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Archive for the ‘C-’ Category

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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New Sip coverTitle: Summer Storm
Author: Molly Church
Length: 5,600 words
Publisher: Torquere Press
Genre: m/m paranormal
Rating: C-

Blurb:
One wet, wild summer day, Cathal, a young Irishman, is out walking along the beach near his home, only to see an injured selkie stumble ashore. A storyteller himself, Cathal feels a strange sort of responsibility for the fairytale creature, and brings him home. Over the course of the summer, their relationship grows into love, only for the selkie’s mysterious past to come back to haunt them.

Review:
Cathal is walking the beach near his seaside cottage, trying to battle the demons of writer’s block, when he sees a seal on the beach. Before his eyes the seal transforms into a man. As Cathal approaches he see that the selkie is injured and carries him and his seal skin back to his house. The selkie stays with Cathal to recover but the danger the selkie has been running from soon catches up with him.

I really liked the idea for this story and it had some lovely touches. The writing was good and the character of Cathal showed us a pragmatic man who didn’t seem at all unnerved to find an injured selkie on the beach. The selkie, called Slinky of all things, was an interesting character and I liked the awkwardness of the first few days.

It was a shame then that the initial promise of the story didn’t materialise. The rest of the story wasn’t bad, there was just too much crammed into a short word length. The relationship is skipped over so when we come to what could have been an emotional separation, I was left unmoved even as Cathal is weeping for his lover. A couple of characters are introduced but are mere shadows in the story. We are told twice that one character visits the toilet and yet know practically nothing else about him except his relationship to Slinky. Cathal is so passive and just calmly accepts what happens, instead of demanding that some questions were answered.

Finally, even though our heroes are reunited, I couldn’t see the relationship lasting. They are too different and not enough time is given to show them as a couple for me to believe that Slinky will successfully integrate with the human world. If the story had been expanded to show more of the couple during the summer months, or to see Slinky out and about in society rather than in the cottage with Cathal, then I may have been able to connect better with the characters and their relationship. Instead I felt this was a bit of a missed opportunity for a great story.

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TheBeatTitle: The Beat
Author: D.J. Manly
Length: 13,000 words
Publisher: Amber Allure
Genre: m/m contemporary romance
Grade: C-

Blurb:
The beat of love doesn’t always move every drummer in the same way…

The members of Frenzied Water, an up-and-coming rock band, can’t believe their luck when Frank Harold, former drummer for Heirloom, the most famous group on the planet, enters the studio and offers to be their new percussionist. And Johnny, Frenzied Water’s front man, never expects that his feelings for Frank will grow to the point where he needs to know the reason Frank left Heirloom for a less popular group.

One night, after a few drinks with Johnny, Frank finally confesses the reason he left Heirloom—a love affair-gone-wrong with his former vocalist. With the truth out, Johnny believes he has a chance with the sexy drummer if only he can convince Frank to leave the past behind and give their blossoming love a try.

Then a miracle happens, one that Johnny suspects may be more calculated than it appears. His band is invited to be the opening act on Heirloom’s American tour. It’s a dream for a rock group struggling for recognition, but a personal nightmare for Johnny, who wishes Frank as far away from his former lead singer as possible.

But Johnny is not the only one dreading this tour, and when a snowstorm in Denver traps Johnny, Frank, and two members of Heirloom together in a cabin, there will be no escape…

Review:
Johnny’s been in love with the drummer in his band for a long time and tried many times to seduce Frank into his bed. After a night of pot and drink, he finally succeeds only to have Frank claim it was a mistake. Frank had been a member of a famous band, Heirloom, and left after his relationship with the lead singer broke down and so refuses to make the same mistake with Johnny. When Heirloom specifically ask for Johnny’s band to support them on tour, Frank is forced to confront his past and Johnny hopes this will help him put aside his past for good.

There was a lot happening in this story. There’s the relationship between Frank and Johnny, Frank’s past relationship with the lead singer of heirloom, the band stuff involving two bands, a snowstorm, a four way sex scene and another romantic sub-plot. At this word count it was a lot to fit in and I’m afraid it didn’t work too well for me. The story seems to careen from one thing to the next whilst never fully exploring anything and so everything seems superficial and shallow. We never really get to know the characters and as such I didn’t feel too involved in them or their romance. The end is rushed and felt forced so I was left feeling that the story would have benefitted from having more added to it to make a novel, rather than limiting the story to a short.

It wasn’t all bad though. I thought the story had a good grasp of the workings of a band and I liked the way it showed an up and coming band getting a leg up on the fame ladder. The story begins well and I enjoyed seeing Johnny’s desperate attempts to snag Frank for himself and how pleased he is when he manages to get Frank into bed.

If you like stories about rock stars or bands then you may well like this one too. I liked some of it but felt that it could have been better with more detail and greater character development.

