Barb, A Zany Old Lady Review: Candy Man by Amy Lane


Rating: 5 stars out of 5

The Candy Man coverAdam Macias is virtually homeless when he arrives at his cousin Rico’s apartment to housesit/petsit while Rico is away for six months. Out of a job, money and a place to live, even his car broke down on the way to Sacramento to do this favor for Rico, a favor which Adam sees as his last chance to redeem himself after a string of life disasters, including outing himself just before he left the military.

All he wants to do is survive, but suddenly he finds himself on the receiving end of good things—including a job, a boss and co-workers who like him, people who like his art work, and best of all—a boyfriend.

When Finn Stewart comes bouncing into his life as a happy-go-lucky young man who just exudes positive energy, Adam is at first confused and taken aback, but eventually he fully embraces the fact that he likes Finn, in fact, he needs Finn in a way he’s never needed anyone before. All his life he’s been the boy who was not wanted by either his mother or his grandmother. He’s been stereotyped as a troublemaker, not worth anyone’s time or attention. Joining the Army was his attempt to show his value, but when he returned home and shared with his family that he was gay, his grandmother literally slammed the door in his face and reiterated how just how worthless and useless he was.

Because of his history of low self-esteem from listening to those negative messages, it’s hard for Adam to accept the positive things now happening in his life, but Finn—bright, cheerful Finn, brings Adam hope. One of my favorite early scenes occurs when he’s kissing Finn and Finn tells him that they’ll kiss more, but not tonight. And Adam realizes that he’ll do whatever Finn wants. Paraphrasing Adam’s thoughts–he had no moral code about sex but he does have a moral code about Finn, and whatever Finn says is the code.

Slowly but surely, tough-guy Adam who hasn’t had any value to anyone suddenly has value to others, and he realizes as he’s smiling for the second time one day that the smiling and camaraderie he’s experiencing at work and with Finn is “softening the parts of his soul made brittle by pain”. I love Amy Lane’s descriptions of the emotional complexities of everyday living.

This book is not long, but it’s packed with a powerful message of hope and love as we witness Adam healing from the hurt and pain he’s lived with for years as he receives the positive layers of energy and love being shared with him on all fronts. There’s fun and whimsy in the form of his boss Darrin who knew that Adam would come into their lives when he read the Pixy Stix, his form of reading tea leaves. And there’s both comedy and tragedy as Adam copes with caring for Rico’s pets—from the big, overeager boxer named Clopper to the crazy old cat named Gonzo who dies on Adam’s watch. Then there’s Finn’s family—healthy, robust, cheerful, loveable, and everything you’d hope for in the ideal family to help Adam heal. And Finn? He’s adorable, strong, loving, and as supportive as a rock for Adam as he finds his way to happiness.

I highly recommend this one to all lovers of M/M romance, especially if you love a damaged hero who’s able to heal with the help of an upbeat, positive character. There’s no denying that there’s angst in this tale, but there’s love galore and so many positives that I feel energized from reading it. I sure would love to see a sequel from this one!

Very highly recommended.

Cover Art by Paul Richmond— Primarily depicts the small shopping area where the candy store is located, lots of candy, and Clopper, the dog— all great representations of the story. In addition, the bright colorful cover conveys the “feel good” energy that’s found within the story itself.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press                 All Romance (ARe)        Amazon            buy it here

Book Details:

ebook, 136 pages
Published December 3rd 2014 by Dreamspinner Press
edition languageEnglish

A MelanieM Review: Mythica by L.J. LaBarthe


Rating:  4.25 stars out of 5

MythicalgishHalf selkie Caiden is unhappy that as a Mythica he is unable to serve his country as his father had done.  In fact all Mythicas are banned from service because they might not be able to handle the stress, changing forms in combat.  While Caiden agrees intellectually with that assessment, emotionally he’s frustrated and taking his discontent out on those around him.  Its even affected his viewpoint of the  sy’lph, an alien race that arrived on Earth seeking sanctuary and a home after their galaxy was destroyed in a war.

