A MelanieM Review: Sound of Silence by Mia Kerick and Raine O’Tierney


Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5


High school senior Renzy Callen hasn’t uttered a word in years. He likes being invisible to all around him; it keeps life safe and predictable. In his attic bedroom, he experiences a world far from the drama of his family. He doodles, listens to music, and contemplates the troubled souls he observes when attending self-help meetings designed for people with problems he doesn’t have. Renzy lives his life like a spectator, always on the outside of life’s games, looking in at others.

Everything changes when Seven and Morning Moreau-Maddox relocate from their glitzy lives in Paris to boring, picturesque Redcliff Hills, Missouri. Tall, platinum blond, and as put-together as a pair of European high-fashion models, the sophisticated siblings befriend Renzy, drawing him in and then pushing him away. What starts as nothing more than a means to an end for Seven, however, quickly becomes something more. Could icy-hearted Seven be thawing for the silent, quirky charm of Renzy Callen?

Determined to find the cause of Renzy’s selective mutism, the three teens set off on a road trip, during which they discover that flawless physical facades can conceal the most scarred souls, and that sometimes silence is better than golden.

It’s not often a contemporary story can astonish me with elements of uniqueness but Sound of Silence by Mia Kerick and Raine O’Tierney certainly did.  Several times over.  Starting with the protagonists themselves,  the three wounded teenagers at the heart of this story, Renzy Callen, Seven and Morning Moreau-Maddox.

I can’t imagine where or how the authors came up with these characters, now marked so indelibly into my heart and mind, but starting with Renzy Callen, who hasn’t talked in years, his inability to utter a sound and his method of communicating is the soul of the story.   He tries to blend into his surroundings, ghosting through his life, invisible until he  comes to the notice of Morning Moreau-Maddox, ateenager traumatized from a brutal rape,  and through association to Morning, her brother Maddox, her constant companion and protector.  Sleek, blond, seemingly self possessed, Morning recognizes a kinself with herself in Renzy, both dealing with their own traumas in different ways but still alike.  For Maddox, Renzy presents a puzzle to unravel as well as one more person to act as guardian over.

This book operates on so many levels and it’s done so well, it’s actually hard to reviews.  The characterizations are highly unusual, layered, remarkable.  You have three separate voices that are guaranteed to stay in your head for quite some time.  Especially as they grow over the course of the story, events forcing them to look at themselves, reexamine the dynamics of their own relationships from those of the siblings to that of the young lovers Renzy and Maddox.  It is one complex relationship after another.  Plus the close friendship  that Morning has with Renzy.  And that’s not even starting to get into the odd parent or should I say emotionally detached or worse parent relationships these teenagers have.

Like twisting vines of ivy, the various story threads, wind their way through each other connecting and intertwining in surprising and sometimes heartbreaking ways to uncover the truth behind Renzy’s selective mutism.  It will also lead to new paths for Morning and Maddox as well.

Such an amazing novel.  The writing is smooth and so well done that you don’t notice how quickly you’ve been drawn into the lives of this incredible trio until you realize it’s 2am and you haven’t stopped reading.  I loved the ending.  Like everything else about this story,  the changes and growth of the characters to the last sentence, everything works and makes you want to read it again just to to watch it unfold all over again.

I highly recommend Sound of Silence by Mia Kerick and Raine O’Tierney.  It’s truly one of those books you won’t want to miss.

Cover Artist: Aaron Anderson.  Cover art is just as unusual as the book.

Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK | Harmony Ink | iBooks

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 214 pages
Published January 23rd 2018 by Harmony Ink Press
Edition Language English

A MelanieM Review: Last Marine Standing (Heroes #2) by R.J. Scott


Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Former Marine Recon, Mackenzie ‘Mac’ Jackson has secrets. The things he did for his country, the things he saw, must never be spoken about. Until, that is, his team is targeted.

A shift in political alliances means one particular mission undertaken by Mac and his Fire Team needs to be wiped from the history books. Starting with the team itself.

Forest Ranger Samuel Larson wants to find the Marines who saved his life. He just wants to say thank you. What he can’t know is that he’s walking into a firestorm of betrayal and murder.

When Samuel arrives at Mac’s place he throws Mac’s plans for hiding out of the window. Abruptly Mac has to protect a man who threatens his heart, only this time he can’t be sure he will succeed in keeping Sam alive.

