Review: Floodgates by Mary Calmes

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Rating: 3 stars out of 5

Floodgates coverAll Tracy Brandt ever wanted was a happy life.  Instead what Tracy had was a complicated one.  Business partners with a man many consider to be a Russian thug, Tracy knows better, even when their offices are bombed and he barely escapes with his life.  Then there is Tracy’s love life.  He thought he and his lover were happy and committed, then Tracy found his lover in bed with another man and the relationship was shattered.  Or so Tracy thought.

But lately his ex,Breckin Alcott, has been trying to renew their relationship, something Tracy is sure he doesn’t want or does he? Then in the aftermath of the bombing, Tracy’s overprotective brother, DEA Agent Alexander Brandt, and his infuriating ex partner Cordell Nolan or Cord for short, show up at the hospital and things go from bad to worse.

For five years, Trace and Cord have been fighting the attraction between them.  For Cord, it never worked because Trace wanted a commitment, something Cord was unwilling or unable to give at the time.  For Trace, Cord was a player, a new man every night and that was something Trace would never be, just a one night stand.  So for five years its been an impasse.  Then Trace’s office gets bombed and Cord returns to help investigate and protect Tracy, a man Cord now wants to commit to for a future together.

When it appears that Trace is the target of an unknown assailant, not just the bombing, then Cord is determined to protect Trace at all costs. And if it means that they can finally break through the barriers that have been separating them, then nothing will stop Cord from finding who is behind the attacks on Trace so they can finally get their HEA.

I have loved Mary Calmes’ stories from the moment I read about Jory and Sam in A Matter of Time (both editions).  For myself, Calmes is a comfort read.  You know what to expect with her characters and dialog and you know how it will all end.  The pleasure is in getting to that expected denouement and whatever couples involved HEAs.  It is the comfort of the known, like the pleasure you have in a visit from an old friend.  Perfect stories for that old armchair and evening in the jammies and bunny slippers.

But sometimes even that is not enough when other parts of the story let you down and familiar characters fall flat instead of fizz with effervescence.  And that unfortunately is how Floodgates felt to me.

In Floodgates, Tracy is the Jory character and Sam is represented by Cord.  Not a problem at face value as we have seen this in her contemporary fiction before.  However, Tracy is that uber perfect character who never admits how hurt he is (physically or emotionally). Trace trusts everyone, including those people that clearly have the letter V on their foreheads for villain. He teases his ex who cheated on him and wonders why the man doesn’t think they are over.  The ex, Breckin, is such an unsavory cad that you want to dust him for stds just seeing a mention of him on the page.  But Trace is warm and welcoming each time they talk or meet or what have you.  Really, after pages of this, you wonder why anyone would find Tracy realistic in any way because he never comes across as a viable human being.

Cord  doesn’t suffer from the same characterization flaws that Trace does except that as an experienced detective, the mistakes made in the investigation and the “smack hand to the forehead” lack of any authentic police work, makes Cord as superficial a character as any of the others found here. And again there are an untold number of superficial characters to be found here.  Normally that is not a problem because the reader is so involved in the main characters journey to love and a relationship.  But when that founders, so does everything else like a domino chain effect.

And then there is Tracy’s business partner, Dimah Masir, a Russian who may or may not be a Russian mobster (first red herring alert).  Dimah also may or may not have a mobster brother (second red herring alert).  Tracy says he’s not but Dimah sure has plenty of henchmen running around and law enforcement officers who believe he’s a thug.  No matter.  After much is made of this connection, Dimah disappears entirely only to make an astonishingly unbelievable appearance almost at the end of the story.  The only reason for Dimah to be in this story is to either be served up as a rather inedible red herring or Calmes intends to bring him back for his own story.  Either way I did find him the most interesting element here so I was sorry to see him vanish.

