Review of The Man Trap by Lee Brazil

Standard

Rating 4.25 stars

Simon Harris has been watching the same guy come into his bookstore each week, buy a book and leave.  Not an unusual occurance in a bookstore but Simon recognizes him.  It’s Alexis Manetas, a former high school classmate Simon had been attracted to before graduation. Simon has always loudly proclaimed his bisexuality but never actually dated a man, just woman.  Now Alexis reappears and all those old feelings come back as well.

Alexis Manetas had a huge crush on Simon in high school, something Simon never really acknowledged.  After graduating from high school, both men moved on but Alexis never forgot his first love.  When his personal circumstances changed, Alexis searched for Simon, hoping to reconnect and finally start a relationship he had always hoped for.  With a little manipulation from Simon’s sister in law, Jeannie, the men are brought together.  As they become reacquainted, Alexis and Simon find their past attraction flaring into passion and their feelings for each other deepen.  But Simon has never had a relationship last past 6 months and Alexis has a  huge surprise in store for Simon in the shape of a small boy, Alexis’ son, Gregory.

Lee Brazil’s The Man Trap is a lovely warm hearted tale of love given a second chance with some very interesting nontypical twists. Brazil’s characters have that patina of realism that I appreciate in a story that we have seen told before.  Simon Harris is one of the more interesting characters here.  He is in his thirties and while he has been adamant about identifying as bisexual, he really hasn’t demonstrated that in real life, serial dating one woman after another.  None of his relationships has lasted longer than 6 months and he readily admits to being self centered and somewhat set in his ways.  This is not your warm and cuddly character pining over a lost love.  I appreciate Simon’s curmudgeonly ways.  It made his struggle towards a real relationship with Alexis seem even more authentic.  Alexis Manetas is a strongly appealing character too.  Brave enough to take a chance on reconnecting with Simon while never losing sight of his priorities.  I really  liked Alexis and found him every bit as charming as Simon.

The other way Brazil has strayed from the typical child inclusive plotline is that Simon doesn’t really care for children.  He doesn’t know how to behave around them,doesn’t relate to them and  never really wanted any of his own.  Getting involved with a man who has a child is not on his agenda, even if that man is Alexis.  This really strays from most of the books I have read lately where all the men involved want children and jump at the chance to have one in their lives.  It’s nice to have an author show the flip side of the coin so to speak.  I will let you read the story for yourself to see if Alexis and Gregory can sway Simon to their side but kudos for a nontypical character.

You also have a story involving two bisexual characters.  Some may see Simon as more of a “gay for you” persona as he has not really acted on his attractions to men but this is also not a strictly gay male romance but two men strongly attracted to, maybe even in love with each other since high school.  Whatever your take on this,bisexual or gay for you, Brazil makes it clear that each man has held the other close in their memories.  They are hot for each other and always have been.

Lee Brazil’s descriptions, whether they are of a balloon ride over the countryside (which I can attest the author got exactly right), to the wonderful romantic whisperings of love, “I’ve saved up a thousand kisses, thousands of experiences, I only want to share with you, Alexi” , will sweep you into the story and the lives of Simon and Alexis.  There is really no depths of angst or high drama, so if you are expecting any, you will be let down. But if you want a sweet tale of two men given a second chance at love, then this is the story for you.

Cover: I love the cover.  Cover artist is Victoria Miller.  The picture of the hot air balloon is especially nice.

Review of Reaping Shadows by Jamieson Wolf

Standard

Note: I’ve registered my blog so my url is ScatteredThoughtsandRogueWords.com.  Please make note and change your bookmark.  Thanks!  We will now return to your regularly scheduled program!

Rating: 3.5 stars

Darion Muerte is a Reaper, one of many, and has been one for centuries.  He gathers the souls of the dying so they can move on, hunting for them each night with his Shadow, a creature made from his essence. One night as he follows his Shadow tracking the next person he is to visit, he is astonished to see that their target can see not only his Shadow but Darion himself. The people whose souls he gathers never see the Reapers who come for them but this one can.

His target’s name is Kale.  Not only can Kale see him but Kale isn’t sick, isn’t dying, and above all isn’t afraid of him.  So why did his Shadow lead him straight to Kale?  In a flash of need, Kale and Darion have a sexual encounter that leaves them both gasping and wanting more.  Kale feels that he has been waiting for Darion his entire life.  Darion is experiencing the same unfathomable feelings for Kale.  But at the end of the night, his mission cannot change. It must end with Darion taking Kale’s soul.

