A MelanieM Review: Coming Back (The Belladonna Arms #3) by John Inman

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Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5

Coming Back coverBarney Teegarden knows what it’s like to be alone. He knows what it’s like to have a romantic heart, yet no love in his life to unleash the romance on. With the help of a friend, he acquires a lease in a seedy apartment building perched high on a hill in downtown San Diego. The Belladonna Arms is not only filled with the quirkiest cast of characters imaginable, it is also famous for sprinkling love dust on even the loneliest of the lovelorn.

At the Arms, Barney finds friendship, acceptance, and an adopted family that lightens his lonely life. Hell, he even finds a cat. But still true love eludes him.

When his drag queen landlord, Arthur, takes it into his head to rescue a homeless former tenant, he enlists Barney’s help. It is Barney who shows this lost soul how to trust again—and in return Barney discovers love for the first time in his life.

It’s funny how even the hardest battles can be fought and won with laughter, hugs, friends, plus a little faith in the goodness of others. All it takes to begin the healing is the simple act of coming back.

Two books ago I fell in love with a dilapidated apartment building on top a hill in San Diego, filled full of gay misfits looking for love.  The Belladonna Arms, old neon sign sputtering to life each night, apparently is home to love pollen, the stuff just “rains down the walls” as one resident after another finds their soulmate in John Inman’s wonderful heartwarming Belladonna Arms stories.  With one tragic exception.

In Coming Back, John Inman, heals that terrible wound and gets the Belladonna Arms love pollen working overtime again with a new arrival in Barney Teegarden, a friend and coworker of Pete (husband of Sylvia’s).   Barney is looking for a new place to live and for someone to love and love him back.  The  latter being important.  Most of the people Barney has loved haven’t returned the emotion and he’s  ready for that to change.  Pete swears that the Belladonna Arms can work magic but after seeing the rundown place Barney’s just not sure.  Barney has just arrived at the multi-couple yard sale in front of the Belladonna Arms so he can meet Arthur, the owner and manager.

 The next thing I knew, I was face-to-face with the gigantic drag queen in the platinum Veronica Lake wig. At the moment, he had four feather boas draped around his tree-trunk-sized neck, each gaudier than the next. He was waving them around, trying to attract a buyer, until Pete shoved me into his face, and said, “Arthur, I want you to meet Barney. Barney needs a place to live.”

Arthur slipped ham-sized hands into my armpits and lifted me a foot off the ground to stare directly into my eyes. I hung there like a Christmas ornament, wishing the fuck he would put me down. “You’re a cutie,” he said in a booming baritone that rolled through lips saturated with peach-tinted lip gloss. “And you’re a friend of Pete’s?”

“Yes, sir. I mean, ma’am. I mean, sir.” His lips spread wide in a grin. He gave me a little shake, as if he were trying to dislodge some fruit from my branches, then gently set me on the ground.

“Done,” he said.

“What’s done?” I asked.

“Your apartment. It’s ready for you to move into whenever you’re ready. There’s a vacancy right next to Pete and Sylvia.”

I blinked. “No shit?”

“No shit.”

“I’m a tenant?”

“You’re a tenant.”

And just like that Barney has become a member of a wonderfully quixotic and dear group of people who make up the family that is the Belladonna Arms.  It helps that Pete and Sylvia are next door neighbors and good friends  already.

 

“Thank you, Arthur!” Pete cried. “Barney will be your best tenant ever.”

Arthur pinched Pete’s cheek and ruffled his hair. “I’m sure he will.” Then he turned to me. “Got a lover?”

“Uh… no.” Arthur pulled me into his massive, hairy, Opium-scented arms and squeezed me so hard I thought I felt an organ burst. “Well, don’t worry, honey. The building will take care of that.” “The building,” I grunted, trying to draw a breath. He eyed me with his one visible eyebrow cocked high. “That’s right. The building. Ever hear of love pollen?”

 “Uh, nope.”

He blessed me with a secretive smile. “You will. It simply rains down from the walls in this place. And when that pollen touches you, you’re lost.”

