It’s the Holiday Season! It’s all about Books, Holiday Books and the first Winter Cocktail Recipe

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I am definitely in the mood for the holidays this year.  I am singing carols under my breath, holiday songs are playing on the radio, the tree is getting decorated, and the aroma of Frasier firs and cinnamon waft through the house.  Of course the last bit is because our tree is a Frasier and cinnamon Glade was used liberally in every room Kirby ran into after rolling around in some dead guts he found in the  backyard.  In all my 25 plus years as a naturalist, I have smelled some rotten things but nothing prepared me for Kirby as he ran past me back into the house.

You know they talk about a delayed sense?  That was the horrendous smell that kicked in once Kirby was well past me and up the stairs into the living room.  And then the  smell hit and nausea followed.  And there is no way to chase a dog when you have a cane and no breath, so he romped his merry way through the house spreading foul odors and gunk as he went.  Yeah not a pleasant afternoon, following him with bleach and towels. And then he had to be sheared to get rid of the smell that not even tomato juice helped with.  But not even that deterred me from my Christmas cheer! I am a most determined elf!

So I decided to pile on the pressure and have two reviews a day this week.  One a Holiday story and one regular book.  The end of the week will find me making the first Winter Cocktail recipe that can be found at the bottom of the page.   Let’s try it out together, shall we?

Monday:                              New York Christmas by RJ Scott

                                                Acceleration by Amelia C. Gormley

Tuesday:                              Turkey in the Snow by Amy Lane

                                                Esau (Leopards Spots 6) by Bailey Bradford

Wednesday:                        Snowbound in Nowhere by Andrew Grey

                                                Cupid Knows Best by S.A. Garcia

Thursday:                           Lessons Learned, Wishes Earned by Cassandra Gold

                                               Gregori’s Ghost by Sarah Black

Friday:                                 The Christmas Throwaway by RJ Scott

                                               Willow by Lee Brazil

Saturday:                              Mending Noel by Charlie Cochet

                                                 Colors of Pastor Saul by S.A.Garcia

Winter Cocktail:  The Isle of Pines Cocktail:Isle of Pines Winter Cocktail

Ingredients
1/2 cup pomegranate juice
1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup white rum
1/2 cup fresh grapefruit juice
Ice cubes
Preparation
Bring pomegranate juice and sugar to boil in heavy small saucepan, stirring until sugar dissolves. Boil until reduced to 1/4 cup, about 5 minutes. Cool syrup.
Pour 2 tablespoons syrup, 1/2 cup rum, and 1/4 cup grapefruit juice into cocktail shaker. Fill with ice; shake vigorously. Strain into 2 Martini glasses. Repeat to make 2 more drinks.

Recipe courtesy of Bon Appetit!

                                           

Frankenstorm is Coming and the Week Ahead in Reviews Hopefully

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So, here we are on the cusp of a truly remarkable storm event, a hurricane within a nor easter, something that has never occurred before or so say the  meteorologists.  Over 85 million people will feel the impact of Hurricane Sandy as she heads towards the East Coast as a hurricane 1, taking a dramatic left turn anywhere between Washington, DC and the Jersey shore and heading inland.  From Virginia to Massachusetts, people are getting ready to hunker down and some are already evacuating.

 

Here in Maryland we are expecting  not only huge amounts of rain (could be up to over 10 inches or more), high winds of 65 to 70 mph, but  snow!  That’s right, we could be seeing large amounts of snow as well.  So will parts of West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Ohio.  *shakes head*  So rain, wind, hail, snow, flooding most certainly.  Have the weather gods left anything out?  I don’t think so.  It just seems so unreal.  So of course, we made sure that the dog food was stocked up on, ditto the wine, water, and canned goods and snacks.  So we are good, I think. But then there is my blog.  And while I have a generator, that doesn’t mean the servers and towers won’t be coming down, so if there are no updates after a  while, just nod and say “Well, the Frankenstorm must have got her!”, and know I will be back up and running as soon as I am absolutely able to do so.