But when a minotaur goes wild at the government offices of the Bridging Lives agency (a sort of  Social Security other being checkpoint and social agency), Caiden jumps in to stop the minotaur and his world changes forever.   First he is rescued by Gray, a sy’lph who is the local liason between humans, mythica and the sy’lph.  Gray is gorgeous and Caiden is overwhelmingly attracted to a being he has resolutely disliked.  Secondly, the minotaur had been poisoned.

Soon all the mythicas are under attack.  And Gray and Caiden take their first steps towards understanding and a relationship just when everything starts to fall apart around them, putting themselves and Caiden’s family in danger.

Mythica by L.J. LaBarthe is a book that defies categorization, something that surely thrills its author.  How to describe a beautifully written story that encapsulates human mythological creatures come to life, along with an alien race fleeing galactic genocide and bringing inhuman technology with them.  Then throw in a interspecies romance, racial purity rights terrorists, and much, much more and you have Mythica – scify, supernatural, paranormal, action, suspense, mystery romance!  I would expect nothing less from L. J. LaBarthe.

From the opening lines, the author pulls you into the joy of Caiden’s life as a half selkie!  He is frolicking in the ocean waters near home which is Broome in Western Australia:

Dolphins swam up to join him, and he grabbed the dorsal fin of the nearest one, laughing when he surfaced and breathed in air again. The dolphin dragged him along through the water at a rapid rate, making him whoop with delight, a sound echoed by the raucous cries of the seagulls hovering overhead. Schools of fish swam below him, sometimes their silvery bodies brushed against his toes, and Caiden loved that too, the feeling of being so free, so connected to all the elements—water, air, light, earth. The dolphin that pulled him along through the water brought him close to shore, and Caiden felt the soggy roughness of sand beneath his feet. He let go of the dorsal fin, calling a thank you and goodbye to the dolphins as they swam on.

LaBarthe conveys the lightness of being and the spontaneity of Caiden’s selkie behavior in the waters.  And just as quickly, the author is able to ground Caiden in his human half, complete with his discontent and unhappiness at leaving the watery haven behind as he reluctantly arrives at the Bridging Lives agency.   LaBarthe has created with her “mythicas” a fascinating new group of beings (albeit from an ancient beginnings).  The mythicas are

“Mythica were the descendants of all mythological creatures of antiquity—the pixies, fairies, selkies, minotaurs, dragons, and more—who lived and worked alongside humans.”

Caiden himself is half mythica, his father human and his mother a selkie, a human/mythica pairing not uncommon in this story. The author is quick to give Caiden a  painful past made bearable by a supportive, loving family, only some of which are mythicas.  Broome is pictured as normally as is possible when mythicas and aliens such as the sy’lph casually walk about its facilities and streets.  There is an authenticity to each scene that is wonderful considering who and what is appearing throughout each description and event.

Also marvelously imagined are the sy’lph.  Alien beings of mallable metal (think mercury) whose real shape and body is confined within a synthetic humanoid shell.  Just seeing their true shape/body is enough to blind any human.  Their back story and natural history is as complex and captivating as everything else that LaBarthe has created here.  But while all the outside elements are fantasical in nature, inside there exists a lovely romance between two beings/people trying to learn about each other and work their way towards something more lasting and real.

Interspersed throughout the myriad of plot threads is the threat to Caiden, his family and all mythicas.  It isn’t long before the villain of the pieces appears  and the uncertainty and dread that comes with this nasty little storyline

is yet one more element that will keep the reader engaged and deeply involved in Mythica until the ending.  Which I was sorry to see arrive.

Mythica has such a wide appeal and such a ingenious universe, that I hope to see LaBarthe revisit it again in another story.  Both the mythicas and the sy’lph deserve to have their stories told.  But while we are waiting for that to happen, pick up Mythica and see why I recommend it so highly.  Never has such a concoction of genres been so appealing.

Cover by Mumson Designs is lovely, and captures the joy of Caiden perfectly.

