A Caryn Release Day Review: The Santa Hoax by Francis Gideon

Standard

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

the-santa-hoaxOne of my favorite things about reading – as opposed to watching TV or movies – is that although an author can give me details about a character’s physical appearance, I can take those details and create a person in my mind who looks, sounds, and moves in the way that seems right to me to fit in the story.  It’s usually a shock to see that same character portrayed by a specific actor/actress, because they are never what I imagined myself.

And that’s what I was thinking about as I read this story about Julian, a trans boy who has just started high school.  His image of himself is never what he sees in the mirror, or in pictures, or in how other people look at him.  If the disconnect is so surprising to me when comparing an imaginary character with an actor portraying that same imaginary character, what must it be like to feel that about yourself?  Every day?  What must it be like to have people call you by a name that is not yours?

Julian Gibson is 14, and just entering high school in Toronto, Canada.  He has felt like a boy since he was old enough to know the difference between boys and girls, but he has only found the words for it in the past few years.  He hasn’t told anyone that he is a boy, and of course is afraid of how they will react.  As he and all the kids around him are entering or moving through puberty, he feels that disconnect between who he is and who he looks like much more acutely, and every day it causes him more distress.  He’s always been the quiet, bookish type, very intelligent, but living more inside his head than anywhere else, and high school is the time when he truly realizes that he will need to learn how to interact with the outside world.  If he doesn’t define himself, others will do it for him, and they will never know who he really is.  He decides that if he can just tell 3 people, that it will become real – yes, he is aware that he’s a little like Pinocchio wanting to be “a real boy” – and now he just needs to find a way to do that.

Those were all the things I loved about the story.  The premise is interesting, the description of Julian’s inner world and the discordance with what happens on the outside is exceptionally well done.  But the plot, well, it’s kind of meh.  I was so frustrated that the conflict is all within Julian’s mind.  When he does start to slowly come out, there was no negativity from others at all.  None, zip, nada.  Everyone not only is supportive, but they also know exactly how to be supportive.  No issues with forgetting to use the correct pronouns, no awkward interactions while reconciling Julian with Julia, and not even any questions like “how does that feel?”  Julian’s girlfriend, who mostly identifies as lesbian, basically just says OK when Julian explains how important it is that she thinks of them as a straight couple, and immediately he is her boyfriend, and that’s that.

The only external conflict had to do with gender specific bathrooms.  Really?  I know that North Carolina made a big deal about that, and the far right continues to make a big deal about it, but I personally think there are many more important discrimination issues facing transgender people.  I say this as a heterosexual, cis-woman, so of course I could be wrong, but I thought the focus on the bathroom issue was disingenuous at best, and a cop-out at worst.

Overall, the book fell short of what I hoped it would be, but it at least made me think more about the internal conflict that any transgender person must feel as they grow up and come to terms with their identity.  And I would definitely want to read a story with transgender teens again in the future.

Cover art, by Alexandria Corza, is also pretty meh.

Sales Links

Harmony Ink Press

7104e-waxcreative-amazon-kindle

Book Details:

ebook, 254 pages
Expected publication: December 1st 2016 by Harmony Ink Press
ISBN 1634774272 (ISBN13: 9781634774277)
Edition LanguageEnglish

A Jeri Review: Son of Money By Brandon Witt

Standard

Rating: 3 Stars out of 5

Son of MoneyAt times I really liked this book. But at other times I really didn’t. So this is a mixed review for me, because I will try to highlight both as I am a fan of Mr. Witt’s books but this one was a disappointment.

Randall disinherited himself from the family fortune so that they couldn’t/wouldn’t run his life any longer. Guess what? He works to pay the bills and they still control his life.

Noah was just as bipolar as Randall. Except he spent his life as the son of missionaries and part of his adult life as one. Until his father died and he left it all behind. He hints that he no longer believes, but it is never explored at all.

There is a lot that is never explored.

