Review: Isle of Wishes (Isle of Wight #2) by Sue Brown

Standard

Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5

Isle of Wishes coverAfter the tumultuous events of the past months, life for Sam Owens and Liam Marshall is finally on track.  They are getting married and Liam’s visa issues have finally been resolved.  So Sam sends Liam back to his home in Michigan to pack up his belongings for the final move to England and married happiness with Sam.   Everything is fine until Liam stops returning Sam’s phone calls. Sam trusts Liam and their love so Sam knows that something has gone terribly wrong.

Sam intends to go to the States to look for Liam but knows he will need help and support.  So he turns to his brother, British Metropolitan police officer Paul Owens, to accompany him to Michigan.  If anyone can find Liam and get them both safely back to the Isle of Wight for their wedding its Paul Owens. Upon landing, they soon discover the trail leads to a small town in Wisconsin, outside of Milwaukee where LIam’s rental car has been found.

Once in Milwaukee, openly gay Detective Paul Owens starts investigating Liam’s disappearance and runs smack into the closeted but gorgeous Wisconsin Detective Olaf Skandik.  Olaf returned home after he left the service and joined the police force.  But the small town attitudes and close-knit community now feel restrictive, and Olaf is afraid that coming out will leave him both without a job and family.  But as Paul and Olaf start investigating Liam’s disappearance together, mutual attraction flares into something much more, shocking them both.  What happens when a casual attraction turns into love for men separated by an ocean of responsibilities?

Isle of Wishes is the second story in the Isle of Wight series and it deepens my love for these men and their families that started in The Isle of…Where?.  In that book, we first meet Sam Owens and Liam Marshall when Liam arrives on the Isle of Wight to scatter the ashes of his best friend, Alex.  Sam and Liam meet and fall in love, passionately and forever within weeks of Liam’s arrival and Sue Brown absolutely makes the reader believe in this love affair and Sam and Liam’s need for each other.  The author also surrounded this pair with a collection of characters, mostly Sam’s family, including one of his brother’s, a police officer named Paul.

Brown gave this motley, large family such depth and dimension to their characters that I fell in love with them as much as I did with Sam and Liam.  At the end of that story, we left Sam and Liam happy but starting the process of getting a residency visa for Liam and dealing with other issues.  Brown had convinced us that they were on the road to happiness but still had a journey in front of them. So naturally  I wanted the next chapter in their lives immediately.  Sigh.

Instant gratification are two words not in Sue Brown’s vocabulary, at least not in this series.  Her readers had to wait over a year to see what happened next to Sam and Liam and the Isle of Wishes gives us a startling answer.  Liam disappears to the consternation and heartbreak of Sam and fans of this series.  I love that element of Sue Brown’s stories where items that appear to be safe and straightforward are actually deceptively complicated, whether it is  relationships, sexuality, or even a trip home to finish packing and move.  Nothing works out as planned because life doesn’t function that way and Sue Brown’s stories are most definitely grounded in reality.

That’s why I can accept a casual attraction turning into something deeper, not yet love but greater than just a flirtation and hookup.  It’s also the reason why the cause behind Liam’s disappearance is so plausible as well.  I often find myself nodding in agreement with something I am reading in her stories because its recognizably familiar and human.  This also applies to her characters, whose problems and outlooks reflect our own.

Olaf is that man who finds himself torn between family and job he loves and his sexuality.  Olaf has hidden his sexuality for years and now it has become deeply ingrained to hide his attraction to men.  Given small town attitudes, especially in his town’s law enforcement, Olaf is well aware of what coming out would cost him, his job and his family.  Until Olaf meets the outwardly gay Paul, he has never questioned his decision to remain firmly in the closet.  Then Paul and Sam arrive looking for Liam and Olaf’s life is turned upside down.

Brown makes Olaf’s decisions understandable even as the heat between the men flares white hot.  It’s painful, its frustrating and it feels so real to watch Olaf and Paul work through what they mean to each other even as they follow the leads in Liam’s disappearance.  Paul is a great character too.  Paul is home is in his sexuality.  He is great at his job, loves his family and is astonished at his feelings towards Olaf.  We get it that both men have a hard time believing that their feelings for each other are real given the time frame and situation they are operating in. Sam is there too for every agonizing minute that Liam is gone.  Trust me when I say your heart will be sore but not broken by the end of this story.