When the people you trusted turn on you, when you are the last one standing, should you take your secrets to the grave? Or make the murderers pay?

Heroes is turning out to be an incredible series.  A spinoff from the amazing Sanctuary stories,A Reason To Stay hooked me in with RJ Scott delivering romance, murder mystery along with  her hardened SEAL on leave and his second chance at love police officer.  Last Maine Standing though kicks it all into high gear.  There’s an absolutely horrific mission in the past that starts the story.    I’ll say no more about that.

But these two men haunt each other and the reader with their combined pasts.

On top of that, RJ Scott has thrown a conspiracy of deceit and murder against our heroes.  It’s heinous, it’s murky, and the suspicions and suspense of everyone drives this story, sometimes pushing the romance aspect to a secondary element.   Still, RJ Scott is so great with it comes to interpersonal dynamics that even when suspense and espionage is driving a certain portion of the story, she gets to work in the magnetic attraction and heat that brings these two men together and makes their relationship work.   You certainly understand by Sam needs to find Mac after all these years and you can see Mac’s need as well.  The balance works.

Really, I thought this story had it all.  Action, drama, hot men, sex and yes, romance.  I loved this story.  Heroes is a wonderful series and Last Marine Standing is the prime example why.  I highly recommend both.

Cover art by Meredith Russell is terrific.

Sales Links:  RJ Scott Books | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 211 pages
Published October 8th 2014 by Love Lane Books (first published October 6th 2014)
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesHeroes #2


A Mika Review: Young at Heart by Kay Ellis


Rating: 1 star out of 5 stars

Young at HeartDevon Alexander is a wealthy successful businessman. The world is his oyster. In his work life he is decisive and in control.

His private life is another matter.

There, he doesn’t know if he’s coming or going in his on-off relationship with Jesse Young, an unemployed aspiring model half his age.

Can Devon and Jesse overcome the obstacles and outside influences standing in their way? Can they leave behind their own fear and mistrust? Or will they be their own worst enemies?

Okay I think I have the right to be harsh when writing this review of Young at Heart by Kay Ellis. This is present day setting London. I don’t have a problem with their age at all. One was 40 and the other was 18. Fine when you are a legal adult, that’s your decision to deal with it. I HAD a big freaking issue when the “grown up” in this situation goes to pick up his boyfriend and finds him disheveled crying, alcohol on his breath and you don’t take him to emergency room. My biggest issue in reading this story was Jesse being “forced” because they don’t want to use the word rape doesn’t get any medical attention, mental attention. Like who are these people. Devon was dumb, naive, stupid for his age. He seriously should have known better. He’s a millionaire playboy who usually does background on all his boyfriends yet this one time you didn’t, and turns out he’s 18 instead of 20. You find out he’s been abused since he was 13 yrs old and then you turn around and have sex with him after one of these times because you couldn’t over power him to stop him. No protection throughout this book. It was disgusting. Your best friend forced himself on Jesse twice and you weren’t man enough to make him see that you didn’t want to be around.

Jesse is not an angel, if fact he does a lot of things that he shouldn’t have had to. He also goes from this bad boy, bad attitude domineering guy to a damn church mouse. I just can’t with this train wreck, oh and just make matters worse let’s throw a baby in the mix. The mystery kid came out of no where. So all in all this was not for me, the concept was okay. The delivery of it was not.

Cover Art by Jay’s Cover by Design. This is the only thing I really liked about this book. The cover was done nice and I liked it.

Sales Links: Wayward Ink Publishing   All Romance (ARe)   Amazon   Buy It Here

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 129 pages
Published March 6th 2015 by Wayward Ink Publishing
edition languageEnglish
url https://www.facebook.com/kay.ellis.79274

Book Contest and Guest Post by T.A. Webb, Pulp Friction Author of the City Knight series


Scattered Thoughts (that’s me) has loved having all the authors here this week.  And we still have another surprise day to go where I will announce the winners and the Pulp Friction authors will have one last post together.Darkest KNight cover

So, don’t forget to leave a comment, either at the end of today’s post or on the review post.  Either way, we will count that as an entry.

