A MelanieM Review: Made in Manhattan (Made In #2) by Ana Newfolk

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Will they get a second chance to rekindle their love?

Isaac was kicked out by his family at a young age.
It took him years of hard work to become his own man. Now he’s helping the LGBTQ youth of Lisbon so they don’t have to go through the same.

Max has a long and troubled past.
An ER nurse in New York City who volunteers at the local Liberty center, he knows first hand what it’s like to lose your family and having to make it on your own.

A chance encounter between the two a year ago has them hoping for a happy ever after, if not for the distance between them, but when Isaac takes a temporary work placement in Manhattan, the two men have an opportunity to find what their love is made of.

Will they make it, or will life’s tests tear them apart for good?

Made In Manhattan is the second instalment in the Made In series by Ana Newfolk. It is a standalone gay romance novel with a HEA ending and no cliffhanger. Fair warning, there will be naked man-parts touching, a touch of angst, and the claws of an overprotective cat.

Made in Manhattan is 62k words and features the same main characters from Made In New York – A Christmas Short Story.
You don’t have to read it, but you may want to find out how Max and Isaac first met.

I first fell in love with this universe and characters with the first story in the series Made in Portugal.  And while the blurb and tours may indicate that this is a standalone story, imo, I don’t feel that is entirely true.  So many of the characters and foundation for this novel rests in the first story. You need that knowledge of who these people referenced here are, well as all the events,locations, and even youth centers visited.  These two stories are intimately connected as both couples and casts travel back and forth from Manhattan to Portugal repeatedly, mixing past storylines with this one, and even future ones in novels to come.  So yes, not a standalone.

However,Made in Manhattan (Made In #2) continues to enrich and layer this series universe being created by Ana Newfolk.  This time the couple is  Isaac and Max, two people we met in Made in Portugal.  Both are men who were tossed out of their families for being gay but with different results immediately afterward, the revelations of which will unfold here in this story.  We know Isaac’s having seen it happen in Made in Portugal.  That leaves Made In Manhattan to be Max’s story. His past history that returns, his turbulent romance with Isaac, and many other serious themes that run through this story.

In addition to a complicated romance, Ana Newfolk deals with issues of feelings of abandonment, domestic violence, homelessness, shelter living, even family court.  And the author does so with a realistic eye towards a system that doesn’t always work with the best interests of the child.  While that seems like a lot to fold into a story, it all works.  Especially when using two separate countries, as Portugal and the US, specifically Manhattan where the other “sister” LGBT youth center is located are linked, not just by the two operations but by families and couples.

While I was missing the lushness of the Portuguese countryside and culture that I got in the first story, the complexity and suspense built into Max’s story made up for that.  However it sounds like a return to Portugal is coming in the next novel.  And I can’t wait.

All of these people are slowly feeling like family and a return to the series means seeing them all once more as they all make appearances in each novel. Made in Manhattan (Made In #2) by Ana Newfolk is a warm hearted, sweet, layered contemporary romance, much like the one before.  I highly recommend them both.

 

Cover Artist: Rhys Athanasiadis-Lawrence, Ethereal Elaine.  love that cover.  Its exactly as I picture the characters and its eye catching to boot.

Buy Links – Available on Kindle Unlimited

Amazon US

Amazon UK

 

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 221 pages
Published January 15th 2019
ASINB07MT34MSG
Edition Language English
Series Made In :

Made in Portugal

Made in Paris: A Christmas Short Story

Made in Manhattan

A MelanieM Review: This Is Not A Love Story by Suki Fleet

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

 

When fifteen-year-old Romeo’s mother leaves one day and doesn’t return, he finds himself homeless and trying to survive on the streets. Mute and terrified, his silence makes him vulnerable, and one night he is beaten by a gang of other kids, only to be rescued by a boy who pledges to take care of him.

Julian is barely two years older than Romeo. A runaway from an abusive home, he has had to make some difficult choices and sells himself on the street to survive. Taking care of Romeo changes him, gives him a purpose in life, gives him hope, and he tries to be strong and keep his troubles with drugs behind him. But living as they do is slowly destroying him, and he begins to doubt he can be strong enough.