I also want to give a shout out to Jay of Joyfully Jay just back from the fabulous GayRomLit2012 in Albuquerque, NM.  She had an outstanding time and so did everyone else who attended. So many great authors, bloggers and readers to meet and party with. I so wanted to be there but the pictures she (and others) took made me some of the joy and fun that was going on. Wow, what a time and great photos to boot.  And she also brought me back a bag of swag!  Naked men playing cards, fluffer lip balm to name a few. Hooray!  Now I am determined to be there in Atlanta for next year’s conference. GayRomLit2013 in Atlanta!  woohoo!

So let’s see what I have planned for this week, shall we?

Monday:            Theory of Attraction by Cleon Lee  (I promise this will happen)

Tuesday:             Risking It All by Lee Brazil

Wednesday:       Tigerland by Sean Kennedy

Thursday:           The F Words by Anyta Sunday

Friday:                 A Mutual Understanding by Caro Soles

Saturday:             MIA Case Files #3: Craving by K.C. Burn

That’s it.  Now let’s see what happens.  Fingers crossed. Kindle charged. Sigh.

 

Review of Shelton’s Homecoming (Shelton #4) by Dianne Hartsock

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Rating: 4 stars

Shelton has just flown home after receiving a phone call telling him his lover, Nevil, was injured and in the hospital.  Nevil is going to be fine but the accident has made it clear that something needs to change in his life, and change now. When Shelton took the promotion and transferred to another city, he never realized the full impact of a long distance relationship would be to him and Nevil.  After 6 months, he has had enough and the accident just clarified that.  In fact, Shelton realizes he wants even more from Nevil.  He wants permanence in the form of marriage, something Nevil has been very clear about not wanting.  When an ex boyfriend of Nevil’s invites them to his marriage, all the old jumbled up feelings come out and Shelton wonders if Nevil will ever come around to a future as husband and husband.

Shelton’s Homecoming is the fourth in the Shelton series but the first I have read by Dianne Hartsock.  The books plot the romance of Shelton and Nevil whose last names are never given in this book.  By Shelton’s Homecoming, their romance is an established one that has undergone an upheaval in Shelton’s Choice (Shelton #3).  The upheaval is obviously Shelton’s promotion in his bank job which necessitated a move to another city.  Now Shelton is only home on the weekends and the constant travel and loneliness is taking its tole on both men. Dianne Hartsock does a wonderful job of giving us two men deeply in love but still making adjustments to their relationship.  Shelton is someone you can easily identify with.  He took a promotion that he knew he deserved and wanted but the reality of that choice on their relationship is something far different then he had imagined.  Shelton is tired and stressed.  And then gets the phone call to say Nevil has been injured while he is out of town and guilt is added to the pain of their separation.  There are many couples today who have a similar arrangement whether by choice or economics so all the emotions on display here ring true.  Nevil is a little more conservative in his approach to their relationship but clearly he relishes the fact that  Shelton has come home and he has missed him dearly. I don’t have enough of their history on hand but it seems that he might be older than Shelton, at least he comes across that way.  At any rate, Nevil is another complete character with complex feelings about gay marriage equating with permanence as he feels they already have that.

Much time is spent having sex, lots of hot sex, but as the men have been separated  essentially for 6 months and love each other deeply, I can buy the “jump his bones at every possible moment” action as the author keeps remembering to bring the plot in as well.  There is really one issue for the couple to deal with as Shelton decides in the beginning to return home and that is one of marriage.  They live in a state where they can register as domestic partners but marriage is not legal.  So Nevil doesn’t think having a piece of paper, one not even backed by their state’s laws, is necessary to their relationship.  He feels they are committed to one another so nothing more is needed.  Shelton, on the other hand, looks at that piece of paper as evidence of a long term commitment visible by wedding rings to all around them and he wants it badly.  Hartsock makes us understand both Shelton and Nevil’s position on the matter which makes the resolution even more satisfying.

This is a heartwarming story and a quick read. I loved watching Nevil’s change of heart and watching Shelton and Nevil take their relationship to a deeper level of commitment.  Very well done.  I might go back to the beginning to see how it all started but really don’t feel that I have to in order to understand both men and their love for each other.  I anticipate that Dianne Hartsock will continue the series and that a wedding is on the horizon.  Count me in as I plan to be there when it happens.

Cover: Cover art by Mina Carter.  I love the colors and the simplicity of the clasped hands is lovely.

