A MelanieM Review: Three Nick Nowak Mysteries (Boystown #1) by Marshall Thornton

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Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5

Finalist for the Lambda Award in Gay Mystery, Boystown: Three Nick Nowak Mysteries takes place in Chicago during the early 1980s. Haunted by his abrupt departure from the Chicago Police Department and the end of his relationship with librarian Daniel Laverty, Nick Nowak is a beat cop-turned-dogged private investigator. In this first book of the series, Nick works through three cases: a seemingly simple missing persons search, an arson investigation, and a suicide that turns out to be anything but. While working the cases, Nick moves through a series of casual relationships until he meets homicide detective Bert Harker and begins a tentative relationship.

Marshall Thornton’s other stories made me a die hard fan but these? Made me  want to go out and plant some sort of narrative equivalent of the gold star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame.  How Nick Novak would have hated that.  Probably Marshall Thornton too.

Also I’ve already read far ahead in this magnificent series.  Had I not done that, this story would have rated higher but I have the truly stunning, haunting stories ahead as comparison.  Fair or not, I know that is but a solid, excellent building block for the gritty unforgettable heartbreak to come.

Its is funny thing about historical fiction.  Writing stories too far ahead and authors run the risk of readers who either have little interest or knowledge of those eras in which they are writing.  That can be from ancient Greece all the way through Edwardian times. Hell, I’ll throw the Civil War in there, embarrassingly enough.  Then you have what many call the recent historical fiction, stories written maybe a mere decades away from our current times.   That’s a completely different animal as they say because so many readers still remember those times.   That’s where this series fits in.

Boystowns and this first book which contains three Nick Novak tales takes place in the 1980’s.  For gay men in Chicago (or anywhere), it’s a time of change.  Almost entirely forgotten are those hated days of being called perverts and jailed automatically. Now gay flags are flying. Gay sex means quick anonymous hookups, rampant promiscuity, a sense of freedom after being in the closet and being jailed for your sexuality.  OK, yes, you could still lose your job in places, yes you still need to be circumspect in  some areas of your life but men are out and gay.  There are Pride Parades and PFlag. But still there’s gay bashing. And also the first whispers of a mysterious gay flu spreading through parts of the population of gay men in the United States.

Thornton brings the 80’s back with electric typewriters,  disco music, cars and all the other items of the day that scream that era but nicely folded into the narrative in such a way that it’s a subtle reminder rather than a blaring signpost.  Always at the center is Nick Novak, the ultimate reminder himself.  It’s in his behavior, one hookup after the other, doesn’t matter whether hes’ on the job or not. It’s in his mannerisms and in the way he talks and the way he lives. It also doesn’t matter whether he’s in a relationship or not.  Monogamy is not Nick’s thing here.  Nor was it in the 80’s.  Remember that was more of a heteronormative “thing”.  Plus casual sex, swinging sex?  Sex in the parks, bathhouses, no condoms?  That was the norm of the day and Nick is the king follower.

There will be many readers out there who dismiss books because of what they consider “cheating” elements.  But you have to understand the times.  This is not a romance book, that was not the 80’s.  Don’t go into these complicated, messy emotional stories with those expectations.  But these are stories filled with love of many types.

Nick and his first love were victims of a horrendous gay bashing.  It cost Nick his job as a police office and his lover, who underwent many facial reconstruction surgeries. He left Nick when he felt that Nick didn’t stick up for him. Nick is still working his way through the emotional impact of that event when we meet him here.

The stories are gritty and real.  The people you meet are sometimes ugly, mean, or tired and sad.  Even the sex feels dirty at times.  But it comes across as authentic and haunting, especially as you know the context.  We know the history.  And with each story Nick grapples more with his own recovery and past history, trying to move forward.

I can’t being to tell you how remarkable this series it.  As I said these three stories represent only the beginning building blocks for the truly stunning, heart grabbers to come.

There isn’t a missed step narratively speaking.  It’s perfection.  Marshall Thornton is building a masterpiece.  All ten books.

Start on your journey with him and Nick Novak here.

 

Cover art is simple, evocative of mood of the stories.

