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Archive for the ‘A-’ Category

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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luxuryofvengeanceTitle: The Luxury of Vengeance
Author: Isabella Carter
Length: 20k words
Publisher: Less Than Three Press
Genre: m/m
Rating: A-

Blurb: Take no prisoner. Show no mercy. Trust no soul. And vengeance shall be yours…

Prince Chien is determined to claim his birthright — the Throne of a Thousand Swords — denied by his wicked aunt, Empress Mai. He has successfully turned her two equally wicked sons, Prince Minh and Prince Tuan, into dueling each other for the throne. Hiding a vial of EverBloody, Prince Chien attempts to poison their foods at the banquet. No matter who win the duel tomorrow, both wicked princes will die.

One cut to the skin, and blood will flow relentless. Prince Chien will make his aunt suffer every second in watching her beloved sons die a slow painful death. Afterward, he will take her head and the crown that sits upon it. Only then will he have successfully eliminated all the traitors who helped kill his mother and his younger sister in the palace coup thirteen years ago.

Only one person stands in his way — General Bao. Prince Chien has skirted around court intrigues, planned successful assassinations, and demurred himself as a dunce prince. But love is the one thing Prince Chien never thought he would had to face. Whoever said that those who embark on a journey of revenge should dig two graves was not wise enough to realize love could do exactly the same thing.

This story was written for the Love is Always Write event at the M/M Romance Group on GoodReads.

Review: I don’t know how I missed this one when the free stories in last year’s Goodreads M/M Romance Group came around. I’m definitely a fan of Isabella Carter (especially after reading her recent full length novel A Shadow of a Dream), but this one slipped through the net. I’m happy to get the chance to review it now, because as excited as I was to review this short, I was even happier once I’d read it.

Prince Chien has been nursing his plan for vengeance against his aunt for thirteen years. Then, while he was still a child, his aunt murdered his mother in cold blood, taking the Throne of a Thousand Swords and becoming the Empress, leaving his mother’s body to rot in the streets as a sign of her power. While playing the dutiful fool of a nephew (sometimes too well) he’s been secretly honing his skills, both physical and mental. And through the past years, he’s assassinated each person who took part in the conspiracy to murder his mother one by one.

The story starts just one day before his long plan is to come to fruition. But all has not gone as he’d hoped. General Bao, one of Empress Mai’s most favored, has set his sights on Chien. But their secret trysts have become much more than bed warming to both of them and Chien is unable to decide between his heart and his mind. Bao is an honest and proud man, genuinely good, and Chien knows that the plan of vengeance he’s meant for — that is sanctioned by the gods — should take precedence over his own selfish, secret wishes. The Empress is ruining the country, the people are starving and her greed is ending in the murder of innocents across the country. To do what must me done means, in the end, pitting himself against the man he’s grown to love and who is sworn to protect the Empress.

I have to confess that I did something I don’t normally do before writing up my review. After I finished the story and went to mark it as read on Goodreads, I saw that the story had an overall rating of 3.5 something stars. Honestly, it confused me because I found this story to have really wonderful writing, an interesting plot and characters and I was engaged with it every step of the way. What I found was a really diverse group of ratings, some of which frankly baffled me. Someone said that they found all kinds of errors and horrible pacing and tons of telling instead of showing. Maybe it’s that I have a current incarnation of the story downloaded from Less Than Three Press, which has since been edited. I’m not sure. But, seriously? The story is free, people! And it has little editing because it’s for this annual story writing event. Anyway, I specifically went back to check in the story and I only found three small proofreading errors (missing words, etc.). I actually found the pacing to be wonderful because the format of this story is of the two days where Chien has enacted his final plan to dethrone his aunt and during his actions he reflects upon how he got to where he is and how his plan for vengeance started. No info dump, great pacing, and hardly any telling at all. In fact, the story is almost all present scenes back to back with little transition between them. I also saw some people talking about his sexist and racist this story was… Huh? I won’t even talk about that.

I apologize for turning a review into a rant. I hardly ever use a review to reply to other readers’ reviews, but in this case I thought it was warranted because I had such a different and positive reaction to the story, which I enjoyed immensely. And in the end, I think it comes down to style. As readers, we tend to view the story in the light of how we responded to it. I loved it, so naturally I had a bit of an easier time skimming over it’s faults. If I had hated it, I might not have felt the same, there might have been numerous details that irked me, only because I didn’t find enjoyment in the story, or it didn’t suit me. Maybe some people didn’t like that this is a Cinderella type story, but with a very different and dark twist, with seriously flawed characters… Who knows?