Shelton stories in the order they are written:

Shelton In Love (Shelton #1)

Shelton’s Promise (Shelton #2)

Shelton’s Decision (Shelton #3)

Shelton’s Homecoming (Shelton #4)

Review of Word Play – A Story Orgy Anthology

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Rating: 4 stars

Word Play is the first collection by a wonderful group of authors who post serial stories under the collective name Story Orgy.  Lee Brazil, Em Woods, J. R. Boyd, Havan Fellows, and Hank Edwards give us novella length stories of love and relationships from the first throes of passion and discovery to an old loves lost and then renewed.

Harper’s Discovery by Em Woods is the story of Harper Evans journey from betrayed boyfriend to a man happy with a new love and  new life as Pitt’s sub with some remarkable stops along the way.

Wicked Reflections by Hank Edwards is a supernatural mystery story that will keep you on edge even as our hero finds time for romance.

Harlan’s Ryde by Havan Fellows brings us the story of Ryder and Harlan’s last chance at love after Ryder threw it away in a moment of insecurity and self destruction.

Off The Beaten Path by J. R. Boyd shows us best friends Mitch Sterling and Colby Merritt on a jaunt in the country that brings them revelations about their  relationship and their sexuality.

The Park At Sunrise by Lee Brazil is a heart wrenching story of love lost and those left behind.  What happens when a threesome is reduced to two? Can a love survive the loss of a partner?

This is a remarkable collection of stories by a group of authors I have come to admire.  Their Story Orgy Mondays was my first introduction to all of them.  I eagerly awaited for Monday to come around so I could see a new installment on stories I was following from each author as they linked  all their stories together.  Follow one, follow them all.  So imagine my joy when I found out that they were publishing their stories in one volume (now several) so I could have them at my finger tips at a moments notice.  And what a diverse group of stories these are.  A real smorgasbord of love from every angle and a couple of kinks.  And while I enjoyed them all, I will admit to having some favorites.

Harper’s Discovery by Em Woods introduces us to Harper Evans just as he is dumping his cheating boyfriend, a long overdue event as far as Pitt Mullen is concerned.  Pitts has been waiting for Harper to get up his resolve and get rid of someone not worthy of him.  Of course, Pitt is ready to step in and make Harper his own in every way, including being the submissive to his Dom.  As someone not in the lifestyle, I have no idea whether their D/s relationship is accurate but I do know that the men come across as real people trying to find a base upon which to build a mutually satisfactory relationship, one that includes love and respect.  Add to this a side story involving a young man in need of a kidney transplant and you have a story you will love even if D/s is not your typical read.

Wicked Reflections by Hank Edwards was one story that should not be read at bedtime.  He kept me up all night with nightmares reliving scenes from this book.  When Kirk Stanford moves into his new house, the real estate agent had left some things out before selling the house to Kirk, including the fact that the previous owner was murdered upstairs in the master bathroom.  Now ghostly warnings appear written on the steamed surface of the mirror in the bathroom.  And different men start to enter Kirk’s life from Alan, his new neighbor next door, Lance Hawthorne, a detective looking into the death of the previous owner, and Damon Swain, a local librarian helping Kirk research his new residence.  Little by little, scene by scene Hank Edwards starts ramping up the anxiety level of the reader as more facts are revealed about Kirk’s new house, as more warnings are left by the ghost, and everyone becomes a possible suspect.  Like Kirk, you have no idea who to trust, and who will turn out to be the bad guy.  And those last pages? Had me biting my nails and making sure my doors and windows were locked. Edwards keeps all the balls up in the air as he juggles his thriller scenario with hot sexy scenes between Kirk and his new acquaintenances.  Kirk is a bit of a slut which just gives us another dimension to his character.  You will love this story, the plot will make you scream.  Just read it during the daylight hours, ok?

Harlan’s Ryde by Havan Fellows.  OK, I just loved this story.  It has it all.  Humor, great characterizations and two great sequels.  This is the first in the Synchronous Seductions Trilogy.  Read my review of all three here.

