Review: It’s All Geek to Me by J.L. Merrow

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Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5

ItsAllGeekToMe_600x900When Jez’s best friend Tel is hit by a car while riding his motorcycle, it not only lands Tel in the hospital but costs him his newest, unread comic book.  So with Tel looking at a long stay in the hospital, Jez sets out to replace the comic and maybe  buy a few more for his friend.   Jez is out of his depths when it comes to all things geek, even more so when he enters that bastion of geekness itself, the Hidden Asteroid bookstore in London.  To his amazement,  the man behind the counter is stunning, tall, gorgeous with a wicked smile and Jez is smitten.

Rhys seems to be attracted to Jez too but Rhys thinks that Jez is buying the comics for himself and is a geek just like Rhys.  What is a non geek to do?  After heading back to the hospital, Jez hatches a plan to have Tel teach him how to be a geek so he can talk to  Rhys.  When it starts to work and Rhys asks Jez out, then the act must continue but for how long?  Jez is crazy for Rhys but he’s not the geek he’s made out to be.  It’s everyones guess if love will win out in It’s All Geek To Me.

I am still laughing over this funny short story from J.L. Merrow. What a terrific set up for a romance.  Non geek falls for gorgeous geek in that hallowed hall of geeks, the comic bookstore and tries to figure out how to talk to someone so cool as to be out of his league.  And of course he goes about it all wrong.  Key the laugher because you know that the hilarity is sure to follow and in J.L. Merrow’s hands, it certainly does.

From dialog that snaps, complete with English slang and a compendium of comic book heroes (real and Merrow created), this story just dances right along, feeling real and completely down to earth.  And her characters are absolutely endearing, starting with the insecure Jez.  He has issues with his physique, seeing himself as pudgy and somewhat unattractive, especially along side the gorgeous Rhys.  He is unflinchingly loyal as a friend, especially to his hound-dog best buddy Tel, a straight man on the prowl even when he has both legs in casts and is stuck in a hospital bed.  It’s that loyalty and friendship that sends him to the Hidden Asteroid to begin with.  Jez is funny, intelligent, observant and, of course, completely unaware of his own attractiveness.  He is adorable and I loved him.

And Rhys with his black clothing, dark eyes and hair, coolness emitting from every pore, is every gay geek guy’s dream hunk.  Who just so happens to be attracted to smart, blond and cute gay guys.  Like Jez.  It’s a mismatch made in heaven, or at least a comic bookstore.  And as Jez tries to show Rhys just how much of a geek he is, it just gets increasingly funny and out of control.

Merrow has the relationship dance down proper as she puts the boys through their paces.  And although it is set in London, there isn’t anyone who can’t connect with these two men as they struggle their way towards a lasting relationship.  Of course, there were some things as a Yank I was unfamiliar with.  I had to look up what exactly a vintage Norton Commando was.  I will admit it, I thought it was a bicycle.  Then there was the word “scrumpy”.  Nope, have to use my trusty British Slang Dictionary to find out that was a “nasty drink”.   For me, this is part of the joy of reading stories from authors outside the U.S, including Merrow.  Here is a taste, including the word “scrumpy”:

It was all my mate Tel’s fault I was here. Well, to be fair, not so much his fault as the fault of the idiot in the BMW who’d slammed into his bike on the A10. Not only had the resulting pile-up trashed Tel’s legs and smashed his vintage Norton Commando, it’d claimed the life of his newest, unread comic book. Its virgin pages were now scattered to the four winds, or maybe lining the nests of all those crows that hang around dual carriageways like vultures waiting for roadkill.

So Tel had asked me, his best mate, to replace it.

I’d frowned at him, languishing in his hospital bed with scaffolding all round his legs like a beardy cyborg. That was going to put a serious crimp in his sex life, poor bastard. The scaffolding, I mean. Not the beard. I’ve never really seen the attraction of snogging a Brillo pad myself, but it never seemed to put the ladies off Tel. Dunno how he does it. Maybe it’s that West Country accent of his—he lures ’em in with his long, drawn-out Rs and the promise of scrumpy.

“What if I get the wrong thing?” I’d protested. “I mean, I don’t know one comic book from the other. You’re going to be a bit pissed off if I come back with The Beano.”

That last bit of course sent me off to google The Beano comic book too.  Really, this story is just so much fun.  And I could tell that the author had enormous fun writing it as well.  Terrific plot, and delightful characters, comic book heroes and dialog based in the vernacular. What’s not to love? After reading this, I wanted to dash off to The Barbarian Bookstore, a more dusty, aged version of the Hidden Asteroid and revel in some geekness for myself.  It’s All Geek To Me is a little gem from J.L. Merrow that keeps giving and giving.  Consider this wonderful little story one of ScatteredThoughts Highly Recommended!

Cover art by LC Chase combines photography and comic book style graphics to create a cover that radiates joy!  I loved it!

Book Details:

ebook, 51 pages
Published February 10th 2014 by Riptide Publishing (first published February 8th 2014)
original titleIt’s All Geek to Me
ISBN139781626491144
edition languageEnglish
urlhttp://www.riptidepublishing.com

Getting Our Geek On with J.L. Merrow! It’s All Geek To Me Book Tour and Contest!

