A MelanieM Review: Bull (Brawlers #3) by J.M. Dabney

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Welcome to Brawlers Bar…

They said men only get better with age, distinguished and all that BS, but Archer “Bulletproof” Woods hadn’t gotten better. At fifty-six he was still as much an asshole as he’d been in his twenties and thirties, hell, maybe he was worse. Being a bouncer at a bar called Brawlers suited him just fine and he even tolerated the rest of the crew who’d taken up residence in his house when they’d had nowhere else to go. He was big, growly and homely that kept the parade of men passing through Brawlers at arm’s length for the past decade. One night changed all that.

What he’d thought was happily ever after turned into a nearly five year nightmare. Gregory Charles appeared to have it all, a successful business, sophistication, and a perfect marriage. His friend and best employee, Landon, begged him to come out to a friend’s bar to celebrate Landon’s anniversary. What could it hurt? A night without contemplating the hell that would come down on him the moment he served his husband with divorce papers would do him good. That is until he met the brooding older man staring into a whiskey straight ignoring everyone around him.

Watching for trouble was his job and Gregory screamed mistake as soon as the long, lean and handsome man sat down beside him. But he also knew when someone was in over their head and Gregory needed someone to watch his back. That someone was Bull, only time would tell if he’d have to fight Gregory as much as the man after him.

Bull‘s story is the one I’ve been waiting for.  I’ve love the huge, hulking father figure ever since I became aware of the Brawlers and their extended family.  It’s Bull and his house whose been the home and focal point of so many of these stories.  And it’s been Bull who’s been such a steadying influence on those around him when everything felt like it was being destroyed for them.  Yet Bull was ever lonely, alpha among alphas, and you wanted to get the know the person called Bull.  In Bull (Brawlers #3) by J.M. Dabney I finally got that story.

The solitary man isn’t the one I was prepared to find.  He’s hardly anywhere close to the men he houses, although he  clearly understands them and the violence that drives them.  Instead Dabney gives us a man full of pain and loneliness, hating it, yet perhaps thinking that his time for something more has passed him by because of his age.  The sadness is overwhelming.  Then Gregory appears at Brawlers, helping to  celebrate Landon’s anniversary and a connection is made that changes everything.

Gregory is a complicated character (they all are here).  Explaining more about Gregory actually gives away too much of the the plot for my comfort, however, let’s just say trying to serve divorce papers to a husband isn’t always the easiest thing when the husband refuses to accept them.  This is a hurt/comfort story and deals with issues of domestic violence and control.

Bull’s situation (he’s divorced with a grown child he hasn’t seen in awhile) plus his age all determines the manner in which he views his actions towards Gregory and any possibility of a relationship.  Gregory’s own demons also need to be dealt with by Gregory himself and others.  Broken, bruised men are the heart of most of Dabney’s stories.  For most, life has made them hard and violent, but for some, it’s left it’s marks in other ways.

The relationship dynamics here make any romance unsure and slow as it should be.  I loved the struggle and the carefulness taken to ensure more pain wasn’t inflicted.   I like that there is an awareness of the age issue, it’s addressed, and they move forward. Was it a little rushed towards the end?  Perhaps, but the whole is darn near perfect.

I think Bull is one of my favorite Brawler books of the series.  Of course, I do love the whole series and the one that follows it.  I have them all listed below.  Check them all out and check them off as I review them.  I highly recommend them all.

Cover design by Winterheart Designs is perfect for Bull, how I love these covers.

Sales Links:  Amazon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 1 edition, 199 pages
Published May 16th 2017 by Hostile Whispers Press, LLC (first published 2017)
ASINB06Y2GHQPH
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesBrawlers #3

  • Executioners – third series

Alex Beecroft Returns to Trowchester with Blue Steel Chain (Trowchester Blues #3) A Stunning Novel! – giveaway

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Blue Steel Chain (Trowchester Blues #3)
by Alex Beecroft

Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Cover Artist: Lou Harper

Sales Link: Riptide Publishing

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About Blue Steel Chain:

At sixteen, Aidan Swift was swept off his feet by a rich older man who promised to take care of him for the rest of his life. But eight years later, his sugar daddy has turned from a prince into a beast. Trapped and terrified, Aidan snatches an hour’s respite at the Trowchester Museum.

