A MelanieM Review: Fire and Light by Berengaria Brown

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Rating: 2.5 stars ouf of 5 stars

Fire and Light coverSeveral years after the divorce, Hugh’s ex-wife decides that she doesn’t want her son and gives Hugh full custody.   Hugh loves his son and finds this a wonderful turn of events, even if it means he has to rearrange his life.  With 6 year old Orion living with him, Hugh and his son are adjusting to life as a family when a chance encounter with a man named Quigley changes all their lives forever.

This is a short story about a romance that starts in an equally small amount of time.  Hugh has just gotten custody of his son from his ex-wife.  She is in a new relationship and her boyfriend does not want Orion around.  Quigley is a man on a 2-week vacation.  All three meet cute in a surf shop and bond over board shorts and goggles.  In that 2 week time frame, the men fall in love and decide to be a family, along with Orion.  Orion adjusts beautifully.  Everyone is happy. The end.

That’s the story.  Short, sweet and has no character building, no foundation on which to build a realistic love story and certainly no depth.What it does have is loads of sex scenes, with a smattering of story.  It’s fluffy with some lovely scenes between Hugh and his son.  That is really the best part of Fire and Light, the father-son relationship.  Of course, that is also the component that makes the acceptance of a stranger and the instant family kind of creepy.

If Berengaria Brown is a must read author for you, then go ahead and pick this up.  But for the rest of us, I would give this a pass.

Book Details:
ebook, 2nd Edition, 57 pages
Published June 19th 2013 by Torquere Press (first published June 16th 2011)
ISBN 1610404882 (ISBN13: 9781610404884)
edition language English

Review: Texas Christmas (Texas #5) by R.J. Scott

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Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5

Texas Christmas coverWith the holidays upon them, Jack and Riley Campbell-Hayes are stressed out. Jack and Riley are anxiously waiting for the courts to decide if they will be able to adopt Max, the twins are growing rapidly and they still haven’t found a nanny. Meanwhile Jack’s sister Beth is about to give birth after a dangerous pregnancy, and their new employee, Liam, is having trouble adjusting to life on the Double D .

Liam Frazier loves his life working with the horses on the Double D Ranch.  His bosses are wonderful as are the other ranch hands he works with.  The trouble?  His abusive past that won’t let him go.  Now Marcus Walker, co owner of the surrogacy agency that helped Jack and Riley find a mother for their children, is flirting with him and Liam doesn’t know how to handle it.  He finds Marcus attractive but his abuse is a barrier he doesn’t know how to get past.

When Liam’s past follows him to the ranch, it puts everyone in danger.  It will take Marcus and the rest of the Double D family to help Liam  face those who hurt him so he can move forward.

I have enjoyed this series from the beginning story, The Heart of Texas, which introduced us to Jack Campbell and Riley Hayes. I have been with this couple through their rocky start with a fake marriage and tumultuous family histories, their declarations of love, the murderous events that took place and the fire that almost cost them their lives and home.  In the previous story, Texas Family, Jack and Riley’s family had grown to include twins as well as the children and partners of the rest of their extended family.  It was a joyous layered story that took us through the surrogacy issues for gay families and introduced us to Max, a young foster child with autism.

Texas Family was a book packed with relevant issues and new characters.  It also left us with some unresolved elements, specifically those that focus on Max’s adoption fight and the new ranch hand Liam Frazier.  I am happy to report that with Texas Christmas, R.J. Scott ties up all those loose ends happily and on a perfect note for a book about families,friends, and the holidays.

Jack and Riley’s relationship is still the foundation upon which this series rests and they are still working on their marriage here, adjusting to the twins, their daughter getting older, and all the other stresses life can put on a marriage.  It’s a healthy, sexual and deep relationship and the author relays that beautifully.  But I have to admit its the newest member I wanted more of.