And that is primarily why I have not given Isle of Wishes 5 stars.  There are many loose ends left fluttering about at the end of this story, intentionally so.  We do get part of a happy ending and a something more but the author is laying her groundwork for the next installment.  And while I respect that, I do wish it had been pulled together a tiny bit more instead of a surfeit of questions and possibilities.

Still this is a deeply wonderful story.  The writing is crisp and the plot complicated enough to let the romance shine through without obscuring all the other great elements here.  And of course, there are those marvelous characters that we have come to love and who form the  basis and structure for this series.  I don’t think I can place one above the other, they are all so intertwined that separating them out actually would lessen the impact of the story. The Owens family, those by blood and those they adopt are a force to be reckoned with and I love them all equally.

So, what is in the future for this series? Well, per Sue Brown, book 3, Isle of Walls, will be out in May next year. It directly follows on from Isle of Wishes, and although it’s based on Nibs and Wig, it will tell more of Paul and Olaf’s story. Then she has a new series planned with Olaf and Paul, which will start next year.  So many stories to look forward to.  I know I will spend some of the time rereading the first two books while waiting for next spring and the arrival of Isle of Walls.

If you are new to this series, go back to the first story, Isle of….Where?(Isle of Wight #1).  It’s necessary in order to fully understand all the people and relationships to follow.  For no matter where this series goes, the heart of it remains on the Isle of Wight and the incredibly addicting Owens family. Consider this book and this series highly recommended.

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

The Isle of… Where? (Isle of Wight #1)
Isle of Wishes (Isle of Wight #2)

Book Details:

ebook, 242 pages
Published August 19th 2013 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 1627980776 (ISBN13: 9781627980777)
edition language English
series Isle of Wight

Martin Luther King, Jr., I Had A Dream speech, and This Coming Week In Reviews

Standard

MLK on the MallIt’s the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s speech on Wednesday and yesterday tens of thousands of people gathered to commemorate that momentous occassion and to remind  the world that his dream still needs to be fulfilled.   Racism still exists and we as a nation still have such a long way to go for all to be equal under the law and in each other’s eyes.

Just in time for his anniversary, the MLK statue on the memorial was “fixed” so that awful truncated version of MLK’s speech is now gone,  That was just another example of how this man and his message is still misunderstood by some, in this case the Chinese artist and a group of architects responsible for that statue..   IMLK statue am not a fan of that statue.  To me it belongs in Tiananmen Square not Washington DC, it exemplifying the type of statuary so often seen in the communist nations.  Where is the man of passion?  Where is the man of fire and vision?  I don’t see him in the statue but instead look to his speeches where he and his dream will live forever.

Martin Luther King’s “I Had A Dream” speech:

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. So we have come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

In a sense we have come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.” But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check — a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quick sands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.
It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.

We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. They have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.

As we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied, as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating “For Whites Only”. We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.

Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.

I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with a new meaning, “My country, ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.”

And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!

Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!

But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”

Now to the week ahead in book reviews.  I have the second series from the Pulp Friction authors and a guest blog from Lee Brazil this week.  I love these series and can’t wait to bring the third one to you the week after next.  That will be the Triple Threat series by Laura Harner.  I also have two books by authors who are always on my TBR list, Astrid Amara and Josephine Myles.  Be sure to grab those up as well.

The weather is exquisite.  Present are those clear blue early autumn skies that make you smile and stay outside until twilight falls.  I heard my first flock of snow geese go trumpeting overhead last night, the first of many that signal an early fall.  The whitetail deer herds are also reforming early.  That would account for the over 15 of them in my neighbors yards last night.  Did it make the terrors three crazy?  Why, yes it did!  As well as every other dog in the neighborhood.  Almost time to start winter proofing my gardens but not just yet.  I will enjoy them for a little longer.  So its time to gather up my Kindle and my knitting (and of course the dogs) and head outside to enjoy the day.   I hope you will enjoy yours too.