I gazed over the feather boas draped across Arthur’s shoulders, tried not to sneeze because one of them was tickling my nose, and stared up at the homely old edifice standing in front of me. “Love pollen,” I whispered beneath my breath, wondering what the hell the guy was talking about. I gave myself a shake to dislodge any droplets of insanity that might have drifted down upon me like the ever-present glitter, and thought, Oookay, not my circus, not my monkeys. But since the Belladonna Arms was apparently my circus now, and since I would soon be one of the many monkeys inhabiting the joint, I found myself grinning in spite of myself. Because I suddenly knew—I just knew—this particular circus was going to fit me like a glove. Love pollen or no love pollen, for one of the first times in my life, I felt as if I’d come home. I blushed one last time when Pete planted a kiss on one of my cheeks and Arthur planted a kiss on my other. Both men loomed over and around me, patting and cooing, making me feel safe and loved and welcome. Embarrassed by the sudden surge of emotion welling up inside me, I plucked one of the boas from around Arthur’s neck, and draped it over my own. “How much?” I asked in a ragged voice. Arthur gave the boa a theatrical flourish, fluffing it beneath my chin and flipping it rakishly over my shoulder so the end trailed down over my ass. When he was satisfied I was properly adorned, he gave me another peck on the cheek. “For you, honey? Nothing. It’s a housewarming gift. Welcome home.”

The way John Inman writes that scene, I feel as though I had been swept up in Arthur’s embrace as well.  And into the Belladonna Arms Barney  goes.  But you have to be a special sort of person to look past the dated exterior, the patches and painted over windows to see the magic, and Barney is  that sort of person, knobby furred knees and all.   Barney has an open mind and heart that’s a perfect match for the quirkiness and  eccentrics that reside in the Belladonna Arms and for the events that occur there.  And Arthur has a plan in mind and needs Barney’s help to make it work.

If John Inman is able to bring laughter to love, he doesn’t forget the pain that sometimes  arrives as well.  In Coming Back, Barney and Arthur try to deal with the horrific aftermath of a love affair gone lethally wrong in the previous book.  In some of the most moving moments in the story, Arthur and Barney go  to reclaim a human being and bring them back home.  I cried buckets.    I loved this whole aspect  of the story.  It was beautifully written, sensitive and real.  It brought the Belladonna Arms stories into another level of authenticity and grittiness it did quite have before.

Of course, then it then switched course and we flow into some of the funniest passages John Inman has ever written, starting with:

“THUS BEGAN, according to Arthur, an orgy of butchery not seen since Vlad the Impaler started hosting block parties at his fixer-upper castle with the dungeon to die for back in Romania in the fifteenth century.”

No, no, we’re talking cutting hair! Really, people. And the author brings back that apartment jumping cat, only even that cat seems to be wanting some stability and a home.  How I love this series..

Coming  Back is a book to warm your heart, make you cry more than once and make you feel so good that  you go to sleep smiling, thinking about the story and  the characters and love pollen.  This is a feel good novel and one I absolutely recommend as I do all the Belladonna Arms stories. I know there are more stories on the way, I can’t wait to see who the next newcomer is to get their dose of love pollen!

Cover art by Aaron Anderson is a little too dark and sepia toned for me.  I get what he was going for, still too one color for a place as full of vibrant characters as the Belladonna Arms.

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

Book Details:

ebook, 200 pages. also in paperback
Published August 17th 2015 by Dreamspinner Press LLC
ISBN13 9781634762328
edition language English
The Belladonna Arms Series:

 

 

A Sammy Review: The World in His Eyes by A. J. Thomas

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

My dad always says if there aren’t zombies involved in a catastrophe, it’s not worth worrying about.

The World In His Eyes coverLarry Myers works tirelessly to get his doctorate. That means long hours and grueling shifts of sometimes seeing the worst possible things happen to people, especially on his rotation in the ER. Though he loves what he’s doing, it’s not exactly conducive to a relationship, so he often resorts to Grindr for a little destressing between the sheets.

One day he stumbles upon the picture of a man who captures him with his eyes. He takes the chance and writes to the guy named Brandon. What starts as an innocent way to get release quickly becomes more when the two manage to connect on a level that’s night normal for a hookup. But between their jobs, family, and some disagreeable friends, a relationship may be out of the picture, but maybe it’s worth a shot.

