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Posts Tagged ‘Heidi Champa’

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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CharitableGivingTitle: Charitable Giving
Author: Heidi Champa
Length: 17,000 words
Publisher: Amber Allure
Genre: m/m contemporary romance
Grade: B

Blurb:
In his job as a fundraiser for Diggerson college, Mitch Harmon hears the word “no” a lot. Getting people to part with their hard-earned cash isn’t easy, no matter how good the cause, and the constant rejection is starting to wear on Mitch. The only bright spot of his job is Cal Marlow, a successful software developer and alum of Diggerson College, who has been generous with his donations.

When their relationship goes from strictly business to physical, they agree it should remain no-strings-attached. But, Mitch finds himself falling for Cal, despite his vow to keep things simple. When he finally gets the courage to tell Cal how he feels, Cal has an announcement of his own—he’s met someone, and wants to put an end to their fun and go back to being “professional.”

Has Mitch missed his chance at happiness, or can he find a way to get the love and the life he wants?

Review:
This is part of a set of books at AA, all on the theme of office based romance. In this case it’s between Mitch, who works as an alumni fundraiser, and one of his best donors, Cal. The pair have a no-strings sex agreement every few weeks, but Mitch finds himself falling for Cal. After careful prodding by a friend – who managed not to seem interfering – Mitch resolves to tell Cal how he feels, only to find that Cal has met someone and wants to end their arrangement.

The story is set around a series of missed opportunities. I liked Mitch and understood his fears of showing his feelings to Cal. He’s not great at talking about his feelings or explaining himself so it seemed natural that he would hang back and maybe wait for Cal to make the first move, especially as it was Cal who originally made the move from a business to pleasure. My heart ached for Mitch when he finds out that he’s lost out and the scene at the restaurant almost moved me to tears, showing how invested I felt in the story.

The second part of the story was still good, but I found myself getting rather impatient with Mitch who wavered between contacting Cal again or putting it all behind him and moving on. There was a predictable scene where Mitch goes out to forget Cal and then bumps into him in a club, which is the sort of thing that crops up all the time in m/m romance, but that was balanced out by a couple of perfectly written awkward scenes between the two men, showing their confusion about their feelings.

Overall, I enjoyed this story which managed to successfully pull off a miscommunication story. These can be tricky to do and still keep sympathy with the characters so I applaud the author in this case. I also liked the parts with Mitch and his boss which were rather amusing. If you are looking for a nicely written contemporary with some tense scenes and a decent camaraderie between Mitch and his female office friend then I would recommend this one.

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RoadsideAssistanceTitle: Roadside Assistance
Author: Heidi Champa
Length: 11,000 words
Publisher: Amber Allure
Genre: m/m contemporary romance
Rating: C+

Blurb:
For almost three years, Harper and Clark have been carpooling to work together. Every morning, they share coffee and talk about everything that’s going on in their lives. Except for one subject that never comes up—the fact that Harper has fallen for Clark.

Each time they are together, Harper tries to find the courage to tell Clark the truth, but anxiety about how Clark might respond to the news never allows Harper to follow through. Then, one day, the two men find themselves stranded on the side of the road. All alone. It’s the perfect time for Harper to open up and admit his feelings.

Will Harper take a chance and be honest with Clark? Or will fear keep Harper’s life stuck in neutral?

Review:

Harper car shares with Clark on the way to work every day. The long commute means that the guys have got to become fast friends. Unfortunately for Harper, Clark is more than a friend to him because he’s fallen in love with him. Unable to confess this to Clark, it takes the car breaking down for Harper to be forced to confront these feelings.

The part which worked best for me with this story is the character of Harper. He’s got a good friend in Clark, but he’s also lonely and a bit socially inept, so he finds it hard to get romantically close to anyone. This comes across strongly in the way that he’s constantly holding back in telling Clark his feelings. I wasn’t as keen on Clark who comes across as interfering at times, but the portrayal of their friendship showed that, given a nudge, the developing romance would be believable.  The close setting of the car meant that nearly everything was focused on the two men which gave a nice intensity to their interactions.

My main gripe with the story was really not the fault of the story itself, but more my lack of enthusiasm for I see as the same format of story being churned out at the moment. Like so many shorts the format of the story goes: Set up situation and introduce problems in first two thirds of story, followed by a final third of resolution and sex.  In the case of this story the set up was done well, but again the old ‘I’m friends with the guy I’ve fallen in love with, but I don’t want to tell him in case I ruin our friendship’ plot device is getting rather old. I’ve read hundreds of stories like this in the time I’ve been reading m/m romance.  This meant that whilst the writing is good, the characters well done and the story was entertaining whilst I was reading, it wasn’t particularly memorable.

If you’re looking for an undemanding romance with a nice main character and a satisfying and definite HEA then this story will be for you. I liked it, but there wasn’t much to set it apart from the many, many other similar m/m stories about at the moment.

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Title: Down Memory Lane
Author: Heidi Champa
Length: 5,000 words
Publisher: Amber Allure
Genre: m/m contemporary romance
Rating: C-

Blurb:
Kyle knows he shouldn’t, but once again he finds himself waiting for Quinn, the sexy man who drove out of his life years ago, but keeps turning up when Kyle least expects it. Every time Quinn’s car would come rumbling down his street and stop before his house, Kyle would eagerly jump inside the passenger seat and go anywhere Quinn wanted to go.

Yet this time, Quinn is back for good. Or so he says. Will this be the start of something special for Kyle and Quinn, or just one more passionate drive down memory lane?

Review:
Kyle is in love with Quinn and has been for years. Quinn, however, is a free spirit who doesn’t want to be tied down, so every so often he’ll roll into town for a night of passion with Kyle before heading on out again.

I rather liked the sound of this book, and I think I would have liked the story a whole lot more were it not for two things. Firstly, Kyle has a boyfriend who he lives with. The unfortunate boyfriend is only there, it seems, to fill in time between Quinn’s visits. I felt sorry for the boyfriend who is obviously being used by Kyle. Maybe he doesn’t mind, we are never told, but it didn’t endear me to Kyle that he would deliberately sneak off for sex with another man behind his boyfriend’s back. The second reason is that the whole set up reflects badly on Kyle who waits, like a faithful puppy, for Quinn to show up and give him a good time before disappearing off. He doesn’t even believe Quinn’s lies any more, which makes him doubly pathetic. I’m never very fond of stories which show love as being something which makes you weak – and Kyle’s love for Quinn makes him very weak – so this ended up being just an OK story for me.

The story wasn’t all bad though. The writing was good and most of the story is made up of a sex scene which was hot and erotic in tone. Kyle’s feelings are well described, and I particularly liked his views on Quinn’s car. All of Kyle’s yearnings for Quinn come through strongly in the narrative, but I got the impression that Kyle is holding onto only a memory of Quinn and knows next to nothing about the guy who turns up every so often. Of Quinn we find out very little – probably because Kyle knows nothing too. Where he goes for months at a time is a mystery to Kyle and the reader.

Overall, this was a story with promise, and for readers who aren’t turned off by Kyle and Quinn’s strange relationship, this may just be a story for you. It missed the mark for me though, and left a slightly bitter taste in the mouth.

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