Sales Links:      Bottom Drawer Publications   All Romance (ARe)          Amazon          Buy it here

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 217 pages
Published September 18th 2014 by Bottom Drawer Publications
edition languageEnglish


A MelanieM Review: The Body on the Beach (Under the Southern Cross) by L.J. LaBarthe


Rating: 4 stars out of 5

The Body on the beachIt’s 1920 in Adelaide, the only free colony in Australia.  When  a body on the beach is found to be marked up with Chinese symbols, it only makes sense for the local constable to call upon William “Billy” Liang for advice and help with the investigation.  Billy Liang, prominent member of both cultures in Adelaide,  has often worked as a liaison between the various emigrant societies in Adelaide and the white establishment.

With his lover and business manager, Tom Williams,  at his side (and with the support of Billy’s wife), Billy and Tom must investigate a crime that looks to implicate the local Chinese community in the murder.  Billy and Tom deal with illegal opium dens, fantan games and gambling, racism, and being shot at throughout the investigation. And while Billy’s family accepts the love he and Tom share, Australia’s laws against sodomy and homosexuality pose a constant danger.    It’s a delicate balance that Billy and Tom maintain, one that this murder and the ripples it sets in motion threaten to destroy.

The Body on the Beach, part of the Under the Southern Cross Anthology, is a perfect little window into a time and societal framework of 1920 Adelaide, Australia.  L.J. LaBarthe recreates gallimaufry of cultures that is Adelaide, a situation that hasn’t changed much today.  Within the limits of the town, there exists the Chinese, the Greeks, the Russians, and more nationalities that have flooded into the region and are now coexisting, however uneasily, with the white population.  I  especially loved the intimate look at the Chinese community from the viewpoint of Billy Liang.  The character of William “Billy” Liang is a compelling one.  He acts as the bridge between all the “foreigners” and the local establishment by way of his success as a businessman and his status within the Chinese insular community.   And he does so successfully because he lives in both worlds in his private life.  He is married to an intelligent, understanding wife who accepts his love and relationship with Tom. Indeed, they have created for themselves their own insulated world where their servants are supportive of their unique relationship dynamics, including the fact that he and Tom live in one section of the huge house and his wife in another.

Some readers might balk at this arrangement, but as its laid out here by L.J. LaBarthe, it not only works but we enjoy the camaraderie and ease in which they all deal with each other.  I enjoyed Billy’s wife for her grace and intelligence as much as I did Tom, a terrific balancing act indeed.

While the plot has Tom and Billy investigating a complex murder, it was all the descriptions of the various sides to Adelaide and its people that I really enjoyed.  I felt as though I was there, walking the streets and beaches with Billy and Tom.   There is the realistic aspect of racism that has to be dealt with along with the need to keep their sexuality and true nature of their relationship hidden.  And within all of that complicated framework, a murderer needs to be caught and brought to justice.

When an author brings me takes me back to the past and makes it feel alive once more, as LaBarthe does here, then I feel that I have taken a marvelous journey, one I was unwilling to see end.  The Body on the Beach is just such a story.  If you are unfamiliar with L. J. LaBarthe, this is a wonderful place to start!

Cover Artist Anne Cain.  How I love this cover!  Everything, from the design to the characters, pull you in as does this story.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press           All Romance (ARe)           Amazon           Buy it Here

Book Details:

Published March 13th 2013 by Dreamspinner Press (first published March 12th 2013)
edition languageEnglish
seriesUnder the Southern Cross

Down Under Author Showcase – L.J. LaBarthe


STRW down Under Banner sm Hearts


Meet L.J. LaBarthe


L. J. LaBarthe is the author of many series and novels (listed below).

To get to know L.J. LaBarthe a little better, she agreed to an interview. Look for her guest post below and the Down Under Scavenger Hunt question and clue found somewhere within.


Author Bio 1

Author Bio:

L.J. LaBarthe is a French-Australian woman, who was born during the Witching Hour, just after midnight. From this auspicious beginning, she went on to write a prize-winning short story about Humpty Dumpty wearing an Aussie hat complete with corks dangling from it when she was six years old. From there, she wrote for her high school yearbook, her university newspaper, and, from her early teens to her twenties, produced a fanzine about the local punk rock music scene. She enjoys music, languages, TV, film, travel, cooking, eating out, abandoned places, urbex, history, and researching.

