A MelanieM Review: A Suitable Replacement (Deceived #5) by Megan Derr


Rating: 4 stars out of 5

A Suitable Replacement coverReturning home after three years abroad on an exhaustive research expedition,  Lord Maximilian wants nothing more than to see his twin sister Mavin and meet her fiance to whom she got engaged while he was away.  But as usual with his imperious sister things have already gone awry on his first day home.  Shortly after Max’s return,  a man barges into Max’s study demanding to see his sister.  The problem?  It’s Master Kelcey Moore, Mavin’s fiancé  wanting to know where Mavin has gone and why. Max doesn’t know what’s going on.

It doesn’t take much investigation on Max’s part to find out that his bold as brass sister has run away with someone else’s fiance, leaving her own (and another’s) far behind without warning to handle the social and personal embarrassment by themselves.  Floored by his sister’s actions, Max gets to know Kelcey, the man left behind.  He’s hurt, embittered by the fact that he thought Mavin was his friend and impoverished by his circumstances, something the marriage would have alleviated.  It isn’t soon before Max is finding himself concerned by Kelcey and his future.

Max thinks he has found the answer to all Kelcey’s  problems in his marriage contract to Mavin.  A suitable replacement must be found if the marriage doesn’t take place.  So Max reasons, all he must do is find a replacement for Mavin.  Another rich, suitable person for Kelcey to marry.  As more problems pop up to confront Max and Kelcey, the biggest of all just might be the fact that Max is wishing the suitable replacement to be himself.

In the world of Megan Derr, the word “typical” and “normally” are banished to the realm of others.   If Megan Derr is  writing an story that might seem historical on the surface, you can be sure that dragons, or trolls, or something magical or mysterious is lurking just around the corner, alongside carriages and horses and things.  In the world of Megan Derr, the young heir to the title and lands is not the twin brother but his twin sister, Mavin, a force of nature of her own.  Mavin, the cigar smoking,gun wielding, imperious and yes, impulsive wild child and head royal here.   Her twin brother, Max, also has his moments of wildness and peculiarities but they are nothing when stacked up against those of his sister.  I loved that its Mavin who fills the role of the  “typical” uncontrollable heir instead of her brother.  And its her exploits that set off the explosive and crazy events to come.  But back to Max and Kelcey.

Max is your “preoccupied disheveled scientist” in a historical context.  But what is Max researching?  Troll magic, an unpopular if not totally rejected subject for research and scientific study.  Not typically an historic element.  Apparently, there was a Troll War and Max is determined to research what he thinks is the use of magic during that war.  Max is most at home in his study or at the various bookstores where he is known as a generous patron.  But  when he gets the idea to find a replacement for his sister for Kelcey to marry, Max must once more take up the trappings of society and his royal status to achieve his ends.  This is just the sort of character Derr does so well.  Irritable yet soft hearted, highly intelligent and isolated, and truly in need of love.  He finds his match in Kelcey, an enigmatic man who pushes all Max’s buttons.  The courtship between them starts off slow and then takes off at a gallop. No, really a gallop at they flee town together.

There are quite a few obstacles to happiness and HEA thrown in their way.  That they are raised by the actions of Mavin in the first place, ones she shows little accountability for later on, might take away some of your enjoyment of her character and this story.  I thought her thoughtlessness of others around her and her self centered outlook was perfectly in keeping with her character.  Did I want to see her throttled? Of course but I found her a viable and interesting persona.  You need a character like her to add a prickly tartness here and she does that well.  And how Max and Kelcey react and adjust to the following chaos is lovely to behold.

The resolution is a little drawn out in a manner that might put off some readers.  Mavin’s actions has some real consequences, and as in real life, the person responsible is not always the person who pays the price.  I thought it realistic but for some this might be a tad unpalatable. I do wish a troll or two had shown up or even a magical wand.  That would have been stupendous (although not necessary for the plot).  I would love to have known more about the Troll Wars and past history that Max was researching, that got my interest going too.  But this story?  I still enjoyed the heck out of it.  Like them or not, I think you will find yourself empathizing with their circumstances, relationships and events to follow.  I loved the plot and the twists Megan Derr wove into a typical Regency novel.   Consider A Suitable Replacement totally recommended.  Now off to find the other stories in this series.

 Cover artist: Aisha Akeju.  Terrific cover, totally works here.

Sales Links:    Less Than Three Press     All Romance eBooks (ARe)        Amazon         A Suitable Replacement

Book Details:

ebook, 218 pages
Published August 6th 2014 by Less Than Three Press LLC (first published August 4th 2014)
original titleA Suitable Replacement
ISBN 1620044013 (ISBN13: 9781620044018)
edition languageEnglish
seriesDeceived #5

A MelanieM Review: Hard Act to Follow (Shooting Stars #3) by K. Vale, Kimber Vale


Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Hard Act To Follow coverKyrie Li is 23 and soon to graduate Boston College with a degree in theatre arts.  Greg Dwyer is 30 and a lawyer in a prestigious law firm in Boston.  What they have in common is Kyrie’s sister, Grey Dwyer’s ex-wife.  What else do they have in common?  The fact that each man is deeply and secretly in love with the other.

Kyrie thinks his best friend Greg is straight and still in love with his sister.  Greg believes that Kyrie would never be interested in “dull old” him or that Greg would be accepted if he came out to either his own family or Kyrie’s who Greg is close to.

But one drunken nights changes everything.  A kiss between Greg and Kyrie leads to a wonderful night of passion but misunderstandings in the morning’s light leads Kyrie to pretend he doesn’t remember and Greg to flee from Kyrie’s friendship and family.   Only a threat from Kyrie’s past pulls them back together. Can they patch up their misunderstandings and shattered relationship in time for Greg to save Kyrie and maybe find their own HEA?

Hard Act To Follow is the third story in the Shooting Stars series from Kimber Vale.  The first two stories revolved around the romance of two rock stars from different bands.  In the second story, Double Takes, we first meet Kyrie and Greg when Kyrie is hired to play the part of Gio Savale’s boyfriend on a reality tv series.  Kyrie and Greg appear in largely secondary roles but already Greg is jealous of the fake relationship Kyrie and Gio have.  They were almost my favorite thing about that story so I was happy to see that Kimber Vale was getting ready to write a story for them.

Kyrie is adorably irrepressible.  He blurts out whatever he is thinking and up to now, has had awful taste in men.  He is charming, artistic, with a slight build. Just a lovely character.  Greg is his exact opposite in physical stature and emotional makeup.  Greg is substantial, physically, materially, and emotionally.  Just the sort of anchor someone like Kyrie wants and needs.  Kimber Vale’s characters balance each other out in a way that makes a romance between them logical and perfect.

