A MelanieM Review: Fire and Light by Berengaria Brown

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Rating: 2.5 stars ouf of 5 stars

Fire and Light coverSeveral years after the divorce, Hugh’s ex-wife decides that she doesn’t want her son and gives Hugh full custody.   Hugh loves his son and finds this a wonderful turn of events, even if it means he has to rearrange his life.  With 6 year old Orion living with him, Hugh and his son are adjusting to life as a family when a chance encounter with a man named Quigley changes all their lives forever.

This is a short story about a romance that starts in an equally small amount of time.  Hugh has just gotten custody of his son from his ex-wife.  She is in a new relationship and her boyfriend does not want Orion around.  Quigley is a man on a 2-week vacation.  All three meet cute in a surf shop and bond over board shorts and goggles.  In that 2 week time frame, the men fall in love and decide to be a family, along with Orion.  Orion adjusts beautifully.  Everyone is happy. The end.

That’s the story.  Short, sweet and has no character building, no foundation on which to build a realistic love story and certainly no depth.What it does have is loads of sex scenes, with a smattering of story.  It’s fluffy with some lovely scenes between Hugh and his son.  That is really the best part of Fire and Light, the father-son relationship.  Of course, that is also the component that makes the acceptance of a stranger and the instant family kind of creepy.

If Berengaria Brown is a must read author for you, then go ahead and pick this up.  But for the rest of us, I would give this a pass.

Book Details:
ebook, 2nd Edition, 57 pages
Published June 19th 2013 by Torquere Press (first published June 16th 2011)
ISBN 1610404882 (ISBN13: 9781610404884)
edition language English

Review: Encore (Blue Notes #5) by Shira Anthony

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Encore-BuildWhen teenagers Roger Nelson and John Fuchs  meet in the band room of Maryville’s Senior High School in 1971, they discovered they shared the same passion for music.  Roger Nelson with his violin and John Fuchs with his dream of conducting.  Each teenager came from different backgrounds and moved in different circles in high school, Roger Nelson, the “cool kid” popular with all crowds and John Fuchs, the stuttering, shy transfer from St. Barnaby’s, an expensive private school.  Brought together by music, they soon developed a deep friendship that made them inseparable.  Then it turned into something more.

John had always known he was gay so his love for Roger seemed natural and right. However, Roger’s attraction and love for John confused him, making him feel unsettled and insecure especially in the 70’s where homosexuality was still looked at with disgust and ignorance.  Together through college and graduation, John and Roger continue their secret romance despite growing opposition from Roger’s parents. Then two tragedies occur that immediately impact Roger and his family.  The ripples from those events serve to separate Roger and John, shattering their romance but not their love for each other.

For the next several decades, the men’s lives intersect only to  be pulled apart time and again.  When one more event brings them back together, will this be the encore they have been waiting for or will their last chance at love slip away forever?

Encore is Shira Anthony’s most ambitious and deeply layered Blue Notes story to date.  Over the course of the Blue Notes series, Anthony has been building a symphony of characters deeply involved in the world of music and their relationships.  Whether it was a pianist or conductor, violinist or opera singer, cellist or lawyer in the musical entertainment industry, Shira Anthony has introduced us to the men whose passions for music has driven their lives, loves, and careers. But those previous stories, for the most part,  have had a specific  short time span for the men and their love affairs.  Now in Encore, Anthony goes for the larger picture, not just a movement but the whole composition.  Here she strives for a symphony and achieves it.

Encore is a musical term derived from the French word “again”.  It is a repeat performance or an additional musical piece that occurs after the main piece or event concludes and it is the perfect term to apply to the on and off again relationship of Roger Nelson and John Fuchs, two characters introduced as a couple in previous novels.  Starting in 1971 and ending in 2006, Anthony creates a romance that encompasses a 35-year time frame.  It will see the beginnings of the AIDS epidemic, the fight for gays rights, and finally the beginnings of social acceptance of homosexuality.  Against such a historic and dramatic background, the author has created her most textured and multidimensional romance in this or any other series.

Even at the beginning of John and Roger’s relationship, each young man has their personalities already firmly in place.  John is already comfortable being gay, even in 1971.  The kids have already taken note of his “difference”, an aspect of his personality that will only deepen as John ages and finds his own style, totally comfortable in his skin and element.   And while John may stutter in emotional situations, his belief in himself and his music is unwavering.  I loved John.  I understood his behavior and his emotional outlook on life and his music because Anthony has made him so transparent and accessible even with all his layers.

Then there is Roger.  The wonderful, exasperating, heartbreaking Roger.

Roger Nelson inside is the antithesis of his outward appearance and behavior.  On the surface, Roger is all “coolness” and popularity, his easy nature and charm crossing high school and then college social circles.  But inside, he is a tumultuous mess.  Pressures from his parents, society, and their expectations for Roger’s future collide with his own dreams for himself and the resulting avalanche will derail everything Roger and John had planned for their lives together.  While all Roger’s friends and family is aware he loves music, none but John understand how crucial it is to Roger, that music and the violin are fundamental parts of Roger, as necessary to him as food and air. It’s that essential part of Roger that is lost or an aspect of it is lost.  And for the reader, it is important that we are able to connect with that feeling in order for us to really understand  Roger and his actions.  For Roger, the loss of music and his ability to play the violin is nothing less than the deepest wound to his soul, like losing an appendage.  The hole it leaves behind can never be forgotten or overlooked.  Roger too feels so real, a living, breathing walking gash of a man.  And, due to the author’s deep connection with her character and her ability to bring this man to life, Roger is also the character that will engender a wide spectrum of feelings from the readers.

Roger has the ability to become such a misunderstood character in this story if the reader doesn’t take the time to put him into perspective, both historically and emotionally.  John never had the pressures put on his that Roger has had throughout his life.  Nor has John had to deal with the worst thing that could possibly happen to himself and Roger.  That is the loss of their music, the destruction of all their hopes and dreams and that is exactly what happens to Roger early on in their story.  This loss guts Roger.  It takes his heart and shatters it, leaving Roger incapable of going forward with his life as a whole person.

