A MelanieM Review: Snowman by Isabelle Rowan

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Snowman coverWe all find ways to run away. Some do it in seclusion, others in the arms of lovers.

Since the death of his long-time partner, Caleb Maguire lives a quiet life in Australia’s Victorian high country with only his dog and horses for company. Each day is the same. There are no surprises—good or bad—until a major snowstorm hits his mountain and Caleb is called out to rescue a stranded tourist. The late night snow brings with it a lost soul who forces Caleb to reassess his solitary life.

Paul Turner is a barista in the trendy Melbourne suburb of Carlton. He lives life totally in the moment, but a life of no commitments is about to change for this city boy. Three days is all it takes for Paul to fall hard for Caleb, and Paul returns to the city with a promise he’ll be back after turning his life around… but only when all the roads are clear.

I fell in love with the writing of Isabelle Rowan when I read her story, A Note in the Margin.  Rowan’s characters leapt off the page and into my heart so believable and real I found them and their lives to be. When I saw Snowman on the Dreamspinner website, I was so excited. I couldn’t wait to acquaintance myself once more with this remarkable author.  But there was also a bit of trepidation as well.  Since that first book I had read tons more stories, with a variety of approaches to the M/M fiction genre.  How would I feel about Isabelle Rowan’s writing now?

It was wonderful and I found myself falling in love all over again at her ability to bring Australia’s  harshest landscape, in all it terrifying glory, and the men who love it deeply  vividly to life.  It takes a special person to be able to connect with that environment, who loves both the stark beauty enough to accept its devastating changes that can destroy everything around you, whether its avalanches or wildfires and drought.  If these people, these men in this case, have their own scars and pain they carry, then it makes their attachment to this land all the more understandable and believable.

Caleb Maguire is just such a man.  The loss of his long term partner has thrown him into a crevasse of grief he’s not even  trying to crawl out of.  Instead, Caleb has withdrawn emotionally and physically into their cabin high in the mountains, their animals and working dog Molly.  He has so isolated himself that his only contact is when he heads into town for supplies and Sarah, the sister of his dead lover.  But that all changes one snowstorm, when he gets a call from the local policeman.  A man is lost up on the mountain and the blizzard is making it impossible for them to get to him.  The temperature is falling rapidly and the “fool” needs to be rescued immediately or they fear he will die of hypothermia.  Caleb is the only one close enough to reach him and with the resources to do so.    The march to find the lost man and his vehicle is almost impossible in the whiteout conditions, and Rowan makes us take every hard won, treacherous step of the way with Caleb and Molly.  The rescue itself is frightening as frostbite is numbing the man’s hands and the cold making him sleepy.  It’s scary, the work to free the man from his car frantic as the snow piles higher around them.  And its this scene, this rescue that pulls us into these mens lives and makes us care what happens to them.  Both men, and Molly could have been lost here.  But courage, and determination  pulls them through, staggering home through the snowdrifts.

The man Caleb rescues?  Party boy Paul Turner. Not immediately likable but somehow Rowan puts a spark in his “shallow” personality, one that makes you want his actions to change.  Which he does ever so slowly.  In fact both men change at an almost glacial rate, a pace I thought was not only realistic but necessary because of the character traits and types of change that needs to happen for this to become a love story to believe in.  I fell in love with Paul, it took time but I did, just as deeply as I fell in love with Caleb.   It takes time to make you think they belong together but when you “buy” into their relationship you will do so with your whole heart.

And that brings us to an element that will either make you crazy or leave you deeply in love with this story and its characters. It’s the pace, the flow at which things occur.  This is a long story but it is divided into four chapters, each with the title of a season of the year.   We start appropriately enough at Winter.  It’s actually winter in the country but there’s also a winter of the soul in each of the men.   One has given up, letting his heart become cold, freezing others out.  The other?  Has let life reduce him to a shallow party existence, devoid of richness of growth and life.  Then we follow the story, these men and their attempts at a relationship through Spring, Fall and it ends with Autumn.  We live through the changes in the landscape, and the myriad of changes that Paul and Caleb (and the others around them) must go through as well.  Those transformations happen at the pace and whims of nature.  It can be like watching the water drip from a melting icicle.  In the mornings, its slow, the drop falling at long intervals.  In the afternoons, with the sun shining with the promise of the approaching Spring and the icicles melt with a rhythm of a stream.  Snowman‘s narrative follows such a pattern, it ripples and eddies, pools and then picks up the pace once again, following the path that nature sets out.  I loved that about this story and pulled its slow permutations and evolutions of character around me like a soft throw, enjoying every minute I spent inside this story.