I definitely liked the story, but what I really enjoyed about it and what I feel made the story really successful is twofold: one, the story is character driven instead of world driven, and two, that allows the story to be full of rich detail without trying to do too much for the short format. The romance here is enough for an HFN ending but it shares the stage equally with the machinations of the royal family. There’s little sex and what is written isn’t very explicit, which went well with the mood. Most of all, I found the writing to be really beautiful. The writing has a heavily reflective mood. Prince Chien’s narration reflects his own mood — apprehensive, eager, somber, nervous, driven and determined. No matter how his own coup ends, it ends in death either way. And that slowly encroaching ending has a heavy finality that is only sometimes pierced by the hope and regret he feels in relation to General Bao.

My only real complaint is that Empress Mai came across as a storybook villain instead of a real and flawed character. I think that her brand of evil, while easy to show the contrast of good in others, ends up being less effective than it would have been if we understood her a bit more.

So, if you made it this far in such a long and twisted review, I congratulate you! LOL. You might as well go ahead and read the story now. It is free, after all!

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icicleTitle: Icicle
Author: Natalie Vale
Length: 12,000 words
Publisher: Self Published
Genre: m/m paranormal romance
Rating: A-

Blurb:
Haunted by a recent breakup, compulsive traveler Sean finds himself trapped in a sudden blizzard. Near death, he’s rescued by a man for whom the cold holds no danger. A man with losses of his own and memories he’s never been able to share. For one night, in a tiny cabin deep in the woods, these two lonely souls will find refuge in each other.

Review:

** This review may contain spoilers **

I’m not a huge fan of ghostly paranormal stories so I have to admit my heart sank a little when I realised where the story was heading. However, this turned out to be a poignant and delightful story and I was glad that I had read it.

The story starts with Sean whose itchy feet and hatred of being tied down causes him to hurt the man he loves, Zack, ten months previously. Sean’s now reached a cross-roads as he realises that all the experience and travelling cannot fill the empty void left by Zack. It may be too late for Sean though as he gets caught in a snow-storm. Just as his life is slipping away he is rescued by Ezra and brought to a warm cabin.

The part that worked for me mostly with this story is the way that both Sean and Ezra have parallel lives, both loving and losing someone. Ezra’s experiences are so much worse than Sean’s and it’s that which calls to Sean and shows him what a huge mistake he has made. The paranormal aspects are handled well and I liked that Ezra was no ghostly apparition, but warm – flesh and blood, but also not quite alive either.

Ezra’s story is told though the eyes of Sean as he sees visions of the past. This happens as the men become intimate and at first I wasn’t sure how well this would work. It seemed odd to mix a sex scene with visions of the past but in the end it did work for me as it allowed a greater emotional intimacy to develop between Sean and Ezra. Neither man is what the other wants, but their shared grief and loss of what could have been draws them together. The visions allow the reader to see exactly what Ezra has lost, and what he hopes to gain.

Overall, I found this story to be a deftly written story of love, loss and second chances. It may have been mostly centred around a sex scene, but it was in no way crass as the sex is more about comfort and hope than lust. I enjoyed it a great deal and will be sure to look out for other offerings by this author.

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Something_To_Believe_InTitle: Something to Believe In
Author: Sloan Parker
Length: 18,000 words
Publisher: MLR Press
Genre: m/m contemporary romance
Rating: A-

Blurb:
Two young, homeless men fall in love and search for a way to stay off the streets and build a life together.

After running away from the hatred and abuse of their teen years, Sean and Gavin have been hustling to survive for too long now. When some extra cash lands them alone in a hotel room until Christmas, they can no longer deny their feelings for each other. Now neither one can imagine watching the other walk off with one more trick. Even with no money and no job prospects, Sean is determined to not just show Gavin what a real home and holiday is like, but to keep them off the streets for good and build a life together.

Review:
I wasn’t sure about this book at first because the blurb makes it sound overly bleak and angsty. In fact this wasn’t bleak at all and although it doesn’t shy away from the realities of being homeless, it’s ultimately a book about hope.

The story follows Sean as he struggles on the streets at Christmastime. Kicked out of home for being gay and with no high school diploma, Sean has slipped through the cracks and now survives by prostitution. He arrives at a shelter where they are serving Christmas dinner and there he meets Gavin, whose life has been very different to Sean’s but who is in the same place. They join forces and the story flips on a year later where both men are trying to make the best of the situation, and shows them making decisions that will affect their future together.