Local archaeologist James Huntley is in a failing long distance relationship with a rock star, and Aidan—nervous, bruised, and clearly in need of a champion—brings out all his white knight tendencies. When everything falls apart for Aidan, James saves him from certain death . . . and discovers a skeleton of another boy who wasn’t so lucky.

As Aidan recovers, James falls desperately in love. But though Aidan acts like an adoring boyfriend, he doesn’t seem to feel any sexual attraction at all. Meanwhile there are two angry exes on the horizon, one coming after them with the press and the other with a butcher’s knife. To be together, Aidan and James must conquer death, sex, and everyone’s preconceptions about the right way to love—even their own.

Blue Steel Chain by Alex Beecroft is available from Riptide Publishing on July 27.

About Author Alex Beecroft

Alex Beecroft is an English author best known for historical fiction, notably Age of Sail, featuring gay characters and romantic storylines. Her novels and shorter works include paranormal, fantasy, and contemporary fiction.

Beecroft won Linden Bay Romance’s (now Samhain Publishing) Starlight Writing Competition in 2007 with her first novel, Captain’s Surrender, making it her first published book. On the subject of writing gay romance, Beecroft has appeared in the Charleston City Paper, LA Weekly, the New Haven Advocate, the Baltimore City Paper, and The Other Paper. She is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association of the UK and an occasional reviewer for the blog  HYPERLINK “http://speakitsname.com/” \n _blankSpeak Its Name, which highlights historical gay fiction.

Alex was born in Northern Ireland during the Troubles and grew up in the wild countryside of the English Peak District. She lives with her husband and two children in a little village near Cambridge and tries to avoid being mistaken for a tourist.

Alex is only intermittently present in the real world. She has led a Saxon shield wall into battle, toiled as a Georgian kitchen maid, and recently taken up an 800-year-old form of English folk dance, but she still hasn’t learned to operate a mobile phone.

She is represented by Louise Fury of the L. Perkins Literary Agency.

Connect with Alex:

Website:  “http://alexbeecroft.com/
Blog:  http://alexbeecroft.com/blog
Facebook:http://www.facebook.com/AlexBeecroftAuthor
Twitter:  https://twitter.com/Alex_Beecroft
Goodreads:  http://www.goodreads.com/Alex_Beecroftt

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Giveaway:

Every comment on this blog tour enters you in a drawing for a signed paperback from Alex Beecroft’s backlist. (Any title which has a paperback edition, excluding Blue Steel Chain.) Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on July 25. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries. Don’t forget to add your email so we can contact you if you win!  Must be 18 years of age or older to enter.

Trowchester Blues ( A Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words ★★★★★ Series)

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Trowchester: it’s the fourth smallest city in Britain, and visitors sometimes think it hasn’t left the Middle Ages yet. There’s a Bronze Age barrow, a wide network of ley lines, the best tea shop in the county, and more morris dancers than you can shake a stick at. Trowchester attracts those who have been hurt and those who are looking for sanctuary from the modern world. But scratch the surface and there’s murder and mayhem aplenty. People come here to find love, but they’re forced to learn bravery first.

The release order of the Trowchester series is Trowchester Blues, Blue Eyed Stranger, and Blue Steel Chain, but you can start with withichever book catches your eye; they each stand alone.  We highly recommend them all.

– See more at Riptide Publishing’s Trowchester Blues  series page.

 

Review: Unearthing Cole by AM Arthur

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Rating: 4.25 stars

Unearthing Cole coverFleeing an abusive relationship, Cole Alston returns home after the death of his estranged mother to settle her estate and sell off the house and all her possessions. Cole has been dreading such a day as both his parents were hoarders and the property more resembles a junk yard then home, the same as it was when he lived there growing up.  As full of painful memories as it is, Cole feels he has no choice.  He needs the money to relocate to Canada as his ex continues to stalk him but the task before him seems overwhelming and he doesn’t know where to begin.