I liked the premise of this short story.  That Death has many Reapers who gather the souls of the dying to help them pass on, accompanied by a Shadow.  The Shadows are an almost dog like creature created from the Reapers shadows and they help their Masters locate the next soul to take. Wolf extends his take on this by introducing Kale, a man who can see his Reaper and Shadow when no other person can.  Kale is  also healthy so why is a Reaper coming for him?  We get a hint that this might be something Kale has been fated for all his life but that is never fully explained, so a hint of mystery hangs about the character.  After a night of passionate sex (and some very hot vivid scenes), Darion is supposed to take his soul.  The plot continues to gain interest amid some neat twists but then with the introduction of the Brothers Grimm and the arrival of Death itself, the story takes a turn that it never quite recovers from.

The Brothers Grimm are hunting our two protagonists until Death appears to strike a bargain.  The final plot point hinges on the sacrifice Darion must make in the name of love. But the author has not finished setting up a realistic or viable reason for us to buy into this sacrifice.  And the ending just doesn’t seem plausible (yes, I know this is a supernatural tale after all, but the author must make us believe the actions described and I never did). So at the end the  whole story just unravels and so does the rating.  Again, I suspect the author set about trying to accomplish a much larger story that just doesn’t work in a shorter length.  Still there is much to like about Reaping Shadows and I look forward to the next story from Jamieson Wolf.

Cover:  Staci Perkins is the cover artist for this moody spot on cover.  Great job.

The Olympics, the Week Ahead in Reviews and a Milky Way Martini That’s Out Of This World

Standard

So things are happening all around this coming week.  I have been glued to the Olympics in London along with millions of others and that opening night still has me thinking.  Words like stupendous, mystifying, amusing, and outright flabbergasted swirled in my head as the spectacle  unfolded.  Loved the symbolism of the Oak Tree on Glastonbury Tor but wondered how many people went “huh”.  The Industrial Revolution and the molten river was very cool.  And who doesn’t love Kenneth Branagh reading a passage from The Tempest? Hmmm…dancing doctors and nurses, and hospital beds for the NHS?  I am told it is a “veddy British” thing and it must be as that and the “creepy” big baby had me stymied! Mr. Bean had me in stitches from first sight right thru his Chariots of Fire run. I will pass over the digital revolution.  I loved, loved the songs!  Singing my heart out along with them.  But was it only me that it seemed as though I was watching people watch a large tv on tv?  Don’t know.  Maybe it was just getting late at night.  Then came that eye opening, yelling for others to come see, smashing tour de force at the end. Wow! From the torch arriving with David Beckham (scream of joy) on a fast moving boat to the young athletes acknowledging and saluting their past, the older Olympians, to the lighting of the Olympic Flame (so incredible).  Then it is all topped off by Sir Paul and Hey Jude singalong.   Let me just say I was a totally happy camper when the lights finally went off.  And how great was Her Majesty and her corgis, even the fat one?

So I am watching the events this week and with the permanent generator being installed, yes a permanent generator, on Monday.  “Take that Pepco!  I should send you the bill.”  We are assured of a constant stream of power.  A great thing really considering the storms that arrive every night, bringing hail, high winds, and torrential rain to some parts of the  area, we just never know where it will hit.  So happy dance on Monday, might even post of pic!  And no problems getting my posts up – knock on wood.  So to the tune of the Olympics theme, here’s the lineup this week:

Monday:                                Reaping Shadows by Jamieson Wolf

Tuesday:                                The Man Trap by Lee Brazil

Wednesday:                          The Trust by Shira Anthony and Verona Keyes

Thursday:                              Three Fates Anthology by Andrew Grey, Mary Calmes and Amy Lane

Friday:                                    A Foreign Range by Andrew Grey

Saturday:                               Hired Muscle by Hank Edwards

So we are still trying different cocktails to entertain with and break the heat.  Today we are going into outer space for The Galaxy also known as The Milky Way:

Ingredients:

* 1 1/2 cups ice cubes
* 1/4 cup cold water
* 2 fluid ounces vanilla-flavored vodka
* 2 fluid ounces white Creme de Cacao
* 2 fluid ounces irish cream liqueur
* 1 tablespoon chocolate syrup
How to make it

Chill a martini glass by filling it with 1/2 cup of ice and cold water.
Place 1 cup of ice cubes into a cocktail shaker. Pour the vanilla-flavored vodka, white creme de cacao, and Irish cream liqueur over the ice; cover and shake vigorously. Dump the ice and water from the martini glass and drizzle the inside of the glass with chocolate syrup. Strain the cocktail into the glass to serve.

