Review of Concord Grape: Unexpected by TC Blue

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Rating: 4.25 stars

Pauly Mitchell never thought a simple evening of bar hopping with friends would end being chased by a crazy person in a cab following him in a cab. Lucky for  him, his cab driver is quick thinking as well as being very cute and the night ends with the psycho in custody, the other cab driver only slightly wounded and a safe trip home. Then he meets up again with not only his cab driver but the 911 operator who coordinated their rescue. Both men are attractive in separate ways and both attracted to him.  What’s a guy with a bad romantic past to do?

Randy never thought that one wild night as a cab driver would turn his world upside down. When he runs into Pauly again after their wild ride in his cab, Randy asks him out and the date is going great.  Then the two of them run into James, the 911 Operator who coordinated their rescue the other  night and he joins them on the date.  When Randy finds himself drawn to both men, he is confused and overwhelmed by his feelings.  Never secure about his looks, why would he think either of them would like him back?

James has always kept himself commitment free.  Love them or more realistically have sex with them and let them go.  But lately that has gotten old and something seems to be missing from his life.  He has a circle of friends who are mostly paired up and he is feeling a little envious.  But his job as a 911 operator leaves him little time for relationships so no one is more surprised then he is when a chance meeting between two of the men involved in one of his calls starts turning into friendship, then something more.  James wants Pauly, and he wants Randy too.  He thinks they might feel the same.  Who is going to take the first step into making them a threesome?

This is the second book for me this week involving threesomes, not a relationship structure I normally read.  Both books make it work well within the context of their stories and make it totally believable which is key to making me understand a threesome or as Pauly calls it “a triad”.  Concord Grape is the sixth book in the Fruit Basket series by  TC Blue.  Each book is the story of a relationship between characters from a close knit group of friends.  I have read three from this series and can vouch for the wonderful characterization by TC Blue in each story.

I really like Concord Grape because I think TC Blue did a great job of giving us three diverse characters and then juggling the dynamics of their needs/insecurities/damaged pasts as they struggle towards understanding that they want a relationship that extends past the normal pairing into one that stretches to include all three men.  None of the men here have ever give thought to such a relationship until now which makes it easy for the reader to go along with them as they sort out their thoughts about such an unconventional partnership.  As they come to accept that it is possible, so does the reader.  Job well done!

Pauly is the most damaged of the three men and the first to capture your heart.  It takes time to unravel his story and understand the relationship between himself and his overprotective younger brother, Brendan.  As with Randy and James, each man fits into each others life like a puzzle piece finding its place and so it is for Pauly.  He needs the steadiness and reliability of Randy and the blunt sexy confidence that is James for all of his emotional needs to be met.  Randy is also easy to understand.  He doesn’t think of himself as attractive or anything very special but in fact he is the anchor that holds the others at safe harbor.  And finally there is James who appears so shallow to some of his friends that his nickname is “cheetos”, a quick snack that is never filling. Ouch.  But  while that hurts, James also understand where it comes from and upon meeting Pauly and Randy, James decides its time to change.  TC Blue takes the time with each character and their backstories so that it becomes very apparent why the men are drawn to each other.  I really enjoyed the way in which the author built the foundation for romantic love among all three protagonists.

But there are a few things to quibble about here.  One is the character of Brendan, Pauly’s younger brother.  I really liked that character but there were several explosive events here in which Brendan came apart emotionally that were never fully explained.  One especially inferred abusive past but was then dropped and never brought up again.  Brendan was seeing a psychiatrist but his background was only partially explained.  More problematic was Pauly’s attitude towards the last emotional “explosion”.  Instead of investigating and asking Brendan questions, Pauly lets his brother go off, and hide behind closed doors while he heads off with James and Randy.  That never made much sense to me as did other things about their relationship.  It remained an irritant throughout the story especially as I came to be invested in Brendan.

The other quibble is much smaller and that was the format.  It starts in the present as the group of friends are at a party.  Pauly tells the story of their relationship as a flashback.  When the story concludes, we are back at the party as Pauly finishes his tale.  I just found that a little cutsy and unnecessary as you already have a lovely story.  It didn’t need that embellishment. Other than those quibbles, this is a great addition to a lovely series.  You really can’t go wrong here but while they can be read as stand alone stories, it helps to read them in order to get a better idea of all the characters in the circle of friends.

Other books written by TC Blue in the Fruit Basket series include:

Lemon Yellow: Making Lemonade (Grey and Evan’s story) Book 1

Lime Green: Margarita Mondays (Jeremy and Troy) Book 2

Mandarin Orange: Sweet and Sour (Riley and Kelly) Book 3

Guava Red:Almost Paradise (Bastian and Chase) Book 4

Berry Blue: Lessons Learned (Peter Jamison and Dex’s story) Book 5

Concord Grape: Unexpected (Pauly, Randy, and James) m/m/m  Book 6

Cover:  I like the idea of the same type of cover for all the books, just changing out the background cover.  But since the unexpected is a threesome, shouldn’t the outline of three men be a little more clear? I almost missed the third as it is hidden behind the rainbow border.