Monday, Aug. 26, 2013:                     Fifty Fifty Chances Are by Lee Brazil

Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2013:                     Ghost of Chances Are by Lee Brazil

Wed., Aug. 28, 2013:                            Author Spotlight: Meet Lee Brazil

Thurs., Aug 29, 2013:                           Demolished by Astrid Amara

Friday, Aug. 30, 2013:                         Handle With Care by Josephine Myles

Sat., Aug. 31, 2013:                              A Summary of Scattered Thoughts August Reviews

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

Standard

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: Home Sweet Home (Home #5) by T. A. Chase

Standard

Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Home Sweet Home coverYancey MacCafferty and Juan Romanos have been in love since the first time they met.  In a gay bar in Texas, an underage Juan just wanted to dance.  But danger was all around him.  Yancey, a young rent boy, sees Juan’s innocence and naivete and falls in love, all while saving Juan from a predator on the dance floor.  Eventually both ended up with their brothers on the ranch owned by Les Hardin and Randy Hersch, where they finished growing up and found their dreams.  For Juan, it was all about the horses and being a world class equestrian, eventually ending up at a show bar on the East coast. Yancey chose another path, that of college and an education needed to become a veterinarian.  And all during those years, Yancey and Juan never stopped loving each other, even though each was at opposite ends of the country.

Now Yancey has graduated from college and is ready to reunite with the man he loves and start his career. But to do that, he will have to leave the people he has grown to love including his brother for a new veterinarian practice in Virginia, just miles away from the show barn where Juan rides and lives.  He and Juan have been parted long enough.  He is sure that Juan feels the same way.  Or does he?  Yancey isn’t sure, exactly but its time to find out.  Can Yancey and Juan’s puppy love mature into the forever love they have always wanted or will the reality of being and living together bring their dreams crashing down?

I have been waiting like so many others for Juan and Yancey’s story since the first time we met them in Home of His Own (Home #2 – their brothers, Brody MacCafferty and Tony Romanos story).  These two young men were instantly endearing and their love story so heartwarming that it almost eclipsed that of their brothers.  Happily, I can announce that it was worth the wait.  Home Sweet Home is a wonderful story, reminescent of the first book in the series, No Going Home which remains my favorite.

In every book of the series, we kept getting glimpses of Juan and Yancey as they grew up.  The author always managed to throw in little details of their lives, whether it was Yancey returning for the holidays from college or Juan’s equestrian training at Edward’s barns in Virginia.  These small mentions managed to keep our interest in these young men alive and pique our curiosity over their future.  In fact, one of the many aspects I love about this series is that Chase continues to bring together all the characters from other books into the latest stories.  These people form a family, one cobbled together by need and choice so to have that family remain topical in every book is important to the cohesion and strength of the series.

The characters of Yancey and Juan have also grown as their characters have aged.  From teenage gay boys to confident, mature young men, Chase has developed their characters realistically relative to their age.  It’s wonderful getting reacquainted with these older versions of the boys we first met.  Along with their characters, their love for each other needs to grow as well. Luckily, Chase has taken care of that too.  The author has her characters adjust their views of each other and their careers in a very human and authentic manner.  I just loved how tentative and yet determined each man is to make their relationship and Yancey’s move work.  It is emotionally satisfying and oh so enjoyable to read about.

If I have a quibble, it would be with the ending.  In the epilogue we fly forward from 1 year to 5 years into the future, missing out on so much of their lives together that it felt like a missed chance to round out their story in favor of a quick finish (note see my mini rant on storying endings).   I don’t know if this rushed ending is due to Chase finishing up the series or just their story.  Either way, it didn’t measure up to the first part of the story and that was a shame.  But even with that quibble, I still love this series and recommend it. The Home series is heartwarming, sexy, and full of wonderful characters you will never get tired of.   Home Sweet Home is another great installment and one you won’t want to miss.

Cover art by Posh Gosh.  The young model in front is perfect for Juan and the cover gorgeous in design and detail.

Here are the Home series book in the order they were written and should be read to understand the characters and the events:

No Going Home (Home #1) – my favorite
Home of His Own (Home #2) Tony and Brody’s story (second favorite)
Wishing for a Home (Home #3) Derek and Max’s story
Leaving Home (Home #4) Peter and Chaz’s story
Home Sweet Home (Home #5) Juan and Yancey’s story (a tie with their brothers)

Book Details:

ebook, 137 pages
Published May 27th 2013 by Total-E-Bound
ISBN 1781843228 (ISBN13: 9781781843222)
edition language English
series Home #5

Review: Worlds Collide (Sanctuary #7) by R.J. Scott

Standard

Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5

Worlds CollideDale MacIntyre, Sanctuary agent, is in charge of protecting Emily Bullen, wife of Senator Thomas Bullen, from her husband and the rest of the criminally inclined Bullen family. After turning states evidence, Emily is headed back to Albany on a jet.  Accompanied only by Dale, the pilot of the plane, and the copilot, she is horrified when word reaches them that a key player in the Bullen family crime syndicate was mistakenly freed from jail and is now able to hunt down the only person who can put him away for life.  That person is Emily Bullen.