Review of A Sky Full of Wings (Notice #3) by M. Raiya

Standard

Rating: 5 stars

Varian and Josh are getting married and all their friends are in attendance, Dragons, Knights, and lots of Humans unaware of their magical presence, all have come to see two of their best friends forever bonded.  Varian’s normal nerves of steel are rattled as never before when facing the prospect of a wedding planned by his unpredictable lover, Josh.  And the fact that his brother and best friend won’t look at him while refusing to tell him what Josh has  planned?  Not at good thing at all.  Plus the new age minister that Josh found to marry them is giving off strange vibes to go with the stranger looks he is giving the couple.  Varian’s wedding jitters continue to ramp up, only his love for Josh keeps him safely anchored instead of fleeing in panic.  Now if only he can overcome his natural dragon’s reticence  for speech in time to speak his vows!  What can go wrong next at the marriage of Varian and Josh from the Notice series? Welcome to their wedding where anything that could happen does and a special wedding present to match all wedding presents is delivered to the happy couple.

M. Raiya’s A Sky Full of Wings was my first introduction to this author and the series.  I knew this short story was part of a series I had not read before but ended up loving it even without the first stories to go by.  Raiya fleshed out enough of Varian and Josh’s backstory for me that I did not feel as though I was missing out on too much information.  I loved the characters the author created almost immediately from Dr. Adrian Varian Kendall, a teacher who just happens to be a black dragon and Josh, his human lover who just might be more than he seems but no one appears to  know what that is exactly.  All the elements here are vividly described, from the multilayered characters to a dragon cartwheeling in joy through the sky.

I felt that this story was so well written from the humorous beginning to the end with its unexpected wedding guests and its portents of things to come that A Sky Full of Wings is sending me back to start from the beginning.(note: I have now read and reviewed them. See below)  I don’t feel that it is entirely necessary to read the other books first to love this story as M. Raiya gives the reader all they need here to understand the characters in the wedding party and some of the backstory. This promises to be a great series for me.  I will let you know how it goes. Until then, don’t wait to grab this one up! You won’t be sorry.

Cover:  Cover artist Alessio Brio.  I love the dragon in the background, but to be honest, I have no idea what those things are on either side.  If you know, please clue me in as my curiosity is up!

Other books in the series, starting from the beginning are:

Notice (Notice #1) read my review here.

The Dragon and the Mistletoe (Notice #2) a Christmas short (my review is combined with Notice – see above)

A Sky Full of Wings (Notice #3)

Review of Frat Boy and Toppy by Anne Tenino

Standard

Rating: 4.5 stars

Brad just had an epiphany, several actuality.  Too bad it happens when his teammate bends over to expose his hairy ass in the communal shower. It’s not just his obvious physical reaction to the moment but all the moments leading up to this one that tells Brad that yes, he really is gay no matter how hard he has denied it. Now what is he going to do about it?

All his life Brad Feller has done what people expected of him.  Huge physique? Athletics all through school into university, while a little voice in his head whispers he would be happier in home economics and cooking classes.  Join a frat full of jocks because of a family legacy and expectations? Yeah, and because he needs to the money for school.  Date girl after girl even after he starts to realize he is using them as a front? The answer is yes to his growing shame. And then there is Sebastian, his TA in the History classes he took for graduation.  Sebastian is gorgeous, cool, hot and oh so out.  Sebastian is also the star performer in all of Brad’s dreams and hopes. Brad wants to come out but doesn’t know how.  His whole world is about to change.

Sebastian is aware of the hot jock watching him in class.  A straight guy , the Frat Boy, right? But a meeting over a paper and Brad himself tells Sebastian a different story.  Brad wants him and Sebastian is only too happy to oblige, take a teacher roll as it were.  But the sex between them is more than hot, it is mind blowing, and perhaps  something more than Sebastian wants to admit.  Can Frat Boy and Toppy admit to the changing relationship between them and grasp the love within their reach?