Jeremy Collins owns the local antiques business in town.  For years he has been trying to get Cole’s parents to sell some of the things they have accumulated on their farm to no avail.  When Cole returns to town, Jeremy gets in touch with him, first to buy some of the things at the farm. Then Jeremy gets to know Cole and it is Cole’s vulnerability and pain that draws Jeremy to help him get rid of years of hoarding while helping him uncover his past.  Slowly as the men clear away years of clutter and trash, they start to build a relationship of affection and trust, amazing given Cole’s background.  But there is still so much in their path to happiness, including Cole’s anxiety, and his past in the form of his ex boyfriend.  Will Cole be able to clear away his pain and emotional baggage before he can move forward to a new life.

Unearthing Cole tackles some very serious topics within its plot and does it very well.  It is the first book by A. M. Arthur that I have read and I am really impressed by the way Arthur handles this difficult subject matter while maintaining our connection to a very wounded young man, Cole, and his potential love interest, Jeremy.  Cole Alston has had a traumatic upbringing as both his parents were hoarders during a time where very little was known of what is now diagnosed as a mental illness.  All Cole knew was that he had no parental support and his parents seemed to love their “things” more than himself.  Arthur correctly imagines what the life of a child raised under those circumstances must have been like in heartbreaking detail as well as the consequences of their development into adulthood.  Cole is insecure and low self esteem, wanting a home and someone to belong to above all else.  This outlook and lack of stability has dire consequences when Cole picks one person to hook up with in college.

If you have ever, however fleetingly, seen parts of that Hoarders program on cable, then you have seen the pain and anger of the families of the hoarder almost burst from the screen, years of abuse pouring forth from children, partners, relatives and friends who have failed to stop the hoarder from accumulating things without regard to what is happening around them.  Horrific on all accounts, including the puzzled, blank expressions of the hoarders themselves who can’t begin to fathom what they have done, including the filth they are living in.  And Arthur gets it all right, from the descriptions of Cole’s house to the pain and anger he carries within him.

Added to that almost unimaginable background, Arthur extrapolates what that upbringing would have done to a child and gives us a Cole who ends up in an abusive relationship that takes him years to escape.  Arthur makes it all seem so logical and realistic and perhaps that is the worst part of it all, the ease with which the abuser was able to take over Cole’s life.   And throughout the story, the reader is there, inside Cole’s tormented mind as he struggles to reclaim himself but to do so he must face his past, strewn out before him across the outbuildings, yards, and crammed full house of his youth.

Jeremy Collins has his own unique layers, he is bisexual, a widower, and now lives in a small town  not always accepting of alternate lifestyles.  He is familiar with loss and pain, and is uniquely positioned to help Cole uncover his past, helping the real Cole to emerge along the way.  I like him as well.  There aren’t many other characters introduced here, the main story revolves around these two men, their past histories, and the situation before them.  Again, I think that Arthur handles their delicate dance towards a relationship with care and authenticity with regard to all of the obstacles presented by Cole’s background.

And that brings me down to the issues I did have with the story.  I felt that the ending and denouement was rushed, especially considering the buildup and emotional impact of seeing his abuser once more.  That was frustrating and over far too quickly given their past, and the damage that had been inflicted.  I did like that this ended in a HFN as opposed to a HEA which would have felt out of place given the characters and background.  Had this story been lengthened just enough to flesh out the ending that the rest of the story deserved than the rating would have been much higher.  As it remains, I still recommend this author and Unearthing Cole, it’s memorable, and the characters haunting in their pain.  Don’t pass this one by.

Cover art by LC Chase is as haunting and memorable as the book.

Book Details:

ebook, 170 pages
Published March 20th 2013 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN13
9781623804343
edition language
English

Seizing It by Chris T. Kat

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Rating: 3 stars

Kit Hall, veterinary assistant, leads a life of strict routine that his epilepsy and physician requires of him. Kit has also isolated himself by choice from others with the exception of his sister and the veterinarian he works for.  A victim of domestic abuse from his ex, Kit finds himself unwilling to trust others to the extent that he has walled himself off from most personal interactions.  When Kit is attacked outside his home by a crazed admirer, his sister and a good looking stranger come to his aid. The attack puts him off balance. When he learns that Alan, his friend/boss, is moving and someone else is taking over the clinic, Kit becomes even more unsettled.  The next day at the clinic Kit is horrified to find out that his new boss is none other than his rescuer from the day before.