I think that Shira Anthony captures that feeling, that crushing loss, and it’s resulting reverberations on someone’s emotions and behavior realistically and with great pain and insight.  The author has stated that in many respects “Roger” is her.  Roger, his  character, is her outlet to express the emotions and heartbreak she felt upon leaving her career as an opera singer behind.  And it shows in the realness, the pain, the constant turmoil and upheavals in his life that Roger finds himself going through.  She made me believe in Roger totally.

At times the reader will be frustrated with Roger’s  actions.  Trust me, I was.  But again, you need to keep in mind that the man going through the various stages in his life is a man bereft of his center, his heart.  Then Roger becomes someone who needs our compassion and empathy as well as our understanding.  I think so many of us can point to moments in our life when things went awry.  Maybe it was a slight altering of goals or a detour taken that we notice only in hindsight.  But for Roger and so many others, there are life shattering events and decisions that send them off on a journey they never expected or wanted.    Accident or warfare, a missed step or terrorism.  The why is sometimes less important  than what happens after.  And here, in Encore, Shira Anthony lays it all out for us as it takes Roger 35 years to come to grip with his eviscerating loss and his love for John.

As we watch Roger and John come together only to separate once again, I am reminded of the various acts in an opera.  Just as an opera has various acts, stages it must go through,  so is this book divided into different periods.  Each division moves the story forward, sometimes just a couple of years or so, sometimes a decade until we arrive at the last act and the highly satisfying encore.  This is an emotional journey, full of the cracks and crevasses that come over time and with two such diverse men at the center.  Have the tissues handy, you will need them. as this story has the ability to make you weep as well as smile.

I can’t say it enough, Encore is such a remarkable story.  It is definitely one of the best of 2013.  It is a symphony of emotions, its instruments the men Shira Anthony has created along with their deep love for music and each other.  Encore will have you calling for a repeat performance from this incredible author.  Brava, brava!

As with all her stories, here is the link to the playlist for Encore. http://www.shiraanthony.com/books/encore/#extras 

Cover art by Catt Ford.  This cover is perfection in every way, from the picture of the two men as boys to the branding that keeps it similar in look to the other Blue Notes covers.

Listed below are all the stories in the Blue Notes series.  The author has noted that she considers it a series of interrelated, classical music themed standalone novels that can be read in any order.

Knowing (Blue Notes, #0.5) a free read at Goodreads
Blue Notes (Blue Notes, #1)
The Melody Thief (Blue Notes, #2)
Aria (Blue Notes, #3)
Prelude (Blue Notes, #4) by Shira Anthony and Venona Keyes
Encore (Blue Notes, #5)
Symphony in Blue (Blue Notes, #4.5) Expected publication: December 25th 2013 by Dreamspinner Press

Book Details:

Review: Conquer the Flames (Lang Downs #4) by Ariel Tachna

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Conquer The Flames coverThorne Lachlan, a firefighter for the Royal Fire Service, arrives at Lang Downs when a grassfire brings him onto the station to ask for assistance and prepare them for evacuation if necessary.  A former Commando for the Australian Army, Thorne has retired, beset by nightmares and blackouts, a  victim of PTSD.  Lang Downs is a sheep station unlike any other Thorne Lachlan has been to.  With homey cottages ringed with gardens to the people who live there, Lang Downs starts to cast its spell over a man clearly in need of  both sanctuary and home.

Then Thorne meets Ian Duncan, a long time resident of Lang Downs and the attraction between the men is both immediate and mutual.  But both men are afraid of committments and relationships.  Thorne because he fears he is a danger to all around him because of his PTSD. And Ian? Ian hides a deep secret that he had only told one man, Michael Lang, when he first arrived at Lang Downs at the age of 20. That secret has kept Ian a solitary man among friends on the sheep station, alone with his woodworking and small house.  Still, neither man is capable of staying away from the other and slowly they begin to build a relationship and hopefully a future together.  However, their pasts combine to raise up obstacles to their future.  Thorne and Ian must face down their demons and get the help they have long needed before they can have a future together.

Conquer the Flames is the fourth book in the Lang Downs series and it comes close to being my favorite story yet.  I had to wait several days to think about this review and why so much about this book spoke to me.  And even now I am still not sure I can answer that question with a clear explanation.

In many ways, Conquer the Flames has a slower, deeper feel to the story as well as the men at the heart of the book.  And that’s unusual considering the title and the profession that Thorne has found himself in as a firefighter.  But if you are to continue the analogy, this is much more a slow burn than a fast moving line fire as the basis and the fuel for the flames have a deep foundation in both mens past history and traumatic events.

Once more Ariel Tachna has taken great care in building her characterizations to go with the beautifully created landscape and setting that is Lang Downs.  Thorne is unlike any character that we have met here before.  He is a former Commando whose time in the Army has left him with PTSD.  He has anger management issues, blackouts and nightmares. And that doesn’t even begin to cover the events in his past that sent him running into the Army.  Ian Duncan is also a damaged soul.  His is a deep trauma inflicted in foster care and one he has never recovered from, even 20 years later.  Both men are so marvelously crafted that it never occurred to me to doubt their authenticity or backgrounds.  They feel so real, their problems and issues are so painful that the reader hurts along with them.

Tachna has treated each man’s problems with the gravity necessary when speaking of PTSD and abuse.  She gets the symptoms right as well as the need for outside medical assistance to help each man overcome years of denial and repression.  There are no immediate cures, no easy answers, just the accurate portrayal of time and the hard mental ,emotional work necessary to recovery and healing for each of them.  The author also sidesteps a common flaw when writing about such damaged characters, and that would be a quick sexual relationship and instant love.  Thank goodness none of that is found here.  I think it would have not only ruined the relationship’s credibility but destroyed the story for me as well.

This is a romance but it is a simmering one.  There can be no flashfires between men as hurt and broken as these two.  Instead we get a slow buildup of trust and understanding that is as sweet and fragile as it is satisfying.  Once you read this remarkable love story, you will understand it completely when I tell you I read and reread certain passages just to savor the scene and the emotions that were flowing over the pages. On more than one occasion I had to grab a tissue or two but they were honest tears brought forth by the real emotion and pain felt by Thorne and Ian, and of course the reader.  Just a remarkable job by the author in every respect.

