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Posts Tagged ‘Dreamspinner Press’

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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MediumSweetExtraShotofGeekTitle: Medium, Sweet, Extra Shot of Geek
Author: R. Cooper
Length: 66 pdf pages
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: m/m contemporary
Rating: C+

Blurb:

Former soldier Octavio “Tavio” Reyes works as a barista, a favorite with the customers—especially Tommy O’Shaughnessy. An avowed geek, Tommy comes in daily to flirt, usually under the guise of Trekkie talk. Tavio hesitates; now that he’s out of the army, he’s not sure how out he should be, or whether to take his chances on a geek devoted to sci-fi and comic books. But when Tommy compares him to an unemotional Vulcan, Tavio finally considers dating an out-and-proud nerd. Then Tommy surprises him again and introduces him to his daughter, whom Tommy loves even more than Star Trek or Tavio. Now Tavio has a whole new decision to make: Is he ready to romance a family man?

Review:

I really liked this story, but I had to give it a lower grade for what I believe was so much potential lost. Former solider Tavio is the silent type. He’s not good with people, he’s uncomfortable, but he’s good at his job making coffee. It seems Tommy has been coming in for months and basically stands around, ostensibly talking to anyone and everyone, but it’s pretty obvious that he’s there to see Tavio. The register girl even puts hearts on Tommy’s cup when she takes his order for Tavio to fill.

Things seem to be looking up, and Tavio is wondering if maybe, just maybe he might go for it, when Tommy shows up with his daughter. This completely throws Tavio off kilter since Tommy has talked about everything in his life, except this. However when Tommy invites him to watch the girl play baseball on the weekend, he agrees. Some time at the kids’ game, leads to a lot more fun for the adults after. That you don’t see.

Tommy is the kind of guy who can talk your ear off about anything and everything, but mostly sci-fi stuff. Tavio thinks a lot, he’s always in  his head wondering what something means, if he should say something, how he should react, worried about other people’s reactions. I suppose it’s a typical case of opposites attract.

When I mentioned “That you don’t see” I meant it. They go from kissing at the door, to Monday morning where you realize they spent the weekend together. Now I’m not one of the readers who insist on sex in their books, but with Tavio being so quiet and reserved, I would have loved to see how he behaves in the bedroom. Would he cut loose, or was reserved his way. There were also hints that Tavio’s mother may have suspected his sexuality, and I think she would have loved to see that he was hooking up with a guy who had a child, an instant grandchild. It was also nice to see Tommy as a character who was unashamedly bi and very open about it.

There was just so much more. Tavio coming out, the relationship building. Because it’s all told from Tavio’s point of view, you only get his perspective and I think the story was left with a lot of potential that remains unexplored. So while I enjoyed the story, I was left a bit bereft at the end. Sort of a moment of “That’s it?” I know it’s common of short story readers to say “I want more” but I think in this case, it would have enhanced the story greatly to dig a bit more deeply into the relationship. But maybe others will be content with the length. Still a cute read and I have to say I love the cover.

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

Blurb:

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

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

Review:

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

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

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

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

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PouringaBrickTitle: Pouring a Brick
Author: Tray Ellis
Length: 10,835 words (43 pdf pages)
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: m/m contemporary
Rating: C+

Blurb:

High-energy Spence joins a Brazilian jiu-jitsu school looking for adventure. Will is already a calm, advanced practitioner of the gentle art when they meet, and he takes the new student under his wing. After training for a tournament, Spence realizes that relaxing into the flow works great for channeling his energy at competitions and for life in general, but when it comes to taking a chance on Will, pushing the boundaries may be the only way to take their friendship to the next level.

Review:

This was a nice story with an interesting setting, but I never felt like I really got a handle on the guys. Spence has been trying to find new ways to meet people, he’s tried classes of different types and never really had any luck expanding his social circle or dating life. However he joins Brazilian jiu-jitsu and Will befriends him quickly knowing that newbies who feel accepted are more likely to stick around.

Before long they are sparring regularly and chatting. It seems that this type of jiu-jitsu involves some moves which on the surface could be seen as sexual, but Will is determined to back off, in part because he thinks if things go badly, then it’s awkward for everyone at the school with two feuding exes there. Of course Spence makes it a bit difficult for him to stick to his guns.