This is the story of their struggle to find a way off the streets and stay together at all costs. But when events threaten to tear them apart, it is Romeo who must find the strength within himself to help Julian (and not let their love story turn into a Shakespearean tragedy)

There’s a lot that can be said about This Is Not A Love Story by Suki Fleet.  It’s a hurt/comfort story without a lot of comfort going on.  Reading the majority of this novel feels like poking at an open wound.  It’s that’s raw and incredibly painful. Not a story I could read without taking needed emotional “timeout” breaks.  Honestly, parts of this are so agonizing, I wondered if I wanted to continue.

So why the 5 stars?  Why read it at all?

Because it’s extraordinarily well written, with an eye towards making the reader feel almost at a cellular level what Suki Fleet’s  homeless teenagers are going through on a daily basis as anonymous, non people of the streets.  The humiliation, the deprivation, the starvation, and pain.  The exploitation and danger that exists for them and just the edge of survival each one walks is brought vividly and horrifically to life in the persons of Romeo and Julian, and others we meet.

Hope?  That doesn’t occur until late in the story.  Until then it’s sheer determination and love for each other that carries each young man through the darkest of times, and yes, they get plenty dark and gritty.

Told through the mind and heart of Romeo, an artistic mute who’s never without his drawing pad or Julian, his protector and the person he loves, we see the cost of that protection on Julian, on them both.  The way being homeless is eating away at them, the despair, their ragged physical state and the things they are willing to do to survive.  Each character is someone so vulnerable, so achingly young and discarded that the more you read, the more gut wrenching  the impact.

Not surprisingly the story contains elements of thoughts of suicide, drug use, rape, self harm, and abduction.  If any of these are triggers of yours, please take note.

After all that, the novel ends on a note of hope and happiness.  It’s truly needed after the darkness the characters and the readers have endured for most of the story.  It wasn’t quite enough to lift the heaviness of heart I felt after reading the book but held so much positivity for the future that I could leave it at that, hoping that the worse was finally behind them

I’m not sure this story is for everyone but for those that love a great contemporary novel with amazing characters and unforgettable plot ….and a journey that’s dark, gritty and full of pain.  This is a story for you.

Cover art with the dim backdrop of London and not so bright characters grimly hints at the tone of the story.

Sales Links:  Amazon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 453 pages
Published March 27th 2019 (first published March 22nd 2014)
Original Title This Is Not a Love Story
ASINB07Q47FFWM
SeriesLove Story Universe
CharactersRomeo Danilov, Julian Lavelle

A MelanieM Review: Chasing Forever (This Time Forever #3) by Kelly Jensen

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Old wounds, new directions, and a forever worth chasing.

Malcolm Montgomery was a history teacher and track coach until an accident left him with two broken legs. He’ll recover, but life has knocked his feet out twice now. He’s not sure if he’s ready to try again, especially when it comes to love—and slick guys like Brian Kenway. Still, he needs help mentoring the school’s LGBTQ society, so he asks Brian to take some responsibility.

Brian has been hiding behind his reputation as a liar and a cheat for so long that he actually believes he’s that guy—until his nephew, Josh, turns up on his couch, tossed out for being gay. Brian has never considered being a father, but he knows all about being rejected by loved ones. Now Brian wants to be more: a partner for Mal and a role model for Josh.

But when Mal’s recovery is set back and the sad truth of Brian’s past is revealed, the forever they’ve been chasing seems even further from their grasps. It’ll take a rescue effort to revive their sense of worth and make Brian, Mal, and Josh into a family of their own.

If you haven’t found Kelly Jensen’s This Time Forever series, you seriously need to.  While each story uses a structure like a legacy home or lodge at its heart, it’s the author’s ability to create and bring to life a group of interlocked men of varying ages, often older than your usual contemporary romance, intelligent, each carrying more than their share of life’s baggage.  Some are easily more damaged than others, some emotionally, others physically, some both. Through the stories we’ve met several of the characters over and over through their complicated relationship dynamics with each other, as couples form and ex’s watch from the sidelines.