“He can’t take on the world,” Larry insisted. “But he’s the only one who’s ever tried to take on the world on my behalf.”

From the very moment I saw this prompt up for claim for this years Don’t Read in the Closet event (Love is an Open Road), I was incredibly excited. This screamed for the author to tell an honest story that didn’t disregard race or use it as some sort of ploy. When A.J. Thomas picked it up, my excitement grew. What I’ve read by her has been quite good, and I was looking forward to seeing what she could do with this.

She did not disappoint. She created this story of two men who are both very independent. Larry, a black man striving to be a doctor and dealing with his mother being in a nursing home, and Brandon, a man who is living in his father’s shadow at the software company he works for. They both felt so real to be… like two completely honest characters, down to some of the quirks of hooking up with a doctor (they may have to leave you midthrust when their pager goes off, whoops!)

It had dashes of humor and the right touch of seriousness. There were so many strong characters, such as Larry’s mom, who Larry didn’t give enough credit to but was a truly shining part of the story. Then you have Larry’s best friend (and ex-girlfriend) August who is a strong female and made me smile a few times.

I thoroughly enjoyed every word of it, and I would love to see A.J. Thomas write more about real black characters. Why? She didn’t ignore race. She brought it in perfectly without making it the focus of the story. It felt real, it was real. There needs to be more of those kinds of characters in M/M stories. Thank you for giving me one, A.J. If you happen to want to write more, well, I’m here to gobble it right up.

The cover art by A.J. Thomas is very simple. While it’s not the most design heavy, I’d prefer that from an author who doesn’t have experience in graphic design. She seemed to understand that and not try to make it into something it wasn’t, so I do appreciate that. It’s simple but not ugly.

No Sales Links:  Free

Book Details:

ebook, 128 pages
Published August 5th 2015 by M/MRomanceGroup.com
edition language English
setting Santa Clara, California (United States)
San Jose, California (United States)
Oakland, California (United States)

A Paul Review: Pint-Sized Protector (Wolves of Stone Ridge #30) by Charlie Richards

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Rating: 4 out of 5 starts    

Pint Sized Protector coverReturning home from a negotiation mission for his wolf shifter pack, Cayden Rochette smells the scent of his mate upon entering the house he shares with his brothers.  Can he convince the skittish cat shifter that his problems are behind him and to accept Cayden as his mate?

Ajax has recently been rescued from a group of scientists.  Having spent most of his life in his Andean mountain cat form trying to survive in the wild after the death of his mother, he prefers that form to his human one.  Currently staying with a wolf pack that helped attain his freedom, Ajax is waiting for the time to leave the wolves behind and return to his favorite pastime of climbing trees away from civilization.

Cayden Rochette is a negotiator for the Stone Ridge wolf pack.  He has been away talking with a local coyote pack about expanding the wolf pack’s territory.  He arrives back home and is met by his brothers.  When he goes to introduce himself to the shifter that is staying in their collective home, he realizes that the Andean mountain cat is his mate.

After Cayden convinces Ajax to shift and tells him that they are mates, Ajax has no idea what he is talking about.  However, Ajax is drawn to Cayden because of the mate pull.  Afraid that hunters might take him again, Ajax expresses his concern to Cayden.  Cayden assures him that they are on pack lands and nothing will happen to him.  However, one of the coyotes of the pack that Cayden negotiated with is not happy with the deal that he made with the coyote alpha and comes to renegotiate the terms of the deal.  When Cayden says he will deal only with the alpha, the coyote shifter promises to be back.

This is the thirtieth edition of the Wolves of Stone Ridge series.  As with a few of the books in this series, it deals with a rescued shifter who meets their mate because of their rescue.  Ajax’s innocence and naivety comes across as sweet even though it has been used before in this series.  However, Ajax does show he is not to be messed with later in the book.

The cover art by Angela Waters shows Cayden in his human form with Ajax in his mountain cat form in the background.  It is a pretty standard cover for the series.

