Review: Sonata by A.F. Henley

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Rating: 4.5 stars ouf of 5

Sheet Music with Rose on pianoIan James is feeling every bit of his thirty six years.  His long term partner cheated on him, multiple times apparently, before leaving for good.  Ian’s long promised promotion at work is two years overdue and counting.  Now his sexual hookup, young sexy Jordan, has just told  him to get lost after some quick mutual satisfaction.  Even after Ian tried to pursue Jordan, all he got in return was an outright refusal.  What’s a man to do?

Jordan has more than he can handle at the moment, two jobs and his young son Cole who happens to be autistic. When Jordan hooked up with Ian one night, all he wanted was just a quickie, no involvement, no phone numbers but the universe had other plans.  When their paths intersected not once, but twice, it seemed as though fate was interfering.  Yes, Ian had made it clear that he wanted to see Jordan again but meeting each other again and again was completely accidental.  Can both men overcome their pasts and their fears to make a future together?

There is so much to love about A. F. Henley’s latest book, Sonata.  From the lovely and relevant cover, the chapters titled with the names of musical movements to the in-depth research the author has done on Asperger syndrome, the story kept me involved and emotionally engaged from the opening page.

Henley’s characters are both desperate to connect with someone yet equally fearful for a connection to be made.  Each man’s past makes them question their ability to see clearly about situations and individuals.  Ian’s last boyfriend hurt him emotionally, cheating on Ian on numerous occasions, taking advantage of his generous and forgiving nature.  Now Ian questions his own judgement when it comes to people and relationships.  Jordan is hiding a traumatic past and trusts no one unless absolutely necessary.  These characters contain all the nuances necessary to make them not only believable but endearing.  For Ian and Jordan to go forward past their fears into a tenuous relationship, we watch them slowly let go of their closely held suspicions  to reach a measure of comfort and trust with each other. It’s a slow, subtly shaded journey with pitfalls every step of the way.

Another remarkable character is the young boy Cole.  Cole has Asbergers syndrome and  Henley gives us an authentic portrait of the effects of this genetic disease on an adolescent.  Cole’s behavior as well as the methods used to calm him down are realistic and medically authentic in nature and scope.  But what I love most is that this is a balanced portrait of autism the author achieves in Cole.  For every wail and out of control moment, there is an equal victory to behold.  Small, fleeting and sometimes almost unnoticeable, but there to be seen and applauded. It is a marvelous element of this story and Henley’s treatment elevated this story past a romance into something very special.  For a key to Cole is music.  And Ian with his grandfather’s beloved piano opens the way for Cole to enjoy and communicate with others through music.

This is a age gap between Jordan and Ian and for some, this might be an issue.  Jordan is younger than Ian, in actions and emotions.  But I still felt enough of a real romantic connection between the two characters that it never bothered me.  What did I have issues with? The ending.  As with so many stories these days, it just petered off.  For it to feel fully satisfactory, I wanted to know more about Cole and his current situation.  I also needed more than a paragraph or two to pull all the events of the last fourth of the story together.  It was a good ending but the story that preceded it deserved a great one and didn’t get it.

Still Sonata is terrific.  It’s a story full of characters that pull you in and moments that have you cheering out loud (take that, Aubrey or )tearing up in response to the scenes you are reading.  Leave me leave you with a scene with Cole and Ian:

Cole hitched a breath, mid-shriek, and paused for a second before resuming his demonic call. Ian forced him over to the tub, a square grungy hulk of an appliance, and shoved Cole’s ear against the side of the tub with more force than he’d have liked. But the moment Cole’s ear was pressed to the side of the tub, Cole stilled and silenced. A palm snaked up the slick surface of the bathtub and rested alongside Cole’s flushed cheek. His eyes drifted into unknown territory as he listened to the echo of water through metal.

A scary and ultimately beautiful moment for child and man.  Grab up this book.  I think you will love it as much as I did.

Cover art by Megan Derr.  I love this cover, so relevant and lovely.  Great job.

Book Details:

ebook
180 pages, printed version
Published July 17th 2013 by Less Than Three Press LLC
original title Sonata
ISBN13 9781620042137
edition language English

And I Saw A Sea of Squirrels….and the Week Ahead in Reviews!

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And Then I Saw A Sea of Squirrels……grey squirrel drawing

Its fall and my patio and lawns are full of nature’s bounty, aka nuts.  Lots and lots of nuts and therefore lots and lots of squirrels (and deer but that’s for another story from this park naturalist).   This year is a high cycle year so all the oaks, hickories, and beech trees in my backyard were groaning under the weight of the nuts they bore.  And have now loosed them upon every surface available, turning every spare inch into a prickly hulled,DSCN4046 brown blanket or a mosaic of shiny hard bits and pieces of acorns to go along with the prickly hulls of the beech nut.  Of course the green golf balls of the black walnut are dropping too, sounding like hail during the worst of storms.

And my dogs hate this.

I don’t blame them.  Those prickly little bits and pieces hurt the pads of their paws, jagged hulls of shells courtesy of sharp squirrel teeth are just the right size to work themselves between the pads and wedging themselves firmly to great pain and discomfort.  No amount of sweeping is stopping the tide.  It’s relentless, a constant cacophony of sound followed by a carpet of discarded husks.DSCN4053

I think most people don’t realize that nuts are cyclical.  That each year the harvest is that much greater than the year before with the various animal populations that depend upon them for food expanding along with them.   And then the year that follows the one with the biggest yield is all but barren.  No nuts, or at least very little.  People start reporting seeing skinny or starving animals.  And they reason that such a thing helps to keep populations down.  And certainly that is true for the present day.  But not always.

Did you know people once saw seas of squirrels as they migrated through?

Yes, Eastern gray squirrels used to migrate, following the cycles of the oaks, and hickories and other nut bearing trees.  Back when the midwestern and eastern forests were one contiguous mass of forest.  Back before we started to carve out our settlements, and farms and cities. Back when there were only small farmsteads and villages that dotted the forests, tiny punctuation marks of humanity.

Then the animals lived much different lives than they do today.

One of my college professors,  Dr. Vagn Flyger wrote a report for the University of Maryland on a squirrel migration as recent as 1968.  Oh, how he loved squirrels and imparted that love to his students!  And this recent migration, from Vermont to Georgia, fascinated him.  You can read it here.  But even more fascinating are the earlier account of waves of squirrels so massive that it took days before the end of the hoard could be seen.  Or as Robert Kennicott in his article “The Quadrupeds of Illinois” in The Annual Report of the Commissioner of gray squirrelPatents for 1846 stated  “it took a month for the mess of squirrels to pass through the area.”*

Just imagine what that must have looked like! Tens of thousands, perhaps millions of squirrels following the wild harvest through the vast forest of the midwest and east, flowing like a grey furred river, leaping and bounding over every surface as they passed their way through the immediate area.   Here is another quote (from that  *same article ):

*In 1811, Charles Joseph Labrobe wrote in The Rambler in North America of a vast squirrel migration that autumn in Ohio: “A countless multitude of squirrels, obeying some great and universal impulse, which none can know but the Spirit that gave them being, left their reckless and gambolling life, and their ancient places of retreat in the north, and were seen pressing forward by tens of thousands in a deep and sober phalanx to the South …”

No longer.