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ItsAllGeekToMe_TourBanner

ScatteredThoughtsandRogueWords is so happy to have J.L. Merrow with us today to talk about her latest release, It’s All Geek To Me!

Holding out for a heroItsAllGeekToMe_150x300


Hi, I’m JL (Jamie) Merrow, and I’m here today as part of the  “It’s All Geek to Me blog tour. It’s great to be here on Scattered Thoughts & Rogue Words.

Giveaway: all commenters on the blog tour will be entered into a draw to win an ebook of their choice from my backlist, plus a $10 Amazon gift certificate. A winner will be chosen randomly on Monday, 17th February, 2014. Good luck!

Today, I want to talk about superheroes.

They roll up, capes billowing dramatically in the wind (or not, if they’ve watched The Incredibles) and save the day with their superpowered abilities.

The first superheroes, if we take the term to mean “masked, costumed fighter for justice” were, arguably, The Scarlet Pimpernel (1903) and Zorro (1919). It wasn’t until the advent of Superman (1938), however, that superheroes were truly “super” – ie, with powers/abilities beyond those of ordinary humans.

Nowadays, there are a whole host of superheroes—some with superpowers conferred on them by various means, such as lab accident, alien origin, or good old-fashioned magic, and some who rely on fiendishly clever technology to gain the upper hand. Some, like Hawkeye in the Avengers, are Just That Good.

When I was writing It’s All Geek to Me, I had to make a decision early on. Jez and Rhys talk about several superheroes—so would they be “real” ones, from Marvel or DC canon and the like, or would I make up my own?

Which turned out to be not a decision at all. Make up my own superheroes? I was on that like white on rice. That stuff is fun. But it turns out, it’s not as easy as you’d think, at least if your knowledge of superheroes comes mostly from the ones who’ve appeared in movies and on TV. I had to discard several first attempts after Googling them and finding they’d already been done. I eventually came up with the following:

The Amazing Translucio: this is the guy Jez and Rhys initially bond over. I was aiming for someone with a daft non-power and it struck me that the ability to turn not invisible, but translucent, would be pretty naff.

Arachnogirl: no prizes for guessing where I got that idea from. She may or may not be a comment on the tradition of viewing female superheroes with the adolescent male gaze (As a geek friend said: “You’ve captured the most important female superpower: breasts.)

There are a few others in the story, too, with more or less recognisable antecedents. But I think I’ll let you find out about those for yourselves. 😉

Question: Do you have a favourite superhero? What is it you particularly love about him/her?

Or is there a superhero who doesn’t exist (what do you mean, none of them actually exist? Of course they do!) but you wish did? Come to that, if you were a superhero, who would you be?
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JL Merrow is that rare beast, an English person who refuses to drink tea. She writes across genres, with a preference for contemporary gay romance, and is frequently accused of humour. Her novel Slam! won the 2013 Rainbow Award for Best LGBT Romantic Comedy.

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ItsAllGeekToMe_600x900It’s All Geek to Me

Jez is on a mission of mercy: to replace a tragically deceased comic book for his injured best mate, Tel. Venturing into the temple of geekdom itself, the Hidden Asteroid bookstore in London, Jez is bowled over by the guy behind the counter.

Rhys is the poster boy for hot geeks: tall, gorgeous, and totally cool. Jez is desperate to impress Rhys, but lacking in confidence after a bad break-up, so he bluffs his way through the comic book jargon—then dashes back to the hospital to beg Tel to teach him how to speak Geek.

Tel’s happy to oblige, and Jez is over the moon when Rhys asks him out. He’s even more thrilled when they discover a shared love of rugby, something he won’t have to fake for Rhys. The question is, how long can Jez keep up the deception—and what will happen when Rhys realizes he’s going out with Fake Geek Guy?

You can read an excerpt/purchase It’s All Geek to Me at Riptide Publishing.  And don’t forget to leave a comment for the giveaway!

The Sochi Olympics Have Arrived and the Week Ahead in Reviews

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Google Gay Doodle for Olympics

So one of the most strained and contentious Olympics has begun, that of Putin’s Sochi Olympics.    Eyes are on NBC to see how they report on the many issues that abound at Sochi as well as on the athletic contests and the olympians that compete.

In the past, NBC has been almost too reverential towards the IOC and the hosts of the Olympics.  Think Beijing and civil rights.  Now comes their chance to report fairly on all the issues as well as with the athletes participating in the Olympics themselves.  As gay rights or the lack of at Sochi and in Russia are such a large issue, I would hope that when interviewing the athletes and their families, including partners, NBC will be inclusive, interviewing gay participants and their partners and families instead of just the straight athletes as they have done in the past.   I don’t want the athletes to get lost in all the controversy, they have worked too hard for that.  But some of those athletes are gay.  And their identity should be on equal status as everyone elses.  Putin and Russia don’t recognize that.  It is too late to talk about whether or not Russia should have been awarded the 2014 Olympics.  That’s done.  And the IOC continues to be as spineless as they always have been.  But I have hopes for this Olympics that go beyond sporting events into a larger global discussion.  As Google, Chevrolet and even more sponsors show their support for the LGBTQ community through commercials, Google doodles, and PAs, the discussion and support for equality grows.swan-lake-dancer

