Review: Losing Better (Superpowered Love #4) by Katey Hawthorne

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Rating: 4.75 stars

Losing Better coverFBI  Special Agent Gabriel Genêt is back in Hooperstown, North Carolina, a place he couldn’t wait to escape in his youth.   Agent Genet has been charged with a very special mission, one he is uniquely suited for as one of the superpowered beings.  Gabriel Genet is back in his hometown to collect evidence that will lead to the arrest of Andrew Wynne, a vigilante superpowered being operating in Hooperstown. Gabriel knows the real reason he was chosen for this job is the special connection he had in the past with Andrew Wynne.

Ten years ago when both men were boys their parents were having an affair with each other and Gabriel’s Dad had dragged him down to the lake for a summer for an extended visit with Andrew’s mother.  Gabriel and Andrew spent their time avoiding their parents, ragging on each other and ultimately hooking up as well.  So when Andrew’s name comes up as a suspect in several FBI cases, Gabe is expected to use their past and any means possible to get the evidence the FBI needs to lock up Andrew for his crimes.

At first, Gabriel doesn’t expect any problems.  Get close, get the evidence and get out. But once back in Hooperstown, old memories start bubbling to the surface when Gabe reconnects with Andrew and their sexual attraction flares as hot as it did in the past.  And the longer the case takes, the deeper the affection and attraction between the two men grows until  Gabriel starts to doubt not only his ability to complete the job but his entire future as a FBI agent.  Who will win and who will lose or is it just possible for two superpowered men at opposite ends to find middle ground before its too late for both of them.

Losing Better is the fourth book in the Superpowered Love series and I think it is the best yet.   I love Riot Boy and wondered how Katey Hawthorne was ever going to be able to supplant that book in my heart and then she writes Losing Better, one white hot tale of love and lust between two emotionally messed up and diametrically opposed men. I also think that the characters the author created for Losing Better are the most complex, difficult, and yet thoroughly human (albeit with super powers) people we have seen from her.

I fiind Gabriel Genet to be a masterpiece actually.  When we first  meet Gabe, he comes across as a supremely confident individual, almost rigid in his  black/white view of the world, one in which he is always the winner.  Sarcastic, superior and goal oriented, that’s Gabe.  And as it is told from Gabe’s pov, even in his thoughts on everything from the town to Andrew, he telegraphs to the reader as something of a consummate jerk.  I kept trying to find something to like about Gabe at the beginning and failing miserably.  It didn’t help that Gabe’s quarry is Andrew Wynne, a gorgeous “sheep dog” of a young man, with his puppy eyes and ferocious need to please and be loved. In Andrew Wynne Hawthorne has given us such an endearing, accessible person that we emotionally leap to his defense from the start.  Even as the reader listens to Gabe plotting against  Andrew, we are outraged on Andrew’s behalf and Gabriel’s cruelty towards Andrew almost derails any attempt at affinity we start to muster. Opposite forces are at work at all facets of this story and nothing is as it seems on the surface. But when the cracks in Gabe’s emotional veneer start to appear, then our view of him starts to morph as well.  And soon it is hard to remember our antipathy towards the hard, focused man we first meet because everything has changed.

I love the structure and narrative of this story.  We dislike the protagonist who is telling the story and root for the appealing, vulnerable man of his past who only has the best interests of the town at heart, or so it appears.  Katey Hawthorne gives us two men whose past and family interactions have served to mold them into two diametrically opposed forces each confident that their path is the only correct path.  Even their super powers are uniquely qualified to short each other out.  Gabe controls electricity so of course it flows that Andrew’s gift is that of water and the currents between the two are supercharged on every level.

And then the true complexities starts to reveal themselves as the story and Gabe’s investigation progresses.  Each man carries within him the same pain filled dysfunction that stems from the same family dynamics but the truth behind what that past has done to them as they grew into men escapes in spurts throughout the narrative until it explodes into view at the end.  The author gives us a surface that she slowly distorts and cracks until the real story she wants to tell is exposed before us as are the real Gabe and Andrew.