In Chasing Forever, one of those ex’s, Brian is someone we’ve “seen” through other characters perspectives and the view hasn’t been a pretty one.  Here Brian’s past is revealed, the truth of the man  peeled back, and he’s set on the path to redemption.  One reason? Mal “Malcolm” Montgomery, history teacher  and track coach who is trying to recover from a devastating hit and run accident.  Prior to the accident he was someone who defined himself by his physical ability…to run, to coach…to just do and now it’s a struggle to just walk.  In these two amazingly complicated and damaged men, Jensen brings about both redemption, recovery, hope, love, and, finally an emotionally triumphant future.  All done within a realistic, adult plot with the expectant struggles, arguments, and hurdles to overcome.  What a joy to read!

Threaded through this romance is the series foundation that features, in this case, not a family house or lodge but a bar that needs saving because the historic structure is slated to   be  sold to a developer in town.  This is an ongoing battle in this series, as the developer has made an appearance in a previous story and I expect to see them again  in future novels.  How it all plays out I will leave out to each reader to discover for themselves.  It too is a rich, multidimensional element of this story, just as I would have expected from someone who clearly loves her old structures as much as this author does.

In fact, there are several other floating storylines here that will capture your heart, along with the characters that go along with them.  There are no people here that I could honestly consider “supporting” cast because each feels so meaningful to the town and each other.

It’s like that with each and every story here.  For me they build on each other with their relationships, their place in the town, and in each other’s lives.  This is one series I would go around waving at people, recommending the hell out of it because it’s just that great.  Start with the first one and work your way here.  Get to know the town and its people.  Love them as I do.  Then you will know why I highly recommend this story, this series, and it’s author.  And do the same.

Cover Art:  Natasha Snow.  It matches the other novels in the series in style and element perfectly.

Sales Links:  Riptide Publishing | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 333 pages
Published December 10th 2018 by Riptide Publishing
ISBN 139781626498426
Edition Language English

Series This Time Forever 

Building Forever

Renewing Forever

Chasing Forever

Kelly Jensen on Characters, Animals Comparisons and her new release ‘Chasing Forever (guest blog and giveaway)

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Chasing Forever (This Time Forever #3) by Kelly Jensen
Riptide Publishing
Cover Art: Natasha Snow

Sales Links: Riptide Publishing | Amazon

 

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to host Kelly Jensen on tour with her latest novel, Chasing Forever.  Welcome, Kelly.

✒︎

If You Could Be Any Animal by Kelly Jensen

This post is another in a series I’ve written for all three books of the This Time Forever trilogy. To recap, in Building Forever, I decided that Charlie was most like a golden retriever and Simon wouldn’t mind being associated with a rare leopard. For Renewing Forever, Frank still hasn’t forgiven me for comparing him to an otter, but Tom said it first. For his part, Tom’s quite pleased with the choice of coyote. So what about Brian and Mal?

Mal’s actually pretty easy. I had his animal pinned down month ago. Easily, he’s a St. Bernard. To begin with, it was a bit of a whimsical choice. I sort of pictured Mal (in St. Bernard form) racing to the rescue of someone (probably Brian), barreling over a mountain landscape, never flagging, tongue lolling, handy little keg of something warm bouncing from his collar.

What? I’m a writer. I have a very active imagination. Also, I might have been drinking whiskey at the time and it’s definitely whiskey in that little keg. Tell me you don’t immediately picture the little barrel hanging from its neck when you think of a St. Bernard.

What really drew me to this particular breed, though, was their temperament. The St. Bernard epitomizes the phrase “gentle giant.” They’re large, loving, puppy dogs. They’re patient and sweet. They’re notably good with children. Like all large breeds, they do need proper exercise and socialization, and that could be why Mal is such a grump at the beginning of the book. Active people don’t do well with broken limbs.

Mal has a twin, Donny. They’re fraternal twins, alike enough in appearance to be brothers, but in no way identical. Physically, they’re similar, though, and Donny is as much a St. Bernard as Mal. Donny is the one who’ll grab you by the scruff of your neck when you’re lying half dead in the snow and drag you back down the mountain to a cozy little village so you can be fussed over. (I feel another book idea coming on…)

Donny is also the one who’ll drool all over you as he enthusiastically licks you clean. Or just says hello. Thankfully, Mal is a little bit more restrained. Or just shy.

