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Posts Tagged ‘Amber Allure’

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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SuperheroesVacationTitle: Superheroes on Vacation
Author: Helen Louise Caroll
Length: 9,000 words
Publisher: Amber Allure
Genre: m/m science fiction comedy romance
Rating: B-

Blurb:
When a secret agent and a superhero go on vacation, trouble follows.

Secret agent Gary Finn has been looking forward to this vacation for weeks. Besides spending some quality time in the Jacuzzi with his lover, Cole, he’s planning on asking him a very important question.

Cole, also known as the superhero the Crimson Bug, is looking forward to this vacation just as much Gary. His birthday is coming up and he needs something to distract him from the feeling that he’s getting too old for the job.

Unfortunately for both men and their plans, the casino they’ve picked for their vacation spot has just become the target of a supervillain…

Review
I rather enjoyed the previous story, Superheroes in the Suburbs, which provided an amusing pastiche on the world of superheroes and secret agent agencies. In this story we meet up again with Cole, AKA Crimson Bug, and his lover Gary, who works for a hush hush secret agency. Gary has planned the perfect getaway, setting the scene for a planned marriage proposal. Unfortunately things don’t go to planned when their casino is raided by an evil supervillain.

Like the previous book the best part of this story is in the amusing references to superheroes as it pokes gentle fun at heroes, villains and super secret agents. I smiled a lot at these references and got the impression that the author was having a great time thinking up ridiculous scenarios for the main character’s past exploits. Everything is over the top but that’s the point of the story and so I found myself vastly amused.

Alongside the pastiche is a sweet romance between Gary and Cole as both consider retirement and a peaceful life with each other. In many ways I wish there had been a bit more of a focus on that aspect to the story. It gets squashed in between all the silliness and I was slightly disappointed that there wasn’t a bit more of the romance added to the end once all the action was over and the bad guy defeated.

Having said that, this really was an amusing and fun story. If you’re looking for something lighthearted then this would be a good story to pick up.

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securedownloadTitle: Different
Author: Kim Dare
Length: 13,000 words (59 pdf pages)
Publisher: Amber Allure
Genre: m/m BDSM contemporary
Rating: B+

Blurb:

Matthew and Stuart have been dating for more than five months and Stuart thinks things are going well–right up until the moment Matthew suggests they try something different, the kind of different that involves bondage, spanking and leather. Matthew’s been building up to making this suggestion for weeks, dropping subtle hints and hoping Stuart won’t completely freak out at the mention of kink. Now, with Matthew’s desires out in the open, all he can do is hope that introducing something different will make their relationship perfect rather than destroy it completely.

Review:

I quite enjoyed this little look at an established couple revealing more about themselves as their relationship grows. It starts with Matthew finally building up the nerve to propose some light BDSM in their relationship. However Stuarts rather casual “sure, we can do that” and then change of topic, leaves Matthew unsure what that means. A short time later he comes home a bit early and finds Stuart reacting very oddly. It then comes to light that Stuart had a boyfriend when he was really young who was in the lifestyle, although as they go along it is obvious the guy was outright abusive and it had nothing to do with the kind of things that Matthew wants to do.

I really liked Stuart a great deal. He’d been led to believe by the ex, when he was only 18, that being a good boyfriend meant letting the boyfriend take out his frustrations on him physically. He loves Matthew and figures he can “take it”, if it means Matthew feels better. He’s quite surprised and confused by Matthew’s behaviour. He’s not at all like the ex, and that makes Stuart just as nervous. In fact Matthew’s attempts to take it slow exacerbate the nerves, because he keeps waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Matthew was definitely more in control, but was not a smug dom thankfully. He does realize he’s the one who is going to have to lead and get past Stuart’s old hurts and twisted way of thinking about BDSM, but it’s also done with a light touch. They have fun doing it, and there is some humour that doesn’t make this just about Stuart’s angst.

They couldn’t both panic. Stuart wasn’t saying he wanted to walk away, he was saying he was freaked out—there was a big difference between the two. Everything would be fine; one of them just had to stay calm. Matthew was apparently the only current applicant for the position.

The BDSM is definitely on the light side, but they are really only getting started in exploring something new, so I wouldn’t expect whips and chains right off the bat, especially given Stuart’s experiences in the past. But I really enjoyed the interaction of the two who obviously care for each other, and want to make the other happy by perhaps trying something “different”. Worth a read if you are in the mood for a light, slightly kinky story.

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PeepshowTitle: Peepshow
Author: Clare London
Length: 16,000 words
Publisher: Amber Allure
Genre: m/m contemporary
Rating: B

Blurb:
Ever wanted to spy secretly on other people’s lives? Ken doesn’t have a choice: his student summer job is manning the CCTV screens for the new shopping centre. But instead of spotting criminals or vandals, he becomes fascinated by a cute waiter from the local bistro who sneaks out to the backyard for his break—and plays sexy to the camera.