Of course, Hawthorne throws in some wonderful side characters, including that of Kieran, a friend whose sexual good nature includes a whopping helping of both men whenever he is in town.  Trust me, even if a menage is not your thing, it is hard to not love Kiernan.  He really is a friend to both men and while he may play with them sexually, it really doesn’t factor into their relationship except at the beginning when Gabe uses him as an emotional buffer between himself and Andrew.  It’s realistic, understandable, and very hot!  Luckily, Kieran is getting his own story so we will be seeing him again.

But the heart of this story is the relationship between Gabriel and Andrew and how families and our past can define what we become as adults.  The end is electric, rewarding, complex, and of course, perfect.  Just like the men themselves.  And Losing Better gets better with the second reading as the some of the subtleties the author puts into play becomes more transparent the second time around.  I cannot recommend this book or series enough.  You don’t have to read them in the order they were written as they can act as stand alone novels but I enjoy the compiled history I get reading them as a series.

Here they are in the order they were written:

Equilibrium (Superpowered Love, #1)

Jealousy: A Love Story (Superpowered Love, #1.1)

Best Gift Ever (Superpowered Love, #1.2)

Riot Boy (Superpowered Love, #2)

Nobody’s Hero (Superpowered Love, #3)

Losing Better (Superpowered Love, #4)

Cover Artist: P. L. Nunn.  Another wonderful cover by P.L. Nunn for the series.

Available at Loose id, Amazon, and All Romance.

Review: MIA Case Files 3: Craving by K.C. Burn

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Rating: 2.75 stars

MIA Files 3 CravingAgents Brandon Ellison and his partner Oliver Cardoso were on a mission for the MIA (Metaphysical Investigative Agency) when it  went horribly wrong, injuring Brandon Ellison.  That mission and its aftermath ended Brandon’s career as a field agent due to his disabilities and broke up the partnership, both romantically and as agents.

Now seven years later, Oliver and his new partner, Carmichael, are on a mission when almost the exact thing happens again.  But this time, with more experience under his belt, Oliver and partner come through with minor injuries.  When they go to complain to the head of MIA’s Research and Development Team, they find Brandon Ellison in charge and unable to explain what went wrong.  But Oliver’s new partner doesn’t trust Brandon, and thinks Brandon is behind the malfunctioning sonic charge that almost got them killed. Brandon is equally distrustful of Carmichael as well as jealous of his closeness to his former lover.

When Brandon invites himself along on their next mission to investigate problems with the weaponry, fireworks fly once more between Brandon and Oliver as their rivalry and memories vie for dominance and old love starts to resurface.  With hundreds of lives at stake, old and new grudges must be put aside if everyone is to survive this latest mission.

I picked up this book by K.C.Burn without reading any of the prior books in the series and that has left me as well as any other reader confused from the start. Burn supplies the reader with no back history to explain the alternative world I found myself reading about.  Apparently a war is going on between the human world and Umbrae (?) with portals being opened by the enemy to let through all sorts of creatures, from werewolves, vampires,demons and more. Who the nefarious Umbrae are and why they are unhappy with the human race is never quite explained.   Unlike other books where you can gather enough information from the various story threads to piece together a vision of the world, the author just assumes you have read the previous books and carries on.

So I will just concentrate on those portions of the book the reader can understand, the characters.  I liked the character of Oliver Cardoso. A green agent when the first accident happens, now he is a seasoned field op of 43, older and greying.  Oliver is certainly the most layered character you will find here.  Burn does a nice job conveying his weariness over the job and the emotional isolation he has imposed on himself since the first mission.  Brandon Ellison is a harder character to warm up to .  For Brandon, everything has hinged around that first failed mission.  His disability and his loss of Oliver has consumed his life.  The fact that Brandon ended up at head of R&D seems like a fluke to both Brandon and the reader as well.  Hard to root for a couple to get back together when half of said couple just doesn’t feel real.  Harder to care about a alternative universe when the danger seems minimal, the action downplayed, and the calculated “aha” moments more on the level of a high school play.