Midflight, Dale realizes the extent that Ryland Griffin will go to in order to eliminate Emily Bullen. Dale reaches out immediately to the person he knows he can trust to have immediate answers, have his back and that of the person he is protecting. That person is his lover, Navy Seal Joseph Kinnon.  When Dale’s assignment gets more dangerous, Joseph and his Seal Team intervene and the resulting events bring about a serious introspective search for Dale and Joseph about where their relationship is headed.

I have been waiting for another Dale and Joseph book since they first appeared in The Only Easy Day (Sanctuary #2). In that story, Dale, an ex Seal and Joseph, current Navy Seal, meet, clash and lust as the investigation into the Bullen family crime syndicate is in its initial stages with Joseph’s murdered sister as one of Bullen family’s first known victims.  The start to their romance is white hot, primal and short lived.  Since then, R.J. Scott has kept the readers on high anticipation with teasers of the couple in book after book but nothing notable or even remotely satisfying.  This is how it all starts:

“It’s not too late, we can still get out of here,” Chief Petty Officer Joseph Kinnon said urgently. He pressed both hands to the glass and stared down at the street below. The city was a white, snowy landscape and at any other time would have been stunningly beautiful. They were ten stories up in a hotel in the heart of the historic district and the place had ledges at each level. As a team they’d dealt with worse. Assessing the situation, he considered the options.

“Fuentes, talk to me.”

Luca Fuentes, young, tall, and built like the side of barn with muscles on muscles, was the team’s resident hacker but was also a tactical genius. He joined Joseph at the window. “Chief,” he said formally. His green-eyed gaze unerringly focused in on the view that Joseph had. He frowned as he looked out.

“Can you find egress here?” Joseph asked.

Luca tapped the glass.

“Reinforced; we’d need some pretty heavy ordnance to get out—I can get Viktor on that—then zip wire. Get it hooked to the top of the plaza building.” Luca looked up and down, then turned to Joseph. “Forty degrees. We can get down to the roof and get out that way.”

“Assessment?” “Fifty-fifty. I think most of us will be okay, but one of our team is scared of heights,” Fuentes said seriously.

Joseph nodded in agreement. “You’re talking about Mike Dexter.”

“He’s a liability, sir,” Luca answered. “I’m not sure his underwear would remain unstained and survive the fall.”

Joseph and his Seal team are assembled for a very different type of mission, a personal one.  This is a funny and really moving introduction, just what I have come to expect from R.J. Scott.  Joseph and his team are truly a band of brothers,unchanging until now.  But the event they have gathered for marks the beginning of transitions for more than one member of the team.  We have not met Joseph’s team until now and what a diverse group they turn out to be.  I can easily see R.J. Scott building an entire new series around this team, especially the randy Viktor.  While Scott has let us see Joseph in action, this is the first time we get to see Joseph operating as a member of his Seal team.  By their interactions with each other and their dialog the author lets us feel why being a Seal and a part of this team is so important to  Joseph.  And it also lets us into the pain Dale felt when he was forced out.  Since being a Seal is fundamental to Joseph’s character, what plays out next highlights the importance of Dale and their relationship.

And that is really what Worlds Collide is all about, an internal shift in both men that will allow them to have a future with each other.  This is more a relationship book than any of the other stories in the series to date.  Yes, we are still dealing with the fallout from the Bullen family crime investigations.  One important criminal has escaped and Dale is in charge of getting Emily Bullen to safety so she can testify.  But this section is just the impetus for providing the platform for change in both men’s lives.  Here is Joseph with a note from Dale:

Just touching the note grounded Joseph in the here and now. Slowly, over the course of the last few months, the space in his life that had once been filled by the team he was with, by the job, by staying alive, had seen a full-frontal assault by the man he had fallen in love with.

This is a huge ground shift by a man who lived for the Seals alone.  Dale too has undergone his own emotional introspection about Joseph and their possible future ahead.  I love the way Scott has developed their story.  Our first meeting and theirs was explosive, a fight turned sexual.  It was incendiary.  But after that, something else occurred, they started to care about each other and so did the readers.  From time to time, we heard about each man and their tentative relationship in the other books. Nothing concrete for them or us, just tantalizing bits that kept us engaged in their future.  So this book was more than welcome, I am sure we felt it was long overdue after being teased through five books. And  the author doesn’t let us down.

