A Chaos Moondrawn Review: Craving’s Creek by Mel Bossa

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Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5

The blurb to this book really captured my attention. The story, seen through Ryde’s point of view, takes place over 15 years and is broken down into three main parts. The first part shows Ryde’s intense attraction and focus on his neighbor Alastair. The reader gets to see the juxtaposition of Ryde’s supportive, though neglectful family and Alastair’s strange and scary religious upbringing. Then, this gut wrenching tragedy happens taking away all their youthful hopes and dreams. The second part shows Ryde’s life fourteen years later. Surveying the landscape is bleak as Ryde hits rock bottom when his selfishness, pain, and grief become more important than his love for anyone, even Alistair. Meanwhile, seeing Ryde again makes Alastair realizes his life is not what he thinks it is. The third part of the story deals with them both trying to put their demons to rest and move forward. This is where most of the hurt/comfort trope plays out.

For this 2019 edition, the author has mentioned she “really toned down the drama” from the 2015 version, which boggles my mind since I cried several times while reading it. This book has a very high angst level with themes of rape, sexual abuse, mental illness, PTSD, addiction, religious fervor, and betrayal. It is stark in its depiction of what Ryde’s whole family has lost. Ryde’s best friend Sheryl is fighting her own battle since she made the decision to let Ryde drag her down with him.

I am of two minds about this book. Obviously, it was well written enough to affect me so deeply. There is so much nuance here to complex issues like religion versus spirituality and coping mechanisms. Watching Father Masson wrestling with his own conscience about what is best for Alastair is compelling. Father Cornwell, as Alastair’s spiritual advisor, shows the bad side of the Church in wanting to control the situation, or save his soul, rather than do what may be best for Alastair’s mental health. There is certainly a compelling argument that he should not have been allowed to take his vows. Through it all, Alastair never losses his Faith in God, even when he loses faith in the Church.

I think the main flaw of this book is the subtle implication, even after apparent rewrites, that love can cure mental illness, trauma, and stop alcoholism. Ryde’s sobriety is nearly instantaneous. Alastair almost never shows any sign that it isn’t all about him except for asking about Ryde’s nightmares. Their one attempt at sexual intimacy ends disastrously. He warns Ryde he may never be able to have sex, but I’m not sure Ryde actually thinks that might be true–his focus on the physical rather than the mental issues here is astounding. A lifetime of trauma can’t be solved in a few months of once a week therapy or even after one huge breakthrough. Going back to Craving’s Creek seems just thrown in for the dramatic affect.

Shared history and trauma are important components to their relationship, but in the end it can’t be the only thing that keeps them together. There is not much here to convince me they can live together on a daily basis and navigate normal life yet, so I would argue this is a HFN rather than a HEA. Still, the book ends on a hopeful note of catharsis as they move towards their futures, finally together, with Ryde much more able to cope with the reality of Alastair than his 17 year old self would have been.

The cover design was done by Written Ink Designs. This is not how I pictured Alastair at all. The picture does signal that religion will be a main theme and shows the place that is ground zero for what happens to them.

Sales Links:  JMS Books LLC | Amazon | Smashwords | Barnes & NobleKobo

Book Details:

ebook, 224 pages
Published June 29th 2019 by JMS Books LLC (first published August 18th 2015)
ISBN 139781634869560
Edition Language English

A MelanieM Review: Chicken Soup by Mel Bossa

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Though Jimmy’s ill and isn’t getting any better, he hopes to have a bit of fun during Pride weekend. When he meets Nolan, a young dancer in the parade, Jimmy takes a chance on making himself vulnerable for the first time in years.

What Jimmy doesn’t expect is how strong Nolan will make him feel with a simple gesture of support.

Note: This short story was originally published in the charity collection, Love Is Proud.

Chicken Soup by Mel Bossa demonstrates exactly how precisely a writer can build a tiny portrait of a man who has lost all hope of a future in every respect, despair and depression slowly weighing him down by his daily new illness and as the story eventually lets on, his  varying viral count.

While we don’t know specifics, we are lefts enough clues to put together a vague past history of a man soon to see his 40’s birthday, alone, even among his friends during Pride weekend.

Mel Bossa does a beautiful job with Jimmy and we feel his desolation of the spirit that suddenly lifts when he meets a 27 year old bank teller from Nova Scotia pursuing his dream of becoming a ballet dancer.  What follows is a sweet, tear inducing tale of recognition, connection, and of hope.

This is such a gem of a short story, certainly a HFN.   But its message is clear and life affirming, the characters well defined for such a brief story and the ending left me sniffling.  Yes, I certainly recommend this lovely story to everyone in need of an uplifting tale to read.

Cover art by Written Ink Designs:  I get that its branding a series of short stories but this shows its short failures.  It’s in no way appropriate for this story which is due something far better.

