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

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No Sales Links:  Free

Book Details:

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

A MelanieM Review: The Intersection of Purgatory and Paradise (Least Likely Partnership, #3) by A.J. Thomas

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Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5

The Interseciton of Purgatory and Paradise coverA year has passed since ex San Diego homicide detective Christopher Hayes’s brother committed suicide. Christopher is still recovering from the injuries he sustained when attacked by the main suspect during the investigation.  The closing of the case saw more changes in Christopher’s life as he moved in with his lover, Montana police officer Doug Heavy Runner.  But instead of the wonderful life Christopher thought he would be living, instead he finds himself deeply depressed by his isolated new location, surrounded by a small town’s  blatant racism and homophobia. No one will hire him, he has made the seething racism his lover Doug Heavy Runner faces at work worse by adding homophobia to the mix, and his most recent jog through town ends when two gay-bashing teenagers hit him in the head with a rock.

Deputy Sheriff Doug Heavy Runner has never overcome the abusive relationship that traumatized and shattered him as a young cop. The memories, the lingering shame, and the fear he has never acknowledged have left him resigned to endure the discrimination he faces in Elkin. But he can’t stand it when Christopher becomes a target for that same hatred even as he is blind to the other issues Christopher faces in town.

A vacation in San Diego is cut short when the mutilated body of one of the boys who assaulted Christopher is found in Doug’s garage. Christopher and Doug return to Montana to find they must uncover a tangle of secrets, lies, and tragedy lurking beneath Elkin’s small-town façade. With their relationship at a crossroads, they’ll have to work together to catch the killer and maybe find a paradise of their own.

The Intersection of Purgatory and Paradise by A. J. Thomas returns the reader back to the hidebound small town in Montana, and the lingering aftermath of the original case that brought Christopher Hayes, Doug Heavy Runner, Elliot Belkamp and Ray Delgado together in a series of related, horrific cases.  The story opens a year later with Christopher and Doug still dealing with the consequences of that case and their decision to move in together.  And none of it has turned out as either had hoped it would.

Elkin, Montana is that typical small minded town that exists all over America.  Mired in the past and the tight incestuous connections that small town living breeds, Elkin is the last place in the world to welcome a gay couple in their midst, especially one where one partner is a Native American and the other a gay ex SDPD detective.  Add to that unpalatable combination (to the townspeople) the fact that Christopher’s pedophile brother committed suicide there, a horrific case whose aftermath is still causing reverberations throughout the community, and you have a recipe not only for rejection but outright shunning and hatred.  A. J. Thomas brings this putrid little town alive in all its homophobic, racist, closed down ways.  From glares from citizens who cross the street rather than walk near Christopher to the acts of hatred such as thrown rocks when Christopher runs,  its feels nauseatingly believable and authentic in every way.  Yes, there are a few individuals that are bright spots of acceptance and friendship, but they are few indeed.

Living in this town has not helped either Doug or Christopher come to grips with the horror of the case or their past history that’s getting in the way of their relationship.  Doug won’t talk about his trauma from his time in Miami, and Christopher is still using running to race away from his issues with Doug, the town’s treatment of Doug and himself, and the blatant racism and homophobia that no one seems to want to do anything about.  He’s deeply depressed, a condition he knows he’s prone to and it’s getting worse because he can’t get a job, no matter his outstanding credentials because of the town’s prejudice against him.  This is a complicated, angst driven couple in trouble and each is hiding their fears about their situation and relationship from the other.  Is this an explosive situation?  Absolutely!  And Thomas makes us feel every shiver of dread and stomach turning bit of angst as the characters proceed through the story.

Christopher and Doug have fallen from one emotional precipice only to end up on another.  It’s painful, its sometimes hard to read, but the promise and endurance of Doug and Christopher as well as Christopher’s ability to work through to the truth, will keep you glued to this story and the rocky path in front of them both.   You want these two to succeed but the chances of that happening is never clearly set.  Even when they finally acknowledge some of the issues facing them, its clear that love may not be enough to keep them together unless drastic changes occur.  Thomas understands relationship dynamics in the manner in which Doug and Christopher have to work through the past and present problems in order to have a future.

A highlight here is the trip they take to San Diego.  I don’t want to spoil it but it brings Ray Delgado and Elliot Belkamp back into the picture (not that they ever left).  This section was the icing on a cake, the bubbles in the champagne.  And I loved it!