We alternate perspective, from Dale to Joseph and back, as the events brought on by  Dale’s assignment, guarding Emily Bullen, brings out those determined to stop her at all costs.  We get to see the fluidity of motion and deadly competency of the Seal team in action, and the intrepidness of Dale’s Sanctuary training coming together to achieve one end.  But the highlight of the story must be the time that Joseph and Dale get to spend together after the mission is finished.  It’s heartwarming, it’s sexy and it fulfills most of the dreams we have had about this couple.  But of course, not all.

It’s all here. All the things that have made this series such a great one.  Realistic, fully rounded characters, a complicated criminal investigation that spreads through the series, and a narrative that moves the plot forward swiftly and smoothly.  I love that the Bullen investigation is still ongoing, with loose ends out there waiting to trip up Sanctuary and the other agencies. Just a terrific aspect of this series and beautifully plotted out. There are one or two small chinks in the armor here.  One small scene with the Seals and the criminal that I thought was unrealistic given their training and readiness. And then there is the ending.  Absolutely realistic as always. For those expecting a finality to Dale and Joseph’s romance, we haven’t gotten it …yet.  But you know that it is coming and this ending will leave you satisfied for now.

If you are  new to the series or Dale and Joseph’s romance, go back to the beginning.  An absolute must in order to understand the characters and the events as they play out.  Here are the books in the order they were written and must be read:

Guarding Morgan (Sanctuary #1)

The Only Easy Day (Sanctuary #2), Dale and Joseph’s romance begins

Face Value (Sanctuary, #3)

Still Waters (Sanctuary, #4)

Full Circle (Sanctuary, #5)

The Journal Of Sanctuary One (Sanctuary, #6)
]
Worlds Collide (Sanctuary #7)

Cover design by BitterGraceArt is lovely and in keeping with the characters.

Book Details:

ebook
Published June 28th 2013 by Love Lane Books (first published March 30th 2013)

Review: Forever Promised (Promises #4) by Amy Lane

Standard

Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Forever Promised coverNothing stays the same forever even when you wish it too.  For the family of friends that call Levee Oaks and The Pulpit home, things are about to change and rock their lives to the core.  Four years after Crick returned injured from his tour of duty, things have settled down for him and Deacon.  Crick and Deacon have married, so have Mikhail and Shane,  Jeff and Collin, as well as Lucas and  Kimmy. Benny and Drew, and of course, Parry Angel are coming together to form a family, just as Amy and Jon have. Promise House is up and running smoothly just as Shane had always envisioned, providing a place where young men and women could get a second chance at life.  Even Martin, brother of Jeff’s former boyfriend, has settled in to become part of this larger extended family and will soon be returning to Levee Oaks to live.  With all their lives going along smoothly, of course, something happens to shake them up and provide the impetus for a decision from Benny that will change their lives forever.

When Jon and Amy receive job offers in Washington, DC with a firm that specializes in LGBTQ law suits and gay civil rights, it is impossible to turn the offer down.  But that means leaving Deacon and Crick and everyone else who has become their family behind and they are not sure they can do that.  Benny also is looking at her future and seeing many changes as well.  She will be graduating from college and Drew wants her and Parry Angel to move into the cottage with him so they can start to become a real family of their own.  But in order to move forward with her life, she wants to make sure that part of herself will always be with Deacon and Crick.  That leads to a momentous decision and a gift, that should Deacon and Crick accept, will change everyones lives forever.

Back in 2010, Amy Lane wrote a book called Keeping Promise Rock that became an almost instant classic and comfort read for so many readers.  People embraced the characters of Crick and Deacon, little Benny and Parry Angel, connecting with them deeply and with a heartfelt passion.  We clamored for more stories about them and The Pulpit, the horse farm where they lived in Levee Oaks, California and  Amy Lane obliged.  She then gave us Making Promises (Promises #2) which introduced us to Shane and the heartbreaking Mikhail, causing us to fall in love with a new set of characters while keeping our adoration for all things Crick and Deacon intact and up to date.  The third book, Living Promises, brought Jeff Beachum and Collin Waters into our lives. Actually Jeff was there early on as Crick’s physical therapist in Keeping Promise Rock where he became part of the growing circle of people around the foundation couple of the Promise series.  Living Promises starts with Jeff comforting a young Collin outside a HIV treatment center and then charts  their rough road to a loving relationship.  And as always, there to support the couple, were all the people we had come to love from all the previous books, continuing on with their lives and loves.  Sometimes funny, sometimes  painfully sad but always with their hearts and souls in the right places and full of passion.  We were there with them, deeply engaged in their relationships and their future.  Now with Forever Promised, Amy Lane brings this series to an end and I am not sure we are ready for that to happen.