So what about Brian? I had to think long and hard about Brian because he holds so much of his self close. He’s very guarded, which is odd when you consider how social he is. My first idea for him was a cat, but that felt too easy. Also, Simon was a cat and I didn’t want to give them the same animal. I started thinking about more secretive, furtive animals, but they didn’t feel right, either. Brian isn’t small and he’s not shy. He just has secrets.

I briefly considered giving him my own avatar, the mythical creature I most closely identify with: the phoenix. He does transform during this story and in a way, he does pass through a veil to return from the ashes of his past. But it felt a little unfair to give Brian something so magnificent when everyone else got regular creatures.

Brian, by the way, thinks it’s very fair. But he’s not writing this post.

But he is a bird. A golden eagle. I did hesitate to use an eagle, because they’re notably monogamous, or mostly so. But Brian is human, first of all, and not solely driven by the imperative to mate (not for the purpose of offspring, anyway). Secondly, he does desire just one partner. He’s not polyamorous, he’s just… not settled. His domestication starts the very minute he finds his nephew on his couch, though. Suddenly, Brian’s home is no longer just a house. It becomes a nest, and he begins the process of making it a safe place for Josh. He’d already set his sights on Mal, and Mal is just the sort of partner he’s always needed.

By the end of the book, Brian is very much an eagle. He has soared—and he knows exactly where his home and family is, meaning he will always return to his nest.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this series of posts. It’s fun to be whimsical with my characters, and so often after I finish a book and particularly a series, I miss hanging out with my guys. These posts have been an opportunity to revisit them for a while, as well as introduce them to you.

 

Chasing Forever is the final book in the series This Time Forever. Brian and Mal’s story is special in all sorts of ways. Even though these books all standalone, Brian has been there since the beginning–as the character everyone loved to hate in the first book, and the character who seemed to have more to him in book two. In this final story, I share who Brian really is, and hope you’ll all come to love him as much as I do. Then there’s Mal, his other half, my serious soldier who has been waiting all his life for a challenge like Brian. Sometimes we have to be knocked lower than ever before in order to reach that high, and Mal’s journey is one I treasure. I hope you enjoy reading this story of redemption and learning to live out loud.

About Chasing Forever

Old wounds, new directions, and a forever worth chasing.

Malcolm Montgomery was a history teacher and track coach until an accident left him with two broken legs. He’ll recover, but life has knocked his feet out twice now. He’s not sure if he’s ready to try again, especially when it comes to love—and slick guys like Brian Kenway. Still, he needs help mentoring the school’s LGBTQ society, so he asks Brian to take some responsibility.

Brian has been hiding behind his reputation as a liar and a cheat for so long that he actually believes he’s that guy—until his nephew, Josh, turns up on his couch, tossed out for being gay. Brian has never considered being a father, but he knows all about being rejected by loved ones. Now Brian wants to be more: a partner for Mal and a role model for Josh.

But when Mal’s recovery is set back and the sad truth of Brian’s past is revealed, the forever they’ve been chasing seems even further from their grasps. It’ll take a rescue effort to revive their sense of worth and make Brian, Mal, and Josh into a family of their own.

Now available from Riptide Publishing!

About the This Time Forever Series

Small towns and second chances.

Simon, Frank, and Brian think love has passed them by. Each is facing down his fiftieth birthday—Simon in a few years, Frank next year, and Brian soon enough. Each has loved and lost. But for these men, everything old really is new again, and it’s only when they return to their roots that they’ll find their second chances and the happily ever after they’ve been waiting their whole lives for.

This time it’s forever.

This series includes:

  1. Building Forever — released October 15
  2. Renewing Forever — released November 12
  3. Chasing Forever — released December 10

About Kelly Jensen

If aliens ever do land on Earth, Kelly will not be prepared, despite having read over a hundred stories about the apocalypse. Still, she will pack her precious books into a box and carry them with her as she strives to survive. It’s what bibliophiles do.

Kelly is the author of a number of novels, novellas, and short stories, including the Chaos Station series, cowritten with Jenn Burke. Some of what she writes is speculative in nature, but mostly it’s just about a guy losing his socks and/or burning dinner. Because life isn’t all conquering aliens and mountain peaks. Sometimes finding a happy ever after is all the adventure we need.