Sales Link:Amazon US | Amazon UK

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 241 pages
Published January 9th 2015 (first published November 1st 2009)
ASINB00QXSTXE2
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesBoystown #1 settingChicago, Illinois (United States)
Illinois (United States)

Series:

Boystown Bundle 1 – 3 – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Book #4 A Time For Secrets – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Book #5 Murder Book – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Book #6 From The Ashes – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Book #7 Bloodlines – Amazon US | Amazon UK (ON SALE for 99c)
Book #8 The Lies That Bind – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Book #9 Lucky Days – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Book #10 Gifts Given – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Book #11 Hearts Desire – Amazon US | Amazon UK (PREORDER)

A MelanieM Release Day Review: Under a Blue Moon (Camp H.O.W.L. #2) by Bru Baker

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Once in a blue moon, opposites find they’re a perfect match.

Nick Perry is tired of helping people with their marriages, so when a spot opens up to work with teens at Camp H.O.W.L., he jumps at it. He doesn’t expect to fall in lust with the dreamy new camp doctor, Drew Welch. But Drew is human, and Nick has seen secrets ruin too many relationships to think that a human/werewolf romance can go anywhere.

Happy-go-lucky Drew may not sprout claws, but he’s been part of the Were community all his life. He has no trouble fitting in at the camp—except for Nick’s stubborn refusal to acknowledge the growing attraction between them and his ridiculous stance on dating humans. Fate intervenes when one of his private practice patients threatens Drew’s life. Will the close call help Nick to see a connection like theirs isn’t something to let go of?

Under a Blue Moon by Bru Baker is another strong novel in her Camp H.O.W.L. series. Camp H.O.W.L. is a highly expensive, secluded extended training ground for all were’s undergoing their first shifts.  Complete with psychologists, trainers, other doctors, and seasoned counselors who have been through it all, these teenagers are there to understand their new status and adjust that to the outside world…ie without letting the humans know that shifters exist.

It’s a remarkable theme to base a series on and it absolutely works as various staff have rotated out with each story.  Plus we have gotten to know the staff that remain as well as some endearing and not so endearing teens.

In Under a Blue Moon we have two new staff arriving at Camp H.O.W.L., one arriving as a result of the coupling from the first story (highly recommended).  It starts off hot, anonymous, and yes, meet cute.  Then things go downhill from there.

I really loved that beginning but unfortunately it sets up Nick Perry as a bit of a jerk for most of the rest of the story.   His stubbornness in failing to see Drew as anything other than a frail, unworthy human becomes especially irritating in the face of Drew having proved over and over that he’s anything but. I could see it at first but it carried on throughout the storyline far too long imo. Throw in the fact that Drew has been raised in a  pack environment for most of his life?  Well, after the upteenth time, you just get tired of reading about Nick period.  It wears you down.

What redeems the story is Drew.  He’s a terrific character as are all the secondary ones around him, many of whom you have met already in the first story.  The series basics as well as the book foundations are amazing.  They push you through the annoying elements until finally Nick overcomes his “human blindness” and sees the real Drew who is more than a match for him.

There was a lovely ending and of course, it makes me want the next story even more.

Want a great twist on a shifter romance and series?  Look no farther than the Camp H.O.W.L. series by Bru Baker.

Cover art:  Aaron Anderson.  Love the cover.  Works in every way.

Sales Links:

Amazon

Dreamspinner Press

Barnes and Noble

Kobo

iBooks

Google Play

Book Details:

ebook, 228 pages
Expected publication: June 19th 2018 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN139781640806962
Edition LanguageEnglish
Series Camp H.O.W.L.

Camp H.O.W.L.

Under a Blue Moon

A VVivacious Review: Just A Week (Just A #1) by Jena Wade

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Rating: 3.5 Stars out of 5

Seth finds himself in Milton for a week, a town he was happy to see in his rear view mirror when he got out of it at the end of high school. He doesn’t want to be here but as he keeps reminding himself it’s only for a week. A week that suddenly seems too short when he finds himself intrigued by an orange haired skater, but can Seth find time in his carefully planned life to let love run its course…?