As with the other books in the series, all the other characters, including Caine and Macklin, are here and well represented.  This story takes place five years after the events of Outlast The Night (Lang Downs #3), but the gap of time feels as seamless as the flow of seasons over Lang Downs.  We see the couples settling into their relationships and lives on the sheep station, the young children are getting older and new ones are being born.  And new people have been introduced to the series that just might make their way onto the sheep station just as the others such as Michael’s Lost Boys have found their way there too.

For the characters involved, and for the reader, Lang Downs remains an extraordinary place.  Its a location where once we arrive, we don’t want to leave just like all those people who have found the path to Lang Down and home.  I hope that Ariel Tachna has many more stories planned for this series.  I  intend to be there for each and every one.  I am putting Conquer The Flames on my Best of 2013 list.

Cover art by Anne Cain is as beautiful as the story within.

Books in the Lang Downs series in the order they were written and should be read:

Inherit the Sky (Lang Downs, #1)
Chase the Stars (Lang Downs, #2)
Outlast the Night (Lang Downs #3)
Conquer the Flames (Lang Downs #4)

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 254 pages
Expected publication: September 27th 2013 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN13 9781627983228
edition language English
series Langs Down

The Rank Few and their Rank View or When By The People and For The People Went Into the Dump and The Week Ahead In Reviews

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One of the many aspects that people either love or hate when living in the Washington DC Metro area is our constant bombardment of information of and about the Government.  The constant stream flows from our radios, tvs, cable, computers, phones, tablets, seemingly from the air itself.  It keeps us informed and aware of things happening in the government (whether we want to or not). I would even say that most of the people who live in this area work for the government or it has an impact on their work in some way.  Its Inside the Beltway at work and normally I kind of enjoy it.

Not now.

Now the government is shutdown and I am angry, and feeling helpless to make a difference in a situation that never should have happened in the first place.  This has effected me in so many ways, from the people I love, my family, my friends, acquaintances, all who are on furlough, those working and not getting paid, everyone who is impacted by this idiocy., including myself.

All those wondering how their mortgages will get paid, how will they put food on the table, or even get gas to bring them to the work they are not getting a paycheck for.    I see and hear it in the voices of cab drivers and food truck operators with no one to drive or feed,  hotels vacant because the tourists have gone home or have cancelled their trips.  From the front desk to those cleaning the rooms and hallways, and everyone else involved in the hospitality business, all are impacted, all are hurt.

What about those 30 children just admitted to a new cancer program at NIH, a last hope certainly and one that is frozen along with all the other protocols patients enrolled in specialty care need so desperately.  What about that person who needs a serious operation now.  It was scheduled then all leave was cancelled, no exclusions, no exemptions.  Who looks them in the face and tells them no? Even those hoping to get married or WWII veterans hoping to see their memorial? It’s certainly not the idiot Congress at the helm of this shutdown.

I, along with countless others, have called my representatives, Republican and Democrat, to voice my anger that the needs of the people who put them in office are being ignored, dismissed entirely because our views are not considered important.  The phone lines for all, especially the Republicans are constantly busy.  And when I did get through, I got a voice mail, saying all mailboxes were full.  No one is answering the phones on those offices.  But turn a camera in their direction, and they have time to expound on their importance and what they see as their own path to power and glory.

I am embarrassed that those people voted in to help their constituents have decided to help themselves instead.  The rank few with their rank view, those petulantly powerful, those gasbags of arrogance who should have been helping the government work has shut it down instead.  A fight was picked that they knew they wouldn’t win for the express purpose of shutting the government down.  They are confident that they will never have to come face to face with the millions they are hurting in the process.

And they are probably right.

Will they be visiting the people they made homeless?  Or those standing in line in the food banks?  Those in the hospital and those out of work because they lost their jobs or their businesses?  I don’t think so.  For these type of people its never their fault.  Their self-importance and arrogance overwhelms all else, leaving others to suffer for their selfishness and need for even more power.

The United States Constitution starts out as “We the People”, not We the Few and Powerful.  I think those Senators and Representatives who have shut down the government, need to be reminded who and what they represent.  They need to sit down and listen as someone reads to them the documents on which our nation and our freedoms are based.

Right before the signatures on the Constitution, the following paragraphs appear:

In all our deliberations on this subject, we kept steadily in our view that which appears to us the greatest interest of every true American, the consolidation of our Union, in which is involved our prosperity, felicity, safety–perhaps our national existence. This important consideration, seriously and deeply impressed on our minds, led each State in the Convention to be less rigid on points of inferior magnitude than might have been otherwise expected; and thus, the Constitution which we now present is the result of a spirit of amity, and of that mutual deference and concession, which the peculiarity of our political situation rendered indispensable.

That it will meet the full and entire approbation of every State is not, perhaps, to be expected; but each will, doubtless, consider, that had her interest alone been consulted, the consequences might have been particularly disagreeable or injurious to others; that it is liable to as few exceptions as could reasonably have been expected, we hope and believe; that it may promote the lasting welfare of that Country so dear to us all, and secure her freedom and happiness, is our most ardent wish.

Where is their adherence to those words and feelings expressed above?  Lacking, tossed aside in favor of their own positions and small minded thoughts.

How sad,, how infuriating, and how un American.

Now for the Week Ahead in Reviews:

Monday, Oct. 8:         Northern Star by Ethan Stone

Tuesday, Oct. 9:         Starry Knight by T.A. Webb

Wed., Oct. 10:             Enigma by Lloyd A. Meeker

Thurs., Oct. 11:           The Night Visitor by Ewan Creed

Friday, Oct. 12:           Guest Blog by Playing Ball Authors

Sat., Oct. 13:                Playing Ball Anthology

Review: Summer Lovin Anthology

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Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5

Summer Lovin' CoverRemember those long summer, sultry days when the heat beat down, the songs played endlessly into the night and romance was in the air?  Summer Lovin’ anthology brings you five stories of summer love by some of the best authors around. Chrissy Munder, Clare London, JL Merrow, Lou Harper and Josephine Myles put their spin on summer romance from light hearted love to an angst filled romance with the potential for more.