As I said earlier, this book shows us the realities of life on the streets: The difficulties of getting a job, and therefore getting off the streets; the things that the men have to do to survive; the temptations of drugs or getting into a life of crime; the harshness of living among people who are desperate and will do anything to survive. All this is shown to the reader but with such a deftness that I didn’t feel weighed down by the theme. It wasn’t oppressive, more realistic and matter of fact which in some ways made it all the more heartbreaking. However, the main focus of the story is not on the past, but looking towards a better future for these young men, and there’s much to celebrate including their survival and their love for each other.

The romance between Gavin and Sean is surprisingly tender and sweet, given their situation. I liked that it developed when the men could allow themselves to relax and be open about their feelings and the scene where this happens was just lovely to read. After being shown all the crap they have to deal with I had really bonded with these characters and I rejoiced in the small comfort they receive from each other.

Perhaps my only complaint about the story was that I wished I could have seen further into the HEA because I wasn’t wholly convinced that Gavin would find the new situation at the end easy to cope with and I felt there was more scope for problems that could have been worked through in a longer story. However, that wasn’t enough to spoil the story for me too much and I’d highly recommend Something to Believe In to those looking for a truly heartwarming seasonal tale.

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InseparableTitle: Inseparable
Author: Chris Scully
Length: 68 pages
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: m/m contemporary romance
Rating: A-

Blurb:
After a car accident, Adam wakes up in a hospital room with no memory and a man named Joe, who acts like his boyfriend. So when Joe says Adam is straight—and Joe’s not—and they’re just best friends and roommates, Adam is more than a little confused. But as Adam starts to fill in the gaps, the one thing that becomes apparent is that Joe is the missing piece that can’t be replaced.

Review:
I quite like amnesia stories and this one turned out to be rather delightful. It tells of Adam who wakes up after being hit by a car to find he has no memory of who he is. The man by his side, holding his hand, is Joe who Adam mistakes for his boyfriend. However, Joe is only Adam’s best friend and not his boyfriend at all, so why does Adam feel that Joe and he should be together, especially when Joe insists that Adam is straight.

The story takes us straight into the action and heart of the situation. Adam and Joe have been thick friends all their lives and almost immediately the reader can see that Joe is in love with Adam. His actions and care for Adam show his love and even though Adam cannot remember Joe, he knows there’s a history between them in the way Joe treats Adam. I really liked how the amnesia theme was used not to confuse their relationship, but rather the clarify things. The whole aspect made me smile.

I also liked that we find lots of information out about Adam because things have to be explained to him. It made it an easy way to get across lots of information without it seeming too much like an info-dump. I was caught up in the relationship between Adam and Joe. There’s a tension between them isn’t wholly sexual attraction and I enjoyed seeing what it is that holds Joe back from Adam. This intensity to their interactions kept me reading and the novella sped along at a swift pace.

I also liked how Joe’s family is shown in the book. The theme of displacement is strong in the story – not only Adam’s displaced memories but that of being adrift without family too. Joe’s close and slightly well-meaning interefering family helped to lighten the tone and give us some much needed insight into Joe and his feelings.

Overall, this was a lovely story with a pair of very sympathetic heroes. I enjoyed the use of amnesia to bring them together as a couple and the whole story left me with a huge dose of christmas cheer. This is a story I would definitely recommend!

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NeedingTitle: Needing a Little Christmas
Author: Silvia Violet
Length: 15,226 words (82 pdf pages)
Publisher: Silver Publishing
Genre: m/m contemporary
Rating: A-

Blurb:

Discovering his boyfriend’s affair with a co-worker wrecks Eli’s holiday plans. He thinks getting stuck in his getaway cabin has made things worse until he calls Mac’s Wood Delivery and hears the owner’s deep, sultry voice…

Discovering his boyfriend’s affair with a co-worker wrecks Eli’s holiday plans. With his parents on a cruise and his brother and sister out of town, he’s on his own. His mother insists he escape to her friend’s mountain cabin. Eli reluctantly agrees, but he takes off unprepared and ends up driving into the worst snowstorm the area has seen in years.

He survives the trip, but he’s stuck with no logs for the wood stove and little food. Fortunately, he gets the number for Mac’s Wood Delivery. Mac doesn’t mind riding to the rescue, and his deep, sultry voice has Eli eagerly anticipating the delivery. Is Mac the little bit of Christmas cheer Eli has been needing?

