A Stella Review: The Last Nights of The Frangipani Hotel (The Actor’s Circle #2) by Bey Deckard

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Rating 3.75 stars out of 5

The Last Nights of the Frangipani Hotel coverAll James wanted was a little solitude at his favourite resort: bright sunshine overhead, soft, white sand underfoot, and a hammock to read in while the warm breeze rustles through the coconut palms and almond trees. However, when an old acquaintance shows up, and James is obliged to share “his” beach, a profound exchange over a bottle of rum leads to a lust-fuelled encounter in the dark.

Reeling from the intensity of the drunken tryst, James decides to cut his vacation short rather than face what he’s kept hidden under mountains of denial.

However, his escape is thwarted when Rudie, handsome and plainspoken, calls him out on his behaviour and makes him see that life needn’t be spent running away from his desires.

Set at a rundown old resort on a small Caribbean island, The Last Nights of The Frangipani Hotel is a story about letting go of fear and learning that passion and love can be found in the most unexpected of places.

I heard a lot of this new to me author, Bey Deckard, but I honestly was a little scared by some of his books (like the Baal’s Heart series or the newest one, Better the Devil You Know). When I saw The Last Nights of the Frangipani Hotel, I soon thought it could have been my first. I didn’t even realize it was the second one in a series but at the end it wasn’t a problem because it can be totally read as a standalone.

The Frangipani Hotel is at its last days but James is in love with this place, so he keeps coming here, but this year his quiet is broken by an old friend who takes place next to James. James and Rudie are both famous actors, stressed out by their acting jobs, looking for an escape in the Caribbean Sea. Destiny (not really!) chooses them to be hut’s neighbor. After some drinks, they share a night together (having some really boring sex, let me tell you!).  Rudie is gay, but James is not,  in fact he has an ex wife and two daughters. But the attraction and the magic of the place is too strong to be ignored…

I was really happy to pick this story, it was quick and light and so well written I was able to read it in a one standing, because it was easy to follow. All the story and the dialogues felt very real and normal, I could sympathize with the MCs and their fears. I especially liked the writing style in the descriptive parts. I was able to picture the beach, the shabby hotel and later in the book, the hot sex (it wasn’t boring at all!).

In my opinion The Last Nights of the Frangipani Hotel needs a sequel because the ending wasn’t really how I usually like mine to be, it was more a HFN and I need to see James and Rudie to have their HEA. Still I think Bey Deckard really did a great job at gathering a lot of elements (emotions, life crisis, the enlightenment of James) in a so short a story. I’m not sure I’m ready for his other more dark works, but I’m sure I’m going to read the The Complications of T (read BJ’s review here ).

Highly recommended if you’re looking for a short contemporary story that will let you evade your routine and bring you on a holiday even on a rainy October.

Cover design by Bey Deckard
Cover photo by Strangeland Photography

Both the covers of The Actor’s Circle series are really hot and eye catching. Well done!

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

Book Details:

Published September 12th 2015 by Bey Deckard
Kindle Edition, 78 pages
ASIN B014RZQ54I
Edition Language English

The Actor’s Circle series

  • The Complications of T #1
  • The Last Nights of the Frangipani Hotel #2

http://wms-na.amazon-adsystem.com/20070822/US/js/link-enhancer-common.js?tag=scatthouandro-20&linkId=4OTVYYQWKZZUTQQX

Love LGBTQIA Science Fiction? Check out Sunny Moraine on Writing, and her release, Fall & Rising (guest blog and contest)

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Fall & Rising by Sunny Moraine
This title is part of the Songs of Slipstream universe
Published by Riptide Publishing
Cover Art by Kanaxa

Sales Link at Riptide Publishing

Welcome to the Fall and Rising blog tour!

I’m Sunny Moraine and Fall and Rising is a story I’ve been trying to make happen for some time. On finishing its predecessor Line and Orbit, I knew Adam and Lochlan’s story couldn’t be over. I knew, in fact, that it was just beginning. In Fall and Rising I wanted to continue to explore their journey, as well as the ways in which their tumultuous meeting and the battle that followed have affected the people they love. In short, this was a world I wanted to return to. I’m very pleased that I was able to do so, and I’m very excited to share the result with you.

On this tour I’ll be talking about the process of writing the book and what it taught me about writing in general, the trials and tribulations of passing through the world of the story, some of the tools I used to put me into a place where I could tell that story, and some of why I wanted to write it at all.