And now for our fourth and final Pulp Friction author, T.A.”Tom”  Webb and his City Knight series. *offers up a chair and a cup of coffee*:

TW: Thanks for having me, Melanie. Well, me and my guys Marcus and Benjamin. Now, these two men are rather mouthy and will tend to jump in and say what’s on their minds before you or I know it. So, bear with us and I’ll try to filter it all into something that makes sense for us all.

ST: *sinks into her chair, pets the pups*

TW: When Laura, Lee and Havan and I started talking about some kind of series that would be like the old pulp fictions, what immediately came to mind for me was the Doc Savage pulps I read as a kid. I loved Doc Savage with hathim, and always thought he was kind of like me, in that he was different. When I put a name to it—gay—I realized he never was with a person of either sex, but I could easily imagine him as mine.

So, when we put the series here in Atlanta, we talked about each of us putting out six stories. My first idea was to write two sets of three stories—a trilogy—for two sets of characters. Then Marcus whispered in my ear, and he was this mature cop who patrolled the area around his home. I asked him why, and the whole story came out about his doctor lover who was shot and killed senselessly, and how he made a promise to protect the neighborhood. Kind of Doc Savage meets Batman.

A man like that deserves a happy ending, so I imagined who would crack through a man like that’s shield? Because Marcus, he deserves someone who would make him laugh, someone who would light up his dark nights and make his heart beat again.

Enter Ben.

Now Ben, or as Marcus calls him, his Benjamin, isn’t a slam dunk. He has a past of his own that tried to keep him away from Marcus. He’s younger, smart as a whip, but so closed off from his own feelings because of his own soul-crushing experience—he was raped—that it was a challenge for him to connect to Marcus for more than sex.

But he does. And the trilogy follows how they two men circle each other and gently open up despite all the horrible things in their pasts, and the bad things coming after them in their present. But, they make it.

So, when it came time to write the other two men I had in mind, Marcus and Benjamin said they weren’t ready to step aside. Plus, we—Laura, Lee Havan and I—had started interweaving Chance and Zachary and Archer and Wick with my boys, so how could I leave them hanging?

ST:  You can’t, that obvious, plus it would make your fans cry. Not a good thing.

TW: Plus, slowly but surely, the fans caught on and would have killed me if I let them go. And we had to find out who killed Travis, and then Marcus’s brother Frankie showed up with little Marcus, and they have a loud voice too.

My plans, now that all five books are written as well as the final book we all will co-author, are to write a small holiday story for Marcus and Doc_Savage_plus_Five_by_SilvreBenjamin called “Christmas Knight”.  And at some point there will be a novella for Frankie and Brady, because they are screaming in my head that they need their story told.

ST:  I am so happy to hear that because I fell in love with Brady and Frankie!  They do need a story of their own. Oops,  sorry to interrupt.

TW: This has been such a fun process, and I have learned SO much about how to write from these three talented friends of mine. I almost hate to leave Atlanta behind, but Flagstaff calls and that makes my creative juices flow.

ST:  Hmmm. Flagstaff…..more stories perhaps?  Another secret for another day.

TW: Thanks to everyone who’s read City Knight, and it’s on sale for $0.99 for everyone on Amazon and ARe.

Please, leave a comment, and you can have your choice of any book in the series in a drawing especially for Melanie’s blog. She’s been so wonderful about reading all 20 of the books and reviewing them, and Marcus and Benjamin have her in a big hug for liking them. They have no words, and neither do I!

ST: Aww, shucks.   *hugs back*  Plus you mentioned Doc Savage.  I remember seeing plenty of those paperpacks on my dad’s shelf near his chair.  Oh that did bring back the memories.  Thanks for the great guest post and wonderful stories, Tom.

TW: Thanks all!  Remember to leave a comment and win!


Here are the books in the City Knight series in the order they were written and should be read to understand the men and their relationships and the events that occur:

City Knight (City Knight #1)
Knightmare (City Knight #2)
Starry Knight (City Knight #3)
Knights Out (City Knight #4)
Darkest Knight (City Knight #5)

Review: Justice (Leopard’s Spots #10) by Bailey Bradford


Rating: 2. stars out of 5

Justice Leopard Spots 10 coverAfter being rescued by his twin brother Preston and his brother’s mate, Nischal, Paul Hardy is suffering horribly from the aftermath of his capture and two years being tortured and sexually abused as a shifter’s “pet”.  Prior to his experience at the hands of a human trafficking ring, Paul had no idea that shifters even existed, now he can’t get their existence or his trauma out of his mind.  And with his brother mated to a  shifter, Paul can’t even escape from the day to day contact he dreads. Paul, Preston, Nischal and his brother Sabin are all headed to Colorado and the snow leopard family compound hoping to find sanctuary and therapy for Paul.

