A MelanieM Advent Calendar Review: Slow Summer Heat by Renae Kaye

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Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

 

A Story from the Warmest Wishes: Dreamspinner Press 2018 Advent Calendar

Geoffrey Saxon is in his forties, a bit plump, a lot fuzzy, and rather boring in bed—and thanks to a very public breakup, everyone in his street knows it. However, what they don’t know is that Geoffrey sometimes watches his hot young neighbor, Vaughn, in the pool. Vaughn has invited Geoffrey to join his pool parties, but Geoffrey knows it’s only pity.

As if things can’t get worse, Geoffrey’s air conditioner breaks during a heat wave in Western Australia—and just before Christmas. In search of some relief, he camps out in his backyard, where he also has a prime view of Vaughn swimming… naked. When Geoffrey’s injured falling from his spying post, Vaughn comes to his rescue and Geoffrey doesn’t think he can be more horrified.

But he could be in for a sweet holiday surprise. Is he ready to take the dive?

Slow Summer Heat by Renae Kaye is a sweet, heartwarming story about an older man who’s been hurt by his ex and a humiliating breakup to an extent that’s he’s withdrawn from a social life into his house and a lonely existence.  Kaye does this type of character really well.  You can see Geoffrey quite clearly from her vivid descriptions to his dialogs (inner conversations and those with his gorgeous neighbor).

Geoffrey teeters briefly on the edge of a character that could go into the kink or voyeur as he’s convinced he’s so unattractive that no one wants him, so he turns down his neighbor’s invitations.  That leads to spying which leads to other things.  With Kaye, you get a great feel as to who Geoffrey is, his background, family, etc. You understand just how badly this past relationship has affected him and why, including the scene made in the street.

What’s missing is Vaughn’s portion.  At least I mostly felt that way for me.  Geoffrey is our narrator so we see this gorgeous young roofer through his eyes but even with all their conversations Vaughn never feel’s as fully fleshed out a personality as Geoffrey does. That could certainly be due to the shortness of the story.  I  just wished for more of the man Geoffrey was crushing on all this time.

Still Slow Summer Heat is a cute hot holiday romance.  A quick read with a touch of the Australian heat for something different.

Cover Artist: Adrian Nicholas.  The pool is a major element here so it works for the cover but there should be more to it as well.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 1st edition, 54 pages
Published December 1st 2018 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 139781644050583
Edition Language English

A MelanieM Release Day Review: Knowing Me, Knowing You (Loving You #4) by Renae Kaye

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Rating:  4 stars out of 5

Can friends turned occasional lovers move beyond past mistakes and wrong assumptions to build something that can last?

Quiet bookworm Shane has a big secret—one he’s kept for fifteen years. AFL superstar Ambrose Jakoby grew up next door to Shane. They were close friends, and Shane supported Ambrose through school.

One night, everything changed.

Before Ambrose left Perth as a scared eighteen-year-old to head to Melbourne and take up his new footy career, Ambrose and Shane slept together.

For the next nine years, they continued a secret friends-with-benefits situation whenever Ambrose was in town. Shane never knew exactly where he stood or how to define Ambrose’s sexuality—and Ambrose didn’t know either. Then last Christmas, everything changed again, and a disagreement strained their friendship. Shane vowed to get over his unrequited love.

But Ambrose is back, recovering from an injury and hoping to make amends. He claims he’s ready for a real relationship. But Shane has to decide whether Ambrose means it and whether his Hufflepuff soul can take the chance.

Knowing Me, Knowing You  by Renae Kaye is another enjoyable, sweet romance in her Loving You series.  This series, built around a group of friends and couples has had its share of unusual pairings.  For some it’s been in exploration of each man’s sexuality, a finding of their identity, an acceptance and self knowledge before they can acknowledge their love for the man that’s their HEA and full time partner in life.

And that has come with some controversy over labels and descriptions.

Thankfully, we seem to have vanquished the “gay for you” trope, at least from most books I’ve read lately for some realistic and honest look at sexuality.  Kaye does so here with Ambrose and demisexuality. The fact that he just couldn’t understand his own lack of sexual drive in general as a youth or that it was only oriented towards one or a couple of people seems realistic.  There was no one he could speak to, no one to as questions to.  The talks he later had, years later, with Shane felt believable and sort of sad, while being ground in a factual reality.

That Shane didn’t understand more of the LGBTQIA spectrum?  Maybe not so much.  I would have expected more knowledge and understanding from him, less density.  That was my frustration as a reader.  Shane is surrounded by friends who have  gone through a myriad of experiences, he regularly does to Pride Parades.  Isn’t he picking up the literature and education as well?

Of course, all of this is mixed in with years of boyhood friendship, kisses and hookups, then miscommunication or no communication, and just dealing with years apart.  All done through Renae Kaye’s layered well rounded characters going through believable situations in life.  Ambrose is hurt in what might be a career ending injury, and wants to reconnect with Shane.  Shane’s needs to see if he is ready to examine their relationship and his life in general.  It’s all messy, painful, loving, and real.

And yes, maybe it sometimes even needs to come with some labels if that’s  what someone needs. Or doesn’t.  Feeling pressured into sex feels pretty believable and understandable these days no matter the gender.  So I get that element too.  I think most readers will.  That it has taken Ambrose all this time to start to figure out why he feels the way he does is no mystery.  Some people take much longer.  That rings true as well.