Giveaway

I’ll also be giving away a signed copy of the print edition of the book, along with a set of two hand-made (by me) agate, copper, and glass beaded bracelets inspired by the world of Fall and Rising. Additionally, you’ll have a chance to win one of two e-copies!

Every comment on this blog tour enters you for the giveaway. Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on September 5th. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries. Don’t forget to leave your email so we can contact you if you win! 

FallAndRising_TourBanner

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It’s always interesting to return to a universe you’ve been away from for a while.

I wrote Fall and Rising over a period of months a couple of years ago. It was the second version of the book; I scrapped the first version because I didn’t think it worked and rewrote the thing mostly from scratch. So I wrote it, I was reasonably happy with it after some editing, and then I did two things: I put it away and didn’t look at it again for a bit, and I started sending it to places in the hope that they might offer to pay me money for it.

(It took a while for the latter thing to bear any fruit)

What that meant in practical terms was that I didn’t go back to the universe of Adam and Lochlan and their friends for a few months. I worked on other projects. I focused on other things. The universe was still there, rattling around in my head, and it was still accessible. I just didn’t go there for a while.

Then I (finally) sold Fall and Rising to Riptide – along with its followup and third book in the trilogy, Sword and Star – and I had to dive back in for the editing process to commence.

It felt strange. You know how you might have these places you know inside out, in which you feel very comfortable? But then maybe you leave them for a time. When you return, even if nothing much has changed in your absence, everything looks just a little bit off somehow. Your memory has shifted, and nothing quite matches what’s in your head. It’s almost like a kind of deja vu; you know you know this place, but you’re also not completely sure that you do. It’s familiar, but your feeling of comfort has been lost.

That’s what returning to this universe was like for me. I knew these places, these people, this history and this lore, but I didn’t walk back in with any particular ease. It took me some time to settle and feel comfortable again. I had to get reacquainted with the layout. I had to have conferences with some characters. So what’s up with you right now? What’re you doing? What’s your goal here, what are you hoping to get out of this?

It worked, it was fine, but there was a period of difficulty, and the only thing to do was soldier through.

I think this is something that often keeps writers from finishing long projects. I know it’s gotten in my way more than once. The fear that if you return to something you haven’t touched in a while, not only will it not be as good as you want it to be, but you won’t even recognize it. You’ll try to get back into that universe and you won’t know where anything is. You won’t know anyone. They won’t know you. You’ll get lost and no one will be inclined to help you out, and in the end you’ll just wander away having wasted your time, and feeling uncomfy.

I don’t think that’s an unreasonable fear. But as fears go, I try to remember that it shouldn’t stop you from trying. Because that universe is still inside you, and it is still yours. Your people will know you when you arrive. You’ll gradually remember where things are and how things work. It might not even be nearly as difficult as you imagined.

It might even feel like coming home.

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Book Blurb

Adam Yuga is on the run. Three months ago, a miracle saved him from the deadly genetic illness that threatens the entire population of his former home, the Protectorate. Now he and his lover Lochlan are searching for a way to heal his people. When they receive a mysterious coded message promising hope, they make a desperate grab for it, and are imprisoned—by the very race they want to save.

On Lochlan’s distant homeship, a young pilot named Nkiruka faces an agonizing choice: stay with her lover Satya and live a life of happy obscurity, or become the spiritual leader—and the last and only hope—for the Bideshi. Nkiruka doesn’t want to lose Satya, but worse, she fears she lacks the strength to carry anyone through the coming storm, let alone her entire people.

Threads of chance and destiny draw the three together. With the fates of civilizations in their hands, they prepare for a final conflict that might be their only chance for survival—or that might destroy them all.

Author Bio

Sunny Moraine’s short fiction has appeared in Clarkesworld, Strange Horizons, Nightmare, Lightspeed, Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History, and multiple Year’s Best collections, among other places. They are also responsible for the novels Line and Orbit (cowritten with Lisa Soem), Labyrinthian, and the Casting the Bones trilogy, as well as A Brief History of the Future: collected essays. In addition to authoring, Sunny is a doctoral candidate in sociology and a sometimes college instructor; that last may or may not have been a good move on the part of their department. They unfortunately live just outside Washington DC in a creepy house waith two cats and a very long-suffering husband.

Connect with Sunny:
Website:  “http://sunnymoraine.com/”
Goodreads:   “https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3149946.Sunny_Moraine”
Tumblr:   “http://dynamicsymmetry.tumblr.com/”
Twitter:   “https://twitter.com/dynamicsymmetry”
Facebook:   “https://www.facebook.com/sunny.moraine”

 

Songs of Slipstream

The future isn’t an easy place to live. Humanity is split into two warring factions: one is determined to bring all of human-explored space under its control, and the other travels the stars in massive homeships, carrying with them the ancient stories and traditions their foes have rejected.

