A MelanieM Release Day Review: M4M by Rick R. Reed

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Rating: 4..75 stars out of 5

2nd Edition 

Finding and keeping love can be a challenge in the modern world of blogging, social media, and online dating, as one man will learn in this trilogy.

VGL Male Seeks Same

Poor Ethan Schwartz. At forty-two, he’s alone, his bed is empty, and his HDTV is overworked. He’s tried bars and other places where gay men are supposed to find each other, but it never works out. Maybe he should get a cat?

But his life is about to change…

NEG UB2

Poor Ethan. He’s received the most shocking news a gay man can get—he’s HIV positive. Until today his life was perfect, with a job he loves and Brian, who could be “the one.” The one to complete him and fill his lonely life with laughter, hot sex, and romance.

But Ethan’s in for another shock. Could Brian have infected him?

STATUS UPDATES

Alone again, Ethan wonders if life is worth living, even with a cat. When an old nemesis sends a Facebook friend request, Ethan is suspicious but intrigued. It seems this old acquaintance has turned his life around, and the changes might hold the key to Ethan getting a new lease on life… and love.

I  truly can’t imagine reading M4M by Rick R. Reed as anything except one deeply moving story…to me it doesn’t even register as three separate tales. Rather three stages in one man’s life, two so heartrending that the tissues seemed inadequate at times to stop the amount of tears that flowed.  Even now just thinking about Ethan and his journey, I start to choke up which is funny because I wasn’t sure I was even going to connect with Ethan at the beginning.  Or even like him.

That would be at the start of VGL Male Seeks Same when Ethan wants to date and after a shocking lack of response on a dating website, makes a rash decision.  This section of M4M made it harder for me to connect with Ethan.  Understand him? Yes, but like him?  Not quite.  That came at towards the end of this section of Ethan’s life when everything changed for him and me as a reader.  I started to love Ethan which made the next two section all the more moving and devastating.

Rick R. Reed does a beautiful job of making me love all the people who surround Ethan too.  Ok maybe not Bubbles at the beginning.  But Brian, how I took Brian into my heart.  And Jan?  I’d love to have Jan as my friend.  They also hold the key to making M4M so real, so poignant and moving that I can guarantee it and these characters will stay with you long after the stories are done. The church aspect as a panacea is an element that I didn’t really connect with but that doesn’t matter.  It was the vehicle that delivered Ben and hope to Ethan and that’s what counts.

M4M by Rick R. Reed is a beautifully written, incredibly moving story about love found, profound loss,  grief, recovery and the ability to find hope and perhaps love once more.  That it includes two men who are HIV positive?  Part of the huge picture, not the picture itself….that was part of their individual story and journey too.  The HIV element seemed authentic (as it should…read the author’s note), but M4M is about life.  Ethan’s life.  It’s a story you will want to read about, a man you will want to get to know.  Have your tissues handy!

Cover art by Reese Dante is perfect for the story.

Buy links:

Ebook: https://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/books/m4m-by-rick-r-reed-8647-b

Paperback:  https://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/books/m4m-by-rick-r-reed-8648-b

Amazon Kindle: https://www.amazon.com/M4M-Rick-R-Reed-ebook/dp/B0732LXD95

Book Details:

ebook, 2nd edition, 200 pages
Expected publication: July 10th 2017 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN139781635335422
Edition LanguageEnglish
URLhttps://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/books/m4m-by-rick-r-reed-8647-b

Review: Forever Promised (Promises #4) by Amy Lane

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Forever Promised coverNothing stays the same forever even when you wish it too.  For the family of friends that call Levee Oaks and The Pulpit home, things are about to change and rock their lives to the core.  Four years after Crick returned injured from his tour of duty, things have settled down for him and Deacon.  Crick and Deacon have married, so have Mikhail and Shane,  Jeff and Collin, as well as Lucas and  Kimmy. Benny and Drew, and of course, Parry Angel are coming together to form a family, just as Amy and Jon have. Promise House is up and running smoothly just as Shane had always envisioned, providing a place where young men and women could get a second chance at life.  Even Martin, brother of Jeff’s former boyfriend, has settled in to become part of this larger extended family and will soon be returning to Levee Oaks to live.  With all their lives going along smoothly, of course, something happens to shake them up and provide the impetus for a decision from Benny that will change their lives forever.

