The Tin Star – My Favorite M/M Books

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Recently I was asked to name my all-time favorite book and I was stumped.  Not because I couldn’t come up with a name but because I came up with far too many and in a multitude of categories.

So we switched gears and was asked to name my top favorite book that I would recommend for someone to read.  Nope.  Still couldn’t do it.  But it was a smaller list this time.  Well, I spent the night mulling it over, then got up and toddled  over to my overloaded bookshelf (pre-Kindle days) for inspiration.  I didn’t have to look long as the stories I loved have the look of someone who stayed too long at the party.  You know the signs, they appear off color from too much wear and tear plus they are a little bent around the edges. Perfect.

The first one I grabbed will be the first I recommend.  The Tin Star by J.L. Langley.  I am so fond of this book that it is a comfort reread for me.  I am sure you have those.  You are home sick, have the sniffles so you haul out the hot tea and curl up in a chair with old friends in a favorite story.  Like Pooh and his Hunny Pot.

The Tin Star is the story of rancher Ethan Whitehall and James Killian, brother of one of Ethan’s best friends.  Ethan is from one of the oldest families in town and his ranch, The Tin Star, makes him one of the most respected and powerful men in town.  Ethan is gay but given the small town homophobic atmosphere, he keeps his sexuality under wraps.

Then Jamie comes out to his family and is promptly kicked off his home, the Quadruple J Ranch and out of the only life he had ever known.  Gone is his home and job as the ranch foreman.  Jamie turns to the one man he has always looked up to and secretly crushed on for years – Ethan Whitehall.  Now Ethan has a choice to make.  Does he stake all he has when it turns out that Jamie needs not only shelter but protection from those whose hatred and bigotry spell danger to Jamie and those around him.

J.L. Langley’s characters are so well written that they eat, breathe, and ooze so much sex appeal that they almost jump off the page.  Ethan and Jamie have their flaws, they are real people.  But the men here have the ability to make you laugh as well as they struggle towards a relationship.  The secondary characters surrounding them, such as John Killian (Jamie’s brother), Bill the foreman and even Spot, Ethan’s ornery horse become real to you as you move into the story.  This book has everything…..love, humor, suspense, and hot, hot men.  What’s not to love?

J.L. Langley has written two books in this series so far, the second is The Broken H which has crossover characters from this novel.  Published by Loose Id in 2006, it is still available from them as well as Amazon and All Romance Publishing.  And don’t miss the Christmas short, The Christmas Tree Bargain, as Jamie and Ethan celebrate their first Christmas together.

 

Review: Ranch Series by JL Langley

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Rating: 5 stars for the series

We’ve looked at JL Langley’s wolf shifters and her Sci-Regency series, so let’s finish up back where I first started my love with all things JL Langley. And that would be with her cowboys which is fitting with an author who resides in Texas and has a state of imagination to equal it.  Tomorrow I will be talking about why I love The Tin Star, the very first Langley book I read.  I have always had a soft spot in my heart for cowboys.  I think it come along with my love for horses and never left.  I spent a summer as a junior wrangler at a dude ranch called Stupid Charlie’s in Colorado at the impressionable and yes, hormonal age of 15. And if I had had a dick, I would have had a raging woody all summer long from being in the middle of a crew of young,handsome (aren’t they all at that age wearing chaps and boots) cowboys more experienced than I was at that age.  I fell in love with a bay horse named Senagita and a cowboy (all of 16) named Lane and wanted to take both of them  home with me at the end of the summer.  Needless to say, my folks said no to both. Aw shucks was I heartbroken, although I can’t begin to tell you whether it was over the loss of the horse or the boy.  All I know is that I was inconsolable for the longest period of time until I found a local stable to hang out at,  Susan a fellow hunter,  and a horse we both loved called Tiptop. But I never stopped dreaming of cowboys and would go to the rodeo whenever it came to town (oh yes they did, even in DC).

