A Mika Review: Lovers & Fighters by Nash Summers

Standard

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars    ★★★★

Lovers and Fighters coverScott Halleck and Julian Reeves are polar opposites in almost every way. Scott, a modern arts curator at a museum in Chicago, relishes the finer things in life. Julian is a strange photographer whose hair color changes as frequently as his mood. As far as Scott can see, Julian is an erratic know-it-all who lives his life one day to the next. To Julian, Scott is an uptight, too-coiffed perfectionist.

As the two men continue to run into each other, their dislike grows, but beneath that animosity, a fire is beginning to spark. Scott is baffled when he realizes he is falling for Julian, a man who burns hotter than a wildfire. Scott will have to decide, for the first time in his life, if he’ll let the flames take over.

I’m becoming to enjoy Nash’s take on real life m/m romance. I think I read something on the same basis about the plot before, but taken entirely different route with the characters. I’m apologizing in the beginning for this review; it’s going to be all over the place because that’s how my thoughts were after reading this story. 

I don’t think I expected the animosity to be so straight forward like it was. Scott was a lackluster character in the beginning. He did minimum things for fun, outside of work. Reading this and learning about Scott? He surprised me by his choices in the people he loves. He didn’t have many friends, and his relationship was lukewarm on his side at best. I was trying to put myself in Scott’s shoes on how I would act if I was him, and I would proceed with being with someone who I know is bad for me, but I can’t help who I love. Julian’s character was very complex. Julian was rude, mean and angry to the point of combative. I mean he’s a sandwich maker who makes the complete opposite of what people order. I was angry for the customers. It’s hard to see why sensible Scott fell in love with rebellious Julian.  I enjoyed him, but I kind of wanted more about him.  It’s not a traditional romance at all, it’s a love story and like most love stories, it takes a long time before you actually know that it is happening.

It’s a unique spin on a damaged soul and the good guy who’ll do anything to protect him. Another realistic approach with how addiction works, and the road it takes a person on. I’m proud of Julian for getting help, but when one addiction leaves, another takes it’s place. Domestic Violence is a tag for this story, I liked how Nash went about writing it into the story. It was beautifully introduced and Scott showed us a different sign. For the life of me I can’t figure out why Scott wants Julian, but I understand it. I’ll leave you with this quote from Scott, it makes perfect sense.

“I was nothing like Julian. We were from opposite sides of the solar system. He was a star that flickered, and seared, and burned too brightly to look at. I was the dark, dim, wholeness of space—unmoving in stasis.”

I think it’s a beautiful quote that describes them to the fullest.

Cover Art by Natasha Snow, as usual Natasha Snow brings it. The colors pop, graphics are nicely done, and the picture of Scott is sexy. I liked it, it’s what drew me in.

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

Book Details: 

ebook, 127 pages
Published September 9th 2015 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN139781634765312
edition languageEnglish

Review: A Beautiful Disaster by Willa Okati

Standard

Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5

A beautiful Disaster coverSean is trying to start his life over after being abused and almost killed by  an ex lover, but he wears his past for all to see in the scars that crisscross his body and the limbs that no longer work as they once did.  Sean’s scars are internalized as well, revealing themselves in his inability to trust and move forward in his life.

Riorden is both a tattoo artist and nurse who also is familiar with scars and life’s unwelcome surprises.  Rio is drawn to the pain filled man he sees waiting for the bus near the hospital, one glimpse and he is hooked although he can’t say why.  An accidental meeting at a bar brings Sean and Rio together again, and while the sexual heat flares, trust remains elusive.

Sean too  wants the gentle inked nurse but can he overcome his painful past and issues of trust to move forward with his life and find the love he has always dreamed about?  Only time will tell if Rio can save the beautiful disaster that is Sean.

This is not a love story for the light or faint hearted but one that is dark, pain filled and shows only glimpses of hope towards the end. Willa Okati delivers two memorable men, carrying traumatic scars of their past.  One is a veritable canvas of scars from the event that cost him everything, his self image, his trust, and his greatest joy, the ability to draw.  The other man’s scars are more easily hidden but no less dramatic.  He too almost lost his life but in a far different fashion, one that left his self image and future intact.  But it is how each man has dealt with the trauma that both pulls them together as each recognizes something about the other, a similarity that exists under the surface.  Willa Okati brings these outwardly disparate yet inwardly compatible men to life in these story of pain, hardship and renewal.