This is a sweet story featuring Seth Brown, a guy who has his entire life planned out and Maddox, a guy living life, flying by the seat of his pants. Seth and Maddox are polar opposites when it comes to how they live their lives and that makes their attraction that much more compelling.

This is a slow paced romance, it’s not exactly slow but everything happens in its own time, I guess the right word to describe the pace of the book would be unhurried which is quite ironic considering the title.

Seth and Maddox realise the connection that they share is unique but they can’t decide if a week of knowing someone is something you can base a relationship of off. 

I liked the story, it’s kind of soft and fluffy with no peaks and troughs, sitting in a comfortable middle. Though this book didn’t get a reaction out of me one way or another by the end of the book I found myself rooting for Maddox and Seth.

The main plot of the story is Seth coming to the realisation that life just happens and no matter how much you plan, life has a way of blindsiding you, and that when love comes knocking you really need to embrace it but I also really liked the sub plot of the story which is Maddox making Seth realise that he has been colouring everyone in Milton with the same brush and while some people have hurt him and maybe would continue to do so, there are more people in his home town who would openly embrace him.

Cover Art by Silver Heart Design. I liked the cover especially the silhouette of the skater at the bottom.

Sales Links:  Amazon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 78 pages
Published May 12th 2018 (first published July 5th 2016)
Original TitleJust A Week
ASINB07D239YPZ
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesJust A #1

A Lucy Review: The Best Worst Honeymoon Ever by Andrew Grey

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Rating: 3 stars out of 5

Tommy is a wealthy game designer who is so happy to be getting married to the man of his dreams, Xavier.  All the plans are made, the expensive honeymoon is booked and he’s anxiously awaiting his groom.  Except when said groom shows up, he has the hangover from hell and some incredibly upsetting news.  “I can’t do this.  The wedding and everything you’ve got planned.  It’s too much.”  And so Tommy is left at the altar to explain to guests why there will be no wedding.  The only saving grace is Tommy has his best friend, Grayson, and Grayson’s son, Petey there for moral support. 

When Tommy decides to take Grayson and Petey on that expensive honeymoon he blocks Xavier’s number and tries to concentrate on healing, at least a little.  They are at a luxury resort on an island, a trip that Xavier wanted, not the water-hating Tommy.  It seems Tommy had done so much trying to make Xavier happy, it was heartbreaking.  “Because I wanted him to love me.  Because I was so desperate to be loved by someone, and not be alone, that I didn’t see that Xavier didn’t really care and was only interested in me for …what I had.”

For his part, Grayson has had feelings for Tommy for a while but he’s never let Tommy know.  At one point he was going to let Tommy know but that was when Tommy met Xavier, so Grayson let it drop, living with being in the friend zone.  He also has to worry about Petey.  His last boyfriend, Jeffrey, was first a friend who was close to both he and Petey, but after they broke up he deserted both of them and it was hard on Petey.  He doesn’t want that to happen again.

I liked that they took Tommy out of his comfort zone in the water and got him out doing things.  There is a twist with Xavier that shows Grayson’s protective side.  A sting from paradise happens and I like the fact that their feelings and relationship were not based on that.  It didn’t take a near miss for them to know they cared.

I had questions about some of this book, however.  Xavier claims at one point he has nothing but his job and his car, yet he was able to take an expensive flight to Bonaire.  Where did that money come from?   He says that he realized that he wouldn’t have a good marriage because Tommy was always working and so got cold feet but he charged upwards of three thousand dollars on Tommy’s credit card.  The biggest issue for me, though, was that even though Xavier didn’t love him, Tommy had clearly loved him, so the moving on to Grayson after just days seemed too quick.  He says at one point, “It feels like Xavier left me yesterday, and it hurts, Grayson.  It really hurts.”  That was just a week after the wedding-that-wasn’t, so of course it hurts.  I know that Xavier being a douche helped things along but it did seem too fast.

Supporting characters such as Petey and Aunt Gin, were awesome.  Aunt Gin, that’s the woman I want to be and if I can’t, I want her in my corner.  She made me so happy.   “Just like that she had switched from aunt to family lawyer and all-around advice giver.”   She is the reason Tommy wasn’t more financially hurt by Xavier. 