What holds them apart is Kyrie’s sister who also happens to be Greg’s ex-wife.  Kyrie believes, wrongly, that Greg still has feelings for her and wants to get back together.  Kyrie wants that too.  Why?  Because he is afraid that if Greg moves on to someone else romantically, he will lose him.  Kyrie also thinks Greg is straight (obviously) The last thing Greg wants to do is get back with his ex-wife however much he loves Kyrie and Kyrie’s family.  The connection between Greg and Jasmine as ex spouses feels real but I never got a solid emotional basis for their marriage in the first place.  That missing foundation between Greg and Jasmine was one of the weakest elements here.

Misconceptions and misunderstandings multiply between Grey and Kyrie as their feelings for each other deepen.  The lack of communication between Greg and Kyrie is frustrating but given their age difference and emotional makeup it also seems completely realistic as well.

Another aspect I liked here was the ease of the interracial romance.  Kyrie’s parents are Black and Korean.  That interracial quality to the family and siblings is not highlighted but rather just a gentle side note.  And its the warmth and acceptance that Greg finds in the Li household that he is missing from his own.  Another lovely touch.  Both Boston and New York City are well represented here, especially the boxes that go for apartments in the walkups in NYC.

I was so happy to find that Kyrie and Greg got their HEA.  Gio Savales even made a last minute appearance at Kyrie’s graduation.  There is drama and some danger for Kyrie but all ends happily for this couple.  If you are a fan of Kimber Vale and her romance series, if you love bubbly actors in search of their forever love, pick up Hard Act To Follow and enjoy.   I don’t think you will need to read the other stories to get into this one as I think Hard Act To Follow can be read as a stand alone.  Rockers, actors, or both.  Your choice!  The fun is always in the journey.

Cover art is uncredited.

Sales Links:           Liquid Silver Books         All Romance eBooks (ARe)       Amazon Hard Act To Follow

Book Details:
ebook, 66,000 words
Published August 18th 2014 by Liquid Silver Books
edition languageEnglish
seriesShooting Stars

Books in the Shooting Stars series include (but don’t have to be read in order)

Forever is Now (Shooting Stars #1)
Double Takes (Shooting Stars #2)
Hard Act To Follow (Shooting Stars #3)

Review: You Can’t Go Home Again by Michael Murphy


Rating:  4 stars out of 5

You Can't Go Home Again coverAt 32, Jack is a seasoned police officer.  He has done everything possible to prepare his rookie partner, Kevin “The Kid”,   for their undercover operation.  But during the drug bust, things go horribly wrong and Jack is left with his partner dying in his arms.  Off duty and beset by guilt, Jack and his Chief accept the responsiblity of relaying the news to Kevin’s wife, another police officer. At loose ends, Jack and Marie become friends and he agrees to go with her to Alabama to bury Kevin in his home town.

At the church, Jack is in for another shock when Devin, Kevin’s twin brother,appears at the funeral.  Devin is a photographer and gay.  He is also determined to help Marie when they all find out that Marie is pregnant.   A tentative romance continues when Devin makes the surprise decision to leave California and move  east to help Marie,.  Such impetuousness is rewarded with a slammed door and an offer of a guest room from Jack. Soon their romance is hotter than ever.

But each time, things start to settle down for Jack, Devin, and even Marie, obstacles rise up to shatter the calm and bring them all to the edge of despair once more.  Kevin’s mother blames Marie for Kevin being a police officer and his death.  And the aftermath of the drug deal is still playing out.

You can’t go home again but what happens when the new home you are trying to make is threatened at every turn?  Jack,and Devin are about to find out.

The opening chapters of You Can’t Go Home Again are so heartbreaking that they will stay with you for the entire  book.  It brings the short-lived character of The Kid alive, and he ends up hovering over the proceedings for the rest of the story.  You get a real feel for Jack and his partner as things go very wrong and the Kid makes one shattering bad decision that will cost him his life.  It’s shocking, painful, and the death scene is gut wrenching.  Michael Murphy really delivers in the scenes where the officers are helping a shattered Jack dress and leave for Kevin’s home to relay the news of Kevin’s death to his wife.  Here the pain and strength of the Thin Blue Line is poignantly portrayed and it gives a ring of authenticity to Jack as a law enforcement officer.

The power of those opening pages are so strong that sometimes the rest of the story fades under its impact.  But that element of soft discourse is needed after such an emotional start.  Marie’s character, especially, almost requires a quiet fortitude that comes through in the narrative.  Murphy shows the restrained and stress filled support both Jack and Marie bring to each other.  Jack in feeling that he hadn’t done enough to get to know his partner and Marie filling in the gaps for Jack from Kevin’s perspective and hers.  It’s a lovely relationship and a touching one.

The ugliness of the Alabama family and the strain of the funeral are realistic and shocking .  Here the antagonism of the mother and the reveal of the twin brother come together to show how shattering Kevin’s death is and how far its impact spreads.  It also helps to bring  Jack, Marie and Devin together as a unit as characters and in the eyes of the reader.  You can almost feel the scrabbled together family bonds forming.

Murphy’s story still have some twists and turns as it turns the halfway point,  One ties up neatly with the events that occur in the beginning and others from relationships still playing out  from peoples pasts.

There are a few things I wish had been added, last names for one.  I feel having a whole name  contributes to a complete character identity and that was lacking all over the place here.  Too, I wish the character of Devin had been a little more realized.  He came across as less a complete person than his brother who is alive for only a small amount of time on the pages.  Still, I loved the relationships that formed here.  Whether it is the romance between Jack and Devin, or the brothers/sisterly ones that formed between  Jack, Devin, and Marie, I enjoyed watched each and every one form and deepen over time.

I do recommend this story and think you will find You Can’t Go Home Again a rewarding way to spend the day reading.


Sales Link:              Dreampsinner Press           All Romance eBook (ARe)      Amazon You Can’t Go Home Again

 Cover art by L.C. Chase.  I like the cover but that model is either fine for The Kid or Devin but too young looking for Jack.

Book Details:

ebook, 200 pages
Published July 18th 2014 by Dreamspinner Press (first published July 17th 2014)
edition languageEnglish

Review: Noble Metals by L.A. Witt


Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5

NobleMetals_500x750When  Robert Belton and his brothers left home  to make their fortune in the Klondike gold fields, they never imagined where their gold fever and poor judgement would take them.  Amid betrayals and gambling debts, only Robert is left to survive in Seattle and he does so by becoming a prostitute.  Robert hopes to save enough money to make it over the Chilkoot Trail into the Yukon and join the hunt for gold.

Dr. John Fauth is on sabbatical from his teaching post at the university in Chicago.  Dr. Fauth carries a precious machine with him to Seattle, one he developed and built himself.  With it, John hopes to find the platinum deposits he needs to further his experiments.  But first he needs to hire someone to help him make the journey into the Yukon, for where there is gold, there is also platinum.