Review:

This is an absolutely cute and appealing story that just struck me the right way, and I might have rated higher if I hadn’t felt the ending didn’t quite match the rest of the story. As the blurb says, Eli has recently broken up with his ex, although he’s more angry at the circumstances than heart-broken, realizing that they were not right for each other at all. He agrees to go to a relatives cabin as his family all have plans. However not thinking, he ends up in a snowstorm and when he finds the wood fire heated cabin has no wood, he calls for a delivery, ending up with sexy-voiced Mac who comes to rescue him.

The chemistry between the two is instant, but at first Eli’s not sure the guy is gay, but he has all these wicked fantasies and they kind of dance around it all. Finally, Christmas day Mac arrives with family leftovers and a tree to make it a real Christmas. I just loved Eli. The story could have been all “woe is me, my lover cheated on me” but he’s sensible enough to realize that while what happened was embarrassing, that he had let things go too long anyway. Then he is just so random. He’s an m/m author, of course, but he makes these wry comments about being an author that are so true and humourous. It’s not slapstick funny, just the kind that makes you let out a little huff of humour. I’ll give a couple of examples:

My car skidded off the side of the road, and I lost control for several seconds. My heart pounded, and my hands convulsed around the steering wheel. What were those damn rules I’d learned so many years ago in driver’s ed? Turn into a skid? Turn away from a skid? Don’t brake? My plan so far had basically been, if it’s snowing, don’t drive. That had worked well.

For dessert I had a piece, well two pieces, okay maybe two and a half, of the caramel cake Mac’s mom had sent.

His skin was so hot it warmed me instantly. My writer’s brain began to wonder if he ran so hot because he was a werewolf or maybe a werebear.

Despite knowing next to nothing about Mac, Eli was so enjoyable I didn’t mind that he remained more of an enigma to the reader. My biggest disappointment was the rather rushed ending. They only met the day before, and talk of moving there was already happening. Eli only lived two hours away, I think I would have preferred them say they would spend some time going back and forth first, rather than rushing to the “perfect” ending. Still, even with that little niggle, it was really an enjoyable story and I think when you want sweet, without being sugary, with a touch of humour, you can’t go wrong with this one.

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Title: Leather and Newfound Land
Author: CB Conwy
Length: 6,200 words, 24 pages
Publisher: Torquere
Genre: m/m Contemporary BDSM Romance
Rating: A-

Blurb: Getting a puppy can cause major upheaval, mess, and distraction in your life. Much like getting a boyfriend, come to think about it. And Cliff has to think about it after Mischa (the adorable, but incredibly messy Newfoundland puppy) and Gerard (the equally adorable, but incredibly tidy man) come into his life on the very same day.

It’s a case of opposites attracting — and a puppy making it worse. The dog is wreaking havoc, and in the end, Cliff”s doubting whether he’s going to have a boyfriend for much longer. Then a puppy catastrophe leads to the discovery of Gerard’s kinky secret, and Cliff realizes that they may be more compatible than he ever thought possible.

Review: This was really one of the most adorable stories! I’ve really enjoyed CB Conwy’s writing in the past, and A Russian Bear is one of my favorite BDSM novels. This story is autonomous to that series, but has a clever connection to it that only made me like this story even more.

On the day that Cliff takes home a giant brown Newfoundland puppy, he meets Gerard, a somewhat stuffy and proper interior designer who mistakes the bundle of fur for a bear. The two hit it off trying to name the puppy and finally settle on Mischa. Over the next several months, their relationship grows — and so does Mischa. Things come to a head when Gerard can’t seem to take the disorder Mischa and, by proxy, Cliff bring to his life, resulting in a few secrets coming to light.

I absolutely love puppy stories 🙂 I thought that this story worked so well because Mischa, the puppy, not only has such a great personality (a flying furball and wreaks havoc on everything!) but also because he is used as a catalyst in the relationship between Cliff and Gerard. Their relationship is a bit of a runaway train like the puppy and like Gerard’s nerves. Seen through Cliff’s POV, Gerard is wonderful but also seems so often frazzled, and Cliff can’t help but see that it is because of him and Mischa’s place in his life. Where Gerard is a creature of order, Cliff is not (I think we know where MIscha stands in that scale). Cliff himself is a great character because he’s the best of all of animal owners and I think that is something most readers can easily connect with.

The story is short, as all of the Charity Sips are, but I thought that the narrative style suited the story best. It jumps around, but in a very coherent way that never made me feel pulled out of the story (as I often feel, for example, with flashbacks). Though the pair have been together for several months, they’re at that stage where the real person starts to show through, and I thought it was rather endearingly shown in this story.