Connect with Kelly:

 


Giveaway

To celebrate the release of Chasing Forever one lucky person will win a $25 Riptide Publishing gift card and a swag pack of stickers, art cards, and bookmarks! Leave a comment with your contact info to enter the contest. Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on December 15, 2018. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries. Thanks for following along, and don’t forget to leave your contact info!

 

In the Spotlight Tour and Giveaway: Surreal Estate by Jesi Lea Ryan

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Surreal Estate by Jesi Lea Ryan
Riptide Publishing
Cover Art:  Lou Harper

Sales Links:  Riptide Publishing | Amazon

 

 

About Surreal Estate

Sasha Michaels is a psychic with an affinity for houses. And he’s homeless. Go figure. After months of sleeping rough, he stumbles upon an abandoned house, and the lonely place beckons him inside. He’s finally safe . . . until someone comes blundering in to his hideaway.

House-flipper Nick Cooper lost everything in the recession. Desperate to revive his business, he turns to a loan shark to fund his comeback project: flipping an abandoned house full of potential. But it turns out the house has an unexpected occupant.

Nick and Sasha make a deal: Sasha can stay in exchange for helping with the renovation. To both of their surprise, the closer they get to the loan shark’s due date, the stronger their feelings for each other grow. Problem is, Nick isn’t the only one with feelings for Sasha, and now the house doesn’t want to let Sasha go.

Now available from Riptide Publishing!

 

About Jesi Lea Ryan

USA Today bestselling author Jesi Lea Ryan grew up in the Mississippi River town of Dubuque, Iowa. She holds Bachelor’s degrees in creative writing and literature and a Master’s in business administration, along with an assortment of Associate’s degrees, certificates and designations, none of which have anything to do with writing books about psychics.

Jesi considers herself a well-rounded nerd. She loves studying British history, exploring foreign cities on Google Earth, watching TED talks, listening to true crime podcasts, floating in her pool, and reading or listening to books — approximately two hundred books a year in many different genres. The side effect of all this is that she’s the ideal person to have on your trivia team, or what a former co-worker called “a dump truck of knowledge.

Her biggest vice is procrastination. #TheStruggleIsReal

Jesi spent most of her adult life in Madison, Wisconsin, but now lives in Maricopa, Arizona, with her spouse and two exceptionally naughty kitties. Summers may be brutal, but at least she doesn’t have to shovel the heat off her driveway.

Giveaway

To celebrate the release of Surreal Estate, one lucky person will win a $20 Riptide gift card! Leave a comment with your contact info to enter the contest. Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on November 10, 2018. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries. Thanks for following along, and don’t forget to leave your contact info!

A MelanieM Review: Coming Back (The Belladonna Arms #3) by John Inman

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Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5

Coming Back coverBarney Teegarden knows what it’s like to be alone. He knows what it’s like to have a romantic heart, yet no love in his life to unleash the romance on. With the help of a friend, he acquires a lease in a seedy apartment building perched high on a hill in downtown San Diego. The Belladonna Arms is not only filled with the quirkiest cast of characters imaginable, it is also famous for sprinkling love dust on even the loneliest of the lovelorn.

At the Arms, Barney finds friendship, acceptance, and an adopted family that lightens his lonely life. Hell, he even finds a cat. But still true love eludes him.

When his drag queen landlord, Arthur, takes it into his head to rescue a homeless former tenant, he enlists Barney’s help. It is Barney who shows this lost soul how to trust again—and in return Barney discovers love for the first time in his life.

It’s funny how even the hardest battles can be fought and won with laughter, hugs, friends, plus a little faith in the goodness of others. All it takes to begin the healing is the simple act of coming back.

Two books ago I fell in love with a dilapidated apartment building on top a hill in San Diego, filled full of gay misfits looking for love.  The Belladonna Arms, old neon sign sputtering to life each night, apparently is home to love pollen, the stuff just “rains down the walls” as one resident after another finds their soulmate in John Inman’s wonderful heartwarming Belladonna Arms stories.  With one tragic exception.