This book more than met my expectations.  I had expected a cute, somewhat fluffy enjoyable book about coming out and opposites attracting.  This was so much more.  Let’s start with characterization, which for me is always the driving force behind terrific books.  Brad Feller is such a surprising character.  Yes, his exterior is that of a intimidating jock but his interior? Inside he is an almost excruciatingly vulnerable young man trying to understand his sexuality along with his need to be safe and loved.  That his inner voice is also honest and humorous is a huge plus as well. Brad is well aware of the dichotomies he represents, the brooding jock exterior versus the uncertain, insecure, shy young man he really is. Years of hiding his real self has also isolated him as he keeps even his so called friends at arms length.  Tenino has done such an excellent job in creating Brad that from the first inner mumblings of Brad’s thoughts on his life and sexuality, I was hooked.  Not only hooked but in love.  How could you not fall in love with a compassionate, funny, gay chef in jocks clothing who first gets in touch with his inner sub by interacting with his   hair brush in a way not sanctioned by its manufacturer.  Trust me, I was choking in laughter over that one and you will too.

And then there is Sebastian.  In other hands, I am sure he could come across as a complete jerk, a player with a revolving door in his bedroom.  But again Anne Tenino gives us a complicated, totally real person who is more than a match for our Brad.  Sebastian appreciates Brad and truly sees the real person Brad is while totally appreciating the gorgeous body toned through constant workouts and athletics.  Sebastian too must work through his own issues before he can accept the fact that what he is feeling is love for Brad and not just an appreciation of their great sex life.  Sebastian is deserving  of Brad’s love, it just takes him some time to realize it.

There is wonderful humor throughout the entire story.  This includes one of the most memorably funny coming out scenes I have read recently.  I laughed until I cried, trust me it’s hilarious.  This story has it all.  Pitch perfect dialog, outstanding characters, very hot sex scenes (waving fan) and a heart warming tale of coming out and coming to terms with who you really are. I wanted more, much more of Brad and Sebastian, that was my only complaint.  So will you. You really don’t want to miss this story.  It’s that great.  Trust me.

Cover:  What a great cover.  Cover artist is LC Chase and I think they did a wonderful job. Loved it.

Reviews of Notice (Notice #1) and The Dragon and the Mistletoe (Notice #2) by M. Raiya

Standard

Rating: 4.25 stars

Adrian Varian Kendall has always prided himself on his ability to keep his three lives separate from each other no matter how intense  his life got.  High school teacher, dragonshifter, and gay male, elements of himself kept partitioned due to necessity and security of those around him. Then he receives notice while teaching class, a clear message from a Knight to meet in battle but Varian doesn’t know which student left him the message.  Suddenly the walls between his separate lives collapse, as the Notice poses a threat not only to the dragon families Varian protects but to his human lover, Josh, as well.

Thousands of years ago as the Knights threatened all Dragonkind with extinction, Dragons hid by taking human form and vanishing into the human populations around them.  Now this one Notice threatens to bring all dragons out of hiding, expose them to the human world, leaving them vulnerable to attacks from groups of Knights determined to kill them once and forever. Varian’s lover, Josh, has no idea that he is living with a dragon and the stress of hiding his true nature from Josh is straining that relationship to the point of breaking.  Every part of his life is now under attack and Varian will do anything necessary to bring about a peace, even if he make sacrifice himself.

I have always loved dragons so a story about dragonshifters hits quite a few of my buttons. M. Raiya does a wonderful job of meshing dragon lore with contemporary reality to give us a really neat twist on the old Dragon and Knights  story.  Here the conflict between Knights and Dragons has carried through the ages even as both groups have undergone changes to adapt to the modern world.  In the past the Knights greatly outnumbered  the dragons and almost brought about their extinction, killing vast numbers.  To save their species, some dragons disappared,  and some took humans as thralls to help them exist only to disappear themselves too.  The rest took human form and quietly melded into human communities, dragon traditions and teachings fading as the centuries passed. Raiya gives us a wonderful backstory without taking away from the action adventure story being told.