So today I am including some of the best blogs/segments reporting not on the contests themselves but extraneous issues that have come out of Sochi to date.  The links are below.  I did watch the opening last night.  Wow.  Builders and construction again.  Red baby buggies for an expanding population, hopefully for Putin. Lots of flying Red scythes and what seemed to be floating Stalinistic heads.  There were some lovely moments too. The singing policemen were wonderful. I liked the floating islands and volcano. That segment with Swan Lake as its accompaniment as ballet dancers swirled under amazing contructs that lifted and floated as they danced was my favorite.  So was the Olympic Gods portion with the heavens full of constellations that looked like the various athletes.  The lighting of the torch was memorable too.  And those wonderful athletes from all the countries marching in under their flags, with joy and exuberance, happy to be a part of such a great community.  Nothing Putin does can take that away from them.  What was your favorite moment from the Opening Ceremonies?

Now here are the books being reviewed this week.  Don’t forget to check in with me on Thursday and enter the Riptide/JL Merrow contest for It’s All Geek To Me. I also have a terrific story just in time for Valentine’s Day.  Don’t miss out on Geoffrey Knight’s Be My Valentine, Bobby Bryson and bring a tissue or two. I will be glued to the tv, with my Kindle, popcorn and of course, my terriers!

Monday, Feb. 10:     Reviewing Life by Lara Brukz

Tuesday, Feb. 11:      Of Last Resort by Megan Derr

Wed., Feb. 12:           It’s Only Make Believe by Havan Fellows

Thurs., Feb. 13:        J.L. Merrow’s It’s All Geek To Me Book Tour & Contest

Friday, Feb. 14:         It’s All Geek To Me by J.L. Merrow

Sat., Feb. 15:              Be My Valentine, Bobby Bryson by Geoffrey Knight

Scattered Thoughts May 2013 Book Reviews

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mayIt was a great month in book reviews.  While most of the book fell into the contemporary fiction category, there was a book in just about every genre.  One of my favorites this month was Fragile Bond by Rhi Etzweiler, a science fiction gem of a story from Riptide Publishing. I have also found new authors like Sue Brown and her outstanding The Sky Is Dead.  Don’t pass either of these by. And if you loved Country Mouse by Amy Lane and Aleksandr Voinov, then you won’t want to miss the followup novel, City Mouse (Country Mouse #2).  I thought it was even better than its predecessor.

There are stand alone stories and new books in continuing series. This includes one series (The Night Wars) that I will be reevaluating on the basis of the third book in the series, a real stunner called The Hellfire Legacy by Missouri Dalton.  This is a terrific book and I had not rated the second book very highly.  Now I am going back in June, reading all three together and write a  review of the series in June (and probably a mea culpa or two on my part as well).

The titles are linked to my reviews.  Really, there is something for everyone here.  Here are May 2013’s book reviews in order of rating:

5 Star Rating:

City Mouse (Country Mouse #2) by Amy Lane and Aleksandr Voinov (contemporary)
Fragile Bond by Rhi Etzweiler (Science Fiction)
The Sky Is Dead by Sue Brown (contemporary)

4 to 4.75 Star Rating:
Adapting Instincts (Instincts #4) by S.J. Frost
Bad Attitude (Bad in Baltimore #3) by K.A. Mitchell (4.25 stars) (contemporary)
Bullheaded by Catt Ford (4.25 stars) (contemporary)
Closet Capers Anthology (4.25 stars) mixture
Damned If You Do: The Complete Collection by J.L. Merrow
Leaving Home (Home #4) by TA Chase (4 stars)
Moments by R.J. Scott (4.25 stars) (contemporary)
Never A Hero (a Tucker Springs novel) by Marie Sexton (4.5 stars) (contemporary)
Night of Ceremony (Notice #4) by M. Raiya (4.5 stars) (fantasy, romance)
Noah by Ben Ryder (4 stars) (contemporary)
Shy by John Inman (4.25 stars) (contemporary)
Still by Mary Calmes (4.75 stars) (contemporary)
The Hellfire Legacy (The Night Wars #3) by Missouri Dalton (4.5 stars) (supernatural)
The Isle of…Where? by Sue Brown (4.5 stars) (contemporary)
The Unforgiving Minute by Sarah Grainger (4.75 stars) (contemporary)

3 to 3.75 Star Rating:
Chateau D’Eternite by Ariel Tachna (3.75 stars) Fantasy
Fire Horse by Mickie B. Ashling (3.75 stars) (contemporary)
His Heart To Reap by Erin Lane (3 stars) (supernatural)
It Takes Practice by Willa Okati (3 stars) contemporary

2 to 2.75 Star Rating:

 

Review: Damned If You Do: The Complete Collection by J.L. Merrow

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Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5

Damned If You Do collectionWhat does a male succubus (yes, you read that right, a male succubus) do when he is set free on Earth by an accidental summoning? Why, go looking for his next delightful meal and loads of hot, sexy fun of course.  That is exactly what Rael does after being set free.  But there is another succubus in town, one that is killing the people it is feeding upon, not just enjoying them and leaving them happy.  On the trail of the succubus killer is Detective Lars Thornsson of the Paranormal Enforcement Agency. Lars is half human half Valkyrie and all around gorgeous gay male.  When Det. Thornsson and his hard as nails partner, Chelle Rochelle,  show up at the nightclub looking for the killer show up at the nightclub looking for the killer, Lars has all the club boys drooling. This fact not lost on Rael who decides the detective is just the man for him. Then Lars and Chelle  find Rael instead of the true killer and take him in to headquarters for questioning.  Almost immediately lust and mutual attraction sets in and when the killer sets her sights on Lars, there is nothing Rael will do to keep his man  safe and at his side forever.