In Coming Back, John Inman, heals that terrible wound and gets the Belladonna Arms love pollen working overtime again with a new arrival in Barney Teegarden, a friend and coworker of Pete (husband of Sylvia’s).   Barney is looking for a new place to live and for someone to love and love him back.  The  latter being important.  Most of the people Barney has loved haven’t returned the emotion and he’s  ready for that to change.  Pete swears that the Belladonna Arms can work magic but after seeing the rundown place Barney’s just not sure.  Barney has just arrived at the multi-couple yard sale in front of the Belladonna Arms so he can meet Arthur, the owner and manager.

 The next thing I knew, I was face-to-face with the gigantic drag queen in the platinum Veronica Lake wig. At the moment, he had four feather boas draped around his tree-trunk-sized neck, each gaudier than the next. He was waving them around, trying to attract a buyer, until Pete shoved me into his face, and said, “Arthur, I want you to meet Barney. Barney needs a place to live.”

Arthur slipped ham-sized hands into my armpits and lifted me a foot off the ground to stare directly into my eyes. I hung there like a Christmas ornament, wishing the fuck he would put me down. “You’re a cutie,” he said in a booming baritone that rolled through lips saturated with peach-tinted lip gloss. “And you’re a friend of Pete’s?”

“Yes, sir. I mean, ma’am. I mean, sir.” His lips spread wide in a grin. He gave me a little shake, as if he were trying to dislodge some fruit from my branches, then gently set me on the ground.

“Done,” he said.

“What’s done?” I asked.

“Your apartment. It’s ready for you to move into whenever you’re ready. There’s a vacancy right next to Pete and Sylvia.”

I blinked. “No shit?”

“No shit.”

“I’m a tenant?”

“You’re a tenant.”

And just like that Barney has become a member of a wonderfully quixotic and dear group of people who make up the family that is the Belladonna Arms.  It helps that Pete and Sylvia are next door neighbors and good friends  already.

 

“Thank you, Arthur!” Pete cried. “Barney will be your best tenant ever.”

Arthur pinched Pete’s cheek and ruffled his hair. “I’m sure he will.” Then he turned to me. “Got a lover?”

“Uh… no.” Arthur pulled me into his massive, hairy, Opium-scented arms and squeezed me so hard I thought I felt an organ burst. “Well, don’t worry, honey. The building will take care of that.” “The building,” I grunted, trying to draw a breath. He eyed me with his one visible eyebrow cocked high. “That’s right. The building. Ever hear of love pollen?”

 “Uh, nope.”

He blessed me with a secretive smile. “You will. It simply rains down from the walls in this place. And when that pollen touches you, you’re lost.”

I gazed over the feather boas draped across Arthur’s shoulders, tried not to sneeze because one of them was tickling my nose, and stared up at the homely old edifice standing in front of me. “Love pollen,” I whispered beneath my breath, wondering what the hell the guy was talking about. I gave myself a shake to dislodge any droplets of insanity that might have drifted down upon me like the ever-present glitter, and thought, Oookay, not my circus, not my monkeys. But since the Belladonna Arms was apparently my circus now, and since I would soon be one of the many monkeys inhabiting the joint, I found myself grinning in spite of myself. Because I suddenly knew—I just knew—this particular circus was going to fit me like a glove. Love pollen or no love pollen, for one of the first times in my life, I felt as if I’d come home. I blushed one last time when Pete planted a kiss on one of my cheeks and Arthur planted a kiss on my other. Both men loomed over and around me, patting and cooing, making me feel safe and loved and welcome. Embarrassed by the sudden surge of emotion welling up inside me, I plucked one of the boas from around Arthur’s neck, and draped it over my own. “How much?” I asked in a ragged voice. Arthur gave the boa a theatrical flourish, fluffing it beneath my chin and flipping it rakishly over my shoulder so the end trailed down over my ass. When he was satisfied I was properly adorned, he gave me another peck on the cheek. “For you, honey? Nothing. It’s a housewarming gift. Welcome home.”

The way John Inman writes that scene, I feel as though I had been swept up in Arthur’s embrace as well.  And into the Belladonna Arms Barney  goes.  But you have to be a special sort of person to look past the dated exterior, the patches and painted over windows to see the magic, and Barney is  that sort of person, knobby furred knees and all.   Barney has an open mind and heart that’s a perfect match for the quirkiness and  eccentrics that reside in the Belladonna Arms and for the events that occur there.  And Arthur has a plan in mind and needs Barney’s help to make it work.