 The Intersection of Purgatory and Paradise (love that title and the way its explained) also contains another series of horrific murders and suicides.  That they come about due to the festering attitudes and influences of small town bigotry will surprise no one.  However, the cases are gripping, the action quick and surprising, and the ending explosive.  I wouldn’t expect anything less from this amazing series and author.

Thankfully, this is not the last of the series.  On the author’s website, Thomas states that an as yet untitled fourth story is in the works.  Be still my heart!  I can’t wait.

Are you new to this series?  Run and pick up the first story, A Casual Weekend Thing, and work your way through books 2 and 3.  All are on my Must Have, Must Read list and will end up on my Best of lists this year.  Love complicated, angst driven men?  Love layers, twists and turns to your romance and stories.  Already a fan of this series?  Then be prepared to love this story. The Intersection of Purgatory and Paradise and the other books in the Least Likely Partnership series (listed below) are written for you.  I highly recommend them all!

Cover artist Brook Albrecht.  I really like this cover, its my favorite of the three so far.

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

Book Details:

ebook, 204 pages, available also in paperback
Expected publication: March 27th 2015 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN139781632169785
edition languageEnglish
url http://ajthomasromance.blogspot.com/p/the-intersection-of-purgatory-and.html
seriesLeast Likely Partnership #3

 

Books in the Least Likely Partnership Series in the order they were written and should be read to understand the characters, timeline and relationships:

A MelanieM Review: Holding Out for a Fairy Tale (Least Likely Partnership #2) by A.J. Thomas

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Rating: 4.75 rounded up to 5 stars out of 5

Holding Out for a Fairy Tale coverSan Diego homicide detective Ray Delgado never gets a chance to forget where he comes from, a wide spread criminal dynasty whose members are often linked to Ray by blood.  So far Ray has put a number of cousins and uncles behind bars, making him persona non grata with his family, immediate and otherwise.  Only two family members have remained close, his aunt and his cousin, Sophia, who Ray helped raise.  When Ray’s crime lord cousin,  Alejandro makes a violent late-night visit, Ray is in for a number of unpleasant surprises.  Alejandro wants Ray to find his sister, Sophia, who disappeared from the UC San Diego campus, something Ray was unaware of. And Alejandro wants it done before the FBI digs too deep into his business.  Why?  Because millions of the Cartel’s money is missing and it looks as though Sophia, a computer whiz, is involved.

Special Agent Elliot Belkamp spent his entire life jumping from one place to another, including his last assignment which took him to Montana and an white hot encounter with the deeply closeted but oh so sexy Det. Ray Delgado.  Now his new assignment assisting a FBI task force offers him a chance to settle down.  It San Diego, California home to a certain homicide detective.

When Elliot catches a missing person’s case as his first assignment, the last person he thought to find poking around the victim’s dorm room is Ray, his one time hook that ended badly…at least for Elliot. After discovering Sophia’s disappearance is linked to a massive computer-based theft that has two powerful crime families ready to declare war, Elliot focuses on his investigation and tries to ignore Ray. As the search for Sophia turns dangerous, Elliot and Ray discover that tackling organized crime might be easier than resisting the intense attraction both still feel for each other.

Back in 2013, A.J. Thomas debuted her first novel, A Casual Weekend Thing (Least Likely Partnership #1) which went on to winner a Rainbow Award for that year.   This novel was also the first in a remarkable series, Least Likely Partnership.  Thomas’ story was brutal, raw, and realistic.  It involved child abuse and the effects it had on its victims as they aged.  It involved pedophiles within families, suicide, murder, mystery and much, much more.  And once I started I couldn’t put it down no matter how wrenching the story got, and it was plenty traumatic on many levels.  And introduced as secondary characters in that story were San Diego Homicide Detective Ray Delgado, a closeted officer obsessively crushing on his partner Detective Christopher Hayes, a main character and deeply damaged man.  And who did Ray hook up with during the case that Christopher was involved with up in Montana?  That would be FBI special agent Elliot Belkamp.  They spent one hot and heavy week in a hotel in Montana after the case was over.  Then Ray’s mouth and closeted status ended their relationship before it could get out of the motel.  But somehow, the pull between these two was so intense that the reader just knew or perhaps hoped, that they would get another chance.  And they finally do here in Holding Out for a Fairy Tale (Least Likely Partnership #2).