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

Book Details

Ebook, 104 pages,
Edition:  English
ISBN:  978-1-4874-0473-1
Published:  August 1, 2015 by Extasy Books
Series:  Wolves of Stone Ridge

Find the list of all 30 books to date 

  at eXtasy Books  or at Goodreads Wolves of Stone Ridge Page

A Stella Audiobook Review: Heart of the Race by Mary Calmes, Greg Tremblay (Narrator) (Audiobook)

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Rating 4 stars out of 5 (3,5 story/4,5 audio)audiobook clipart bw

Heart of the RAce audio coverVarro Dacien spends his life riding toward the next adventure. Brian Christie, his best friend and touchstone, the one person who’s always truly seen him, plays sidekick on these madcap adventures and subsequent trips to the hospital until he can’t take it anymore. While Brian can see Varro, Varro has never caught on that he’s breaking his best friend’s heart. 

Without Varro, Brian builds himself a life that’s all about just getting by, doing his best to ignore the hole in his heart and his life. Without Brian to balance him, Varro pushes harder and takes more risks to reach that ultimate high. His job racing high-octane bikes on suicide-level courses makes it easy to get that rush… until it’s no longer enough and Varro realizes it’s not the race, but who’s waiting at the finish line that truly matters. Now he just has to convince Brian to be there. 

Heart Of The Race was my first official audiobook. I only listened to a couple while I run, but this one was “serious”. I chose this specific audio for different reasons: first of all it’s short, just a couple of hours, and so if you are basically a audiobook virgin like me it could be the perfect one for you, as it was to me. Then, sorry everyone, but it’s Mary Calmes we’re talking about. I’m her biggest fan. She wrote what can be consider probably my all time favorite m/m book, Frog (I read it in English and Italian too and my heart just missed a beat when it realized there’s the audio version too *sigh*). So of course I was going to pick this up. Least but not last the narrator, Greg Tremblay was recommended to me by a friend for another audio. I  read the ebook a couple of years ago so I already knew what the story was about and I was confident I could fill up my “English listening gaps” with help from my memory. I don’t want to talk a lot about the story, once you read the blurb and know that this is written in perfect Mary’s style, you’re pretty much set for the ride.

I prefer to linger a little on the narrator and his qualities, and what great ones they are! I admit I was a little scared at first, because I know I can read English pretty well but listening to it? Intimidating. In my opinion Greg made a great work in making the words understandable and to me it was really important. I liked his voice, listenable and always with the rigth tone, in every little detail, from the different voices (but believable) to the short hot moments. I felt  it was true. I’m not sure if it’s normal or it was just me and the novelty of the first real time of an audiobook, but sometimes I found myself not only picturing Varro and Brian in my head, and  whole drama they made for themselves, but the narrator too and his experience in recording. I don’t know, it was two times engaging.

Of course I want to recommend this novellas by Mary Calmes but I want to highly recommend Greg Tremblay. I’m going to check out more about his works.

Cover art by Catt Ford. No other cover could have been more fitting but the style is not my favorite.

Sales Links:   Dreamspinner Press  |  Audible  |  Amazon  |  iTunes

Audiobook Details:

  • Audible Audio, 3 pages
  • Published July 6th 2015 by Dreamspinner Press LLC (first published May 31st 2013)
  • ASIN B0112WWFDE
  • Edition Language English

In the Book Spotlight: Buchanan House by Charley Descoteaux

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Buchanan House by Charley Descoteaux
Release Date: August 19, 2015

Goodreads Link
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Cover Artist: LC Chase

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Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press  |  Amazon

Blurb

Eric Allen, thirty-three-year-old line cook, moved in with his grandmother, Jewell, after a disastrous coming-out when he was in middle school. She raised him, and he cared for her when she fell ill. When Jewell died she left everything to Eric—angering his parents and older brother. The inheritance isn’t much, but Eric and his bestie Nathan pool their money and buy an abandoned hotel on an isolated stretch of the Central Oregon Coast. The hotel isn’t far from Lincoln City—a town with its own Pride Festival and named for a president—so they christen it Buchanan House after James Buchanan, the “confirmed bachelor” president with the close male friend.