We still have them migrate occasionally.  The last reported one was likely 1998 in Arkansas but nothing like the vast migrations of the past.  And how can they with no massive forest or massive stands of trees, following the bounty of nuts and seeds as the cycles demanded?  Like the beaver before them, we have changed their natural history and lost something special in return.

Now the Eastern gray squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) is regarded as a cute backyard dweller or bird seed eating pest.  They get into attics or gnaw on wires.  We are amused by them, infuriated by them, and in some cases regarding bird feeders outsmarted by them.  They throw nuts at my dogs and tease them unmercifully and I laugh, of course.  They are a constant in my yard and a source of food for my owls and hawks.  They are as familiar to me as my wrens and woodpeckers…and my life would be poorer without them.

But once they moved across the land in rivers of energy and gray fur, millions of them covering the landscape and making people stop in their tracks, marveling to see such a sight.  Just once I wish I could have been there, standing beside those folks so I too could have said “and then I saw a sea of squirrels…”.

The Migration of the Grey Squirrels

by William Howitt

When in my youth I traveled
Throughout each north country,
Many a strange thing did I hear,
And many a strange thing to see.

But nothing was there pleased me more
Than when, in autumn brown,
I came, in the depths of the pathless woods,
To the grey squirrels’ town.

There were hundreds that in the hollow boles
Of the old, old trees did dwell,
And laid up store, hard by their door,
Of the sweet mast as it fell.

But soon the hungry wild swine came,
And with thievish snouts dug up
Their buried treasure, and left them not
So much as an acorn cup.

Then did they chatter in angry mood,
And one and all decree,
Into the forests of rich stone-pine
Over hill and dale to flee.

Over hill and dale, over hill and dale,
For many a league they went,
Like a troop of undaunted travelers
Governed by one consent.

But the hawk and the eagle, and peering owl,
Did dreadfully pursue;
When lo! to cut off their pilgrimage,
A broad stream lay in view.

But then did each wondrous creature show
His cunning and bravery;
With a piece of the pine-bark in his mouth,
Unto the stream came he;

And boldly his little bark he launched,
Without the least delay;
His busy tail was his upright sail,
And he merrily steered away.

Never was there a lovelier sight
Than that grey squirrels’ fleet;
And with anxious eyes I watched to see
What fortune it would meet.

Soon had they reached the rough mild-stream,
And ever and anon
I grieved to behold some bark wrecked,
And its little steersman gone.

But the main fleet stoutly held across;
I saw them leap to shore;
They entered the woods with a cry of joy,
For their perilous march was o’er.

Now for the Week Ahead in Reviews (and  Autumn Sedum in my garden):DSCN4051

Monday, Sept. 30:         Sonata by A.F. Henley

Tuesday, Oct. 1:              September Summary of Reviews

Wed., October 2:            Goblins by Melanie Tushmore

Thurs., October 3:         Dominant Predator by S.A. McAuley

Friday, October 4:         The Isle of Wishes by Sue Brown

Sat., October 5:               Knightmare (City Knight #2) by T.A. Webb

Buy A Story, Help A Food Bank! Guest Blog by Sarah Black

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I don’t know about all of you, but I am astonished at how high the food prices have risen.  Even only a few basic staples in the basket shoots my bill skyward.  So you know that all the local food banks are overwhelmed by families and individuals in need.  Sarah Black is giving everyone a chance to contribute to the food bank in her new state by donating the proceeds of her story, Wild Onions, at Amazon.  I will let her tell you in her words.

And while you are reading this story (and helping feed those in need), don’t forget about your local food banks too.  Our help is needed everywhere! Thanks, Sarah!

Eat! Eat! Welcome Back to Idaho, and a New Story by Sarah Black

Now we’re settled in Boise, the kid and I have resumed our volunteer jobs at the Idaho Food Bank. Mostly we’re sorters. For a two hour shift, we take bulk food, such as dried peas or instant mashed potatoes, and portion it into person or family sized plastic bags. Sometimes we have barrels of donated food from food drives, and we make up family food boxes. Each box should hold some canned veggies and fruit, some canned meat, rice or pasta, bread, etc. It always seems we run out of canned fruit first, and some boxes don’t have any canned tuna or chicken at all. We also make up backpacks—these backpacks go home with kids on Friday from school and have enough food for the weekends, though the word is the kids usually share with their younger sibs.

I’m obsessed with feeding everyone, have been for years. It seems pretty normal to me. I remember my great aunts and grandmother cooking for hours, in steaming hot kitchens with no AC in south Texas, southern Louisiana, hair frizzing madly in the humidity, but nobody went hungry and nobody went home without some food to hold them over for the trip. Nothing fancy, but beans and cornbread can feed a lot of kids. Food, and feeding people, was something of a holy calling for the women who raised me. The stories from the Dust Bowl, the Depression, when we lost our farm and could no longer feed ourselves from our own land- these stories cast a long shadow over my family. The old men were still talking about what had happened, what they should have done, when I was a kid.

And of course I read The Grapes of Wrath when I was 16, an impressionable age, and this story echoed the family stories I’d heard growing up, about losing the land, being hungry, not having any way to feed the kids. It’s been a long time since anyone in my family went hungry. In fact, I’m writing this with a peanut butter and jelly, Fritos on the side, at my elbow. But I remember the stories I’d heard growing up. And I saw an echo of those stories when I first came to Idaho, back in 2007.

I went to work as a Nurse Practitioner in a clinic that served people experiencing homelessness. That’s the politically correct way to say it. We used to say, poor people. Hungry people. Hungry kids. People with no food, and no way to get food. So this idea of hunger, for me, went from old family stories from 1935, to a person fainting in the lobby of my clinic from hunger, or a kid coming in for shots, telling me he’d had a ketchup sandwich for supper but no breakfast yet, because they were still waiting for the week old muffins at the shelter.

The Idaho Foodbank is a cheerful place. There is usually a waiting list for volunteer jobs, and for the most part the people in these volunteer jobs are not working off their court-mandated community service. I like working there, trying to make a little food stretch a long way. But food is expensive and healthy food is even more expensive.