Snow leopard shifter Justice Chalmers and his sister Vivian are traveling to Grandma Marybeth’s place in Colorado.  Justice was working at his dream job of being a police officer in Phoenix, Arizona when the call went out from his family about a human with a connection to them needing help immediately.  That call irequired Viv with her new therapy license to travel to Colorado and she doesn’t drive.  So Justice is currently on leave to drive his sister to their family compound.  Justice knows that there is more to the story than they have been told and his experiences as a Marine and cop, tell him to be on his guard.

A chance meeting between Paul and Justice on the road to Colorado changes the lives of both men permanently as Paul turns out to be Justice’s mate.  But their future together is cloudy.  Paul is severely damaged from his years of abuse and his abusers want their pet back.  Can Justice and Paul fight their way to happiness or will Paul’s past bring them both down?

Well, here we are at book ten in the Leopard’s Spots series and I am just as conflicted about this series as I was at book one, perhaps even more so.  To reach the tenth book in a series is sort of a benchmark for an author, an occasion to bring various plot strands together and move the entire series forward with new vigor, purpose and cohesion.  And I wish I could report that sort of growth happened here with Justice but it didn’t. There are so many missed opportunities here, so much jumbled nonsense, and quite frankly irresponsible writing that it is hard to know where to start.

Just the title alone starts the book off in a misleading fashion.  The book is called Justice but it really should be called Paul as it revolves around Paul Hardy, twin brother to Preston Hardy, Nischal’s mate  in book nine.  Justice almost serves as a secondary character here and the book suffers from that element.

Then the trajectory of the book really goes askew with the character of Paul and the author’s treatment of his traumatized state.  Back history for a moment.  Paul was captured two years ago (Nischal, Leopard’s Spots #9) by human slave traders and sold to a pack of wolf shifters keeping humans as pets.  For two unrelenting years, Paul was tortured,in every way possible from being sexually abused included gang rapes, being raped by the shifters in wolf form. Paul was tortured mentally, emotionally, and physically until he was broken so throughly that he could not even look his brother in the eyes or raise his head when rescued.  The author supplies us with all these facts and much more, although thankfully no explicit scenes of torture.  No, the reader gets flashbacks, nightmares, and stories about his numerous scars to help cobble together a picture of his time with his torturers.  Bradford wants us to believe in Paul’s traumatized state and at the beginning we do.

When we first meet Paul, the character is having multiple, desperate sexual encounters while feeling nothing. He is acting without consideration of his own safety and physical well being, trying to see if he can get himself killed without actually having to do the job himself.  His actions are understandable and the compassion the reader feels for this character is well grounded in reality.  Then he meets Justice and Viv and all that flies out the door.  Why?  Because of mates and sex, the bandaid of bandaids.  Sigh.

Apparently with Justice, he wants to have sex with a shifter, lots of it (although to be fair, it is mentioned that Justice being a snow leopard shifter instead of a wolf makes some difference).  Not only that but Paul has five therapy sessions, yes only five, with Viv, who just graduated and got her license and he’s soooooo much better.  No mention is made of a new therapist having the experience to deal with someone as traumatized as Paul.  Nope, he just improves rapidly.  Not 100 percent, as he still has flashbacks and nightmares but nothing so substantial as to immobilize him.  Now balance that picture against the one that the author built up for Paul in captivity.  It just doesn’t match up.  If the author wants the reader to buy in on Paul’s past and the horrors he endured then there is a reasonable expectation on the reader’s part that his recovery would be just as slow, hard and realistic  to deal with all the things that were done to him and that he was forced to do.

But that doesn’t happen.  Instead Bradford uses the mating urge to slap a bandage over the pain and scars left by the experience.  It’s slapdash and insufficient, believe me.  Shortcuts rarely work in fiction, and this one certainly doesn’t. Instead the reader feels as shortchanged as they should by being denied the satisfaction of seeing Paul slowly work through the horrendous events and traumas of the past two years.  That just isn’t a missed step, that a whole Marianna Trench!