I loved how the story connected to A Russian Bear. This is the first story I’ve read that references another of the author’s works that hasn’t felt like blatant self-promotion in a masturbatory way. I normally hate when authors reference their own work, as a rule, and I got nervous when I first saw that here, but I ended up finding it charming and cute.

This story is prime for expansion. I’d love to see more of this relationship and this is really only a taste of these characters, who were really brought to life in such a short time. Definitely Recommended!

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Title: Come Cuddle Me
Author: Missy Welsh
Length: 33 pdf pages, 7000 words.
Publisher: Amber Allure
Genre: m/m contemporary romance
Rating: A-

Blurb:

During a bout of loneliness, Tucker naively posted a half-naked photo of himself on Pronblr and requested that someone come cuddle him for the night. He really did mean cuddling, but he didn’t intend for his friends to reblog his request since it also had his address attached.

Now Tucker has Bill, his hairy, gorgeous, and straight older neighbor, pissed at him for being so stupid while a parade of strangers answer Tucker’s plea…whether he wants their attention or not. Tucker desperately needs someone to save him from himself, and Bill might just be that guy…

Review:

This cute and sexy short story had me chuckling all the way through, and the deft prose was a real pleasure to read.

Missy Welsh opens this story right in the middle of the action, with Bill at Tucker’s door, asking him “what the hell is wrong with you?” We discover, along with Tucker, that his plea for a cuddle to the only two friends who follow him on Pronblr (a fictionalised Tumblr, I believe) has been reblogged. Tucker had only intended it as a way to let his friends know his new address and that he’s lonely in his new city, but they reblogged it without considering the consequences.

Luckily for Tucker, his neighbour understands exactly what’s likely to happen to a naive and attractive young man who posts a half-naked picture of himself online with a plea for a cuddle–especially when that picture is shared among people who normally exchange gay porn. He takes charge and demands Tucker pack what he needs for a few days, and meanwhile sees off the first few callers at Tucker’s door.

Bill is a great character. Older, larger and hairier, he’s exactly the sort of “gigantic, furry body builder from hell” the virginal Tucker finds attractive. And while he comes in angry and dominant, there’s a sweetness about him that quickly becomes apparent. He’s disappointed that Tucker hadn’t come to him asking where to meet people, and puts Tucker straight on the issue of his sexuality: Bill might not flame, but he is most definitely gay. Bill also happens to give the best cuddles, as we later find out.

I was tickled by the no nonsense way Bill deals with the callers, telling them all that Tucker is “taken”, and then pinning this note on the door:

NEWJOYINTOWN IS TAKEN. FUCK OFF OR DIE.

This story is limited to just a short time the first evening and then a lazy morning in Bill’s bed the next day, but this works really well. We don’t get a chance to know much about the lives of the two characters, and I was disappointed we didn’t find out why Tucker’s friends did something so inconsiderate, but there was enough here for me to warm to both Tucker and Bill, and really enjoy watching them connect. The ending was particularly satisfying, hitting just the right note to convince me they had a great future together, without anyone making premature use of the L word. What’s more, the writing style is lively and full of character, making me realise I need to go out and buy Missy Welsh’s back catalogue.

I can heartily recommend Come Cuddle Me to anyone who fancies a light and amusing, warmhearted and sexy quick read. It’s definitely earned itself a permanent place on my comfort reads shelf.

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Title: The Ruby
Author: Amelia June
Length: 18,000 words (63 pdf pages)
Publisher: Torquere Press
Genre: m/m contemporary adventure
Rating: A-

Blurb:

Daniel is a psychologist on vacation, damn it. When he meets the sexy but shady Hawk in the resort’s bar, he is brave enough to accompany the man back to his room. One impulsive decision later, he’s embroiled in a tale of intrigue, treasure hunting, and adventure. What happened to relaxing on the beach?

A massive stolen ruby, mysterious gunmen lurking in the shadows, and a gorgeous rogue push Daniel past all his comfort zones. Will Daniel and Hawk find the pirate’s treasure? More importantly, will Daniel get out of this crazed vacation alive?

Review:

I very  much enjoyed this little action adventure short, but you really must take it in the manner in which it is meant, pure escapist adventure fun. Much like Indiana Jones movies or Romancing the Stone, they and this book, are not meant to be realistic portrayals of treasure hunters/archaeologists. You are to sit back and enjoy the adventure, no matter how unrealistic it may be.