When the only room available in Seattle happens to come with an attractive young man attached to it, John hires Robert for the evening and finds more than he expected.  In the morning, he offers Robert a job.  One man cannot haul the equipment needed for mining by himself, so when John offers Robert a job to join him on the trail going north, Robert eagerly accepts.

Even in ordinary conditions, the gold trail into the Yukon and Canada is fraught with dangers.  But John’s machine and the purpose for which it was built is drawing predators of its own.   The long nights, tough journey, and common enemies bring John and Robert together in passion and friendship.  As the danger mounts, both must decide what is more important to them…noble metals or love.

L.A. Witt takes a gripping period in history and gives it a steampunk twist in Noble Metals.  Just the mention of gold rush brings all manner of images and references to mind.  A huge human migration built on greed, adventure, and the hope of a quick fortune to be made saw towns and small cities spring up around the locations near to the mines or close to the heads of the trails into the gold fields.  Those towns quickly filled with  the unfortunate, the desperate, the opportunists, dreamers, the predators that fed on them, and everything in between.  L.A. Witt brings that Seattle to life here in Noble Metals.

Seattle is the center of the mining explosion.  A port bringing in supplies, hardened men and the unwary, people are arriving by boat, horse and carriage and airship if you have the money to afford it.  Yes, airship as in blimp.  For in this universe, its the blimp or zeppelin or airship that is the highest mode of transportation.  Electricity is still largely undiscovered with Edison, Tesla, and Fruth in the race to develop semi conductor technology.  Until that happens, everything mechanical runs on steam.

I love the ingenious twists and inventions that L.A. Witt brought into her Steampunk Gold Rush.  The Golden Staircase, the fifteen hundred steps carved into the ice from Chilkoot’s base to its peak, a treacherous ice stairway that all and their provisions had to climb if they wanted to reach Dawson City and the Yukon.  Vivid descriptions of the biting cold, sliding mechs, and a slow climb upwards in pain, fortitude, and numbness makes this trail feel like the hell it would have been to all those that attempted it.  Right down to the cannibalized structures of abandoned, broken down machinery that littered the landscape around the Golden Staircase, Witt’s scenes immediately bring to mind the litter and dead bodies left on Mt. Everest, making the connection to each climb clear.

Ah, the mechs.  Steam powered, eight legged, mechanical beasts of burden.  What a great contraption for L.A. Witt to invent for her story!  A new fangled piece of equipment used to convey supplies needed by the miners to dig for gold, they are a quixotic wonder.  Here is L.A. Witt’s description of the beasts:

“…mech, a spidery brass machine that would carry the ton or more of gear over the rugged terrain…I watched an empty mech limp past us. The valves on the front-mounted engine coughed little puffs of steam out the top, and the whole thing rattled as one leg landed badly with every step. I couldn’t tell if the leg was bent or if one of its joints was damaged, but something was definitely wrong.”

Amazingly, lives depended on such a strange walking machine.  And the fight to get it to function and walk properly is as nearly entertaining and fraught with peril as is the rest of Robert and John’s journey.  I really loved those mechs and could picture them quite clearly in my mind as I read.

Then there is the romance between Robert and John.  It found them endearing and their relationship moving.  While unequal in social status, John recognizes a kindred mind in Robert’s.  John values Robert’s intelligence and honesty as much as Robert’s good looks.  They bond over books, and the cold solitude of their tent along the trail on the slow journey to Dawson City.  Nary a case of instant love in sight, I loved how slowly their feelings for each other grew. Not only do they question their feelings for each other but what future, if any, was possible for them.  Great job by the author on making this element feel as real as the situation they find themselves in.

The story is told from Robert’s point of view but John’s side of the story is inserted here as well via journal entries in the diary John is keeping.  I loved seeing Robert and the trail from John’s perspective.  It also widened our view of the universe the author created by getting glimpses of John’s life in Chicago and the world in general.

My only wish was that the journey had gone further and the story continued on longer.  I’ll say no more.  But the world that L.A. Witt build with its tent city at the border, filled with miners, mechs and run efficiently by the North West Mounties (instead of the Royal Canadian Mounties today), along with the rough and tough city of Seattle made me want more of the stories of the people passing through and what if any fortunes they found along the way.

I love Nobel Metals and highly recommend it to all lovers of steampunk, m/m romance and adventure.

Cover art by April Lee.  Love this cover, perfection in every way and one of the best of the year.

Buy Links for Noble Metals:               Riptide Publishing                     ARe (All Romance)                Amazon      Noble Metals


Bool Details:

ebook, 1st Edtion
Published January 2nd 2012 by Carnal Passions
edition languageEnglish

Publisher’s Note: This book was previously published by a different press; it has since been edited extensively and expanded by over 10,000 words.)

Review: Miles and the Magic Flute by Heidi Cullinan


Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5

Miles and the Magic FluteMiles Larson believes the world has turned against him.  The poor economy cost him his cushy job and lifestyle, now Miles lives in considerably reduced circumstances back in his hometown in Minnesota. At least that’s how he sees it.  He works in a friend’s pawn shop fixing broken down appliances while living in his friend’s trailer behind the shop.  And all the time, he is thinking “why me, why did this happen to me?”  As Miles begrudgingly goes to work and then home, the only thing that lifts his spirits is a walk in the woods nearby, a place of solice and adventure when little,  now a blessed respite from the disappointment that is his life.   Little does he know that as he bemoans his life, the wood have ears and are listening.

One day at the pawn shop, a box of personal goods to be sold revealed an intricately carved silver flute to be pawned.  When asked to research its origin, Miles’s investigation opens up an enchanted world where one can have all he wants if only he asks the right question.  Before he realizes it his reality becomes one of two worlds vying for his body and soul.  An ethereally gorgeous fae wants Miles to choose him and his world but is everything there exactly as it seems?  Who is the beast he encounters along with the Fae Lord in the Otherworld?  For each choice that Miles might make, a price is to be paid.  But what is the price of being given everything you desire?  What if what you desire wars with true love and happiness? What price will you pay then? Only Miles can answer those questions…now if only he knew what those answers are….

Miles and the Magic Flute is less a romance and more of Heidi Cullinan’s LGBTQ version of Aesop’s Fables.  Or should that be Cullinan’s Fae Fables?  An intricately layered cautionary tale, Miles and the Magic Flute starts with one character whose sense of entitlement and displeasure with his current status starts the games of enchantment to follow.

From the beginning Cullinan builds two very realistic and opposite worlds to vy for Mile’s body and soul.  One is the small town in Minnesota that Miles has returned to after losing his job and condo in the big city.  A sense of desperation covers the town like a layer of dust.  A factory has closed putting much of the town’s population out of work, and sometimes only the largesse of his friend Patty of Patty’s Pawn shop keeps some of them from going without food or a home.  A cluttered store filled with the bits and pieces of peoples lives, the pawn store has been passed from father to daughter as has the trailer behind it.  Into the shop flow various sundry folk, from a hispanic family seriously weighing how they will spend their strictly budgeted dollars to an antagonistic bully who learns that homophobic slurs will cost him big time from the lesbian pawnbroker.   Cullinan paints these small town characters with the same brush as her main ones, and they are as realistically detailed and human as they could be.  You can feel the paint peeling and the cars falling apart from neglect from the author’s descriptions of a small town barely surviving and the people who remain behind while others have left.