The Week Ahead and A Must Recipe – Tarragon Chicken

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Happy Father’s Day all.  It’s a beautiful day here in Maryland, and all is well.  Except for third best dog, Kirby.  Kirby is our Soft Coated Wheaton and a rescue.  A total joy and all around dim bulb who we love dearly.  But he is like a small boy, boundless energy and everything goes into his mouth, regardless of what it is.  So he got into something a couple of days ago and has a upset stomach for his efforts.  This is a typical day with Kirby. It starts either inside or outside.

Kirby comes up to me and sits, wagging his tail, waiting for me to notice him. (uh, right big dog with a Wilfred Brimley face at my elbow)

Me:  Kirby, whatcha doing?

Kirby:  Grins and shows me mouth full of crap (5 socks, robe, pillow case, 3 stuffed toys, who knows)

Me:  Oh, Kirby. (sigh).  OK, let me have it.

Kirby: Runs to top of hill, staircase, sits and grins with mouth full of crap.

Me:  Kirby, get your butt down here.

Kirby:  Grins, wags tail.

Me:  Kirbyyyyyyyyyyy!   Get up, goes to top of hill or staircase, at which point Kirby runs past me to stand at the bottom.

Kirby:  Sits and grins with mouth full of crap.

Repeat sequence until I finally empty his mouth.  Which he promptly fills up again. And when his mouth is empty, he is talking up a storm.  He  wants me to know that kids are on their bikes in front of the house, the UPS man has just driven down the street, you name it.  He is the house’s Town Cryer.  Siamese cats have nothing on him.  I wish I could do an audio recording of Kirby.  I would post it here, trust me you would be amazed.

So while I have a few moments this morning before we start our ritual, here is our review schedule for next week:

Monday:                                   Concord Grape: Unexpected by TC Blue

Tuesday:                                    Stone Rose (Lost Gods #3) by Megan Derr

Wednesday:                             Smooth Like Latte by Rawiya

Thursday:                                 Second Time Lucky by Ethan Day

Friday:                                      Emerald Fire by A. Catherine Noon and Rachel Wilder

Saturday:                                  Reviewers Surprise

 

After all that great reading, you will need some sustenance.  I just made this for the first time and it was wonderful.  I used chicken thighs which I lightly seasoned and put into a 420 oven for 15 mins.  Then I crisped the skin in the pan and put the chicken pieces aside.  Then start the recipe from there.  You will love it.  Pair it with the dry white wine you cooked with and a lovely light salad and you have a great summer meal. Enjoy!

Tarragon Chicken

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 chicken (about 3 pounds, cut into 8 pieces
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup chicken stock
3/4 cup  dry white wine
1 shallot, minced
1 cup   creme fraiche
1/2 cup chopped fresh tarragon
Lemon juice

Directions:

Melt the butter with the oil in a large skillet over quite high heat. Sprinkle the chicken pieces with salt and pepper and fry in batches until well browned, about 5 minutes per side. Put all the chicken back in the pan, add the chicken stock and reduce the heat to medium. Cover and cook until tender, about 30 minutes.

Remove the chicken to a plate and keep warm. Reduce any leftover juices until sticky. Add the wine and the shallots and reduce to a thickish sauce, about 5 minutes. Add the creme fraiche and half the tarragon. Boil down again to sauce consistency, 3 to 5 minutes.

Season the sauce with salt, pepper and lemon juice. Put back the chicken pieces, turning to coat, then transfer to a platter. Pour the sauce over, scatter over the remaining tarragon and serve.

The Sexy Fae of Lost Girl (SyFy Channel)

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From a discussion with JJ a while ago, a week devoted to Book Series was born so the latest review in the Cambridge Fellows series will be posted the week of July 16th instead. So look for a whole week of my favorite series, I can’t wait.  So in the meantime, here is my blog on a new favorite TV series, Lost Girl, while I finish up writing two new reviews on book you all will love.  Trust me on this!  New author for both books too.  Let the anticipation build.

 

Lost Girl:

There I was casually flipping through the channels, a little bored and trying to find anything to keep me from doing the laundry, and then I found them. Be still my heart! Hello new addition to an old addiction.  The fav fae of Lost Girl.  The central main characters are Bo the bisexual succubus in search of her past, Kenzi a gypsy and Bo’s best friend, Dyson,werewolf, a member of the Fae and Bo’s lover, then there is Lauren,  human doctor ,pet of the Light Fae (also Bo’s lover), Hale, a male siren, and Trick, Blood King and Fae barkeep.

Lost Girl is the story of Bo, a succubus raised by human parents and unaware of her true identity.   A succubus feeds on the sexual energy or chi of humans, usually to the detriment of the human as Bo discovers when she hits puberty.  On a date with her boyfriend, Bo’s first sexual encounter ends traumatically as she drinks her boyfriend to his death.

Understandably freaked out, Bo lights out on her own, on the run from city to city, obtaining new identites even as she leaves dead bodies behind her.  This pattern is broken one night when she saves a young gypsy thief from a guy who slipped her a date rape drug.  Bo drinks the predator to his death and carries the drugged girl to the abandoned building Bo is hiding in to recover.  As Bo packs her things, ready to flee the city, the little thief, Kenzi comes to.  It seems that Kenzi recorded Bo’s feast on her smart phone before passing out and thinks Bo her hero.  And before Bo knows what hit her she has a new BFF whether she wants one or not.