Was it worth the wait?  You betcha!  Once again, A.J. Thomas hooks you in immediately as Ray jumps vividly to life from page one.  Ray, Ray, Ray! Ray, Ray.  The energy, that spark of magic, determination and power, that Thomas builds into Ray Delgado is impossible to resist.  He’s part jerk and part obsessed super cop. And even when he’s berating his fellow officers for not following some procedure or safety protocol (and he’s brutal with his verbal dressing downs), they also know he is right, they won’t repeat that mistake, and that he’s  really doing it for their benefit.  Of course, he’s still a jerk about it.  But you just can’t dislike this guy.  He’s charismatic, he’s caring, and he has to try extra hard because he’s a cop from a hispanic crime family that he has a love/hate relationship with.  And everyone knows it.  Ray Delgado is one beautifully fleshed out characters, so real that you forget he’s been fabricated for a story.

Quietly intense, and Ray’s equal in power and authenticity is Special Agent Elliot Belkamp.  Elliot is out, unlike Ray, and ready to settle down in every aspect of his life.  He wants a home after multiple transfers, he wants a life partner, and well, he wants a life and relationship just like his parents have.  Elliot is the one holding out for a fairy tale and won’t settle for anything or anyone less. And he’s chosen San Diego as the place to get started on the next phase of his life.  Or rather the FBI has with its creation of its new crime syndicate task force based there.  Elliot is a far more subtle creature than Ray but just as fascinating.  Because as much as they differ, Thomas has also made them alike in some fundamental ways.  They believe in family, and the determination to be the best law enforcement officers they can be, no matter the personal costs. They are highly intelligent and thorough.  And its that respect they have for each other and their jobs, along with the intense physical attraction they feel that keeps them returning back to each other.   A.J. Thomas makes their interplay and attraction real and compelling and she does so through intelligent, sometimes snappy dialog and believable law enforcement procedures where each plays off the other during the course of this convoluted case and investigation.

Elliot and Ray are among the least damaged of the two couples but they still carry plenty of baggage, especially Ray.  And that includes the cultural and familial reason Ray has remained in the closet.  With just a telling look from a doorman, Ray gets put in his “Hispanic” macho regulated place, and the fear and rationale behind Ray’s closeted status becomes clear.   And when Ray finally decides to come exploding out of the closet, it gives the reader even more reason to cheer and celebrate.  While Elliot is looking for his fairy tale and determined to get it, Ray is looking for a family to replace the one he lost when he chose being a police officer  over the family business.  That he finds a deep love surprises him because he never realized how much he wanted it.

Along with these outstanding characters, Thomas has created a cast of just as excellent supporting players.  This includes Ray’s captain, Elliot’s boss (a sterling example of a strong woman), Ray’s fellow detectives, and so many more.  Each a crystalline portrait of humanity as its best and worst.  And yes, there is plenty of the “bad” to be found here, starting with Ray’s cousin Alejandro, a crime boss who could be Ray’s twin and was once as close as a brother to Ray.  It’s one compelling character after another, and the situations and events that follow are as complicated and authentic as any in real life.

There will be horror and heartbreak, laughter and tears, revelation and exhilarating surprises for the readers here.   I didn’t  put this book down until 2 something in the morning.  I couldn’t help myself.  I had to know how it all ended.  And it ended the way it had to, both heartbreaking and deeply satisfying.

I have to admit I have favorites.  I love Ray and Elliot better than Christopher Hayes and Doug Heavy Runner.  But that said, its a close race so I’m happy when I can get them all together. And that’s coming in the next book in the series, The Intersection of Purgatory and Paradise (Least Likely Partnership, #3).  And yes, I have already read and am now ready for more.  At least I hope there is more.  I’m off to find out.  Meanwhile if you are new to this series, start with the first story and work your way through.  I know others will say its a stand alone novel, but its so much richer with the back history that the first story represents.  I highly recommend this story and the author.  She is on my auto buy list and this story is an excellent example why she should be on yours too!

Cover art by Brooke Albrecht.  Not a fan of this or any of the covers in this series.  I get the darkness, that works.  But that model is far too young for Ray, surely there are older hispanic models out there to choose from.