I was entranced with Max from the moment Scott introduced him to Jack and Riley.  The little boy clutching his Thomas the Tank Engine toy caught at our hearts.  RJ Scott did not shy away from the issues of adopting a child with autism.  Max’s emotional issues, his inability to deal with certain social situations, the manner in which he communicates, and well, everything about a life with an autistic child is relayed realistically along with the love.  There is a magical moment that RJ Scott brings to life as Max explores a sensory room Jack and Riley have created for him.  The wonder of a child caught up inside his mind is revealed in such a way that we feel we are on the floor with him, holding our breath as Max explores with a quiet joy a place created for him out of love.

Liam Frazier is another special character and his story is brought full circle as well.  But as his started in pain and abuse, those elements reappear to be dealt with before he can move forward.  The elements where Liam decides he needs outside help to deal with his abuse, the frustration Liam feels as he tries to deal with Marcus and a real relationship have a feeling of authenticity to them. Liam brings out our empathy and our compassion.

There are several scary and heartrending scenes.  But they serve to heighten the satisfaction the reader will feel as all the elements come together to give Jack, Riley and all the others a Christmas to remember.  Consider this story and this series highly recommended!

Here are the stories in the Texas series in the order they were written and should be read:

The Heart of Texas (Texas, #1)
Texas Winter (Texas, #2)
Texas Heat (Texas, #3)
Texas Family (Texas, #4)
Texas Christmas (Texas #5)

Cover by Meredith Russell.  The cover is adorable and perfect in every way.

Book Details:

ebook, 189 pages
Published December 12th 2013 by Love Lane Books
ISBN13 LLBTEXAS5
edition language English
series Texas #5

Review: A Shared Range (Range #1) by Andrew Grey

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Rating: 5 stars

A Shared RangeDakota Holden is home on school break and his medical studies when he finds out that his father has multiple sclerosis and has been hiding his diagnosis from his son.  Dakota puts his dream of a medical degree on hold to return home and run the Holden ranch and watch as his father’s condition degenerates.  Dakota has never spoken of his homosexuality to anyone at home, including his father, and the only time he feels he can be himself is on the one week vacations he allows himself every year.

This year, the ocean cruise holiday romance he struck up with another passenger turned into a friendship, and when Phillip Reardon asks to visit Dakota at the ranch, Phillip brings along another friend, Wally Schumacher, a veterinarian, with him.  Almost at once, Wally’s presence starts to upset the balance at the ranch.  Both Phillip and Wally are out and gay, a situation that makes Dakota reexamine his closeted status. And Wally is loudly vehement against the ranchers and ranch hands shooting the wolves that have come into the territory and threatens the herds.  Dakota finds Wally both brave and hot, an attractive that Wally returns 100 percent.

But Wally and Phillip’s vacation is a short one and  Dakota must weigh not only coming out to his father and ranch hands but finding out if Wally would want to stay and make his isolated western lifestyle his own.  Can Wally’s passion for wildlife and his honesty about his sexuality coexist with the conservative lifestyle and small town point of view that Dakota lives with daily?  Or will the call of the big city be too much for their love to overcome?

What fun I have had working my way back to the beginning of the Ranch series where it all started. Was it worth the journey?  Absolutely, I just loved the story of Dakota and Wally, the foundation couple that is the impetus that brings all the future couples together and sets several  people on the road to understanding their true natures and self worth.  When I first met Dakota in book 5, An Isolated Range, he had achieved his dream of becoming a doctor but here we see him as a young man who, in his devotion to his father, shelves his dream to return home and run the family ranch.  And we get to see the true measure of his character as he shoulders all the responsibilities because of love, love for his father and love of the ranch and the land.  Andrew Grey does such a wonderful job of making Dakota and his life real that it is easy to understand the decisions he makes and agree with them.  From the vivid descriptions of the majestic territory the ranch is situated on to the small town that is the  hub of ranch society, Grey paints it all with such loving, understanding language that you feel as though you have visited there as well.