On the sparsely populated frontier, renegades, bounty hunters, and pirates maintain their own rule of law. Government is nonexistent. Ethics are a luxury. Greed is the order of the day.

And on the worlds unexplored by humankind lurk wonders and dangers beyond imagining.

One thing you can say for the galaxy, regardless of which faction you’ve chosen: life there is never boring.

A BJ Review: Winter Kill by Josh Lanyon

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Rating:  4.5 stars out of 5

Winter Kills coverFBI Special Agent Adam Darling was moving up the ranks until a mishandling of a high profile operation left someone dead and his career on shaky ground. Now he’s working a serial killer case when him and his partner are sent to investigate a body in the little town of Nearby.

Deputy Sheriff Robert Haskell is laid-back, easy going and a bit of a joker, but an efficient and tough cop. When the town Sheriff calls in the FBI on a cold case, Agent Darling comes to town and him and Rob enjoy an unexpected one-night stand before the man goes on his way. Rob doesn’t figure to see the intriguing man again, but when the curator of a Native American museum is murdered several months later, the Sheriff calls in the FBI a second time and asks specifically for Agent Darling. With the body count rising, it soon begins to appear that they may be investigating more than one serial killer—one past and one present.

There are actually two mysteries here going on at the same time, some cold cases from twenty years prior and some a modern killer. Could the killer be one and the same? Or are have two serial killers made the small town of Nearby their hunting ground?

The beginning of the story happens in the past from a POV that is never revisited (for a very good reason), and then we go to the varying POV of the two MC. That initial different point of view, the time jump, and then the other two points of views threw me off a bit, and I wasn’t sure I was going to like this for the first few chapters. But Lanyon’s writing is excellent as always, so I kept going and it paid off. I was soon sucked in.

The plot/mystery is quite complex. There is a lot going on, at one point almost too much, but it was reeled by in nicely. I enjoyed the setting, winter in a small, rural town, because rural is right up my ‘lives in middle of nowhere’ alley. I also enjoy reading stories with Native Americans and their histories and legends. The tough female cop who had instincts sharp enough to pick up on little things that even Rob had been overlooking was an awesome addition to the cast of characters. And the pairing of the laid-back, somewhat argumentative but humorous Rob with the more uptight, by the book, and troubled-by-past-events Adam worked well for me.

As far as the mystery in this book goes, there is no neatly tied up with bow ending. We do get to know who did what, but the motives, whys and wherefores are not fully explained. Some may complain about it not being scrupulously tied up. But I was fine with it. In real life, I tend to think the arresting cops don’t really get to know all that stuff, especially right away and in a scenario such as this set up. The guys don’t collect all the clues and put it all together to solve the mystery. They start to put bits and pieces together, and then WHAM, events explode and the stakes are instantly high. So maybe later when it comes to trail possibly the guys will find out more, but I accept that they wouldn’t know all that and found it to be just realistic

Towards the end, the focus shifted to the romance rather than tidying up all the loose ends and motives of the crime. The case was over, solved. In their past and time to focus on their own life. YES! I’m all in with that. In fact, the ending was my favorite part, and I don’t want to give too much away. However, I will say that I thought it was sad and yet brilliant the way Lanyon began the book with a hopeful man in love who didn’t get his HEA, and then wrapped it up with a hopeful HFN for the main couple.

There were two things that kept this from being a perfect five for me. First off, most of the sex scenes started off fun but ended as fade to black. Why? I wanted more. And second, for the first time in a Lanyon book, I found editing errors. Gasp.

Oh, and one more thing. I want to ask Josh Lanyon to please tell me the ex named Tucker that Adam Darling mentioned without a last name is NOT Elliott’s Tucker! Tucker and Elliott are a favorite couple.

The cover photo at the bottom gives a sense of place, season, cold; and the photo at top is right in your face–a gun sighted straight on you. ‘Go ahead, make my day.’ it seems to say. And this book might do just that.

