Review of The Man Trap by Lee Brazil

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Rating 4.25 stars

Simon Harris has been watching the same guy come into his bookstore each week, buy a book and leave.  Not an unusual occurance in a bookstore but Simon recognizes him.  It’s Alexis Manetas, a former high school classmate Simon had been attracted to before graduation. Simon has always loudly proclaimed his bisexuality but never actually dated a man, just woman.  Now Alexis reappears and all those old feelings come back as well.

Alexis Manetas had a huge crush on Simon in high school, something Simon never really acknowledged.  After graduating from high school, both men moved on but Alexis never forgot his first love.  When his personal circumstances changed, Alexis searched for Simon, hoping to reconnect and finally start a relationship he had always hoped for.  With a little manipulation from Simon’s sister in law, Jeannie, the men are brought together.  As they become reacquainted, Alexis and Simon find their past attraction flaring into passion and their feelings for each other deepen.  But Simon has never had a relationship last past 6 months and Alexis has a  huge surprise in store for Simon in the shape of a small boy, Alexis’ son, Gregory.

Lee Brazil’s The Man Trap is a lovely warm hearted tale of love given a second chance with some very interesting nontypical twists. Brazil’s characters have that patina of realism that I appreciate in a story that we have seen told before.  Simon Harris is one of the more interesting characters here.  He is in his thirties and while he has been adamant about identifying as bisexual, he really hasn’t demonstrated that in real life, serial dating one woman after another.  None of his relationships has lasted longer than 6 months and he readily admits to being self centered and somewhat set in his ways.  This is not your warm and cuddly character pining over a lost love.  I appreciate Simon’s curmudgeonly ways.  It made his struggle towards a real relationship with Alexis seem even more authentic.  Alexis Manetas is a strongly appealing character too.  Brave enough to take a chance on reconnecting with Simon while never losing sight of his priorities.  I really  liked Alexis and found him every bit as charming as Simon.

The other way Brazil has strayed from the typical child inclusive plotline is that Simon doesn’t really care for children.  He doesn’t know how to behave around them,doesn’t relate to them and  never really wanted any of his own.  Getting involved with a man who has a child is not on his agenda, even if that man is Alexis.  This really strays from most of the books I have read lately where all the men involved want children and jump at the chance to have one in their lives.  It’s nice to have an author show the flip side of the coin so to speak.  I will let you read the story for yourself to see if Alexis and Gregory can sway Simon to their side but kudos for a nontypical character.

You also have a story involving two bisexual characters.  Some may see Simon as more of a “gay for you” persona as he has not really acted on his attractions to men but this is also not a strictly gay male romance but two men strongly attracted to, maybe even in love with each other since high school.  Whatever your take on this,bisexual or gay for you, Brazil makes it clear that each man has held the other close in their memories.  They are hot for each other and always have been.

Lee Brazil’s descriptions, whether they are of a balloon ride over the countryside (which I can attest the author got exactly right), to the wonderful romantic whisperings of love, “I’ve saved up a thousand kisses, thousands of experiences, I only want to share with you, Alexi” , will sweep you into the story and the lives of Simon and Alexis.  There is really no depths of angst or high drama, so if you are expecting any, you will be let down. But if you want a sweet tale of two men given a second chance at love, then this is the story for you.

Cover: I love the cover.  Cover artist is Victoria Miller.  The picture of the hot air balloon is especially nice.

Review of An Honorable Man by Edward Kendricks

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A Happy Fourth of July to everyone from the United States, no matter where you might be right now.  And to all of those people still without power here in MD, VA and DC, my thoughts are with you, I know exactly how hot, how frustrated and how desperate you are feeling.  I was there.  I hope with all my heart this day finds you with your power back on, your bodies cooling off, and your minds and hearts feeling replenished.

 

Rating: 3.75 stars

Paxton Boyle and his twin boys are out rock hunting when they run across a human bone, a find that causes Pax to switch from father mode to forensic scientist and call in the police.  One bone leads to another and before long an entire skeleton has been unearthed and sent to Paxton’s lab.  As Paxton works to establish identity, one thing is immediately clear, the person was murdered.  Then the cadaver dog and its handler turns up more bones, and then another.  And the race is on to find a serial killer before they strike again.

And as Pax’s work hours lengthen, he must find someone to watch his boys after school and on the weekends he is working. Pax’s wife walked out of them 2 years ago and with his housekeeper’s daughter expecting her first child, he turns to Jordan Leonard, the boys schoolteacher and friend. Pax and Jordan have established an uneasy friendship since the Boyle family returned to town.  Years ago, Pax and Jordy were lovers in college, happy until Pax’s father broke them up by forcing Pax to marry a business partner’s daughter in a merger of families and businesses.  A heartbroken Jordy left college immediately and Pax had not seen him since their bitter parting until Pax, Jenny and the kids returned to their home town.

Pax and Jordan still have feelings for each other but Pax is an honorable man and still considers himself married, despite Jenny’s absence. And for Jordan, Pax’s betrayal of their love still hurts after all this time.  As more and more bodies are found, Pax’s longer hours bring Jordan closer into their family circle and their attraction to each others gets stronger.  How much longer will Pax  be able to keep to his promises to stay an honorable man?

