall, this was a nicely constructed short with two decent characters who have great chemistry and some hot scenes of voyeurism. It made me think a little about the thought process behind the kink as well as giving me a happy feeling about the romance. If you like stories based around voyeurism or are looking for something from this author to tide you over until the next book then this will be the story for you.

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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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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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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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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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