What I decided to do, to celebrate moving back to Idaho, is to donate a story to support the Foodbank. I published a story of mine called Wild Onions, set in Salmon, Idaho, at the Kindle store on Amazon. This story was originally published in a print anthology called Scared Stiff by MLR Press. The list price is $2.99. For each book sold, I’ll donate a meal to the Foodbank. On November 1, I’ll report back here the number of meals donated and books sold.

I’ve put some pictures up of the Salmon River, and the beautiful Idaho backcountry, and my kid on a camping trip. He and I have put away some hot dogs and marshmallows roasted over a campfire. I will only say, and I have said to him, that I am now officially too old to crawl into that tiny tent and sleep on the ground. But I’m not too old to help out at the Foodbank. I hope you’ll help me buy some healthy food in time for the holidays, to share a little in the land of plenty.

Here’s the link to Wild Onions: WILD ONIONS

Wild Onions by Sarah BlackTHE YEAR was 1882, and the last of the native tribes had dropped to their knees and slipped on their yokes under the boots and guns of the US Cavalry. The Blackfoot were the last, and then the buffalo hunt failed. The vast plains were barren and empty, and the people began to starve. Desperation spread like poison across the land. Evil men, seeing their chance, fed on the hunger, ate the clean hearts of the people. The blood that was spilled in 1882 has not been avenged today. The ghosts are waiting for someone to set them free.

Robert looked over to the corner of the porch. Their old fishing poles were leaning against the screen. He carried them back to his chair, started untangling the nylon fishing line. Val’s pole was for serious fishermen, a supple thin Orvis fly rod with a reel full of braided yellow nylon. His pole was cheap, from Wal-Mart, with a soft cork handle and a reel with a sticky thumb button. Val laughed when he saw it, said it was for little boys fishing at reservoirs.

He put Val’s pole back in the corner, carried his down the slope to the river bank. It took him a little while to find his balance again. He didn’t try to get into the water. That would probably be too much for his shaky leg. But after a few casts he got his rhythm again, let the weight fly out low over the water.

There was a splash a bit upriver, and a moment later a young man appeared, walking down the middle of the shallow river from rock to rock in green hip waders, dressed in the dark green uniform of Fish and Wildlife. He had a fishing pole over his shoulder and a woven oak creel. From the weight of it on his shoulder, Robert could see he’d had some luck. He was Indian, Blackfoot, maybe, and his long hair was tied back at his collar. He raised a hand in greeting.

Robert nodded back. “Evening.” He reeled in his line, and the man watched the red and white bobber bouncing across the water in front of him.

The man’s face was impassive, but he blinked a couple of times when he watched the line come out of the water, bobber, lead weight, no hook. No fish. “I guess I don’t need to ask you if you have a fishing license,” the man said. “Since you aren’t really fishing.”JamesGlacier012_zps07940ef6

Robert nodded to the creel over the man’s shoulder. “Looks like you’ve had some luck.”

The man eased the basket off his shoulder, dipped it down into the icy river water. “Yes, I sure did.” He slapped the Fish and Wildlife patch on his uniform shirt. “Course, I don’t need no stinkin’ license! Just another example of the generalized corruption of the Federal Government.”

Robert grinned at him. “Wonder how many times you hear that in the course of a week? We must be in Idaho! I’m Robert Mitchell.”

The man reached for his hand and they shook. “I’m Cody Calling Eagle.

Buy link for Wild Onions at Amazon

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Review: City Knight (City Knight #1) by T.A. Webb

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

City Knight 1 coverWhen Marcus lost his lover Jeremy he lost everything.  Two punks shot and killed his doctor lover over just a few dollars and Marcus and his partner were the ones to find him.  Jeremy’s death demolished Marcus, and he needed to do something to help protect the innocent, things he couldn’t do while on the force. So Marcus quit his fifteen year job as a detective on the police force and became a private detective.  He quit sleeping and he gave up on love.  Then Marcus spots  Ben, a young man prostituting himself on the bad streets of Atlanta and things begin to change.

Ben has been damaged badly by his past but is still struggling for a better life for himself.  To pay for grad school and living expenses, Ben is whoring himself out on the streets of Atlanta.  Only another year or so and then he will be done.  A past traumatic event has convinced Ben that sex is only tolerable when it is fast and anonymous. And paid for.

Against their wishes, the men find themselves falling into a relationship.  But Ben’s past arrives and shatters everything, the budding romance and Ben’s fragile existence.

City Knight is a monster of a book crammed into a mere 50 pages.  T.A. Webb skillfully frames out Marcus’ and Ben’s past traumas, then with descriptive slashes of anguish and threat, delivers the start of a pain-filled journey to love and redemption for both men and the readers.

The first in a series, City Knight switches point of view from Ben to Marcus so the reader can see what events has brought each damaged man to their present day situation.  This format works here beautifully to impress upon the reader just how damaged and conflicted these men are as neither has moved past the events that succeeded in demolishing their lives. Webb’s characters clash and then start to come together, reawakening their desires for intimacy and sex.  It’s painful, and realistic.  It’s also grubby ,desperate but also starts to show slivers of hope for each of them.

At that point, the reader is quite naturally uneasy as we have come to expect the worst for each man, and Webb delivers that too in a heart crunching cliffhanger that will haunt you and leave you wanting more immediately.  I used to mark down stories that ended in this way but have come to accept this ending as long as it is a part of a series or serialized stories like this one.

In this case, Webb has set the stage for the next story in the series, while leaving the reader ramped up in anxiety and anticipation for the events to follow.    I can’t wait (and didn’t have to).   My review for the next in the series follows shortly.   Read these tales one at a time or cobble them up in one reading, it works both ways.  I loved City Knights and think you will too.

Stories in the City Knight series in the order they were written and should be read to understand the characters and events to follow:

City Knight (City Knight #1)
Knightmare (City Knight #2)
Starry Knight (City Knight #3)
Knights Out (City Knight #4)

Book Details:

ebook, 50 pages
Published February 15th 2013 by A Bear on Books (first published February 13th 2013)
ISBN13 9781937252380
edition language English
series City Knight

Review: Summer Lovin Anthology

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Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5

Summer Lovin' CoverRemember those long summer, sultry days when the heat beat down, the songs played endlessly into the night and romance was in the air?  Summer Lovin’ anthology brings you five stories of summer love by some of the best authors around. Chrissy Munder, Clare London, JL Merrow, Lou Harper and Josephine Myles put their spin on summer romance from light hearted love to an angst filled romance with the potential for more.

Grab a tall glass, filled with something wonderful and decadent (umbrella optional) and sit back and enjoy five tales of summer lovin’.