Let’s say right up front that Bo is spectacularly hot.  She wears black leather like a second skin, has dark eyes that can turn hard like obsidian when angry, and packs a punch forceful enough to cold cock any thug or dark fae. I love her.  And Kenzi?  Adorable, funky, gypsy goth girl whose backstory is still waiting to come out.  I heart her too.  Any how back to the story.

The body Bo left behind comes to the attention of the local police who just happen to be two members of the light fae.  Dyson, a werewolf and police detective and Hale, a male siren,Dyson’s friend as well as cop partner.  They track Bo down and force her to visit The Ash, leader of the light Fae and The Morrigan, leader of the Dark Fae.  During this confrontation, Bo learns she is a succubus and a member of the Fae, an ancient group of beings at war with each other.  One thousand years ago, a truce was called and there has been a shaky peace between the light and dark Fae.  One part of that peace calls for all fae to align themselves with one side or the other.  You can be a Dark Fae or Light, but not “free”.  So Bo has been called before both sides to prove through battle that she is worthy (years of thinking she is human has left her clueless as to the ways and rules of being a Fae).  If she is not killed in combat, then she must choose to be either a Dark or Light  Fae.

As Bo fights her way through different opponents , Kenzi is desperately trying to find Bo after being left behind.  Humans are thought of as pets or meals by the fae, definitely not something to be bothered with.  Bo wins the last fight, with Kenzi’s assistance, and let’s the Fae know that she choses the Human side.  Meanwhile, there is a side thread with Dyson and Trick, owner and barkeep of The Dal Riata, the only Fae pub in town and neutral ground for all Fae.  They know more of Bo’s history than they are letting on, a mystery that unravels over the remainder of the season.

And that’s just the first episode!  After you get past a very hot Bo, and adorably sexy Kenzi, you meet Dyson who makes me want to squeal like a fangirl.  Irish, inked, and primal, he makes the wolves of True Blood seem civilized (and I like them).  The love scenes between Bo and Dyson are so hot the screen sizzles and walls shake. They get very physical.  No dainty love here.  And then there is Lauren, the Doctor who works in a laboratory for the Light Fae.  She is “owned” by the Ash right down to her pet tag. We don’t have her full backstory yet.  She is also hot for Bo.  And when they hit the sheets, the sex is sensual, believable, and steamy.  OK, look at Bo.  Who wouldn’t go to bed with her?

Hale grows on you as the  Dyson’s colleague and another Fae undercover agent in the police force. He is a male siren, able to render humans and even other Fae unconscious or stunned with his whistle. Over time, Kenzi and Hale become good friends. Hale’s family is Fae royalty and they find his job disdainful. Last, there is Fitzpatrick aka Trick, owner and bartender of The Dal Riata.  He is much more than he seems.  He is a Blood Sage with the ability to alter fate. As we learn more about Bo’s heritage, Trick’s history comes forward as well as the two of them entwined through their pasts.

Lost Girl presents us with rich stories peopled with mythical beings, complex characters, and beautiful sets filmed as through a glass darkly. A Canadian series, it is shown on the SyFy Channel here in the US.  Filming on the 3rd season starts this Spring which makes this fangirl extremely happy.

I have loved reading about Faeries, the Fae, the Tuatha del Danaan since childhood, stories from my grandfather and my introduction to The Blue Fairy Book by Andrew Lang.  Being of Irish and Scottish descent, my fascination with the Fae grew stronger with each year.  Whether it is tales of Peter Pan or Oberon and Titania, I cannot get enough of the wee folk, the fairies, the Fae.  Lost Girl is a great way to feed my need for all things sidhe.

You can find all episodes of the first season here at Showcase .ca.  There is also a list of songs used for each episode.  So join me in my Lost Girl journey.  Tell others.  We can all drool together.  Come on.  Really.  You will thank me!

Review of Timothy (Leopards Spots #3) by Bailey Bradford

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Rating: 3.5 stars

Dr. Timothy Trujillo, a snow leopard shifter, has arrived in Mongolia to work on the Snow Leopard Conservation project working to save the species from extinction. But Timothy also has another agenda.  He is searching for answers about his families history.  All Timothy and his family back in Colorado know is that his grandmother came from Mongolia and that her clan was killed when she was a child, leaving her the sole survivor.

On their first day in town Timothy and his best friend, Dr. Dane Calderon spot a gorgeous  man watching them intently.  it becomes even more worrisome when that man follows them through the streets of Dalanzadgad to their hotel. Tall, dark and handsome turns out to be Otto Marquat, son of the head of the Snow Leopard Conservation Programme and a Snow Leopard shifter too.  Timothy is stunned by that fact and he is overwhelmingly attracted to Otto in every way.  Timothy is lost without any of the shifter history or culture to aid him now that his cat’s instincts are taking over.