I loved bringing the search for Ambrose’s family into this.  Such a heartwarming part of this story.  I just loved that.

Without heading into spoiler territory, I do feel some ambivalence about that ending.  Kaye keeps it real there too.  It’s the only way it can happen without a epilogue years into the future.  I’m hoping that we keep having a peek at this couple into the next stories and updates as to what their current status is.  Maybe even a new story down the line.  That would be wonderful.

Cover Artist: Maria Fannin.  Love that cover. Light hearted, bright and happy.  It draws the reader to it.  Love it.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | Amazon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 1st edition, 255 pages
Expected publication: October 30th 2018 by Dreamspinner Press
ASINB07G76PMK5
Edition Language English
Series Loving You 

Loving Jay

Don’t Twunk with My Heart

The Straight Boyfriend

Knowing Me, Knowing You

Renae Kaye on Writing, Characters, Covers, and her new release Knowing Me, Knowing You (Loving You #4) (author guest blog)

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Knowing Me, Knowing You (Loving You #4) by Renae Kaye
Dreamspinner Press
Cover Artist: Maria Fanning

Buy Links: Dreamspinner Press |   Amazon US  |  Amazon UK  |   Kobo  |  Barnes and Noble

:

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to host Renae Kaye here today on tour with her new Loving You story, Knowing Me, Knowing You.  Welcome, Renae!

Thank you for having me on your blog.  I’m here to excitedly tell everyone about my new book – Knowing Me, Knowing You.  This is the fourth book in the Loving You series, and yes, I want to reassure everyone that Liam and Jay are back along with the rest of the gang.

This book concentrates on the quiet one of the group – Shane.  Shane isn’t really one to shout out his love for people from the top of his lungs.  He’s not into the public declarations and the fireworks.  Shane’s love is deeper and has been there for a long while.  He has tried to ignore it.  He has tried to make it go away.  And when he finally thinks he’s over his obsession with Ambrose Jakoby, the damn man comes back and thrusts himself back into Shane’s life.

You’ve given me a couple of questions to answer about myself, my writing and my new book.  It saves me rattling on and gives me a lot of scope.  So here goes:

How much of yourself goes into a character?

It’s an interesting concept and one that has been studied by people.  There’s a school of thought that the first character you ever wrote is the most like you.  The first character I ever wrote was in a MF-romance, and actually she shared a lot of my life experiences – she has yet to be published yet, but I’m working on it.  She went to the same university as me, worked in the same job, likes the same TV shows and has the same sense of humour, but she’s also very much unlike me too.  She’s a lot stronger.  Maybe, as writers, that’s why we write that first character?  It’s that person we hope to be?

My first two published characters are Jay and Liam from Loving Jay.  There is certainly a lot of my personality in each of them.  I also have been known to suffer from – uh hm – verbal diarrhoea? One of the things I love about Jay is nothing gets him down for long.  That’s also something that comes from me.  Despite trying to be an angsty, edgy author, I end up unrestrainedly perky.

Liam is also like me.  He tried to conform to a family that doesn’t fit him, tries to make everyone happy, and is rather accepting of people who are different to him.  That’s me.  While it took Liam about twenty-odd years to say, “This is me! Accept me or not,” it took me a little longer.  I was thirty-four before I could tell my large extended family that I wasn’t going to fit into that box they had set.

However, Shane and Ambrose are further down the track in my writing career.  They have their own personalities and I’m now comfortable in writing someone unlike me.   Shane is certainly a bookworm like I am, but he’s also an introvert.  He’s happy with who he is.  He’s happy to float along in the supporting role.  Shane’s a great character and I loved writing him, but he really isn’t me.

Do you read romances, as a teenager and as an adult?

Oh yes!

I was about 10 or 11 years old when I discovered “Dolly Fiction” at my local newsagency.  They had a box of cheap books and I bought as many as my pocket money would allow.  For the next couple of years I devoured teenage romance until my older sister loaned me one of her Mills and Boon books.  Then I was set.  I’ve read romances since then.  I’ve gone through phases of liking different genres within the romance set – I’ve done shifters and settlers and pirates and Vikings and Victorian eras and vampires and cowboys and comedies and cyborgs and erotica…  It seems I’ve tried them all.  I tend to binge read on a sub-genre for a while.

I was like that when I started reading M/M.  I binged for a long while before branching out into different sub-genres within the romance umbrella.  Sometimes I attempt to read a non-romance, but I don’t get very far.  They just don’t hold my attention.

Romance all the way.

How do you choose your covers?  (curious on my part)

With great difficulty!

Knowing Me, Knowing You is published through Dreamspinner Press and they have some wonderful cover artists working for them.  The two hardest aspects of the cover for me is finding a theme that represents what is inside the book, and finding models that suit the picture in my head.

The Loving You series is a light-hearted and slightly comedic storytelling.  The covers need to reflect that and I like the use of light colours and smiling models.  The font used in the title is a bit crazy, which also shows the reader it will be light-hearted.  My Safe series is less humorous and has a higher descriptive sex level which is reflected in the use of naked torsos and block lettering.