But if you like action, a sort of “wham bam thank you sir” sort of action, this will make you crazy.  If you want Caleb and Paul to change and change now, wellthat doesn’t happen here.  Life altering changes take time, so does grieving over a major loss, one that you refuse to accept.  Isabelle Rowan understands that and if and when changes happen to Paul and Caleb, its because they did in a logical and meaningful way.

If I had a quibble it was the insertion of drama with Stewart aka “Stewie”, Paul’s best friend.  I’m not sure why this element was included unless it was setting up a sequel with Stewart at its heart.  I would love that actually, but the drama that centered around Stewart took me away from the developing relationship with Caleb and Paul, already one that moves at a snail’s pace.  It really didn’t need one more impediment.   However, I did like Stewart and would love to see what happens with him down the line, with a reappearance by Caleb and Paul of course.

I love Isabelle Rowan and Snowman exemplifies just why I adore her writing and characters so.  Snowman feels real, its characters flawed and throughly human and their journey towards each other and a relationship strewn with the pebbles and boulders life puts in their path.  It’s the men, the people around them and the land they live on that comes together in one seamless portrait of life well lived and rich in love in all its aspects.  I highly recommend this story and this author.  Pick up Snowman and start your own journey with both today.

Cover art by Garrett Leigh.  Lovely cover, works perfectly for the story and draws you in.

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

Book Details:

ebook, 276 pages
Published May 4th 2015 by Dreamspinner Press LLC
ISBN139781634760287
edition languageEnglish

A MelanieM Review: Finding Freddie Venus (Have Body, Will Guard #7) by Neil S. Plakcy

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Rating: 3.25 stars out of 5

Finding Freddie Venue coverAidan and Liam’s new client is former gay porn star Freddie Venus, who survived an epic slide and now lives a solitary life in a restored farmhouse outside Nice. He hires bodyguards when he begins to believe he is being stalked.

Newt Camilleri is a sad, overweight fifty-year-old who writes gay unicorn porn but has no romantic life. He has fled his dead-end job and old life to start again on the Riviera. When he spots Freddie, his porn idol, in a grocery store, he kicks off the plot that will bring them together.

But Freddie’s past is about to come back to haunt him. Will Aidan and Liam be able to save Freddie, and help him and Newt start a new story together?

Finding Freddie Venus is the first book that I have read in Neil S. Plakcy’s long running Have Body, Will Guard series so I am coming into an already established relationship between bodyguards Adam and Liam.  But as a newcomer to these characters, I don’t think that particularly hurts the story as Plakcy does a wonderful job in providing enough of their back history to support the relationship dynamics we see happening here, a couple at a crossroads at their partnership and wondering where to go next.

I was curious to see if I could repeat the success I’ve had with the same approach with Plakcy’s amazing Mahu series.  With the Mahu series, I actually started at the end and have been working my way back towards the beginning and enjoying every bit of the journey.  Unfortunately, I’m not sure I can say that here but its definitely not due to the characters involved but the format of the story and the weird inclusion of a porn story within a story that jolts the reader out of the narrative.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Liam McCullough and Aidan Greene both work for Agence de Securite in France.  They are partners romantically as well as partners  as bodyguards for the Agency.  It has worked well for them but Liam is growing tired, feeling his age with all the wear and tear the profession has left on his body and spirit.  Aidan wants them to settle down and buy a home in France, giving them a permanence they have lacked up until now.   And neither is exactly talking about the issues bothering them, preferring to ignore them and concentrate on their latest case…which manages to highlight all the insecurities and issues they are trying so hard not to address. The cause is their client, former porn star Freddie Venus.  Turns out Aidan is a fan of porn and Freddie, Liam is neither.  Throw in the fact that their sex life has been mostly absent recently and the stage is set for a few emotional explosions when they and their small dog move into Freddie’s house, all the better to guard him.