Stories in the Anthology are:

“Summer Hire” by Chrissy Munder
“Lost and Found on Lindisfarne” by JL Merrow
“Salt ’n’ Vinegar” by Clare London
“Werewolves of Venice Beach” by Lou Harper
“By Quarry Lake” by Josephine Myles

Usually when I read an anthology, I normally find a story or two that could be skipped over or at least is not up to the quality of the others included.  Not here.  Each one of these stories will resonate with a reader, whether it is the more lighthearted fare of Summer Hire by Chrissy Munder to the somewhat darker Salt n Vinegar by Clare London  They are all quite wonderful and each in of its own makes Summer Lovin’ a must have anthology.  I have a mini review of each story waiting below.

1. Summer Hire by Chrissy Munder: 4.5 stars out of 5

When Jim Carlson accepted a summer job along with his best friend at a repair/summer rental business, he had no idea his was stepping into one of his favorite porn dreams.  Too bad that gorgeous tattooed hunk in the overalls was also his new boss. And to make matters worse, Aaron  is also gay. Worse  because Aaron is remaining decidedly professional even when being friendly.  Jim thinks Aaron’s attitude towards him is because he is unremarkable and kind of dorky.  He is after all a just graduated IT major with no hopes for a job.

Aaron Torres has worked hard to overcome his family and poor start in life.  Now a successful businessman with his own business, Aaron avoids any romantic entanglements with employees, especially seasonal ones that will be gone in the fall with the tourists. Still, there is something so engaging about Jim Carlson.   Jim is clumsy, hardworking, and totally adorable.

As the end of summer draws near, the two men find it impossible to say goodbye.  Can a summer love last a lifetime?

Chrissy Munder takes all those lovely summer memories at the lake or beach and incorporates them into her short story of summer love.  The characters are engaging, the story well done and the relationship between Jim and Aaron realistic yet lighthearted.  No angst just a lovely relationship between two men you will adore.  Great way to set the tone for the collection.  Loved it!

2.  Lost and Found on Lindisfarne” by JL Merrow. Rating 4.75 stars out of 5

Single dad Chris and his 12 year old daughter, Kelis, are vacationing on the holy island of Lindisfarne when they run into a group of Viking re-enactors, village and all. Ulf the berserker, also known as Ian, strikes up a conversation with Chris. One conversation turns into a tour of the historic spots on the island.  When his daughter’s lost necklace makes them miss the ferry home,  Ian invites them to stay with him and the other re-enactors for the night.

Chris and Ian are more than attracted to each other but Chris has Kelis and no one wants a single dad as a  boyfriend do they?

Merrow offers up a tale that is both travelogue and love story and it works on both levels.  I loved all the details about the Viking villagers from making berries as ink to the historic places they visited on tour.  It’s a loving portrait of the island overlayed with a realistic persona of a single dad making up for lost time.  Chris is a wonder of a character and his backstory (and Kelis’) gave depth to the summer love story.   This is no case of instant love but just the beginnings of a wonderful relationship.  JL Merrow is one of my favorite authors.  Her attention to detail and loving descriptions of the settings in her stories make her a must read.  That includes Lost and Found on Lindisfarne.  This is how it starts:

“It was a hot summer’s day on the Holy Island of Lindisfarne. The lanes were dusty underfoot, the languid breeze was heavy with the scent of the North Sea, and a Viking had just offered to buy my daughter.”

3.  “Salt ’n’ Vinegar” by Clare London. Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Joe and his twin sister, Mandy, were enrolled at Brighton University, so it only made sense that Joe, a Psychology major and Mandy, Food and Hospitality major, live and work together at the fish and chip shop opposite the entrance to the pier. “Chip ‘N Fin”.  The work paid enough for their lease and a little more and the location near the beach make it perfect for Joe to pick up the gorgeous young gay boys for casual fun and sex, especially during the summer months when Brighton was full of tourists.

But all that changed when a shy young man named Steven makes the chip shop his regular stop in the afternoons.  When it becomes apparent that he waits for Joe when ordering, Mandy urges her brother to ask him out. The resulting relationship quickly turns serious to Joe’s surprise as Steven is fun, intelligent and they are absolutely compatible in every way.  But Steven is hiding a dark secret that will threaten their new found love and so much more.

Salt ‘n’ Vinegar is the darkest of the 5 offerings in the Summer Lovin’ anthology.  I liked that it brought a soberness and diversity to this collection that made me not only appreciate its attributes but in comparison, those of the other authors as well.  I liked everything about this story from the setting in Brighton to the characters that felt very authentic from the sibling relationship to the superficiality of Joe’s initial outlook on romance.  My only quibble here is with the ending.  I am not sure how to say this without giving too much away but one character (secondary but important) doesn’t ring true to what I know about those type of individuals.  They do not react by walking away instead the opposite unfortunately holds true.  But that would have called for a much longer story and would not be in keeping with the tone of most of this collection.  Still that imperfection bothered me for quite some time, especially given the  seriousness of the situation.  And while I liked the story, that aspect made this my least favorite story of the anthology.  You tell me what you think.

4.  “Werewolves of Venice Beach” by Lou Harper.  Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5

Bryan Williams is  house-sitting for the Spencers.  He plans to spend the time deep in study for his architecture degree and maybe some time at the beach.  But Bryan knows that he is a nerd, and that the beach just spells trouble. Little did Bryan know that the trouble was waiting for him next door in a house full of interesting and quirky individuals, starting with the naked man that just ran past his window, up the front stairs into the house next door.

How can you not love a story that starts with “the naked man came out of nowhere”?  I love, love this story.  Bryan is a wonderful, decent young man. The next door people who could have been flat stereotypes instead are fully fleshed out human beings and the romance that springs up between the naked guy and Bryan is full of road bumps and self doubt.  Harper then adds in a bit about a possible werewolf and cracked me up too.  If this wasn’t my favorite, it came close.  I am still smiling as I think about it.

This is how it starts, so irresistible.

The naked man came out of nowhere. One minute I was eating my Wheaties and enjoying the early morning peace and quiet, the next there he was, walking through the neighbor’s front yard. The Spencers’ porch—where I was having my breakfast—sat at least a foot above ground level, providing me with an excellent view over the low stone wall separating the two properties.

5.  By Quarry Lake” by Josephine Myles. Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5

Tommy Freestone left his hometown 3 years ago to attend the university but the real reason he fled was because of Rob Carver, his best friend.  Now Tommy has returned.  He learned much about himself in his time away, including the fact that he should have never left Rob and the town behind.  Tommy hopes that now that he has accepted his sexuality, he can approach Rob, ask for forgiveness and a new relationship.