Wally Schumacher is another character that quickly eases his way into your heart.  Small in stature, large in heart and bravery, he is a firecracker to be dealt with on his own terms,  It is through Wally’s eyes that we get to see the other side of the natural beauty and wildlife that is the western United States.  While the ranchers see the wolves in terms of livestock lost and financial stability, Wally sees the fierce beauty of Nature and the natural course of predator/prey being played out as it should.  Andrew Grey remains an impartial observer, relating both sides to the reader in such a way to let us understand the combustable mixture that occurs when these two widely divergent viewpoints come together while never belittling or downplaying the issues for both sides.   One way that is so successful is that Grey’s characters are living, breathing beings. They are equally capable of  adjusting their viewpoints to a wider perspective or persons living life narrowly within the confines of a rigid viewpoint.  No matter where they may fall on the spectrum, they always come across as viable human beings.

We see Jefferson Holden as the disease quickly takes over, we meet Phillip as he begins to examine his own lifestyle, and so many others as the ranch and our main couple starts to work the magic that  will continue through all the books to come.  And I got to see how the big cats came to live under Wally’s care.  How I laughed about that one and commiserated with Dakota.  For me Andrew Grey has created a couple, a ranch, and a series that is just about irresistible, and this book is the beginning of that journey.  Don’t miss out on any of it.  It doesn’t matter the path you take to get here, forward, backward or zigzagging in between, just make sure your road leads to the ranch where Dakota and Wally make their lives matter  and everyone is welcome, including you.  You won’t be sorry, I promise  you.

Here are the book in the series in the order they were written, linked to my reviews:

A Shared Range (Range #1)

A Troubled Range (Range #2)

An Unsettled Range (Range #3)

A Foreign Range (Range #4)

An Isolated Range (Range #5)

A Volatile Range (Range #6) coming out February 4, 2013 by Dreamspinner Press

Cover art by Reese Dante, lovely job as usual.

To help support the organizations working to rescue these wonderful  exotic animals, please visit the following websites, these are but a few that could use your help:

International Exotic Feline Sanctuary (bigcat.org)

Tiger Creek Wildlife Refuge, Tyler, TX

In-Sync Exotics Wildlife Rescue and Education Center Wylie, Texas 

Never Cry Wolf Rescue

Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary

Wolf Mountain Sanctuary

And of course, our wonderful World Wildlife Fund

Review of But For You (A Matter of Time #6) by Mary Calmes

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Rating: 4.5 stars

Jory Harcourt finally has everything he has ever wanted.  He has his husband, US Marshall Sam Kage, after many obstacles and stumbling blocks.  They have their two adopted children, their son Kola and their daughter Hannah, and even a deranged cat named Chilly.  They have a house in the suburbs, a minivan Jory loves and their family and friends are happy as well.  So of course, this means that trouble is about to barge into their life and turn it upside down.

When Jory intervenes in a neighbors marital dispute by the curb, it figures that the only ones injured were Jory and his minivan.  But during his visit to the hospital, the Doctor on call turns out to be someone Sam was involved with down in Mexico during the three years they were separated. Someone Sam has never told Jory about to Jory’s consternation. Then a hitman climbs their balcony of their hotel at the family reunion, and a missing informer may just not be missing after all.  With criminals chasing them, and Sam after the criminals and Jory ending up in the middle,  things are getting a little bit out of hand yet again.  But now Jory and Sam have a family and a normal life and that’s worth fighting for! So the criminals had better beware.

But for You is the last book in the saga of Jory Harcourt and US Marshall Sam Kage which started with A Matter of Time novels.  And it has taken Jory and Sam and the readers on a long and complicated journey to get to their Happily Ever After.  Mary Calmes has had our boys separated on more than one occassion, they both have been shot and injured, miscommunication and sometimes just bad timing has at one time or another interfered in their passionate courtship but eventually Mary Calmes always brought Jory and Sam back together come hell or high water. When the author created Jory Harcourt and Sam Kage, she endowed each of them with such staying power both as individuals and as a couple, that they are often nominated as favorite couple at poll time.