The second world starts off as nothing more than a shivery feeling as Miles walks through the woods nearby.  A feeling of being watched, a ripple in the air, the appearance of a small white flower in winter, and little by little Cullinan’s Otherworld, the Fae Dream world arrives to encroach on Miles’ reality and the well being of all.  I loved how the author built up not only Miles anticipation and sense of alarm but the readers as well.  Layer by layer the magic comes and at first its wondrous and enchanting….and then it deepens to something more.  And as we begin to  get a true sense of exactly what and who the Fae Lord represents, Cullinan continues to pivot us and Miles back and forth between reality and desire, human and Fae until the contrasting images and worlds start to blend eerily into each other. The author’s locations and world building is superb and each feels as real as the other.

Heidi Cullinan has also provided the readers with one of the most realistic and wonderful lesbian couples that I can remember. Patty with her blunt ways and mannerisms that cover a depth of personality just waiting to be revealed.  And  Julie whose perceptions and world views are startling and compelling.  I loved this couple and they provide the anchor that the story and Miles requires.  Patty and her long time lover, Julie, have slowly been pulling Miles out of his depression over losing his job and successful life in Atlanta at Fetterman Financial.  Patty gave him a job fixing the appliances she pulls out of trashcans or brought into the store.  Julie feeds him vegan food she cooks from her amazing garden out back and items she has traded for.  Cullinan does an exemplary job of conveying how grey and small this world appears to Miles in his current  emotional state, the businesslike and frank manner in which Patty deals with her customers and Miles, and the generous, compassionate nature that is Julie’s answer to everything she confronts in life.  And while we see their trailer, business and partnership only from Miles’ viewpoint, it is clear that Miles’  self-absorbed outlook keeps him from seeing his friends  and their lives in a clear and realistic way.

And that is part of what I feel is a real issue for the reader here.  The story is told from Miles’ point of view.  And he is whiney, complaining, and his sense of entitlement is hard to take after a while.  I get that we need to see Miles at his worst in order to get a base line from which we can chart his growth but that doesn’t make his selfishness and self centeredness any easier to take.   Even as Miles realizes that he sees everything now through his “Atlanta filter”, comparing and contrasting his current life against that which he lost, his musings become a Greek chorus of want, hate, and envy.  “I hate this, I hate my life, I hate what I’ve become, I hate what I lost, I hate realizing that I never really had it.” and finally “I hate my life and I would do anything and give anything to change it.”    Heartfelt worlds that the woods, or someone in the woods is listening to and geting ready to answer with an offer.

But the most damning words here are probably the ones that the readers will recognize, if not understand.  How the readers feels about hearing Miles utter them will reflect in how much the reader will like this story.  Those words are the ones that will propel Miles to accept an offer too good to be…well good.  And they are “I’m better than this.  I deserve so much better than this.”  What an all too human phrase…one that probably propels many a person into actions that they will regret later on.  How readers feel about Miles’ sense of entitlement will be the lens through which they view this story.  For many, I think it will mean they look at Miles and his predicament with a sense of detachment.  And no matter what befalls Miles, that lack of emotional investment in his problems and terrors will keep readers disconnected from the story and Miles.  I will admit I came perilously close to that detachment myself.  It took me much longer to connect with Miles than I anticipated and by then the story was almost over.

As I said this is a story of lessons and morality.  “Beware of what you wish for, as you just might get it”, “Be happy with what you have,” actually Miles and the Magic Flute is a roll call of lessons from Aesop’s Fables among others.  Whether it is about appearances being deceiving or giving one’s enemies the means for your own destruction, Cullinan lines them up and marches Miles through them on his way to  enlightenment, redemption, and finally love.

Yes, there is several love stories here, although no romances.  I wish I had a better understanding of “the Beast” here, he is the one character without much substance.  There is so much about Miles and the Magic Flute that is as wondrous as its plot.  From Terris and Murali to Patty and Julie and the worlds they all inhabit, Cullinan’s ability to bring both the magical and the mundane to life is amazing.  I just wished I had more of a connection to Miles, that I had wept when he did but ultimately that didn’t happen here.    Other readers might find themselves incredibly moved by Miles’ story and the terrific ending that Heidi Cullinan has crafted for them all.  Pick up this book and decide for yourself.  I am still so very happy that I read it and journeyed for a while in their shoes.

Cover art by Wilde City Press.  What a beautiful, magical cover.  Loved it.

Publisher’s Note: This title has been previously published and has been revised from its original release


Buy Links:    Wilde City Press       Miles and the Magic Flute ” Amazon          ARe


Book Details:

ebook, 2nd Edition
Published May 27th 2014 by Wilde City Press (first published June 7th 2010)
original titleMiles and the Magic Flute
edition languageEnglish

Review: The Dog Trainer by Owen Keehnen


Rating: 4 stars out of 5

“Sometimes the last thing you expect is exactly what you need.”

The Dog Trainer coverRichard Myers’ life is set.  He is a well off gay urbanite looking for happiness and the perfect man one man at a time. Richard has a core group of outgoing if a bit self involved friends who like to party and a well-paying dead end job.  And if he hasn’t found the right man yet, Richard is sure he is out there.

Then  one night while stumbling on his way home, an inebriated Richard finds a puppy and almost immediately Richard’s life and his relationships begin to change.  Richard starts to  interact with his neighbor across the hall,  Evelyn, who also has a dog. In just a few days the  puppy, now named Hambone, wriggles his way into Richard’s life on every level.

Despite Richard’s disapproving friends and on again off again boyfriend, Richard finds a vet and then something much, much more. On Evelyn’s recommendation Richard hires a dog trainer named Abe and from the moment Richard hears Abe’s voice on the phone he feels a connection with this man.

When Abe’s comes for Hambone’s first  training session, the sparks fly. Abe and Hambone together start to show Richard a different life than the one he has been living and Richard likes the change in himself and his lifestyle.

Will love conquer all in the end? It will if Hambone has any say in the matter.


Can owning (or being owned) by a dog change your life?  How you answer that question will probably determine how you feel about this story.  The Dog Trainer by Owen Keehen takes that questions and answers it with a resounding yes!  This story really resonated with me (no small wonder here).  I absolutely believe in the power of animals (whatever they may be) to change a person’s view on life.  Whether that change is a small or large one depends entirely on the person involved.  If they have animals or a history with animals, then the changeover is more subtle, or less ground shaking.  But for that individual for whom this is a first time relationship/ownership, the changes can be startling and lasting.