Otto Marquat has a job to do for the project and for his family.  Otto tracks down poachers and turns them over to the authorities.  Right now he is on the trail of a particularly nasty poacher, one who threatens the lives of all Snow Leopards in Mongolia, animal and shifter alike.  He is unprepared for Dr. Timothy Trujillo as he recognizes immediately that Tim is his mate, something Otto thought he would never find.  Not only is the timing bad but Timothy is acting like he is unaware of their status as mates.  Now Otto has two mysteries on hand, that of the identity of the poacher and the reason behind the curious naivete of Timothy. Together, Timothy and Otto must find and stop the poacher before they can go forward with their lives, and the poacher will stop at nothing, including torture and kidnapping, to reach his goal – the death of the snow leopards.

Of the three books in the series so far, Timothy is my  least favorite, or more accurately less satisfying.  I loved Bailey Bradford’s characters and  think she did a good job with Timothy and Otto.  Timothy was an unknown going into this book and I feel like I really got to know him by the end of the story.  Timothy is insecure about his looks as he and Oscar (Leopards Spots #2) are the only members of his family that share the same physical characteristics of blond hair, blue eyes and a smaller statue.  He feels bland, made more so by his best friend Dane, a character I adored. It takes Otto, a strong character to show Timothy how beautiful he actually is.  In fact the relationship between Timothy and Otto is based on mate attraction and sexuality in a strictly animal sense at the beginning, so much so that it almost obliterates the plot line.  I like that it is their animal natures that draw them together and not a case of instant love.  And yes, two cats in heat would forget about nothing else for a while but I felt that while it was very hot, I wanted more exposition to go along with it.   Other characters such as Steve and Lona, Otto’s parents and Ganzukh, Otto’s friend and Mongolian wrestler, are equally well done.  But Dr. Dane Calderon, Timothy’s best friend, almost steals the book away so vividly is he portrayed.  In fact he is easily my favorite character, not a good thing in a book called Timothy.

The plot line also gave me more quibbles to contend with.  Timothy’s main reason for his trip to Mongolia is to trace his family’s history.  As far as Timothy and the rest of his family are concerned, they are the only snow leopard shifters alive as his grandmother’s family were slaughtered in their native land, leaving his family ignorant of all shifters and shifter cultures. And yet is he stunned to learn that Otto is a Snow Leopard shifter too? Not really, Timothy seems to take it in stride whereas most of us would have been flattened by such a stunning revelation that here is his journey’s goal in human form. To know who you are is a powerful impetus and I had been looking forward to learning the family’s history.  And yet in the book, it is given short shrift which completely baffles me.  All that is mentioned is “oh yeah, I heard about a clan getting killed, too bad it was Timothy’s”.  We learn nothing!  How do you set up such a great plot line and totally abandon it? And even Otto’s  shape shifter family background is given shallow treatment too.  We get a mystical element towards the end which doesn’t really make much sense and then an abrupt ending.  Timothy asks Otto to marry him and that’s all she wrote, folks, leaving huge holes open in the plot that are never resolved (what happened to that poor boy, why was he tortured, what happened to Dane and Ganzukh, will Otto’s sister ever get laid, on and on it goes). What makes all of this really a shame is that the elements were all there for a great story and the author either ignored them or blew them up in her own fashion.

I want to see who is the focus for the book in the series is about. We now have two continents of snow leopards as locations. We still have that situation with the cougars in the States, and Oscar’s wolf pack but quite frankly, I want to know what happens with Dane and the Mongolian wrestler too.  I am just sorry that  after the joys of Levi and Oscar, their cousin, Timothy, didn’t bring as much to the table.  Lets hope for better luck next time. And please, give us Dane and Ganzukh story too, they deserve it.

Books in the series in the order they should be read:

Levi (Leopards Spots #1)

Oscar (Leopards Spots #2)

Timothy (Leopards Spots #3)

Cover:  Another glorious cover by Posh Gosh.  I wish the book lived up to it.

Review of Ensnared by Dawn H. Hawkes

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Rating: 3.5

Evan’s life during the day is mundane, being a lowly waiter carries little excitement. There is that customer who comes every week but Evan has never worked up the courage to speak to him. Oh, but his dream life.  There the man of his dreams, that sexy nameless customer, makes hot, sexy wild love to him all night long, bringing out his inner hedonist until the early morning hours when Evan awakes exhausted and alone. Between his dreams and seeing weird creatures in his nightmares, Evan is afraid he is losing his mind.

Gar is an alien warrior brought to Earth to hunt down and kill a predator species who escaped from their world.  As a warrior he is expected to fulfill his mission and return to his planet and mate with a warrior his equal to further their species.  So why are all his thoughts consumed by the small Human who waits tables at the restaurant he visits?  So while Gar stays back from the man physically, during the night he visits the Human in his dreams, taking him sexually and making the Human his own.  Each time Gar vows it will be the last time and every night he goes to Evan unable to stay away.

When the creatures attack Evan, Gar saves him. Faced with the one man who fills his dreams and thoughts, Evan is not about to let him go. But after sharing a kiss, Gar decides that the only way to save Evan and remove himself from temptation is to leave the planet.  This is not something that Evan can bear to think about, let alone happen.  What’s a young Human to do?