Sales Links:   All Romance (ARe)  |  Amazon  |  Buy It Here
Book Details:

ebook, 181 pages
Published May 31st 2015 by Just Joshin
original titleWinter Kill
ISBN139781937909277
edition languageEnglish
urlhttp://www.joshlanyon

Review: Convergence (Proud to be a Vampire) by Talya Andor

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Convergence coverLong time friends Chris Bryant and Ling Tam work for Chris’ father in Bryant’s Teas and Curiosities, a store that buys and sells antiques and oddities.  Chris and Ling have long searched for a certain treasure and now they think they have found it.  But in order to succeed they need the assistance of a very special and dangerous being, a vampire.  Chris places a discreet ad in the newspaper and it is answered by Dorran Gracen, a Welsh vampire who accepts the job and the challenges of the journey.

But traveling with a gorgeous predator has its own challenges and attractions, physical attractions that Chris Bryant has kept hidden from his family and society.  As their journey to China continues, he starts to yearn for more from Gracen than just his help to obtain the treasure.  At the journey’s end, will Chris and Ling find the treasure they have searched for or will Chris’ attraction to the vampire cost them everything they have worked for and his life as well.

Convergence is a wonderful little story by Talya Andor that reaches beyond its 22,000 word scope for something larger and, for the most part, succeeds.  It appears to take place in England sometime in the 1800’s, but this England is a place where vampires are a  reality, although a carefully hidden one.  Andor crafts a totally believable world, from Chris’ store to the voyage that takes the trio to China and their buried treasure.

I loved the relationship between Chris and Ling as well as the one that develops between Chris and Dorran.  Given the time period, unusual relationships such as those between people of differing races and social rank are not easily tolerated.  So in a lovely twist, Andor shows that while Chris and Ling consider themselves to be equals, they hide their  true friendships. A neat twist is that they consider themselves almost brothers, but still have to pretend to have a master/servant relationship, one that switches around once they reach China.

It is a time when it is equally dangerous to be gay so among the many things Chris is hiding, he is also careful not to disclose his homosexuality.  The only one who knows he is gay is Ling, his straight friend.  So many secrets here in Convergence, including the true nature of Ling and Chris’ collection of artifacts.  Then Andor adds another layer of deception with the introduction of her Welsh vampire, a somewhat civilized predator with an agenda of his own and truly, all paths and deceptions converge within a mountainous lair of puzzles and treasure.

The treacherous path to the jeweled artifact is a lovely combination of torturous puzzles and challenging physical hurdles.  I really enjoyed the planning and thought that went into this hunt.  The vivid descriptions made the atmosphere and setting come alive.  I had only one quibble with one hurdle that I am sure the author could have answered given a longer length.  Ok, how did those sharks stay alive given their location? Hmmm?  But the rest of it was so neatly planned out, that I can look past this curiosity.

The only other quibble I had with this story was that I wanted a little more of the growing relationship between Chris and Dorran.  The scenes we were given were so tantalizing that it made me want so much more.  They are a great couple and the ending makes me hopeful that there will be more of this couple and their hunts for oddities and treasures.  Whether you love vampires or romance or a combination of both, this is a story you won’t want to miss!

Note:  It appears as part of a bundle titled Proud To Be A Vampire, No. 1 and No. 2 but I don’t see any further references to these main characters so I am not certain where this story comes in.  It can certainly be read as a stand alone.

Cover designed by Aisha Akeju works wonderfully for the story and the treasure within.

Book Details:

ebook, 22,000 words, approx. 80 pages
Published October 9th 2013 by Less Than Three Press LLC
original title Convergence
ISBN13 9781620042519
edition language English

Review: Second Star to the Right by A.F. Henley

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Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5

Second Star to the Right coverMason Lawrence should be happy.  He is incredibly wealthy, owns a successful company and his days are full with his business and his spare time is spent with friends and business associates.  But Mason is unhappy.  He has long held a crush on his best friend who is straight and very married.  Just spending time with him playing tennis is painful and his friend is beginning to notice a difference in the way Mason is treating him.  Something has to change and it arrives in a totally unexpected manner.

Out of concern for Mason’s lack of companionship, a friend tells Mason about a discrete escort service where Mason might find someone to spend his only vacation with.  Wary but desperate, Mason hires Jack, an outspoken, gorgeous escort to spend a week with him at his cabin in a lakeshore vacation property.  And at first, Jack is everything Mason could hope for.  He is funny, gregarious, blunt, and sexy.  A blond Peter Pan whose refusal to grow up endears him to Mason a man who has never really been a child.  Then their relationship of employer/employee starts to turn into one of friendship and then something a little more.  Can love be possible when one refuses to grow up and the other afraid of his own emotions?