Rob Carver has never stopped loving and missing his best friend Tommy.  While Tommy left, Rob continued to work his family’s farm, staying deep within the closet.  His one and only attempt at a romance cost him Tommy so when Tommy returns Rob is determined not to let that happen again.  Just friends, right?  Tommy has other ideas.  Can Tommy woo Rob back or will their past cost them the relationship both want?

This story is in a tie with Werewolves as my favorite stories of the anthology.  Myles pulls me in with her descriptions of sleepy rural Somerset and the two boys who grew up there.  You can feel the heat beating down on the farmland, and the quiet, cool water that awaits Tommy and Rob in their secret lake in the quarry.  It’s engaging, its magical and it feels like the best of every summer you dreamed about.  You, your best friend/secret lover, a hideaway known only to the two of you and a cave.  Those are elements that will speak to every reader, it’s the best of summer hopes and dreams. I loved it all.

One kiss sent Tommy running away but once he realized and accepted that he was gay, it also sent him running back.  It’s the classic love story.  Boy loves Boy, Boy loses Boy, Boy gets Boy back.  That never gets old and Myles did a great job with her take on that classic theme.  Again no instant love but an old one reignited, totally believable and satisfying.  Especially the scene with Rob’s Dad, how I loved that scene, just perfection.  It pulls you in right from the opening line:

The river wasn’t the same as when he’d left it.

I can’t remember when was the last time I enjoyed an anthology as much as I did this time.  It wasn’t just that it happened to fall as August was waning, or that pictures from a cousin brought back memories of times at the beach.  It was the hopes and dreams these stories evoked inside me, the smells and sounds of summer overlaid with memories of fleeting romances that somehow you always wished would linger long after the vacation was over but never did.   I highly recommend this collection and loved them all, although not equally.  You will have your own favorites.  Let me know which ones they were.  Pick it up and return to your own summer recollections and dreams.

Cover art by Lou Harper works for the collection.  It feels like romance and summer.

Book Details:

ebook, 247 pages
Pink Squirrel Press
Published August 14th 2013 by Pink Squirrel Press
edition language English
other editions
None found

Review: Blessed Curses by Madeleine Ribbon

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Blessed Curse coverWhen David was 8, his world came crashing down around him, isolating him from his family and all of society.  David had been cursed by his 9 year old brother in a fit of jealous anger and it stuck.  Despite everyones efforts, including the best sorcerers of the time, no one could undo the curse, a curse that made people fear him and unable to be in his company for longer than a minute.

Now, years later, David has adjusted to his life and the curse, or as much as anyone could be.  He works the night shift at his cousin’s magical practitioner shop and then goes home to his video games and lonely life.  Then one day at his brother’s wedding, David is introduced to Vaughn, a magical enforcer. The firm Vaugn works for is the law enforcement agency charged with picking apart complex curses and making sure sorcerers stay within the law.

Vaughn is intrigued immediately by David. David has long been known to them as The Impossible Kid because of the cure he carries.  But Vaughn also finds David handsome, shy, and kind of heartbreaking in his loneliness. Vaughn loves solving supposedly irreversible curses like David’s and can dampen the magical fields he comes in contact with, enough so that he can stand near David without screaming…for most of the time.

Vaughn vows to help cure David of his curse, but finds that the more he gets to know David, the more personal his quest becomes,  David is more than a puzzle to Vaughn, he just might be the love Vaughn has always wanted.  David seems to want him back.  But before a relationship can happen, there is a curse to be dealt with and Vaughn is not having much luck.  What will happen to them both if David’s curse is truly unbreakable?

Madeleine Ribbon is a new author for me.  Blessed Curses is only the second book of hers that I have read but already I look forward to her stories because certain elements of her books are so well done.  Ribbon’s world building is terrific.  She gives us a credible universe for each story, one that is complete without going into scads of details when it is not necessary.  Ribbon also has the gift of bringing magic and its practitioners to life as thoroughly as any common place profession and its employees.  This enforcement agency suffers from cut backs, dingy office space and overworks it employees because of budget cuts.  Within this world magic is both commonplace and a talent to be taught and nurtured.

The characters that Ribbon creates for her stories are just as well done as her world building.   David is such a tragic figure but one that never gives in to self pity or bitterness.  Vaughn too has many interesting layers.  A self described “slut” for most of his years, Vaughn is tired of his promiscuous ways and wants to find someone to love.  The author makes both men authentic sympathetic individuals who she then surrounds with equally moving and real secondary characters.  I especially love the grumpy Trekker, Vaughn’s partner at the agency and Cole, a young homeless sorcerer.  They really helped bring this story to life.  Less well rounded in personality was Todd, the brother who cursed his brother and has spent the rest of his life being his companion.  Given his was the curse that started it all and that he was bound to his brother by guilt as well as love, I think his character should have reflected more of the dichotomy inherent in their situation.  He seemed a little shallow to me unfortunately.

The beginning of this book will absolutely make you cry.  In fact the poignancy and heartbreak of those earlier scenes is so powerful, so pain filled that the feelings they engender are never fully recaptured.

David sat down on the next swing over. It hung just a little too low to be comfortable, but he didn’t want to lose this taste of friendship by moving down to the other end of the set.

He managed to kick his way up almost as high as Andy, though he had to keep letting go of the chain to push his shaggy brown hair out of his eyes.

Todd would see them when he got home from camp. David wondered what sort of a reaction he would get, once Todd realized that his friends didn’t mind David quite so much as David had been led to believe.

It was nearly dark when Todd finally found them talking and laughing, still on the swings. David stopped pumping his legs when he saw his brother stomping toward them. “Davey,”

With the joy of the scenes before when a lonely young boy realizes that someone will play with him, the boys swinging together on the playground, a rarity for young David, to the sight of his  angry brother stomping towards them, well, it will feel absolutely spot on to anyone who knows young kids and sibling rivalry.  But in this case, a fight between an older jealous sibling ( who has consistently bullied his brother) and his baby brother will have far more grave consequences than can be fixed by a bandaid and a time out in their room.   The innocence of David combined with a child’s fear and sense of betrayal will haunt this book for several reasons.  One reason is that it is so beautifully written, the emotions flowing from the boys are visceral in their impact.  And secondly, the consequences upon the siblings and their relationship is never spelled out to the readers satisfaction.  Yes, Todd became his brother’s companion but how did they feel about that?  Where is the realism to their complicated relationship? Nor do we see what is Todd’s (the brother) reaction to the curse being lift.  This whole element is lacking from the story and when it is such an emotional component right from the start, it should be included in the story as well to make this a well rounded plot and feel complete at the end.