When Jon and Amy receive job offers in Washington, DC with a firm that specializes in LGBTQ law suits and gay civil rights, it is impossible to turn the offer down.  But that means leaving Deacon and Crick and everyone else who has become their family behind and they are not sure they can do that.  Benny also is looking at her future and seeing many changes as well.  She will be graduating from college and Drew wants her and Parry Angel to move into the cottage with him so they can start to become a real family of their own.  But in order to move forward with her life, she wants to make sure that part of herself will always be with Deacon and Crick.  That leads to a momentous decision and a gift, that should Deacon and Crick accept, will change everyones lives forever.

Back in 2010, Amy Lane wrote a book called Keeping Promise Rock that became an almost instant classic and comfort read for so many readers.  People embraced the characters of Crick and Deacon, little Benny and Parry Angel, connecting with them deeply and with a heartfelt passion.  We clamored for more stories about them and The Pulpit, the horse farm where they lived in Levee Oaks, California and  Amy Lane obliged.  She then gave us Making Promises (Promises #2) which introduced us to Shane and the heartbreaking Mikhail, causing us to fall in love with a new set of characters while keeping our adoration for all things Crick and Deacon intact and up to date.  The third book, Living Promises, brought Jeff Beachum and Collin Waters into our lives. Actually Jeff was there early on as Crick’s physical therapist in Keeping Promise Rock where he became part of the growing circle of people around the foundation couple of the Promise series.  Living Promises starts with Jeff comforting a young Collin outside a HIV treatment center and then charts  their rough road to a loving relationship.  And as always, there to support the couple, were all the people we had come to love from all the previous books, continuing on with their lives and loves.  Sometimes funny, sometimes  painfully sad but always with their hearts and souls in the right places and full of passion.  We were there with them, deeply engaged in their relationships and their future.  Now with Forever Promised, Amy Lane brings this series to an end and I am not sure we are ready for that to happen.

Amy Lane has such a way with characterizations that the people she creates for her stories live outside the pages and constraints of her novels. They become alive for her readers.  We laugh with them and we cry for them. And sometimes just shake our heads in disbelief over their actions.  My beloved grandmother would shake her head and tell me “I  can’t believe that Erica did that to (insert name of husband here).  She knows better than that!” after watching the soap All My Children.  For her, those people in that show were real folks and she talked about them as though they were her neighbors.  That’s the way the readers (myself included) have come to feel about the people of Levee Oaks and The Pulpit.  We have lived with them through traumatic events, near death experiences, times of great sorrow and times of great joy.  How do you let that go?

The answer is not easily but Forever Promised tries hard and mostly succeeds in closing a series we never wanted to see end.  Every character we have ever come to love over the course of this series is here, in different stages of their lives.  Most have achieved a deeply loving and satisfying relationship, a majority of the couples have gotten married and Parry Angel is old enough to be on a soccer team.  A soccer team where one of the funniest passages in this story occurs.  Really, I can’t remember laughing so hard that I was gasping for breath.  One of the things that make that section so priceless is that I could see it actually happening on a soccer field in anytown, USA.  Amy Lane writes stories about real people who live through real things that happen in everyday life.  We recognize the milestones in the characters lives because they are ones that happen to us.  Her characters bleed and cry and laugh as we do.  Lane writes good people trying to be the best they can be in situations both normal and stressful, so how could we not love them?  We would in our real lives and the author understands the importance of that connection.  Amy Lane writes reality.  Whether it is dealing with kids thrown away by society, a woman unable to bear a child and her grief over that fact, or the fragility of the future before us, Amy Lane gets it and makes those truths a part of her writing.  Not once did I find myself stoping mid story to think “well, that would never happen” because the emotions and events that occur in Forever Promised and the Promise series ring with authenticity. And never more so than with the issue of surrogacy and pregnancy, which is at the center of the storyline here.