The plot, how to explain a plot that doesn’t track?  People are getting infected, the MIA must stop the portals from opening up, wherever they pop up, let’s set off some sonic explosions, the infection is spread by bites and being gay helps.  There are quite a few flashbacks but the uneven timeline just works against the story instead of for it because of the jerky manner in which it is handled.  The flashbacks here just serve to break up any momentum the story had built to date. The narrative structure consistently diffused any sense of danger or dread in the events happening around the main characters, and any sense of being connected to the characters and their situation just dwindled away. Between the style of writing and the lack of exposition this story just comes across as one  sad mess.

Here is an example.  Two characters are having a conversation about being gay:

“Brandon shrugged. “Whatever makes us gay makes us better agents.” Oliver had expected a lecture about genetics and heredity and antigens.

Not only would such an explanation be lost on Luis, but Brandon had been pretty pissed when he’d realized gay men were better agents because they were more likely to recover from Umbrae bites without going mad, while having a greater chance for death when the portal closed if the possession managed to complete the three-day physiological transformation.”

*head desk*

That just makes my head hurt, especially the last, long sentence and the entire book reads that way.  I love alternative worlds and  zombies, werewolves and vampires? Bring it on but make it believable or at least entertaining.  Make me want to lose myself in the events happening on the pages instead wanting to put the book down unfinished.  In the end the fleeting promise of one character did not hold my interest for long and although I did finish the book, I won’t be going forward to explore this universe further.  I did it so you don’t have to, that’s my motto and I am sticking to it.

Books in the series include:

Wolfsbane (MIA Case Files #1)

Blood Relations (MIA Case Files #2)

Craving (MIA Case Files #3)

Bayou Loup (Rougaroux Social Club #3) by Lynn Lorenz

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Rating 4.25 stars

Bayou LoupWhen werewolf Bobby Cotteau’s wife died, two things happened.  One was that Bobby could finally start to live his life as he had always wanted to before his inner wolf chose Carol as his mate, live and love as a gay man.  The second thing that started to happen?  Bobby started to die.   Without his mate, a werewolf will slowly waste away, and the only thing that can stop it if the shifter finds another mate, a rare occurrence. But before Bobby dies, he wants to experience the life he always wanted for himself.  Not comfortable being out in St. Jerome parish where he used to be the Sheriff, Bobby heads out to neighboring towns to visit gay clubs and meet strangers for anonymous sex.

During one of his weekend stays at a Lake Charles hotel, Bobby meets Mark, a handsome man closer to Bobby’s fifty years of age and the sparks fly.  A weekend of wild sex leaves both men satiated, physically and emotionally, something that surprises them both.  Bobby leaves to return home and neither man has each others phone number or last name to their mutual regret.

Professor Mark Bradford teaches zoology at the local college, his specialty is wolves.  Due to traumatic incident from his past, Mark has made it his life mission to prove the existence of wolves in the Louisiana bayou and now he thinks he has found the location of the wolves in a place called St. Jerome.  The small parish even had a Rougaroux Social Club which put on a yearly Rugarou Festival about their swamp wolf.  Now he is off with camera and recorder in hand to get the final bit of proof he needs to make his colleagues believe in him.  Once he has done this, perhaps he can finally start his life fresh, maybe even with the man he has meet in Lake George.

Bobby has the responsibility of running their Rugarou Festival this year but all he wants to do is  find Mark. Bobby has finally realized what his emotions have been telling him, that Mark is his true mate but he doesn’t know where to find him.  Then there is a Jesus sighting in the bark of the old tree in the church parking lot, a band cancels and he has to find a replacement while hiding from the widow determined to  get Bobby to marry her.  Things are falling apart faster than Bobby can fix them, but he has no idea that the worst is yet to come.  His true mate coming to town to expose his pack.  It will take all of his years experience, all of his wiles and major mojo if Bobby can save Mark, himself, his pack and the festival.