The Damned If You Do collection includes all four of the Rael and Lars stories that chart their relationship from beginning to HEA, which is saying a lot when you consider one is a sexy male succubus and the other a half Valkyrie half human. .Listed below is each story and a mini review of each wild zany romp:

Damned If You Do: The Complete Collection is composed of the following four stories which were all initially released separately:

A Calling for Pleasure cover1.  A Calling For Pleasure: The first in the Rael and Lars series.  We see how Rael makes it into our universe, his immediatel impact on Lars and his investigation as well as the start of their relationship.  Wild, wacky, and great fun.  Rael is a charming, sexy and endearing character as his beloved Lars.  Lars is huge and hugely vulnerable, with a sarcastic hard as nails partner  Chelle Rochelle and a wise and wry Police Captain, perfect for keeping within the stated genre and having fun with it.

At 25 pages, it is the shortest story and it shows in the lack of depth in the characterizations and plot.  Its cute, funny and fast.  Really, it just sets the stage for the longer and more involved stories to come and that’s fine when it is in a collection.  You can move on and still be satisfied that you read the first in the series.  It also has my least favorite cover as Rael is described as lithe, gliding and sex on two legs.  That model is just too muscular to be Rael.

Rating: 3.75 stars

Blast From the Past Rael and Lars22. A Blast From The Past: Lars and Rael are living together much to the chagrin of his cop partner, Chelle Rochelle.  Lars continued involvement with Rael is also kept hidden from his captain and coworkers.  Both Lars and Rael are afraid that Rael will be banished back into Hell, something Lars and his squad do with regularity to supernatural offenders.  But this is Rael and trouble is his middle name.  So of course, Rael’s ex boyfriend, Lev, enters the picture, determined to get him back, no matter the cost.  At the same time, someone demonic is setting fires all over the city and its up to Lars and Chelle to find the perpetrator and send him home.

This is such a cute story.  Its short at 68 pages but is still longer than the first story. The plot is more involved, the action swift, and the resolution perfect for the story setting and characters.  Everybody here is over the top in characterization, almost into the parady column but somehow is all works together.  I especially appreciate that with each new investigation, the characters increase in complexity along with the case the book revolves around.  Merrow gives us more back history for each person as the story progresses.  And as we learn additional facts about them, the more fully realized each character becomes.  Also each story also sets the framework for the next in the series.  Great job, and great little story.

Rating: 4 stars

3. A  Wish Too Far Lars and Rael 3A Wish Too Far:  Someone is peddling little pink pills out on the streets.  Those pills, called Wishes, are exactly what the Chinese philosopher has in mind when he said “Be careful what you wish for” because the wish always comes with a painful twist.  Det. Lars Thornsson and his partner Chelle Rochelle of the Paranormal Enforcement Agency  need to find the pill pusher and fast before someone is seriously injured. Rael thinks he knows the drug dealer but why would his cross dressing childhood friend do something like this?  Lars and Chelle’s case goes off the tracks quickly when Rael gets involved but the outcome will shock everyone in the case.

This 73 page story has a little more depth and pathos to it.  The cross dressing being, Shax, is a more vulnerable character with a darker past then we have seen in the previous stories.  The author manages to bring a more fully realized character into the fold while still keeping the humor intact.  Again the story is fast paced, the action and plot threads twisting around  faster than you can shake a canister of salt at it, and the ending is one I didn’t see coming.  My  second favorite story of the group.

Rating 4.25 stars.

Damned If you Do Glutton for Punishment4. A Glutton For Punishment: Once again Rael is the center of attention and it gets him nothing but trouble.  Rael and Lars relationship remains in the closet.  Unhappy with hiding, Rael takes to cooking for his man and is soon discovered as Rael’s talent for gourmet cooking lands him a job on the popular show Devon’s Plate as a guest chef.  But when the show’s host, Devon LaGrande goes missing, all suspicions land on Rael as the cause. With Rael being the center (again) of one of Lars’ investigation, Rael has to move out of their apartment and pretend to be his coworker’s partner, much to his and Lars chagrin.  Then Rael starts to receive threatening letters and the search is on to find the person responsible before Rael disappears too.

At 136 pages, this is the longest and most complicated story of the group.  There are several plot threads being juggled here, and the author does a great job of keeping us involved and in the loop, no matter how crazy a direction the story takes, and it takes quite a few.  Rael has become more than a sexy caricature of a succubus by this time and the reader is more invested in his and Lars future.  Lars and Chelle also have more dimension to them and as the story brings all the threads together in a happy ending, the reader leaves more than satisfied that Rael and Lars have a wonderful future ahead of them.  My  favorite story of the group.