Off The Beaten Path by J. R. Boyd is a wonderful story of two friends and business partners realizing that they have come to mean much more to each other than they have admitted to.  One day Colby Merritt and Mitch Sterling take a drive to scope out new projects/jobs for their landscaping business.  Friends for 24 years, a chance dip in a pond on a hot Texas day gives Colby the opportunity to show Mitch how he has always felt about him and what better time than when both are half naked and dripping wet.  Boyd’s vivid descriptions makes us feel that hot Texas heat and the delights of a summer pond.  Then give us two old friends who have buried their attraction to each other in the name of that friendship and the moment explodes with sexual fireworks and revelations of long hidden sexuality.  Did I say hot?  Hot on every level.  A coming out story done with humor and heat, what’s not to love?

The Park At Sunset by Lee Brazil.  Heartbreaking, just heartbreaking, but in a wonderful way.  This story will resonate with anyone with a lost love in their past.  Thirty two year old Morgan shows up at the bench by the beach and is overwhelmed by memories of a love he had lost.  Joining him is Jason, an artist and his former lover.  Jason sent Mason a painting that has brought them back together after a long separation.  The cause? The death of their lover, Paul.  They were once of happy threesome but the loss of one has meant the loss of all.  Now sitting on a bench on a beach full of memories, they relive their past, examine their present lives in hopes of finding a way back to each other.  Brazil makes their pain palpable, their loss of  Paul and each other gut wrenching as their emotions flow and the memories of what was lost comes back.  These men touch us in every way.  We identify with them and their have our complete empathy.  And when the story comes to an end, you will be smiling through tears at a love reclaimed.

Don’t pass this anthology by.  If you are unfamiliar with these authors, it is a great introduction.  If you love their works, read these stories and remember why.

Cover artist Victoria Miller has created a hot sexy cover for Word Play.  Great design with easily read fonts. Great job.

Available through Breathless Press , Amazon, and All Romance eBooks.

Review of Synchronous Seductions Trilogy by Havan Fellows

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Rating: 4.25 points for each book and the series overall

Synchronous Seductions is a trilogy of stories about three men,their group of friends and co workers.  In the first story, Harlan’s Ryde, one man wants desperately to regain the lover he cast away years ago. The second, Emery’s Ritches,  one man finds his love staring back from a photograph on a co workers mantel, and finally in Geoff’s Teddy, just when the one man has given up his dream of finding the perfect bear to love,it  he finds him, supposedly straight and working for his boss’s boyfriend.

Harlan’s Ryde Synchronous Seductions #1) found in Word Play anthology:  Seven years ago, Ryder Holloway walked away from Harlan Mychals, making the most momentus mistake of his life.  He told Harlan he didn’t love him, that he cheated on him and with that threw away the only man he would ever love, threw away college, dumped his life in the garbage and left town.  Now he is back, pulled his life together, and wants Harlan back too. Harlan has never recovered from his devastating break with Ryder and doesn’t trust that Ryder has changed.

Ryder does everything he can to get Harlan to see him, listen to him, including breaking into his house to leave messages. When Harlan accidentally puts Ryder into the hospital, can Ryder’s convalesce  and his nursing skills give them both their chance at true love.

This short story has it all.  Lovers reunited after a long time apart, intense characters and marvelous dialog.  In the beginning I wanted to swat Ryder with a noodle but as the layers to his character start to peel away, you see the insecurities, and poor self image that set him on a destructive path to begin with and you start to root for him instead.  I loved these characters and wanted them to find their HEA as they so readily deserved it.  So I was thrilled to find that I would see both of them again as the series continued with the great secondary characters introduced here.

Emery’s Ritchies (Synchronous Seductions #2): Ritchie Lymings has just finished dropping off his best friend and secret love interest, Harlan Mychals at Ryder Halloway’s house. Harlan and Ryder have reunited after 7 years of misunderstandings and pride kept them separated.  Ritchie also tried to keep Harlan from letting Ryder back into his life but love with a capital L brought them back together and now Ritchie is wallowing in a world of self pity, made worse by the fact that he never liked Ryder to begin with.

As he mopes into his coffee at a nearby shop, a stranger barges into his pity party and asks to sit at his table offering to make him smile. Ritchie is unaware that the stranger is in fact Emery Hawkins, Ryder’s boss and friend.  Emery has listened to Ryder talk about Harlan and his best friend Ritchie for five years, so much so that Emery has become intrigued by the man Ryder refers to as “the infuriating twit”. Then Emery saw a photograph of Harland and his best friend on Harland’s mantel and he couldn’t stop thinking about the man in the picture. Now  coincidence has  brought Ritchie to him and Emery has never been one to let an opportunity go by to get what he wants.