Is he an old friend, or just an anonymous exhibitionist? Should Ken be excited by this naughty peepshow, or will people think he’s behaving like a voyeuristic pervert? Poor Ken’s confused and thrilled in turn. It’s like living in one of the movies he’s studying at university. He knows the man can’t see him, yet Ken feels a connection of some kind. It all encourages Ken to continue with his guilt-ridden Waiter Watch.

Ken bears the suspense as long as he can, until a chance meeting and an abortive blind date provide an explanation to the secret assignations. But will this guide Ken to the real-life chance of romance?

Review:
Ken has a really dull job watching the CCTV cameras at a local shopping centre. Nothing ever happens and the hours of his shift crawl by. Ken notices a new waiter at one of the restaurants attached to the shopping centre who comes out to the break area and deliberately winks at the camera. Ken starts watching out for the guy and is aroused and shocked when the guy masturbates in front of him. Now Ken feels guilty, like the worst kind of voyeur, until he discovers it may have been a deliberate act to get his attention.

This story surprised me. I thought it was going to go one way, with the sexy waiter and Ken meeting up and finding romance, and in a way it does, but the focus is more on Ken’s guilty feelings about watching the waiter which made it more of an interesting story than it may have been. The opening shows Ken’s growing interest in the waiter, culminating in that masturbation scene. This wasn’t as sexy as I thought it would be because Ken has mixed feelings about the whole thing. It’s described well with the graininess of the CCTV picture adding to the slightly sordid encounter. This reflects in how uncomfortable Ken feels. He’s turned on, feels compelled to keep watching, but also feels guilt at spying on a man in a private moment.

When the two men finally meet, these feelings overshadow their ‘date’. You get the impression that Ken is a decent guy. He’s realistic in that he’s not expecting hearts and romance, but the sordid nature of that first encounter means that he questions the waiter’s integrity. Is he the sort of man who would masturbate in public for just anyone? The waiter claims it was a desperate attempt to get Ken’s attention but Ken still feels awkward. This was reflected in their interactions – one minute Ken was fine and happy that they were potentially starting a new relationship, the next he was filled with doubt. The waiter (I’m being deliberately vague here about who the waiter is) knows he’s made a misstep and I really liked the way he tries to smooth things over. It’s obvious that he likes Ken a great deal as that comes through in his desperate attempts to apologise and make amends. They have to work for their HFN ending and this seemed more realistic than just dismissing their problems and jumping into bed together.

Another plus point to the story was Ken and his friends. There’s enough of a background to get a feel for their close friendship and I enjoyed the camaraderie between them, the joking and teasing that happen when groups of men get together. This added a much needed lightness to the story.

So overall, this story was very different to how I thought it would be. This is not a bad thing because ultimately the story was more interesting as a result. the focus on the awkwardness of the situation, rather than glossing it over with lust and desire made this story stand out from other stories and I would recommend it.

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TrustTitle: Trust
Author: Cassandra Gold
Length: 12,000 words
Publisher: Amber Allure
Genre: m/m contemporary
Rating: B-

Blurb:
Detective Zach Davis has always prized his iron control. Life has taught him that emotions and trust are things to be avoided at all costs. Then his lover leaves him, citing the distance between them, and Zach realizes something has to change.

Could a night at a BDSM club be the perfect way for him to show Lane he really can let go and build an equal relationship?

Review:
This story begins with the end of a relationship. Zach is a cop who has just finished a tough case. He turns up at his lover’s house but weeks of being emotionally uncommunicative followed by two weeks of no contact was the last straw for Lane and he tells Zach that the relationship isn’t working. A few weeks later and Zach is still hurting. He knows he’s been an idiot and so decides to concoct an elaborate scheme to show Lane how much he cares.

I wasn’t sure how well the initial situation would work in this story as, on the surface, it seems rather contrived. However, this was saved a little by both heroes acknowledging that the situation was rather strange. Zach wonders if a grand gesture will work, and then later when he visits the club for the first time, whether he’s made a huge mistake. Lane is also quick to point out the flaws in Zach’s plan, especially that sex will not ultimately solve their problems. This meant that I was able to set aside my own doubts over the situation.

The opening to the story quickly drew me in. I liked the way that Zach reaches the conclusion that he’s been a total selfish idiot. I also liked his sister who offers sensible advice. Another part that worked was in the build up to the reconciliation. Would Lane come to the club or would Zach be left feeling foolish? It was a nicely written piece of anticipation.

The final scene was also done well, and I liked that both men talked to each other. Zach’s opening up to Lane was a poignant moment and the sex that followed was hot but with a strong sense of emotional attachment.