Owen Keehnen certainly understands the impact that one small puppy can have on a solitary individual such as Richard.  The changes in lifestyle that a puppy brings to the right person, an accepting person, enlarges your life and that is exactly what happens to Richard Myers.  Upon first meeting Richard, our first impressions aren’t exactly positive ones.  Richard, like the people he has chosen as friends, are living a somewhat superficial, self involved life style.  Richard and his core group spend their time at bars picking apart people, events, whatever happens to grab their attention.  They dress well, attend the “right” functions and move from one hot bar to another in search of entertainment and romance.  Richard has niggling feelings that he might be missing out on something but soon pushes such trifling thoughts away.  I love  Keehnen’s descriptions of Richard and his friends.  From the dialog to their clothes they are the recognizable Millennials found in cities everywhere.

But in one instant, that all changes although Richard is the last person to understand what is happening to him.  Keehnen has Richard finding his puppy during a drunken walk home.  Pulled into a lot by pitiful cries, Richard finds a bag of puppies, of which only one is still alive.  And because Richard is, at the center, a decent human being, he takes the puppy home and changes his life in small ways at first, then much larger ones.  It is a slow climb out of the lifestyle Richard has made for himself and that makes it a realistic one.  The puppy attracts people he had never interacted with before, new avenues of interest, and slowly Richard opens himself up to new situations, people, and finally love.  I have seen it happen, and so probably have you, if you think about it.

Another great authentic touch is that Richard is uncertain that he wants to be a dog owner, he isn’t sure he wants the changes in his routine that come with dog ownership.  He has to puzzle it out for himself (ok , along with some help from his neighbor, Abe the dog trainer, and Hambone himself) but that is pretty accurate too.

I liked the slow build to a romance.  This is a tale of two Richards and Richard must decide which one he will be in order to get his man and HEA.  Hambone is an endearing character, just as you would expect.  It is easy to see why Richard is willing to make the changes he does when faced with such unconditional love and adoration.  And when Abe comes along, Richard is ready for a “less than picture perfect man” who just might be the man for him…and Hambone.

This is a sweet, endearing romance between man and puppy, and man and man.  There isn’t a lot of drama or fuss but a realistic changeover for one man when a dog comes into his life.  I loved that but then again I have three terriers at my side just like Hambone is for Richard.  So I get it.  And I believe in the power of an animal to change a person’s life.   I think Owen Keehnen gets that too.  I enjoyed this story and loved the cover.  Owen Keehnen is a new author for me so I look forward to seeing what else he has written.

If the above descriptions appeals to you, then pick up this story and start your journey with Richard and Hambone.  This gentle tale might just be the thing for you.

Great cover again by Wilde City Press.

Buy Links:         Wilde City Press      ARe          Amazon 

Book Details:

Published May 21st 2014 by Wilde City Press
edition languageEnglish
url http://www.wildecity.com/books/gay-romance/the-dog-trainer/#.U3ttn_ldV1A

Review: Stranger on the Shore by Josh Lanyon


.Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5

Stranger on the Shore coverWhen investigative journalist Griffin Hadley is hired by the patriarch of the wealthy Arlington family to write an account of a long ago family tragedy, Griffin had little idea of the danger he is about to encounter.  Twenty years ago young Brian Arlington, heir to Arlington fortune, was kidnapped for ransom.  Although a man was charged with the kidnapping and jailed, young Brian was never found and is presumed dead.  Brian’s grandfather wants closure before he dies and hires Griffin Hadley to renew the search for answers about his grandson once and for all.

Blocking Griffin’s investigation and efforts to write the story is Pierce Mather, the Arlington family lawyer.  Pierce Mather, cold, handsome, and resolute in his determination that Griffin leave the estate and Arlington tragedy in the past.  Pierce also administers and controls the Arlington billions.But he is not the only one unhappy that Griffin Hadley is about to dig up questions about the decades-old mystery.

As more and more factions line up against Griffin, he begins to wonder if he can figure out what really happened all those years ago.  And when Pierce begins to show that he is attracted to Griffin, Griffin wonders if it is due to passion or something more ominous….

 Stranger on the Shore a welcome return to writing for this author as well as demonstrating just why Josh Lanyon is on so many  readers TBR lists.  A story that is both a romance and a mystery is one of the favorite ploys of this author’s and one he does so well.  For me as a reader, one element I appreciate and look forward to in each of Josh Lanyon’s novels is the  unsettled atmosphere and haunting settings he evokes with his sensual imagery and vivid descriptions of his locations.  In Stranger on the Shore it is the old palatial Arlington estate whose very name conjures up mysteries, secrets, and opulence, that is the setting for the investigation into a young boy’s kidnapping and murder.

Ah, the mystery….well to be honest…the one mystery that looms the largest is also the most easily guessed at.  So it’s not so much the who,  but the why and how that defines the mystery and the investigation.  That is one of the pleasures of this story.  All the threads that have to be pulled together to figure out the larger picture and persons behind it all, and there is a myriad of plot threads to follow.  In Stranger on the Shore it’s the journey not the destination that is the true joy.  It’s the miasma off the waters, the perfectly manicured gardens that beg one to peer behind the hedges,  and the walkways that beckon as they lead into the darkness. It’s the indolent feeling of the old privileged powerful families and the weight of their wealth that slowly gives over to one of suspense and dread. A bubbling up of a malodorous past that Lanyon brings forth so precisely, fraught with clues that the reader cannot help but follow that makes this story sing. the Arlington estate and gardens  comes alive here, so much so it is as much a main character as Griffin and the Arlington family. In Stranger on the Shore we get ambiance, mystery and an alluring location.  All that and the romance too.

Lust in the heat, impulsive sex between lovers who don’t trust or perhaps even like one another, that’s sexy sizzle of desire is another great element of this story.  Pierce Mather, cold, calculating, and what exactly?  Is he loyal family retainer?  Part of the puzzle behind young Brian Arlington’s disappearance?  Controlled yet passionate lover?  He is all that and more as the story unfolds and Griffin Hadley is pulled deeper into the Arlington family history and current scramble for the family fortune. And then there is Griffin.  I wish I had a sense of Griffin as an investigative reporter, that seemed a little lacking here.  A writer yes, reporter no. But so much about Griffin is appealing.  He is vulnerable, unsettled and perhaps too trusting for the role he is to play here.  But he will engage your feelings as he goes about tumbling into the past  and present dangers of the situation he finds himself in.  Griffin and Pierce were perfect foils for each other and I loved their intense arguments as much as their love scenes.