Ensnared is the first book I have read by Dawn H. Hawkes and I came away with some very mixed feelings.  On the one hand, her characters were wonderful.  I loved the downtrodden Evan, who still managed to show some sparks of fire despite his shyness and sad neglectful upbringing.  Gar  was lovely as the tough warrior who was still able to see beyond Evan’s meek exterior to the real person inside.  I like them as a couple as well as individuals.  And that saved the book.  Otherwise there are so many holes in the plot, that its resemblance to swiss cheese is easily noted.

My first quibble starts with Evan’s background which is presented with its own mystery.  His parents just walked away and left him in foster care but left him their home? Also, Evan has been seeing strange creatures all his life which in turn had him seeing therapists because some people thought he was crazy. I expected Hawkes to work that into the plot, perhaps Evan is not what  he seems sort of thing.  Nope, nada.  Little things here and there kept popping up that I thought Hawkes would pull them all together and make Evan’s past a neat twist to the story.  But it never happened, they all add up to one red herring.

The next stumbling stone in this story is literally a stone, the Ra stone.  A rare gift, Gar uses it to visit Evan in his dreams.  One of its properties is that it can act as a two way method of communication, the person it is used upon can then take the stone and enter the dreams of stone’s owner.  Neat idea that never came to fruition.

Next quibble concerns the attacks on Evan by the K’reet who have a nasty habit of eating people.  Apparently Evan is especially tasty but there is no explanation for the frequent attacks until the end.  And that revelation doesn’t make much sense nor it is fully explained. Then there is Shia, the head warrior.  She is hell on wheels, all the warriors fear  her and apparently she won’t  accept that Gar wants Evan as his mate.   All this buildup only to see it fizzle out at the end.  And that is the primary problem here.  We get set up after set up and our expectations are engaged and then nothing really happens.  It is like expecting to see a humongus tiger to leap out at you and getting a tiny kitten instead. So the frustrations keep building as the story runs its course like a limping greyhound we keep routing for but know won’t win the race.

And finally, my most important quibble.  Gar’s home planet.  I really am at a loss to explain what happened here.  Lack of imagination? Ran out of steam? I don’t think it is laziness because the author clearly has talent and some great ideas sprinkled throughout the story.  But basically Gar’s home plant is almost exactly like Earth, right down to the restaurants.   Yes,  they seemed to have an Oracle of sorts, the warriors dressed like leather daddies at ComicCon, complete with swords but it seems they all live in Mayberry.  And the K’reet came from there?  Nothing made any sense. Much less the ending.  I did check out the author’s bio and book facts to see if this was just the first in a series but it seems to be a standalone novel.  So while I liked Evan and Gar I don’t think I will be visiting with them again.  What a shame.

Cover:  Reese Dante.  The Ra stone is front and center here, along with a very nice design with great fonts.  Great job.

Review of The Mystery of Ruby Lode by Scotty Cade

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Warnings: Rape, mention of past sexual abuse, attempted rape, child abuse

Rating: 4.75 stars

Bowen McAlister and his partner Cyrus Curran along with their friends Duff Gentry and Lockhart Dawson are headed out to Boulder, Colorado to research and explore the Ruby Lode, an abandoned gold mine for Bowen’s outdoor adventure company.  But even before they take off, Duff gets a premonition that makes him uneasy. When Duff tells the others, they listen out of respect for their friend’s psychic abilities but continue on even as Duff’s fears grow.

They should have listened.  Because Duff is right.  Lurking deep in the mine shafts of Ruby Lode, something dark and dangerous awaits the four men, determined to protect its secrets at all costs, including death. It preys on each man’s insecurities, it visits them in their dreams turning them into nightmares.  For each man to survive, they will have to look deep within themselves for the truth about each other and secrets long hidden must come to the surface if all are to remain sane and survive the mystery of Ruby Lode.

This novel was just a cornucopia of wonderful elements that it is hard to know where to begin.  Usually I start with the characterizations and with the four men mentioned above Scotty Cade has done a great job of bringing together diverse personas with some truly heartbreaking backgrounds and meshing them together as a close knit group of friends the reader loves spending time with.  Bowen McAlister and Cyrus Curran have been together for 10 years as the story opens and their easy dialog with each other along with other touches makes that relationship and each other very believable.  Bo and Cy have the authenticity of a long term couple still very much in love. After reading the author’s bio, I could almost feel Cade bringing experiences from his own long term relationship into the portrait he paints here of Bo and Cy so grounded and real do they feel.  Next to them are their two friends, Lockhart Dawson, who seems shallow and commitment phobic, and Duff, who is psychic, shy, and hiding many secrets behind his insecurities.  Both men have background and secrets that will come out over the course of the story that will bring the reader much closer to Duff and Lockey.  Cade’s characterizations are terrific, but the ones I truly loved are the ones that will surprise you.  I won’t go into them here as I feel that is spoiler territory but let’s just say that other characters will hook you in from the beginning and,  like the mournful refrain from a mountain folksong, will haunt the pages and the reader from then on. Bravos all around for the author on characterization and character development.