Grab a tall glass, filled with something wonderful and decadent (umbrella optional) and sit back and enjoy five tales of summer lovin’.

Stories in the Anthology are:

“Summer Hire” by Chrissy Munder
“Lost and Found on Lindisfarne” by JL Merrow
“Salt ’n’ Vinegar” by Clare London
“Werewolves of Venice Beach” by Lou Harper
“By Quarry Lake” by Josephine Myles

Usually when I read an anthology, I normally find a story or two that could be skipped over or at least is not up to the quality of the others included.  Not here.  Each one of these stories will resonate with a reader, whether it is the more lighthearted fare of Summer Hire by Chrissy Munder to the somewhat darker Salt n Vinegar by Clare London  They are all quite wonderful and each in of its own makes Summer Lovin’ a must have anthology.  I have a mini review of each story waiting below.

1. Summer Hire by Chrissy Munder: 4.5 stars out of 5

When Jim Carlson accepted a summer job along with his best friend at a repair/summer rental business, he had no idea his was stepping into one of his favorite porn dreams.  Too bad that gorgeous tattooed hunk in the overalls was also his new boss. And to make matters worse, Aaron  is also gay. Worse  because Aaron is remaining decidedly professional even when being friendly.  Jim thinks Aaron’s attitude towards him is because he is unremarkable and kind of dorky.  He is after all a just graduated IT major with no hopes for a job.

Aaron Torres has worked hard to overcome his family and poor start in life.  Now a successful businessman with his own business, Aaron avoids any romantic entanglements with employees, especially seasonal ones that will be gone in the fall with the tourists. Still, there is something so engaging about Jim Carlson.   Jim is clumsy, hardworking, and totally adorable.

As the end of summer draws near, the two men find it impossible to say goodbye.  Can a summer love last a lifetime?

Chrissy Munder takes all those lovely summer memories at the lake or beach and incorporates them into her short story of summer love.  The characters are engaging, the story well done and the relationship between Jim and Aaron realistic yet lighthearted.  No angst just a lovely relationship between two men you will adore.  Great way to set the tone for the collection.  Loved it!

2.  Lost and Found on Lindisfarne” by JL Merrow. Rating 4.75 stars out of 5

Single dad Chris and his 12 year old daughter, Kelis, are vacationing on the holy island of Lindisfarne when they run into a group of Viking re-enactors, village and all. Ulf the berserker, also known as Ian, strikes up a conversation with Chris. One conversation turns into a tour of the historic spots on the island.  When his daughter’s lost necklace makes them miss the ferry home,  Ian invites them to stay with him and the other re-enactors for the night.

Chris and Ian are more than attracted to each other but Chris has Kelis and no one wants a single dad as a  boyfriend do they?

Merrow offers up a tale that is both travelogue and love story and it works on both levels.  I loved all the details about the Viking villagers from making berries as ink to the historic places they visited on tour.  It’s a loving portrait of the island overlayed with a realistic persona of a single dad making up for lost time.  Chris is a wonder of a character and his backstory (and Kelis’) gave depth to the summer love story.   This is no case of instant love but just the beginnings of a wonderful relationship.  JL Merrow is one of my favorite authors.  Her attention to detail and loving descriptions of the settings in her stories make her a must read.  That includes Lost and Found on Lindisfarne.  This is how it starts:

“It was a hot summer’s day on the Holy Island of Lindisfarne. The lanes were dusty underfoot, the languid breeze was heavy with the scent of the North Sea, and a Viking had just offered to buy my daughter.”

3.  “Salt ’n’ Vinegar” by Clare London. Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Joe and his twin sister, Mandy, were enrolled at Brighton University, so it only made sense that Joe, a Psychology major and Mandy, Food and Hospitality major, live and work together at the fish and chip shop opposite the entrance to the pier. “Chip ‘N Fin”.  The work paid enough for their lease and a little more and the location near the beach make it perfect for Joe to pick up the gorgeous young gay boys for casual fun and sex, especially during the summer months when Brighton was full of tourists.

But all that changed when a shy young man named Steven makes the chip shop his regular stop in the afternoons.  When it becomes apparent that he waits for Joe when ordering, Mandy urges her brother to ask him out. The resulting relationship quickly turns serious to Joe’s surprise as Steven is fun, intelligent and they are absolutely compatible in every way.  But Steven is hiding a dark secret that will threaten their new found love and so much more.

Salt ‘n’ Vinegar is the darkest of the 5 offerings in the Summer Lovin’ anthology.  I liked that it brought a soberness and diversity to this collection that made me not only appreciate its attributes but in comparison, those of the other authors as well.  I liked everything about this story from the setting in Brighton to the characters that felt very authentic from the sibling relationship to the superficiality of Joe’s initial outlook on romance.  My only quibble here is with the ending.  I am not sure how to say this without giving too much away but one character (secondary but important) doesn’t ring true to what I know about those type of individuals.  They do not react by walking away instead the opposite unfortunately holds true.  But that would have called for a much longer story and would not be in keeping with the tone of most of this collection.  Still that imperfection bothered me for quite some time, especially given the  seriousness of the situation.  And while I liked the story, that aspect made this my least favorite story of the anthology.  You tell me what you think.

4.  “Werewolves of Venice Beach” by Lou Harper.  Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5

Bryan Williams is  house-sitting for the Spencers.  He plans to spend the time deep in study for his architecture degree and maybe some time at the beach.  But Bryan knows that he is a nerd, and that the beach just spells trouble. Little did Bryan know that the trouble was waiting for him next door in a house full of interesting and quirky individuals, starting with the naked man that just ran past his window, up the front stairs into the house next door.

How can you not love a story that starts with “the naked man came out of nowhere”?  I love, love this story.  Bryan is a wonderful, decent young man. The next door people who could have been flat stereotypes instead are fully fleshed out human beings and the romance that springs up between the naked guy and Bryan is full of road bumps and self doubt.  Harper then adds in a bit about a possible werewolf and cracked me up too.  If this wasn’t my favorite, it came close.  I am still smiling as I think about it.