And that brings me to the plot.  It just didn’t work.  At the beginning it appears that the bombing is connected to Dimah and his shady connections.  But when Calmes discards that element, then the detours and misdirections that follow make no sense whatsoever.  But perhaps the worst element is a villain that pops up out of nowhere, with little foundation laid for his role, and an arrow over his head that clearly marks him as the nut job to watch out for.  Which of course, no one does, including the DEA agent and an seasoned detective.  A 5 year old could figure out this character’s role in the plot.  Unfortunately almost everything about Floodgates is a jumbled mess, lacking complexity or coherency.

And that includes nitpicky little details like a Vermont shack used to “store syrup from the maple trees”.  Uh no.  In Vermont as in other maple syrup producing states, a sugar shack is where the maple sap is boiled down into syrup, a labor intensive process that happens only in the spring when the sap is rising.  And that process?  Makes it much more expensive than $6/bottle for high grade maple syrup.  A small mistake, true, but when the story is falling flat, it’s the small errors like this one that become highlighted in the narrative because your attention is everywhere but where it should be, which is on the plot.

For me, Floodgates is that Mary Calmes story that will never be reread or remembered.  For some, the issues listed above will not matter.  For them, its enough that it is a Mary Calmes romance.  Its predictability, characters, sweetness, and HEA is all they need to recommend it.  And that’s perfectly fine.  But for others, this may not be the romance for you.  There are other Mary Calmes stories I would recommend, including her wonderful supernatural series or other contemporary stories like Frog. If you are new to this author, I would start there. For everyone else, I will let you make up your own mind.

Cover art by Reese Dante.  What a spectacular cover, evocative and one of the best of the year.

Book Details:

ebook, 234 pages
Published March 3rd 2014 by Dreamspinner Press (first published March 2nd 2014)
ISBN 162798738X (ISBN13: 9781627987387)
edition languageEnglish
urlhttp://www.dreamspinnerpress.com

ScatteredThoughts Week Ahead in Reviews, Author Guest Posts and Contests

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It’s already midApril and I have just realized that I missed posting my March 2014 Review Summary and Best Covers.  Sigh.  Sometimes Gardening_Tools_Clip_Artthings just get away from you and this certainly did last month.  So I am posting the review to run later today.  There are so many wonderful authors and books represented that you are sure to find several to add to your TBR or Must Read stack of stories.   Included in the reviews are the penultimate story of the Cut & Run series from Abigail Roux and the first 2 stories in the second group of Pulp Friction 2014 series.

Spring has finally come to Maryland (although it may only be here a week).  My cherry blossoms are blooming as are those around the tidal basin.  So I am off to grab some weeds and bird watch in the sun.

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Here is the week ahead in reviews, author guest blogs and contests:

 

  • Monday, April 14:                 Author Spotlight: Jim Provenzano and Book Giveaway
  • Tuesday, April 15:                 Memories of Love by Jim Provenzano
  • Wed., April 16:                       With Pride by Megan Derr
  • Thursday, April 17:               Megan Mulry :Author Guest Blog and Book Tour (Contest)
  • Friday, April 18:                    Bound to be a Groom by Megan Mulry
  • Saturday, April 19:                Floodgates by Mary Calmes

Review: Where You Lead by Mary Calmes

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Where You Lead coverChicago-based ATF agent Peter Lomax’s past relationships never seemed to work out.  Ex boyfriends had issues with his possessiveness as well as his job.  Then Peter meets Carver Fleming at a friends party and everything changes.  Artist and gallery owner, Carver doesn’t mind that Peter is possessive.  It is a quality that Carver understands quite well as he feels the same. Nor is he bothered by the fact that law enforcement is far from his artistic world. From the beginning Peter and Carver recognize that they are perfect for each other and soon settle in to a committed relationship.

But six months into the relationship, Carver gets a call from home that changes everything.  Carver’s mother has had a stroke and he is needed home to help his father cope with his mother’s changed condition.  Unbeknownst to Peter, Carver agrees to return home, knowing such a move would not be temporary but permanent.   From Chicago to Colt, Carver’s small hometown in Kentucky is a drastic change and he realizes that not telling Peter about his plans will cause major problems between them.