The characters are thrown into the middle of a heartbreaking and deeply dangerous mystery located in the depths of Ruby Lode, an abandoned gold mine.  Cade skillfully builds the atmosphere in spine tingling detail, amping up the anxiety and dread for the characters we have come to love until it explodes in a gut wrenching finale.  Parts of this story are not for the fainthearted so please take the warnings at the beginning to heart. At first, I was tempted to think it was emotional overload on the author’s part but as the story continued I could see that Cade had a justification for its inclusion, and it all made sense in the end.  Again I am being obtuse to reduce any chance for a spoiler here.

While my expertise in gold mines is limited to Maryland’s (yes, we had a few), I can tell Cade did his research and the settings seem very authentic right down to the equipment and mine layouts.  The supernatural elements explored here are accomplished with the same expertise and deft touches displayed throughout the novel. I loved how these elements were woven into the stories, starting with mere threads in the beginning, adding one here and there until Cade has fashioned a old time storytelling quilt, colorful with basic patterns turned into designs of complexity. Parts of this book will have you in tears so have the tissues handy as you will need them.

So why not five stars?  It all comes down to one character who I absolutely disliked right to the end.  I understood him and his actions but that never translated into anything even remotely approaching “like”, especially his actions at the end.  I am sure others will not agree with me and for you this is a solid 5 stars. So 4.75 stars from me for just an outstanding read from Scotty Cade.  You will love it as I am just quibbling over another well done character.  Grab this one up.

Cover:  Another favorite cover of the month for me.  The artist is Reese Dante whose work I love and this is another example.  Beautiful haunting painting of the insides of an abandoned mine.  Perfection in tone and coloring.  I love it.

Don’t Judge A Book… by Scarlet Blackwell

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101 pages

Rating: 3.75 stars

Rhys is a librarian in the small town of Hawks Reach.  Surrounded by the books he loves with a passion, real life rarely intrudes into the musty book shelves that are his life.  Somewhat priggish, Rhys is disconcerted to find that he is expected to supervise a young man with community service hours to fill. Dismay turns to distain when he meets Darren, a young car thief sentenced to work at the library for 100 hours.

Darren is a young man in with a rough crowd and no real family to fall back on.  With Rhys’ harsh judgements of him constantly ringing in his ears, it is inevitable that the two men clash brought on by mutual misconceptions. And then there is also Darren’s confusion over his own sexuality and attraction towards someone who finds him beneath contempt.  When Rhys is attacked by Darren’s gang, events come together to make both men challenge their  perceptions of each other. Can two young men so wrong for each other make a future together?

I thought this was a interesting story of two mismatched characters finding common ground for a romance.  While I liked each character individually, I don’t think I ever bought the idea of a romance between the two of them.  The indifference and hurt exhibited from their initial rough sex scene seemed far more realistic than did the fact that they harbored feelings of love for each other.

Darren was the more likable of the two main characters.  The product of an alcoholic mother and absent father, his membership in a gang was an accurate portrayal of a young man in trouble.  It was very believable that any gay sexuality was buried deeply within him so as not to offend his gang.  With hidden depths, he was definitely the book that certainly shouldn’t have been judged by his cover.  Rhys never overcame his priggish beginnings in this story.  His leap from contempt to love for Darren was not realistic given how emphatic he was throughout the majority of the story especially as Darren’s friends beat him up not once but twice.  Also stretching the boundaries here is the fact that Rhys never called the police or told his boss at the library even though he was trying to get rid of Darren.  I could see Rhys having sex with Darren but even that would be a stretch given the lack of trust there.  But full blown  romantic love?  I am not sure I  ever found that between the covers of this book and the characters within.

Cover:  Reese Dante for this series.  Sexy men, same cover for a variety of stories.

The Week Ahead in Reviews and a Great Salad for Anytime of the Year

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The old adage of if you don’t like the weather, just wait five minutes has always applied to Maryland but never more so than in the last few years.  Where once you could count on May being like May and June acting sensibly like June,  all the months now seem to pull on each others characteristics like a kid trying on their parents clothes.  Frigid one day, boiling the next, mildly cool, then outstandingly gorgeous. Today is one of those days where we have tumbled into August almost overnight.  It will be in the 90’s today so this morning I have been making sure all the bird baths are clean and full as I know they will get a workout by all the robins, catbirds, chickadees, and everyone else who favors my yard with their constant flutterings.  The hummingbird feeders have been changed and the dogs have done their run in the backyard, finished until this evening.

This is Fae Awareness Month so my contribution was a blog called The Sexy Fae of Lost Girl about Lost Girl the SyFy TV series I am addicted to.  Find it here!

I don’t know about you but when the days get hot, I long for salads and meals that are light. I just made a wonderful salad that is perfect to serve year around.  Look for it after  the schedule for the week.  Have a great Sunday!