Freddie Venus is an interesting character, complicated and haunted by his past but still very much involved with porn because he can make a living working in editing  porn scenes.   But the cost to Freddie of his past in porn?  A total lack of interest in sex and a lifestyle of hiding in the french countryside. Two things happen to bring an end to Freddy’s seclusion and  promote a need for bodyguards.  One…he receives a written threat.  Two…he has a physical encounter with a fan/stalker that permanently changes Freddie’s outlook on sex and life.

And that brings us to the best/worst element of this story…Newt Camilleri.  Newt is such an unusual character. He’s grossly overweight and an ex pat who has come to France to make his living writing M/M Romance.  He’s already known for his series which involves a gay unicorn bent on vengeance against those that brutalize the LGBTQ community. Yes, he writes gay unicorn porn.   Here is the description of Newt’s character and story from the book:

His most popular character was a half man, half unicorn named Fledglis. Like a centaur, he had a man’s head, arms, and torso over a horse’s body, with a spiral horn sticking out of his forehead. He was pure white except for dark hooves and a mane with all the colors of the rainbow in it.

His mission was to skewer every antigay government official—literally. When he found a homophobic mayor, sheriff, governor, or legislator, he’d use his front hooves to knock the man down. He’d strip the man naked, then pinion him to a floor or wall, his legs open and his ass exposed. Then Fledglis would turn his horn into a giant penis and fuck the man into oblivion. By the time the jerk awoke from his sex-induced stupor, his attitude would have taken a 180-degree turn.

How I wish Plakcy’s had left Newt’s writing to this description.  Its pretty hilarious…in concept. Well, maybe not.  Rape is never the laughfest no matter the cause.  Anyway, this character and his stories are the driving force in Newt’s life and have inspired him to come to France. But now he’s gotten writer’s block and is running out of money. If he is to stay in France, Newt needs some inspiration and fast. But where to find it? You see, Newt’s physical attributes (such as they are) are vividly, almost anatomically correctly described down to the smallest roll of fat and size of his man boobs.  Nothing is left to our imagination, thinning hair, lumbering walk, gasping for breathe,…yep…Newt’s one pathetic sack of flesh.  The author makes Newt so outwardly repulsive that its hard to connect with him at first.  But the inner Newt is different, so vulnerable, so needy that eventually a connection between him and the reader forms to bring us over to Newt’s side of things.

So far, so good.  The story is moving concisely along, pulling the readers into the plot…until wham!  Plakcy throws us into one of Newt’s stories involving Fledglis, the unicorn avenger.  It’s not one or two lines of plot…nope its paragraphs of, in my opinion,  god awful porn.  And while my mind is shuddering over the antics of Fledglis, I’ve disconnected from the other characters and storylines at hand.  Why remove the reader’s interest in the suspenseful nature of Freddie’s predicament and spend it all on some pornographic unicorn and his problems?  I think it was to put us into Newt’s mindset but surely there was another way…like first person internal dialog?  Time and again just when things are getting interesting, here comes clopping/flying horny Fledglis to get in our way.

I did like where the author took this story.  I thought the various couples interesting  in their differences and the events fascinating in the background layers and subject matter, even the mystery was suspenseful, if only a bit predictable.  But that darn unicorn keep spoiling the flow and finally brought the rating down as well.

See, I think Mahu and Kimo have totally spoiled me.  There the narratives are concise, the dialog is amazing, and the location is made believable and authentic by an in-depth knowledge of Hawaiian culture and history that makes that series one of my all time favorite contemporary series and characters.   Because this series was written by Neil Plakcy, I will probably go looking into the first story to see how it all started.  Hopefully, I won’t find any horny unicorns there.