This is how it starts, so irresistible.

The naked man came out of nowhere. One minute I was eating my Wheaties and enjoying the early morning peace and quiet, the next there he was, walking through the neighbor’s front yard. The Spencers’ porch—where I was having my breakfast—sat at least a foot above ground level, providing me with an excellent view over the low stone wall separating the two properties.

5.  By Quarry Lake” by Josephine Myles. Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5

Tommy Freestone left his hometown 3 years ago to attend the university but the real reason he fled was because of Rob Carver, his best friend.  Now Tommy has returned.  He learned much about himself in his time away, including the fact that he should have never left Rob and the town behind.  Tommy hopes that now that he has accepted his sexuality, he can approach Rob, ask for forgiveness and a new relationship.

Rob Carver has never stopped loving and missing his best friend Tommy.  While Tommy left, Rob continued to work his family’s farm, staying deep within the closet.  His one and only attempt at a romance cost him Tommy so when Tommy returns Rob is determined not to let that happen again.  Just friends, right?  Tommy has other ideas.  Can Tommy woo Rob back or will their past cost them the relationship both want?

This story is in a tie with Werewolves as my favorite stories of the anthology.  Myles pulls me in with her descriptions of sleepy rural Somerset and the two boys who grew up there.  You can feel the heat beating down on the farmland, and the quiet, cool water that awaits Tommy and Rob in their secret lake in the quarry.  It’s engaging, its magical and it feels like the best of every summer you dreamed about.  You, your best friend/secret lover, a hideaway known only to the two of you and a cave.  Those are elements that will speak to every reader, it’s the best of summer hopes and dreams. I loved it all.

One kiss sent Tommy running away but once he realized and accepted that he was gay, it also sent him running back.  It’s the classic love story.  Boy loves Boy, Boy loses Boy, Boy gets Boy back.  That never gets old and Myles did a great job with her take on that classic theme.  Again no instant love but an old one reignited, totally believable and satisfying.  Especially the scene with Rob’s Dad, how I loved that scene, just perfection.  It pulls you in right from the opening line:

The river wasn’t the same as when he’d left it.

I can’t remember when was the last time I enjoyed an anthology as much as I did this time.  It wasn’t just that it happened to fall as August was waning, or that pictures from a cousin brought back memories of times at the beach.  It was the hopes and dreams these stories evoked inside me, the smells and sounds of summer overlaid with memories of fleeting romances that somehow you always wished would linger long after the vacation was over but never did.   I highly recommend this collection and loved them all, although not equally.  You will have your own favorites.  Let me know which ones they were.  Pick it up and return to your own summer recollections and dreams.

Cover art by Lou Harper works for the collection.  It feels like romance and summer.

Book Details:

ebook, 247 pages
Pink Squirrel Press
Published August 14th 2013 by Pink Squirrel Press
edition language English
other editions
None found

Review: Black Dog (Bannon’s Gym #1) by Cat Grant

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Black Dog coverEddie Roscoe has just arrived at his family’s diner to open up and start preparing for the breakfast run when he sees a young boy and drunk fighting in the back alley.  After breaking it up, Eddie notices the kid’s bruises and other injuries arent’ exactly fresh.  And from the backback the kid was fighting over and the state of the clothes the boy was wearing, Eddie can tell the kid is homeless.  An offer of breakfast and a job brings young Tom into Eddie and his mother’s home and their family.   But it’s another side of Eddie’s life that will bring a measure of safety to Tom as well as bring an old friend back into Eddie’s life.

Eddie Roscoe and Danny Bannon have loved and fought for over 15 years.  But a shared trauma and the resulting guilt has kept them apart and sabotaged every effort they make to reunite.   Now the arrival of Tom Delaney, a teenage runaway, will be the spark that brings them back together and units them in a common cause, that of keeping Tom safe while training him to be a mixed martial arts fighter.

Tom Delaney is young, angry and hurt.  And he has aspects of his past life that he is keeping hidden from those trying to help him, namely Eddie, Danny, and Gloria’s Eddie’s mother.  And when his past, in the form of his abusive father, tracks him down, it will take everyone around him to keep him safe and out of jail.

Black Dog is an emotionally gripping story, one that kept me awake in the wee morning hours until I had finished it.  And that emotional connection is due to Cat Grant’s damaged and vulnerable characters and the situation they find themselves in.  The people she created for Black Dog (and the series) are ones easy to connect with and they engage our sympathies immediately.  First of all, we meet Eddie arriving in his old Ford 150 pickup to open the diner his grandfather started and he now owns with his mother, Gloria.  The scene is vivid, so much so we can almost hear his footsteps sloshing through the puddles of water on the asphalt outside the  diner.   Grant sets not only the tone for the characters in her settings but for the rest of the story as well.  A slightly run down family diner in a neighborhood that has never seen better days, its interior still proclaims its 50’s origin.  And Gloria, Eddie’s constantly smoking mother is recognizable to all who have visited establishments like these.  I absolutely love the character of Gloria Roscoe and some of the finest scenes in this book happen in her presence.

Eddie and Danny are also realistic characters.  Their combined past contains a traumatic event that neither man has dealt with.  It has destroyed their relationship as friends and lovers.  And neither man knows how to get that back or get past the accident that has twisted their lives and emotions.  It’s powerful stuff and Cat Grant delivers their pain and angst to the reader with authenticity and detailed scenes that will resonate with the reader.  Here is a scene from the beginning, with Tom and Eddie at the diner after the fight:

Tom nudged his plate away and burped. Two spots of bright pink popped high on his cheeks. “That was really good. What can I do to pay for it?”

“It’s on the house.”

His eyes widened. “Seriously? I can’t even sweep up or do dishes or something?”

I pulled a quart of waffle batter out of the old green Frigidaire and swung around to study him. Reminded me of me at his age, all quiet intensity with a streak of sheer panic beneath the surface. Just like any other kid forced to strike out on his own. One thing was clear: he came from money. St. Pat’s wasn’t cheap, and nobody got straight white teeth like his without a few years in braces. From the way he spoke, he was no dummy. What was a kid like him doing living on the street?