Sales Links:  JMS Books LLC | Amazon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 14 pages
Published March 2nd 2019 by JMS Books LLC
ASINB07PWTZ9B

A Free Dreamer Review: The Witchin’ Canoe by Mel Bossa

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Though his mother named him after a priest, there’s nothing saintly about McGauran O’Dowd. He needs to escape the slums before he’s forced into marrying his friend’s sister and revealing the sin he’s managed to hide so far.

When McGauran gets hired as a logger by ruthless business man Gédéon Latendresse, people warn him –the Latendresse family is cursed. Twenty years ago, Gédéon rode the witchin’ canoe from the camps to the city to stop his brother’s wedding. But that night, Gédéon broke one of the Chasse Galerie rules, and now the Devil’s come for his due.

And that due, McGauran soon finds out, is Gédéon’s sheltered young nephew Honoré, the most enchanting man McGauran’s ever met. The lover he’s been praying for.

Cursed, Honoré is slipping into madness and threatened to be interned. When the winter comes, McGauran is stuck at the shanties, helpless to save Honoré from his tragic fate. He’ll do anything to save the man he loves, even bargain with the Devil himself.

The Witchin’ Canoe is a very unusual setting and definitely nothing like any other book I’ve read before.

First of all, I have no idea how historically accurate this book is. I literally know nothing about Canada during this period in history. But it all seemed realistic, for what that’s worth.

This book is about two very different people falling in love with each other. There’s Honoré, he’s rich, but lonely and possibly cursed or mentally ill or maybe he just doesn’t fit society’s expectations. He’s an intriguing young man and I liked him from the very start. Then there’s McGauran, who lives in the slums in desperate poverty. He’s lonely too, even though he has friends and a woman he’s expected to marry soon. He was also extremely likable. There are many minor characters showing up throughout the book, but no matter how short or unimportant their appearance, they all got a unique personality with actual depth. Not all of them were likable, but that made the cast all the more interesting.

The poverty surrounding Mac was extremely well described. I could literally taste Mac’s desperation to somehow change his depressing surroundings. But with a sickly mother and no education to speak of, that’s not exactly easy.

Likewise, the house Honoré lives in was easy to imagine. It was all very mysterious and also a little bit creepy at times. Just enough to give you a little thrill.

The whole story had a gothic, mysterious feel to it that was very addicting and made it very hard to put down the book.

There were only two things that bothered me. First, there’s the romance part of the story. While the relationship itself takes a while to develop, it’s essentially love at first sight for both of them. They barely even talk to each other during their first meeting and still they’re in love. There’s a huge societal gulf between these two and they seemingly had no trouble whatsoever to cross that, which seemed a bit idealistic to me. Then there was Mac’s mother. She can’t support herself and yet Mac plans to run off to the wild all on his own, seemingly without a care what that would mean for his mother. He’s such a responsible young man otherwise, so it just felt very much out of character for him.

“The Witchin’ Canoe” is very high quality fiction, with a subtle creepiness. Some very mysterious things are going on here and it’s sometimes hard to tell reality from imagination. I enjoyed this book very much and look forward to more fascinating books by this author.

The cover has all the important elements of the story and yet it still doesn’t quite do it justice. It just doesn’t look mysterious enough to me.

Sales  Links:  JMS Books LLC  | Amazon

Book details:

ebook
Published January 5th 2019 by JMS Books
ISBN 139781634867894
Edition Language English

 

An Ali Review: A Purple Winter (Nick & Derek #4) by Mel Bossa

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Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Derek O’Reilly was never good at reality. After twenty years of adulthood, he’s disenchanted with his life but his husband, Chef Nick Lund, is still chasing success. Then a near-fatal motorcycle accident brings everything to a halt and opens a door to a time Derek thought he’d never experience again.

As Derek sinks into a coma, his mind returns to the winter he first fell for Nick, the bad boy with arctic blue eyes. But in this coma-fantasy, Derek isn’t a helpless child anymore. No — this time, he’s older and making Nick Lund stutter and swoon for a change.

While Derek slips away, Nick sits by him in the hospital, devastated. To pull his lover back from the land of dreams, he must say what he’s never said before.