I have the added complexity of the fact I like to write characters who are not the norm you find in romance novels.  I write flamboyant twinks like Jay, or tubby, short characters like Shawn, or even men with long plaits like Harley. Trying to find models for these are hard.

In Knowing Me, Knowing You I once again wrote characters that are not necessarily easy to find.  Shane describes himself as wallpaper – he blends.  There is nothing about him that makes him stand out.  He’s Mr Average.  This is not the usual type of person photographers prefer.  But then I wrote a character of Ambrose who is part-Aboriginal.  Trying to find an available photograph of an extremely fit man (Ambrose is a top-level sportsman) who is only part-Aboriginal and who is smiling….  Needle in a haystack!

As for the layout of a cover and all the parts that come together, that’s what makes a cover artist an artist.  As an author you just have to trust them.

Have you ever put a story away, thinking it just didn’t work?  Then years/months/whatever later inspiration struck and you loved it?  Is there a title we would recognize if that happened?

Of course.  I started writing Knowing Me, Knowing You over two years ago.  It’s been thrown aside so many times because I didn’t think readers would be interested in the story between a bookworm and a football star.  I also had doubts about the reality of their love – would the readers understand?  Ambrose and Shane have one of those loves that doesn’t need fireworks and public declarations.  Neither of them want that.  It’s a love that has stood the test of time, separation, and hurt.

I’m a chronic WIP (work in progress) starter – I have half-completed stories all over the place.  Two of them belong to The Tav series.  Another belongs to The Shearing Gun. 

With the stories for The Tav, the reason I threw them aside was the community changed.  You can write a story that fits a trope or even a world event, but soon after something sours that theme and I’ve found it too politically incorrect to continue to write a story on a theme where people feel outraged.  The story may reflect real life, but sometimes people don’t want to read about reality, they want the fantasy.

As for The Shearing Gun #2, I want to make sure the character is unique and not just a carbon copy of Hank from the first story.  Sometimes an author needs a little distance for that to happen.  So poor Mickey is still waiting for me to finish his story.

I’m hoping that one day I can pick up their stories again and finish them off.

 

Have you ever had an issue in RL and worked it through by writing it out in a story?  Maybe how you thought you’d feel in a situation?

That’s how the first Loving You book started.  I know someone who is very much like Jay – obviously gay, flamboyant, twinkish, and damn proud of it.  With all the homophobia that is around in RL, I always found it amazing how people flocked to his side – drawn to that person that IS him.

I wondered how a guy who was from a very masculinity-orientated world (like fishing, football, mining, drinking) would react if they were drawn to this person.  It was me exploring that situation that led me to writing Loving Jay.

I’m what they call a “pantser” – I write by the seat of my pants without a plot line or story draft to follow.  All of my work comes from throwing two characters together into a situation and then working through it by writing it out.

 

What’s next for you as a writer?

As a writer I’m always working on the next story.  I’ve just finished writing another novel that is not related to the ones I’ve published, but I’m proud of it and love it to bits.

Publication-wise I have a novella Christmas story coming out in December as a part of the Dreamspinner Advent Calendar (link: https://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/books/2018-advent-calendar-daily-delivery-package-warmest-wishes-10067-b).  You will receive my story if you’ve paid for the whole series, or you can buy it separately from December.

In 2019 I will hopefully be releasing a couple of non-gay romance books under another pen name, so that will be a wonderful challenge for me.

 

 

Knowing Me, Knowing You

Loving You #4

By Renae Kaye

Blurb

Can friends turned occasional lovers move beyond past mistakes and wrong assumptions to build something that can last?

Quiet bookworm Shane has a big secret—one he’s kept for fifteen years. AFL superstar Ambrose Jakoby grew up next door to Shane. They were close friends, and Shane supported Ambrose through school.

One night, everything changed.

Before Ambrose left Perth as a scared eighteen-year-old to head to Melbourne and take up his new footy career, Ambrose and Shane slept together.

For the next nine years, they continued a secret friends-with-benefits situation whenever Ambrose was in town. Shane never knew exactly where he stood or how to define Ambrose’s sexuality—and Ambrose didn’t know either. Then last Christmas, everything changed again, and a disagreement strained their friendship. Shane vowed to get over his unrequited love.

But Ambrose is back, recovering from an injury and hoping to make amends. He claims he’s ready for a real relationship. But Shane has to decide whether Ambrose means it and whether his Hufflepuff soul can take the chance.

About the Author

Renae Kaye is a lover and hoarder of books who thinks libraries are devilish places because they make you give the books back.  She consumed her first adult romance book at the tender age of thirteen and hasn’t stopped since.  After years – and thousands of stories! – of not having book characters do what she wants, she decided she would write her own novel and found the characters still didn’t do what she wanted.  It hasn’t stopped her though.  She believes that maybe one day the world will create a perfect couple – and it will be the most boring story ever.  So until then she is stuck with quirky, snarky and imperfect characters who just want their story told.

Renae lives in Perth, Western Australia and writes in five minute snatches between the demands of two kids, a forbearing husband, too many pets, too much housework and her beloved veggie garden.  She is a survivor of being the youngest in a large family and believes that laughter (and a good book) can cure anything.

