Review of Home Fires by BA Tortuga

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Rating: 4.5 stars

Home FiresHouston, Jackson’s mate, left him several years ago, sure he was ready for city life and not one lived with Jackson in the desert with cactus for neighbors. So Jackson was stunned to see Houston, or what was left of Houston dragging himself to their front door.  His mate had escaped from a government agency doing experiments on shifters, and they are after him.   But Jackson hasn’t keep the home fires burning just to let the government capture his mate again.  He will fight for his mate and for their land because no one is taking Houston away from him again, not even Houston himself.

Home Fires is a raw, rough story that BA Tortuga does so well.  Here she gives us the bare bones of a horror story.  A shifter was kidnapped along with other shifters, and taken to a secret compound where they were  experimented on, tortured and killed.  Tortuga gives us only an outline of the torture and experiments and lets our minds fill in the rest, which ratchets the terror up considerably.  What we see is the effects of his capture  upon Houston’s mind and body, including a barcode tattooed on his body of skin and bones.  He has nightmares and is confused.  The vivid descriptions of his present appearance are contrasted with Jackson’s memory of his mate before he left him.   It works beautifully to let us know just how bad a shape Houston is in now.

Jackson too is a fierce, elemental man.  At home in the desert, he is tuned tightly as a man  can be who loves his isolation and his independence.  The only thing missing from his life has been his mate and now that he has him back, there is nothing he won’t do to bring Houston back into shape and let him become the wolf shifter he knew.  Jackson will also defend them both and keep Houston safe, not an easy thing when the government agents and others are looking for them.

Just as the men are pared down to their core beings, so are the wolves within,  Houston needs to be claimed again by his mate, and Jackson needs to possess his mate in the most primal of ways.  It’s raw, its sexy and at times heartbreaking,

My only quibble with this story is that there really isn’t an end.  Some soldiers chasing them are killed in the desert but by others looking for their kin.  We never find out what happens to the compound or really to  Jackson and Houston.  And that was frustrating because these are two memorable characters who make such a huge impact upon a reader, that they story just cries out for some closure for us and for them, otherwise this would be a 5 star story instead of 4.5 stars.

Cover illustration by BSClay.  Not sure what the helicopters have to do with anything, they don’t show up in the story. Just confusing.

Story was originally published in 2007, under the title The Call.

Review of The Christmas Throwaway by RJ Scott

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Rating: 4.75 stars

The Christmas ThrowawayBen Hamilton is a rookie cop and that means he takes all the shifts the more experienced cops don’t want.  And that is how he finds himself outside St. Margeret’s in a blizzard on Christmas Eve looking at the frozen figure curled up on the bench.  The young man is shivering in his sleep and the snow is quickly blanketing him, soon it will be impossible to tell there is someone there.  It takes Ben several tries before he is able to rouse the young man and ask him his name.

Zachary Weston is only seventeen when his father throws him out of the house for being gay.  Left without any money, clothes or a place to go, Zachary finds himself at the end of his rope, on a bench in front of an old church in town, falling asleep in the cold and snow.  Then a cop named Ben wakes him up, and ends up taking him home to the house he shares with his mother.  Together they show Zachary the true meaning of love and family. This will be the Christmas that changes everything, and not just for Zachary.

“Hey! You can’t sleep here.” That sentence opens RJ Scott’s The Christmas Throwaway, a book I first read last year at Christmas.  It quickly became one of my favorite holiday stories.  The story of Zachary Weston, a teenager abandoned by his family, at the worst time of year in the worst weather imaginable pulled at my heartstrings from the very beginning.  Zachary has given up and is quietly letting the cold and snow pull him under.  But Ben Hamilton is an earnest, kind young man, who is horrified to find Zachary close to death in front of St. Margeret’s.  Well aware that he should be turning Zachary over to child services, instead Ben takes him home to his mom at his family’s house and changes all their lives from that moment on.

Although the story starts out with Zachary as a seventeen year old boy, Zachary is of legal age when he and Ben start their relationship, a element that looms large in Ben’s mind when he realizes he not only likes Zachary as a friend but is attracted to him as well.  RJ Scott gives us wonderful characters to believe in and love throughout this story, not only Ben and Zachary but Ben’s mother who grows to love the “Christmas throwaway” like her own son, Elles Belles Ben’s sister, Mark his best friend and so many others.  But your focus will remain on Zachary and Ben, especially Zachary and his plight as a child thrown away because of his sexuality, a grim statistic across America.  Zachary is saved, but the story makes clear he is one of the fortunate few and that there are so many others out there needing help and support.

I just loved Zachary and Ben and their slow climb into a lovely relationship.  It’s funny, and heartbreaking and always feels so real as they deal with problems that arise, miscommunications and misperceptions by both of them.  And there is Rebecca, the sister Zachary left behind who will supply her own share of trauma and angst to this story.  But this is a Christmas tale and it ends as it started, on the bench in front of St. Margeret’s on Christmas Eve.  From the first Eve to the last, RJ Scott’s shares with us a story of love at Christmas time that will stay with you throughout the year.  It has become a favorite of mine.  I think you will find it becomes yours as well.

At this time of year, the  GLBTQ shelters are over flowing.  If you can donate even a little at this time of year, it would be greatly appreciated.  Here are some shelters in need:

New York City, NY:   The Ali Forney Center for LGBTQ Homeless Youth.

Chicago, IL  The GLBT Chicago Shelter

National Coalition for the Homeless, write them at info@nationalhomeless.org

Covenant House, Washington, DC

 

Cover: That cover by Reese Dante gives me the chills, so perfect in its depiction of characters and time of year.