L.J. loves to read complicated plots and hopes to do complex plot lines justice in her own writing. She writes paranormal, historical, urban fantasy, and contemporary Australian stories, usually m/m romance and featuring m/m erotica.
L.J. lives in the city of Adelaide, and is owned by her cat.

Author Contacts:

Twitter: @brbsiberia
Facebook Author Page:
Google +:


BoneCupCityOfJadeLGMythicalgishNo Quarter LaBarthe cover


Author’s Books, Series, and Stories:
The Archangel Chronicles with Dreamspinner Press.
No Quarter
No Surrender, No Retreat
No Shadows Fall
The Wind-up Forest
The Crystal Lake
The Bone Cup
• A Shot in the Dark
• A Fire in the Heart
• A Candle in the Sun

  • City of Jade with Dreamspinner Press
  • Mythica with Bottom Drawer Publications
  • Waiting for the Moon and You with Dreamspinner Press
  • Brick by Brick with Dreamspinner Press (Co-written with Cate Ashwood)
  • Swimming with Elephants with Dreamspinner Press (forthcoming release available as a novella and part of the Piece Us Back Together anthology)
  • Ice with Less Than Three Press
  • The Body on the Beach with Dreamspinner Press (available as a novella and part of the Under the Southern Cross anthology) – one of the Down Under Author Scavenger Hunt Prizes!
  • Capsicum Head in the Rockin’ Hard Vol. 2 anthology with Less Than Three Press
  • Sunburnt Country in the Something Happened on the Way to Heaven anthology with Less Than Three Press


With the exception of Brick by Brick, Swimming with Elephants, Capsicum Head, The Body on the Beach, City of Jade and Waiting for the Moon and You, all my books are paranormals.

Contemporaries: Brick by Brick, Swimming with Elephants, Capsicum Head, Waiting for the Moon and You.

Historicals: City of Jade, The Body on the Beach.


Down Under Contests

1. Today’s Giveaway (thank you,L.J. LaBarthe) is an eBook copy of any of the first 6 Archangel books, City of Jade or Mythica. Enter using this Rafflecopter link here.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Must be 18 years of age or older to enter.

2. Down Under Scavenger Hunt – find Question or “Word“. Collect all the words/clues from each author and submit the list in writing no later than midnight on February 1st. Make sure you include an email address where you can be reached. Prizes will be given to 5 people selected, from 1st place to 5th! Happy Hunting.

Author Qand A

**************Now on to our Interview with L. J. LaBarthe….


Q• When did you start writing?

I don’t remember not writing, to be honest! I used to draw a lot and write little stories to go with my drawings.

Q• Were you a reader as a child?

Voracious. I was a shy kid, and spent a lot of time with books.

Q • Where do you draw inspiration from?

Everywhere. From the weather, the garden, places I’ve visited or documentaries I’ve seen, to history, research (I love research!), news articles to movies, music, TV shows. Just about anything and everything!

Q• Favorite genres to write in and why?

Paranormal, historical, fantasy and science fiction, because those are the genres I prefer to read.

Q• Title or characters or plot? Which comes first?

Usually, it’s a scene and then everything springs from that. There are exceptions to that of course, the book I’m working on at the moment, “Song of Song,” the title came first and everything else fell into place in my head with a loud clunk!

Q• Do you have a favorite character that you have written?

Archangels Gabriel, Raziel and Uriel and Archdemon Adramelek from my Archangel series.

Q• Favorite quote (doesn’t matter the source)?

“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

                               – Said by Inigo Montoya, from “The Princess Bride.”

Q• Favorite book/story you have read as an adult?

Only one? I can’t do just one! I love the “Night Watch” series by Uzbek writer Sergey Lukyanenko, those are fantastic books. Then there’s the Danilov series by Jasper Kent, which is brilliantly done. “The Prince and the Program” by Aldous Mercer, “Child 44” by Tom Rob Smith, “31 Things” by Cate Ashwood, “The Cuckoo’s Calling” by J. K. Rowling… so many more.

Q• What’s the hardest part of writing your books?