If John Inman is able to bring laughter to love, he doesn’t forget the pain that sometimes  arrives as well.  In Coming Back, Barney and Arthur try to deal with the horrific aftermath of a love affair gone lethally wrong in the previous book.  In some of the most moving moments in the story, Arthur and Barney go  to reclaim a human being and bring them back home.  I cried buckets.    I loved this whole aspect  of the story.  It was beautifully written, sensitive and real.  It brought the Belladonna Arms stories into another level of authenticity and grittiness it did quite have before.

Of course, then it then switched course and we flow into some of the funniest passages John Inman has ever written, starting with:

“THUS BEGAN, according to Arthur, an orgy of butchery not seen since Vlad the Impaler started hosting block parties at his fixer-upper castle with the dungeon to die for back in Romania in the fifteenth century.”

No, no, we’re talking cutting hair! Really, people. And the author brings back that apartment jumping cat, only even that cat seems to be wanting some stability and a home.  How I love this series..

Coming  Back is a book to warm your heart, make you cry more than once and make you feel so good that  you go to sleep smiling, thinking about the story and  the characters and love pollen.  This is a feel good novel and one I absolutely recommend as I do all the Belladonna Arms stories. I know there are more stories on the way, I can’t wait to see who the next newcomer is to get their dose of love pollen!

Cover art by Aaron Anderson is a little too dark and sepia toned for me.  I get what he was going for, still too one color for a place as full of vibrant characters as the Belladonna Arms.

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

Book Details:

ebook, 200 pages. also in paperback
Published August 17th 2015 by Dreamspinner Press LLC
ISBN13 9781634762328
edition language English
The Belladonna Arms Series:

 

 

Review: The Boy Who Came In From The Cold by B.G.Thomas

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Rating: 3 stars out of 5

The Boy Who Came IN From The ColdLife has not been easy for Todd Burton.  He lives in a small town, Buckman, Missouri.  His father died when he was young and his mother remarried to an abusive man who makes Todd’s life miserable in every way possible, including calling him a “fag”.  All Todd has ever wanted was to be a chef but his dream and small efforts are ridiculed by mother and stepfather alike. One night, the taunts and abuse become too much, and Todd flees his home and town, running away to Kansas City to pursue his dream of being a chef.  But the reality of life in Kansas City is a harsh one and soon Todd is left out in the cold, evicted from his apartment with no where to turn.

Gabe Richards, a wealthy businessman, finds Todd outside his apartment building freezing to death.  The sight of the young man brings back memories that Gabe thought he had buried.  He offers Todd a place to spend the night and food to eat and as the men get to know one another, the night becomes a week, and then more.  But the situation is fraught with tension and awkwardness.  Todd has always assumed he was straight, so why is he checking out Gabe like he would a girl?  Could he actually be gay?  And for Gabe, Todd brings up memories of another young man in Gabe’s past, one associated with pain and betrayal.

Gabe and Todd find themselves falling in love despite their pasts.  For Todd, being evicted and coming in from the cold might be the best thing that ever happened to him.

I have some very mixed feelings about this story because I really liked parts of it.  B.G. Thomas has a lovely writing style and his characters, specifically, Todd Burton and Peter Wagner, a friend and employer of Gabe, are fantastic.  Todd is someone we could empathize immediately.  Even when he is using offensive words like “fag”, we know its because those words have been thrown at and around him all his life.  It’s a knee jerk reaction, especially in someone questioning his true sexuality.  I have to admit having to suspend some belief in Todd’s miraculous culinary skills. Given his background, would someone like Todd really know what to do with fennel or taste white pepper in wine? But as I love a cooking element in a story, I can accept his interest and gift in putting flavors together to create something wonderful.  Todd’s questioning of his sexuality is another terrific aspect of this story, although his leap into bed with Gabe as well as his embrace of his “gayness” came a little too fast for someone who just found out that they were gay.  But again, I can accept that too because Thomas made it seem realistic.