And this type of plot device and jumbled narrative happens over and over again.  A wolf shifter named Cliff pops up like some vengeful enforcer but does his thing “off stage” as it were.  Totally unsatisfying too.  His captors come after  Paul again and Justice acts with such unbelievable stupidity for someone whose character was portrayed as a Marine for 10 years and then a cop, that I almost thought that Bradford had shifted the story over to a parody.  Totally lacking in any authenticity, watching Justice in action was similar to watching those actors run into spooky houses on Scary Movie.

And after all this nonsense, the author ends it with a cryptic message and not much else.  Trust me when I say my head hurts from banging it against the wall in frustration over this story, series and author.  So much promise is thrown away so casually and repeatedly over a series of ten books that it boggles my mind.  And still I want to know where this series is going and how much worse is it going to get.  I expect that the answer is much, much, worse.

How to balance an author who gets the reader to commit to believing in a character’s degradation and two year ordeal only to see that author then negate that commitment by not treating it seriously? And all within a framework of ideas that remain compelling and new? I just don’t know.  As I said I am conflicted over this series and author and so I am not even going to say whether I will recommend this or not.  I will leave it up to you.  But if you continue on as I will, get yourself prepared to encounter all sorts of frustrations and puzzling events and characters.  This is a wild grab bag of story elements and I never know what will appear.  Consider yourself informed.

Book Details:

ebook, 145 pages
Expected publication: October 4th 2013 by Total-E-Bound Publishing

Cover art by Posh Gosh is gorgeous as always. Models are on target and perfectly represent the characters involved. Just beautiful.

Here are the books in the Leopard’s Spots series in the order they were written and should be read (mostly)

Levi (Leopard’s Spots, #1)
Oscar (Leopard’s Spots, #2)
Timothy (Leopard’s Spots, #3)
Isaiah (Leopard’s Spots #4)
Gilbert (Leopard’s Spots #5)
Esau (Leopard’s Spots #6)
Sullivan (Leopard’s Spots, #7)
Wesley (Leopard’s Spots, #8)
Nischal (Leopard’s Spots, #9)

Review: Second Chances Are (Chances Are #02) by Lee Brazil


Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Second Chances AreChance Dumont has decided to move forward wit his life.  Chance decides the best way to put the past behind him is a relationship with the young man, Rory, who idolizes him. At least it seemed like a good idea at the time.  But lately the relationship feels constricting, and Chance can see it deteriorating in the near future.  But how to tell Rory that its over?  Unfortunately, Rory saw it coming and made one of the worst decisions of his young life.  Now both men must deal with the tragic outcome.  Chance realizes that second chances are hard to come by and makes a hard decision.  Then his past walks through the doors of his bar after five years.  And Chance is face to face with the hardest decision he has ever made.  Who will get the second chance at love, his past or his present?

Second Chances Are picks up shortly after the end of the first book in the series, Chances Are.  Chance Dumont, that quintessential damaged ex cop is back and trying to move on with his life,  one that was destroyed both career wise and emotionally five years earlier.  Chance has decided to put his past behind him and give romance a try once more.  His choice of partner?  That would be Rory, a young gay cop who is clearly in love with the older man.  Lee Brazil brings us again into the weary, sarcastic personality that is Chance Dumont, a man who gained his  nickname from a grandmother he both loved and hated.  One who always said, “Chances are you will come to no good, just like your pa”, and the appellation stuck.

We reenter Chance’s life just as he has made a decision to try and move forward with his life.  New boyfriend, new attempt at a relationship (although on his terms).  But when the story opens, Chance is realizing that Rory will never be the one he wants and that’s a painful reality.  Chance is a difficult man.  He is complex, with his own set of rules and laws he goes by, not necessarily society’s ones.  He is a Dom and wants someone who not only has the same kink he has but something more.  Something he once had and lost.  Chance is not a bad man and he realizes the damage this is going to do to the young man who idolizes him.  It won’t be pretty, in fact, Chance is sure it is going to get ugly quick.   I love that Brazil’s characterization of Chance is realistically layered and contradictory in his thought processes.  He is human, not always likable but trying to be as honorable as possible.  Brazil’s Chance is a man who knows life is hard but is still surprised by the depths people will sink to.  I really like this man and can see why the author created Rory, his opposite in almost every way.  We need that to illuminate the truth of Chance and it works.