Randall and Noah knew each other as teens and had a quick dalliance with each other before Noah was gone again on a missionary trip with his family. Fate brings them back together and while Noah pretty much had been waiting for that to happen, Randall is thrown for a loop. Randall’s feelings toward it rang more true. Noah was just completely accepting of the fact that all of a sudden there is Randall again. So of course they should get back together and live happily ever after. Really? People grow and change a lot in 20 years.

While I really enjoyed the relationship that Randall had with his niece, that is the strong hold his family had on him. Tow the line or you don’t see her anymore. I just felt it was ridiculous. Are parents really that controlling when you are an adult? Maybe, but to me that just shows how weak you are. I am speaking of not only Randall, but his brother and his sister in law who happens to be his best friend.

Anyway, back to the “romance”. I didn’t feel that there was any. It was kind of just accepted that they would be back together, the end. I wanted Noah to woo Randall. To be romantic. To show why they should be together, not just accept it as fact. I did like how Noah stood up to Randall’s parents, though. See why I am so wishy washy with this review? Loved this, hated that.

Previous books by Brandon Witt really hit me and left me thinking what a great book I just read.  I almost couldn’t wait to write the reviews because I wanted everyone to read the books. This one….meh.

Cover art by Anne Cain is perfect for the story.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | ARe | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 284 pages
Expected publication: July 11th 2016 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 1634773128 (ISBN13: 9781634773126)
Edition LanguageEnglish

Our Spotlight is on Lane Swift’s The Dormant Heart (author guest post and excerpt)

Standard

Dormant Heart

Dormant Heart by Lane Hayes
Dreamspinner Press
Cover Artist Anna Sikorska

Release Date February 10, 2016

 

About Dormant Heart

Amateur photographer Josh Thornton is out but not so proud. He’s estranged from his family, his boyfriend dumped him, and his job at an estate agency is in jeopardy—especially after he crashes his boss’s car in the middle of nowhere on his way to Hartley Manor.

Callum Black works at the English country estate and lives there in an isolated cottage. Left mute by a childhood accident, he’s more comfortable in the company of animals than people. But when Josh—literally—crashes into his life with his camera and his friendship, Callum realizes his peaceful solitude has been more than a little lonely.

Josh’s affection for Callum deepens even as he’s consumed by doubts over Callum’s sexuality and whether Callum could ever love him. And Callum is haunted by the secret that stole his voice—a secret that keeps him tethered to Hartley Manor. When the past comes hurtling painfully back into the present, Josh and Callum have to overcome their fears and breathe life back into their dormant hearts in order to have a chance at their own picture-perfect future.

Purchase it at Dreamspinner Press.

 

About the Author

Lane Swift is a fiction writer, mainly of contemporary romance, sometimes featuring a mild dash of paranormal.

She lives by the sea in Hampshire, England, with her husband, two children and two guinea pigs, and can often be found at her beach hut, imbibing coffee and dreaming up happy-ever-afters for her heroes and heroines.

Over the years, she’s worked as a waitress, a lab technician, a science teacher and a telecommunications consultant. She’s also played women’s rugby, climbed one mountain and run one marathon, but has never managed to learn how to whistle.

 

 

You can contact the author via:

Review of Synchronous Seductions Trilogy by Havan Fellows

Standard

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.

Country Mouse by Amy Lane and Aleksandr Voinov

Standard

Rating: 4.75 stars

Owen Watson is on vacation in London and overseas for the first time.  After his traveling partner and ex-girlfriend ditched him for a hookup, Owen lands in a pub drinking a glass of bad beer by himself.  He’s tired from playing tourist all day and he needs something to eat. Instead of dinner, he gets an offer for another drink and a night of sex from Malcolm Kavanagh, a bonds trader and sexual player.

Malcolm Kavanagh has been waiting for his “one night only sub” to arrive.  The man is late and Malcolm’s patience has run out.  When he spies the Yank at the bar, he decides to honor him with a night of mind boggling sex before kicking the Yank out the door before breakfast.  With 80 hour work weeks, Malcolm doesn’t do relationships.  He doesn’t have time. So introducing a tourist to the joys of BDSM fits into his schedule of sex with no commitments. But moments into his pickup , he realizes that the Yank isn’t falling into line as he should, and Malcolm is more than a little stymied.