Peter Wagner, vaguely British, kind and over the top is perhaps my favorite character,  Think Peter O’Toole in My Favorite Year and you have some approximation of Peter Wagner.  I loved him and every scene he appeared in.  Thomas must have a real fondness for him too because his descriptions of Wagner and his actions are vivid, almost Technicolor, trying hard to express the heart and vitality of this man.   Here is a sample of Peter at his best:

“Yes,” Peter decreed. “Sexily aromatic, like linen sheets after making love on an island in Greece.” Peter took another sip. “It is superb. And now if I might?” Peter lifted a fork as if it were a conductor’s baton, then a knife, cut into the thigh Todd had placed on his plate and sliced it quickly and masterfully. He brought the morsel to his mouth, stopped, inhaled. Then popped it into his mouth.

Todd held his breath.

A corner of Peter’s mouth slowly tipped upward. He opened his eyes. “Heaven,” he whispered.

Todd felt a rush. He had no idea why. He had no idea who this strange man was with his flourishes and declarations, his nimble swagger, and the graceful way he moved his hands and arms and lanky body. Yet, the compliment Peter had given him might have been the best in his entire life.

And we get that because Peter has become so real to us as well that we understand the sentiments involved.  Great job, great characters indeed.

Gabe Richards is a little more problematic for me.  It is with him and an event and people in his past that I have issues with. Gabe is described as a successful businessman with a painful past that both Peter and Gabe’s friend/assistant are aware of.  This past involves a young man who had been sexually abused by his father for years and was living on the streets when Gabe found him.  This character and his situation are the dramatic fulcrum upon which Gabe’s past angst pivots.  And this is the element that dragged the story down for me.

It’s my opinion that if an author uses rape or sexual abuse as an element in their story, they have a responsibility to treat it as seriously and realistically as the topic deserves.  This includes have the adult characters suggest counseling and police action for sexual abuse/rape, especially in underage victims involved in this storyline.  The fact that this is fiction does not reduce that responsibility for the author.  But when an abused underage young man is instead “adopted” as a son, calls the men who adopted him “Daddy One” and “Daddy Two” and is then looked at as a possible bedmate by both of them, then the subsequent story is undermined for me.  That this young man is then also portrayed not as a victim but instigator of a painful event, then that aspect of the story becomes an object of disbelief.  For that element to have been realistically portrayed, the author should have gone into the ramifications of parental sexual abuse, including perhaps the need for validation by a father figure and other long term aspects of paternal sexual abuse, especially if untreated.  I am aware that this is only a part of Thomas’ story but it is still a small but important one.  The author could have left this element out all together and chosen to make this a shallow opportunistic young man.  If Thomas had, this would have been an altogether different review.  As it is, it reduced the rating almost to a 2.

Outside of the sexual abuse section , this story also contains a case of “instant love”, something I am seeing a lot of these days.  Gabe and Todd have one week together, during which  time Todd not only comes to grips with his sexuality but also falls in love with Gabe, who very conveniently falls in love back.  Sigh.  Gabe’s past “homelessness” really isn’t, as he left his apartment for the night.  So not the same as Todd.  Again, a suspension of belief is called for. The author then wraps up all the loose story lines in a manner that seems a little pat. Again, while I could accept most of them, the resolution of the plot with the young sexually abused man is handled just as badly as was the character’s introduction. He runs off to confront his father by himself.  No police involved,  no one helping him because “he has to do it by himself”. And the last chance to redeem this plot element is lost.

Why give this story a three rating?  I had to ask myself that question too.  I did love parts of The Boy Who Came In From The Cold.  I loved some of the characters and plot points.  The parts that bothered me about the story are, in my opinion, hugely relevant, enough so to drag an otherwise charming story downward. So the writing, and some of the characters saved this story for me enough to give it a 3 star rating.  For other readers, maybe they will skim over those sections that bothered me or it won’t be so obvious as to be an issue for them.  You can make up your own mind.

Cover art by Aaron Anderson is lovely except (and I can’t believe I am saying this) but the model is a little too old for the character of Todd.  Usually it is the other way around.  But the graphics and overall feel is lovely.

Book Details:

ebook, 284 pages
Published May 29th 2013 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 162380714X (ISBN13: 9781623807146)
edition language English