A traumatic event happens to Rory that changes the dynamic between the men.  Just when Chance had made one decision about their relationship, an attack on Rory changes everything. Soon Chance is dropping that hard won decision altogether in favor of a different path, one that is 180 degrees from the realistic one Chance thought was best for them both.  This is a hard choice for Chance and Brazil lets the reader into Chance’s inner thoughts and moral arguments as he works through his own culpability with respect to Rory and the attack.  This intimate look into Chance’s mindset is necessary for the reader to continue to be emotionally attached to a man who can be perceived as cold and removed.   Chance is a great character who continues to grow as more about his past is revealed and our attachment to the man grows with him.

In this case, his past walks through the door towards the end of the story.  The reader knew it was coming but the emotional implications and impact on Chance is still as disastrous as we expected.  It’s wonderful when an author can do that with an anticipated segment of their story, and Lee Brazil does a great job with it.

We get to see Wick Templeton or at least hear him mentioned as a possible course of action, so you know  things are dire when Wick is the weapon of choice.  I think it is wise that Wick is accounted for in these linked series by something as fleeting as a phone call.  I am  not sure that either series can hold both men together at the same time.  That’s a lot of testosterone and trouble for one series, let alone two.

The other aspect I need to bring up is that this is not truly a romance, at least not yet.  There are elements of BDSM, a D/s relationship, certainly affection as well as bitterness over a past love.  But romance? That would be no.  And it’s really not needed here.  This is a portrait of a man who is trying to move forward in his life, leaving his career and obviously love behind.  We don’t have the facts yet but they are coming.  Some of them just walked in the door. What Lee Brazil does give us is tension, the realities and hardships that life dumps at your feet, and taking responsibility for your actions.  This is a grown up story and I love it.

So start at the beginning and work your way through the series.  Then head on over to Wicked’s Way, Havan Fellows’s series and grab that one up too.  I have two more stories in this series to review so stay with us all the way to the end.  You won’t be sorry.

Cover art by Laura Harner is appropriate for the book and the series.  Works well to brand the series too.

Books in the series in the order they were written and should be read to understand the characters and events within:

Chances Are (Chances Are #01)
Second Chances Are (Chances Are #02)
Fifty Fifty Chances Are (Chances Are #03)
Ghost of a Chance (Chances Are #04)

Book Details:

ebook, short story
Published March 1st 2013 by Lime Time Press
ISBN LBRZL00000 (ISBN13: 2940016176192)
edition language English

Review: Second Chances (Cattle Valley #28) by Carol Lynne


Rating: 3 stars

After a shotgun blast took off his arm, former Chicago police officer Robert “Oggie” Ogden moved to Cattle Valley to start life over again as a cattle rancher.  Then another opportunity came along, that of turning a portion of his ranch into a sanctuary for homeless and troubled GLBTQ youth.  With the help of  local philanthropist Asa Montgomery, Second Chance Ranch is about to complete its second dormitory and other facilities.  But accepting Asa’s help has also meant that Oggie has had to put up with Drake Smith, the head of security for Asa’s company.  Oggie hates that people think of him as disabled and refuses most of the offers of help sent his way, including Drake’s.

Drake Smith learned early in life that his small size made him an easy target for bullies as did his home life.  And to take on the bullies he learned to defend himself, becoming a skilled fighter.  But emotionally? That was something he found tougher to guard against the hurts inflicted by others.  So he gave up, withdrew, isolating himself within his  apartment and into his job.  Against his better judgement, Drake finds himself drawn to the taciturn Oggie and reaches out to him only to find himself and his overtures of assistance harshly rebuffed.

Only an emergency rescue of a young boy in Washington, DC brings these two men back together.  As they search for the missing boy, the sexual heat flares between them, burning down their barriers along the way.  Neither man is prepared for the feelings emerging from their encounter and pull back from each other.  When they land  back in Cattle Valley with the rescued young man, only time will tell if they will give each other the second chance at love.