Rating: 5 stars

I think this group of stories works best as a  collection than as separate books.  Had I purchased them separately and read them that way the individual story ratings might have been lower.  But because I was able to read them one after the other, the plots and increasing character depth flowed smoothly together and made for a very satisfactory read.  This is not a collection to be taken seriously.  It is to be enjoyed as the lighthearted fun romp that it is and who doesn’t need one or four of those?

I love J.L. Merrow as an author.  She has the ability to write this lighthearted romp and then pull us into the darker stories like her wonderful Pricks and Pragmatism without so much as a blink of an eye or should that be flick of a key?  If you are a first time Merrow reader, enjoy this paranormal series for the fun it represents and then start in with her other stories, perhaps Trick of Time, another favorite of mine.  I am sure you will be adding this author to your must read list shortly thereafter.  She is definitely one of mine.

Book details:

Ebook, Paperback, 280 pages
Expected publication: June 24th 2013 by Riptide Publishing
ISBN 1626490236 (ISBN13: 9781626490239)
urlhttp://www.riptidepublishing.com/titles/collections/damned-if-you-do-complete-collection
series

A Time for Remembering, Memorial Weekend and the Week Ahead in Reviews

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The month of May has always been a month of celebrations, from Mother’s Day to birthdays to important anniversaries. For me and mine, May is a time for family, either by choice or blood, and of any configuration.  For me, it is a time to celebrate those that I love, whether it is their birth, or mine and my sister’s (for my Mother), and anniversaries which helped bring all of us together.  And if the weather cooperates, than even my gardens appear to be celebrating as the azaleas, dogwoods, and all the flowers burst into pastel hues in anticipation of the intense colors of summer.

With all of these emotions and thoughts directed towards celebrating those we love for most of the month, it  seems more than fitting to end May with Memorial Day, a day dedicated to remembrance of those who lost their lives keeping us safe and making it possible to celebrate all those birthdays, and anniversaries of people and  families we hold so dear.  My grandfather is buried at Arlington National Cemetery and this year, we buried my uncle close to him in a ceremony so moving that people were stopped all over the vast landscape as the sounds of the gun salute rang out over the hills and the trumpet played Taps.

Rolling Thunder passes by my parents farm every year on their way into the District and my father, a veteran of the Korean war, goes outside and salutes them as they pass by.  Our media here in the metropolitan area is full of pictures and videos marking the solemn day of remembrance as flagsVietnam Vet Memorial 2 are put at every grave at Arlington and the crowds swell at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial as well as that of the World War II one nearby.  If you have never visited the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, then you have not experienced the power and overwhelming sense of loss that pervades that site. The  Wall itself a marker of the high cost of valor and service to our country in the names of the men and women lost reflected back to us.  In that black stone reflection, we see the list of names in chronological order and our own reflections, the recipients of their sacrifice.  For me, never has a memorial to our dead felt so alive, awash in grief, and sorrow and gratitude.Vietnam Vet Memorial

For most people, this weekend brings barbecues and picnics, gatherings of families and friends.  Take a moment and some quiet if you can, and remember.  Remember and pause to thank those who lie buried here and abroad, claimed and unnamed, for their sacrifice.  Because ,whether we acknowledge it or not, it is being reflected back to us across the picnic blankets and tables just as much as it is from the black wall itself.

Now for the week ahead in reviews:

Monday, 5/27:                     Memorial Day

Tuesday, 5/28                      Damned If You Do Collection by JL Merrow

Wednesday, 5/29:               Moments by R.J. Scott

Thursday, 5/30:                  Adapting Instincts by SJ Frost

Friday, 5/31:                        May Summary of Book Reviews

Saturday, 6/1:                       A Silence Kept by Theo Fenraven

There you have it.  Enjoy your Memorial weekend for those of you who live in the US or Americans abroad.  Spare some thoughts and prayers for those now gone and for those they left behind.

Soldier, rest! Thy warfare o’er,
Sleep the sleep that knows not breaking,
Dream of battled fields no more.
Days of danger, nights of waking.

-Sir Walter Scott

Arlington Cemetary overview

Review: Trick of Time by J.L. Merrow

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Rating: 5 stars

Trick of Time coverDevastated and scarred from the car accident that killed his husband and parents,  Ted Ennis decides to  work as a theatre assistant at the Criterion Theatre for his friend Rob,the manager of the theatre, rather than return to the bankers job he held prior to the accident and his disability. The crash has left Ted with some permanent physical issues as well as emotional ones, his hand shakes and his voice and speech changes under duress.  When stressed, one the of the things that helps to calm Ted is smoking.  One night during a production at the Criterion Theatre, Ted slips out the backdoor to grab a smoke and steps back in time into Victorian London.