Cover Art by Bree Archer is a little nondescript.  A blond smiling man with the ocean in the background.  I’m not sure if he is supposed to be Tommy or Grayson.  It’s a pretty cover, just not really definitive as to the story.

Sales Links: 

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

Dreamspinner Press

Book Details:

Kindle Edition
Expected publication: June 19th 2018 by Dreamspinner Press
ASINB07DFDBL8R

Blog tour The Best Worst Honeymoon Ever by Andrew Grey (Exclusive Excerpt and Giveaway)

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Title: The Best Worst Honeymoon Ever
Author: Andrew Grey
Series: House Line DreamSpun Desires | #60
Genre:  M/M
Contemporary Romance
Release Date: June 19 2018
Edition/Formats Available In: eBook & Print
Blurb/Synopsis:

How can heartbreak turn into happily ever after?
Tommy Gordon is all set for happily ever after—until heartbreak strikes when his husband-to-be leaves him at the altar. In a bid for distraction, his best friend, Grayson Phillips, suggests he takes advantage of the luxury honeymoon anyway! But the last thing Tommy wants is to go alone, so he invites Grayson and his son, Petey, along.
Beautiful Bonaire lends itself to romance, and along with close quarters, relaxing on the water, and a matchmaking kid, Tommy and Grayson soon find themselves closer than ever… and considering more, much to Grayson’s delight. But before they can plan the best best honeymoon ever, dark clouds descend in the form of Tommy’s ex and a sting from paradise that could ruin everything.

Tommy took a deep breath and went to the door. Grayson stopped him and pointed to one of the chairs. Tommy sat down, trying not to hyperventilate.

“Xavier, what are you doing?”

“I need to talk to Tommy,” Xavier said, sounding like shit.

Grayson turned to him, and Tommy lifted his gaze, nodding. Clearly there was something wrong and he needed to deal with it. Whatever plans he’d made were most likely out the window anyway. He certainly hadn’t envisioned a drunk, hung-over groom.

Grayson stepped back, pulling open the door, and Xavier half stumbled in, looking worse than Tommy could ever have imagined.

“What the heck happened?” He hurried over, but Xavier stopped him by putting up his hand. “Are you sick?”

“I’m fine,” Xavier managed to say, slowly sitting himself down. “Gary and I went out as sort of a last hurrah, and we overdid it.” He raised his face, and Tommy got a good look at his glassy eyes.

“Okay. We still have time. Grayson and I can help you get ready,” Tommy said gently.

Xavier shook his head of thick black hair, and then his deep brown eyes cleared of some of their rumminess. “I can’t do this. The wedding and everything that you’ve got planned. It’s too much.” Xavier sat back as all the oxygen seemed to leave the room. Tommy’s head grew light, and fuck it all, he was going to faint, but Grayson was there, holding his arm. “You want more than I think I can give.”

“You waited to tell him now, twenty minutes before the wedding?” Grayson yelled. “You bastard!”

“I’ve spent the last few days trying to think about what I was going to do.” Xavier hiccupped, and his alcohol breath was enough to knock over an elephant. “I thought if I drank and told myself that I loved you and that I really wanted to do this, everything would be all right. But it isn’t true, and I can’t go through with this.” Xavier got to his feet, half stumbled toward the door, and pulled it open. “I’ll see you around.” He left and closed the door with a click after him.

Tommy watched, openmouthed, too stunned to move. The room had turned bone chillingly cold. “What did he just tell me? That he didn’t love me?” He couldn’t feel his fingers, and then his hands and feet went numb. He tried to think of what he was going to do, but nothing at all came to mind.

“Uncle Tommy,” Petey called as he raced into the room, practically barreling into him. “I saw Uncle Xavier and he looked sick. What’s wrong?” Petey looked at him and then turned to Grayson.

“Uncle Tommy isn’t going to get married. Xavier chickened out and wasn’t man enough to tell Uncle Tommy until right now.” The anger in Grayson’s voice simmered just below the surface. “What he really needs is a hug.”

Petey climbed up on the chair, stood up, and hugged Tommy, and Tommy closed his eyes, willing the rest of the world to go away.