I loved the characterizations as well especially Varian and Josh.  Varian is a complex character in love with a human whose background and personality exceeds his own in intensity and dimension.  Varian loves teaching and has a protective nurturing nature which is at odds at the fighter/killer the Knights force him to be.  He has kept his true form and identity from Josh and that has stifled his relationship.  He is still young and makes mistakes that comes from lack of experience in relationships and maturity. Josh is flamboyantly gay, from his makeup and glittery clothes to the sexual art forms he creates.  Josh is almost defiantly feminine which stems from an abusive background and parents determined to beat him straight.  I loved Josh who asks to be accepted for who he is even if he is not sure what exactly that is himself, just a great character  who provides both heart-wrenching angst and surprising abilities. Huntington is another person full of endearing qualities that just enlists the readers sympathy even when you aren’t sure he is deserving of it.  Only one character disappointed me  and that was due to not fully basing him in the plot as strongly as he should have been considering the impact his betrayal has on everyone later on.  His motive was never clear nor his backstory told so that his actions never made that much sense to me. I don’t want to be more specific so as to not give away spoilers for the plot.  But that was a hole I felt remained for the rest of the story.

I also had a few quibbles with some editing errors in the story, including a homonym that stopped me cold. Here Josh says “plaintively. “Can I be a terrible boar” instead of “bore”, something an editor should have caught. But overall, M. Raiya gives a fantasy story of dragons, Knights, and the enduring power of family and love.

The Dragon and the Mistletoe (Notice #2) by M. Raiya

Rating: 4.25 stars

This is a Holiday Sip from Torquere Press featuring Varian and Josh from Notice.  It is their first Christmas together and Varian realizes the importance of choosing just the right gift for Josh, one that will show Josh how much Varian loves and treasures their relationship.  Varian has grown tremendously since Notice and M. Raiya let’s us in on Varian’s thoughts on their time together and the current status they have worked so hard to achieve since the events in Notice.  It is a heartwarming tale, perfect for anytime of the year and an enjoyable visit with a couple I came to love in the first book.

The first cover is by Alessio Brio.  I had a problem seeing the black dragons flying on the cover due to all the darkness (or maybe just my poor eyesight).  I just wish there had been a little more contrast so the dragons would be easier to pick out.

Review of Pricks and Pragmatism by JL Merrow

Standard

Rating: 4.25 stars

Luke Corbin is home studying when his lover and owner of the apartment comes home to tell Luke to pack and leave as he’s found someone new. And once more Luke finds himself homeless again, a circumstance that happens often as Luke trades his sexual favors for a place to live and food to eat while he is going to college.  His lifestyle was necessitated by his father throwing him out of the house when faced with a gay son, and Luke’s drive to finish college no matter what it takes to accomplish his goal.  It’s not like Luke has cared about any of the men who took him in, they were just a means to an end.

Then a former lover introduces Luke to his friend,Russell, a chemical  engineer who just might be able to help Luke out.  Russell is definitely not the type of man Luke would hook up with. For starters, he has a pudgy round face surrounded by a scraggy beard and too long mousy brown hair. Russell is wearing clothes that would have been castoffs in the 80’s and is about as socially inept as they come.  But when Russell offers Luke a place to live, Luke is prepared to handle it in his normal way.  But Russell refuses Luke’s seductive attempts. For Russell, sex is about more than casual hookups and all he wants to do is help Luke out.

As Luke slowly adjusts to just being a roommate instead of bed partner, he starts noticing all the things about Russell that make him special and unique in Luke’s experience.  Russell is kind, smart, and funny. And all of a sudden Luke is looking at Russell very differently than any else before.  What will happen when Luke throws out his pragmatic ways in hopes of catching the one man who doesn’t appear to want him?

I am a fan of JL Merrow’s books and this little story just adds to my admiration.  Merrow packs a lot of emotion and plot into 60 pages. In Luke, you have a totally understandable young man.  While you may not like his actions, when you learn the foundation for his behavior, his attitude towards his lovers as well as his outlook on the methods he chooses to get by become acceptable as well as understandable.  To Luke, he is not whoring himself out but merely exchanging services to get what he wants.  Luke is all too human, he has been hurt by his family and by his first lover and it shows.

Russell is a great unexpected character.  This is not your typical cute nerd with glasses who becomes a gorgeous god when he takes them off, Clark Kent style.  No Russell remains Russell, an out of shape, shy, nice guy who everyone overlooks or thinks of as totally forgettable.  I don’t think there is a person out there who can’t come up with someone like a Russell in their own life or memories. Perhaps, like Luke at his first encounter with Russell, we wrote them off or ignored them. But Merrow shows us what happens when circumstances forces both parties to become acquainted with each other to the point of friendship first.  Then the exterior  qualities can somewhat fade in order for the person’s inner character to shine through.