My only problems with the story stemmed from the character of Lane. We never really know much about him, except that he has travelled a lot, and in many ways he was a little perfect. That was only a minor negative point though in a story I found engrossing. If you’re looking for a story with a slight D/s bent to it, then this would be a good one to pick up.

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harnessingTitle: Harnessing
Author: DJ Manly
Length: 18,000 words
Publisher: Amber Allure
Genre: m/m steampunk sci-fi horror
Rating: C+

Blurb:

Angus has never known freedom. He was born into a world overtaken by aliens who drank the blood of humans. Only Doctor Often offered hope for survival, and every day a fascinated Angus would sneak into the caves to watch the brilliant man tinker in a laboratory with its menagerie of gadgets, glued-together test tubes, and frayed wires.

Then one day, Angus goes home only to discover both his mother and little brother missing. Alone, he returns to Doctor Often, who trains and mentors him. As time passes, Angus and the doctor build their underground community, rescuing humans while food sources dwindle for both aliens and humans alike. Meanwhile, they also work on a steam engine that will one day, hopefully, allow them to build a flying machine to fight their overseers in the sky. But even though steam is the necessity to their possible survival, it’s also in dreadfully short supply.

When a blood-drinker named Shylar surprisingly surrenders to Doctor Often and his followers, he says he can supply them with steam, claims he holds the key to defeating his own race, and will help them restore the world to the remaining humans. But can Angus and the doctor trust one of their world’s bloodthirsty captors, even if Angus has seen the compelling and alluring vampire in his dreams? Is Shylar leading them all into a deadly trap, or is the beautiful, mysterious alien their dark angel?

Review:

I enjoyed this rather dark steampunk story, but I’m afraid my logic resisted the ending. As noted in the blurb, Angus lives in a world of fear and death and destruction. Humans are treated as no more than animals and feed for the aliens. However Angus continues to go during the day to the underground tunnels where Doctor Often teaches, although one day when he finally approaches Doctor Often, wanting to be his apprentice in ridding the world of the aliens, his brother slips away and Angus considers him to have perished at alien hands along with his mother.

He spends the next period of years working with Doctor Often to create a steam engine which can defeat the alien steam machines they use for searching for humans. Humans are now getting scarce and they’ve taken to breeding them for food, although those they rescue live with the others underground in an area protected by sacred ground with the aliens can’t cross, until Shylar comes strolling in. He’s an atheist vampire, therefore the whole sacred ground thing doesn’t count. Angus is suspicious to say the least, when Shylar offers to help them develop a weapon against the aliens, and even more so when he tells Angus that his little brother didn’t die, but was eventually turned into a vampire after being Shylar’s lover for a time. That’s when Shylar found out about Angus and fell in love with him.

So getting past my issue of sleeping with members of the same family, I quite liked the dark tone of the story. The romance is really quite secondary to them trying to survive, people growing up having no idea what a train is, and scrounging for food and safety. My problem came in that after they defeat the aliens, they set about rebuilding their town and starting the train running, their big goal in life.

Here’s where my logic kicked in. They only developed a machine which attacked the aliens in their city, the aliens were dying because there weren’t enough humans to feed them, but we are a big planet. Hmm. Unless this wasn’t earth? They were called humans. Why wouldn’t the aliens just have gone to New York or somewhere with tons of humans? Why wouldn’t aliens in other places have come to defend their fellow vampires against an attack? So I think if you can just kind of let that whole thing go, and you like something that is a bit different and darker, you’ll probably enjoy this more than I did in the end.

It wasn’t the writing or the characters, I liked Shylar a great deal, but I just got myself caught up in the details which threw me off at the end. Others will probably not notice at all. So judge for yourself on this one.

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WitnessProtectionTitle: Witness Protection
Author: Derek Adams
Length: 15k words
Publisher: Amber Allure
Genre: m/m Contemporary Romance
Rating: D

Blurb: Ex-con Tony Bradshaw drops into a convenience store on his way home after work, looking for a loaf of bread. What he finds instead is trouble. Overnight, he becomes the star witness in the murder trial of a major mob enforcer. Death threats quickly follow, and Tony’s life is completely disrupted.

Tony is hustled off to a secluded cabin in the woods with bodyguard Alec Dubinski, a handsome young detective who at first appears to be a complete homophobe. Relations between them start off poorly and soon hit rock bottom during a drunken stupor. But after Alec apologizes for his unacceptable behavior, the sexual chemistry between the men can no longer be ignored. A night of unbridled passion leads to a declaration of their growing affection for one another.

Their idyll in the woods is brought to a halt, however, when their hideout is brutally attacked by mafia henchmen. What sacrifice is Tony willing to make as he attempts to save the man he has come to love?

Review: It wasn’t until I finished this story that I checked and realized I haven’t actually ever read anything by Derek Adams before. I have plenty of his stories, but I’ve never gotten around to reading one of them. Now, I can’t say that my feelings about this story have any bearing on the quality of writing in those other stories, but I suspect that had I read anything by this author before last week, when I decided to get this from Amber Allure for review, I might have taken a pass. And honestly, I wish I had.