Jory Harcourt has been a memorable persona right from the start in 2009.  Full of life, nosy, loyal, and trouble on two feet, Jory captured the imaginations and hearts of readers immediately.  How could you not love someone who could turn a mere errand into a disaster with citywide implications in a matter of minutes?  Meet someone, have a conversation and coffee with them and have their new friend turn out to be a sought after mobster?  That would be Jory.  Lovable, klutzy, and way too endearing for his own good. The readers loved Jory immediately. Then Mary Calmes created Sam Kage as his soul mate because goodness knows only someone with the shear mass and attitude of a US Marshall would be enough to keep Jory under control, at least most of the time.  But of course, getting Sam to see that Jory was perfect for him was not a easy task, including the fact that Sam had to accept his own “gay” card in order for that to happen.  So their meeting, courtship, curtailed courtship, renewed courtship was carried out over a series of books.  I can tell you their roller-coaster of a romance caused much angst and heart flutterings along the way.  And each time we think their relationship is safe and secure, something or someone comes along to shake them and the status quo up but good.  It never mattered how wild the complication or how bad the  criminals involved, Sam and Jory (whether Sam wanted it or not) were in the thick of things.

Now comes the last Jory and Sam story and I will be so very sorry to see such an entertaining and adorable couple go.  But Mary Calmes has given us a heartwarming portrait of a contented happily married couple with the kids they have always wanted, complete with house, cat and minivan to take with us as we leave them behind.  For one thing, it is easy to see that the author is a mother herself.  Kola and Hannah behave and talk like real children and I loved them.  It doesn’t matter whether six year old Kola is telling four year old Hannah not to lick Chili their cat or if looking at a magnificent hotel fountain makes Hannah need to pee, the children come across as realistic as any child I know.  When Kola makes retching sounds when his parents kiss, I was cracking up because I have heard and seen children do exactly that.  And when Hannah  goes into a 20 minute description about a bug and a leaf, yep that happens too.  And then there are Sam and Jory’s reactions to their kids.  Trying not to laugh when they know they should be stern?  Absolutely.  Horrified when someone abuses their power at school and their kid gets hurt?  You betcha!  All real, all wonderfully familiar, at least to any of us that have children.  And I love that they are still as passionate and crazy about each other no matter how complicated their lives get.  These great characterizations are why we feel in love with Jory and Sam to begin with.

The Cartel storyline that has carried through all of the books is finished here and loose ends are tied up.  Of course, not without Sam disappearing and Jory getting into trouble.  It wouldn’t seem like a Jory and Sam story if that wasn’t the case.  And all of their family members are here too to say goodbye.  Dane and Aja and their kids, Dylan and her kids, Sam’s family and more.  Even Aaron (remember him?) and Duncan are here as well.  Jory and Sam are hunted by criminals and Sam in turn hunts them right back.  There is danger and there is resolution.  And in the end, Jory, Sam, Hannah and Kola and even their cat Chili are moving into a new house and happy in their lives together.

Do I have any quibbles?  Sure, I wish it would have been longer, I wish I could have had more of Sam and Jory together, more of Sam and Jory with their children, more of……well, you get my drift.  But if they have to go, then their creator has done them proud and sees them off in fine Sam and Jory style.  There’s laughter, some pouts, tears and lots of sex.  Goodbye, Jory.   Goodbye, Marshall Sam.  You will be missed.

Here are the Jory and Sam stories in the order they were written and should be read:

A Matter Of Time – Books 1 through 4

Bulletproof (A Matter Of Time #5)

Just Jory (A Matter of Time 5.5) find it here.

But For You (A Matter Of Time #6)

Cover art by Reese Dante.  Aww, loved it and a perfect way to send them off.

Review of Texas Heat (Texas #3) by RJ Scott

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Rating: 4.75 stars

Riley and Jack Campbell-Hayes are hoping that the trauma of the past is finally behind them and their families.  Jack’s mother Donna is remarrying and all have gathered for the celebration,  Jack is expanding the ranch holdings into training quarter horses and Riley is moving his “green” energy exploration business forward just as he always wanted. Veterinarian Neil Kendrick is marrying the love of his life, Donna Campbell. Neil is aware of the complicated feelings of some of her family have with her marriage to a much younger, less wealthy man, so he brings along a good friend, Robbie Curtis, for support.