In 60 pages, Merrow gives us a lovely little journey through low expectations into found friendship and the potential that lies ahead if only it can be seen and acknowledged.  It really is a lovely romantic tale full of unexpected realism and some straight truths about people and our perceptions.  Great job.

Cover by Angela Waters

Review of Fallout by Ariel Tachna

Standard

Rating: 4.5 stars

When NASA Robotics Engineer Derek Marshall hears that a tropical storm is headed his way, he decides to ride out the storm at home.  After all, living in Texas’ Gulf Coast he had been through plenty of storms, what was one more?  Then the storm strengthened again and again, until Hurricane Elsa roared ashore as a Category 4, decimating everything in her path, including Derek’s neighborhood.   Derek has just rescued an abandoned dog left behind in a house on his street when he gets a call from his boss telling him that his skills and special robot are needed now at a damaged nuclear  reactor to help contain the situation.  One helicopter ride later and Derek, Fido and Number Five, his robot, are deposited in front of Dr. Sambit Patel, professor of nuclear engineering at Texas A& M. Dr. Sambit has had his services volunteered by the university in hopes he can help cool the reactors.

Sambit Patel is astonished to see a grubby jeans clad man with a dog trotting beside him hand over some suitcases and prepare to go inside the power plant. Sambit’s attempts to stop him from bringing the dog inside end in a argument as weary stressed out Derek comes up against reserved, quiet Sambit.  Adding additional fuel to the instant antagonism is the fact that Dereck is out, proud and in your face gay while Sambit is reserved and closeted about his sexuality.

But the dangers of radiation poisoning, isolation and poor living conditions start to bring the men together. Derek finds that the more he listens and works with Sambit, the more he appreciates his quiet introspective ways, intelligent mind and  subtle beauty of his Indian physique. Sambit learns that the prickly, obnoxious front Derek presents to the world is a barrier that hides a sensitive, hurt soul. Plus he doesn’t miss the fact that Derek is gorgeous to look at either. Each man has a past that is holding them back from a closer relationship. And time is against them as they race against the clock and lack of information to cool down the reactor and keep the plant from having a nuclear meltdown.

Fallout spoke to me on so many levels not the least of which is the unexpected plot which revolves around a nuclear accident brought on by a hurricane.  Ariel Tachna dedicated this novel to ” the heroes of Fukushima Dai-ichi, whose willingness to risk their lives to save others inspired this novel”, so it is clear who and what prompted the storyline for this novel.  Natural disasters and nuclear power plants has been a hot topic in the news and rightly so given the extreme weather patterns we are now seeing.  I myself sit 1 1/2 hours from the Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant in Lusby, Maryland and the protests in Japan are on the rise as their reactors come back on line. The relevance of this storyline is all around us.

How real does the nuclear disaster feel?  Unbelievably so. I was glued to the book wondering where and how far Tachna was going with the meltdown. I don’t know where Ariel Tachna got her information about the inner workings of a nuclear power plant, the technical jargon, and the emergency repairs necessary to cool the rods but I felt as though I was getting insider information at all times.  As Sambit and Derek maneuver the robot Number Five through debris strewn corridors, taking radiation readings as they calculate the quickest way to get coolant into the reactor without plant maps or detailed plant malfunctions, I never once doubted the authenticity of the information the author was giving us. In fact I began to wonder when and in what capacity she had worked in the nuclear field.  Most of the time I felt like I was an interloper looking over the shoulders of the men as they scrambled to find the solutions they desperately needed before the power plant, themselves and all of Bay City became another statistic like Chernobyl and Three Mile Island.  You do not have to be a science geek to appreciate the drama and the technology that goes into this part of the story, all you need is your imagination and a reminder of the pictures we saw transmitted from Japan to feel the impact of each and every scene.