I’m not sure why exactly Josh Lanyon has such a diverse and/or opposite effect on readers.  They absolutely adore him or his writing doesn’t engage them.  It seems to fall one way or the other.  I happen to love him.  I admire his stories even if I find I can predict the outcome or part of the plot before the resolution. His characters have always been able to reach me with their foibles and faults as well as their intelligence.  And as I have stated, his descriptions and imagery is captivating in its ability to pull you into a scene or situation smoothly and decidedly.  I love the emotions he brings forth and the  depth of love and believability he is able to create for his characters.  No, this story’s not perfect, but I found myself still thinking about the plot and characters days later.  That ability to resonate is aspect of good storytelling I require and I found that here.

Josh Lanyon took a sabbatical from writing for over a year and his voice was missed by many.  Now he has returned and I look forward to the stories and characters his inventive mind will create.  Stranger on the Shore is a terrific start.  I loved it and think you will too.   If you are new to Josh Lanyon, there is a huge backlist awaiting you, including many of my favorites such as Fair Game, Come Unto These Yellow Sands , and the Adrien English Mysteries.  Start here and work your way backward.  You have a wonderful journey ahead, get going!  Those of you who are Josh Lanyon fans, well, you probably have already picked this up and started reading.

Josh Lanyon and Stranger on the Shore are recommended author and novel at ScatteredThoughtsandRogueWords.

Happy Reading.

Buy Links:   Carina Press         ARe           Amazon


Book Details:

ebook, 226 pages
Published May 5th 2014 by Carina Press
original titleStranger on the Shore
edition languageEnglish

Review: The Actor and the Earl (The Crofton Chronicles #1) by Rebecca Cohen


Rating: 4 stars out of 5

The Actor and the Earl coverWhen Elizabethan actor Sebastian Hewel’s twin sister Bronwyn elopes unexpectedly, it leaves him and his uncle in a huge mess.  His uncle had accepted money from the Earl of Crofton for her hand in marriage.  That money was to pay off Sebastian’s father’s debt to his uncle.  Now with one shocking action, everything his uncle had arranged was in jeopardy and that was money that the poor actor had no way of paying back.  His cousin’s solution?  For Sebastian to take his sister’s place at meeting between the Earl and Bronwyn prior to the wedding to give them time to find Bronwyn and bring her back.

For Anthony Redbourn, Earl of Crofton, a marriage is just the thing he needs to quiet the voices at court about his “peculiarities” , sexual appetites that could cost him his head.  Queen Elizabeth will only approve of marriages to families whose loyalty to her is unquestionable.  The Hewels are just such a family and the marriage to Bronwyn is the perfect solution.

At the meeting between “Bronwyn” and Anthony nothing goes as planned.  Sebastian finds the Earl not only handsome but shrewdly intelligent as Anthony guesses at the real identity behind the skirts.  But instead of anger and outrage, the Earl applauds the deception and suggests an arrangement.  Sebastian will marry the Earl and play the part of his sister for a year.  And if the arrangement includes the benefits of a marriage bed for both, even better given their proclivities and the lethal consequences should they be found out.

Sebastian is warned by those in the know not to fall for the Earl because of his inability to remain satisfied by one partner.  But what happens when the heart isn’t listening and Sebastian finds himself falling in love for the first and only time in his life.

I always approach a historical fiction story with trepidation.  Why?  Because quite a few authors I have read forget the first rule of historical fiction is an accurate setting and an attention to detail. Historical fiction of any type is, in my opinion, one of the hardest genres to write.  Not only does the author have the usual elements to create and incorporate, such as plot, characters, and setting, but in addition the historical aspect of any work must include an authenticity of that era to make it believable.  To render a historical story authentic an author should pay particular attention to details such as the type of clothes worn, laws and societal norms, art, music, architecture, and yes, even dialog.  To get it right means research, research, and more research.   You would be amazed how often that doesn’t happen.   Alexander Bell’s invention of the telephone is put in the wrong year. Dates are mixed up along with royal families, scandals, and types of dress.  And when that happens and is spotted, then it almost always ruins the story as time is spent searching for more errors than is spent involved in the plot and characters with the reader thinking…”well, if they got that (fill in the blank) wrong, what else will I find…”

Why do I point all this out?  Because Rebecca Cohen gets it right in The Actor and the Earl.   And I can’t begin to tell you how much that increased my enjoyment of this already entertaining tale.  Some of the historically accurate highlights were the mention of premier pamphleteer  Thomas Nashe’s The Choice of Valentines and Philip Sydney’s The Countess of Pembroke’s Arcadia. The Globe is almost finished construction, and Queen Elizabeth holds court with a face painted white using ceruse and vermillion for the lips and cheeks. Cohen slides these facts into her story with a subtly I appreciated and in a manner that helps to set the time frame for her story.  I love it when authors get it right without making it seem like an information dump.  Great job.

So with her background and setting firmly in place, Rebecca Cohen then goes on to give the reader some wonderful characters to follow and root for.  First off is 20 year struggling actor Sebastian Hewell.  Sebastian rebelled against his uncle’s plans for him after his father perished and left him with debts.  Sebastian has worked for years as an actor but at his age, romantic roles (the female ones) are getting scarce.  I fell in love with Sebastian in the back dressing room of the theater where he was working.  He feels young, ruefully aware of his waning future and still determined to do it on his own.  Such vulnerability in Sebastian works to pull in the reader’s affections and keep us engaged throughout the story.

Another astonishing twist is his sister, Bronwyn.  In most stories, Bronwyn would be slender, gorgeous, and extremely feminine,  Not so here.  Bronwyn is plainfaced (as is Sebastian supposedly), straightforward, blunt, a true force of nature.  I loved her.  The scenes with her, Sebastian and Anthony were priceless, especially when she is putting the Earl in his place with a “fat assed pig” bit of name calling.  Did I want more of Bronwyn?  Why, yes I did!

Anthony Redbourn was a character that left more questions in my mind then I felt the story answered.  There were hints of a special role he played for Queen Elizabeth that never came forward.  Is Anthony a spy perhaps?  We don’t know, only that he is favored at court and on call for the Queen at her whim.  I loved the accurate picture Cohen paints of London at that time.  Smelly and rank, especially in the summer, people fled to their country estates to escape the heat and the odors that overpower you in the city.  It came across as just as unpleasant as it probably was, especially for the women who had to travel by coach.   The Earl’s estate is beautifully described along with the dinners served, which made me sort of queasy. Ah, the picky tastes of the modern person.  Still for all the authenticity framing the character, it was the character himself that was a little lacking.  A man in his 30’s, arrogant and confident, his switchover to impulsive and jealous felt surprising.

I wish we had more of a romance between Sebastian and Anthony, although the sex was plentiful.  I believed in them as a couple and just wished for a little more of a foundation to base their love on then the brief interludes we got.  There are also some elements here sure to upset those readers who like their pairings chaste and of the “cleaving only to each other” type.  Anthony is a “womanizer” and a flirt, that’s not going to change overnight and doesn’t.  There are some holes in the plot with questions about how gullible the upper classes would be with Bronwyn and Sebastian switching in and out of their role. But those were my only quibbles and my enjoyment in this lighthearted historical romp didn’t falter because of them.