Rio helps cover scars for his former patients with tattoos that help them recover.  An article this week at MSNBC told the same story of a woman who rejected breast reconstruction and had a gorgeous full chest tattoo inked in their place (see picture at breast-cancer-survivor.jpg). We get into his head and heart as Rio talks to and about his patients.  And once we enter the tattoo shop and meet his best friend Jae, we better understand why he is so driven to pursue both careers at the same time.  Sean’s mind is a tough one to connect with, dark, depressed, and in stasis, unable to move forward or back.  All 136 pages chart his faltering progress to jumpstart his life, connect again with his art, and find his ability to love and trust once more.

For most of the book this is a bleak picture.  But each time the story gets caught up in its depths, Okati offers the reader glimmers of light ahead.  That glimpse of hope,plus the compelling characters of Sean and Rio, will serve to pull along those readers in search of a passionate love story.  The rest of us will not hesitate to go where Willa Okati leads  which is to an ending both realistic and heartening. One that leaves the reader optimistic for Sean and Rio’s future and the healing they have found with each other.

Cover Artist: Ginny Glass. I am not sold on this cover.  There was so much within this story for a cover artist to draw from that I am at a loss to say what might have prompted the design on the cover. It doesn’t really speak to anything within the book, not even the tattoos described within that carry so much meaning.  A complete misstep in design in my opinion.

Willa Okati and Loose id LLC post some very important links in the afterword about domestic abuse and organizations that deal with domestic violence.  These are wonderful resources for those in need.

For more information about domestic abuse, please check out the following: National Coalition Against Domestic Violence http:// http://www.ncadv.org/ Gay Men’s Domestic Violence Project http:// gmdvp.org/ about-us/ Resources for Victims of Domestic Violence (via The Advocate)   http:// http://www.theadvocates-aplacetogo.org/ Additional-Resources.php

Review: Loving Hector by John Inman

Standard

Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5

Loving HectorDillard “Dill” Brown is not sure what to say about his life.  Dill is tall, gay and writes m/m romance novels.  He has published 3 books, none very successful. At the age of 30, he has a closet full of fast food uniforms due to the fact that his writing barely pays his rent, and a mother in denial that her son is gay.  Then everything changes.  He gets drunk, meets a man he swears he won’t forget but does in his stupor, finds a dog he will call Chester, and puts his feet firmly on the path to true love and happily ever after.

Hector Pena is also on that road with Dill, but he just didn’t realize it at first.  There are a couple of misunderstandings to  get over before they really start to connect but the biggest obstacle?  That would be Hector’s exboyfriend, Valdemaro.  Valdemaro is not ready to let Hector go, to the point of beating and physically restraining him.  Only one thing is keeping Hector from calling the cops.  And that would be the fact that Valdemaro is a cop.  Dill  will  do whatever it takes to keep Hector safe, put Valdemaro in his place and make sure Dill, Hector, and Chester the dog reach their HEA, including gathering together some of the craziest, zaniest group of people to do it.

Loving Hector is the first book I have read by John Inman and it has me reaching for the rest of his titles immediately.  Dill, Hector, and the crazy group of characters that enrich, support and drive them batty had me laughing for hours.  John Inman rests the story in the somewhat capable hands of Dill Brown, 30 year old gay m/m romance novelist and collector of fast food jobs.  It is told from Dill’s off kilter and very funny rambling POV.  Now I am aware that this type of stream of consciousness, scattered narrative is not everyone’s cup of tea and that it can depend on exactly who and what type of character’s thoughts are constantly flowing over the page.  But I happened to find Dill hysterical, his view of the world compassionate and openhearted, so I enjoyed spending time  inside his very creative and observant mind (thank you, John Inman).

For an example, here is Dill eyeing his Gramps, a crazy old coot who just happens to love his gay grandson:

When Dill was finally able to step out onto the sidewalk, the two men eyed each other up and down like a couple of Sumo wrestlers getting ready to rumble.