The trope of rent boy/John love is a standard within the m/m genre.  Whether I enjoy a story with this plot is entirely up to how an individual author handles this topic and the twist they give to the rent boy in question.  A.F. Henley’s Second Star to the Right  and her character Jack are wonderfully endearing additions to this genre.  I have a fondness for prostitutes that make no excuses for the fact that they are, in their words “whores”.   Jack is unapologetically blunt about his tastes, his profession, and his expectations for the week ahead, much to Mason’s astonishment.  He is golden, sexy, and tall, everything that Mason wants and has never been able to have. And now that Jack is Mason’s for the week, Mason isn’t exactly sure what to do with him.

Henley makes Mason’s confusion and hesitation  both humorous and endearing when confronted with Jack’s direct manner and easy going sexuality.  Everything about Mason’s character is reflective of his personality.  He is small in stature, a fact he is uncomfortable with, comparing himself unfavorably with all he meets.  Shy and awkward, small and amenable, Mason is someone who has always been too old for his years, too responsible, too mature to enjoy childish games and pastimes.   Throw someone of that persona in a cabin for a week with a sexual adult Peter Pan and the mixture has bound to be entertaining, and a little explosive.

And while Jack is forcing Mason to open up and relax, Mason’s actions and gentle treatment of Jack is forcing Jack to reflex on his own life, including the fact that he is almost 30, an age too old for his profession.  How is a man who refuses to grow up going to live when he ages out of the only profession he has ever known?  By the time they (and the reader) have reached this stage in their relationship, both men have tumbled out of their complacency into a place of fear about their current status as well as the future.  Henley has made us care, through their interactions and past revelations, about these men. And now we teeter on the brink of self discovery along with them, full of anticipation and anxiety for the next step each man will take.  Will it be towards each other or away?

Of course, there is an emotional explosion and a denouement that offers a future for both Mason and Jack.  I think that if I had a quibble with this story, its with an ending that felt a little too abrupt for the  story that preceded it.  We get a week with Mason and Jack that feels realistic in the manner in which their relationship grows.  The arguments that come feel natural as well given each man’s emotional makeup and their present occupations.  I wish Henley had given us a little more of the events that follow upon their return to the city.  It would have made the epilogue that much more satisfactory by giving us the building blocks upon which that ending is built.

However, that issue aside, I did love Second Star to the Right.  I loved Mason and Jack in all their frailties, insecurities, and kindness, especially towards each other.  When you temper bluntness with compassion, sexuality with caring, then you have a recipe for a terrific love story and Henley has given that to us in Second Star to the Right.  I think you will enjoy it as much as I did. Consider it a highly recommended.

Cover by Aisha Akeju is simple in design but works for the story within.

Book Details:

ebook
Expected publication: February 19th 2014 by Less Than Three Press LLC
original title Second Star to the Right
ISBN13 9781620043165
edition language English

Review: Sweet Young Thang (Theta Alpha Gamma #3) by Anne Tenino

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Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5

Sweet Young ThangCollin Montes was instrumental in getting his fraternity, Theta Alpha Gamma, to change their  bylaws and accept gay and bisexual college men into TAG.  Several of the brothers were already out about their sexuality, most notably Brad, so this just instilled in their bylaws the acceptance acknowledged in their close knit fraternity.  But there is even another reason this change means so much to Collin and that is the fact that Collin is also gay.  Collin has kept that fact  hidden from most of his fraternity and his family.  And that includes his Uncle Monty who raised him after his father died when Collin was 5.  Uncle Monty is also the president of the TAG Alumni Association and an influential and powerful man in his own right. Uncle Monty is also a homophobe.  The TAG Alumni Association contributes a heavy sum to the running of TAG and neither Uncle Monty or the rest of the board are happy with the inclusion of Gays and Bisexuals in the fraternity.

When first a water heater is rigged to launch through the ceiling, setting off a fire at the TAG house which injures one of the brothers, and then a bomb is found,  Collin is sure that these are repercussions due to the changes in bylaws at TAG.  One of the paramedics/firemen to arrive at the house  the day of the fire is college and TAG Alumn  Eric “Dix” Dixon.  Eric sees Collin helping out his injured frat brother and the attraction between the men is instantaneous.

Older by ten years and with touches of grey in his hair, Eric is openly gay at work.  Eric has always dreamed of someone to make a home and family with but that person hasn’t appeared until now.  Collin, with his sexy eyes and gorgeous body, just may be the one Eric has been waiting for.  But there are many obstacles between their happiness and future together, from Collin’s closeted status and homophobic uncle to the person responsible for the arson and bombing of the TAG House.  As Eric and Collin fall in love, the threat to Collin and the fraternity grows greater.  Can Eric protect the man he has come to love or will homophobic hatred ruin their chance for a future together?