In this case, psychologist Daniel has saved up for his vacation and it’s rather a dud. The place is a dump there is nothing to do, but he’s kind of getting into pina coladas and reading on the beach when Hawk runs into him, literally. Before he knows what hit him, he’s back in Hawk’s room getting sexy and the next morning a gun-wielding thug is threatening his life if they don’t give him the treasure, and he finds a giant ruby in his pants. He’s then forced to go with Hawk to find the treasure as the bad guys now think he’s Hawk’s partner and will kill him as well if they don’t come though.

Hawk is one of those devil may care guys who always has a grin and is sure he’s going to get out of the trouble he’s in and has a “plan” to come out on top, usually by double crossing someone, but he’s sure it will be fine and no one is really getting hurt. He’s sure this is his last gig, he can get enough treasure to pay for grad school and he’ll be out of the game, well, except maybe for that bad habit he has of stealing watches. But he can’t help it. Daniel is the opposite, he works hard, he lives with his cat, he contributes to his elderly parents retirement home bills and he wears sweater vests. Once he gets going, he’s also a tiger in the sack which changes Hawk’s perception from a guy he can use to further his plan, to someone he genuinely likes.

There is a grand finale in the cave, with guns, blood, and Daniel becoming the kind of hero he think only exist in movies. I was starting to fear that perhaps there would be a slightly too pat easy solution for the men at the end, given this takes place on a South Pacific island and neither Daniel nor Hawk live in the same place, but I thought it was handled well, without an easy out, but perhaps feasible, in that action/adventure HEA way that enjoyable movies have. The author also did some great descriptions of the island, the beaches, the jungle and how Daniel experienced it, both the good – gorgeous beaches and sunsets – and the bad – mosquitoes the size of humming birds and sand in uncomfortable places.

I liked both characters, and even though you only get Daniel’s POV, you can see his exasperation with Hawk and the mess he’s gotten Daniel into, and yet he is also attracted to the boyish charm and enthusiasm which is so different from his own staid life. He knows he’s walking into trouble, but Hawk is just so damn adorable he can’t help it. 🙂 This is a perfect read when you are looking for fun and adventure and are ready to set aside a bit of everyday logic and just go along for the ride. I was left smiling at the end which is always a good thing.

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Title: With Gladness
Author: D.W. Marchwell
Length: 36 pages
Publisher: Free story on author’s website
Genre: m/m contemporary romance
Rating: A-

Blurb:
No Blurb

Review:
This was just the sort of story I like when I’m in the mood for something sombre but ultimately uplifting. The story tells of Andy who is a deeply religious gay man who has strong ties to his church. His passion is singing in the choir and he fears that should it ever be discovered that he is gay, he would be thrown out of his church and lose the opportunity to sing. Andy is approached by his pastor and asked whether he will sing for a funeral. Apparently the deceased was a huge fan of his singing and requested that Andy sing at his funeral. Andy regrets never meeting Jacob but sings his best at the funeral, where he also meets Jacob’s brother Karl. There’s a connection between them but Andy feels torn between his growing feelings for Karl and his faith.

I said earlier that this is a sombre read, which it is, with a tinge of melancholy in Karl’s fond remembrances of his brother Jacob. However, it’s also beautifully written with many touching and tender moments. I felt a great deal of sympathy for Andy and thought that the author had perfectly captured the different facets of his personality. He has a strong faith, a complete respect and brotherly love for his pastor, a compulsion to sing and a quiet, thoughtful personality. He long ago made the decision that his faith and place in the church were more important to him than sex and relationships (although he has had some experience with that), so when Karl appears in his life he’s torn by new feelings of desire. The way that this was resolved at the end was realistically done, with a number of pieces slotting into place during the final scene.

The story is mainly focused on Andy and also in some ways, Jacob, who dominates the discussions between Andy and Karl. As a result we don’t really get to know much about Karl other than his fierce love for his brother and the sadness he feels at Jacob’s passing. I would have liked to have known more about him, especially as the story ends with a promise for the future, rather than an outright HEA.

Overall, this was a delightful short story with a theme which I found realistic and touching. It brought tears to my eyes on several occasions but ultimately left me feeling happy and hopeful. I love stories which rely strongly on character and situation to forward the emotion, rather than misplaced sexual indicators and this story fit that bill. As such, I highly recommend With Gladness, which managed to combine a sensible and sympathetic approach to religious faith with a very moving romance.

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