How to contact Renae:
Email:  renaekaye@iinet.net.au
Website:  www.renaekaye.weebly.com
FB:  www.facebook.com/renae.kaye.9
Twitter:  @renaekkaye
Instagram: @renaekayeauthor

A Barb the Zany Old Lady Audiobook Review: You Are the Reason (The Tav #2) by Renae Kaye and Dave Gillies (Narrator)

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Rating 4.5 stars out of 5

Davo’s a pretty average guy. He has a decent job, owns his own home, and spends his weekends at the pub. He fully accepts that he’s gay, but doesn’t want to be one of those gays, who are femme and girly. He likes football and other masculine pursuits, and firmly avoids anything that could be seen as femme—including relationships that last beyond fifteen minutes.

Then Davo’s friend and gay idol not only gets a boyfriend, but also adopts a baby girl. Davo is seriously spooked and scuttles down to the pub in fright. That’s where he meets Lee, who is cute from her cherry-red hair, to her pretty little dress and pointy red shoes. Davo is charmed—but how is that possible? He’s gay. Isn’t he? Then Lee tells him he’s actually a guy—he just likes to wear women’s dresses occasionally. Thoroughly confused about an attraction that’s out of character for him, Davo begins the long journey to where he can accept himself without caring what everyone else thinks.

I thoroughly enjoyed this story, even though there were many moments in this 8 hour audiobook that caused me to rethink why I was listening to this. Those moments all centered around Davo and his attitudes toward effeminate gay men and his opinions on how men should act—gay or straight, real men don’t wear pink. There were times when his attitude was downright hurtful and unreal. And yet, I kept listening. Why? Because the author wove so much humor into the story, it was easy to believe that his character was somewhat of a spoof of men with that attitude.

The author also gave us the perfect MC to balance Davo’s macho act, and two great characters—Patrick and Jake from The Blinding Light—to make this a heartwarming and lighthearted story with many WTF and equally oh-so-sweet moments along the way.

What saved Davo from being a total jerk was the reveal of how he was raised. The poor guy was literally persecuted from grade school up for having any opinions that weren’t macho. In fact, the worst memory of his young life was of having to throw away his My Little Pony collection. Now, staunch in his opinion of what a real man should and should not do, he’s shocked to see the change in his best mate, Jake, who married a blind man (The Blinding Light) and now has a baby girl. Jake’s whole world now revolves around the baby, and Davo can’t figure out why his macho friend has changed so much.

At the tav, when he meets Lee, a cutie with cherry red hair, he’s freaked by how much she lights his fire. She is attractive and fun and has a good sense of humor, but it’s not until days later, when he finally finds out she’s a he who likes to dress in women’s clothing occasionally, that he feels reassured in his masculinity again.

The author takes us through Davo’s painful journey of self-discovery as he comes to learn more about his perceptions of others, his preconceived notions, and finally, his awakening to his own softer side. Accompanying him on this journey is Lee, the cross-dressing man who, at first, shook up Davo’s world and now is everything he ever wanted. It’s obvious from Davo being my focus in this review that the story is really all about him—more so than many other romances that equally balance perspectives of both characters. Maybe it’s that his attitudes and feelings are larger than life, but it resonates well in the telling of this story.

Along the way, as we share that journey to change with him, we laugh and we cry and sometimes want to kick him in the rear, or slap his face, but by the end, all I wanted to do was wrap him and Lee up in my arms and wish them the best.

Dave Gillies did a terrific job in narrating this audiobook and bringing the characters to life. And I must add kudos for his voice for Lee, which was totally different from the other males—higher-pitched, yet soft and feminine.