What a wild and wonderful sexy romp this book turned out to be.  I fell in love with this series with the first book, Bayou Dreams which introduced us to St. Jerome, Sheriff Scott Dupree, his mate Ted and all the other colorful characters of the parish.  Scott was the first shifter in his conservative, Catholic pack to come out  as gay and bring in his human mate as a pack member.  Scott did it with the backing of  Bobby Cotteau, a man who is not only his mentor but has acted as his father figure since the death of his dad.  Bobby, even as a secondary character, still managed to grab my attention.  Then in the second book, Bayou ‘s End (Billy and Peter’s story), it comes out that Bobby is gay but he buried that fact about himself when he married Carol all those years ago.  That was a truly heartbreaking  and unexpected element of that book and it further endeared the character of Bobby Cotteau to all the readers.

Now Lynn Lorenz uses all her wonderful gifts of characterization and vivid portraits of the Louisiana towns and countryside to bring Bobby’s story to life in Technicolor  (google it) terms and lusty joy.  The first part of the story is consumed with bobby and Mark’s first encounter in Lake Charles. And while it might seem one continuous sexual encounter (love that shifter stamina), it really shows the slow turn around in the attitude and thoughts of both men as the weekend progresses.  As physical satisfaction evolves to an emotionally happy state of mind, Bobby and Mark start to realize that this weekend is becoming more than just a quick sexual fix and the sex changes to reflect that.  And while Bobby realizes that Mark is his true mate there is not a case of instant love going on here, just a meshing of individuals.

And as with the previous books, there are quite a few humorous elements here to offset the angst, mostly supplied by that wonderful character of Darlene Dupree, Scott’s mother and her black cat, which just might be her familiar.  She has her own peculiar way of looking at religion that Father Peder, the parish priest would not approve of or even her son, the object of several of her spells gone awry.  She cracks me up every time and as she is such a lively, fleshed out riot of a person, you can’t wait to see what escapade she will cause next.

But Bobby and Mark, especially Bobby are the reasons to read this book.  Bobby is such a wonderful character, older and  yet more vulnerable than he should be at his age, finally able to be himself for the first time in his life and yet looking at such a small time in which to experience everything he has denied himself unless a miracle happens and then it does.  I loved him.  I love St. Jerome and can’t wait to see who and what will come up next in this small bayou town.  Mama Dupree is making noise about grandchildren that should leave the reader laughing in anticipation and her son and mate quaking in their boots.  Either way, you know it will be memorable and that is why this series continues to be a must read for me. I think it will be yours too.

But start at the beginning and catch up with all the parish going ons and relationships.  Here are the books in the order they were written and need to be read to understand the characters and their relationships:

Bayou Dreams (Rougaroux Social Club #1)

Bayou’s End (Rougaroux Social Club #2)

Bayou Loup (Rougaroux Social Club #3)

Frankenstorm is Coming and the Week Ahead in Reviews Hopefully

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So, here we are on the cusp of a truly remarkable storm event, a hurricane within a nor easter, something that has never occurred before or so say the  meteorologists.  Over 85 million people will feel the impact of Hurricane Sandy as she heads towards the East Coast as a hurricane 1, taking a dramatic left turn anywhere between Washington, DC and the Jersey shore and heading inland.  From Virginia to Massachusetts, people are getting ready to hunker down and some are already evacuating.

 

Here in Maryland we are expecting  not only huge amounts of rain (could be up to over 10 inches or more), high winds of 65 to 70 mph, but  snow!  That’s right, we could be seeing large amounts of snow as well.  So will parts of West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Ohio.  *shakes head*  So rain, wind, hail, snow, flooding most certainly.  Have the weather gods left anything out?  I don’t think so.  It just seems so unreal.  So of course, we made sure that the dog food was stocked up on, ditto the wine, water, and canned goods and snacks.  So we are good, I think. But then there is my blog.  And while I have a generator, that doesn’t mean the servers and towers won’t be coming down, so if there are no updates after a  while, just nod and say “Well, the Frankenstorm must have got her!”, and know I will be back up and running as soon as I am absolutely able to do so.