Carver doesn’t want to lose Peter.  He knows that Peter’s friends and career are based in Chicago and that Peter won’t want to leave a city he loves.  So Carver plans for the two of them to visit his parents at Christmas, hoping the visit and his surprise plans will get Peter to agree to come with Carver when he moves to Colt permanently.  Carver is hoping that the charm of his hometown and his loving family will win Peter over.  Can love triumph over the hurt Peter feels at being left out of Carver’s plans?  And can a man with no family attachments of his own find one to love in Carver’s?  At Christmas, anything is possible as Peter and Carver are about to find out.

A trademark of all of Mary Calmes’ stories is that she always populates them with genuinely likable people. Her characters are guaranteed to endear themselves to the reader almost immediately from the moment they appear on the page, and our affections for them only deepen as the story progresses.    It is one of the elements that make Mary Calmes a  must read author for me and so many others.  Where You Lead is another such short story from this prolific author.

While Calmes does not provide too much back history on Peter and Carver, both men still manage to resonate with the readers.  Peter had not had a satisfactory long term relationship and neither has Carver, although for different reasons. They come complete with relationship issues anyone would recognize.  And when Peter and Carver meet, the connection between them snaps into place with lusty enthusiasm that continues throughout the story.

The story begins in Chicago at an art gallery opening to benefit the fallen agents fund.  Peter is there with his ATF partner Elliot and his wife.  The dialogue between Peter and Elliot feels appropriately affectionate and boyishly juvenile, just what you would expect of old friends.  With just a few sentences, Calmes delivers a working partnership that feels real and honest.  I wish we could have seen a little more of Peter’s life with the ATF and Elliot.   As his profession is such a large part of who Peter is as a person, additional background or scenes of his work would have fleshed this part of the character out for me.

As the location switches to Carver’s home in Colt and the situation with his mother, the plot develops further to include not just romantic love but that of family as well.  This for me is where the story really came to life.  I loved Carver’s parents.  His mother is such a strong character, especially as she deals with not only a stroke but the onset of dementia, possibly from Alzheimer’s.  It’s such a loving and painful portrait of a woman who realizes she is losing herself and the effects on those she loves.  Carver’s father is another fully realized persona and the dynamics of the father-son relationship feel authentic and grounded in reality of two such opposite personalities.

Where You Lead is only 68 pages long, and you will want the story to continue once the end is reached.  I felt as though a evening with friends had ended before I was ready for it to be over.  I would have loved for a little more exposition, maybe a epilogue to furnish a little more resolution to a heartwarming story.  It was never in doubt as to what Peter would do.  So the only real angst here is the family as it faces the reality of his mother’s heartrending future. That they will do it with love and each other’s support is a gift that they will give each other, another certainty that Calmes shares with her readers.

This story was released at Christmas but can be read at any time of the year.  Its message of love and family reaches beyond any holiday celebration.  I love this author and definitely recommend this story for all lovers of contemporary romance.

Cover art by Reese Dante.  This  cover is exquisite.  One of the best of the year.

Book Details:

ebook, 68 pages
Published December 25th 2013 by Dreamspinner Press (first published December 24th 2013)
ISBN 1627984763 (ISBN13: 9781627984768)
edition languageEnglish
urlhttp://www.marycalmesauthor.com/

A Touch of Spring, a Ray of Sunshine and the Week Ahead in Review

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Winter-Tree-34870004It’s 60 degrees here today.  The sun is shining, the snow is melting, and thoughts of Spring are crowding into my mind.  I know that February still has to run its course.  And March can and most likely will be blustery and cold.  And yet, and yet.  All this warmth and sunshine is playing games with my head, luring me out to garden centers bare of plants and hardware stores still packed full of snow shovels and sand for the driveway.

There I linger not over the snowblowers and mittens, but the seed packets and starting trays.  The small portable greenhouses and adjustable hoes for tilling around established plants in the gardens.  New feeders and birdbaths beckon, and then even more until I have to flee before I find myself laden down with purchases at the counter.

