Review of Fall Into The Sun by Val Kovalin

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Reviewed for JoyfullyJay blog on 4/10/12:

Rating: 4.75

Bobby Gallegos and Alejo Sandoval met when they were 6.  It was 1972 at Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic Church.  Alejo was being picked on by three boys who had stolen his marble.  Bobby came to his rescue and into his life.  From that time forward, they were inseparable even though their families were so different.  Bobby came from a rough family of four boys whose dad was in prison. His older brothers were petty criminals following in their fathers footsteps who only saw the youngest boy as a punching bag.  Alejandro’s family were strict, ran a family restaurant and was devoutly Catholic.  But none of that mattered as the years passed and their connection deepened into love.

The summer of 1982 changed all that with a series of devastating events that would separate the boys for 22 years.  Over time, Alejo got married, and had a family and ran the family restaurant, his bisexual tendencies buried deeply in the closet.  Bobby  moved away, went to law school in Houston, Texas where he was now a gay successful criminal lawyer. Only once did they try to reconnect but bad timing and distance interfered.

Now they are both 40, their lives at an impasse. Alejo is divorced and Bobby has returned to Albuquerque to persuade Alejo to make a change so they can finally get their happily ever after they have been denied for so long.  Bobby has seven days.  Will it be enough time?

Let me say right from the start that I love stories about first loves getting their second chance at happiness so this pushed all the right buttons.  Val Kovalin also did such a wonderful job with her characters that identifying with them was easy.  There is never any doubt as to who these men are and how their pasts molded them.  Both men have real depth and layers to their characters, including their flaws which help drive them apart.

Bobby was the easiest of the two to empathize with.  His obstacles to overcome are so clearly black and white, starting with an abusive family that he managed to escape from while staying true to who he is.  Alejo had it much tougher in a way.  His parents love, expectations and strict adherence to the Catholic church buried Alejandro’s own career choices and sexuality under a blanket of guilt and parental love.  Now at 40 and getting ready to attend his ex-wife’s marriage, his children, especially his wayward son, keep him from reaching out to Bobby and a new future.  The reader’s frustrations with Alejo’s indecision and inability to parent his son mount with Bobby’s .  Yet, so skillfully is Alejo drawn that his rational is clear and in keeping with his history.  Both the reader and his lover understand his actions even if you don’t like them.  It’s your flaws that make you vulnerable and oh so human. So you are never ready to give up on Alejo and neither is Bobby.  I thought their entire relationship realistic as it grows and adjusts from ages 6 to 40.

I really enjoyed this book and notice that it is called Fall Into The Sun Bobby and Alejo #1.  I am hoping that means we will be seeing more of these two and their hard won future together.  Keeping my fingers crossed.

Cover:  I loved this cover.  The models were perfect for Bobby and Alejo.  Just wonderful from the expressions in their eyes and that they seem more in keeping with the age of the characters.  Great job.

Available at Amazon and ARe.

Review of Under The Gun by Michael Mandrake

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Rating: 4 stars

P.I. Camdyn Hardy is having a bad day, bad week, bad everything.  His business partner and lover has walked away from their business and their relationship.  And the worst part?  Tay left him for a woman.  It’s not as if he didn’t know that Tay had taken a walk on the hetero side before, but damn, to leave everything they had build up together?  So cold, so final, so on the downlow.  Now Camdyn is looking for a partner to fill up all the empty spaces, both in the office and in his heart.

Malik Day had been doing a good job of hiding his sexual identity from the Army right up until the time he caught some fellow soldiers beating up on a private from his platoon.  Why the attack?  The private had been caught beating off to a Playgirl.  So he intervened and was consequently ushered out of the Army, courtesy of DADT.  So he came home to parents not thrilled that he’s been discharged from the Army and determined that between the Church and a godly girl, Malik can be saved from his sinful lifestyle.  And he needs a job.

A chance encounter at the shooting range gives both men a possibility for a future together as partners in all ways if only they take a risk and reach out to each other.

This is short story from Michael Mandrake exudes testosterone, sweat, and the smell of two men at their prime physical condition.  The dialog smacks of men from a certain station in life, middle class, assured of who they are, confident in their sexuality and their abilities. And both men have a love of guns that adds kink to the sexual play they enjoy.

Both men are very likable and the author has done a good job of giving them dimension within the confines of such a short story.  The sex is hot, especially if you like it a little kinky, and by that I mean gun fetish.   I liked that it clearly lust at first sight and then a case of personalities/sexual needs meshing, not a love at first sight which would be out of character for Camdyn and Malik.  Very nice job on all accounts.

Cover: Cover art by Dakota Trace.  Very sexy cover,  from the models to the gun, all perfect for the story within.

Available from No Boundaries Press