I liked the opposites factor. After about 6 weeks Spence is ready to join a competition, but even after a couple of years, Will is content to be a purple belt and he doesn’t like competing much. Just not his thing, he’s more laid back where as Spence is go hard right from the gate. There’s a fair bit of mention about how they became friends, but you don’t see much of it, I suppose in part due to the length, but the development of the friendship seemed a bit glossed over.

Still, I am curious about this sport given some of the descriptions, so I’ll have to Google some videos.  I’m pretty sure there’s no chance I’d try it, but I’d not heard of Brazilian jiu-jitsu so it was nice to be introduced to something new that what described in such a way it didn’t leave me confused and scratching my head. If you’re in the mood for a sweet story of two nice guys getting to know each other it’s a good choice, little angst for when you’ve had your fill elsewhere.

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

Blurb:

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

Review:

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

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

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

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

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Late-InningHomeRunTitle: Late-Inning Home Run
Author: Stella K. Jefferson
Length: 6,596 words (29 pdf pages)
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: m/m contemporary
Rating: B

Blurb:

Widower Jay Parker hasn’t seen his high school boyfriend, Craig Myers, in thirty-five years—not that they ever used the word “boyfriend.” When Craig turns up at a baseball game where Jay’s seventeen-year-old son is playing, Jay discovers the old attraction is still alive. It feels natural to invite Craig home to catch up, but reigniting their flame isn’t easy for anyone involved.

Review:

I enjoyed the easy flow of this story. Not a lot of angst. Jay runs into his old boyfriend Craig at his son’s baseball game. They immediately reconnect and Jay is shocked by the attraction that is still there. It seems that Jay’s wife died five years ago and he has spent the ensuing years raising his kids, and Craig’s partner died of cancer three years ago. They soon end up in bed, but are surprised by an early arrival by Jay’s son.

This was part reminiscing about the kids they’d been and part realizing they could have a second chance. I really liked Jay’s easy way with his bisexuality. He didn’t stress that he was attracted to men and had been attracted to and loved his wife. He’s always been the one easily accepting his teen relationship with Craig, assuring him it wasn’t wrong. It was nice not to have the big angsty “OMG, I might be gay” thing happening. I also thought it was handled well with the son. He was shocked but at 17 he was almost an adult and while it was awkward, it wasn’t  overly dramatic.

It’s also nice to see “old” guys still feeling the passion and excitement of an old relationship turned new. So while there isn’t a lot of conflict or drama here, I just really enjoyed the breezy feel of reunification. Two people happy they have a second chance and willing to grab it without stressing about it too much. I would definitely pick up something else by this author.

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

Blurb:

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

Review:

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

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

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

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

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

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ImprovesTitle: Improves with Ages
Author: Lavinia Lewis
Length: 60 pdf pages
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: m/m contemporary
Rating: B+

Blurb:

Sometimes you can go home again. Reece Watkins left Montana after high school. A math major, he found a fulfilling career as an accountant in Washington with Mike, the love of his life. But then Mike dies of a heart attack, leaving Reece to reevaluate his own life and realize he’s on the same track. He decides to return to Montana and a slower pace.

Former football team captain Nick Kenison never left Montana. Instead, he married his high school sweetheart, had two kids, established a contracting business, and discovered he was gay. Now out and proud, Nick drives out to Reece’s to answer a call about roof repairs.

In high school, they were opposites, but now? The attraction between them is electric. Of course, it isn’t that easy—Reece is still dealing with body issues, self-esteem issues, and grief over Mike’s loss. Nick will have to teach him it’s never too late for love.

Review:

There’s not a lot of conflict in this story, but it’s very sweet and always nice to see romantic heroes who are older. It’s been three year’s since Reece’s partner of 20 years died of a heart attack and he’s moved back to his hometown, in part to change his lifestyle so he doesn’t end up on the same path. He bought an old “fixer-upper” which thanks to a hole in the roof in the middle of winter means a significant repair bill and no contractors available to do the work. Except one.