Monday:                     Don’t Judge A Book by Scarlett Blackwell

Tuesday:                     On The Trail to Moonlight Gulch by Shelter Somerset

Wednesday:               Mystery of Ruby Lode by Scotty Cade

Thursday:                   Ensnared by Dawn H. Hawkes

Friday:                         Lessons in Temptation (Cambridge Fellows #5) by Charlie Cochrane

Saturday:                     Reviewer surprise (Which Means I Can’t Make My Mind Up)

Green Goddess Salad

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 tablespoon minced shallot
1 small garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Salt
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3/4 cup canola oil
Freshly ground pepper
1 large seedless cucumber, thinly sliced
1 1/2 teaspoons thyme leaves
3 large hard-cooked eggs, quartered
1/2 pound feta cheese, crumbled
2 heads of Bibb or butter lettuce, torn into large pieces
1/2 pound haricots verts

Directions (Serves 6, 30 mins to make):

1. In a medium saucepan of salted boiling water, cook the haricots verts until crisp-tender, about 4 minutes. Drain and cool under running water; pat dry.

2. In a mini processor, combine the shallot, garlic, mustard, cider vinegar and lemon juice and process until smooth. With the machine on, add the canola oil in a thin stream. Add the thyme and pulse until minced. Season with salt and pepper.

3. In a large bowl, combine the torn lettuce, crumbled feta, sliced cucumber, quartered eggs and haricots verts. Add three-fourths of the dressing and toss to coat. Drizzle with the remaining dressing and serve. If you anticipate having some left over, than consider putting the dressing on the side so the salad doesn’t wilt.
MAKE AHEAD The dressing and haricots verts can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.


Win a Celery Stalks At Midnight Can A Balled Bare Bear Bee Far Behind?: Vocabulary Goes Bad with Homonyms!

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Today Vocabulary Gone Bad wanders off into slightly knew territory.  Eye no eye no, knot what ewe where expecting but poor word usage is not merely florid overdone writing or  words that stop you in the proverbial tracks with there shear horridness.  It’s also words are being used in a manner not befitting their definition, spelling or meaning. Of coarse, I wouldn’t waist my thyme on just any we problem but homonyms are popping up every wear I look and its thyme to reign this in bee fore its to late!  To misquiote  Jessica Rabbit  the words aren’t bad, they are just used that way.  OK, enough of that nonsense, back to the writing at hand.

So let’s way in first with definitions.  OK, I couldn’t resist, this quickly becomes addictive. Sigh.  Homonyms are words that sound the same and sometimes even have the same spelling, but they have different meanings and origins. Examples are so and sew, here and hear, and bear (the animal), bear (to tolerate), and bare (naked).  This is an especially important difference when it comes to m/m fiction.  Let’s not mix up our bare bears or even barely naked bears shall we?

It can be further divided into two categories.  Homophones are words that sound identical but differ in spelling and meaning, such as to, too, two; and so, sow, sew.  Two young studs busy sewing their oats takes on a hole new meaning doesn’t it?  And then there is Homographs. Homographs are words with the same spelling and often with the same sound, but have different meanings. An example is well, a hole drilled in the earth to obtain water, and well, in good health.  I am including a chart, a little simple but I like being helpful so hear it is. Ha! Tack it above the keyboard, use it often.  You’ll thank me.  Really, you will.  Back to our issues at hand.

Why homonyms piss me off.  There I was happily reading my m/m fiction.  My two handsome hunks are cheerfully engaged in all things sexual and it happened.  Alan is getting busy making Slade a very happy boy.  Alan raps his hand around Slade’s…..wait, what?  Did I just read “rap”?  Is Tupac back? Why is Alan rapping in bed? Argh! Poor Slade is waiting to get off and I am thinking its “wrapped not rapped”, doofus. I compose myself and read on, confident that it’s just one error.  This time Slade and Alan have changed things around (I love it when the boys are flexible) and Slade is making Alan moan, his nose buried in Alan’s course hair and noooooooooooo! A homonym pops up (yes, pops up) and stops the scene cold.  I don’t know where that weave has been, but I am sure Slade’s nose is not off attending any educational institute of higher learning.  I shudder and shake my head.  I eye *snort* my Kindle with dread.  Do I dare try again with this story?  One more thyme.   Our boyish babes are back on bed.  Alan is scoping out all the toys that Slade has laid out for their enjoyment. Alan tells him that he appreciates Slade’s thoroughness as well as variety and Slade replies “Honey, I love it when you complement me.” and I am done. Complement for compliment? Finished. Finito!  Another story done in by homonyms gone bad. (Names changed to protect the author)

So why is it that homonyms are running wyld through the fields of fiction?  I suspect some of the blame can be laid at Spell Check’s door.  So many people these days are dependent upon Spell Check for correcting their documents that actual proofreading has fallen by the wayside.  A machine, no matter how wonderful, can’t catch a word spelled correctly but used incorrectly.  Further complicating things is dyslexia.  Those of us who are dyslexic in any manner are aware that there are certain words that we have problems with and homonyms are the land mines of language. In addition to spell check, a good proof reader (hard to find) and a great editor (harder to find) are necessary.  And even then homonyms manage to slip through like a liberal does (that was intentional, people) of Astroglide!  Did you catch that one?  Here is a wonderful article from The Blood Red Pencil, a favorite blog of mine.  The blog is Cues from the Coach: Avoiding Homonym Headaches.  There is also a

list of typical homonyms which comes in handy at writing time.