Aside from this gap in the narrative, I loved this story.  I did feel the denouement lacking in intensity.  It just sort of happened.  Another missed opportunity.  Others may not feel that way.  The majority of this story is terrific. In fact its downright magical, including elements of angst in the form of a young teenager discarded by his family.  I definitely recommend this story and am off to locate more of Madeleine Ribbon’s stories to read,

Cover Art by Brooke Albrecht is gorgeous.  I think it know where the design was going with the picture but I am just not sure anyone would know what the story was about from the cover.  I wouldn’t and it that part of the cover’s job?

Book Details:

ebook, 168 pages
Published August 7th 2013 by Dreamspinner Press (first published August 6th 2013)
ISBN 1627980571 (ISBN13: 9781627980579)
edition language English

Review: Heroes & Villains (Heroes & Villains #1) by Harper Kingsley

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

heroesvillains400Once Vereint Georges realized he had superpowers he dreamed of the day he would become a superhero and help save the world.  He would be adored, famous and hopefully wealthy.  But the reality was far different than he ever could have imagined.  Vereint didn’t like sewing his costumes and he had to keep his day job in order to live. Then his first rescue as the superhero Starburst went horribly wrong.  The person he rescued was badly burned by his superpowers and Vereint threw up in front of the cameras.  To make it worse, his superhero name reminded everyone of the candy and not a hero.  In fact, there were so many superheroes that he was ridiculed by the very people he was supposed to save and mocked by the other superheroes who wouldn’t accept him, especially the superhero Blue Ice.   Vereint hated being a superhero but what else could he do?

Well, he could become a villain and soon Darkstar was born.  Vereint found it incredibly freeing and lucrative to be evil.  He was even good at it!  Soon the populace of Megacity feared and idolized him.  Darkstar even had people wanting to be his minions.  Vereint as Darkstar had finally made it and life was outstanding.

Blue Ice, aka Warrick Tobias, hated Darkstar.  He hated him when he was Starburst and hated him worse now that he was supervillain Darkstar.  Darkstar was all Warrick could think about.  It was almost like he was obsessing over him.  Of course, Darkstar was impossibly gorgeous with that black hair and mesmerizing blue eyes.   Darkstar even invaded his dreams so what is a superhero to do?

When Darkstar and Blue Ice’s clashes turn amorous it leaves both metahumans confused and maybe even hopeful.   A superhero and a supervillain falling in love? Is that even possible?  It’s time for Darkstar and Blue Ice to find out.

I throughly enjoyed this book.  I didn’t know what to expect from the blurb but the reality of the story was so much better than I expected.  In fact, I felt as though I got two books for the price of one.  Heroes and Villains is the story of two metahumans who live in the metropolis of Megacity (of course).  Harper Kingsley starts off the story in a setting than any reader of comic books would recognize.  Those anonymous buildings populated by typical humans going about their business even as superheroes and villains clash in the streets and air all around them.  Disasters and super battles are commonplace and there is such a surfeit of superheroes and supervillains that each has a council to keep them organized.  For the superheroes, it is the League of Superheroes and  for villains it is the League of Ultimate Evil.  There is the Police Commissioner and his Code Black that will summon the superheroes when needed.  It’s all there and accounted for, all the elements we have come to expect, love, and maybe even giggle at when we think of superheroes, supervillains and the cities they live in.  As I was reading, all I could think of was how much fun Harper Kingsley must have had writing this story.

From the names to the costumes and superpowers, Kingsley takes our superhero characters and has fun with them, starting with the position that the reality of being a superhero isn’t what it is cracked up to be.  What if, when a fire happens, not one hero shows up but twenty? And some are great and others? Maybe not so much.  What happens when the superhero isn’t wealthy but just getting by in a Dilbert like desk job?  How do they account for the time they must take away from their jobs to save people and put out the fires?  Like Vereint, they must come close to getting fired because they have used up all their vacation days.  Plus they might not be able to pay their rent on time because they have to spend their money replacing costumes.  It’s a great parody and I loved it.

Kingsley works magic here with the superhero trope.  With their arrogance and position in society, the author’s superheroes act more like a group of mean girls than heroes. Blue Ice in fact is a legacy superhero (five generations of his family have been in the business), and he feels weighed down by the responsibilities he has shouldered since the age of 14.  He lives in the penthouse of Tobias Towers, naturally, and secretly despises the humans he is supposed to protect.   He also resents the  adulation and lifestyle that is Darkstar’s while also being envious of his freedom.  I loved all the details Kingsley brings to the character of Blue Ice.  It’s not only funny, but it also rings with authencity.  Warrick Tobias as Blue Ice really dislikes his job and is in denial about so many things about himself, including his sexuality.  So how does he handle it?  By being a bully.  He is as responsible for Vereint becoming Darkstar than anyone else because of his constant mocking and demoralizing actions towards Starburst.  Warrick is also in his 30’s and now has to follow a Heart Healthy diet. Here is a taste of Warrick Tobias:

It wasn’t like Warrick didn’t understand that he was acting completely insane, but he just couldn’t seem to help himself. There was something about the whole Darkstar situation that just drove him to the verge and maybe a little bit over. The fact that he didn’t really know why he cared that much just made it even worse because the mystery itself was eating away at him.

Warrick spooned up his last bite of maple and brown sugar oatmeal before picking up the plump yellow banana he’d chosen for his breakfast. He squeezed it gently between his fingers, seeing that it didn’t have a single brown spot. It was a singularly beautiful piece of fruit.

As he’d resigned himself to the idea that he was in his thirties— his early thirties, but his thirties nonetheless— he’d had to make a few dietary changes in his life. He’d had to cut back on the sugars, the trans fats, the delicious carbs, and basically everything else that he loved so that he didn’t end up bulging out of his supersuit. He couldn’t have a greasy breakfast of bacon, eggs, and hash browns at his favorite diner anymore, and if he did go there, he had to pick things off the Heart Healthy menu.

I hate egg white omelets and turkey bacon. I want to eat fatty pork bacon and scrambled eggs covered in melted cheese. I bet Darkstar doesn’t have to worry about anything. His super metabolism probably …

“Dammit!” Warrick shouted, flinging the hapless banana across the room to splatter against the wall. Everything in his head came back to Darkstar and he just couldn’t help himself. It wasn’t like he was obsessed or anything. Except that it really seemed like he was obsessed, and not even the self-knowledge that he was out of control helped any.

And Vereint Georges is just as nuanced and believable character as Warrick.  His character changes from a naive, hopeful young superhero to someone who gradually becomes disenchanted with the harsh reality of his dreams.  Nothing measures up.  He’s the new boy, the young “dorky, loser” as the popular kids nee superheroes call him.  Always on the outside, never has the cool clothes, trying to hard to fit in and perpetually disdained for his efforts.  And when he has finally had enough, we are with him 100 percent.