When he realizes who Nick is, it doesn’t take them long till they are getting down in the hallway, when I say not long, I’m talking 10 minutes. 🙂 Before long Reece is swept up in a relationship with Nick who is easy-going, nice, friendly, and hot and seems to have a thing for Reece. The main conflict lies with Reece’s guilt over moving on from his partner’s death, and his own self-image as an older man at 49 with gray hair (a shame the cover has him blond) and getting older and thinking he had his one chance at love.

However, a fall off the roof by Nick makes Reece realize he’d be stupid to pass up a second chance at love. There are small conflicts, the moment to discuss anal sex, dealing with the holidays and Nick’s kids and Reece’s parents, but all are solved quite simply with no great drama. But they are both such nice guys you are happy that they have found each other, are boinking like bunnies, and their families are supportive and not mean or vindictive. So sometimes you don’t want to deal with the drama. 🙂

What I particularly liked, is all too often, it feels like no matter how good the relationship between a couple is, some author’s feel compelled to tear down the dead partner, perhaps in an effort to show that the current partner is “better”, and that wasn’t done here. Reece’s partner was a terrific guy, they got along well, they were faithful, there was no effort to show that this current relationship was better, it was just different and good in its own way. I also though Reece’s understated mourning still was nicely done, how things would hit him at odd moments.

So when you’re in the mood for something that makes you smile at the end and kind of go “awwww”, with some characters who are older but not suffering from tons of baggage, it’s a great story and I really enjoyed the time I took to read it.

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WhenWePickedApplesLastAutumnTitle: When We Picked Apples Last Autumn
Author: Hank Fielder
Length: 65 pages
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: m/m contemporary romance
Rating: C

Blurb:
At twenty-eight, Josh Adams has more than a few secrets and personal demons. He’s an international traveler and doesn’t think he’ll ever be ready for the serious attention handsome and heroic airline pilot Benny Mills is ready to pay him. Their shared near-death experience seems to clarify everything for Benny, who wants nothing more than to share his stunning home in an idyllic Wisconsin apple orchard with Josh.

Benny offers commitment and a contented life of peaceful, loving comradeship far from the high-flying hazards of foreign travel. But for sexy love-’em-and-leave-’em-hot Josh, only another life-and-death adventure can convince him that the smoking heat of their mutual attraction is destined to be more than a hit-and-run entertainment.

With time running out, finding refuge from his increasingly dangerous world just might be what Josh needs after all. Especially when his and Benny’s very lives depend on it.

Review:
This story of a young man battling against a sudden unexpected attraction begins with a tense opening. Josh is on a flight to Vietnam when the plane encounters a thunderstorm, leading to a scary landing. On his way out of the plane Josh shakes the hand of the pilot, Benny, and there’s a zing of attraction between them. The two arrange to meet and Josh is keen for a one night stand. Benny surprises Josh into offering more, despite the fact that they’ve just met but Josh cannot make any commitments.

I really enjoyed the first half of this story which surprised me because I don’t often like stories that hinge around a sudden attraction, or even love at first sight. Benny is older than Josh and starting to move towards a quieter life away from his job as a pilot. He sees something in Josh that calls to him and as a hopeless romantic jumps straight in. Josh is a lot more circumspect and finds Benny’s attraction a little overwhelming. He responds kindly but can’t help but accidentally hurt Benny with his caution. Josh comes across as older an wiser than his years and I completely understood why he held back as Benny is a little full on. I was absorbed in their relationship and wanted to know whether Benny would convince Josh to commit more of himself. My only concern during this first half was that, because we only get Josh’s point of view, we never really get to know why Benny sees Josh as ‘the one’.

About half way through the story the plot takes an abrupt left turn and moves away from being a gentle romance to a high octane spy thriller. There were some clues thrown in about this in the first half but they were so obscure that they confused me rather than clarified what was to come. The last part stretched my incredulity, as Josh the character I thought I knew in the first half turns out to be someone completely different. On one hand this last part was exciting, filled with tense action, but on the other hand it felt like it belonged to a different book. The two halves jarred with each other and I was disappointed that the romance plot used the crisis to bring the men together, rather than it being a considered and measured decision by Josh.

So overall I really liked the beginning of the story but the abrupt change of pace and genre in the second half left me surprised and not in a good way. It’s a shame the last part didn’t work for me, but I’ll happily read more by this author in future.

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