There are so many plot threads to resolve, so many lives and relationships that need a happy ending.  Forever Promised delivers that to us, but not without an event so heartbreaking that I had to put the book down for a time to get myself through it.  I am still ambivalent about this episode but acknowledge that the reality of Promise House is that not all can find their way out of past pains and anguish, and that despair and sadness is a part of life as well.  Without going into details, it will hurt then the author will use that hurt to bring the reader and the story up to another level of authenticity. Our couples find that they are happy and moving forward in ways that the reader will find moving and true.  That’s the promise Amy Lane makes to her readers and her characters, and that is the one she delivers in Forever Promised.

Each couple gets their own section in a way and the events that happen are seen from various perspectives.  Events from the past are brought up again (another reason to read these books in order), and the characters examine their past lives and how best they can go forward in their current ones.  Not all the couples are settled, several are still in transition when the book ends but that is to be expected given the number and diversity of the characters involved and the realistic way Amy Lane writes their lives.  I know I was happy to see them all moving forward, happy with each other and mostly together as a family.  Just as it should be at Promise Rock.

If my quibbles in a story are that it included a pain I didn’t want to feel, and characters I didn’t want to say goodbye to in a book that ended a series I wanted to continue on forever, well, then, those are hardly quibbles after all.   Amy Lane made us several Promises and delivered on all of them.  Forever Promised is both a gift and a promise kept.  Don’t miss out on this book and the entire journey.

Here are the Promise series in the order they wee written and should be read to understand the characters and the events that occur:

Keeping Promise Rock (Promises #1)

Making Promises (Promises #2)

Living Promiese (Promises #3)

Forever Promised (Promises #4)

Cover art by Paul Richmond shows several of the couples together. But I have to admit that I wanted to see one like the first cover, Keeping Promise Rock.  That is the one that sticks in my memory.

Book Details:

ebook, 350 pages
Published June 28th 2013 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 1623808596 (ISBN13: 9781623808594)
edition language English
series Promises #4

Review: Velocity (Impulse #3) by Amelia C. Gormley

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Rating: 4.25 stars

Detroit handyman Derrick Chance and his lover, Gavin Hayes’ relationship has come a long way since they first met but many obstacles loom on the horizon, each with the power to destroy what they have built and split them apart for good.  Gavin is still waiting for the results of his HIV test since he learned that his ex boyfriend may have given him the disease during one forced encounter between them.  Derrick is facing not only moving from the only home he has ever known but he has been outed to his local hockey team and someone is sending him threatening messages.

Already full of self doubt, Gavin’s insecurities bloom and his self worth plunges when his ex, Lukas, returns and wants to involve Gavin in his rehabilitation to Derrick’s consternation.  And the biggest issue?  Although Derrick has professed his love, Gavin has held back his declaration.  So many issues and the holidays are just around the corner.  Can Derrick and Gavin let go of their respective pasts and move forward into their future? Or will the past continue its hold and break them apart forever?

I am going to presume this is the last book in the Impulse series by Amelia C. Gormley and I think this is a wonderful way to see Derrick and Gavin out.  I did have a  few issues with this book but those will  be addressed last.  One constant in this series has been the wonderful characterizations the author brought to her stories.  From the moment we meet lonely Derrick Chance we realize that there is something very special about him.  Traumatic circumstances came together at a developmentally important stage of his young life that helped to isolate this man from the normal societal milestones.  Derrick was left to the care of aging grandparents who later passed away leaving him alone in their house, earning his living by repairing appliances as out of date as he is and doing minor house repairs for neighbors close by.  Here is a man caught in stasis and the author makes him not only relatable but endearing in his way.