Maybe I wasn’t born rich, but I knew what he was feeling. That hollowed-out ache inside, the panic and fear of seeing every new person as a potential threat. Where would I be now if no one had offered me a helping hand? And no, one lousy meal didn’t count.

“Leave your stuff in back,” I said. “There’s a broom and an extra apron in the closet. Start with the pantry. It’s a mess in there.”

“Okay.” He sprang up and headed in back, brushing past Gloria, who’d just come up to grab a stack of paper napkins. Her gaze followed him through the swinging doors.

“You sure that’s a good idea?” That was what she always said. And if the bemused tilt of her head was any clue, she knew she wasn’t about to dissuade me.

“If you want to clean up back there, have at it.”

“You and your charity cases,” she said, coughing out a raspy Marlboro laugh and planting a kiss on my cheek.

I’d caught something else in the kid’s eyes too. Frustration, determination, anger. Whatever mixture of emotions that spurred him to deal that drunk a beat down. He’d acted pretty matter of fact about his scrapes and bruises, but those other marks on his face . . . well, he hadn’t gotten them walking into a door.

That is such a telling scene, revealing so much about all the characters involved from Gloria and her ever present cigarettes to the fear in Tom’s eyes. It remarkable and it hooks the reader in emotionally from the start.  We care for these people and we need to know what will happen next.

Black Dog is the first in the Bannon’s Gym series and I hope that these people will form the core of the series as Tom fights his way to the top of the MMA profession. The author makes the gym and those learning to fight there accessible to the reader.  We learn about MMA and the fight training methodology common to the mixed martial arts.  There is a lot of leeway with a gym as a setting in a series and I can’t wait to see how Grant develops this series.

I will admit that I came close to giving this story 5 stars but several aspects prevented that.  The first being a pov that is constantly switching narrators.  I wish Grant has stuck to just Eddie as the pov. He has a singular voice that rendered an intimacy to the narrative that is lost when the pov switches to another character or third person.  If the story and characters had not been as great as they were, this unevenness in style would have brought the rating down even further.  And the other is an awkward sentence that signals the end of the story.  The scene itself works but it needed a little more, whether it was dialog or action, to feel complete.  Still I felt happy at the end and ready for more.  More of Danny, Eddie, Tom and Gloria, and more of Bannon’s gym.

So yes, I highly recommend this story.  Go grab it up and get reading.  I have added Cat Grant to my must have authors list.  I think after this book you will be doing the same.

Cover art is great, love the black and white design and the tone. Perfect for the story

Book Details:

ebook, 1st edition, 82 pages
print book,  130 pages
Published August 2013 by Cat Grant Books
ISBN13 9780989694919
edition language English
series Bannon’s Gym

Review: Handle With Care by Josephine Myles

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Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

handle with careBen Lethbridge spent most of his life taking care of his little sister when his parents were killed.  It was a job no eighteen year old should have to shoulder, especially a diabetic one.  But Ben did it and with love and patience, becoming the parent, guardian and security for his 6 year old sister.  And when his sister grew up, the lessening of those duties made Ben a party boy, determined to make up for those years he missed out on while she was growing up.  But the excess to which Ben partied and drank was too much for his fragile body to handle and now he is paying for it by living on a home dialysis regimen and waiting for a kidney transplant that never seems to come.

The highlight of Ben’s day is his delivery boy coming to his house to drop off a package.  Ollie is a young, purple haired skateboarder whose bright personality and gorgeous body is the stuff of Ben’s dreams, day and night.  But not only is Ben not sure of Ollie’s sexuality, Ben feels unlovable and downright unsexy due to the tubes running out of his abdomen, his swollen physique, and strict daily regimen he is locked into.  So, other than a casual greeting with Ollie, all Ben does is look. And dream.

But one day a package Ollie is delivering breaks and Ben’s gay porn CDs fall out. In the ensuing mess, it comes out that Ollie is as gay as Ben had hoped. And Ollie’s kinks mesh with Ben’s status.  As with everything else in Ben’s life, nothing is ever easy and that goes for a relationship between Ollie and Ben. Can both men overcome the obstacles between them or will Ben let this chance at happiness slip away.

Handle With Care has so many terrific unexpected elements to it not normally found in m/m romance novels or any romance novel actually.  Myles gives us two main characters whose physical traits, and past histories make them unusual to say the least.  Her first MC is a young man responsible for his own (mostly) physical decline.  Ben Lethbridge was a 18 year old diabetic when his parents death made him responsible for his young sister as her only guardian.  Myles makes us understand why Ben would party to excess when he was finally able to let go, while remaining factual as to the physical  ramifications that such an abuse of drugs and alcohol would have on a diabetic.  Now in his thirties, Ben is living with the consequences and they aren’t pretty.  Josephine Myles gives us graphic descriptions of exactly how Ben goes through his daily regimen that is barely keeping him alive.  This happens early on:

Three hours after Zoe left I hooked up the catheter tube in my belly to an empty bag and started to drain out all the waste dialysis fluid. I’d infused a dialysate bag not long before she’d turned up, so I had to wait for it to diffuse before opening the parcel. It might sound silly, but I had problems getting it up with all the dialysate fluid inside me. I’d look down and see my bloated abdomen and that bloody tube sticking out of me, and any trace of arousal just evaporated. I’d just start thinking about how the fluid was sloshing around inside my peritoneal cavity, getting more and more toxic as it leached all the waste products out of my blood.

In some ways, I’d have preferred to stay on the haemodialysis, which was only three hospital visits a week, but what with the diabetes, it didn’t work so well for me. I felt terrible most of the time and kept having crashes. Peritoneal dialysis was better at keeping my blood sugar level, even if it could be a hassle having to infuse and drain four bags a day.

As the fluid drained out, taking all those toxins with it, I ripped open the cardboard wrapper and pulled out the latest acquisition to my library. I was getting quite a collection. Like I said, I had to get the variety somehow, didn’t I?