Owen is open to a night of casual sex but it will be on his terms and not the arrogant but gorgeous jerk trying to pick him up. One night later and things have changed.  Malcolm is not quite the shallow, heartless top he made  himself out to be and Owen is not the innocent country mouse Malcolm supposed him to be.  The more things change between them, the more Malcolm and Owen admit to themselves how much they want to stay together.

Country Mouse is a delightfully sexy short story from Amy Lane and Aleksandr Voinov.  Really, can we get them to write another?  Because I loved the result of their combined writing styles and ideas.  The authors took two stock characters, the country mouse visiting the big city for the first time and the big bad city mouse with his experience and sexual prowess, tweaked it and turned the characters on their stereotypical heads.  And made us cheer for them, laugh with them, and hope that they have a happy future together.  Didn’t I say I loved this book?

While Amy Lane and Aleksandr Voinov have such difference writing styles, you can always expect great characterizations from them.  Owen and Malcolm are two such wonderful creations, beautifully realized in only 79 pages.  Malcolm starts out offensive and quite frankly not terribly likable. Owen Watson is an affable person but only so far and ends up being more than a match for Malcolm’s cocky attitude. As Owen asserts himself, we start to see a shift in Malcolm’s behavior.  This shift carries right into the heart of Malcolm’s character and the unlikable facade dissipates and allows the real Malcolm that Owen sees to shine through.

What was so sexy and hot was that the change in their roles starts to happen during their sexual encounters.  Malcolm is supposed to be this badass Dom teaching this inexperienced Yank how to be his submissive toy for the night only Owen has something or rather someone he intends to be doing before the night is over.  Let’s just say their expectations don’t play out exactly how either of them intended, much to their combined enjoyment and laughter.  That’s right….fun and laughter amid sexual hijinks.  In a story by Amy Lane and Aleksandr Voinov!  Owen and Malcolm enjoy the heck out of each other and you will be laughing along with them.

Their relationship continues to develop as Malcolm takes Owen sightseeing in a nice series of scenes that  take place at different tourist sites throughout London. At each location, Owen and Malcolm learn something about each other as well as historical facts. As they grow on each other, so does the pairing grow on the reader until you take  them both into your heart. If you are expecting a angst filled story, this one is amazingly angst free or is that angst light?  Either way, it doesn’t matter. There is some angsty moments at the end as you would expect but it is satisfactorily dealt with in an ending that will have you cheering.

Grab this one up.  I always find bad boys so appealing but here both the Country  Mouse and the bad boy City Mouse crept into my heart and set up housekeeping.  Never thought I would say that about mice.  Drat it.  Now where’s the cheese?

Cover: Love this cover.  Cover art by Jordan Taylor.  Smart sexy and eye catching.  Just like the men inside.

Review of Winter Love by T. T. Kove

Standard

Rating: 3 stars

Lasse and his friends head to Oppdal ( a ski resort in Norway) for a vacation filled with fun, partying, and lots of skiing.  After a day on the slopes, Lasse gets into a confrontation with a man named Armas who won’t take no for an answer. Coming to Lasse’ rescue is Markos, Armas’ brother and fellow vacationer. Markos and Lasse are instantly attracted to each other and spend the rest of the vacation together.  But Markos is Finnish, and the vacation is coming to an end. The stress of a long-distance relationship is only one of the tests their love comes under as Markos and Lasse struggle to keep their winter love  alive.

Upon finishing the story, I wondered why I found it so dissatisfying. On the surface, the story is plausible and well constructed, the characters of Lasse and Markos likable. Further reflection crystallized several problems I had with Winter Love.

The first is characterization or the lack thereof.  All of the characters here are so bland as to be interchangeable, with the exception of the group slut, Oliver, and homophobe Armas, who sleeps with men.  Otherwise, you can switch out Markos, Lasse, Dimitri, and Mathias with each other based on personality alone and no one would notice.  It’s just one note character after another. When  glimmers of depth or layering comes up, or when we think that a backstory is about to be discovered, it is either immediately forgotten or dropped.