This was a really great, heartwarming MM romance. Not to be missed in either e-book or audiobook format.

~~~~~

Cover art by Bree Archer features a back view of a male with naked torso against a light blue scenic background.  The cover is attractive but not one I would have chosen for this story. 

Sales Links

Audiobook Details:

Audible Audio, 8 pages
Published March 1st 2017 by Dreamspinner Press LLC (first published August 7th 2015)
ASINB06XC8CP86
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesThe Tav #2
CharactersDave Pederson, Lee Brennan

A MelanieM Release Day Review: Yes, Professor by Renae Kaye

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Rating: 3 stars out of 5

 

yes-professor-by-renae-kayeTwenty-two-year-old Avery Stewart has a crush on his neighbour. Always attracted to older men, Avery is tantalised by Mr Redding’s professorial looks and obvious obsession with perfection.

When he finally gets the courage to speak to Christopher Redding, Avery manages to get invited back that evening on the pretext of bringing a cake for Christopher’s birthday. But things don’t work out how Avery had planned, and he finds himself sent home with the cake and without any intimacy.

Christopher is everything Avery has ever desired—older, self-assured, dominant, and intelligent. Avery needs someone in his life to take charge—in and out of the bedroom. He wants Christopher to be that man. However, Avery must first convince Christopher to take a chance on him.

Renae Kaye is a “must read” author for me.  I adore her stories and The Shearing Gun is among my all-time comfort reads.  So you can image how eagerly I await each new story by her.  Yes, exactly!  With a high degree of anticipation over the type of main male character I will find and the story Kaye has decided to tell for him.  Usually she throws a quirk at her readers and its no different here.

Avery Stewart is has some of the same elements I expect from Renae Kaye.  He’s got his  own brand of quirkiness while Kaye explores yet another ray of the Rainbow sexuality (or any sexuality for that matter) – this time its that of control and older men .  Here it translates into Avery’s obsession on his older neighbor, Mr. Christopher (not Chris, thank you very much) Redding.  Avery’s unable to focus for very long on things like his  studies or goals or anything other than his object of lust, Mr. Redding.  His day is almost planned around how to meet the man next door who he watches trim his hedge row very meticulously in his very trim, neat, meticulous clothing.

I have to admit Kaye almost lost me completely within the first 5 pages of this story.

But it was Kaye so I read on.  Yes, Avery does grow on the reader.  I sympathized with him and almost with his obsession.  Which I never, ever got.  Even after meeting the man.  That’s the crux of my issue with this  story.  I never really got a feel for Christopher Redding or felt any chemistry between him and Avery.  Any real insight into Christopher Redding the man came too late for me and as a reader, that all important connection to him and to them as a couple was never made.  That loss which was so surprising in a Renae Kaye story was one that Yes, Professor never recovered from.  I won’t go into any aspects of insta-love vs obsession, although an argument could certainly made for it here.  That would take up pages.  Lets just bring it all down to super control vs super flighty.

I love the full range of the variety of types of characters Kaye has shown us in her stories.  Whether its Shawn of Shawn’s Law (love, love him) to Jay Bell of Loving Jay to the gruff Hank of The Shearing Gun and the miner Lon Taylor and young Casey of Safe in His Arms, and everything in between.  Twunks, twinks, blind men and their housekeepers.  Kaye’s imagination has ranged magically all over the place so a unfocused Avery and a dom Prof shouldn’t have been a issue but somehow it just never gelled for me.

Maybe I’m overthinking this here.  Its just I look for such high storytelling standards in her novels and I think Yes, Professor didn’t hit them in my opinion.  Others may pick it up and find it a nice  romance with D/s elements (yes, there are  those here).  I will be waiting on the next  Renae Kaye story to arrive.  She always has something different in store for the reader.  Its just that this one wasn’t for me.

Cover art is cute but that guy seems too conservative for Avery.

Sales Link

7104e-waxcreative-amazon-kindle

 

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 121 pages
Expected publication: February 14th 2017
Original TitleYes, Professor
ASINB01MSC4SVM
Edition LanguageEnglish

A MelanieM Release Day Review: Don’t Twunk With My Heart (Loving You #2) by Renae Kaye

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Don't Twunk With My HeartKee Smith isn’t sure who he is anymore. He knows who he used to be—the ignored gay son who chose a blue-collar job just because no one expected it, the submissive bottom who enjoyed large, masculine jocks who put him in his place, the sleek, fashionable twink who partied all night. But after his ex-boyfriend hit Kee and called him names, Kee retired from the social scene.

Back after a year’s hiatus, Kee still doesn’t know where he fits. His friends say he’s a twunk—a twink who put on muscle and turned into a hunk—but Kee is searching for somewhere to belong. Instead of going back to his usual type, Kee hooks up with twink Tate Stevens—a fashion-industry professional who works the image hard. It proves to be the best decision he’s ever made, and not just because he’s starting to regain his sexual confidence.

With Tate, Kee can open up about his fears and confusion without ridicule. Tate has his own fears about putting on weight and getting old. It will take work to make a relationship of opposites succeed, but they begin to realize the compromises will be worth it if they can be together.

I admit I missed the first story in this series and came at this  without the backstory and couples in Loving Jay (Loving You, #1) and now I think that was a  mistake I have to rectify.  Why?  Because reading this story without all that back history definitely takes away from the depth of the characters here and for me, a lessening of the connection between us.

Kee Smith used to be a twink but after escaping from an abusive relationship, he’s changed.  He works out, cut his hair and become, in the terminology of his gay friend…a twunk.  Kaye delivers the new Kee immediately to the reader in a full fledged portrait.  I loved Kee, complete with reservations about this transition and how he will be received at the local bar his friends hang out at.  The only thing missing here?  The Kee from Loving Jay, that abused twink that makes this one have more layers, more depth.  The events that occur later in the story make reading the Loving Jay even more important as a backdrop to this one.  Without knowing how bad his relationship was or who Kee was as a twink, part of this story is lost.