Vivid, matter of fact, and perhaps more than the reader would  want to know.  And this is perhaps the mildest of the descriptions of the reality that Ben faces daily as a man who needs a kidney transplant and lives a fragile life according to a medical regimen.  Ben has a disease that many live with and more than a few mishandle it as badly as Ben does early on.  He loves his sister, and has been her main support and companion for her entire life.  Ben is intelligent and holds down a good job, albeit at home due to his physical condition.  He seems like an ok guy. And while there is much to admire about Ben, there is also elements of his personality that made it hard for me to like him.  Is he human? Absolutely but does that translate automatically into a character we can care about and relate to?  I don’t think so.  For a character to have a disability or a disease is not enough to make that person someone the reader would automatically connect with.  They need a good or great core at the center to go along with whatever else is happening to them.  Ben, unfortunately, is also a bit of a curmudgeon.  He makes assumptions about everyone and everything, not always nice ones.  He has a next door neighbor who fills her garden with gnomes and other statuary.  Here is his thoughts on poor Mrs. Felpersham:

Ollie to be at the door on Monday morning. What I was expecting was Mrs. Felpersham, the old biddy who lives in the gnome-infested house next door and who insists on calling round once a week to ask how I’m doing. I wouldn’t mind if it were purely an innocent enquiry, but I swear she’s just looking for a chance to snoop around my flat and pass judgment.

In fact Ben rarely has a nice thought about any one with the exception of his sister.  And that gets old fast.  I kept telling myself that this was supposed to be reflective of Ben’s mental and physical state at the time.  And while it may have been realistic, it didn’t make him any more accessible as a person.

And it’s not just Ben.  His sister, Zoe, is as understandable and unlikable as he is.   She is young and protective of her brother/guardian.  In fact, due to Ben’s illness they have switched places with Zoe acting almost as Ben’s caregiver and sole companion.  She cooks all his meals for him due to his dietary restrictions and acts as his only friend outside his house.  Not exactly a healthy relationship but that never comes up.  She wants Ben to date, she wants to control who he dates.  She throws fits of anger and jealously that seem real given her personality and circumstances but do I like her? Again, no.

And then there’s poor Ollie, our young purple haired skateboarder who dreams of opening his own cafe.  I actually liked Ollie the best but Myles has burdened poor Ollie with a back history as a doormate/domestic servant with benefits with an older man who took advantage of him.  The history Myles created for Ollie seems authentic and potentially realistic.  So does his behavior with Ben and that makes Ben’s actions later more than a little repugnant and hurtful.  Ollie is young, ebullient and in financial straights.  I understood and liked this character.  Just not his choice of lovers, and that includes Ben.

I think my biggest issues here have to do not only with the characterizations but the relationship.  These all felt like very real people.  So were the events that happened to them, from the accident that killed Ben’s parents to the transplant that Ben undergoes to save his life.  The location, the events, everything is beautifully layered and fleshed out but no matter how hard I tried (and truly I did try), I just never got the attraction between Ben and Ollie.  That pull or magic that needs to be created on the page in order for the reader to buy into their love for each other seems utterly missing.

Josephine Myles is a terrific writer.  She thinks outside the norm when it comes to her characters and plots.  Sometimes they work and other times while we see the potential of the story, the actuality comes up short as it did here.  I liked the chances the author took with her characters in this story.  I like seeing people with disabilities or more common diseases being represented in romances as they deserve to be.  I only wish I had liked these a little more.  If you love Josephine Myles, then maybe you will feel differently than I do about Ben, Zoe and Ollie.  But if you are new to this author, skip this one and proceed to her many other books.  There is sure to be one you will love waiting for you on her shelf.

Cover art by Kanaxa is both lovely and touching.  Great job.

Book Details:

ebook, 149 pages
Published April 24th 2012 by Samhain Publishing, Ltd.
ISBN 160928965X (ISBN13: 9781609289652)
edition language English

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

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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: Chances Are (Chances Are #01) by Lee Brazil

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Chances Are coverChance Dumont, owner of Chances Are bar, is at a stalemate in his life.  Years ago, an injury cost Chance his job as a cop but it is an emotional damage that has kept him from moving on.  Chance’s grandmother always told him that “Chances are you’ll come to no good, just like your pa.”  That’s how he got his name, nick name actually.  His real name is Aaron, Aaron Dumont.  But Chance is what he goes by.

Its time for a change in Chance’s life but how to go about moving on is the question.  Chances are that nothing good is going to come of this too, but its more than past time for Chance to make a change.  Now to make that happen.

Chances Are introduces us to another memorable character in the Pulp Friction stories being written by three different authors. This time its Lee Brazil and Chance Dumont, her damaged ex cop.  Chance is one of those marvelous personalities you find behind the counter in their bars throughout noir fiction.  A deeply damaged man, Chance is an ex cop who still operates from a vague set of morals he can barely remember. Chance’s life has been in stasis for some time, the result of past events that are never really defined for the reader. Brazil just offers us tantalizing bits here and there as to the source of all  Chance’s pain and emotional scarring.  It’s a great character made even more enticing and mysterious by not giving us too much of his past history.  It dribbles out slowly, teasing the reader with glimpses of Chance’s past and imparting clues to the reasons behind Chance’s current state of mind and heart.

Another surprising twist to this character is Chance’s sex life.  He likes his sex with a kink, and that kink being that Chance is a Dom in the BDSM lifestyle. In fact the story starts out with Chance and another young man in the middle of a sexual encounter.  It’s white hot, and truthfully kind of sad at the same time, a great touch.  Primarily because it is Chance that is unsatisfied, and not just with his current partner.  Brazil leads us directly into Chance’s mindset even as the sexual goings on heats up.  You can feel Chance’s frustration with his life even while he appreciates his partner’s attributes (which are many).  It’s a great portrait and a complicated one.  And I loved every second of it.

Those of you expecting a romance here, well, you aren’t going to get it.  At least not yet.  I expect the real romance has already happened in the past and that Chance is still reeling  from its detonation.   I also expect to see it or someone pop up sometime in the series to muck everything up again for Chance, a delicious element to keep our anticipation high and idling.  How lovely and a great change from instant love.