I made a short list of homonyms that bug the hell out of me. They include my personal favorite – marine corpse.  Think about it.  Marine Corpse?  When did the Marines stoop to zombies to fill their ranks?  Are the Marine now looking for a few good zombies?

peak/peek/pique
your/you’re
rein (horse tackle) vs. reign (political rule)
waste (exhaust) vs. waist (center of body)
there (place) vs. their (ownership)
coarse (rough) vs. course (direction)
than (comparison) vs. then (sequence)
it’s (it is) vs. its (ownership)

I am sure you can come up with more.  Unfortunately, it’s easy.  Just pick up a book, blog or magazine.  So let’s get the word out, people!  No more homonyms!  We’re madder than hell and won’t take it any more!  Proof readers unite!  Let’s all rise to the occasion and make our fiction a homonym free zone.  Let Alan and Slade romp free of false meanings! Let our balled bare bears frolic naked in the woods, content in safe word usage.  The world will thank us! Or at the very least, give us a M & M, make it green.

Review of One Small Thing by Piper Vaughn and MJ O’Shea

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Rating: 4.25 stars

One drunken night changes Rue Murray’s life forever.  Curiosity and alcohol made the decision to have sex with a woman seem like a good one at the time.  Nine months later the result of that drunken fiasco was born.  Faced with the decision to either take the  baby or watch her be put up for adoption, Rue decides on fatherhood and soon baby Alice is the center of his life. Rue finds that fatherhood comes with many challenges, not the least of which is daycare while he is bartending to make a living and going to cosmetology school. In desperation, Rue reaches out to his weird new neighbor across the hall and begs him to help watch Alice for the hours he is in school.  After all the building manager screened him, right?

Erik Van Nuys is a Science Fiction author forced to move from a beloved rental house when the owner sells his properties.  Intensely shy, isolated from people by choice and with OCD tendencies, Erik has watched the sales of his books fall and his income dwindle so when his wildly dressed, purple haired neighbor asks him to watch his baby for a nice monthly sum, Erik says yes although with much trepidation.  It isn’t long before he finds himself falling in love with Alice, much to his surprise.

Slowly Rue and Erik adjust to each others quirks as they spend more and more of their time together with Alice as the glue that starts forming them into a family.  Both men find themselves happier than they have ever been when Rue gets a job offer from the West Coast.  What will Rue do when he must choose between a family he has come to love and the dream job he has always wanted.

One Small Thing is a wonderful story of family, love, and the truth that can hide under unlikely exteriors, all lodged in the state of Delaware. Here they have done Delaware proud as the characters of Rue, Erik, baby Alice and Rue’s best friend Dusty come together to form an endearing and quirky family.  The characters the authors have created here are so captivating in their own ways that the reader comes to love them soon after their introduction.  First is Rue Murray, who flipflopped his way into my heart.  Slender with artfully cut black hair, green eyes, piercings and a love of the color pink, he would have startled many a neighbor on that alone.  Add in capri pants, tight t-shirt, pink belt and matching flip flops, and the outer picture was complete.  But as with every character here, it’s the inside, their true  persona that you come to love.  Outgoing, responsible, ambitious for more in life for himself and Alice, he is an easy character for the reader to admire.

While there are layers to Rue, it is with Erik that the depth of characterization is really achieved.  Erik is one of the legion of young men hooked to the world outside by cable instead of direction contact.  Socially awkward, and burdened by OCD and stuttering, Erik has retreated behind his doors, content to write science fiction books free of romantic love, watch the Star Wars saga when anxiety hits, and gobble junk food  and Gatorade for sustenance. It is only when he is forced out of his fortress and into Rue’s building that his life get his first earthquake and he starts to take chances.  Erik’s somewhat bland beige exterior hides a gentle heart and nonjudgemental outlook, surprising in one who has lived so narrowly.  First Alice and then Rue and Dusty make inroads into Erik’s life and heart.  And with his newfound love for them, Erik grows into the person he was always meant to be.  Dusty is a lovely creation as well.  He is not just a secondary character, he is a needed part of Rue and Erik’s family.

I like the alternating POV here as it gives the reader needed information and insight into each character.  It becomes an especially important part of pulling the reader into the story by letting us see the characters interact with those around them outside of each other.  It doesn’t always work with every book that has used such a technique but it works here.  And as it has bothered some readers that Rue was too eager to turn Alice over to a stranger in a building on such flimsy recommendations, I too remembered being so tired and stretched thin with a baby that exhaustion can make a weak idea seem like a good one.  And remember he is young as well.  That made his decisions more realistic and acceptable to me.

The three men are gentle souls, kind to others and expecting the same in return.  All moments spent in their company is time well spent.  I hope that Dusty is going to find his HEA in a sequel as he so deserves it.  So why not a higher rating? Well, I guess I just wanted a little more.  Maybe a little more resolution, a little more time for Erik to adjust at the end.  So it’s a “I loved this story” over a “I really loved this story.”  Either way, I loved this story with only a quibble and think you will too.

Cover:  Cover art by LC Chase. I liked the cover.  OK who doesn’t love those little baby feet and pink shoes?  Adorable.

Find out more about the authors at their websites:    Piper Vaughn can be found here.   Both authors have a joint website here.