Tony Bradshaw has had a rough life. Problems at home manifested in his juvenile delinquency at an early age. And once he’s in the system, it’s almost impossible for Tony to get out of it. Criminal habits and a harsh reality of his place in society result in a vicious circle, of a world that continually admonishes Tony for his lack of worth while at the same time actively helping him to fail. Bad behavior and stupid choices as a teenager lead to his need to rob, steal and sell his body to survive as an adult. Tony is the first to admit that while he may have had few choices at that time, it doesn’t negate the fact that with the choices he did have he always chose the worst ones. And Tony knows even more how your image can control who you are and the choices you have.

Tony is on a first name basis with many of Seattle’s cops, and the older cops that know him by name and reputation seem to delight in reminding him that while he has his life together now they’re just waiting for him to slip up so they can remind him of who they know him to be. Having such a bad reputation with law enforcement makes it even harder for Tony to bear what is happening to him now. What Tony thought was a small altercation on a dark street corner turns out to be the smoking gun that cops need to bring down one of the key components of an organized crime ring. He’s in real danger and an obvious target before he can testify in the trial. Now that Tony is an honest citizen, he does his duty and tells the cops what he saw. The cops, on the other hand, only grudgingly give him protection. They send him and a cop by the name of Alec to a cabin in the woods until the trial can be brought together. Tony’s reward for his candor is a one way ticket into WITSEC.

What was a somewhat unoriginal plot (which is pretty obvious from the blurb) was made even worse by choppy writing, superficial characters and a plot that never really went anywhere. By that, I mean that several factors came together in an unfortunate way. The writing itself relies heavily on summary instead of in an active scene, and we’re given several info dumps. There are also large gaps in time that end up being gaps in plot because of the lack of transition between parts of the story and in character growth. Most frustrating for me, aside from the lack of growth in the characters, was the stilted dialogue that seemed like something the characters would never say. Also, without showing any of the internal process, one of the characters makes a drastic 180 that really kind of baffled me. Also, I was immediately turned off by the first sex scene which is pretty blatantly dubious consent. Not that I have a problem with dub-con itself, but it does really bother me when the character who has dubious feelings is ultimately like eh, what the hell… it’s no big deal and then the whole issue is ignored. Call a spade a spade and address the issue. And last, I was curious to see how the author would write the end scene. It’s pretty obvious from the blurb what is going to happen. Ultimately, I found the ending completely anticlimactic and the characters actions so apart from their real person that I just really couldn’t understand them at all.

To be quite honest, I probably wouldn’t recommend this story — not even if you’re a fan of Derek Adams. I’m sure some people will like this story, but with so many flaws, I think that’s a small percentage of readers. To me, it felt like PWTVP (Porn With Thinly Veiled Plot).

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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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RevvingItUpTitle: Revving it Up
Author: Sean Michael
Length: 5,000 words
Publisher: Amber Allure
Genre: m/m contemporary romance
Grade: C

Blurb:
Jon and Bryan have been dating for about six months. While things were hot and heavy in the beginning, they’ve since cooled down to a low simmer. Still, Bryan’s looking forward to seeing Jon again tonight after his shift at the bar. But a game of Truth Or Dare has left him wearing a plug and it’s making him aware of every single step he’s taking.

Will Bryan be able to make it through his date with Jon without going crazy? Or will Jon find out why he’s got that extra wiggle in his walk tonight and do something about it?

Review:
Bryan and Jon have been seeing each other on and off for a few months but things seem to have fizzled out recently. Bryan meets up with Jon at a coffee shop but this time Bryan has been playing truth or dare with his friends and is wearing a plug.

This was a quick and steamy read in Sean Michael’s usual style. I liked the initial premise that these two guys like each other but that Jon feels that the sex between them was a bit too vanilla and as a result they are drifting apart. The arrival of Bryan wearing a plug rekindles Jon’s interest. He’s pleased to find that Bryan is up for a bit of kinkiness and the rest of the story involves a hurried exit from the coffee shop and an extended bout of sex.

Whilst we never find out much about these characters, the interaction between them was fun. The first part is hot and heavy with sexual tension and quickly caught my interest. There’s a lot of laughter and shared enjoyment of the sex, plus an underlying relief that they’ve found something to liven things up. There’s a strong impression that the guys care for each other and I liked how romantic that made the story.

Ultimately though, this is just a quick snack of a story. The characters aren’t that fleshed out and the focus is mainly on the sex, so whilst this was a well written short, there’s nothing much to make it stand out from the crowd. If, like me, you are occasionally in the mood for some of Sean Michael’s erotic romance then I would recommend this story but at $3.00 this is an expensive story for the word count.

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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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