Edward Kendricks did a wonderful job of weaving the story of a past love rekindled with a forensic tale of murder.   He skillfully builds the anticipation and interest as first Pax and his boys (what charmers) find the first bone on a rock hunt. Then as more skeletons are unearthed, it becomes clear that the police and Pax’s forensic unit have a serial killer on their hands. Theories are bandied about and clues discovered as the story continues, spending as much time in Pax’s lab or with the police officers hunting the killer as it does with the romance of Pax and Jordan. I liked this technique but for others it might take too much time away from the love story of the two main characters.  Kendricks does tie the two together in a neat twist that I loved, plus I enjoyed the murder mystery aspect of the book.

The love story, I think I had more problems with that section of the plot.  I did get the part where Pax was not brave enough and perhaps old enough to stand up to his father when the and Jordy first got together.  But Kendricks didn’t give me enough of the mature Pax’s feelings about Jordy to make their sudden romance entirely believable.  Same for Jordan, a character I really enjoyed.  Jordan left that college he attended with Pax for another, completed his degrees and came home to teach, his bitterness over Pax’s cowardliness still very much alive years later.  But the author tells us they have become friends since being reunited at a parent/teacher conference but gives us little evidence except for the fact that Pax leaves the boys in Jordy’s care when necessary.  Neither man has ever talked about their previous affair nor is neither man out to the community. This is not a “gay for you” story as both men are definitely gay from the start. But both Pax and Jordy seemed lacking a few layers to make both men totally believable in the context of the story.  Who did I believe in?  The boys.  I loved Denny and Danny.  With spot on dialog and wonderful characteristics, Kendricks needs to make those boys the main characters of a series of YA novels.  They would be a hit! With their passion for rocks and bones, especially fossils, those 12 year olds were easily the most authentic personas here and maybe this generation’s Hardy Boys.

And that leaves me with the ending that had far too many loose ends.  I hesitate to tell you what exactly remained unfinished as that enters spoiler territory and perhaps Edward Kendricks plans a sequel to finish the mystery he started here.  All good mysteries have the same basic elements: who, what, when,  where and why.  Not all those questions are answered leaving this reader a tad frustrated.  AT 143 pages (story alone), the ending came with a rush, which was surprising considering the time the author took getting us to that point.  I think you will feel a little shortchanged by this story, I know I did. But the parts that irked me are balanced by the portions that kept me enthralled and totally entertained. And that’s enough for me to give this a recommendation.

Cover:  Reese Dante was the cover artist.  The cover is great, it contains all the elements of the story in an appealing design.

Review of Just What The Truth Is by C. Cardeno

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Rating: 5 stars

Ben Foreman has been in the closet for his entire life, settling for making his parents happy rather than living his own life.  In fact, for a while, Ben’s denial of his homosexuality and his efforts to comply/defend his parents values, that is cost him his best friend, Clark, and his younger out and proud gay brother, Noah who happens to be Clark’s partner.  So yes, his life was complications piled on top of lies, repeat, and the stress was getting to him.

Then Micah Trains, litigator extraordinaire, joins Ben’s firm and all Ben’s carefully built walls come crashing down around him.  Micah happens to be both gorgeous and gay and attracted to Ben.  Ben sees in Micah someone he wants to spend the rest of his life with, no matter what his brain is saying.  As one date leads to another, Ben keeps messing up the relationship until Micah breaks up with him.  Faced with Micah’s loss, Ben must finally choose who he is going to be and how he will live his life, by his parents standards or his.  It’s time Ben decides just what the truth is!

I loved this book!  C. Cardeno kept me frustrated with Ben, laughing with him and sometimes sobbing right along with him on his journey to self awareness and a life worth living in every respect.  C. Cardeno’s characterizations and spot on dialog were so wonderfully executed that the story zipped along and I was finishing the end before I knew it.  Ben is so messed up at the beginning that it would be easy to write him off  as a passive character who has not grown up enough to challenge his parents views and it shows how much he has lived in fear of their disapproval.  It is extremely helpful to the reader’s understanding and ability to empathize with Ben that the story is told from his POV. In fact is almost becomes imperative that we understand where Ben is coming from so we don’t give up on his character.  Just when we are getting a little too frustrated with Ben’s lack of progress with the decisions he needs to make, Ben’s is right there telling us in an aside that he is plenty frustrated with himself too.  While this literary ploy might be considered too “cutsey” in other stories, I find that it worked well here and helped to pull the reader into Ben’s mindset and emotional state.

And the other characters C. Cardeno created to assist/love Ben into making the life adjustments necessary to become a whole man happy with who he is?  They are just so real, so alive that they jumped off the pages at you.  Whether it is Noah, Ben’s sarcastic and embittered gay brother or Micah’s hysterical parents, especially his mother, they all come across as someone you have met in your life or heard about.  Each with their quirks, flaws, and many other human qualities front and center to be fully enjoyed and celebrated.  The scenes with Micah’s mother and sister alone had me spewing across the Kindle and searching for papertowels to clean up the mess.  I still giggle thinking about them. Priceless.  And then there is the very real emotional cost of repressing your true self for so much of your life that no one knows who you really are including yourself.

In fact C. Cardeno has laid out a beautifully realistic book of one’s man’s journey to a happy fulfilled life, and the pitfalls he encountered or put up himself that had to be overcome before he could achieve his goals.  As I said I loved this book and I think you will too. Don’t pass it up.

Cover art by Paul Richmond.  Lovely cover, perfect for the story.

Other Books in the Home Series. It is helpful to read them in order but not necessary to enjoy the books:

Home Again (Home Series #1)

He Completes Me (Home Series #2)

Where He Ends And I Begin (Home Series #3)

Love At First Sight (Home Series #4)

Just What The Truth Is (Home Series #5)