Titles! I am really terrible at coming up with titles. “No Quarter,” for example, went through thirteen title changes until it became that, and that was thanks to my good friend Meredith Shayne suggesting it to me.

Q• What book are you reading now?

“New Watch” by Sergey Lukyanenko, which is his latest release; “The Silkworm” by J. K. Rowling.

Q• How do you think books written from authors in Australia or New Zealand differ in style, language, and culture?

I think we use a lot more slang. Our slang is rhyming slang and is often quite colourful. We also spell with British English, so the ‘u’ is still present in words like colour.

Q• My first impression of AUS/NZ was from stories and novels like Colleen McCullough’s The Thorn Birds or Nevil Shute’s A Town Like Alice as well as from movies like The Man from Snowy River, The Dish, Rabbit Proof Fence, Strictly Ballroom, and yes, Crocodile Dundee! There are so many out there. What is your favorite AUS/NZ stories and favorite Australian/New Zealand movies?

I’m going to be a bit different here and choose a TV show. The Australian show, “Offspring” ( is my choice, because not only is it brilliantly written, it’s a pretty accurate representation of middle class, inner suburban life. The show also doesn’t shy away from topics like death, addiction, child birth, and has not just heterosexual couples but gay and lesbian couples as well. The last three episodes of season four, for instance, had me bawling, completely ugly crying. And Twitter was on fire because of this particular plot line, so much so, that the band, The Offspring, took to Twitter to say that nothing had happened to them, and the police department local to where the show is set, had to issue a statement saying there would be no investigation into what happened. (I’m avoiding spoilers, in case readers want to watch the show!)

And there were more tears in season five, and I hate crying at TV/movies/books, but I love, love, love this show, even though it turns me into the ugly crying author!

Q• If you were a tour guide, what would you like a visitor to see and what impression would you want them to take away with them when they leave?

The Flinders Ranges in outback South Australia. Not just because this is my own favourite part of the country and I live in SA, but because it really is stunningly beautiful, no matter what time of year you visit.

Q• What are your current projects?

I have six (!!!) titles coming out in 2015, so I foresee a LOT of editing in my near future. The last three Archangel books are coming out, as is “Brick by Brick,” “Swimming with Elephants” and “Waiting for the Moon and You.”

I’m also on the home stretch of the first draft of my sci-fi space opera m/m romance, called “Song of Song,” and I’m really enjoying writing it, so much so that it feels as if the book has written itself.

• What’s next up for you?

A bit of rest, I think. Then I’ll get back into it. I’ve got a few works in progress that I’d like to finish and a few plot bunnies I’d like to start. Either way, there will be more tales told, and more books.

Q What are the questions you would like to see answered for the Scavenger Hunt? one answer will do.

1. Aussie slang – what am I doing if I’m using the telling bone?  or.

 2: Aussie slang – what bird is on the South Australian coat of arms?  send your answers to me along with the other words/clues at the end of the month.

Down Under Day 6: L.J. LaBarthe, AUS/NZ Facts and Contest Details




Welcome to Day 6 of STRW Down Under Author Showcase. Our Featured Author today is L. J. LaBarthe, a prolific author of multiple series and stand alone romances. Make sure you visit her page, check out her bio and books. And don’t forget to enter her giveaway contest and search out the Scavenger Hunt word of the Day as well as enter Bottom Drawer Publications contest on the Down Under Author Showcase Page.

Australia Fact of the Day:

Adelaide-skylineAustralia’s Migrants I
Around 24% of Australia’s residents were born overseas. This compares with 20% in New Zealand, 17% in Canada, 10% in the USA and 6% in the UK.

Australia’s Migrants II
Australia has been a magnet for immigration for many years. In fact, Australia’s immigration policy used to be targeted towards attracting people from the British Isles. The emphasis now is to attract anyone from anywhere who has the skills to contribute to Australia’s development.

City of Adelaide Skyline – see link for more information about Adelaide.

New Zealand Fact of the Day:

It’s a fact: at 41.2o South, Wellington is the most southerly capital city on the planet. Cities on similar latitudes in the Northern hemisphere are Barcelona, Istanbul and Chicago.