JL Langley’s Ranch series gives me plenty of cowboys to love and hang out with, from Jamie and Ethan of The Tin Star to Grayson Hunter and Shane Cortez of The Broken H while bringing back so many fond memories of life on a ranch.  As she does with all her series, she populated her Ranch books with characters flawed, human and still memorable, ones we give our hearts and affections to easily and completely.  In addition to the cowboys, we also get wonderful idiosyncratic animals too.  There is a horse named Spot who plays keep away and a female dog called Fred who steals each and every scene they are in.  Gather them all together in a small town in  Texas surrounded by family and friends who comes across as equally authentic and realistic as the main characters and you have a series that will mean as much to you as your first cowboy hat and boots.

The Tin Star (Ranch Series #1) stars Jamie Killian as the youngest son of Jacob Killian of the Quadruple J and Ethan Whitehall, owner of The Tin Star ranch.  The Quad J borders The Tin Star and the two families have been intertwined their entire lives.  John, Jamie’s older brother has been Ethan’s best friend so as long as they can remember, even going off to college together.  And hopes had run high between the two fathers that one of the Whitehall boys would marry Julia, the Killian sister and bring the ranches together.  But Ethan’s brother was killed overseas on a tour of duty and  Ethan, well, Ethan found out he was gay, something the older Killians were fine with but that Jamie never knew.  Until Jamie comes out to his father and is kicked off the ranch he thought he would never leave.  When Ethan offers Jamie sanctuary and tells Jamie that he is gay as well, then the sparks really begin to fly as Jamie has harbored a crush on Ethan from the moment he knew he liked boys instead of girls.

Ethan has always been circumspect about his sexuality, neither hiding it or rubbing it in the face of their conservative town folk.  But when Jamie comes to the ranch to live, Ethan finds not only a friend but a lover for life in the form of his best friend’s brother.  But the sparks of hate are flying in town too.  Former ranch hands are looking to get even with Ethan for being fired and homophobia presents itself as stores won’t sell grain to the newly outed Ethan.  Langley makes us feel the hatred rising off Jacob Killian and other townspeople so far gone in their homophobia that all reason and humanity becomes lost.  But  where there is the worst of human beings on display, JL Langley is quick to show that others can come forward with their tolerance, and objectivity to welcome Ethan into the town’s fold, and Jamie too no matter their sexuality.  Powerful stuff made real by Ethan and Jamie’s situation as they work towards a loving relationship and a future together.  Great story, great characters, great book.

The Broken H involves several of the people we meet in The Tin Star.  Grayson Hunter was one of the sheriff’s investigation the crimes of hate on  The Tin Star.  The Broken H is Gray’s family ranch, owned by his parents and run by Shane Cortez.  Shane Cortez had been brought onto The Broken H by Gray’s father when Shane was a young boy.  Gray never knew the entire story but accepted Shane’s presence and was soon following him around everywhere, a clear case of puppy love.  But then one summer changed everything between the two men and Gray left the ranch and went to college.  His parents knew something had happened but never pushed either boy for answers.  Now Gray has returned to town and accepted a job in the Sheriff’s office.  It also means a return to his family, The Broken H, and to face the man he ran away from all those years ago,  Lovers reuniting after time spent apart draws me like a moth to a flame and JL Langley’s treatment of this theme will push all your buttons if you love it too.  There is misunderstandings, and one person trying to protect the other, and above all a deep abiding love between the two men involved.  That’s just so wonderful.

And lurking just behind all of this is the theme of the awful price GLBTQ youth pay for coming out to those who mean the most and won’t accept them, their families.  Over and over gay youth are kicked out of homes and families due to hatred concerning their sexuality.  Some survive when others intervene, some do whatever they can to exist on the streets, and some just don’t make it.  The plight of gay youth discarded because of who they love is brought home more forcibly when characters we have come to love have the same backstory as they do and we feel what they have gone through by the power of an author’s writing.  We see Ethan, Jamie, John, Aunt Margaret and many of the other townspeople we came to care for in the previous book and we get a glimpse of a possible couple that people want to see united.  That would be John and Royal.  JL Langley has put the cut pages from the book on her website and they will make you want more, so much more of John and Royal.  She tends to do that with her peripheral characters because they are bursting with life as much as the main couples to our continued appreciation and joy.

The Christmas Tree Bargain is the third story in the series.  It was published as a stocking stuffer by Loose id.  A heartwarming short story, it brings together all the cast of characters from the two novels at Christmas time.  We get to catch up in their lives on a very special occasion.  This story is not to be missed if you love the other two as much as I do.