Instead I am heading off to lunch with our DC Metro Romance Group of authors, publishers, bloggers and readers.  We postponed it already once this month due to snow.  I can’t wait to hear how every one is handling this long winter.  New books, new conferences, time to get caught up.

Here is the week ahead….Its almost March and I hear my gardens calling.

Monday, Feb. 24:           The Experiment by Alicia Nordwell

Tuesday, Feb. 25:           Where You Lead by Mary Calmes

Wed., Feb. 26:                 Jasper’s Mountain by John Inman

Thurs., Feb. 27:               The Prince and the Practitioner by Christian Baines

Friday, Feb. 28:              February 2014 Summary of Reviews, Best Covers of the Month

Sat., March 1:                  Hunter By Blood by Robin White

Scattered Thoughts July 2013 Book Review Summary

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Scattered Thoughts July 2013 Book Review Summaryjulyjpeg

It was an outstanding month with regard to books I read.  So many great books and authors that it made this month a joy to be a reader and reviewer. And even more remarkable is that every one of the 5 star rated books were all part of a great series, whether it was a long established series or a series just getting started.  Mary Calmes released her 7th book in her A Matter of Time series,, Missouri Dalton new Guidebook series promises to be an instant classic for young and old,  Amy Lane made us weep as she  finished up her beloved Promises series, and Kendall McKenna continued to prove she is one of the best military fiction writers I know with her third book in the Recon Diaries series.   And that’s just the tip of the books read and reviewed this month.  So many great stories, truly something for everyone.

All the reviews are linked.  So take a look, see what story you might have missed or new author to add to your must read list.  The bar has been set really high for August.  Just saying.

 

July 2013 Book Review Summary
5 Star Rating:
Birds of a Feather (Bellingham Mysteries #5) by Nicole Kimberling (contemporary romance)
Forever Promised (Promises #4) by Amy Lane (contemporary romance)
Necromancy and You (Guidebooks #2) by Missouri Dalton (YA horror supernatural fiction)
Parting Shot (A Matter of Time #7) by Mary Calmes (contemporary romance)
The Final Line (Recon Diaries #3) by Kendall McKenna (contemporary romance)

4 to 4.75 Star Rating:
Attachment Strings (Jeff Woods Mystery #1) by Chris T. Kat (4 stars) (contemporary romance)
Fever Anthology by M. Rode (4 stars) (contemporary romance)
Grime and Punishment (The Brothers Grime #1) by Z.A. Maxfield (4.5 stars)(contemporary romance)
Son of a Gun by A.M. Riley (4 stars) (contemporary romance)
Sweet Young Thang (Theta Alpha Gamma #3) by Anne Tenino (4.25 stars)(contemporary romance)
The Curtis Reincarnation by Zathyn Priest (4.25 stars)(contemporary romance)
Vampirism and You (Guidebooks #1) by Missouri Dalton (4.75 stars) (YA horror supernatural)
Worlds Collide (Sanctuary #7) by R. J. Scott (4.75 stars)(contemporary romance)

3 to 3.75 Star Rating:
Bully For You by Catt Ford (3.75 stars) (contemporary romance)
Love On The East End by Lily Sawyer (3.5 stars)(contemporary romance)
Pick Up Men by L.C. Chase (3.75 stars) (contemporary romance)
Tattoo You by Willa Okati (3.75 stars) (contemporary romance)
The Heir Apparent by Tere Michaels (3.75 stars) (contemporary romance)
Waiting for Ty (Lovers and Friends #2) by Samantha Ann King (3 stars) (contemporary romance)

2 to 2.75 Star Rating:
Changing Planes by Karenna Colcroft (2 stars) (contemporary romance)

1 to 1.75 Star Rating:
Side Line by Ben Ryder (1.5 stars) (contemporary romance)

Review: Parting Shot (A Matter of Time #7) by Mary Calmes

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Parting Shot coverDet. Duncan Stiel, closeted homicide detective, had a childhood so bad that he never talks about it.  All the events in his past has lead to Duncan growing up as an adult who keeps his personal life and his emotions hidden, including his sexual orientation. Duncan’s reserve and determination to remain closeted has already cost him the only real relationship he has had to date (see Acrobat).  So when Duncan meets and hooks up with Aaron Sutter, billionaire and equally closeted gay man, Duncan thinks that finally he has met a man on the same page emotionally as he is.  No longer will he have to worry that Aaron will want  him to meet family or friends, or even come out of the closet where Duncan is most comfortable, all the things that caused his last relationship to break up.  Duncan is a man consumed by his job, including the need to occasionally go undercover.  The last thing Duncan ever expected was to  find love with Aaron Sutter.