The top of Gramps’s work pants were tucked up under his armpits so that his belt buckle was directly under his chin. Dill could see several inches of pale, shiny shinbone gleaming between the man’s pant legs and the top of his socks. One of the socks was white with little red and blue stripes around the top, and the other was white with little yellow and green stripes around the top. The second sock drooped down around the ankle because the elastic was shot. The first sock looked like it was three sizes too small and by the way it was strangling his grandpa’s leg, Dill figured it would probably create an embolism sometime in the next seven or eight minutes that would kill the old man dead. The shoes were brown-and-white saddle shoes, the sort you usually see in old pictures poking out from under a poodle skirt. The laces were missing. The trousers were brown and shiny, and the lumberjack shirt the man wore was a horrendous green and orange plaid and big enough to hold three grandfathers. It was without a doubt the ugliest plaid Dill had ever seen in his life. If it was a tartan emblem for a particular clan of Scottish Highlanders, then they must have been a clan of color-blind, troglodytic morons.

There was a fat pocket watch in one of the shirt pockets which dragged the left side of the shirt down lopsided from the way it was supposed to hang, making his grandfather look as if half of him was doubly affected by gravity, and the other half wasn’t affected by gravity at all. He wore a woman’s wristwatch on one arm and a man’s wristwatch on the other. Even with three clocks, Dill would have bet his life if you asked Grandpa what time it was, he wouldn’t know. To top it all off, the man’s fly was wide open. Dill kept expecting a moth to fly out. Better that than a hundred-and-fifty-year-old dick.

Wrap a feather boa around Gramps’s neck and slap a derby on his head and he would look like the poster boy for cognitive dysfunction. Dementia’s Hunk of the Month.

Ignoring the persistent throbbing of his poor hung-over head, Dill scooped his grandfather, or what was left of him, into his arms. “Hey, Gramps. It’s great to see you.”

That gives you a very good taste of the sort of thing you can expect from Loving Hector.  Over the top descriptions that leave you with a very clear picture of who and what is going on with Dill at any given moment.  I love the characters John Inman has created for this story.  Yes, some come very close to stock characters or caricatures we have seen before, the horny grandpa, the loony mom, the overly patient dad, etc. But the author puts his own spin on them, endows them with plenty of heart and soul, bringing them to life on each page they inhabit.  This goes for two of my personal favorites, Miss Lily  the Vietnamese owner of Yum Yum Donuts and her German baker husband, Thorolf.  I loved these two immensely, and not just because of their interaction with Gramps.  Here is Dill’s description of Miss Lily’s hair:

She had hair enough for six Vietnamese immigrants, and she wore it piled high on top of her head in a celestial arrangement of blue-black curls and swirls and flips and dips and interwoven ribbons and fluttering metal butterflies and a chop stick or two, and what looked like a windshield wiper from a ’53 Buick sticking out the back. Dill figured the blueprint for that hairdo was so intricately complex that Stephen Hawking and Carl Sagan, working in tandem with fourteen Cray computers at their disposal, couldn’t have figured it out. Hell, I. M. Pei must have been her hairdresser. Maybe he just designed weirdass buildings on the side. This was his true masterpiece.

No, Miss Lily is a masterpiece, and so is Thorolf, and the rest of the gang.  Inman manages to make this gang zany while still keeping them human, a lovely feat.  But at the heart of this story is Dill and his love for Hector. Hector has his own story to tell and his recent past is not pretty.

And this is where we arrive at my one real qualm with these story.  Hector is a victim of domestic violence, a very real and underreported crime in the gay community.  His ex boyfriend is not only physically abusive but a police officer which is every victim’s worst nightmare, no matter their sexuality or gender.  To see how real and combustive a threat this combination is, just pick up any current headline.  I can think of two offhand in The Washington Post over the last several weeks and neither of them involved comedy or ended well for the victim.  I really wish that Inman had chosen another avenue to demonstrate Valdemaro’s unsuitability as an ex boyfriend.  He could have chewed tobacco, smacked mimes or hated dogs, anything but be someone who doled out beatings in the same manner he gave out parking tickets.  It makes me uneasy to see such a real problem a part of a story with a comedic romantic bent.  Had that element been missing, this rating would have been substantially higher, as it was it almost pushed this rating into 3 stars.

Still I loved Dill and his gang.  How can you not love someone who looks at all the fast food uniforms in his closet and calls them The Closet of Humble Beginnings, not looking at them as a line up of failure but as a means to make money and still have the energy left over to write.  I like that man, and his family (related and otherwise).  I liked his lover too.  So off I go to see what else I can find that Inman has written.  Pick this one up, there is a scene where flying donuts come to the rescue….you won’t want to miss that or any of the other hijinks that ensue.

Cover art by Paul Richmond is perfect for the story and the couple within.