So there you have it, the Ranch series by JL Langley.  Her fans have been screaming for more, especially John and Royal’s story but so far to no avail.  She says she’s busy with Sterling and Rhys, Trouble and Rexley, and Bannon and Lord Demon among others.  Since I want all those stories too I wouldn’t think of interrupting her.  If they start speaking to her, I know she will listen, eventually.  I’m good with that.  I have these books and all the rest to reread until a new one comes out.  Pick out a series and start from the beginning and I know you will feel the same.

Review of With or Without Series by JL Langley

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ating: 5 stars for the series

My first introduction to JL’s shifters came when I picked up the Hearts From The Ashes anthology and read With Love, the first in Langley’s shifter series.  It featured a young clutzy Omega wolf named Laine Campbell who was perpetually in hot water over things he said or creating chaos with the things he did.  Everything about Laine was adorable, from his hair to his manner of speech and I fell in love immediately.  So did Dev, the Alpha wolf moving to Ashton with his betas and business partners.  He was hooked on Laine and I was hooked on Dev.  I could not believe it when the story was over. I wanted more shifters, specifically I wanted JL’s shifters and I wanted them now. This is a reoccurring theme with JL Langley’s books so be prepared.

Then came Without Reservations in 2007 and my addiction was official.  Without Reservations is the story of Chayton Winston, a veterinarian living in New Mexico.  He is also a shifter and all his life he has been dreaming of a fair haired mate, much to his Native American  parents chagrin.  His entire life Chay has considered himself heterosexual until an injured wolf is brought into his office.  The wolf is a gorgeous male shifter and his mate.  He is also Caucasian something he is sure his mother will never accept.

Keaton Reynolds wakes up in a veterinarian ‘s office to find himself injured and being treated by his mate.  He should be overjoyed except he just got out of a relationship from a shifter who had a girlfriend on the side but also said he was Keaton’ mate.  Keaton is not one to repeat his mistakes and a hetero shifter is not someone he wants to take a chance on, no matter what his body and even his heart may think.  But Chay won’t give up on Keaton and finally Keaton agrees to get to know Chay better.  And slowly they start to build a relationship together.  But there is Chay’s mother’s disapproval to overcome and a power struggle in Keaton’s Georgia pack that threatens them both.  How will they overcome the odds to find the happiness they both deserve?

I reread this book all the time.  Chayton Winston and Keaton Reynolds are such wonderful creations that I return to their story time and again.  Chayton is one of the nicest people you will meet in the author’s novels.  He is both elementally patient and rock solid in his beliefs so that when presented with a man as a mate, he accepts it.  If it switches his sexuality over to gay, ok as long as he gets his mate, something no wolf shifter would ever turn down.  And you believe this paradigm shift absolutely as being in character for Chayton because he is so real from the moment we meet him.  Keaton also engages our hearts and affections with his prickly nature  and forceful personality packed into a slight build.  A small white wolf, he has the personality and power of an Alpha without needing to lead. Keaton would rather teach and help educate so the fact that his mate would be a healer, a veterinarian makes complete sense.  JL Langley surrounds these two with people as authentic and believable as they are and gives us a mystery to boot.  Just an outstanding novel.

With Caution came next.  It remains my favorite of the series and again one I read over and over again.  With the characters of Remington Lassiter and Jake Romero, JL brings a level of complexity and depth to her characterizations that I had not seen before.  And added to our main characters, she introduces us to the rest of the men who will become their pack.  Each man is a unique unforgettable creation as they sit astride their motorcycles and roar into our hearts.  Remy is a shifter we meet in Without Reservations and he makes a rather disastrous first impression upon us in that story.  But here we discover the dark background that surrounds him in shocking detail as well as the reasons for his actions.