Tate Stevens, another character from the original story, is a buoyant, joyous, wonder of a character.  A chatterbox with impeccable taste  Tate is such a delight for those readers who love characters who can’t seem to stop talking.  I’m one of those.  I love the constant stream of words flowing  out of Tate’s mouth…a river of thoughts in search of a canal gate they will never find.  You either have a wide tolerance for these people in stories and real life or you don’t.  The fact that Renae Kaye writes Tate in such as way as his fountain of words can be irritating to some I find believable if not downright funny.  Who hasn’t met these people?

Kaye works to get Kee and Tate together by having Kee think through some of his issues with Tate with their friends from Loving Jay and other secondary characters.  It works but again, not having read that first story made reading this book that much harder.  I really need to go pick up that book.  I was left feeling that there were just not again world building to fill in all the assumed storylines.

Did I enjoy this story?  Yes, I love characters that don’t easily slide into relationships but have to work out their issues before they can find out if they have have a future with someone else.  This happens here not once but twice.  Plus its Renae Kaye, another must read author for me.

But I do absolutely recommend you pick up and read Loving Jay (Loving You, #1) first before going on to read Don’t Twunk With My Heart (Loving You, #2).  It will save you from having to do what I’m going to do next.  Go backwards.  But this romance is adorable, so are the men.  And I loved their friends that served as their family and support system.  Kaye made it a believable community, one you rooted for and wanted to revisit.  Which I’m about to do now.  Why don’t you do the same?

Cover Artist: Maria Fanning.  I love this cover, its perfect and adorable.

Sales Links

        

Book Details:

ebook, 200 pages
Expected publication: August 26th 2016 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 163477583X (ISBN13: 9781634775830)
Edition LanguageEnglish

SeriesLoving You #2

A MelanieM Review: Safe in His Heart (Safe #2) by Renae Kaye

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Safe In His HeartAndrew and Paul learned about God and Jesus in different churches and realize their views of spirituality are worlds apart.

Andrew was raised Catholic and was told his homosexuality was a sin. For his entire life, he hid the truth. He married and had children to present a façade to the world—that of a straight man. It’s not until he has an affair with Paul, who shows him a different side of Jesus, that Andrew realizes he can be gay and still believe in God. Paul’s Jesus is one of acceptance and love, and in Paul’s church, being gay is not a problem.

For Paul and Andrew, falling in love is the easy part of their journey. They must make it through the fires of cheating, being discovered, Andrew’s wife leaving, the necessities of childcare and family life, the demands of their jobs, and working on their commitment to each other. Only then can they be safe in each other’s heart.

As I suspect for many, I was anticipating a different sort of followup story for one of my favorite Renae Kaye novels, Safe in His Arms (Safe, #1).  I knew that  Paul, best friend of Lon Taylor, had a love life to sort out and this would be that story.  The question?  Which way would Renae Kaye go in choices for Paul?  Well, she made the most difficult choice she could make, for Paul, her readers, and herself.  And the end result is a story that is at times makes it hard to connect with one or more of the main characters and their relationship, makes you think about religion, the foundation of marriage, cheating, trust, and so much more right up until the end.   I loved it.

That’s right.  I loved this story.  But its a hard won sort of love.  Not the easily, fell in love at first sight that I do with most of Renae Kaye’s stories.  This one made me work hard for it.

It starts right at the beginning with Andrew.  Closeted, married Andrew.  For many readers, that is a huge “no” right there.  But in real life?  Its a fact, as is much of the rest of the story.  Conservative, religious background.  Homosexuality made to be a sin that will land you in hell via church teachings enforced by a rigid family.  Not uncommon.  So for Kaye to bring Andrew to life with all his faults so vividly splayed out before us, messy, sort of cowardly but human…its understandable.  As the story wears on, he becomes someone we connect with as well.  We watch him fail, be miserable, and go forward.  Yep, human.  And his  relationship with his wife?  Equally complicated, full of layers too.

Paul too, (loved Paul in the first story) is not without his own issues as he recognizes.  But he also knows what and who he wants.  Its Andrew.  The author has the tricky problem of having Paul deal with not one issue but many….a closeted Andrew, a married, cheating Andrew, religious guilt, his own resolutions to live openly…that’s a lot of obstacles to tackle at one time for love.  And a novel.  But Paul  slowly works through them…with help, with no help…but we the readers are there with him each step of the way.

The story is told from two points of view and its necessary to bring every aspect of their lives into focus and examine its impact on themselves and their relationship such as it is.  This will include Andrew’s household, something which could have become problematic when the children and wife become involved.  Yet I think they added not only believability but balance.  You see why Andrew stayed married and why he married in the first place.  It works.

Will this story make readers happy?  I don’t know.  It depends on how you like your romance.  If you want your romance stories without cheating, without real life struggles and mess, self-inflicted wounds, then perhaps this isn’t the story for you. But if you like stories that challenge you to think about how hard it sometimes it to reach for love, to grab for happiness, and surmount some very real emotional obstacles, pick up Safe in His Heart (Safe #2) by Renae Kaye.  The writing is wonderful, the story difficult yet moving.  I recommend it as I do all Renae Kaye stories.

Cover Artist: Anna Sikorska has a nice cover but its sort of generic.  I know its supposed to be Paul but eh.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | ARe | Amazon