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

Book Details:

ebook, 250 pages
Published May 9th 2014 by Dreamspinner Press (first published May 8th 2014)
ISBN 1627987061 (ISBN13: 9781627987066)
edition languageEnglish
url http://ajthomasromance.blogspot.com/
series Least Likely Partnership #2

The Books in the Least Likely Partnership series in the order they were written and should be read to understand the timeline, events and relationships:

A Sammy Review: The Way Things Are by A. J. Thomas

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

The Way Things Are coverBeing a single father is difficult, especially when your son’s way of expressing himself it by creating beautiful and elaborate graffiti in places that he shouldn’t. Patrick just wants a fresh start for Jay, and he hopes moving back to Washington will give Jay just that, but with graffiti being Jay’s way of expressing himself, it’s inevitable that he’ll reoffend. Patrick just never expected his new PO to be the stunning and intriguing Ken Atkins.

Through new jobs and awkward shifts, to a one-night stand that is a mistake they’re both willing to repeat, and a mysterious series of incidents at the shipping yard, Patrick and Ken have their work cut out for them if they’re going to make this relationship work in the long haul.

“You make me feel excited and safe at the same time. When I’m up there and I look down, I feel like I’m in a constant state of freefall. It’s a rush, and it’s engaging and it’s a little terrifying, but it’s also safe because I know it’s secure. Thinking about you is like that. It’s like falling all the time, but never having to worry about hitting the ground.”

In general, I thoroughly enjoyed The Way Things Are. I absolutely adored the characters and their personalities. It was truly great to see the heart and love Patrick put into raising his son, and despite some incidents in the past, the way he still made sure his son never heard ill about his ex-wife. It was something that, as a social worker who is working with families, I wish I saw more of.

There were some minor issues here and there. At one point there was a small plot inconsistency when Patrick was talking about his whereabouts the night before and in another part there was a very quick POV switch in the middle of page and then back again that confused me. Both of these things were near the end of the book, so it was a bit of a bummer to get so far and then find a couple mistakes like that.

This is also one of those books that you really should read in just a couple sittings. I had to read it in more than that, and by the time I got to read the end, a lot of my excitement was gone. It didn’t have an oomph for me like some parts in the beginning did. I will also say that they didn’t get together the way I expected them to. I’m not sure the way they first hooked up is the way I would’ve taken it, and I had to set that aside so that I could let myself continue to enjoy the book. I just felt like they deserved more than a random club hookup.

BUT, and there is a but, this book had some excellent writing for most of it and seriously memorable characters. I adored Jay and Corbin, and I’d love to see either of them get their own stories. The author did a great job of leaving it so that this could happen and setting it up, so I’m really hoping that we get to see more of them.

The cover art by Bree Archer is nice and sexy, much like the book. My only qualm is they both look pretty muscular, when I only really pictured Patrick as being that built – and the hair of who I presume to be Patrick doesn’t look red. Otherwise, it’s an enticing cover.

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

Book Details:

ebook, 266 pages, also available in paperback
Published January 30th 2015 by Dreamspinner Press (first published January 29th 2015)
ISBN139781632165558
edition languageEnglish
url http://ajthomasromance.blogspot.com/

Focusing In On: The Way Things Are by A. J. Thomas (contest included)

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 The Way Things Are by A. J. Thomas

Release Date: January 30, 2015
Goodreads Link

Author Bio:

A.J. Thomas writes romantic suspense. She’s earned a Bachelor’s degree in Literature from the University of Montana and worked in a half-dozen different jobs, from law enforcement officer to librarian, before settling down. Life as a military spouse has tossed her around the country so many times she doesn’t know how to answer when people ask her where she’s from, but she delights in living as a perpetual tourist, visiting new places and discovering amazing things.

Her time is divided between taking care of her three young children, experimenting with cooking and baking projects that rarely explode these days, and embarrassing her husband with dirty jokes. When she’s not writing, she hikes, gardens, researches every random idea that comes into her head, and develops complicated philosophical arguments about why a clean house is highly overrated. Her work has won multiple awards, including the 2013 AMB Ovation Award for Best LGBT Inter-racial Romance, and the 2014 Rainbow Award for Best Gay Contemporary Fiction.