Aaron Sutter has finally realized that Jory will never be his and that it is time to move on.  Duncan Stiel is as far from the type of guys that Aaron normally finds attractive,  Instead of a slender blond twink, the detective is tall, muscular, and an alpha in every way.  And in no time at all, Aaron is smitten, lusting after the detective in a manner so unlike himself that Aaron is astounded at his own behavior. When Duncan is hurt, Aaron has an epiphany that shakes him to the core, making Aaron question the decisions he made in the past.

But Aaron is also involved in a mean, and desperate fight with his father over control of Sutter Enterprises. Staying in the closet and away from Duncan might be the only way he can stay in control.  Duncan too is involved in a criminal case so dangerous that it threatens not only his fragile new relationship with Aaron but their lives as well.  As the obstacles mount up against them,  the men must fight not only against outside influences but their own inner demons as well if they are to find their way to love and a future together.

I love Mary Calmes.  She is a wonderful storyteller who has created a pantheon of characters both memorable and addicting that they have cried out to be included in one book after another.  Parting Shot is not only an addition to A Matter of Time series but incorporates characters from other favorite novels of mine as well, including Mine and Acrobat.   The inclusion of these characters is important in a number of ways in describing why Mary Calmes is so good as what she does.  Both men, Nate and Terrence Moss (also known as Conrad Harris) make only a brief appearance here, but just the mention of their names brings up a well of memories and emotions created by their stories (Acrobat and Mine respectively).  They make an impact despite the brevity of their scenes in Parting Shot because of Mary Calmes’ incredible gift of creating characters we commit to memory and bury deep within our hearts.   Just look at Duncan Stiel and Aaron Sutter.

Both men started out as satellite characters in other stories.  Aaron Sutter was once the boyfriend of Jory Keyes before Sam Kage arrives into the picture.  Aaron continues to flow through their story, a man determined to regain Jory’s affections and then finally as a true friend to be counted on. Hard to make an arrogant billionaire with a predilection for sharing his lovers with other men likable but Calmes made him a complex and ultimately appealing character.  No matter his actions, there was just something about Aaron as created by Calmes that spoke to the reader and garnered their affections.  Aaron just demanded that he have his own story and now he has gotten it, to my absolute delight.

Duncan Stiel was a little harder sell.  He was a complete jerk when he appeared in Acrobat, although handsome, and competent, a complete alpha male.  Parting Shot helps explain Duncan’s behavior by presenting us with his past.  Once we see his traumatic childhood revealed, then those personality traits that made him so unappealing becomes understandable.  Duncan Stiel of Parting Shot is someone the reader connects with on every level.  I just love him.

These two men have arrived independently at the same stage in their lives where they want a real relationship.  Both have Jory and Sam as an example of what they are missing in their lives and what they can attain if only they take a chance and change.  The men meet and fall instantly in lust.  That’s extremely realistic knowing what we do about these men.  But what follows is also just as authentic given their personality traits and their pasts.  They just mesh with each other in almost every way.  I have seen this happen in real life.  When the timing is right, things (and people) just fall into place.  Not the case of “instant love” that appears so often in other stories but a connection based in reality and the personalities of the men involved.  I believed totally in their relationship and feelings towards each other.  It just felt right.

Aaron and Duncan are also an extremely sexy couple.  They are equals in and out of the bed.  I loved that about them as well.  Their sex scenes together are hot, sensual, realistic, and sometimes quite funny.  Aaron is really out of his element here and Mary Calmes incorporates that aspect into their relationship in some wonderfully funny scenes and dialog.  They cracked me up, just amazing.