The second element of the novel that drew me in was the multicultural romance between Derek Marshall and Sambit Patel.   The author’s  close connections to India and its people comes alive through the character of Sambit Patel. The more we learn about Sambit the better we understand him and eventually come to love him as we do Derek. Tachna uses his thoughts and actions to acquaint the reader with some Indian customs,  dress, cultural beliefs and even native cuisine such as sambar. We learn about Sambit’s past which had made him think that most relationships will not work out for him, his daily use of Yoga to relieve his stress that started in his youth, and where his reticence about his homosexuality stems from.  The character of Sambit Patel could have easily been white but we would have been missing out had that been the case, and this book much less rich in flavor and dimension.  I cannot stress how much I loved this part of the story and the character Sambit Patel.

Derek Marshall is also a wonderful creation.  There are so many layers to his emotional makeup, including a horrific incident from his high school days that has shaped his outlook and his approach to society in general.  Brilliant, abrasive, he strikes out before someone can hit him, yet he is also reflective, sensitive and more willing to take chances than the reserved Patel.  He is full of dichotomies and that both appeals to and repeals Sambit.  It is a delicate dance they engage in as their close proximity and 24/7 work hours starts to bring them to an understanding and acceptance of each other’s nature that changes into appreciation and need.  And all the while, they never lose sight of the reason they are both there, that their individual talents need to mesh to help bring the power plant under control.  It may be crazy but in many ways this is a rushed slow relationship built under pressure that exposes the best of both men to each other.

The rest of the story takes place with Derek once more at home having to deal with boredom and the ravaged remains of his neighborhood and infrastructure while Sambit has stayed behind, a choice made by a homophobic bureaucrat in charge of the recovery operations.  We see Derek’s neighborhood start to clean up after the hurricane as he worries about the radiation levels Sambit and the others left behind are encountering. And as Sambit deals with the loss of Derek after his continual presence, we learn about Sambit’s insecurities and the past history that threatens the fragile foundation of their relationship. Again, Ariel Tachna’s description of how these men build their relationship, the barriers they have to overcome within themselves is as real as the natural disaster that brings them together.

If I had any quibble with this story, then I believe Derek answered it himself.  Number Five is a robot that has a special place in Derek’s heart. The name comes from the movie Short Circuit which I loved. He hoped to patent it and has kept it close to him all this time. And part of me wondered how Derek felt about leaving it behind. But then Derek himself answered that he builds robots for space and came to terms with the fact that they would never come back at the beginning of his career.  Plus Number Five was helping Sambit stay alive and healthy which would have been number one priority with Derek.  So that quibble wobbled and vanished.  There is no angst here but the story of a real,wonderful relationship between two men caught up in a natural disaster. This is an outstanding story that should not be missed.

Cover.  This cover by Shobana Appavu is easily one of my favorite.  Dramatic, beautiful and intense.  Great job.

Country Mouse by Amy Lane and Aleksandr Voinov

Standard

Rating: 4.75 stars

Owen Watson is on vacation in London and overseas for the first time.  After his traveling partner and ex-girlfriend ditched him for a hookup, Owen lands in a pub drinking a glass of bad beer by himself.  He’s tired from playing tourist all day and he needs something to eat. Instead of dinner, he gets an offer for another drink and a night of sex from Malcolm Kavanagh, a bonds trader and sexual player.

Malcolm Kavanagh has been waiting for his “one night only sub” to arrive.  The man is late and Malcolm’s patience has run out.  When he spies the Yank at the bar, he decides to honor him with a night of mind boggling sex before kicking the Yank out the door before breakfast.  With 80 hour work weeks, Malcolm doesn’t do relationships.  He doesn’t have time. So introducing a tourist to the joys of BDSM fits into his schedule of sex with no commitments. But moments into his pickup , he realizes that the Yank isn’t falling into line as he should, and Malcolm is more than a little stymied.

Owen is open to a night of casual sex but it will be on his terms and not the arrogant but gorgeous jerk trying to pick him up. One night later and things have changed.  Malcolm is not quite the shallow, heartless top he made  himself out to be and Owen is not the innocent country mouse Malcolm supposed him to be.  The more things change between them, the more Malcolm and Owen admit to themselves how much they want to stay together.

Country Mouse is a delightfully sexy short story from Amy Lane and Aleksandr Voinov.  Really, can we get them to write another?  Because I loved the result of their combined writing styles and ideas.  The authors took two stock characters, the country mouse visiting the big city for the first time and the big bad city mouse with his experience and sexual prowess, tweaked it and turned the characters on their stereotypical heads.  And made us cheer for them, laugh with them, and hope that they have a happy future together.  Didn’t I say I loved this book?