There are parts of this novel so bleak and despairing your hearts will bleed for Remy and his brother Sterling  even as our hero bleeds out from the abuse.  Remy’s sexuality and his acceptance of a male mate is a huge part of this story and his past as well.  I cannot give Langley enough credit for the sensitive way she deals with child abuse and recovery as an adult.  There is also a murder mystery to be solved, and the exploration of a naturally submissive nature.  There is some mild bdsm that works beautifully within the plot of the story and the glimpses of new couples, mates, for future stories.  One couple in particular has had the fans clamoring for their story since this book was published.  This story has depth, multi-layered characters and a multitude of themes running through it, not the least of which is how Reservaton law can also isolate the members it is supposed to protect, control issues and child abuse.  Heavy themes indeed but this book is also packed with love and redemption.  With Caution is an incredible read you won’t want to put down.

Next comes a series of free stories that can be found on the Fiction With Friction website until JL Langley’s site is back up and running.  These are in order:

A Lot To Be Thankful For (With or Without Series 3.1) Sterling Lassister and Rhys Waya (the fans just wouldn’t shut up for their story)

A Sterling New Year (With or Without Series 3.2)  with Sterling Lassister and Rhys Waya (love, love these two and so will you, get on the bus)

With Abandon (With or Without #4) brings back Aubrey Reynolds and the rest of the Georgia pack that we met in Without Reservation.  Aubrey is Keaton’s brother and our introduction to him in Without Reservation was not exactly a positive one.  Matt Mahihkan, one of Gadget’s sons from With Caution is back and going to college in Georgia. Matt was a quirky young man who we got to know only superficially but JL Langley brings him together with  Aubrey Reynolds and that combination sparks all sorts of problems not the leasts of which is that Aubrey is not out to his family or the pack. And Matt is not only out and proud but turns out he is Aubrey’s mate. It took me a while to like Aubrey, perhaps some of that was left over emotions from Without Reservation.  But his reluctance to accept Matt officially as his mate made him hard to like.  He has to grow on you, something none of the other characters has had to do.  Matt, of course, is absolutely adorable and we entrust our affections with him from the get go.  And with Matt, comes some of the members of the New Mexico pack we have come to love as well.

Next come three free short stories in succession. I am convinced JL Langley thought the fans would be showing up on her doorstep if she didn’t at least throw them all several bones. I will admit to being one of them:

Christmas Dinner at Reynolds Hall (With or Without, #4.1)

Attack of the Killer Dust Bunnies (With or Without, #4.2) 

Christmas Cookies and Garland (With or Without, #4.3)

So what and who are coming next?  That would be Sterling and Rhys.  This is the story everyone has been yelling for, myself included. I believe JL Langley said it will be done in a few month from now but isn’t sure when it will be published. That will depend upon Samhain Publishing’s schedule.  Be still my heart.

Without Fear (With or Without series #5) – coming from Samhain Publishing.

So that’s JL Langley’s shifters in a nutshell.  I am not sure I did them justice.  Shifters of all species hit my buttons. Native American shifters hit them twice.  I don’t care if they are wolves, big cats or even weresloths of London (thank you, Charlie Cochrane for that memorable story).  But thinking back to the beginning, it all started with JL Langley’s wolves who come to life on the pages of the With and Without series, grabbed both my attention and my heart and have never let them go.  I have these books in paperback (prior to my Kindle) and I have them now in eBooks as well.  From their killer covers to their outstanding characters and plots, I return to them often.  To reacquaint myself with old friends and find comfort in their presence.

Some find JL Langley through her cowboys and others through her sci-Regency series.  I found her through her shifters.  If you are new to JL Langley as an author, try them all.  Start from the beginning of each series and work your way down.  You will find yourself with a new  addiction just as I did.  Write me. Let me know what you think. I will be waiting.

Review of My Regelence Rake (Sci-Regency #3) by JL Langley

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Yes, I know this should have come later but I couldn’t help it.  I loved this book.  The contest winner will still be announced on Friday.  Enjoy.

Rating: 5 stars

Prince Colton Townsend has loved Lord Sebastian Hastings since he was fifteen.  The Captain of the Guard is everything Colton has ever wanted.  He’s handsome, dashing, and an excellent horseman.  His affections have never been returned by Hastings but Colton has never figured out if that was because the Captain sees him still as a young boy instead of a man or perhaps because Sebastian has declared never to remarry.  Still his crush  continued right up until the day he and his brothers spied Captain Hastings in a tryst in a garden during a ball.  Now  Colton decides to focus only on his horses and opening a racing stable will help him forget about his love for the Captain of the Guard.