There are already three stories in this series to date.  I have listed all below.  I am already on to the next one to see how Sebastian and Anthony are faring and will let you know how that works out.  In the meantime, if you want a pleasurable, accurate historical romance, then The Actor and the Earl just might be the story for you.  Don’t expect a lot of drama or mystery, perhaps that’s coming next.  This is the beginning of a romance….let’s see where Rebecca Cohen will take us next.

Cover art by Anne Cain.  Cain’s cover is a wonderful representation of the story.  Sebastian’s looking pretty good in both genders.

Buy Link:  Dreamspinner Press     ARe         Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 1st Edition, 206 pages
Published November 30th 2012 by Dreamspinner Press (first published November 2012)
original titleThe Actor and the Earl
ISBN 1623801516 (ISBN13: 9781623801519)
edition languageEnglish
seriesThe Crofton Chronicles #1

Books in The Crofton Chronicles Series are in the order they were written and should be read:

The Actor and the Earl (The Actor and the Earl #1)
Duty to the Crown (The Actor and the Earl #2)
Forever Hold His Peace (The Actor and the Earl #3)

Review: Let it Ride (Pickup Men #2) by L.C. Chase


Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Let It Ride coverPickup man Bridge Sullivan knew from the moment he met sexy California rodeo paramedic Eric Palmer that his life was going to change.  Bridge got to know Eric when the transplanted New Yorker helped his friends Marty Fairgrave and his lover, ex-bull rider Tripp Colby in the traumatic events of the past year.  After the season ended, Bridge’s nights were consumed by sexy dreams of Eric that had him questioning his sexuality.  Bridge couldn’t wait for the season to begin so he could be reunited with Eric and see if anything past a friendship is possible.

Eric Palmer’s life has been one of rejection and pain.  Abandoned by his family because of his sexuality and betrayed by a former lover, Eric’s trust issues extend deep into his heart.  Only at the rodeo has Eric been able to find a closeknit group of men that have become family to him in a way he hasn’t had in a long time.  Soon the rodeo circuit and the cowboys become a home where Eric feels safe and wanted.

When Bridge Sullivan starts to flirt with Eric when the new season begins, Eric is puzzled.  Eric always found Bridge attractive but he thought his friend was straight.  As the attraction between them flairs up, so does Eric’s fear that Bridge is only experimenting with his sexuality and that this could cost Eric the friends he needs so badly.  Bridge is sure that Eric is the only man for him.  But can Bridge convince Eric that he is serious?  When Bridge puts it all on the line, will Eric be able to put his fears aside for a possible HEA for them both?

There is nothing like a cowboy in love. With Let It Ride, L.C. Chase continues her Pickup Men series that revolves around a small group of rodeo riders on the California Rodeo circuit. We have met Bridge and all the other characters in the first novel, Pickup Men, and now L.C. Chase is focusing the story on another one of Marty’s team members, Bridge Sullivan.  Bridge and his brothers were these lively, wonderful characters that almost demanded more page time in the last story.  Now Chase gives it to them and us in Let It Ride and the result is a totally satisfying romance.

This time Bridge Sullivan, pickup man extraordinaire, has found his “one” in Eric Palmer, the paramedic hired by the rodeo association to work the circuit with them.  Both of the men were involved in the traumatic events of the last season which saw Tripp Colby attacked and injured badly enough that he retired from the circuit.  L.C.Chase has constructed some wonderful characters here and her pickup men, Marty, Bridge, and Kent, are authentic and believable not only as professional rodeo riders but as people too.  Falling back into their stories is like getting reacquainted with friends…its easy, its heartwarming, and its like you never left.

The point of view starts out from Bridge’s perspective with hot dreams of the sexy paramedic in question, Eric Palmer.  Bridge has been unable to think of little else and he is questioning his sexuality because of his intense attraction to Eric.  As Bridge tries to work through the process of what his feelings mean, we can see that this is not really a “gay for you” story but a man who has repressed his bisexuality until now.  It was “easier” for Bridge to date women.  He likes them so his feelings towards men was something he pushed aside as college experimentation.  But with Eric, those old feelings are back and can no longer be denied.  I like this aspect of the story.  It’s not an instantaneous switchover in sexuality.  Instead, Bridge spends the entire summer questioning himself, his motives, and his feelings before he decides to act on them.  This feels like a more realistic approach than an immediate “hey, I’m gay for you” storyline.   Plus there is the factor that Bridge Sullivan is just an accessible and immensely likable character.  You want to see it his way so he can get “his guy” and his HEA.

Standing in the way of his happiness is the man himself…Eric Palmer.  Eric is a complicated, fearful man made so because of his continual rejections and abandonment issues from both his family and the people who told him they loved him.  Now, Eric is consumed by the fact that he is not worthy of love and that no one will ever stay with him permanently enough for a real relationship and a future together.  That fear has emotionally paralyzed Eric to the point that no relationship outside of friendship is possible.  Eric’s the second point of view here and it’s a necessary one for us to hear in order to throughly understand where Eric is coming from and to make his poor self esteem seem real.   In another character where the author hasn’t laid the necessary foundation for that character’s relationship issues and poor sense of self-worth, then someone like Eric would come across as overly dramatic and self involved.  Not here.  When Eric reacts badly and in haste, we get it even though we may not like it.  Eric is that skittish horse that’s been abused.   He shies away because that is what experience has taught him to do.  Again, this whole scenario feels believable and painful.

Honestly, I enjoyed this story more than its predecessor.  I loved this couple and rooted for them immediately.  The angst here is in the normal range of relationship problems as the men involved struggle with their feelings and adjust to the idea of a permanent, loving relationship.  Marty and Tripp are back in minor roles here and that works as well.  L.C. Chase loves her cowboys and knows her rodeo.  That’s apparent in the well-rounded characters and the authenticity which with the rodeo is depicted.  Both the author and her cowboys have earned a place in my heart and on my shelf with their stories.

There is a third story planned for this series, Pulling Leather (Pickup Men #3).  The main character here is an astonishing choice.  Bull rider Scott Gillard is back and looking for redemption.  I can’t wait to see how Chase handles making this “villain” into a romantic leading man.  It should be quite a ride.  The expected publication date is September 1, 2014 by Riptide Publishing.  I will be first in line to pick it up.

The author is also the amazing cover artist behind these wonderful covers.  I have them all for you at the bottom of this review.   Check out that stunner for Pulling Leather.  That cover alone will pull you in and make you want to know that man’s story.

Until then you will have to start back with Pickup Men and meet all the complex cowboys that make up the Pickup Men series.  Then join me in September for the next cowboy on the path to his HEA.

Cover artist for all the Pickup Men covers is the author herself, L.C. Chase.  Love them, love her cowboys and their stories too.