Finding Freddie Venus by Neil S. Plakcy was ultimately a hot mess of a book, albeit a fascinating one. This author never fails to surprise me, and he certainly did that here.  Would I recommend it? Yep, I would.  It’s just too weird not to.  But be warned, its different.  And if you love that in a story and romance, pick it up and start reading it today.

Cover art by Ginny Glass.  The cover works, especially the wing tats on the back of Freddie Venue.  Great job.

Sales Links:  MLR Books   All Romance (ARe)    Amazon    Buy It Here

Book Details:

ebook
Published March 31st 2015 by Loose Id
ISBN139781623008567
edition languageEnglish
urlhttp://www.mahubooks.com/romance.htm
seriesHave Body, Will Guard #7

Books in the Have Body, Will Guard Series:

  • Three Wrong Turns in the Desert (Have Body, Will Guard, #1)
  • Dancing With The Tide (Have Body, Will Guard, #2)
  • Teach Me Tonight (Have Body, Will Guard #3)
  • Olives for the Stranger (Have Body, Will Guard #4)
  • Under the Waterfall (Have Body, Will Guard, #5)
  • The Noblest Vengeance (Have Body, Will Guard #6)
  • Finding Freddie Venus (Have Body, Will Guard #7)

A Mika Review: The Glass House by Suki Fleet

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Rating: 5 star out of 5 stars

The Glass House coverAt seventeen, Sasha is a little lost and a lot lonely. He craves friendship and love, but although he’s outwardly confident, his self-destructive tendencies cause problems, and he pushes people away. Making sculptures out of the broken glass he collects is the only thing that brings him any peace, but it’s not enough and everyday he feels himself dying a little more inside. Until he meets Thomas.

Thomas is shy but sure of himself in a way Sasha can’t understand. He makes it his mission to prove to Sasha that he is worthy of love, and doesn’t give up even when Sasha hurts him. Little by little Sasha begins to trust Thomas. And when Sasha is forced to confront his past he realises accepting the love Thomas gives him is the only way to push back the darkness.

I’m telling you that Suki Fleet is becoming a favorite of mine. Her writing is so beautifully done. She has the power to reach inside of you, and rip out all your emotions. I expect to cry reading her books, and I love every second of it. The Glass House was no different. It flowed from beginning to end effortlessly. I absolutely loved her characters in this one, and I liked the concept…a lot. I normally don’t read YA but this YA had definitely surpassed all expectations. I loved every second of it..

Sasha is remorseful, and cynical in a way a teenager should not be. I was rooting for him from the start. He doesn’t have it easy with his life. I almost felt sorry for him, but then I stopped because he stopped feeling sorry for himself. I know all about teenage angst and the ability to lash out to hurt others in order to protect yourself. Goodness, someone was looking out for him, because they sent Sasha a beautiful loving angel in Thomas. Thomas made me smile so much. He did not want much; he just wanted to be loved and to give love. I truly like how they came together; there was such innocence about them together.

I think Sasha reacted in a way that made sense. He’s still emotionally closed off from being abandoned by his mother. Her reappearance in his life had the potential to push him over the edge. If it wasn’t for Corinne and Thomas I don’t think emotionally Sasha could have recovered.

I liked Corinne and Thomas’s grandmother; those two women were very supportive in these boys’ lives. I was so happy at the end, and even those moments of uncertainty weren’t enough to steer clear for me. I will be reading more by Suki Fleet.

Cover Art by: Aaron Anderson. I think this cover was beautifully done. This is how Sasha sees himself, and he was in the darkness for a long time, before he was able to come into the light. I like the symbolism of it.