Duncan is involved in a case with some very dangerous criminals, pulling him undercover yet again several times in the book (including a undercover gig that brings in Marshall Sam Kage). This storyline flows along side one in which Aaron is dealing with his father who is determined to overthrow his son as the head of Sutter Enterprises so the father can resume his control over the company.  The corporate fight Aaron is engaged in is just as critical as the criminal investigation Duncan is engaged in.  Each power struggle and criminal case has ramifications for both men.  It will cause them to examine their closeted lives and determine the paths their lives will take in the future.  Powerful stuff indeed.   And Mary Calmes makes it just as exciting and suspenseful as it sounds.

This is a completely absorbing novel.  Once you pick it up, be prepared to remain situated until you have finished the book.  It pulls you into the lives of Duncan and Aaron and all those around them.  If you are new to the series, it helps to read the preceding books to fully understand the nature of these men and the relationships they had in the past.  Grab up Mine and Acrobat while you are at it.  Have a very merry Mary Calmes sort of weekend!  I highly recommend them all, including Parting Shot.

Cover art by Reese Dante.  I love Dante’s cover but it really doesn’t pertain to this story.  It could be the cover for any number of books and that’s too bad because this story had so many elements that could have been used to make it relevant to the story within.  Consider this cover a misstep.

Here are the books  of A Matter of Time in the order they were written and should be read:

A Matter of Time (#1)

A Matter of Time (#2)

A Matter of Time (#3)

A Matter of Time (#4)

Bulletproof (A Matter of Time #5)

Just Jory (A Matter of Time #5.5)

But For You (A Matter of Time #6)

Parting Shot (A Matter of Time, #7)

A Matter of Time, Vol. 1 (A Matter of Time, #1-2) reworked and reedited

A Matter of Time, Vol. 2 (A Matter of Time, #3-4)reworked and reedited

Book Details:

ebook, 264 pages
Published July 19th 2013 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 1623808758 (ISBN13: 9781623808754)
series A Matter of Time

Crazy Week Ahead, Ghoulish Cocktail Recipes, and This Week’s Reviews

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Sooooooo, sitting here wondering why I do things that make myself crazy.  I’m really not a masochistic sort, occasionally absent minded but truly, people,  usually I am a better planner than this.  So this week, the alarm people are coming to fix the alarm system that wants to beep, squeak, squeal, or otherwise make high pitched noises at all hours of the day, none of them actually caused by any realtime event. And all are picked up by Captain (African Grey Parrot) who finds these noises irresistible enough to mimic.  So even after they are banished , thanks to Captain’s skill at mimicry, they will always be with us. Cue the Excedrin.

Also this week?  A friend is coming to stay for the week.  I haven’t seen her in a while and I am looking forward to getting caught up on her life (outside of the computer chats) face to face.  So what else is also going on?  My wonderful book group is coming over on Sunday for lunch and togetherness, my niece and her boyfriend just flew in from CA for her birthday and my mother is making noises about a “birthday celebration” for my niece over at the Farm this weekend too.  What aligned among the stars and planets that said all this had to happen this week and weekend?  Hey! *waves hands frantically over head* Can we not do this?  Please?  This is making me crazy.  I  like to do things slowly, think the forward momentum of a sloth.  I enjoy getting ready for events and people the same way.  This is not making me happy.  Sigh.

So I plan on lots of writing today so I don’t have to do that as well.  Here is my schedule for the week if I am not carted off to Bedlam.

Monday, June 22:                    Sweet Young Thang by Anne Tenino

Tuesday, June 23:                    Parting Shot by Mary Calmes

Wednesday, June 24:              Welcome, Brother by Erica Pike

Thursday, June 25:                 Attachment Strings by Chris T. Kat

Friday, June 26:                       Vampirism and You (Guidebook #01) by Missouri Dalton

Saturday, June 27:                   Necromancy and You (Guidebook #02) by Missouri Dalton

Cocktail Recipes: In honor of Missouri Dalton’s new series which I absolutely adore, here are a couple of scary Cocktails to cool you off:

The Necromancer’s Martini:

Vampire Martini

1 part vodka
1 part strawberry liqueur
1 part lime juice
1 part cranberry juice

Pour all of the ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice and shake well. Strain into a cocktail glass to serve.