He couldn’t really understand why no one could take him seriously. He tried just as hard as every other hero, so why didn’t he get any kind of respect?

If it was just Blue Ice treating him badly, he might have been able to ignore it, but it was everyone acting like it was a crime that he wanted to save them. They made fun of his name, his ideals, everything about him.

What do I feel about the way everyone treats me?

The answer came in a surprisingly cold voice:   I’m angry.

And of course, they won’t like him when he is angry.

Clenching his hands into fists at his sides, he gritted his teeth and tried to bury his anger deep inside him. He almost had himself back under control and relaxed a little, sure he wasn’t going to completely lose it.

“You know, you’ve got a hole in your shirt,” Blue Ice said, pointing.

“THAT … IS … IT! I have had enough of all this crap.”

Filled with rage, Starburst could feel himself trembling uncontrollably. Violet color began rising around his body and he felt his hair shifting in an unfelt breeze. His eyes felt hot all of a sudden and he was afraid of what was going to happen, but he couldn’t stop it. He was just so frustrated and angry.

Thus Darkstar is born.  But there is so much more to come.  There is the physical attraction both men feel for each other, poseurs who want Darkstar’s attention, more mega explosions and evil doings galore.

Right up until the halfway mark, the story still has the feel of a parody about it.  Then it changes.  An evil deed by Darkstar has profound affects upon his thinking and the story starts to become darker with more real emotions and events that will play with the reader’s empathy and affections.   There were elements of cruelty before but now it fully comes out to play.  All the metahumans really don’t like the regular human beings very much.  They regard them as so much sheep and their actions reflect that.

Kingsley also starts to concentrate on the growing relationship between Warrick and Vereint, the changes in their characters and all the outside influences that effect their lives and potential future.    From the somewhat gentle lampooning of the genre, the author takes this satire to a darker level, bringing a certain amount of grit to the characters and the scenes.  Not everyone will appreciate the loss of the humor and cartoonish takeoff that the first part of the book represents. I liked this element but also understand its lack of appeal to some readers.

I also felt that the story especially the epilogue was a little long.  It certainly could have been shortened without harm to the narrative.   Still, I can say that I really liked Heroes and Villains, it is one of the more unusual stories that I have read recently and I throughly appreciated that.  From every aspect of this novel,  the attention to detail , the inclusion of all the expected comic book elements to the terrific characterizations,  I highly recommend this book to all.  Let me know what you think.

Cover designed by Aisha Akeju.  I am not sure what I make of this cover.  I appreciate the pointillism of the graphics that convey a sense of comic book similarity but I wish it had taken that element a little further in design.

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 1st Edition, 211 pages
Published June 1st 2011 by Harper Kingsley

A City In Need and the Week Ahead in Reviews

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Washington, DC, home of the federal government, the Smithsonian, the World Bank and all those other government agencies who names are reduced to alphabet letters, doesn’t have a shelter for LGBTQ endangered youth.  How is that possible?  We have food banks, shelters for homeless families (although not nearly enough) and shelters for battered women (House of Ruth, although again horribly more is needed here too).  We have famous this and that, shiny new, expensive condos are rising up everywhere to help shelter the masses of people, young and old, who are returning to the city to live and work.homeless youth are real sign

Where is the shelter for those thrown out of their homes for their sexuality?

Discarded like garbage, removed from family, schools, and every type of support possible, these kids are then forced to scramble to survive on the streets while lacking the skills to do so.  Fragile prey who often meet the predators just waiting for them. Others arrive thinking the city offers some hope and answers and find neither.

Who is going to answer their cries for help?

There used to be the Wanda Alston House but they went bankrupt.  Other shelters I reported on apparently (from sources working in DC close to the situation) are turning away LGBTQ youth because of their sexuality. *shakes head*  But there is a glimmer of hope at least for Homeless Youth out in the streetsthe future.

Yesterday, my Metro M/M group (authors, bloggers, publishers and readers)  met to talk books, conferences, and other things at the  wonderful Freddie’s Beach Bar in Crystal City VA.   A friend mentioned that the Wanda Alston House is being revived as The Alston Project and she is working with the organizers.  That is wonderful and much needed news.  We need this shelter, the LGBTQ youth need this shelter and I want to help.  And hopefully you do too.

So I will keep you all posted.  Watch for a blog on The Alston Project.  I have ideas percolating to launch a Homeless youth 40 percent picdonation drive when it is ready for one.  Maybe even auctioning off/giving away ebooks and t-shirts for money to go into this project.  Let me know if you all have any ideas!  Lets pool our thoughts, our resources, our energies and make a shelter for LGBTQ homeless youth a reality.

We read books about them, romances and fictional stories by authors whose extraordinary talents make us weep over the plight and reality of gay youth so lets channel those emotions and help them in other ways too.  Keep tuned in for more information and ways to help our LGBTQ endangered kids!

Here are links to LGBTQ shelters in other  cities that need help and donations too:

www.aliforneycenter.org (New York City)

U CAN – LGBTQ Host Home Program (Chicago, IL)

Lost-n-Found Youth, Inc. (Atlanta, GA)

Article on House Bill – New House bill seeks to aid LGBT homeless youth

And now for the week ahead in reviews:

Monday, Sept. 23:  Heroes and Villains by Harper Kingsley

Tuesday, Sept 24:   Blessed Curses by Madeleine Ribbon

Wed., Sept 25:          Summer Lovin’ Anthology

Thurs., Sept. 26:       City Knight by T.A. Webb

Friday, Sept. 27:       Roughstock: Blind Ride, Season One by BA Tortuga

Sat., Sept 28:             The Case of the Missing Aha Moment – Scattered Thoughts Mini Rant on Writing

Review: Accidental Alpha (Pack Partners, #1) by Poppy Dennison

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Book Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Accidental Alpha coverOne year ago police officer Lex Tompkins was stabbed while on the job.  The severity of the wounds and the long recovery time meant disability and retirement for Lex as he could no longer physically do his job.  Bitter, Lex withdraws from everyone he knows, buying seven acres in the middle of nowhere to hide in and retreat from society.  But almost from the beginning his plans go awry. Lex has a neighbor when his real estate agent promised him none.  And that neighbor, Spencer Robinson, always seems to have a ton of people at his house and a party going on.  Plus the guy isn’t even Lex’s type.

When a toddler shows up alone in Lex’s front yard, he knows that there is only one place he could have come from. Lex picks the kid up and starts to head across the street when the toddler bites the heck out of his neck.  Lex passes out and the next moment wakes up in Spencer’s house as the new Alpha werewolf of a small and dysfunctional pack of werewolves.