For some of you, the BDSM element might make you hesitate when deciding on reading this series.  Don’t.  It is very well done and not extreme in description.  While I am not a fan of this element in my stories, Brazil’s treatment of Chance’s sexual choices are matter of fact, an aspect of Chance’s character which works perfectly with the core of his character.  It’s just one more need from this incredibly complex man.

Again, this is a short story, one of four in this series.  And that’s my only quibble. We only just get into Chance’s mind when the story ends.  We are beginning to see the possibilities ahead even as his past threatens to drag him back down.  The tension is wonderful, the character mesmerizing, and the heat white hot.  I can’t wait to see where Brazil will take Chance next.  Luckily I will be there for the journey. Join us.

Cover art by Laura Harner.  I liked this cover much better than the one she designed for the Wicked’s Ways series.  The glass on the bar works for Chance  and helps brand the series.

Books in the Chances Are series in the order they were written and should be read:

Chances Are (Chances Are #1)

Second Chances Are (Chances Are #2)

Fifty Fifty Chances Are (Chances Are #3)

Ghost of a Chance (Chances Are #4)

Book Details:

ebook, 42 pages
Published December 30th 2012 by Lime Time Press
edition language English
other editions
None found

Review: Aching For It (Dominican Heat, Book 1) by Stanley Bennett Clay

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Rating: 1 star out of 5

Aching For ItHollywood photographer Jesse Lee Templeton III needs to put his ex boyfriend’s betrayal behind him.  So a  “sexcursion” to the Dominican Republic with a friend is just what Jesse feels he needs.  But a chance meeting at a bodega with worker Étienne Saldano changes their lives forever.  Etie is Jesse’s forever love just as Jesse is the person Etienne has always dreamed of.  When Jesse’s vacation comes to an end, neither man wants to part from the other.  With immigration laws standing in their way, can Jesse and Etie find their way to happiness and a life together?

Where to start, where to start?  Never has such a short book flummoxed me on so many areas.  This includes a schizophrenic writing style that alternates between Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest florid and common man/broken spanglish style.  Add to that unflattering and unappealing characters,  confused plot, immigration fraud, and a story that just stops cold.  The whole things just overwhelms me.

But let’s just start with the writing.  Here is a sample of one style found within the narrative:

Back in our room we attempted to wean ourselves from the blistering and bliss-filled heat of our passion in the shower, but even the tepid-to-cool water that rained upon us couldn’t put out the fire we ignited over and over with our kissing and soaping and sucking and cleansing and licking and f*&^g. We grew dangerously close to the scorch of unbearable pleasure, but our hearts gave us no choice. Our carnal expressions of love new and immortal were commands from our rapture we gladly obeyed.

Each night we fell asleep in each other’s arms. Each morning we awoke, still embraced. That all too brief time together couldn’t quench the thirst we had for each other. Our moments on the beach; during candlelight dinners when knowing mariachi underscored our telling glances; in each other’s arms, minds, bodies, souls and hearts created a pact of eternalness that we knew not even death could tear apart, though time loomed as a too strict overseer.

And there are pages containing  even more florid expressions of love.  Then as if someone flicked a switch, we get this:

“She come to my room, baby,” Étie tried to explain as calmly as possible, but he was obviously very upset. “And she drunk. I invite her in. We talk. I go to pee. Come back and she naked! I say to her, ‘What you doing, Francesca?’

I don’t know about Francesca, but I am giggling away.  And back and forth we go, from the supposedly profound and florid to the profane and in your face dialog.  From run on sentences that last a paragraph to short bursts of  “I am so sorry, Junie,” she boohooed softly.”  Boohooed?

Here is a more typical example:

Still, the paper-cut battles that lay ahead, the fight against the subtle tyranny of the heterosexual majority, and the trudging through the maze of that pejorative ignorance and polite dispassion, wearied me.

Rare black butterflies are we, our exoticness admired under glass, on the carnival stage, for the love we share. Our love is a love that speaks its name in tongues too foreign to be understood by those well-meaning, condescending heterosexist admirers, yet with a lilt that intrigues them enough to indulge in things they wouldn’t dare try within the civilized civility of their pristine opposite-sex existences. The very thought of a man lusting after his brother’s wife is a universal abhorrence. Fucking your gay brother’s partner? No problem.

Disturbing writing style aside, there is also the fact that Jesse is down in the Dominican Republic visiting The House of John, a brothel specializing in “young male sex workers, known as bugarrones, were readily available for as little as twenty American dollars” The younger the better.  Even the author has Jesse acknowledging that

“I was just another john at House of John, the notorious whorehouse gay Americanos frequented for the purpose of sexually exploiting Étie’s fellow countrymen.”

So the problem here is not exploitation of the poor young Dominican men but that it almost cost him Etie? I think you can see why Jesse is not the most endearing of characters.  There is a sex addicted, alcoholic sister involved, plus an acquaintance/friend turned enemy who acts as a foil for, well, everything.  We also have an occasional changing of POV from first person to third and back again.  And after plodding through 74 pages, the story just ends.  The author has indicated that Aching For It is just the first in a series, another fact that has me dumbfounded.

Still,  flip flops in the narrative such as these did make this story memorable, although not in a good way. From

Our carnal expressions of love new and immortal were commands from our rapture we gladly obeyed.

to

 “Ahhh!” Étie shrieked, “Ahhh! Ahhh! Ahhh! Papi, Ahhh!”

Well, finish it I did, further no more I go.  Even Yoda would not have the patience for this story, let alone a series.  I could keep quoting.  I could even keep mentioning further issues I had with plot and characterization.  But I won’t bother.  I won’t be recommending this book to anyone other than as an example of how not to write a story. Or even a sentence.  Just give Aching For It the pass it deserves.

 The  cover is lush and gorgeous, so undeserving of the story within. Cover design by Dar Albert Cover photography by Simedrol68, Allen Penton, Lunamarina/Fotolia.com

Book Details:
ebook, 74 pages
Published April 19th 2013 by Ellora’s Cave Publishers Inc.
ISBN1419942867 (ISBN13: 9781419942860)
edition language