With its dim lamps for street lights and sooty air, the sights and sounds of a 1800’s London surrounds him and Ted starts to wonder if the accident had not caused more damage to his brain than had been acknowledged.  Then amidst the horse carriages and people rushing by Piccadiily Square, Ted sees a beautiful young man leaning nonchalantly against a lamppost whose very face beckons Ted away from the theatre doorway.  The lad’s name is Jem and he’s a local whore who has mistaken Ted for competition.  At first, their relationship is a monetary one, but it quickly turns into something neither man is quick to label, drawing Ted back in time again and again searching out Jem just to be with him. But Ted doesn’t understand how or why he can travel back in time, and each time he returns, Jem is getting thinner.  Something tells Ted that time may be running out for them both unless he can figure out the trick of time.

J.L. Merrow has pulled from one of the most romantic, haunting of themes for the central basis of this story – that of opening a doorway or portal and stepping back in time.  Whether it is a door to a wardrobe,the sash of a window,or an unlikely looking machine,  the idea of actually being able to visit the past has enthralled and enchanted many a author and reader.  A Trick of Time, J.L. Merrow’s marvelous take on this theme, gives us a romantic, haunting and satisfying addition to this genre.

I am always so appreciative of Merrow’s ability to bring history to life through the author’s books and tales.  Within Merrow’s stories, the reader is thrust back in time where the air with thick with coal dust, the streets dingy, and life perilous for those poor or gay or just unlucky.  Here is a sample.  Ted and Jem have just sat down at a lowly pub near the theatre .” I looked down at the table, its surface scarred and pitted with use, crumbs of long-digested meals wedged in its crevices.”  I felt as though I could see that table, smell that table with its remnants of old food and greasy stench wafting up from its scarred wooden surface.  Merrow brings that pub to life in vivid detail, and does the same for every other part of this story.  I felt as though I had walked the streets accumulating grime as I strolled.

But it is her characters that bring the magic to the story.  Ted is a haunting and haunted figure with his scarred head, shaking hands, and survivor’s guilt.  How he grabs our empathy from the start and keeps it close throughout the story. We feel his disbelief when he steps into the past, and his terror that it might be his sanity at error. And as Ted’s desperation to see Jem, to be with Jem grows, we feel it as well.  And always in the back of our minds and Ted’s, is the fear that the doorway will close and Jem will be lost.  Merrow skillfully balances the deepening relationship with the growing fear of loss of same and keeps us teetering on the edge, caught between happiness and horror, joy and pain for Ted and Jem.  And make no mistake Jem is as beautifully realized a character as Ted Ennis.  Cocky, beautiful and very much a survivor but for how long?

Yes, there are places where some will argue that you have to suspend your belief, but don’t you have to do that to accept time travel as a possibility? This is a story of magical possibilities, a visitation to those dreams held close to the heart, of a love that not even time can deny to one who hopes. And who can deny the enchanting miracle of that?  Not me.  I loved this story and I think you will find it magical too.

Lovely cover although credit is not given to the artist in the book.

It’s 70 degrees here in Maryland and the Week Ahead in Reviews

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It’s January and it feels like mid Spring.  The woodpeckers are banging out their territory rhythms, the maples are budding out, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see the hyacinths and tulips start to peek out above the ground.  The meteorologists keep saying that it will get colder, and it does, for about a day and then the temperatures start to rise and voila, back to Spring.

Now for us in the past, February is the month to look out for.  It brings heavy snows and ice and all things wintery.  Except for last year, when it brought nada.  We need the water from snow melt, and that is not looking promising for us or any of the surrounding states.  So each day is a surprise, more so than usual.  What will our changing climate do to our day today?  Will it bring Spring or Winter?   Will it be quiet and calm or will winds with hurricane speeds be whipping over our rooftops?  No one can say for sure.  The one thing I do want to do is take those climate change doubters, those head in the sand ostriches, and give them a shake or two.  Tell them to get their heads out of their nether regions and take a good look around.  Time for us to make a change, one person at a time, while it is still possible. Still tut tuting over a favorite backyard azalea that is trying to bloom.

Here is a list with 50 easy ways to help the earth.  Wire and Twines “50 Ways to Help the Planet – go green, its not that hard!

Now for the Week Ahead in Reviews:

Monday, 1/14:                          Revolution by Bailey Bradford

Tuesday, 1/15:                         Some Kind of Magic by R. Cooper

Wed., 1/16:                               Horse of Bells by Pelaam

Thursday, 1/17:                       An Unsettled Range by Andrew Grey

Friday, 1/18                              Knight of Wands by Theo Fenraven

Saturday, 1/19                          Trick of Time by J.L. Merrow

So there it is, let’s see what happens.  Have a wonderful week.

Review of Lashings of Sauce Anthology

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3rdRating: 4.5 stars

Lashing: British slang for lots or large amounts.  In celebration of 2012 Olympics, the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the 3rd Annual UK GLBTQ Fiction Meet, a lashing of authors from all over the Globe put forth an GLBTQ anthology of stories that highlight everything that makes Britain  (and mainland Europe) a great place for GLBTQ people to love and live.