Buy Links:           Riptide Publishing               ARe                     Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 195 pages
Published May 26th 2014 by Riptide Publishing (first published May 25th 2014)
original titleLet it Ride
edition languageEnglish
seriesPickup Men #2

Books in the Pickup Men series are:

Pickup Men (Pickup Men #1)
Let It Ride (Pickup Men #2)
Pulling Leather (Pickup Men #3) expected publication date Sept. 1, 2014

Covers in this series include:

Pulling Leather coverLet It Ride coverPickup Men cover



Review: It’s Complicated (Tucker Springs #7) by L.A. Witt


Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5

ItsComplicated_500x750Brad Sweeney and Jeff Hayden, after much soul searching and separations, have finally decided to give their relationship another try. Now living apart, they have just had their first date on the path to a newer, more healthy future and things look promising. Then Jeff gets a call from his ex wife and business partner that will change everything. She says she’s pregnant and that Jeff is the father.  One late booze fueled hookup while Brad and Jeff were separated results in a pregnancy that threatens Brad and Jeff’s relationship on every level.

Brad has always feared that Jeff would leave him for a wife and kids and now his worst nightmare seems to be coming true.  Brad has never felt like a priority to Jeff because of the time Jeff spends on his business.  Now with a child on the way, what time will Jeff have left for him and their relationship?

For Jeff, his carefully created plans for getting back together with Brad are falling to pieces.  Even worse is the announcement from his ex wife that she will be leaving Tucker Springs and returning to Denver with their child.  If he wants to be a part of the baby’s life, and he does, he will have to somehow juggle her part of their business while traveling to Denver to see their child.  Or move everything to Denver, including himself.  Neither plan seems reasonable or  even possible if his and Brad’s reconciliation is to work.

Everything has gotten so complicated.  What happens when sometimes not even love is enough to hold a couple together?

It’s Complicated explores the decision that separated couple Brad Sweeney and Jeff Hayden, friends of Nathan, made at the end of After the Fall (Tucker Springs #6).  In After the Fall, Nathan listens to the problems Brad is having with his relationship with Jeff and it impacts Nathan’s rationale about the events occuring in his own romance.  It’s a secondary element but we gather that the constant fighting between Jeff and Brad has caused them to separate after years together.  By the end of the story, Jeff and Brad have decided that their love is deep enough that it merits one last effort to stay together and that’s where It’s Complicated starts.  And its also where it almost immediately starts to fall apart again.

This conflicted and deeply in love couple have just gone on their first date towards a new healthier relationship,  It went well even with both of them on their best behavior and ended up in bed at the end of the night. Jeff and Brad’s sex life has always been fantastic, its everywhere else in their relationship that the couple has problems.  Most readers, no matter  their current romantic status, can relate to this couple because they have been there or know people who have.  The stress, the communication problems, the prioritizing of time between business and family and above all the insecurities…these are issues that plague many a modern couple.  And from the caustic comments and arguing to the tentative steps back towards each other, L.A. Witt’s couple travels a realistic and well worn path.

Tucker Springs and its inhabitants have a way of growing on you as you travel through each of the Tucker Springs couples stories.  People pass in and out of each others lives much as you would do in any small town.  And whether or not they are germane to the story at hand, the reader absentmindedly takes note of who and what is trying to get together or who needs a new romance in their lives because we know they are sure to surface later on in the series. So I was prepared to meet up with Brad and Jeff to see what had happened since After the Fall and the answer is nothing less than a couple melting down under the pressure and stress of their lives and not knowing how climb out of their relationship rut.

Every bit of dialog, every painful argument and painful silence feels authentic.  L.A. Witt knows how to write relationships and real people in trouble.  It feels every inch as stressful and sad as a couple who you happen to be acquainted with would look if they weren’t going to make it.  You feel extraordinarily bad for them, wish you could help them in some way and you would hope for the best.  I just am not sure you would want to be there for the daily struggle, the disheartening conversations and the hair pulling when nothing else is working.  Only your affection for this couple will keep you reading through the mess they have made of their relationship and their own personal well being.

I do like that Jeff’s ex wife is not made out to be a cardboard villain here.  She has her excellent reasons for moving away from Tucker Springs and yes, she wants her family back together.  All reasonsible, all very realistic.  Jeff too is believably human.  He is being pulled in every direction by his obligations, his wants and desires as well as the people he loves.  Did I want to give him a shake every now and again? Sure, but you could relate to Jeff as he tries to balance things in his life too weighty to be neatly boxed up and compartmentalized.  It doesn’t work and he ends up paying for it.

And then there is Brad, everyone’s last priority, even for himself.  Brad has finally realized that he deserves more but what he wants is Brad, a conundrum to be sure given the current circumstances and overwhelming issues. Here is a character who cries out for your compassion and gets it. His is the character most people will relate to as he questions just how much he is going to endure to keep Jeff in his life.  He asks the toughest questions here. And Jeff’s answers to those are sometimes problematic, making Jeff a less than sympathetic character. The angst swirls mightily here as does the love.  But do you really want to be in the middle of it?  That’s a question each reader will have to ask for themselves because there is some truly heartbreaking aspects to this story.

What pulled it all together for me and made this a read to recommend?  In addition to the wonderful writing and characters? That would be the Epilogue.  L.A. Witt’s epilogue does what  every great epilogue should,  Pull together the final story elements and let the reader in on how it all turned out.  It is here that many of the satisfying and happy parts of Brad and Jeff’s relationship that I wanted to see earlier in the story are displayed.  Where all we had before was strain and unhappiness, now we get to see why they were so great together and what made them a couple worth saving.  And it was after reading the Epilogue that I could then go back and reread parts of the story with a new perspective that gave me a great appreciation for this couple and their story.  It made everything work and let me enjoy the re-coupling of two more of Tucker Springs uncoupled inhabitants.  Tucker Springs is a wonderful series and this story is just one more example why.

Cover art by LC Chase is gorgeous and pertinent for this story and series.

Book Details:

ebook, 196 pages
Expected publication: April 28th 2014 by Riptide Publishing
edition languageEnglish
url http://www.riptidepublishing.com/titles/its-complicated
seriesTucker Springs #7

Buy  ARe  Amazon Riptide Publishing

Here are the stories in the Tucker Springs series in the order they were written, and is recommended that they be read:

Where Nerves End (Tucker Springs, #1) by L.A. Witt
Second Hand (Tucker Springs, #2) by Heidi Cullinan
Dirty Laundry (Tucker Springs, #3) by Heidi Cullinan
Covet Thy Neighbor (Tucker Springs, #4) by L.A. Witt
Never a Hero (Tucker Springs, #5) by Marie Sexton
After The Fall (Tucker Springs #6) by L.A. Witt
It’s Complicated (Tucker Springs #7) by L.A. Witt