Again Havan Fellows gives us a wonderful story with a heart of snark!  That would be Ritchie Lymings, snappy dresser, sarcastic manner and a loyal friend. Fellows’ characters are a simpatico bunch, fully realized and totally human.  We first met Ritchie as Harlan’s best friend who saw him through the worst time of his life and we agreed for a while with his viewpoint of Ryder as human pest.  But now we see that Ritchie also loved Harlan and did what was best for his friendship.  All Ritchie’s redeeming features are hidden under a caustic veneer but upon meeting Emery, Ritchie has more than met his match.  For every wall put up by Ritchie and sneering comment he makes, Emery comes back with a plan to break down the wall and has the last word in their arguments until Ritchie finds himself succumbing to Emery’s seductions.  It is such fun to watch the  courting of Ritchie as Emery finds he too must make some adjustments in order for their relationship to succeed.

A real relationship is a juggling act between two people and their baggage.  In this case, the men are constantly reminded of their past because of their close circle of friends, includes some of that “baggage”.  Havan Fellows understands relationship issues and the sometimes painful journey you must take in order to have a successful one.  We watch Ritchie and Emery  do the relationship dance.  Two steps forward and one step back.  Throw in some hot sex, a little frustration, wonderful dialog, and great characters and you will find yourself nodding and thinking “yep, that’s about right,” and then start laughing.

A lighthearted, fun romp that also introduces us to Geoff, Ryder’s smart, small assistant with an attitude much larger than his stature. Geoff is looking for love and finds it in the final book of the trilogy, Geoff’s Teddy.

Geoff’s Teddy (Synchronous Seductions #3): When Geoff’s boss,Ritchie, makes up a false dinner meeting to get out of a date with Emery, Ritchies makes Geoff come out with him for appearances sake.  But Emery has Ritchies number, and Geoff’s too when he “accidentally” stops in at the same restaurant, his employee in tow.   Emery has brought along Teddy “Fuzzy” Beough,  pronouced “boo”, to take Geoff home when Emery wisks Ritchie away for the night. But that is fine with Geoff because  Teddy is everything Geoff has always wanted.  Teddy is hairy, huge, in fact he is a downright gorgeous bear whose nickname just happens to be Fuzzy Wuzzy to Geoff’s unholy delight. He has a sense of humor about himself and they ended up talking for hours. Too bad Teddy says he’s straight.

The lightest, guffaw inducing story of the trio, you can tell Havan Fellows was laughing the entire time it was being written.  From the twists and turns of Teddy’s name (I will not spoil the entire beauty that is his full name for you), to his introduction to gay sex and Geoff’s meeting with Fuzzy’s parents, it’s one laugh after another.  Don’t look for angst here, there is a brief whiff and its gone.  Fuzzy thinks he is gay because he chose the path of least resistance, at least for him.  Girls were ok, he just can’t sustain a sexual, romantic relationship with one.   And then he happens upon cable at Geoff’s apartment and much, much more to complete his epiphany.  I don’t think that makes Teddy/Fuzzy gay for you, perhaps bisexual at least.  Teddy is simply Teddy, a very accepting, non judgmental person open to all possibilities, including the fact that he might be gay. Geoff is more than happy to demonstrate the ABC’s of Gay Sex or as he calls it Gay Sex for Dummies.  Everyone should have such a teacher.

Whatever you wish to name it, it is happy, it is fun and it leads to much more.  This story is just a delight.  Wonderful, fully layered characters having a great time in a fun romp on their way to true love. In fact, the entire series is like this.  Don’t miss it.  Everyone needs a good, heartwarming laugh.  Here are three.

Cover Artist: Victoria Miller

While it is helpful to read these stories in the order they were written, it is not necessary in order to understand and enjoy the books.

The Series Order is:

Harlan’s Ryde  (Synchronous Seductions Series #1) – found in the Story Orgy anthology Word Play

Emery’s Riches (Synchronous Seductions Series #2)

Geoff’s Teddy (Synchronous Seductions Series #3) available July 20, 2012 from Breathless Press.