Carol Lynne’s Cattle Valley series has really turned into a hit or miss reading adventure.  The last book I reviewed, Alone In A Crowd, was a return to the reason I loved this series and grabbed up each book as they were published.  Carol Lynne brought back her original characters in a long established relationship and gave us an intimate look into their changing dynamics with only scarce mentions of new characters to come. So I eagerly picked this book up, only to find that the author has returned to the form that made me eventually give up on Cattle Valley.  Here in Second Chances, the author has so many balls in the air that they are dropping figuratively all over the landscape and we are left with a grab bag of nonsensical characters and behaviors culled from the back of a psychiatry handbook.

Really, from the descriptions and back histories of the main characters here, Oggie and Drake, it looks like the author used the Mr. Potato Head method of character construction,  jamming in various characteristics into her people regardless of whether they fit or not.  I don’t know how else to explain it.  This is Drake Smith.  He is small statured (no problem), so preoccupied by threats to his safety (real or imagined) that he lives in a tiny apartment in Asa’s business complex with multiple locks on his door.He take a gun with him to answer any knocks on it.  Drake bases all his life’s decisions on “what would make his (dead) mother smile” but only eats Campbell soup because that’s all he and his mother ate.  Drake is a cutter. He self mutilates and then runs around on cutup feet like it is no problem. And after one episode, the cutting is never mentioned again.  It just disappears. Drake is ok with casual sex but won’t open his door without a gun? Huh.  And it just keep snow piling from there.  I get that Lynne wants us to find him a pained filled little man needing our sympathy but all she accomplishes is to make him out as a whacko with the Bate’s Motel in his background. Trust me it gets worse if you think that is harsh.  We will come back to him later.

Oggie is a little better.  I can see a cop having trouble leaving his life behind and having problems adjusting to his disability.  I get that, I do.  Oggie is more believable as someone who is afraid that pity lies behind offers of help.  He’s not too bad except when Drake gives him a compliment and his response is “F*&k, Drake, you turning me into some kind of damn woman or what?” Really? That’s what you come up with after muttering an endearment? I don’t know about you but I found that offensive to both men and women.

Then there is the matter of a little scene between the two men in the airplane on their way to DC.  Drake carries with him a small photograph album of pictures of him and his mother. He gives them to Oggie to help him better understand where Drake is coming from. Sweet, right?  The first picture shows a 5 year old Drake and a women with bandaged feet.  As he ages, his mother loses more and more limbs over time (to Diabetes),  First her feet, then her arms…year by year there is less and less of her. Another year, another limb.  And by then I am in tears.  Of laughter.  Not because of the very real possibility of amputation as the disease progresses.  No, I am in hysterics over the thought of what an SNL sketch this would make.  Definitely not the reaction I think Carol Lynne going for. But that just shows you how over the top this story got in making a grab for our emotions.

And finally there is Cullen “Little Man”, the boy they were sent to rescue.  Her characterization of this young man is the ultimate black mark against this book.  Cullen was a young prostitute on the streets of DC until Father Joseph (hopefully Episcopalian) talks him into the shelter he runs for GLBTQ youth.  But something happens and Cullen returns to the streets where he is abducted by his pimp and made to pay for trying to leave his stable.  It is inferred that this kid was gang raped i.e.,  tortured and “retrained” by multiple men. And when Oggie and Drake find Cullen, he is tied to a bed  barely breathing, bloody, beaten, raped and a W is carved into his forehead.  I don’t think it is a stretch for anyone to imagine the emotional and  psychological trauma this would inflict on this young man, to say nothing of the physical mess his body is in.  But is this handled responsibly after loading up this poor guy with one horrific event after another? No,  Cullen bounds back to normal almost immediately.  Nothing is said about the huge W on his forehead.  It’s as though nothing bad had really happened to him.  So how do you go there as an author and not address the very real problems brought up?  I don’t know and Carol Lynne has certainly not given us any answers.

There are smaller editing errors (Drake “unlocks” his apartment upon leaving) as well as an unrealistic case of “instant love”, all in 89 pages.   But there are so many larger issues here, that is the least of the book’s problems.

And finally there is the prospect of a romance on the horizon that even if Cullen turns out to be of legal age, leaves me kind of nauseous. So where do I go from here?  One terrific book is followed by one that is just this side of awful.  I will probably keep reading them.  At this point it is too late to stop and, like a carrot before the horse, there is always the promise of a return again to the form that made Cattle Valley I place I loved to visit.

Cover by Posh Gosh is perfection as usual.