A MelanieM Review: Stand By You (Belonging #3) by A.M. Arthur

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Rating:  4.25 stars out of 5

RStand By You_coveromy Myers is still deep in recovery three months after friends rescued him from the apartment of his abusive boyfriend.  Unable to hold down most jobs, his friends offered him not only a place to stay with them at their apartment, but a  job bussing tables at their new coffee shop, Half Dozen.  Romy has almost completely shutdown, quiet and shaky from the PTSD and trauma he suffered at Carlos’ hands.  The old Romy, flirty, funny, and adorable, was buried deep inside.  After all being that person had almost gotten Romy killed.  Now alone and quiet is the key for Romy these days.  But watching his friends, Donner and Ezra so deeply in love sometimes makes Romy remember when he wanted that too.  Until it all went so wrong.

Brendan Walker has made watching over the wounded Romy sort of his job since he was the one to carry the bleeding man out of that apartment of horrors.  Ex football  player turned building maintenance worker, Brendan stays close, using funny texts and messages to stay close, developing a friendship that helps Romy stay grounded enough to get through social situations.  But Brendan finds Romy occupying his thoughts 24 hours a day.  And feelings start developing towards Romy that no straight man ought to have.

Now Brendan finds himself questioning his sexuality.  If he is gay, is that something his large family will accept?  And Romy finds Brendan protectiveness makes him feel safe, perhaps safe enough to think about love once more.  Can these men put uncertainty and their pasts behind them to make a future together?

Stand By You is the third book in the Belonging series about a close group of friendsby A.M. Arthur.  It is also the only book I have read so far in the series.  Normally I find that an impediment to understanding the characters and events that have already taken place, but in Stand By You, I missed the horrific events that precipitated Romy’s rescue from Carlos as they had already taken place.   Stand By You picks up with a physically recovered Romy still dealing with the emotional aftermath of his captivity and brutal treatment at his boyfriend’s hands.  Romy is such a clearly defined and believable character.It is easy to find yourself emphasizing with his problems and nightmares.  Watching his character learn to trust again was deeply moving and a wonderful part of this story.

Also touching was the figure of Brendan Walker.  A “bruiser” of a man in appearance, Brendan’s real self is that of a considerate, protective, thoughtful person who loves his family so much he is willing to let his assumptions  about their reactions rule his life.  Here Brendan’s biggest fear is being anything other than straight.  His attractions to men don’t start with Romy, so this isn’t a “gay for you” story but one about  acceptance and exploring your sexuality.  Brendan’s journey, while not as wounded a one, is as deeply affecting as Romy’s, especially since they are so intertwined.

There are so many issues that A. M. Arthur addresses in Stand By You, from the impact coming out has on a person and their  family, to the recovery from a trauma both emotional and physical, and people dealing with all facets of their personality, good and bad.  No matter the subject matter and the manner in which Arthur uses it in her story, this author handles it with sensitivity and care.  It makes for lovely reading and layered characters that makes an impression upon the readers from start to finish.

As with Foundation of Trust, Stand By You will drive me back to the other stories in this series.  To meet Donner and Ezra and all the rest and read their stories as well.  As I said, you could read this as a stand alone as I did. It works well as such.  Or go to the beginning (assuming you haven’t already done so) and start from there.  I will be playing catch up!  Either way, consider Stand By You by A.M. Arthur a highly recommended read at Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words.

Cover artist not listed. But that is a good cover for this story.

Sales Links:    Carina Press   All Romance eBooks  amazon  Stand By You

Book Details:

Kindle Edition
Expected publication: October 20th 2014 by Carina Press
ASINB00LSDQNJK

 

Books in the Belonging Series in the order they were written:

No Such Thing (Belonging #1)
Maybe This Time (Belonging #2)
Stand By You (Belonging #3)

A MelanieM Review: The Nesting Habits of Strange Birds by Charley Descoteaux:

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Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5

All he ever wanted was to be a normal guy….