Lord Sebastian Hastings’ schedule changed from busy to overwhelmed when asked by King Steven to provide security for all of the Royal Family on a constant basis, including Prince Colton.  Sebastian isn’t certain when exactly he became aware of how handsome the young man had become.  Sebastian knew the young Prince had a crush on him as the lad followed him around like a puppy when younger.  But lately, Colton has seemed distant, even downright curt and that bothered Sebastian more than he wanted to admit.  Then an argument with Colton over disobeying his orders flared into a kiss, and then another and all of Sebastian’s carefully erected barriers began to fall.

During a visit to Tattersalls to bid on horses for his stable, Colton and Sebastian find an abused horse and determine to save it.  The consequent events turn the horse’s abusive owner into a enemy who spreads rumors about the men and their relationship throughout society.  When the nasty gossip causes people to shun Colton at a ball, Hastings acts to quell the rumors by asking for Colton’s hand in marriage.  But instead of solving things, the marriage is only the beginning of the problems for the couple, as Sebastian is keeping secrets from Colton, an old flame reappears, and a family close to the Admiral and Sebastian have disappeared, perhaps murdered as part of the INS conspiracy against the throne. Colton  hopes that one day he will have a marriage like his fathers, one with two men deeply in love with each other.  Colton knows his marriage is only halfway there.  Now if only Sebastian would help make the rest come true.

With My Regelence Rake JL Langley has done it again.  She has given us a book not only worth the wait but one that leaves us immediately clamoring for the next in the series as soon as we have finished reading it.  All the elements that make this series so addictive are present and accounted for.  Great world building – check, outstanding characters – check, hot, hot sex – check, ongoing intrigue and mystery – check and finally romantic love – oh absolutely check.  Yes, all there and then some.  We are back on the planet Regelence after the events in The Englor Affair which took us off planet in search of more information about the political unrest being instigated between the planets.  Each subsequent book  finds new suspects in the sinister  happenings in the INS (the galactic navy)  and points to corruption at the highest levels of the service.  The royal Townsends of Regelence are being backed into a corner and no one is certain who is to be trusted.  And with each new piece of evidence that appears, another mystery surfaces to widen the scope of the investigation and make the infiltration of the royal family defenses an easier target.  As she builds the suspense, Langley ups our anxiety for the safety of the people we have come to care about greatly.  The terror of loss is never far from our thoughts when Aiden is giving chase down a alley way or Sebastian is attacked in the streets.  Is it part of the conspiracy or something entirely different?  Langley keeps us guessing and on the edge of our seats the entire time.

And then there are all those marvelous characters we have come to love over the series and new ones as well.  Everyone is present here, except perhaps for Simon and Payton.  Yes, this is Colton and Sebastian’s book and their romance is terrific.  We have watched Colton grow up in the last two books and the tantalizing glimpses we had of Sebastian come to fruition here.  Sebastian is a complex character.  His background is muddied and his marriage, which left him a widower, unhappy. Together they form a new endearing couple for us to cheer for. But we also get a closer look at the relationships of Nate and Aiden, and Steven and Raleigh.  We see clearly how well Nate and Aiden have settled into a marriage still so passionate and full of love but now time has allowed them a new security in with all things shared between them as a loving established couple.  Steven and Raleigh are here, demonstrating their love and passion in ways  both humorous and joyful while still exhibiting the strength of their feelings for their children and family.  How I love these two and I am thrilled JL Langley will give them their own story.  The real surprise here?  A closer look at Trouble and Rexley’s relationship.  Even now, I just feeling giddy over the scenes and revelations about them in MRR.  I will not spoil this for you all but trust me, it is worth the price of the book alone for these reveals!  Oh, and I have to mention Apollonia, the star of the stable and a new favorite character of mine.  I want one just like her.  She is adorable and a great addition to the family.  JL Langley’s characterizations never feel anything less than real, their emotions always come across as authentic as ours and their relationship issues ones we can relate to and understand.  All these and more are reasons why the author’s characters stay with us long past the end of the books.