Olympic Games, the Week Ahead in Reviews and The Michelada Cocktail

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So many things going on to talk about today.  First let’s get right to the Olympics.  Closing ceremony is tonight, bringing to an end one of the best Olympics I can remember.  I have been glued to the television watching this incredible spectacle unfold from the beginning, from the high drama of the swimming pools and gymnastic mats to the cross country course of the Equestrian events to the river and glistening rowers then to track and field, and all the sports in between.  So many athletes, so many stories, so many tears of sorrow to match the tears of joy.  How not to feel a part of something bigger, to feel connected to other nations and nationalities when you see people cheering the athletes on regardless of the colors they wear or the countries they represent.  Oscar Pistorius? Who wasn’t cheering that man on?  Some of my favorites? Katie Ledecky, Misty  and Terri, Usain Bolt, Jessica Ennis, Michael Phelps, Gabby and the rest of the US gymnastic womens team,  Misty Franklin….so, so many.

And what will the closing ceremony look like?  Who knows?  After the dancing nurses and their twirling hospital beds, massive shrubbery moving, the Tor, and best torch ever, I am waiting in anticipation to be confounded, baffled, and touched beyond measure.  I know we will all be watching it together.

I am also going into this week with a working generator (dances for joy) so once more I am able to enjoy the rumble of thunder, the darkening skies, the sound of pounding rain for their beauty and music, secure in the knowledge that a storm no longer equals loss of power, food and appliances!  Take that, Pepco.  Now only if I could send you the bill.

Finally, Monday brings my review of Stars & Stripes, the latest in the Cut & Run series from Abigail Roux featuring Ty and Zane.  So many people were trying to download their pre-ordered copies at midnight on the 11th that they crashed the servers over at Riptide Publishing.  Wow.  So was the wait worth it?  Read my review on Monday.  So here is what the week is looking like in books:

Monday:                                Stars & Stripes (Cut & Run #6) by Abigail Roux

Tuesday:                                Synchronous Seductions Trilogy by Haven Fellows

Wednesday:                         Inertia (Impulse #1) by Amelia C. Gormley

Thursday:                             Brook Street: Thief by Ava March (rescheduled from last week)

Friday:                                   Mending the Rift Series by Valentina Heart

Saturday:                               Word Play Anthology by the Story Orgy authors

And finally our summer cocktail of the week. The Michelada, perfect for grilled foods and watching Olympic closing ceremonies!

The Michelada

Ingredients:

1/4 teaspoon piquin pepper
1/4 teaspoon salsa picante
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 (12-ounce) can Mexican lager, chilled

Garnish: lime wedge

Directions:

In tall beer glass, stir together pepper sauce, salsa, lime juice, salt, and lager. Garnish with lime and serve immediately.

Happy viewing and have a great week!

Review of The Man Trap by Lee Brazil

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Rating 4.25 stars

Simon Harris has been watching the same guy come into his bookstore each week, buy a book and leave.  Not an unusual occurance in a bookstore but Simon recognizes him.  It’s Alexis Manetas, a former high school classmate Simon had been attracted to before graduation. Simon has always loudly proclaimed his bisexuality but never actually dated a man, just woman.  Now Alexis reappears and all those old feelings come back as well.

Alexis Manetas had a huge crush on Simon in high school, something Simon never really acknowledged.  After graduating from high school, both men moved on but Alexis never forgot his first love.  When his personal circumstances changed, Alexis searched for Simon, hoping to reconnect and finally start a relationship he had always hoped for.  With a little manipulation from Simon’s sister in law, Jeannie, the men are brought together.  As they become reacquainted, Alexis and Simon find their past attraction flaring into passion and their feelings for each other deepen.  But Simon has never had a relationship last past 6 months and Alexis has a  huge surprise in store for Simon in the shape of a small boy, Alexis’ son, Gregory.

Lee Brazil’s The Man Trap is a lovely warm hearted tale of love given a second chance with some very interesting nontypical twists. Brazil’s characters have that patina of realism that I appreciate in a story that we have seen told before.  Simon Harris is one of the more interesting characters here.  He is in his thirties and while he has been adamant about identifying as bisexual, he really hasn’t demonstrated that in real life, serial dating one woman after another.  None of his relationships has lasted longer than 6 months and he readily admits to being self centered and somewhat set in his ways.  This is not your warm and cuddly character pining over a lost love.  I appreciate Simon’s curmudgeonly ways.  It made his struggle towards a real relationship with Alexis seem even more authentic.  Alexis Manetas is a strongly appealing character too.  Brave enough to take a chance on reconnecting with Simon while never losing sight of his priorities.  I really  liked Alexis and found him every bit as charming as Simon.