I also want to give a shout out to Jay of Joyfully Jay just back from the fabulous GayRomLit2012 in Albuquerque, NM.  She had an outstanding time and so did everyone else who attended. So many great authors, bloggers and readers to meet and party with. I so wanted to be there but the pictures she (and others) took made me some of the joy and fun that was going on. Wow, what a time and great photos to boot.  And she also brought me back a bag of swag!  Naked men playing cards, fluffer lip balm to name a few. Hooray!  Now I am determined to be there in Atlanta for next year’s conference. GayRomLit2013 in Atlanta!  woohoo!

So let’s see what I have planned for this week, shall we?

Monday:            Theory of Attraction by Cleon Lee  (I promise this will happen)

Tuesday:             Risking It All by Lee Brazil

Wednesday:       Tigerland by Sean Kennedy

Thursday:           The F Words by Anyta Sunday

Friday:                 A Mutual Understanding by Caro Soles

Saturday:             MIA Case Files #3: Craving by K.C. Burn

That’s it.  Now let’s see what happens.  Fingers crossed. Kindle charged. Sigh.

 

Author Spotlight: Nicole Kimberling and Book Giveaway!

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I first happened upon Nicole Kimberling when I read Primal Red, the first in the Bellingham Mysteries series.  From the very first sentence, I sensed the author’s deep connection to her story’s setting and it’s quirky, oddball cast of characters. Bellingham, Washington emerges as a character all its own in the Bellingham Mysteries series as the author’s love and respect for her town and it’s idiosyncrasies  flows through each storyline.  Through Peter Fontaine, steadfast reporter for The Bellinghamster aka The Hamster, the author gives us a character able to reflect on his town many foibles from the new agers to the niche farmers, the arty set to the druids and everything in between.  Sometimes it’s with humor, sometimes exasperation, a tiny bit of sarcasm, but mostly Peter investigates and meddles with the non-judgmental fondness of someone who loves and appreciates his town and its people.

Nicole Kimblerling’s writing brings her Bellingham into our lives, complete with realistic characters that embed themselves in your heart and mind. I can’t begin to tell you how often I laughed out loud over the antics of Peter or Evangeline or Peter’s editor, Doug Bowles. Nick, Peter’s boyfriend is far too Nordic for the laugh out loud moments but serves as a needed balance for the hijinks and tomfoolery the others are capable of.

Then there is the many subjects that come up during the course of each mystery.  One time it was the plein air artists, another ceramic forgery, and during One Man’s Treasure, it was beekeeping and mushroom poisons.  She always sends me rushing to further research a subject she has included in her plots that adds another wonderfully authentic layer to her storyline.  It’s marvelous and it fills me with anticipation to see what the next novel in the series brings.

I contacted Nicole Kimberling to talk about herself and her writing and the many elements she brings to her books. And this was her reply to my question about the inclusion of the arts in her mysteries:

“Well, I guess I would say that the reason the arts figure so heavily

in the Bellingham Mysteries is that my wife is an artist so I have had
the good luck to have an expert on the visual arts on hand when I need
to know technical details about paint or clay or counterfeiting. And,
of course, I’ve gone to a lot of openings and gallery shows for her
and for her associates so I’ve met a lot of quirky, real-life
characters.

The same goes for the characters in the Farmer’s Market. I actually
worked last season there, selling sandwiches, rain, wind and shine and
so I got a lot of first-hand experience with the culture of the market
and of the local organic farmers here in Whatcom county.

Because I live here, I’m constantly discovering new facets of the city
and new slices of society–more than I think I’ll ever be able to fit
into the stories. There are the illegal mountain bike trail builders,
the rustic folk musicians, the unschoolers, the gamers. And then there
are the institutions, like the bible software company that basically
owns two whole city blocks downtown, the Humane Society, the Alternate
Humane Society, the Alternate Alternate Humane Society… The town is
rich with unexplored weirdness.”

Thanks, Nicole.  And yes, that does explain so much about Bellingham and its importance in your writing.

Nicole has generously donated a copy of her book, Primal Red, to be given away during series week.  To enter the contest, send me your name, email address and  your favorite m/m series.  I will pick a winner on Sunday.
Nicole Kimberling’s website: http://www.nicolekimberling.com

Nicole Kimberling lives in Bellingham, Washington with her wife, Dawn Kimberling, two bad cats and approximately 100,000 bees. Her novel, Turnskin, won the Lambda Literary Award for Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror.