Does this book, all hot and sexy, all romance and love have a happily ever after?  Why yes it does!  But JL Langley also raises some much larger questions about the INS and those arraigned against the Townsends and their allies.  She has left us some mystery concerning Sebastian and his family, given us a far more complex Rexley than I had imagined, and as to that missing family? Well, they too have a larger part in this conspiracy puzzle JL has created and now there is an encrypted computer chip to decipher.  So the mystery snowballs along with the romance.  How I love this series.  More please, JL, much, much more!

Cover:  Another hot cover by Angela Waters to go along with those of  My Fair Captain and The Englor Affair.  Definitely some of the hottest naked torsos in the business.

Autumn Comes to Maryland, Vote 6 for Equality and the Week Ahead in Reviews

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Good morning to all and what a spectacular day it is here in Maryland.  The sky is that crystalline crisp blue that I only see in Fall, the clouds fluffy white and a huge flock of Canada geese just flew overhead, their cries trumpeting the arrival of Fall.  How I love this time of year, my pulse quickens, my step is a tad more brisk (such as it is these days), and I feel like rejuvenated after the sweltering heat of summer. The Monarch butterflies are flitting through the garden on their way to Mexico, and what a journey they have in front of them, over 3, 000 miles of ingrained need to fly to a place they have never been.  Amazing when  you  consider they are fragility on wings.

Autumn is a time of movement, a time of activity, both measured and frantic.  Beaver and muskrats are busy with caches of food and antlers, so too are the squirrels and white footed mice. All have plenty to do to make sure the food stores are full for the winter.  Bees zoom around the garden, gathering pollen and nectar from the spectacular profusion of gold, white and purple flowers of the season.  The  New England asters, goldenrod, the Black-eyed Susans, and the Joe Pye weed that linger on.  Most people think of Autumn colors as red, yellow and orange, but the fall gardener knows that the harbinger of Fall also carries the colors of white, gold and purple to all the gardens and fields around us.

Fall brings change.  Leaves swirl to the ground as the sap returns to their roots in preparation for Winter, seeds are scattered by wind and animal alike, and the animals start their migration to the winter feeding grounds.  The songbirds seek the safety of the night for their travels while the raptors, secure as top predators of the air, wing their way south during the daylight hours, soaring above as they follow the coasts and mountains. I watch the squirrels stuffing leaves into the neighbors chimney with all the energy and enthusiasm of teenagers on energy drinks.  I have never seen those neighbors use their chimney and hope that for the squirrels sake that this continues.   My old bird feeder finally fell apart from the relentless onslaught from the non flighted visitors and  a new one should arrive any day, carrying with it the hope of a squirrel proof feeder. Hah, I say from experience.  My money is on the squirrels.

I am hoping for another change in Maryland this fall.  It is 51 days until the election and I am hoping that this fall brings Marriage Equality for all in the state of Maryland.  If you  live here, please vote for Question 6 and make it legal for all GLBTQ to marry here.  It is long past time for this to happen, equal marriage rights are long overdue.  Let’s be a voice for progress and become a partner in movement for equal rights for all.  Vote yes for Question 6 and let’s make the promise a reality!  I will be there on voting day and hope you will join me.

Finally, October will see several special events on my blog.  First up, actually the very first week is Regency Sci-Fi week with JL Langley in preparation for My Regelence Rake release October 1st.  I have an interview with JL, recap of the series to date, a discussion about  Regency novels, and a contest to give away a copy of My Regelence Rake to someone who comments during the week!  Whew!  I am also participating in the Howloween Blog Hope at the end of October where I will be giving away a Amazon gift card during the blog hop!  So stay tuned, my pretties, we have a great time planned this fall.  Change is in the air, I can feel it.  Can you?

Here are the books to be reviewed this week:

Monday:                         Life As A Fairy Thrall by Katey Hawthorne

Tuesday:                         Making Contact (Sci Fi Anthology)

Wednesday:                   Nate’s Deputy by Lavinia Lewis

Thursday:                       Gregory’s Rebellion by Lavinia Lewis

Friday:                             The Melody Thief by Shira Anthony

Saturday:                         Wolf’s Own Book One Ghost by Carole Cummings