Book  Details:

ebook, 270 pages
Published May 2nd 2016 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 163477227X (ISBN13: 9781634772273)
Edition LanguageEnglish

Series Safe with links to my reviews:

Safe In His Arms
Safe In His Heart

A MelanieM Review: You Are the Reason (The Tav #2) by Renae Kaye

Standard

Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5

You Are the REason coverDavo’s a pretty average guy. He has a decent job, owns his own home, and spends his weekends at the pub. He fully accepts that he’s gay, but doesn’t want to be one of those gays, who are femme and girly. He likes football and other masculine pursuits, and firmly avoids anything that could be seen as femme—including relationships that last beyond fifteen minutes.

Then Davo’s friend and gay idol not only gets a boyfriend, but also adopts a baby girl. Davo is seriously spooked and scuttles down to the pub in fright. That’s where he meets Lee, who is cute from her cherry-red hair, to her pretty little dress and pointy red shoes. Davo is charmed—but how is that possible? He’s gay. Isn’t he? Then Lee tells him he’s actually a guy—he just likes to wear women’s dresses occasionally. Thoroughly confused about an attraction that’s out of character for him, Davo begins the long journey to where he can accept himself without caring what everyone else thinks.

I found Renae Kaye through her novel The Shearing Gun (which I loved) but the the stories that followed captivated me just as fully.  Whether it was Safe In His Arms, The Blinding Light or the hilarious Shawn’s Law, in each Renae Kaye continued to address serious issues such as sexual abuse, PSTD, and physical disabilities while framing them within a loving, realistic romance.  Her characters were just that smidge outside the norm that you felt like you hadn’t read about them before, and the locations in Australia, often Melbourne, made her stories fresh and unknown (at least to this American’s eyes).  Now comes, You Are The Reason, and everything I love about Renae Kaye’s writing and storytelling abilities is showcased here once again.

Two of the serious elements here, cross dressing and the shameful impact of bullying, are dealt with the author’s typical sensitivity and knowledgeability.  I love that Kaye  brings the two elements together in such a gentle disarming way instead of the hate filled clash we normally see.  Davo’s past history isn’t really hinted at in the blurb and the reality we find here isn’t pretty.  Why Davo thinks and acts the way he does (anti fem all the way) is a past that is given out in bits and pieces to begin with.  As Davo starts to break down why he  thinks and reacts the ways he does now , more and more information starts to flow about the past events that caused it.  I think this is a terrific way of plotting the story to help the reader really see the impact of childhood events upon the adult man.  And who’s helping him with this makeover?

That would be Lee, a man who challenges Davo’s idea of what being a “ok gay” means, even the idea of what is male.  Lee likes to cross dress and is great at it, its part of who he is.  In order to accept Lee, all of Lee, something Davo wants desperately, he must first address what the bullying and fear has done to his self image and notions of acceptable homosexuality.  Its quite the journey in Renae Kaye’s hands and I loved every sentence and paragraph.

Lee is such a strong character,yet his frailties lurk there for all of us to see.  Lee and Davo have layers to their personalities, as well as a depth that makes them surprising in places in the story where we might expect otherwise. Back to help Lee and Davo are Jake Manning and Patrick Stanford from The Blinding Light.  They play a major part here in this story.  I didn’t think it possible but I like them even better as an established couple coping with new parenthood and all the joys and issues that arrive with a new baby.  That scene with the poopy diaper from hell is hilarious!

I noticed that Renae Kaye is calling You Are the Reason, a story from The Tav. That’s The Coolgardie Tavern or The Gardie Tav is a bar owned by Charlie Lombardo. Why The Tav? From author Ranae Kaye:

Because this little pub seems to be the place to fall in love, and it definitely has more stories to tell.

Well, be still my heart. Already we have had The Blinding Light (The Tav #1). Now this  I can only hope that The Tav has a ton more stories to tell.  I’m going to pull up a bar stool and wait.  Join me.

I highly recommend this story and this author.  Love contemporary M/M romance that makes you think, laugh, and wave that fan over the heat of the couples inside?  Want to fall in love so deeply that you will forget that these men can’t be found walking the streets in Australia?  Pick up You Are The Reason and discover why Renae Kaye is a must read/auto buy for me and so many others.

Cover artist: Bree Archer. Its a  nice cover but it is so generic it could be for any contemporary M/M romance. In that respect, its disappointing.

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

Book Details:

ebook, 226 pages, also in paperback
Published August 7th 2015 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN139781634764834
edition languageEnglish
url http://renaekaye.weebly.com/you-are-the-reason.html
seriesThe Tav #2

A MelanieM Review: Shawn’s Law by Renae Kaye

Standard

Rating:5 stars out of 5

Shawn's Law coverAt the age of  twenty-nine, Shawn O’Hara’s life is full, although not quite in the way he had always imagined it.  Shawn had to quit his job to become the full-time caregiver of his Alzheimer’s-stricken mother.  And if that isn’t enough, Shawn’s life has been a string of unfortunate accidents.  What some people call Murphy’s Law (A rule that states, “If something can go wrong, it will, and usually at the worst time.”), is in Shawn’s case, Murphy’s Law doubled and known by friends and family as Shawn’s Law.

In what little spare time Shawn has, he spends it painting nude men and spying on the guy who walks his dogs along the street every day at four o’clock, someone he has affectionately dubbed Hippy-Hotpants. When Shawn takes a spectacular fall on his front steps, who is there to witness it other than the man of his dreams?

Harley (aka Hippy Hotpants) doesn’t believe in Shawn’s Law.  But spending time with Shawn brings about a change in mind. Shawn is it for Harley and he is determined to make Shawn see it as well.   The two men make it through a memorable first date, full of Shawn’s Law surprises, and still look forward to more.  But when Harley is accidentally injured, Shawn is determined to save Harley’s life the only way he knows how—by breaking up with him. Not once, but twice. Throw in a serial killer ex-boyfriend, several deadly Australian animals, two dogs called Bennie, a mother who forgets to wear clothes, an unforgiving Town Council, and a strawberry-flavored condom dolly, and Shawn’s Law is one for the booksmind.