Here is a list of stories and authors in the order they appear:

• Post Mortem by Jordan Castillo Price
• Dressing Down by Clare London
• Et Tu, Fishies? by JL Merrow
• Zones by Elyan Smith
• Sollicito by Charlie Cochrane
• A Few Days Away by Elin Gregory
• Vidi Velo Vici by Robbie Whyte
• Shelter From Storms by Sandra Lindsey
• Faulty Genes by Rebecca Cohen
• Lost in London by Tam Ames
• My Husband by Zahra Owens
• Waiting for a Spark by Lillian Francis
• Social Whirl by Emily Moreton
• School for Doms by Anne Brooke
• Dragon Dance by Josephine Myles
• Reclaiming Territory by Becky Black

The stories contained within this anthology really run the gamut of GLBTQ sexuality as well as genre.  Here you will find stories of wereshifters of London (no, not those, quite the contrary) to lesbians in love, love in transition, timeless love or should that be love amuck the ages and finally lost lovers reunited after a long separation.  There is humor, ok, humour (sheesh) and brooding, and angst, all the emotions love pulls out of you and more.  And oh what authors await you between the pages, it is almost sinful to have such a wealth of talent in one book.

Some of the stories don’t fall into the realm of books I normally read and review but I will say that I enjoyed them all.  Thank you for my visit into f/f fiction as well as D/s.  There are stories of transgender persons and one who cross dresses with panache. These stories manage to combine great characterizations, vivid descriptions from locations all over Britain and plots that make you guffaw and break down in tears.  Here were some of my favorites among a list of outstanding stories:

Et Tu, Fishies? by J.L. Merrow.  When Bill leaves his fish tank along with his flat in the hands of Marty for the week, Marty was prepared for many things.  Cleaning, feeding the fish, masturbating in Bill’s bed, lots of things.  Nothing, however, prepared him for Arthur, the weird upstairs neighbor.  That would be Arthur Prefect. When Marty challenges him on his name, he says it used to be Herbert Wells.  Right.  And Arthur has lost his lover.  That would be..nope not giving that one away.  Yes, indeedy, we are off on a wonderful romp involving lashings of vodka, wine , walnuts and cheesy balls.  And time travel, snappy dialog and drunken sex.  Loved it.

Sollicito by Charlie Cochrane.  She did it, she went ahead and did it. Charlie Cochrane gives us weresloths of London.  With shifters of all sorts bounding across the pages of book after book, there was nary a weresloth among them.  Until now. Told from the point of view of an unnamed bloke who sprouts fur and long curved claws at the most inopportune moment, he bemoans the fact that his shifting, unlike the numerous wolf shape shifters, has no rhyme nor reason to it.   One moment he is fine, the next he has fur and the urge to move slowly along a balustrade.  Yes, insert spew event.  The whole story is like that.  While laughing out loud, I found a new phrase to use “divvy doo dah”.  Love the sound of that.  Had to look up Martin Johnson (not a clue), read the words “brolly dangling stage” several times as obscene images flittered across my mental landscape while remaining completely in the dark about the Junction 6 of the M40. Yes,I know.  It’s a British thing!  Love this story even as it boggled my very American mind.

Vidi Velo Vici by Robbie Whyte. Whyte uses a clever format for this story of lust, if not love discovered during a daily commute through traffic.  Each day Evan sets out for the office in his car only to find himself trapped in horrific traffic. Each day finds him on the phone to his sarcastic assistant, Tia, to have her rearrange his schedule as he is going to be late into the office.  Monday, 8:38 am and Evan’s car mirror is clipped by a cyclist weaving through the clogged cars.  Evan’s rage is only abated by watching some outstanding glutes in tight spandex peddling away.  Day after day, Even and the faceless cyclist appear on the same road and at the same time.  You listen in on Evan’s inner dialog as he watches for that magnificent physique to appear in the mirror, Evan consults with his sat-nav with the voice of Vader, Evan talks to Tia whose droll comments on Evan’s current legal case involving a shih tzu,  dog custody and someone named Antonio who he keeps sleeping with had me giggling madly.  It’s funny, it’s real, and has a great ending.

Shelter From Storms by Sandra Lindsey takes us back to the French Revolution as a wounded, frail Louis appears on the doorstep of Daniel Elcott in England.  He has made his way through war torn France to Daniel’s country manor with only a small dirty calling card to hand the butler. Once the men were lovers when younger, now Daniel is married with children.  But Louis has no where else to go as he has lost it all.  The men reconnect as Louis falls ill and Daniel attends to his needs.  Their love sparks once more as Louis convalesces.  Daniel finds that with Louis’ return so does the man he once was.  Lovely, well told story that brings history to life and makes a gay relationship seem not only possible but realistic as well.

Lost In London by Tam Ames.  Here we meet Kevin Larton, from Calgary in Canada.  He’s in London to go to school but finding it difficult to navigate his way.  He is finding his courses difficult, making new friends more so and when it comes to reading maps and getting around town, he is at a complete loss.  It doesn’t matter that he is here to get his PhD in Economics or was a city planner.  Kevin just can’t read maps so he is always lost. A chance meeting with Benjamin White gives Kevin a change in direction.  Everything starts to become possible, friends, degree and perhaps even a boyfriend.  There is a hilarious drunken scene, wonderful characters and I learned what a feedlot was.  Ewww.  Great story, though.

My Husband by Zahra Owen charts one person’s marriage through the tumultuous stages of their transitioning from female to male.  There is never a missed step as Owens treats the subject with sensitivity and authenticity.  Told from Sam’s POV, we meet Sean their husband and see their courtship and marriage through Sam’s memories.  Owen gives us a glimpse of what it must feel like to be born in the wrong body and the journey one person makes to correct nature’s mistake. Poignant and lovely.