Where to find the author:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100008224932949
Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/AJ.Thomas.Romance
Twitter: https://twitter.com/AJThomasRomance
Other: http://www.ajthomasromance.blogspot.com/

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Author Name: A.J. Thomas
Cover Artist: Bree ArcherSMWayThingsAre[The]FS

Sales Link: Dreamspinner Press   All Romance (ARe) 

Blurb(s):

A night of drunken confusion at nineteen resulted in Patrick Connelly fathering a child. Determined to be there for his son, Patrick walked away from a sport he loved and forever hid his sexuality. After Patrick’s brutal divorce and a vicious hate crime, his son, Jay, has become obsessed with graffiti. Hoping for a fresh start, Patrick moves Jay to his childhood home in Seattle. Within two weeks, Jay is arrested again. On his way to pick Jay up, Patrick stops an assault, then finds himself in handcuffs too. Thinking things canʼt get any worse, heʼs confronted by the sexiest man heʼs ever seen—his sonʼs new probation officer, Ken Atkins.
The hardest part of Kenʼs job is working with difficult parents, and the undeniably handsome Patrick Connelly is going to be a difficult parent. A chance encounter and steamy hookup with Patrick leave Ken blindsided. As they work together to try to keep Jay on the right path, the passion between them proves impossible to resist. When the assault Patrick prevented comes back to haunt them and Jay gets into trouble again, Ken must convince Patrick that ensuring his sonʼs happiness doesnʼt have to mean sacrificing his own.
Categories: Contemporary, Erotic (light), Gay Fiction, M/M Romance, Romance

Excerpt:

Ken shook his head, the motion making his entire body sway again. “I can’t believe you,” he said in disgust. “You have a child home alone right now, who needs an actual fucking role model in his life and actual supervision, and you’re here.” He gestured around at the dusty office. “I would have figured you’d be a bit old and butch for most of the clientele at this place.”

Patrick opened his mouth to deny that he was there selling himself, then stopped. “I’m not that old. And I am an employee of Corbin’s Attic.”

Ken chuckled. “You work for the club?”

“Yes. I had a shirt, but some vicious little drama queen insisted I dance with him, and he wouldn’t take no for answer.”

“You should have called one of the bouncers. They’re serious guys.”

“Uh….” Patrick scratched the back of his head. “I am pretty sure none of the other bouncers here would have come to my rescue.”

“Other bouncers?”

“Yeah. Which reminds me, I need to steal another shirt.” The security T-shirts were in a small, tumbling stack on top of boxes in the corner, next to five bigger stacks of black aprons and towels. He sorted through the T-shirts to find his size, then held it up so Ken could see the stenciled yellow “SECURITY” on the back.

“You’re a bouncer?”

“Just until I get my first check from the Port. And until Jay gets in trouble again and has to pay another fine. And maybe until the owner finds someone else to use as eye candy when he wants to make the guy who refuses to go out with him jealous.”

Ken choked. “That was the owner? The blonde guy you were wrapped around out there?”

“That was Corbin Hollis, yes. Which is why none of the other guys would dare help me. He’s my best friend. He’s letting me pick up some hours here because I’m broke.”

Ken looked at him again, just for a moment, before he dropped his gaze to the floor. “I should let you get back to work, then.”

Patrick caught Ken as he stumbled toward the door. “Hang on, now. I told you why I was here. Shouldn’t you be fair?”

“No,” Ken said. “I shouldn’t be here at all. Not if one of my parents works here, that’s for damn sure.” Patrick wrapped his arms around Ken’s waist and tried to hold him steady while Ken squirmed. When he slumped back against Patrick’s chest, the hard cock straining against the denim of Ken’s jeans made Patrick freeze and nearly drop him.

Pages or Words: 252 pages
TWTABadgeTour Dates: January 30, 2015

Tour Stops: 

Parker Williams, Molly Lolly, MM Good Book Reviews, BFD Book Blog, Bayou Book Junkie, My Fiction Nook, Inked Rainbow Reads, The Hat Party, Scattered Thoughts & Rogue Words, Havan Fellows, Book Reviews and More by Kathy, Cate Ashwood, Elisa – My Reviews and Ramblings, Lee Brazil, Velvet Panic, It’s Raining Men, Michael Mandrake, Because Two Men Are Better Than One, Iyana Jenna, Wicked Faerie’s Tales and Reviews

 

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