Eric and Nathan need a handyman to help them turn Buchanan House into the gay resort of their dreams. Eric finds Tim Tate in the local listings and over the months leading to opening weekend Tim reveals himself as a skilled carpenter with many hidden talents. Eric falls hard for Tim, but before he can see a future with the gorgeous handyman he has to get over twenty years of being bullied and shamed by his birth family. It would be much easier if Eric’s brother Zach weren’t trying to grab part of the inheritance or ruin opening weekend.

Pages or Words: 45,000 words

Categories: Romance, Bisexual, Contemporary, Fiction, Gay Fiction, M/M Romance

Excerpt


Timothy Tate knocked on the front doors at eight o’clock sharp. Eric had barely been up long enough to start coffee, and Nathan had yet to emerge. They’d slept in one of the rooms on the first floor. The official reason was to avoid having to clean two rooms, but the unofficial reason was to talk into the night like they had back in middle school. Slumber parties for thirtysomethings. Somehow that didn’t make Eric feel any better about meeting this Tim person.

But opening the door sure did.

Tim Tate was as tall as Nathan, so six one, and he had curly black hair and eyes so dark you could get lost in them.

“Morning.” He wasn’t much for smiling, though.

“Good morning. Please come in. I’m Eric.”

Tim nodded and seemed to be looking at something behind Eric’s right shoulder. As soon as Eric remembered to step aside, Tim came in. “You bought this place?”

“Yes. Isn’t it lovely? The inspector said the bones are solid, and someone did amazing work on the rooms. Right now, we need help with the kitchen and some reno on the public areas.”

“Should tear it down and start fresh.”

“I beg your pardon. That’s a horrible thing to say. You don’t discard something just because it’s not perfect. With a little love—maybe this isn’t going to work out.”

Tim shrugged and looked around the room. His face seemed to soften into… nostalgia? It held a wistful quality, of that much Eric was certain.

“Have you been in this room before?”

Tim had turned away a little, so the left side of his face pointed toward Eric.

Is that his best side?

He didn’t answer, so Eric repeated the question, a little louder.

“Huh? Oh, yeah. When I was a kid. Sometimes the local clubs would use it for summer camps. It’s been empty for over ten years.”

“Why? I mean, did something happen here?”

“No. The owners died, and their kids didn’t want to live out here. Can’t blame ’em. Entertainment isn’t easy to come by.”

Nathan chose that moment to enter, in his pink robe with the ostrich-feather trim. He spoke quickly, almost dancing through the room and toward the aroma of coffee. “Good morning. You don’t mind I borrowed your robe? And this must be Tim. Lovely to meet you, sweetheart. Coffee, then business.” He flounced into the kitchen.

Eric and Tim watched him go. The silence in his wake stretched out a little too long for Eric, mortified by the thought Tim might believe the robe belonged to him.

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About the Author

Charley Descoteaux has always heard voices. She was relieved to learn they were fictional characters, and started writing when they insisted daydreaming just wasn’t good enough. In exchange, they’ve agreed to let her sleep once in a while. Charley grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area during a drought, and found her true home in the soggy Pacific Northwest. She has survived earthquakes, tornadoes, and floods, but couldn’t make it through one day without stories.

Where to find the author:


Tour Dates & Stops: August 19, 2015

Parker Williams, Havan Fellows, Bayou Book Junkie, Bike Book Reviews, Scattered Thoughts & Rogue Words, Inked Rainbow Reads, BFD Book Blog, Elin Gregory, Christy Loves 2 Read, Prism Book Alliance, Wicked Faerie’s Tales and Reviews, Molly Lolly, Amanda C. Stone, Dawn’s Reading Nook, MM Good Book Reviews, Two Chicks Obsessed With Books and Eye Candy, Velvet Panic, Tara Lain, Full Moon Dreaming, The Blogger Girls, Michael Mandrake, It’s Raining Men

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Enter to win a Rafflecopter Prize: $20 Dreamspinner gift card. Must be 18 years of age or older to enter. Link and prize provided by the author and Pride Promotions.

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