Cover The Nesting Habits of Strange BirdsPhil Brask’s life has been one of abandonment and abuse. Jerry Callahan found and rescued Phil after an attack.  Jerry offered Phil a job, and a home as well as a becoming a mentor to the younger man.  Now Phil lives in Jerry’s basement.  He spends his days in solitude, converting legal documents into electronic format. When Phil is not working, then he lives behind the lens of his camera, photographing nature, including the nesting habits of migratory birds. His only friend and outside contact continues to be Jerry, the father figure and mentor, who understands Phil and his issues.

When the pipe feeding the water heater bursts, Phil’s life undergoes a dramatic change. Plumber Lee Redding arrives to fix the pipe and water damage done to the basement where Phil lives and works. The two men establish a shaky and instantaneous attraction.  And before Phil is even aware, he is drawn away from the narrow focus of his computer and camera lens. Lee gives Phil hope for a life past the walls that Phil has built around himself.  Lee’s arrival  expands Phil’s universe as he meets Lee’s family and band. But there’s a reason Phil retreated behind those walls, why he panics at a simple touch.

Lee’s life is full, if not exactly what he had wanted. He works  with his uncle and helps out on his mother’s farm. He  playis bass in a horrible metal band, and hooking up when he pleases—but he’s always suspected something was missing. When he meets Phil with the icy-blue eyes, he knows exactly what that something is. Phil isn’t like other guys, but neither is Lee beneath his carefree exterior. Lee has his own demons to fight.  Between the two of them, maybe they can help each other past their issues and histories into a future both have always dreamed of.

From the wonderfully quixotic title to the intriguing blurb, this was a book that drew me in with just one glance.  It is also the first book by Charlie Descoteaux that I have read but it certainly won’t be the last.   The Nesting Habits of  Strange Birds is a wondrous journey into the complex minds and lives of two wounded men and their families.  From the surface, each group seems so dissimilar.  But upon closer inspection, each young man carries the scars of their past, if not upon their bodies, then upon their inner selves. And each man’s family (in Phil’s case, it is Jerry) is as different and supportive as each one of the them needs them to be.  The family dynamics and individual give and take found in this story were among the highlights of this amazing novel.

In particular, I loved Lee’s family. It consists of Lee’s mother Tina who runs a holistic farm, his sister Becca who I just adored, and his Uncle Lenny who will grow on you by the end of the story.  Phil’s adopted family can be found in Jerry Callahan, whose past makes him ideal to act as a mentor and father figure to Phil. Every character here is a believable human being, consisting of layer after layer of values, beliefs and faults.  There are so many surprises and delights to be found amongst this group, none of which I am willing to spoil for the reader.  The joy is in the nature of these individuals and the matter of fact manner in which Charley Descoteaux slowly reveals the family dynamics and close relationships found between them all.

Descoteaux’s descriptions are vivid and gripping in their naturalness and authenticity.  The author’s imagery pulls you into the scenes and keeps you involved and part of whatever situation is unfolding at the time.  It doesn’t matter whether it is the Great Blue Herons interacting with their young that Phil is photographing and Lee is observing for the first time or Phil’s introduction to Lee’s band and ear numbing music.  It’s carries an emotional wallop while continuing to be totally absorbing.

Is this story for everyone?  Well, it depends if you are looking for a story that is strictly romance or one where the romance is just another lovely thread in the narrative. If romance is your goal, then perhaps The Nesting Habits of Strange Birds isn’t the story for you.  This story certainly has its dark moments as it should given each man’s background and emotional status.  And the narrative slows down to deal with issues raised during the course of the story line.  There are no “instant cures” for the ailments and issues carried deep inside Phil and Lee.  Instead it documents how these two can learn to adapt, changing enough to allow their lives to expand to include love for each other and their families.  That they achieve it is remarkable and heartwarming.

I absolutely recommend The Nesting Habits of Strange Birds by Charlie Descoteaux.  It’s a slow, thoughtful read with complex characters who find themselves trying to deal with life and sometimes difficult situations.  Its full of love, family, and the strength and courage needed to live a life beyond the barriers we erect to protect ourselves, even if it means that sometimes we get hurt in the process.   Pick it up and decide for yourself.

Cover art by DWS Photography.  I wish there was more to this cover than just two models.  It just doesn’t speak to the story within.