Vampire Cocktail

Bloody Vampire Cocktail

1 part rum
1 part cherry kool aid

Pour both of the ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice and shake well. Strain into a highball glass to serve.

Scattered Thoughts Book Review Summary for June 2013

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June 2013 has come and gone but some of the books I read that month continue to linger in my heart and mind, just some outstanding stories. As always, there is something for everyone here, from contemporary to paranormal books, terrific additions to wonderful series.  If you missed them the first time, here is your chance to check them out again:

5 Star Rating:

Hobbled by John Inman

Infected: Undertow by Andrea Speed

Mighty Casey by Willa Okati

One Breath, One Bullet by S.A.McAuley

Prelude by Shira Anthony and Venona Keyes

4 to 4.75 Star Rating:

A Casual Weekend Thing by A.J. Thomas (4.75 stars) (contemporary)

A Silence Kept by Theo Fenraven (4.25 stars)(contemporary)

Aria of the Eclipse by Vivien Dean (4.75 stars)(science fiction)

Flawless by Cat Grant (4.25 stars)(contemporary)

Stonewall by Martin Duberman (4.25 stars) (non fiction)

The Hanged Man’s Ghost by Missouri Dalton (4.75 stars)(paranormal)

The Night Shift by Missouri Dalton (4.25 stars)(paranormal)(series)

3 to 3.75 Star Rating:

Fennel and Forgiveness by Ari McKay (3.5 stars) (contemporary)

Heart of the Race by Mary Calmes (3.75 stars) (contemporary)

In Search of a Story by Andrew Grey (3.25 stars) (contemporary)

When Dachshunds Ruled the Serengeti by Michael Murphy (3.75 stars) (contemporary)

2 to 2.75 Star Rating:

The Caveman and the Devil by Chris T. Kat (2.75 stars)(contemporary)

The Jouster’s Lance by A.J. Marcus (2.75 stars) (contemporary)

Review: Heart of the Race by Mary Calmes

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Rating: 3.75 stars out of 5

Heart of the RaceBrian Christie has loved Varro Dacien since he was 9 and saw him for the first time out the window of his foster home.  Varro and his brother Nico were getting ready to jump a go cart off his family’s rooftop.  That day saw Varro in the hospital yet again and Brian moved into the Dacien home as a newly minted member of the family.  The two boys proved inseparable, right up until Brian realized he was both gay and in love with his foster brother.  Varro, a lover of all things fast, decides to be a professional motorcycle racer even as Brian heads off to college, unable to stand the pain of being near the man he can never have.

But without Brian at his side, Varro becomes reckless and heedless of others words of caution.  Racing around on tough courses at hell bent speeds, Varro is crashing more than he is winning and he is sure it is because Brian is missing from his life.  Brian is still trying to move on but his love for Varro is keeping him firmly moored unable to go forward with someone else.  When Varro finally wakes up to the fact that he loves Brian not as a brother but a lover,  will it be too late for Brian to accept his change of heart?

Heart of the Race is another sweet and sexy story of two men deeply in love , exactly we have come to expect from Mary Calmes.  At 86 pages, it is shorter than most of the stories I have read of hers but the characters, their issues and slow build to a loving relationship all have the Mary Calmes hallmarks that make her stories a comfort read for all her fans, of which I am one.

I loved the manner in which the boys meet.  That  delightful and charming window into their childhoods really set the tone of the story for me.  It was funny, it felt real, and had its moments of heartbreaking clarity with regard to Brian’s neglected life as a foster child.  In fact I enjoyed this section of the story so much that I wanted to see more of Brian and Varro’s childhood and their close friendship growing up.  It was one of my quibbles with this story that I wanted a firmer foundation for their background history because the few glimpses given just wetted my appetite for more. The author does such a wonderful job of setting the framework of the story that it just cries out for a larger book to do it justice.