Robbie has just landed back in the States from a long stay in Australia that ended badly for him. An experienced horse trainer, Robbie is just the person Jack needs to help with his new business and Robbie settles uneasily into life on the Double D Ranch. Then Eli Martin, Riley’s old friend from college, reappears on the scene.  Loud, energetic,and a force of nature, Eli is now a fashion photographer and wants to use The Double D as a backdrop for underwear campaign using cowboys.  Eli takes one look at Robbie and decides that cowboy is the one for him. Now all he had to do is convince him.

But Robbie is still full of pain from the events in Australia and Eli is hiding a secret of his own, facts that will make a relationship much harder for both of them.  Haley, Riley and Jack’s daughter wants a sibling and a former competitor wants to sabotage Riley’s latest oil exploration venture. Nothing ever comes easy for the married couple and those that surround them.  But even with 20 half naked cowboys lounging around the barns and the gay rodeo in town, Riley and Jack’s rock solid love proves to be the answer for all that life throws at the people of the Double D.

Texas Heat is the third book in the Texas series from R.J. Scott and what a terrific series it is.  Starting with the book The Heart of Texas, we have followed the relationship up and downs of Riley Hayes and Jack Campbell through blackmail, marriage, murder and the barn burnings of Texas Winter (Texas #2) to finally arrive at a happy state for both men and their families.  And what a long hard road they have had to travel but Scott has done her job in giving us two great characters to start off with and then continuing to flesh them out and surround them with equally interesting families to support them and add their own drama and surprises.  It really is the tale of two families whose pasts interconnected through passion and business decades earlier, the reverberations of those events passing through all generations to effect the current generations in the form of Jack and Riley.  We have watched as Riley Hayes grow from petulant pretty boy obsessed with his own ends to happily married man concerned for the welfare of both families he has come to love.  Jack has also grown in his love for Riley,  lessening his suspicion of others as well as his need for control.  Seeing both men at this stage in their lives as fathers to Haley and husbands and businessmen is one of the true joys of this book.   We have been through so much with them that their happiness here becomes ours.

In addition to Jack, Riley, Haley, and all the rest of the families from the first two books, Scott gives us Eli Martin and Robbie Curtis, a fascinating couple in every  respect.  Robbie has been hurt emotionally from the loss of a partner and is afraid to open himself up to the possibility of love and perhaps more loss.  Eli was with Riley through his irresponsible  years, in fact he was co pilot of them as well.  But a life changing event now sees Eli grabbing out with gusto for everything life has to offer.  If he sees it and wants it, Eli goes after it without thinking it through. How can two such disparate men make a relationship work? There are no easy solutions and it takes both men taking a realistic look at what they want and what they can offer each other.  We get a realistic vision of a relationship in progress.

What I continue to appreciate with RJ Scott’s writing, no matter the series,  is that even as our emotions are engaged with two couples at differing stages of their relationships, other events are swirling around the outskirts just waiting to come forward with a jump and a bang. Scott keeps juggling a number of plots in her story but never lets one drop.  There are so many layers to appreciate and think about that when the end of the book comes the author has a structure in place for the next in the series without losing reader satisfaction with the current story.

I can’t wait to see how the next book continues the saga of the Campbell-Hayes family and the fortunes of the Double D Ranch.  Who needs Dallas when you have the Double D? If you have started the series,  don’t forget to pick this one up.  If you are new to Scott’s Texas books, start with The Heart of Texas and work your way to this one.  They need to be read in the order they were written. RJ Scott rarely disappoints and here she comes through with bells on her  cowboys boots and then some. Don’t let the Campbell-Hayes pass you by!

Here is the Texas series in the order they were written and should be read to understand the characters and the events involved.

The Heart of Texas(Texas #1)

Texas Winter (Texas #2)

Texas Heat (Texas #3)