This is the third book in the Theta Alpha Gamma series by Anne Tenino and I loved it.  It has all the distinctive features of the others in the series.  It’s funny, it has terrific characters, and of course, it’s over the top sexy!  But this story has something more. It has a mystery as well.  Who is behind the arson and bombs at the fraternity?  A mystery is a terrific new aspect to this already wonderful series.  But let’s take a closer look at this series most common features.

Each book has focused on a member of the Theta Alpha Gamma or TAG fraternity at Calapooya University in Oregon.  First it was Brad, then Paul, and now it’s Collin’s turn.  Each young man is not only a member of TAG but gay as well, although each has arrived at that self knowledge in differing ways.  The wonderful thing about this series is that the characters and couple you have fallen in love with in the previous books are back, included in this story.  That holds especially true for Brad and Sebastian from Frat B0y and Toppy (Theta Alpha Gamma #1).  They are still working on their relationship and Collin plays an important part in helping them work through a few issues of their own.  But the story here belongs to Collin and Eric, as well as the rest of the fraternity brothers.

This is the first time we have really seen the men of TAG interact with each other on a deeper scale.  Tenino brings us into the frat house dynamics and the close knit brotherhood of the Theta Alpha Gamma fraternity. Once more we get to watch Tank, Ricky, Toby, Kyle, Jules and the rest support each other, no matter the problem.  I have to admit the frat house scenes that involved all the frat brothers had me giggling uncontrollably.  Whether they were being roused to action by the threat to their kegerator or watching Project Runway, these are the scenes that really brought their fraternity to goofy life.  It’s hysterically funny and yet heartwarming at the same time.  Is it a realistic depiction of life at a fraternity?  Don’t know and quite frankly don’t care. In Tenino’s more than capable hands, these quirky, crazy group of guys are alive and kicking and making us  laugh over and over again.  I just loved them.

Collin and Eric are so interesting in their own right.  Collin’s father died when he was young and although his mother is alive, his Uncle had a large part in raising him.  Collin is an intelligent young man who knows he is gay but fears losing the love of his Uncle by telling him who Collin really is.  Uncle Monty is homophobic and controlling, and that has defined Collin’s upbringing until now.  It is a joy watching Collin change as the events unfold and his relationship with Eric grows more substantial.  Eric is also an interesting character with a sexy, hidden side to him.  Trust me when I say that a photography session is one of the sexy highlights of this story.  I enjoyed their relationship and the journey towards love for them both.  I liked that Anne Tenino took into consideration their age difference when writing the relationship. Neither man is at quite the same stage as the other which is an honest aspect to this story.  I appreciated it much more than if we had gotten a case of “instant love”.

I did have a few quibbles with the story.  The person behind the attacks on the frat house is easily spotted although the motive remains hidden until the end.  I really didn’t have a problem with that aspect of the mystery because it plays out so nicely in the story.  There is an event at the end I wasn’t expecting and that was a nice touch too.  I did wish that Collin’s relationship with his Uncle had a better resolution (and his Uncle’s Alumni Association’s aspect too).  Both his Uncle and the Alumi Association had figured greatly in the story, and that was not really dealt with at the end.

A new young gay character was introduced here. Tank’s younger brother has transfered into the college and been accepted into TAG. I see his story coming next.  I can’t wait.  I love these guys and their crazy mixed up fraternity.  They have heart to go along with their beer parties.  They are funny, engaging, and I always enjoy my time with them.  I highly recommend this book and this series.  Grab them all up, starting with the first one if you are new to the series and this marvelous band of brothers.

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

Frat Boy and Toppy (Theta Alpha Gamma, #1)

Love, Hypothetically (Theta Alpha Gamma, #2)

Sweet Young Thang (Theta Alpha Gamma, #3)

Book Details:

ebook
Published July 22nd 2013 by Riptide Publishing
ISBN139781626490321
edition languageEnglish

Review: A Casual Weekend Thing by A.J. Thomas

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Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5

A Casual Weekend ThingDoug Heavy Runner is the only member of the Baker County Sheriff’s Department that is also a member of the volunteer search and rescue team operating in his section of Montana.  So it is no surprise when a 911 call results in Doug hanging over the edge of a cliff, hauling up a body caught on ropes below him. The man is an apparent suicide but his suicide note and death will draw his younger brother to town, along with complications and clues that point to a criminal operating in town, something Doug Heavy Runner left Miami PD to get away from.  Doug lived an out lifestyle in Miami, but the undercover work and an abusive boyfriend sent him home to Elkin and life as a small town deputy and closeted gay.  Now one death may unravel Doug’s new life.