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TinkeredPinkertonTitle: The Tinkered Pinkerton
Author: Helen Louise Caroll
Length: 17k words
Publisher: Amber Allure
Genre: m/m Steampunk Romance
Rating: C-

Blurb: Pinkerton agent Brom Donker’s arm and legs were taken from him during the American Civil War. Now, ten years later, although he’s adjusted to the metal limbs that replaced his real ones, there are times when he still feels like less than a man. Especially when he’s near Simon Wain, his physician/mechanic.

Simon has cared about Brom for years. As his patient. Lately, though, he’s been seeing the handsome agent as more than that. But how can a lowly physician/mechanic fit in with a man from a powerful and influential family?

As Brom deals with missing gun shipments, rogue Sasquatches, and disaffected Southerners, he and Simon confront their feelings about themselves and for each other.

Review: I haven’t read anything by this author in quite a while, probably several years. So most of my experience with her writing is from some of her earlier works, though they’re similar in style and length (if not subject matter) as this steampunk story. Stories like: Moonlight Sonata for Two, Superheroes in the Suburbs and Hungry?. Likewise, it has been quite a while since I’ve read anything steampunk. I can’t say that I’m overly familiar with the sub-genre, but I do enjoy a steampunk story from time to time, and that’s why I chose to review this story when it was released. And, in the main, I enjoyed it.

Brom Donker is from a rather wealthy family of political renown, and in this alternate universe with a steampunk civil war, Brom loses both his legs and his arm to the South when he’s captured and used as a model for their scientists cruel experiments. He’s not a whole man, even though, after his release and into his career as a Pinkerton agent, he’s been outfitted with the best machine limbs that have been invented. Still, his wounds and glaring differences make him an outcast in society.

Brom laments his less than whole nature most when visiting his doctor, Simon Wain. He’s grown quite an attachment to the small, beautiful and brilliant physician and wishes that Simon could see past his mechanical limbs, see him for more than an opportunity to create even better machines fit for human/automaton hybrid use. But he does not know that Simon harbors secret feelings for him as well, which is part of the reason he’s driven to create such advanced limbs — like a cannon and flamethrower arm — to keep Brom safe.

But resistance is growing from the Sasquatches (exactly like you’re picturing) who are gathering allies from the south and showing signs of rather advanced automatons. Brom is going to need Simon to help solve the mystery, even though he hates taking the man into danger.

The real reason that I couldn’t give this story higher than a C is because both parts of the story — the romance and the outside conflict with Brom’s investigation — feel unfinished. It’s difficult to become interested in two characters who we only get very little time to know because of outside conflict that itself isn’t really delved into. Both parts sacrifice the other and in the end I felt like I didn’t get to really know the connection between the characters and also that I didn’t really understand the issue with the Sasquatches. It seemed like it was there only to cause conflict and provide and impetus to bring the characters together, but also tried to make it a part of the story. I would have preferred that the story commit to one way or the other — either concentrate solely on the romance or give us more time and information about the world and the war. In fact, I found it strange that the Sasquatches were even part of the story. They bring to mind a pretty firm preconceived notion of what they are but I never quite understood who they were or what they meant to the story, other than they looked like the Sasquatches that we know of in myth as Bigfoot, etc. and that they have a culture and race of their own and band together in small groups.

In the end, the story was just too superficial for me. I didn’t really get the outside conflict and while I started to like the romance between Brom and Simon, I still didn’t really get to know them well. The only thing that was really interesting to me was to see the steampunk gadgets and things that Simon created. But then, for those who have read more steampunk than I have, it might not be all that exciting.

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theprinceandthecowboyTitle: The Prince and the Cowboy
Author: Sam Singer
Length: 7,889 words
Publisher: JMS Books
Genre: m/m fantasy romance
Grade: C-

Blurb:
Pampered Texan James Walsh has been keeping a secret from his overbearing but well-intentioned mother. When she throws a lavish birthday party in the hopes that he will meet the woman of his dreams, she has no clue James is gay.

But a sudden storm blows rugged, rain-soaked ranch owner Jonathon Ross to James’ doorstep, and suddenly he can’t hide who he is any longer.

Review:
James is Prince of Texas whose mother is determined to see him married off to a princess, as he can only become king if he marries before he is 21. She holds a ball and invites all the local princesses and decides to plant a pea in their mattresses so that she can find James’ true love. James finds it hard to tell his mother that no princess is ever going to be for him, but he suffers through the ball to be polite. When ranch owner, Jonathon, turns up at the ball to collect his sister, James is overcome by the man’s rugged good looks and his rough hands.

This story is a bit like a cross between Cinderella/The Princess and the Pea and an erotic cowboy romance. I don’t think it’s supposed to be taken at all seriously, rather it’s a light and fun story which aims to blend the two genres. That’s all well and good, but for me, the blending wasn’t entirely successful. I think this may have worked better had it been given a different setting other than Texas, because I found that a little jarring. Texas isn’t a kingdom and every time it’s mentioned it niggled at me.