Ever had a book that made you laugh out loud?  Not just a few giggles (although that happened), or episodes of gentle laughter (ditto).   No, I’m talking about out and out guffaws, side stitching no holds barred cackles!  For me, that is Shawn’s Law by Renae Kaye in a nutshell.  Even now, just thinking about certain scenes and dialog  makes me stop and laugh until I cry.

I have read and loved other books by this author (The Blinding Light, The Shearing Gun, Safe in His Arms) but nothing prepared me for Harley, Shawn, and their fabulous if accident prone path to love.  The humor is searing, but its overlaid by some of life’s worst events, a mother in the last throes of Alzheimer’s, lost jobs, a stressed out sister and a  solitary love life, all of which are realistically portrayed.  Shawn is unexpectedly wonderful in almost every way.  His outlook is positive (because the alternative would be depressingly scary).  His physique?  Well, let’s hear it from Harley how he sees Shawn:

And Shawn is definitely a man. He has short black hair and a strong jaw that needs to be shaved twice a day to keep the shadow off. He wears endearing black-framed glasses that look cute and geeky at the same time. He hates his glasses and is always threatening to buy something hip and cool, but he never gets around to it. Too many other things happen in his life. But there’s no getting around the fact that he’s short and has curves—his legs are curvy, his butt sticks out and his chest is rounded. He would never be called svelte or willowy, and that’s more than okay with me.

Yep, that Shawn, Short, “curvy”, kind hearted Shawn.  He doesn’t even cuss because he accidentally taught his youngest niece the F word, so now everything is fudge, or sugar or any other sweet term you can think of (as in “Sugar creme puffs, Mum’s loose and naked again”) and from Shawn’s mouth it feels natural and unaffected.   Shawn comes across as a human being you would love to get to know (albeit from the relative safety of 10 feet away).  He’s friends with all the nurses and doctors at the local hospital through his many visits.  All the local car towing company, animal wildlife rangers, plumbers,, etc are all of first name basis with Shawn due to Shawn’s Law in action.   Man,  this guy endearing and real.  I love Shawn and he quickly became one of my favorite characters.

Harley is another finely drawn portrait of a activist at home in his own skin and looking for love in one of the most unlikely pairings around.  Harley likes to let it all, I mean all as in his equipment, hang loose.  No binding underwear for him and his dress or sometimes lack of it earns him the nickname Hippy-Hotpants.  Maybe its his long hair too.  Anyway, he cuts quite the figure through these pages and in Shawn’s life.  Harley is far from perfect and Shawn brings about some serious reflection on how he views  his life, Shawn, and the events that happen.  I love that about this character and the storyline.  The characters all show measurable growth. It unfolds realistically and sometimes painfully, although the humor is retained at various levels of intensity.  But nothing is easy.  Relationships take work, people have insecurities about their bodies, and sometimes people do the wrong thing by trying to do what’ they think is right and will create the least amount of havoc for someone they love.  So yeah, their steps towards love are sometimes plodding, full of pratfalls and stumbles and a fair share of misunderstandings.  But that only makes this story and their romance that much sweeter because it feels so real and right.

All the other characters are just as perfectly realized as Shawn and Harley.  Whether its, Lisa (Shawn’s sister) or Shawn’s mum whose lucidity comes and goes (mostly goes), or any of the other myriad people that pop up, you will remember them all with great fondness and wish to see more of them as often as possible.  I could have lived in this story and with these characters for a long, long time.

Renae Kaye’s writing flows so smoothly here.  Told from both Shawn and Harley’s point of view the events unfold quickly and believably.  And this short excerpt gives you a window into how it all starts.  Here Shawn has just realized that his mother has slipped out of the house…again.  And he follows a trail of clothing outside just as he was waiting to catch a glimpse of “Hippy-Hotpants”:

“Mum?”

Then disaster struck. Not apocalypse proportions, but just your everyday oh-man-that-just-ruined-everything disaster. My foot slid on something and flew out from under me. I was racing too hard to find my balance, and ended up falling on my butt, coming down on the edge of a step with a yelp of pain. I slithered down a few more steps before coming to a halt on my back, staring up in shock at the blue sky.

“Oh, holy fuu… udge bars.”

It was a small thing, but I made it a habit not to use the “F-word” ever since I’d accidently taught it to my niece when she was only two. The “Sh-word” was also out, so I now used words like fudge and sugar and darn for expletives. It wasn’t easy. My days usually need a lot of expletives. I turned my head slightly, thanked God that my neck still worked, and caught sight of something white in my peripheral vision. My head was resting on something and I yanked it from beneath me and tried to focus.

Ugh. Bras, briefs, panties, and lingerie. I’d skidded on the latest Target underwear catalog. Perfect.

“Are you okay?”

 

Want a story to keep you smiling and engaged?  Shawn’s Law is one for the top shelf, you know the one where you keep your favorite stories!  It’s a story you will want to pick up again when you want a laugh or when you want to renew your acquaintance with some of the most endearing, wonderful characters around.  Oh, and that last chapter?  The one that consists of 3 short sentences?  Priceless, just priceless.   But don’t take my word for it….go, right now and grab this up!  It’s one of my most highly recommended reads!

Cover artist:  Paul Richmond.  The artist does this story and its characters justice.  It’s perfect in attitude and humor, and I loved it.  And yes, that’s a part of this story.

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

Book Details:

ebook, 200 pages
Expected publication: March 6th 2015 by Dreamspinner Press
original titleShawn’s Law
ISBN139781632167347
edition languageEnglish