Gavin is almost his opposite.  Experienced sexually and socially for all it did him, Gavin’s self image has been battered by an abusive ex to the point that he trusts no one, with the exception of one friend.  And for two books we have watched Gormley slowly bring these two men with their divergent backgrounds together in a way that has seemed not only realistic but true to the core of her characters personalities.  And while most of the battles fought were internal, the last book Acceleration ended with problems from the outside of the relationship starting to press in on the couple.

There are several main issues at work here and Gormley treats them all with sensitivity and compassion, from homophobia to conveying accurate knowledge and clinical histories of HIV and domestic violence .  First there is the problem of homophobia rearing its ugly head at Derrick’s local hockey team.  Now out to his teammates, someone within the team has been threatening Derrick, demanding he quit or suffer the consequences, following that up with destruction of personal property and more.  I loved the way the author dealt with this issue as she went in a direction different from most authors. Given that homosexuality and sports are in the headlines these days, the manner in which this was resolved felt authentic and timely.

Secondly, there is the subject of domestic violence and awareness of the victim mentality that those who have been subjected to DV carry within themselves.  This accounts for a larger portion of the story and again Gormley has done her homework, putting forth not only how domestic violence affects its victims but how it can manifest itself in their behavior and reactions to others.  Much of the information is imparted between conversations with Gavin and Hannah,a victim, as she relates her circumstances and following actions.  I applaud the author’s efforts to get this information accurate and out there but unfortunately, this element of the story came across as more of a information dump.   Also, Gavin’s interactions with his ex Lukas are drawn out too far.  He knows that Lukas is a liar and manipulator and yet he believes his story instead of Derrick’s?  While it might not be implausible (yes, we get it, Gavin has a DV victim mentality), as he reverses himself immediately it just doesn’t ring true with coupled with his other actions.

What does seem real and gritty and painful are the emotions that roll through Gavin with regard to his possible HIV status, his wavering about the test results, and his confusion about his future.  Gormley really seems to have a window into the thoughts processes of a person in this awful predicament and it comes across to the reader as painfully read in every aspect.  Then you hook DV with the possibility of HIV and have the same individual responsible and yes, there is a very good reason that Gavin is an emotional mess.

Another element that surprised me was the depths of pain and humiliation that Gavin requires to be sexually satisfied.  In one scene, Derrick supplies a huge amount of said bdsm elements to their sexual play without discussing it with Gavin first.  No setting of safe words or limitations, just moving right into the scene without too much preparation.  And this, I will admit, bothered me on a couple of levels.  At this point, Gavin has not trusted himself to tell Derrick he loves him or trusts Derrick to go with him to get his test results.  I had assumed, perhaps wrongly, that trust is a huge element in such sexual play and that if he did not trust Derrick in these other areas, than it must be lacking here too.  But after such thought and discussions, I can see Gavin separating his trust issues into compartments and that trusting Derrick sexually (and physically) was different from trusting him with his love and HIV status.  I just am not familiar enough with bdsm to be knowledgeable but it did bother me to a degree while I could still see why it was necessary to Gavin’s character.

There are some issues with editing, and I think that certainly some areas could have been streamlined and made more concise.  But in the end, Velocity is a wonder of a book and a marvelous way to complete Derrick and Gavin’s journey to a full partnership and loving relationship.  The ending was just perfection and it left me smiling long after I put down my Kindle. If this is your first time meeting Derrick and Gavin, go back to the beginning Inertia and see how it all began.  Then proceed immediately to Acceleration as their relationship and events  pick up speed and finally to Velocity where it all comes together with emotions on high.  I really cannot recommend this series enough.  Amelia C. Gormley is a amazing author and I cannot wait to see what she writes next.

Here are the books in the order they were written and should be read to understand the characters and their relationships:

Inertia (Implulse #1)

Acceleration (Impulse #2)

Velocity (Impulse #3)

Cover art by Kerry Chin.  I love these covers.  They are lush and different and just amazing.