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

Book Details:

ebook, 180 pages, also available in paperback
Published April 16th 2015 by Harmony Ink Press
original titleThe Glass House
ISBN139781634760515
edition languageEnglish

In Our Book Spotlight: Young Love, Old Hearts Anthology (giveaway)

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Young Love, Old Hearts Anthology

Contributing Authors:  A. M. Leibowitz, Adrian J. Smith, Erin McRae & Racheline Maltese, Geonn Cannon, Helena Maeve, Kassandra Lea, Lela E. Buis, Ralph Greco Jr., & Stacy O’Steen

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Release Date: May 1, 2015

Goodreads Link
Publisher: Supposed Crimes, LLC
Cover Artist: C.E. Case

STRW Author BookSynopsis

Everyone hears “He’s too young for you.” “She’s too old for you.” Not between these pages. This anthology crosses the age gap with nine enchanting stories of cross-generational relationships. Some are sweet, some are sexy, some are heartbreaking. One is downright murderous. The protagonists are gay men or women searching for true love or trying out what’s right in front of them.

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Pages or Words: 54,480 words, 168 pages

Categories: M/M Romance, F/F Romance, May-December Romance

STRW Author Bio and Contacts
About the Authors:

A. M. Leibowitz: A. M. Leibowitz is a spouse, parent, feminist, and book-lover falling somewhere on the Geek-Nerd Spectrum. She keeps warm through the long, cold western New York winters by writing romantic plot twists and happy-for-now endings. Her published fiction includes her first novel, Lower Education, as well as a number of short works, and her stories have been included in several anthologies. In between noveling and editing, she blogs coffee-fueled, quirky commentary on faith, culture, writing, and her family at amleibowitz.com.

Adrian J. Smith: AJ is a Christian, author, editor, spouse and all around crazy person. She’s constantly doing something at any given time and never learned to practice the word “relax.” AJ loves stories with a dramatic flair, stories that aren’t afraid to take risk and characters that are as real as the person sitting next to her. You can find her on twitter (@AdrianAJSmith) or her website (adrianjsmith.wordpress.com).

Erin McRae & Racheline Maltese: Erin McRae and Racheline Maltese are authors of the gay romance series Love in Los Angeles from Torquere Press. Their gay romance novella Midsummer (Love’s Labour 1), is from Dreamspinner Press (May 2015). They also have a story in Best Gay Romance 2015 from Cleis Press and edited by Felice Picano. You can find them on the web at http://www.Avian30.com.

Geonn Cannon: Geonn Cannon has been writing for nearly twenty years. Among the genres he’s written are drama, romance, mystery, western, steampunk, and thriller. The only thing he’s completely against writing are bios. Find him at geonncannon.com


Helena Maeve: Helena Maeve has always been globetrotter with a fondness for adventure, but only recently has she started putting to paper the many stories she’s collected in her excursions. She can usually be found in an airport or on a plane, furiously penning away in her trusty little notebook.

Kassandra Lea: Growing up Kassandra Lea wanted to be Batman or a horse, then she discovered writing and the ability to live vicariously through her characters. She lives in southern WI with a gang full of furry-feathered monsters and a ghost that’s infatuated with the bathroom light.

Lela E. Buis: Lela E. Buis lives in Tennessee and is working hard at writing just lately. In past lives she worked at Kennedy Space Center and at a couple of different colleges. She takes care of four cats and a part time dog.

Ralph Greco, Jr.: Ralph Greco, Jr. is a professional writer living in the wilds of New Jersey suburbia.

Stacy O’Steen: Stacy spends her days pedaling wares to the masses but at night she’s free to roam and explore the reaches of her imagination. She loves crafting, nerdy things and generally making a mess. Find her at stacyosteen.com


Tour Dates & Stops: May 8, 2015
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Parker Williams, Scattered Thoughts & Rogue Words, Fangirl Moments and My Two Cents, Inked Rainbow Reads, Bayou Book Junkie, BFD Book Blog, Molly Lolly, Love Bytes, Hearts on Fire, Cate Ashwood, Divine Magazine, Elisa – My Reviews and Ramblings, Book Reviews, Rants, and Raves, MM Good Book Reviews, Rainbow Gold Reviews, Velvet Panic, Wicked Faerie’s Tales and Reviews, Andrew Q. Gordon

 

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Contest: Must be 18 years of age or older to enter. Link and Prizes provided by the authors and Pride Promotions. Enter to win a Rafflecopter Prize: E-copy of the anthology.

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