Books by Nicole Kimberling (available at Loose id, Amazon, All Romance):

Primal Red (Bellingham Mysteries #1)

Baby, It’s Cold Outside (Bellingham Mysteries #2)

Black Cat Ink (Bellingham Mysteries #3)

One Man’s Treasure (Bellingham Mysteries #4)

Turnskin

Hell Cop Anthology #1

Hell Cop Anthology #2

Irregulars Anthology

Review of Nobody’s Hero by Katey Hawthorne

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Rating: 4.8 stars

Jamie Monday is living two lives. In one life, he is normal and outwardly gay, he’s the life of the gay party scene, the office extrovert, everyone’s favorite homo.  Then there’s his other life, the hidden one as a member of the Awakened, people who can control the elements. As an Awakened, Jamie is deep in the closet. He hides his sexual identity from his mother and the Awakened community who expect him to marry and procreate.  Additionally, Jamie hides the fact that he is an Awakened from those in his “normal” life. Jamie has been good at keeping his identities compartmentalized but the increasing pressure by his mother to marry and the hot new IT guy at work has upset his equilibrium.

Kellan Shea is brainy, adorkable, and a Sleeper, the name given to Humans with no supernatural abilities.  From the beginning Jamie feels drawn to him.  It doesn’t matter that Kellan is socially awkward, defensive, and downright prickly,  Jamie realizes that Kelly is who he wants.  Kellan has a pure core within a sizzling exterior and Jamie finds himself falling in love.  But Kellan hates lies and Jamie’s life is one of deceit.  Can Jamie find the courage to be himself  or will he lose the only man he has ever loved?

This is the third book in the Superpowered Love series and just a great read.  I have come to expect wonderful and quirky characters from Katey Hawthorne and Nobody’s Fool is chock full of them, starting with Jamie Monday.  Jamie seems superficial to begin with but a shallow gorgeous surface hides a deeply conflicted man.  Jamie wants to please his mother, his only family.  The Awakened community they live in is close-knit, rigid, and almost incestuous in their intermarrying.  They all have high expectations of their progeny. Jamie acknowledges all of that while still trying to have a “normal” life.  It’s not so much that he wants to lie as he doesn’t want to disappoint anyone.  Each time my frustrations build with his character’s seeming inability to deal truthfully with those around him, Jamie’s inner dialog makes his position seem all too human and understandable.

And then there’s Kellan Shea.  I adored Kelly right from his mumbled fingernail chewing introduction to Jamie and friends at the office.  He is such a contradiction.  Kellan is Catholic and not just in name only.  He believes in his religion and is unafraid to say so.  He has a potty mouth, hot temper, and a vulnerable soul.  He is so very interesting in his outlook on life and sex that I feel as though I haven’t come across a someone like him before. These two characters ease into their relationship with all the grace of two porcupines waltzing.

The beauty of this story is that we all can relate to Jamie and the way he has complicated his life.  Who hasn’t wanted to please their parents to the point of suppressing their own wants and needs?  Who hasn’t told a lie or smudged the truth so someone isn’t hurt?  Life is full of complications, ones we create and those created for us.  For Jamie, it is not only his sexuality but his supernatural powers that he is hiding.   There is not one part of his life that is clear and open.  And not even Jamie realizes the full impact that has had on him until the end.  All the conflict, all the hurt that emerges are realistically and vividly portrayed.  I ached for those characters as I watched them fumble and sometimes fail as they reached for each other.

And did I mention the hot sex?  I should have because this story is full of it.  It’s that wonderful falling in love/lust/love sex where you  can’t get enough of each other.  And it’s also diversion sex, makeup sex and everything in between.  It’s sloppy, and all encompassing.  There’s also great music, wonderful locations and a great Irish family I couldn’t get enough of. I was so sorry to get to the end of Nobody’s Fool and it’s endearing cast of characters.  I hope you will feel the same.

Cover:  Cover art by P.L. Nunn.  A great cover that beautifully captures the characters.

Available from Loose Id.