Brian and Varro fall beautifully into the Mary Calmes pantheon of main characters. A foster child shifting from home to home, Brian’s need for stability and his love for Varro come through perfectly as his driving motivations for his actions.  Varro’s character is in need of  more substantive layering.  My issues with Varro come from the fact that he is portrayed as a man slut, three and four women a night, so his jump to homosexuality is abrupt and not quite believable.   Gay for you stories need a realistic platform in order for the switch to seem authentic and I had problems believing that of Varro.  I think that the shorter length hurt the story in several ways, including making Varro’s walk to the gay side believable.  I wish that we had been given more of Varro’s viewpoint during the year he was racing without Brian so we could see what Brian’s absence had on him and what, if any, changes he made to his sexually voracious lifestyle.

I thought Mary Calmes did a good job with the aspects of life as a motorcycle racer, something I was not familiar with,  it was a perfect profession for Varro but I did miss descriptions of what it must feel like to race a bike on such a course, and how it felt for Brian to be a part of that life for a year.  We get a bit of insight here and there but again, a longer book could have included that aspect of their time together and it would have highlighted the pain each felt while they were apart.

I did enjoy Heart of the Race.  It was fast and sexy, just like the motorcycle races Varro rode in.  If I came away feeling a little less satiated, I think that a longer book and a little more back history would have taken care of that.  If you want a short tale of love and sex in the fast lane, pick this one up and have a great time.

I love that cover by Catt Ford.  Just outstanding in every way.

Book Details:

ebook, 86 pages
Published June 1st 2013 by Dreamspinner Press

It’s Raining and the Week Ahead in Reviews

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Once again it’s raining here in Maryland, formerly known as The Temperate State.  Before today our rain total was 6.11 inches this month.  I think its safe to say we will be adding several more inches to that total just on today’s rainfall alone.  Hard to believe we are looking at July just over the horizon.  My lavender is looking a little soggy and I have lost several herbs to the dampness.  The only ones happy are the hosta and the frogs.

I have some wonderful books on the review schedule this week including a history of the riots at Stonewall Inn by Martin Duberman.  I will be posting that on Friday to mark the 44th anniversary of the Stonewall demonstrations that sparked the gay civil rights movement.  Yesterday I posted several Youtube videos on the topic.  If you have a chance, check them out, especially the one on the Stonewall survivors.  The vid and the people it focused on are just remarkable.  As we wind down gay pride month and look towards the Supreme Court’s decision on gay marriage, take a moment to remember all those LGBTQ youth in need of shelter and a hand.  Organizations in need of donations can be found here and at the GLBT National Help Center.

Now about this week’s books, there are some terrific stories to be had this week.  All fall within the m/m contemporary fiction range with the exception of Stonewall (non-fiction), but within that category you will find a variety of stories from the whimsically titled When Dachshunds Ruled the Serengeti by Michael Murphy to A Casual Weekend Thing by A.J. Thomas, a police mystery.

Monday, June 24:         Heart of the Race by Mary Calmes

Tuesday, June 25:        A Casual Weekend Thing by A.J. Thomas

Wed., June 26:              Hobbled by John Inman

Thursday, June 27:      When Dachshunds Rule the Serengeti by Michael Murphy

Friday, June 28:           Stonewall by Martin Duberman

Saturday, June 29:       The Curtis Reincarnation by Zathyn Priest

Yesterday, I had the best Cosmo I have ever tasted at Ricciuti’s in Olney.  If you are local, and never had a meal or drink there, remedy that fact right away.  Housed in historic Olney House, Ricciuti’s outsources all its food, fine and beer locally. It believes in using only seasonal and local produce and it shows. It has stone ovens, great staff and now the best Cosmo ever.  It’s raining, a fine day to head over and taste some of the best food our local farms, wineries, and breweries have to offer.  I might even see you there.