These lapses in character and story development are so frustrating that the reader is tempted to skipped ahead to see if it (whatever it is) comes up again.   And of course, it doesn’t.  At one point, Oliver is described as being bitter, which would give meaning to his promiscous behavior but it is never mentioned again.  Also during the epilogue, Lasse wonders if he should bring up  his past as a alcoholic and drug addict to Markos’ parents and the reader starts going “what? what?” because this is the first mention of this side of Lasse’ character. Had we had a backstory on Lasse earlier, it would have made him a more relatable person, instead we have a bland personality masquerading as a main character.

Plot lines within the story are handled with the same nonchalance as character development.  A major character in one of the main story lines threatens suicide because of a trauma that has driven a major section of the plot. He then disappears for the rest of the book, leaving the reader to wonder why this character was introduced at all if he could be so easily discarded.  Also disturbing is the manner in which the potential for suicide is treated by the other characters.  One singular moment of tears then nothing.

T. T. Kove is Norwegian so the thought did occur to me that some of the issues I had with the story might be due to translation or language difficulties.  Also, I have not read any Norwegian fiction so perhaps story development or plot outlines diverge along cultural lines.  I am not sure.  I would like to give her the benefit of the doubt, rather than using Winter Love as a standard for her prowess as a writer.

Cover:  Beautiful cover by Megan Derr.  I loved the image but wish the author’s name could be more legible.  A larger font in the same color as the title would have been better.

Review of Battle Buddy by S.J.D. Peterson

Standard

Rating: 4.8 stars

For Shane Tucker, the Army and Don’t Ask Don’t Tell give him two reasons to leave his small home town in Texas.  One, Shane saw the Army as a “great alternative to mucking cow shit and mending fences.”* Two, as a gay 19 year old, DADT was the perfect excuse to stay closeted.  It wasn’t his fault he wasn’t out, it was the Army’s!

Basic training upends Shane’s world in so many unexpected ways.  It’s both brutal and exhilarating.  He entered thinking he was in the best shape of his life and BT is telling him he was an idiot.  But he is also finding out as the training gets harder that he is good at it, loving the challenges and excelling no matter the obstacles.  Until he is assigned a Battle Buddy.  Owen Bradford is a six foot 4 inch mountain of muscle, cocky and gorgeous.  With Owen as his Battle Buddy, Shane has a whole new set of  problems, including temptation 24/7.  What’s a guy to do?

I loved this short story on so many levels.  One, Shane Tucker is perfect.  By that I mean, his voice is perfect for a small town 19 year with his first introduction to a larger world, in this case, the Army.  As you hear his thoughts, from his perceived notions of what the Army life would entail then through his introduction to the realities of basic training, you  just want to shake your head at his naivete and bone headedness, but it is always with affection.  He is just so damn likable.  And when the conflicts start when he is assigned Owen as his Battle Buddy, then his insights are priceless.

I will admit to looking up Battle Buddy.  I mean here you have two words that to me couldn’t be farther apart.  Battle is obvious with its association with war.  But Buddy?  Images of kindergarten and lunch buddies came immediately to mind.  But after some thought, I could see the rationale behind it.  Someone to have your back, be constantly at your side at all times.  So really not that far removed from kindergarten after all.  The author has clearly done her research and it shows throughout the story.

And the story is hot.  Sexually, intensely hot.  Just as you would expect from two young men in their prime, full of testosterone, brimming with physicality.

The story ends where it should for its length.  But there was hope at the end that we might learn more of what the future holds for Shane and Owen in another story.  I would love to see them return, especially now that DADT has fallen.  But either way, pick up this story.  It’s terrific.

Cover: I thought it was a little dark in color.  I am a fan of using just a partial face of the models.  A great tease and it lets the reader fill in the rest with their imagination.  But where is my farm boy, Shane in all of this?

 

*SJD Peterson (2012-03-12 04:00:00+00:00). Battle Buddy (Kindle Location 52). Silver Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Available: Silver Publishing, Amazon, ARE