Derek has a choice — remain lost in his imagined world, or return to Nick in the here and now where forever truly exists.
This was a really well written and creatively told story.  I’m not going to get too much into the plot as I think the blurb does a good job of explaining the plot line.  This story is angsty and shows that love is not always perfect.  Sometimes you can love someone but there can still be issues and problems in the relationship.  Things are complicated between these two men and the author does an excellent job taking the reading along on their journey. The author breaks the reader’s hearts a bit but she puts them back together by the end of the book and it’s well worth it.
My only complaint has nothing to do with the book itself.  This is a follow up book to the Split.  This was not shown by the publisher in the ARC blurb and I thought this was a standalone.  I was a bit annoyed when I realized it was not.  Fortunately I already owned the first book so was able to go back and read it.  I have looked at some other reviews of people who also had not read book one and they said they felt it worked fine as a standalone.  There is no way I could do that (weird self imposed book rules).  So be aware should you be interested in this story.
Overall this was a very good read.  It was very uniquely done and I enjoyed it a lot.  It is a book I would definitely recommend. 
Sales Links:  JMS Books LLC | Amazon
Book Details:
ebook
Published December 16th 2017 by JMS Books LLC
ISBN139781634865289
SeriesNick & Derek #4

An Ali Review: Owner of a Lonely Heart by Mel Bossa

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Rating: 2 stars out of 5

Owner of a Lonely Heart coverDeclan spends most of his life trying to forget his violent past, but now that his brother Valens is out of jail his efforts at a quiet existence are about to be turned upside down. On top of that, his best friend Rhys is leaving for Poland—right as Declan was ready to confess his feelings.

Overwhelmed, he turns to his friend Felix for support, only to find himself falling for Felix while still being in love with Rhys—who also happens to have feelings for Felix, leaving Declan with a present at least as complicated as his past, and a highly uncertain future.

There was a lot going on in this story. Too much in my opinion. Declan is the main focus of the book but his brother Valens, his best friend and love Rhys, and their friend Felix all have major parts. In addition they all have major issues going on in their lives. There is domestic violence, allegations of misconduct at work, babies and bad guys trying to catch up to them to name a few.

While I could have juggled those things in my mind what I struggled with was that all these things took the focus off of the relationships. Declan ends up in a polyamorous relationship with Rhys and Felix but I don’t really know how it happened. We don’t see any of their relationship talks on page and when you take such a serious topic I’m not going to buy it. There was literally almost no discussion about the complexities of the relationship. We never even know Felix and Rhys are friends or talk to each other and then all of a sudden they’re in love. I kept feeling like I had missed a scene and would find myself skipping back to see if I had. The techincal aspect of the writing was fine but the plot and the way it was told just really didn’t work for me at all.

Cover: I liked this cover a lot. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a primarily black and white cover before and I thought it was really eye catching.

Sales Links:   Less Than Three Press | All Romance (ARe) | Amazon | Buy It Here

Book Details:

ebook
Published November 11th 2015 by Less Than Three Press
original titleOwner of a Lonely Heart
ISBN139781620046326
edition languageEnglish

A BJ Review: Linhart’s Beautiful Beast by Mel Bossa

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Rating:  3.75 stars out of 5

Linhart's Beautiful Beast coverIn 1934 Quebec, Joseph Vega has been locked up in Linhart Prison for three years for an assault committed on a man who’d been in process of robbing his mother’s home. He’s lost track of himself and nearly forgotten how to feel in the cold, dark place.


When a beautiful ginger-head man named Christophe Dubois is led into his cell, Joe knows he’s in trouble. From the moment Joe lays eyes on the disowned son of an affluent politician, his life begins to change. Christophe is spoiled but also bold, curious, and feisty, and his presence opens up feelings that Joe has tried to bury and deny down for years. Eventually, Joe can’t resist the temptation of climbing into the man’s bunk. But he’s not the only one drawn by Dubois and soon Joe must fight to keep Christophe safe.

Inside they were thrown together in a cruel and barren place, but is the flame that burns between Joe and Chris enough to keep them together when they are released from the confining walls and face an even tougher world?

I have always been drawn to prison stories, and when I saw the cover and blurb this one called out to me. This one isn’t your typical prison story though, but a historical story with an interesting location and time period placing it during the Great Depression era during events leading up to World War II. Although much of the story takes place within the walls of Linhart, the plot touches on events both leading up to the two men’s incarceration and events after their release.

Those inside the prison pretty much lived up to my ideas of what had to be, but I found myself struggling with Joe’s mother’s reactions after his release, but kept reminding myself of the timeframe and that it was to be expected even if disappointing.

Both main characters were interesting and well-drawn. Watching Joe struggle to accept himself as his feelings for Chris emerged, as he slowly broke through the walls he’d built inside himself was the highlight of the story for me. I truly felt these two guy’s connection, their heat, and their pain.

However, the story’s pacing was uneven for me. It was slow to engage me, taking until the eleven percent mark on my kindle for me to really get invested enough to have the story begin to carry me along. Beyond that, some parts held me captivated and had me turning pages late into the night while others seemed to drag. There were some editing errors and a few places where I was left a bit confused.

Overall, this is a thought-provoking and touching story with some deeply poignant moments and an interesting setting and period.

The cover is quite fitting for this story showing the prison, the hot guy and the barren landscape with trees below.

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


Book Details:  

Kindle Edition, 217 pages
Published July 19th 2015 by JMS Books LLC (first published July 12th 2015)
ASINB010OTE1M4
edition languageEnglish