The story is also very over-the-top, with a few unbelievable scenes – such as when James discovers a murderess – which meant that I didn’t enjoy the story as much as I might have done. When Jonathon appears things do pick up a little and I enjoyed the coy interaction between the heroes, and the subsequent sex scene. This is an insta-love story, but given that it’s supposed to be modelled on a fairy tale, that fit in with the genre and I didn’t mind so much. I also rather liked the character of James’ mother, whose overbearing nature didn’t stop me from seeing how much she loves her son.

Overall, this was a decent read if you like fairy tales, but parts didn’t work well for me, even if the romance was quite well done, so it gets a low C from me.

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Box of ChocolatesTitle: Sweets for the Sweet
Author: Kit Dickson & Kat Davidson
Length: 5,600 words
Publisher: Torquere Press
Genre: m/m contemporary romance
Grade: C-

Blurb:
As teenagers, Joshua and Ian thought they were inseparable — until Josh’s family sent him off to military school. After years apart, the pair are reunited at last, but things quickly spiral out of control as both men struggle with their feelings towards one another and Joshua’s PTSD.

Review:
Josh and Ian are best friends and inseparable, until the lies of a teacher force them apart. Twelve years later, Joshua returns home after spending the intervening years in military school and the army where he finds that his old friend has followed his dreams and now owns a chocolate shop in town.

The blurb of this book sounded very promising and I’m always interested in stories which pick up on themes such as PTSD. However, I found that the short length of the story, coupled with a written style which involved far too much telling and not enough showing, meant that I didn’t enjoy this book as much as I might.

The part that did work for me was in Josh’s weariness in returning home. He joined the military because of parental expectations and did his duty. Now he seems tired and a little bewildered to be free of the army. This seemed a very realistic portrayal of a man who has suffered through war and I felt a great deal of sympathy for him. I also liked Ian’s nervousness at meeting Josh again after all the years apart.

What worked less well was the rather ridiculous over-reaction of the boy’s parents at the beginning of the story, plus the sheer amount of telling of the background to the characters. The actual meat of the story involves a short conversation between the men in a supermarket, followed by another short conversation in the street. The rest is feelings or background told to the reader. Whilst I understood that we needed to know what the men had done in the years they were apart, the execution was a little dull and I became impatient to get to the action. I was also not convinced by the end of the story when the men barely speak before making a move. I would have been happier if there had been at least a shared acknowledgment that they are gay and attracted to each other before anything physical happened.

Overall, this is a sweet story but the writing didn’t work very well for me.

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Vampires_R_UsTitle: Vampires R Us
Author: Logan Zachary
Length: 7,000 words
Publisher: MLR Press
Genre: m/m paranormal erotica
Rating: C-

Blurb:
Rick and Drew are two of the hottest actors in town, and they are in high demand. Being the spokesmen for Vampires R Us, they don’t really know what they’re selling, but they are hot. After the commercial shooting, the guys get to know each other a lot better as they strip off their costumes, and help each other clean up in the shower. Deciding round two was called for, the pair head to Drew’s condo to order pizza and more. As they settle in for the romantic evening, two unexpected guests arrive, the pizza boy and someone wearing a cape on their tenth floor balcony. The offer of “Come in” as the pizza boy arrives opens the door for the man on the balcony. Is he a vampire or is it a stunt to win the hottest duo? Is he after their souls or their sex? As the clothes come off all is revealed …

Review:
There are two ways you could read this short story: Either you can see it as a serious piece of erotica, bordering on porn; or you can take it with a hefty dose of salt and put your tongue firmly in your cheek. I chose to do the latter which meant that the story worked better than if I had been trying to take it seriously.

Rick and Drew are actors who star in a series of commercials for Vampires R Us. Once the cameras stop rolling the pair jump in the shower together. After an exhausting bout of sex, involving two orgasms in straight succession, they go back to Drew’s place for pizza. A hunky man appears on their balcony and more sex ensues between the three men.

The story is basically two sex scenes with the barest hint of plot. The sex itself is quite well written but very focused on the genitals, especially the length and heft of the cock, the size of the balls, and the arsehole. I have to admit, I prefer my sex to be a little more romantic, but could see how this would appeal to readers looking for sex without a great deal of emotion other than lust. Just occasionally, I found the description a little ridiculous, especially the line:

Drew pressed his butt against the glass door, his beautiful ass flattened. He reached back and spread his cheeks; a pink pucker pulsated against the glass, kissing it.

which made me snort with laughter rather than think sexy thoughts. There was also a case of the miraculously appearing condom. However, on the whole the writing was sexy enough and I read through the story quickly.

The story, such as it is, ends with a dramatic point and worked for me. I was pleased that there were no misplaced ‘I love yous’. What you get is two/three men having sweaty sex and it didn’t need a shoehorned HEA so I was glad it didn’t get one.

If you’re after an erotic quickie with a slight paranormal twist, then you may enjoy this one. I thought it was OK, but the characterisation is flat and the story is mostly just sex.

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