Dale Miller is on his way to his new veterinary clinic when he chances upon a young man being attacked.  He intervenes, restraining the attacker until the police arrive. He is not the only one surprised when he meets the young man again at the clinic he is taking over.  It turns out his  assistant, Kit Hall, and the victim, are one and the same.  A fact that Kit is not happy about and makes very clear to him.  But he finds Kit  attractive and becomes determined to be the one to make Kit lower his defenses and take one more chance at love.

Several days later and this book still has me confused about my feelings towards it.  Mostly they are of the “not so good” type.  Add to that column, “flashes of talent”, “great idea”,”kind of creepy” and “downright annoying”, and I think you all will begin to get my drift.  The author had a great idea for a protagonist here but never brought the main character up to snuff.  I was really looking forward to a thoughtful exploration of a life lived with epilepsy, the proscribed limits and how a full life could still be achieved within them. That is not what I got in any way, starting with that title. Seizing It? Really?  Should I say it had me fit to be tied? *that was sarcastic, people – shakes head*

In addition to epilepsy, Chris T. Kat has burdened Kit Hall with being a victim of a shattering domestic abuse attack from his controlling and mentally ill ex, a temper that should see him in anger management classes and a family that treats him as though he is twelve (and sometimes rightfully so). I think we are supposed to find him one of those endearing prickly main characters, slight in stature, with a shock of red hair and green eyes.  I generally like those characters.  I didn’t like Kit Hall.  Mostly I wanted to send him off to intensive therapy sessions which he clearly needed, not to be seen again.  The author endowed Kit with a temper which as victimized as he is I could understand but apparently he has always had a temper that he directs at all close to him while acknowledging that he may be a brat.  This got very old as it would in real life and Kit comes across as a bit of an abuser and bully himself.

Further complicating the story is the other main character, Dale Miller.  He is older, finds Kit incredibly attractive, and wants to rescue Kit from himself.  In one section when Kit is freaking out over Dale restraining him (???) during an argument, I started to get that squicked out feeling.  I remember seeing adult handlers forcibly restraining out of control children (mentally and physically challenged) in the same manner until they calmed down.  To see it used here between “potential” lovers hit quite a few wrong notes. Especially when Dale then picks up Kit and put him in his lap.  Am I the only one thinking child abuser not lover here?  And then Kit falls in love with him immediately in a couple of days? Never has a case of “instant love” seemed so wrong.

What I did find realistic is that Kit is ashamed he is epileptic and doesn’t tell Dale about his condition until a Grand Mal seizure forces him to. I had a childhood friend who felt the same way.  He moved away in elementary school so I never knew how the adult Tim dealt with it.  The author does a good job talking about stress being a trigger as well as using medication and a regulated life style to control his epilepsy. I wish she had done as well with the issue of domestic abuse which loomed as a larger subject here.  Male victims of domestic abuse represent a huge sector of people who go unreported and unaccounted for.  Kit’s issues that stemmed from his years of living with a domestic abuser are never really dealt with in the same manner his epilepsy is.  A missed opportunity the book never recovers from in my opinion.

I won’t even get into his father issues and a family determined not to let a 28 year old grow up and make his own decisions.  Let’s leave that one alone.  It’s overshadowed anyway by all the problems I have already remarked on.  Seizing It is the only book I have read by Chris T. Kat so I don’t know if this story is typical of her work or not.  I hope not.  She does have some good ideas here but in the end raises far more questions about her protagonists and their relationship then is resolved in the book.

Cover:  The artist is Anne Cain who I love  but where are the dogs? Another missed opportunity as one main character is a vet, and the other is his assistant with a dog who is also a main character within the story. It remains a beautiful cover of two men in a fall setting.