The other way Brazil has strayed from the typical child inclusive plotline is that Simon doesn’t really care for children.  He doesn’t know how to behave around them,doesn’t relate to them and  never really wanted any of his own.  Getting involved with a man who has a child is not on his agenda, even if that man is Alexis.  This really strays from most of the books I have read lately where all the men involved want children and jump at the chance to have one in their lives.  It’s nice to have an author show the flip side of the coin so to speak.  I will let you read the story for yourself to see if Alexis and Gregory can sway Simon to their side but kudos for a nontypical character.

You also have a story involving two bisexual characters.  Some may see Simon as more of a “gay for you” persona as he has not really acted on his attractions to men but this is also not a strictly gay male romance but two men strongly attracted to, maybe even in love with each other since high school.  Whatever your take on this,bisexual or gay for you, Brazil makes it clear that each man has held the other close in their memories.  They are hot for each other and always have been.

Lee Brazil’s descriptions, whether they are of a balloon ride over the countryside (which I can attest the author got exactly right), to the wonderful romantic whisperings of love, “I’ve saved up a thousand kisses, thousands of experiences, I only want to share with you, Alexi” , will sweep you into the story and the lives of Simon and Alexis.  There is really no depths of angst or high drama, so if you are expecting any, you will be let down. But if you want a sweet tale of two men given a second chance at love, then this is the story for you.

Cover: I love the cover.  Cover artist is Victoria Miller.  The picture of the hot air balloon is especially nice.

Review of Reaping Shadows by Jamieson Wolf

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Rating: 3.5 stars

Darion Muerte is a Reaper, one of many, and has been one for centuries.  He gathers the souls of the dying so they can move on, hunting for them each night with his Shadow, a creature made from his essence. One night as he follows his Shadow tracking the next person he is to visit, he is astonished to see that their target can see not only his Shadow but Darion himself. The people whose souls he gathers never see the Reapers who come for them but this one can.

His target’s name is Kale.  Not only can Kale see him but Kale isn’t sick, isn’t dying, and above all isn’t afraid of him.  So why did his Shadow lead him straight to Kale?  In a flash of need, Kale and Darion have a sexual encounter that leaves them both gasping and wanting more.  Kale feels that he has been waiting for Darion his entire life.  Darion is experiencing the same unfathomable feelings for Kale.  But at the end of the night, his mission cannot change. It must end with Darion taking Kale’s soul.

I liked the premise of this short story.  That Death has many Reapers who gather the souls of the dying to help them pass on, accompanied by a Shadow.  The Shadows are an almost dog like creature created from the Reapers shadows and they help their Masters locate the next soul to take. Wolf extends his take on this by introducing Kale, a man who can see his Reaper and Shadow when no other person can.  Kale is  also healthy so why is a Reaper coming for him?  We get a hint that this might be something Kale has been fated for all his life but that is never fully explained, so a hint of mystery hangs about the character.  After a night of passionate sex (and some very hot vivid scenes), Darion is supposed to take his soul.  The plot continues to gain interest amid some neat twists but then with the introduction of the Brothers Grimm and the arrival of Death itself, the story takes a turn that it never quite recovers from.

The Brothers Grimm are hunting our two protagonists until Death appears to strike a bargain.  The final plot point hinges on the sacrifice Darion must make in the name of love. But the author has not finished setting up a realistic or viable reason for us to buy into this sacrifice.  And the ending just doesn’t seem plausible (yes, I know this is a supernatural tale after all, but the author must make us believe the actions described and I never did). So at the end the  whole story just unravels and so does the rating.  Again, I suspect the author set about trying to accomplish a much larger story that just doesn’t work in a shorter length.  Still there is much to like about Reaping Shadows and I look forward to the next story from Jamieson Wolf.

Cover:  Staci Perkins is the cover artist for this moody spot on cover.  Great job.