Dragon Dance by Josephine Myles is the penultimate story and one of my top two (I have no intension of telling you all the other, guess why don’t you).  I love going to Chinatown here in DC and watching the Dragon Dance during the Chinese New Year so imagine my delight over a story wrapped around two friends and their families preparing the costumes and dragon for their neighborhood’s New Year celebration. Gan and Archie are two lifelong friends whose families are equally close in their small village’s Chinese community.  As their mothers make the Dragon from crimson parachute material and fashion the pearl it will chase after, the boys discover their sexuality and the love that has always been present.  Myles pulled me in completely from the vibrant portraits of the boys as they dance the Dragon Dance. As they practice, their movements are jerky and uncoordinated with respect to each other but as they communicate their love and desire  it becomes sinuous, motions beckoning each other forward that mimic the depth their relationship has finally achieved.  I could picture it unfolding so real did it all become. Sigh.

Reclaiming Territory by Becky Black is the last story of the anthology so it is fitting that it is the story of  an old love lost and then later reclaimed.  Jim and Andy are riding a motorcycle and sidecar to Whitby, a place full of memories for both men and their relationship, good and bad.  As they wander through town, making various stops we learn their history and what is has taken for the men to get to this stage in their relationship where they are now.  The story bounds between 2012, 1987 the year they broke up, and 2009, the year they reconnected.  Jim is so very human in his fears and faults as is Andy in his anger over Jim’s betrayal and cowardice.  All it takes is a look at the date and remember what it meant to be gay during that time period.  Yes, things have changed, yes, they have gotten easier in some parts of the globe but this story is a reminder of the fears of coming out and staying together as a gay committed couple that many had during the 80’s.  It is fitting that in celebrating our present, the past is never forgotten and Black does an outstanding job of bringing that  to us in the forms of Jim and Andy riding into the future firmly hooked together by vehicle and by choice.

Go out and grab this anthology, read each story, find your own favorites, Mine might shuffle as I read it once more.  Happy Jubilee, Queen, Great Olympics, Britain and have a wonderful time at the UK GLBTQ Fiction Meet.  I really wish I was there with you.  Divvy doo dah!

Cover art by Alex Beecroft.  Smashing I say! lol

Review of Pricks and Pragmatism by JL Merrow

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Rating: 4.25 stars

Luke Corbin is home studying when his lover and owner of the apartment comes home to tell Luke to pack and leave as he’s found someone new. And once more Luke finds himself homeless again, a circumstance that happens often as Luke trades his sexual favors for a place to live and food to eat while he is going to college.  His lifestyle was necessitated by his father throwing him out of the house when faced with a gay son, and Luke’s drive to finish college no matter what it takes to accomplish his goal.  It’s not like Luke has cared about any of the men who took him in, they were just a means to an end.

Then a former lover introduces Luke to his friend,Russell, a chemical  engineer who just might be able to help Luke out.  Russell is definitely not the type of man Luke would hook up with. For starters, he has a pudgy round face surrounded by a scraggy beard and too long mousy brown hair. Russell is wearing clothes that would have been castoffs in the 80’s and is about as socially inept as they come.  But when Russell offers Luke a place to live, Luke is prepared to handle it in his normal way.  But Russell refuses Luke’s seductive attempts. For Russell, sex is about more than casual hookups and all he wants to do is help Luke out.

As Luke slowly adjusts to just being a roommate instead of bed partner, he starts noticing all the things about Russell that make him special and unique in Luke’s experience.  Russell is kind, smart, and funny. And all of a sudden Luke is looking at Russell very differently than any else before.  What will happen when Luke throws out his pragmatic ways in hopes of catching the one man who doesn’t appear to want him?

I am a fan of JL Merrow’s books and this little story just adds to my admiration.  Merrow packs a lot of emotion and plot into 60 pages. In Luke, you have a totally understandable young man.  While you may not like his actions, when you learn the foundation for his behavior, his attitude towards his lovers as well as his outlook on the methods he chooses to get by become acceptable as well as understandable.  To Luke, he is not whoring himself out but merely exchanging services to get what he wants.  Luke is all too human, he has been hurt by his family and by his first lover and it shows.

Russell is a great unexpected character.  This is not your typical cute nerd with glasses who becomes a gorgeous god when he takes them off, Clark Kent style.  No Russell remains Russell, an out of shape, shy, nice guy who everyone overlooks or thinks of as totally forgettable.  I don’t think there is a person out there who can’t come up with someone like a Russell in their own life or memories. Perhaps, like Luke at his first encounter with Russell, we wrote them off or ignored them. But Merrow shows us what happens when circumstances forces both parties to become acquainted with each other to the point of friendship first.  Then the exterior  qualities can somewhat fade in order for the person’s inner character to shine through.

In 60 pages, Merrow gives us a lovely little journey through low expectations into found friendship and the potential that lies ahead if only it can be seen and acknowledged.  It really is a lovely romantic tale full of unexpected realism and some straight truths about people and our perceptions.  Great job.

Cover by Angela Waters