San Diego PD Detective Christopher Hayes is still trying to recover from a devastating gunshot wound that threatens to end his career when he gets a call from a small town coroner in Montana.  His older brother has committed suicide and Chris needs to identify the body and see to his brother’s estate.  The problem is that Chris hasn’t seen his brother in over 20 years by choice as his brother was a convicted pedophile who Chris thought was still in jail.

On the way to Elkin to attend to his brother’s remains, Chris stops in to a local gay bar,  hooks up with a Native American cop and a hot weekend of sex ensues.  Imagine both mens surprise when the suicide’s brother turns out to be Chris and the deputy in charge of the case is none other than his weekend hookup, Doug Heavy Runner.  When Chris’ brother’s house is burned to the ground and the cause is arson, all clues lead to another pedophile operating in the area.  The deeper they probe into the brother’s life, the wider the scope of the investigation.  Soon the FBI is involved and Chris’ partner from San Diego shows up, and everyone is second guessing themselves and each other as the case folds back to Elkin and its citizens. And all the while, Chris and Doug’s casual fling deepens and turns into something neither expects or can accept – love.

I was not expecting a book as complex and moving from the title, A Casual Weekend Thing.  A.J. Thomas has written a book with so many layers to it that I was continually amazed with each reveal and new element  she added to the overall picture.  This book is a police mystery, a cop romance, a character study, and just a grand read.

At the core of A Casual Weekend Thing are two damaged men, each a gay police officer whose back history has made them who they are today, two driven individuals who run from commitment and any relationship other than friendship or casual hookups.  Each is a runner, one by name and one by emotional need, a clever turn by the author.  Christopher Hayes is an ultrarunner, a rare breed of runner who pit their endurance against distances from 50 to 100 mile runs in extreme weather conditions.  Chris was told by his abusive brother to run for his life when he was 12 and run he did, never looking back.  Chris is still running, from his past, from his tenuous future on the force, and from all relationships, never fully trusting anyone.  In Christopher Hayes, Thomas has created an emotionally damaged man, who thinks he has coped with his past but in reality is in denial.  It is a wonderful characterization, multidimensional and realistic in every respect.

Doug Heavy Runner is Chris’ equal in complexity and pain.  In Doug, Thomas gives the reader a man who ran from his culture, that of a Salish-Kootenai Indian on a reservation where crime, poverty, and despair rule and very few escape.  Doug fled to Miami, to become a police officer and live an openly gay lifestyle, passing as a latino.  But the undercover work and abusive boyfriend combined to break him down until his path led him home to the reservation and the small town nearby.  Doug is running just like Chris, too afraid to trust himself in a relationship or to come out to the community.  Thomas balances these two men against each other’s past history even as the author starts them on the investigation that will hit close to home for both men.  Thomas manages to create not two but multiple realistic characters, including Chris’ partner, Ray, a man who was supposedly “straight” until he wasn’t, to Chris’ surprise.  Not once did I feel that any of these characters strayed into a less than authentic portrayal of a real person.  Some were repulsive, some sympathetic, and others incompetent, but always real.

Great characters were certainly a necessity given the complex, and densely layered plots that play out in this story.  Thomas takes the time to set up the situations for the events that follow.  It is a slow build that pulls in element after element, revealed to Chris, Doug and the reader in small increments.  As more facts are unearthed, a feeling of unease sets in.  Then we discover the truth of Chris’ relationship with his late brother, and the horror arrives.  That he treats it so unemotionally makes it worse.  The more clues are discovered, the more horrific and wider the investigation becomes, pulling in the FBI and Chris’ partner.  Thomas does a superlative job in creating a monstrous psychopath who eludes identification until close to the end.  And intertwined with this investigation, is the romance between Chris and Doug, a tenuous thing given each man’s trust issues and past history.

I have to admit I came so close to giving this story 5 stars.  I really wanted to.  But there were a few minor issues with police procedure as well as some actions on the part of Chris that had me shaking my head in incredulity.  I just don’t think a police officer of his experience and background would have committed the errors he did, given the clues he had at his finger tips.  I can’t say any more but when you read the book, you will recognize the areas I am talking about.  That, combined with a little rough transition at the beginning, kept A Casual Weekend Thing from being perfect.  But it sure came close.  It hooked me right from the beginning and keep me on the edge of the bed (so to speak) until the last page.