Faced with new responsibilities that he doesn’t want, Lex also finds himself attracted to Spencer, someone he never looked twice at before.  What’s a bitter excop to do when Fate rearranges his life in ways he never imagined?

Poppy Dennison became a go to author of mine when I started reading her Triad series (now at book four). So when I saw that she had a new shifter story out, I knew I had to have it.  Accidental Alpha, the first in the Pack Partners series, starts with a hysterical premise, what happens when a toddler accidentally turns a person into a werewolf? I love it when an author gives me a new twist on a popular genre and that’s exactly what Dennison has delivered here.

Dennison has created a unique pack structure for her werewolf story which includes the toddler’s position within it and the reason why he bit Lex in the first place.  This is a small and somewhat dysfunctional pack with a few shifters hanging at the outskirts of the core group that is not getting along without leadership.  Into this interesting group dynamics, Dennison thrusts her disabled alpha cop, Lex Tompkins.  I really liked his character, he comes across as a hard core cop who loved his job.  And the type of personality that it takes to be a cop is exactly the type of leadership needed in an Alpha.  I liked the manner in which Dennison  connects those dots not only for the reader  but for Lex as well.  Lex is a man in need of a job that requires him to police and take care of people and that is exactly what he gets again.

This pack is made up of some very damaged, sad, and angry shifters. Each comes with their own set of challenges that Lex must first decipher and then deal with.  That includes his very strong attraction to Spencer which is clearly a werewolf thing Lex needs to get figure out immediately before his own behavior gets out of control.  I liked the pack that the author has created for this story.  There’s the toddler, Aiden, who is quite adorable.  His mother Mia, two special special favorites of mine Ruby and Nathan, Justin and more.  And then there is Spencer, the neighbor and perhaps potential mate.  I connected with the character of Spencer as well.  Quiet and unassuming, he has a reserve to him that works when the rest of the pack is spiraling out of control.  Its a nice yin and yang  sort of relationship that will evolve with the story and the series.  It’s also a lovely change from the wham bam mate thing that overwhelms characterization and plot that I so often read in shifter stories. Poppy Dennsion sets out a structure for not only the pack but for acquiring mates as well.

The ending of Accidental Alpha sees Lex, Spencer and the rest slowly adjusting to each other and the change in pack dynamics.   It’s a new start for them all and an appropriate place to end the first book in the series.  Poppy Dennison had laid her ground work while still leaving room to flesh out the personalities and back history of the individual pack members.  I also expect to learn more about Lex as well.   Accidental Alpha leaves me wanting more of the Pack Partners series and that’s exactly what it should do.  Great job, Poppy Dennison.  I can’t wait to see what will happen next.  Please don’t make us wait too long.

Cover Art © 2013 Wilde City Press Photo by Kent Taylor, courtesy http://www.ragingstallion.com  What a perfect cover!  That’s Lex exactly.

Book Details:

ebook, 56 pages
Published September 11th 2013 by Wilde City Press

Review: Crucify (Triple Threat #4) by Laura Harner

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Crucify TT4Sitting in a booth at the Chances Are, Zachary listens as a friend of Jeremiah’s, Nick Gabriel, explains the history and man behind his employment as a prostitute, a Catholic priest.  This priest has an affinity for very young men who are confused about their sexuality and sees their confusion as a means to abuse them.  For Jeremiah, this case also represents a chance for him to go undercover to prove himself to his Doms and help stop this sexual predator.  If only he can get Zachary and Archer to agree.

Using Jeremiah as bait seems like a good idea, at least in the beginning.  Then Wick and Chance weigh in on Jeremiah’s current status with Archer and Zach.  In their opinion, there is not much difference between Jeremiah and his contract and Nick’s profession.  It’s an epiphany for Zachary.  Exactly how does Jeremiah fit into his and Archer’s relationship?  Is the contract between the men a barrier to any real future for the triad? The answer lies in their current investigation and it will have reverberations for all involved.

Crucify is the fourth story in the Triple Threat series and L.E.  Harner uses its plot to bring the series back to its original explosive element of relationships and change.  In each story, she has explored how does the addition of Jeremiah is changing the relationship dynamics of Zach and Archer.  From content and somewhat complacent established couple of 15 years, the introduction of Jeremiah has reenergized the Master Dom in Zach who, more or less, relinquished that role to Archer in their commitment to each other.  But up until now,  neither Archer or Zach has addressed what, if any, future Jeremiah has with them and in what role.

Harner has made this series a study in all sorts of relationships and not just Archer and Zach’s complicated one.  In Crucify, relationships between Ben, Jeremiah and “Gabe” are up for inspection, as are those of Chance and Rory, Wick and Zach, even Wick and his mini Wick as well as so many others. Harner explores the delicate balance between these complicated men.  Sometimes its the relationship between friends, sometimes its relationships between lovers, and every permutation in between.  I love that the author recognizes that sometimes those relationships that seems the strongest are in fact fraught with issues that threaten to shred partnerships, leaving the participants in tatters.  Sometimes it really is all about the perspective.  And that can change in an instant.

I like to mention that this story and series features a m/m/m triad, with elements of D/s to their relationships.  The bdsm content is made accessible to all readers by the manner in which Harner explains each man’s need and desire for this aspect of sexuality in their lives.  It makes sense as does the threesome.  Even if these are not the elements you normally read, don’t let this make you shy off from the series.   It a hot sexy component of these mens relationships and it works here.

Harner writes in layers.  Layers to her characters, layers to her plots and those added dimensions gives this story and series a realistic flavor and spice that is to be savored.  Whether it is the world weary voice of Zach or the humorous aspect to sometimes horrific events,, it all adds up to one great series and one conflicted and compelling trio of characters.

There is more to come in the Triple Threat series.  Do not miss a single story!  Pick them all up, read them together or singly just as long as you read them in order.  I highly recommend them all.  Here is a quick taste as Zach questions Nick:

“Spill, Nick. What does the church have to do with you? Did they kick you out? Because I can’t do shit about that—”

“They have a group for guys like me. Like us. Homos.” The words shot out with the force of a gun blast.

I nodded. I knew a little about the pray-the-gay-away movement—people who think homosexuality and Christianity are incompatible—although I wasn’t aware of any local connection. My interest spiked, and I could only imagine the conflict this young man must feel. Combine a street-wise hooker and the up-and-coming young businessman, sprinkle liberally with Catholic guilt. A nervous breakdown waiting to happen. Good luck with that.

Book Details:

ebook, 60 pages
Published August 1st 2013 by Hot Corner Press
ISBN13 9781937252571
edition language English

Books in the series in the order they were written and should be read:

Triple Threat (Triple Threat #1)
Retribution (Triple Threat #2)
Defiance (Triple Threat #3)
Crucify (Triple Threat #4)