While Amy Lane and Aleksandr Voinov have such difference writing styles, you can always expect great characterizations from them.  Owen and Malcolm are two such wonderful creations, beautifully realized in only 79 pages.  Malcolm starts out offensive and quite frankly not terribly likable. Owen Watson is an affable person but only so far and ends up being more than a match for Malcolm’s cocky attitude. As Owen asserts himself, we start to see a shift in Malcolm’s behavior.  This shift carries right into the heart of Malcolm’s character and the unlikable facade dissipates and allows the real Malcolm that Owen sees to shine through.

What was so sexy and hot was that the change in their roles starts to happen during their sexual encounters.  Malcolm is supposed to be this badass Dom teaching this inexperienced Yank how to be his submissive toy for the night only Owen has something or rather someone he intends to be doing before the night is over.  Let’s just say their expectations don’t play out exactly how either of them intended, much to their combined enjoyment and laughter.  That’s right….fun and laughter amid sexual hijinks.  In a story by Amy Lane and Aleksandr Voinov!  Owen and Malcolm enjoy the heck out of each other and you will be laughing along with them.

Their relationship continues to develop as Malcolm takes Owen sightseeing in a nice series of scenes that  take place at different tourist sites throughout London. At each location, Owen and Malcolm learn something about each other as well as historical facts. As they grow on each other, so does the pairing grow on the reader until you take  them both into your heart. If you are expecting a angst filled story, this one is amazingly angst free or is that angst light?  Either way, it doesn’t matter. There is some angsty moments at the end as you would expect but it is satisfactorily dealt with in an ending that will have you cheering.

Grab this one up.  I always find bad boys so appealing but here both the Country  Mouse and the bad boy City Mouse crept into my heart and set up housekeeping.  Never thought I would say that about mice.  Drat it.  Now where’s the cheese?

Cover: Love this cover.  Cover art by Jordan Taylor.  Smart sexy and eye catching.  Just like the men inside.

Contest Winner, The Week Ahead and It’s Sidecar Time!

Standard

What a great time we had during Series Week.  Great comments and new authors/series for me to investigate and read.  Winner of Primal Red is yganoe! Congratulations and thanks to everyone who commented.  Two cover artists I forgot to mention were Catt Ford and April Martinez! Love their covers too! Next contest up will be JL Langley week in October to celebrate the release of My Regelence Rake with a series recap, a author spotlight and a book contest for that novel. Plus I will be participating in the Halloween Blog Hop so stay tuned.

Meanwhile Maryland’s rollercoaster weather ride continues.  We hit another record yesterday.  The coldest July day temp ever recorded.  We had a high of 71 degrees F yesterday.  This on top of 6 more records, mostly for heat.  Hottest 100 degree days in a row, hottest day, hottest night…and then the coldest day?  All in the same month?  Climate change, people!  It’s real!

So anyhow, back to the week ahead.  I have been reading some really great books of late, and my review of one of them, Ariel Tachna’s Fallout will be posted on Tuesday. You don’t want to miss this book. So lets get to all the books being reviewed this week:

Monday:                             Country Mouse by Amy Lane and Aleksandr Voinov

Tuesday:                             Fallout by Ariel Tachna

Wednesday:                       Notice Series by M. F. Raiya

Thursday:                           Pricks and Pragmatism by J. L. Merrow

Friday:                                 Reaping Shadows by Jamieson Wolf

Saturday:                             Frat Boy and Toppy by Anne Tenino

Now for the summer cocktail of the week.  Nope, still not cooking, more summer cocktails to come:

Sidecar (light, tasty, and packs a punch):


 

 

 

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons superfine sugar
1 lemon wedge
3 tablespoons (1 1/2 ounces) Cognac
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) Cointreau or other Triple Sec orange liqueur
1 tablespoon (1/2 ounce) fresh lemon juice
1 cup ice

Directions:

Spread superfine sugar on small plate. Rub lemon wedge halfway around rim of chilled martini or coupe glass. Dip moistened side of glass in sugar to lightly coat outside rim of glass. Set aside.
In cocktail shaker, combine Cognac, Cointreau, and lemon juice. Add ice and shake vigorously until well chilled, about 30 seconds. Strain into prepared martini or coupe glass and serve.