The end leaves us with a very realistic HFN and I think it needed it.  A HEA for Doug and Chris, considering the events they just emerged from would be just implausible and not in keeping with the characters Thomas was so careful in creating.  I can hope, however, that this will set them up to return in a future novel with another case to solve together.  Now that would be perfection.  Consider this book highly recommended.  I can’t wait to see what A.J. Thomas has for us next.

Cover Art by Brooke Albrecht.  I applaud the cover artist’s choice of model, although he looks far more Indian than Native American.  Also the woods below aren’t really in keeping with the landscape around that area of Montana.  I know, that’s really getting picky, isn’t it.  But they get the tone of the book right.

Book Details:

ebook, 310 pages
Published May 13th 2013 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 1623804876 (ISBN13: 9781623804879)
edition languageEnglish
urlhttp://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=3806

Review: Noah by Ben Ryder

Standard

Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Noah coverCallum Walker, rising software designer, is called upon by his boss to supervise the installation of the communication software program he designed for the new Toronto Maple Arena, a new contract won by his firm in London.  It meant that Callum was spending the next 16 weeks in Toronto, supervising the work and trouble shooting the installation.  It also put him directly into the path of Noah Lukas, the highly popular star player of the Toronto Bobcats professional hockey team.  For Callum, his attraction for Noah is instantaneous from the moment they meet in the Arena gym but he is sure the hockey player is straight and settles for Noah’s friendship no matter what Callum’s heart is saying.

Noah Lukas is at a crossroads in his career.  Noah’s contract is up shortly, and he is not sure if it will be renewed, if he will be traded or even if he will retire.  Noah is gay but deep in the closet as he is sure that would wreck his career on the ice, a profession he loves.  But since meeting Callum, he is finding it hard to remain in the closet, especially as his feelings of friendship start to turn into love.  When it comes down to a choice between love and career, which will come out the winner?

Again, Ben Ryder is a new author for me and  I throughly enjoyed my first story from him.   I have to admit I am a sucker for a gay hockey player so this got to me right from the start.  Noah Lukas is a star player on the cusp of momentous change, both personal and professional.   Noah is playing at the top of his profession but as a star player, his contract is also up for renewal.  The chances that he will be traded are as great as his chances to renew his contract or even retire if no one elects him to play for their team.  He is also lonely and tired of hiding his true nature.  Ryder makes us feel the stress of the situation and the emotions pressing down on Noah time and again.  It is a wonderful, compassionate characterization and it certainly helps to connect the reader with Noah.

Callum Walker is Noah’s opposite.  He is out and comfortable in his skin.  And while he doesn’t quite feel he is in Noah’s league, he feels secure in who he  is.  I liked the slow build in their relationship, including the fact that they became friends first.  It is a realistic touch and nicely done. The only other character that really figures into the story is a grating female one, Amy.  She is believable in her ambition and the tactics she uses to get ahead, not merely a witch for witches sake.

Ryder uses a very effective format in which to tell his story.  It opens in present time in London with Callum checking his smartphone, clearly waiting for a call.  And with each succeeding chapter, the time progresses through the day with Callum getting increasingly nervous as he waits. That is followed by a scene in Toronto and another flashback to their relationship.  The author smoothly flows from one time period to the other, progressing both stories neatly while pulling the reader into Callum’s ever deepening anxiety over the phone call that hasn’t come in.  So well done, this narrative hooked me in immediately.

My one quibble is a large one however, and that would be the ending.  In my opinion, it felt as though we never got one.  It just ends and the emotional satisfaction we were expecting from a well deserved resolution never comes, and we are left hanging.  I kept thinking that we were missing at least one chapter or just possibly an epilogue.  Nope, not there.  I don’t know if we can expect a sequel to tidy up all the loose ends that frayed the ending, but I certainly hope so.  Both the readers and the characters deserve it.  Still, I enjoyed the story enough to recommend Noah and look out for more from this author.

Run over now to Dreamspinner Press where it is being offered up free for the taking.  You won’t be sorry.

Cover Photograph by Scott Henrichsen Cover Design by Paul Richmond.  Hard to argue with a cover this sexy so I won’t.

ebook, 122 pages

Published April 10th 2013 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN139781623806675
urlhttp://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=3749

Buy Link at Dreamspinner Press.  Noah is a free book at this moment. Go here to pick it up at Dreamspinner Press.