Sales Links:    Dreamspinner Press     All Romance eBooks (ARe)   Amazon       The Nesting Habits of Strange Birds

 

Book Details:

ebook, 200 pages
Published August 11th 2014 by Dreamspinner Press (first published August 10th 2014)
ISBN 1632160447 (ISBN13: 9781632160447)
edition languageEnglish

Review: Second Star to the Right by A.F. Henley

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Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5

Second Star to the Right coverMason Lawrence should be happy.  He is incredibly wealthy, owns a successful company and his days are full with his business and his spare time is spent with friends and business associates.  But Mason is unhappy.  He has long held a crush on his best friend who is straight and very married.  Just spending time with him playing tennis is painful and his friend is beginning to notice a difference in the way Mason is treating him.  Something has to change and it arrives in a totally unexpected manner.

Out of concern for Mason’s lack of companionship, a friend tells Mason about a discrete escort service where Mason might find someone to spend his only vacation with.  Wary but desperate, Mason hires Jack, an outspoken, gorgeous escort to spend a week with him at his cabin in a lakeshore vacation property.  And at first, Jack is everything Mason could hope for.  He is funny, gregarious, blunt, and sexy.  A blond Peter Pan whose refusal to grow up endears him to Mason a man who has never really been a child.  Then their relationship of employer/employee starts to turn into one of friendship and then something a little more.  Can love be possible when one refuses to grow up and the other afraid of his own emotions?

The trope of rent boy/John love is a standard within the m/m genre.  Whether I enjoy a story with this plot is entirely up to how an individual author handles this topic and the twist they give to the rent boy in question.  A.F. Henley’s Second Star to the Right  and her character Jack are wonderfully endearing additions to this genre.  I have a fondness for prostitutes that make no excuses for the fact that they are, in their words “whores”.   Jack is unapologetically blunt about his tastes, his profession, and his expectations for the week ahead, much to Mason’s astonishment.  He is golden, sexy, and tall, everything that Mason wants and has never been able to have. And now that Jack is Mason’s for the week, Mason isn’t exactly sure what to do with him.

Henley makes Mason’s confusion and hesitation  both humorous and endearing when confronted with Jack’s direct manner and easy going sexuality.  Everything about Mason’s character is reflective of his personality.  He is small in stature, a fact he is uncomfortable with, comparing himself unfavorably with all he meets.  Shy and awkward, small and amenable, Mason is someone who has always been too old for his years, too responsible, too mature to enjoy childish games and pastimes.   Throw someone of that persona in a cabin for a week with a sexual adult Peter Pan and the mixture has bound to be entertaining, and a little explosive.

And while Jack is forcing Mason to open up and relax, Mason’s actions and gentle treatment of Jack is forcing Jack to reflex on his own life, including the fact that he is almost 30, an age too old for his profession.  How is a man who refuses to grow up going to live when he ages out of the only profession he has ever known?  By the time they (and the reader) have reached this stage in their relationship, both men have tumbled out of their complacency into a place of fear about their current status as well as the future.  Henley has made us care, through their interactions and past revelations, about these men. And now we teeter on the brink of self discovery along with them, full of anticipation and anxiety for the next step each man will take.  Will it be towards each other or away?

Of course, there is an emotional explosion and a denouement that offers a future for both Mason and Jack.  I think that if I had a quibble with this story, its with an ending that felt a little too abrupt for the  story that preceded it.  We get a week with Mason and Jack that feels realistic in the manner in which their relationship grows.  The arguments that come feel natural as well given each man’s emotional makeup and their present occupations.  I wish Henley had given us a little more of the events that follow upon their return to the city.  It would have made the epilogue that much more satisfactory by giving us the building blocks upon which that ending is built.

However, that issue aside, I did love Second Star to the Right.  I loved Mason and Jack in all their frailties, insecurities, and kindness, especially towards each other.  When you temper bluntness with compassion, sexuality with caring, then you have a recipe for a terrific love story and Henley has given that to us in Second Star to the Right.  I think you will enjoy it as much as I did. Consider it a highly recommended.

Cover by Aisha Akeju is simple in design but works for the story within.

Book Details:

ebook
Expected publication: February 19th 2014 by Less Than Three Press LLC
original title Second Star to the Right
ISBN13 9781620043165
edition language English