Amy Lane has such a way with characterizations that the people she creates for her stories live outside the pages and constraints of her novels. They become alive for her readers.  We laugh with them and we cry for them. And sometimes just shake our heads in disbelief over their actions.  My beloved grandmother would shake her head and tell me “I  can’t believe that Erica did that to (insert name of husband here).  She knows better than that!” after watching the soap All My Children.  For her, those people in that show were real folks and she talked about them as though they were her neighbors.  That’s the way the readers (myself included) have come to feel about the people of Levee Oaks and The Pulpit.  We have lived with them through traumatic events, near death experiences, times of great sorrow and times of great joy.  How do you let that go?

The answer is not easily but Forever Promised tries hard and mostly succeeds in closing a series we never wanted to see end.  Every character we have ever come to love over the course of this series is here, in different stages of their lives.  Most have achieved a deeply loving and satisfying relationship, a majority of the couples have gotten married and Parry Angel is old enough to be on a soccer team.  A soccer team where one of the funniest passages in this story occurs.  Really, I can’t remember laughing so hard that I was gasping for breath.  One of the things that make that section so priceless is that I could see it actually happening on a soccer field in anytown, USA.  Amy Lane writes stories about real people who live through real things that happen in everyday life.  We recognize the milestones in the characters lives because they are ones that happen to us.  Her characters bleed and cry and laugh as we do.  Lane writes good people trying to be the best they can be in situations both normal and stressful, so how could we not love them?  We would in our real lives and the author understands the importance of that connection.  Amy Lane writes reality.  Whether it is dealing with kids thrown away by society, a woman unable to bear a child and her grief over that fact, or the fragility of the future before us, Amy Lane gets it and makes those truths a part of her writing.  Not once did I find myself stoping mid story to think “well, that would never happen” because the emotions and events that occur in Forever Promised and the Promise series ring with authenticity. And never more so than with the issue of surrogacy and pregnancy, which is at the center of the storyline here.

There are so many plot threads to resolve, so many lives and relationships that need a happy ending.  Forever Promised delivers that to us, but not without an event so heartbreaking that I had to put the book down for a time to get myself through it.  I am still ambivalent about this episode but acknowledge that the reality of Promise House is that not all can find their way out of past pains and anguish, and that despair and sadness is a part of life as well.  Without going into details, it will hurt then the author will use that hurt to bring the reader and the story up to another level of authenticity. Our couples find that they are happy and moving forward in ways that the reader will find moving and true.  That’s the promise Amy Lane makes to her readers and her characters, and that is the one she delivers in Forever Promised.

Each couple gets their own section in a way and the events that happen are seen from various perspectives.  Events from the past are brought up again (another reason to read these books in order), and the characters examine their past lives and how best they can go forward in their current ones.  Not all the couples are settled, several are still in transition when the book ends but that is to be expected given the number and diversity of the characters involved and the realistic way Amy Lane writes their lives.  I know I was happy to see them all moving forward, happy with each other and mostly together as a family.  Just as it should be at Promise Rock.

If my quibbles in a story are that it included a pain I didn’t want to feel, and characters I didn’t want to say goodbye to in a book that ended a series I wanted to continue on forever, well, then, those are hardly quibbles after all.   Amy Lane made us several Promises and delivered on all of them.  Forever Promised is both a gift and a promise kept.  Don’t miss out on this book and the entire journey.

Here are the Promise series in the order they wee written and should be read to understand the characters and the events that occur:

Keeping Promise Rock (Promises #1)

Making Promises (Promises #2)

Living Promiese (Promises #3)

Forever Promised (Promises #4)

Cover art by Paul Richmond shows several of the couples together. But I have to admit that I wanted to see one like the first cover, Keeping Promise Rock.  That is the one that sticks in my memory.

Book Details:

ebook, 350 pages
Published June 28th 2013 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 1623808596 (ISBN13: 9781623808594)
edition language English
series Promises #4

Review: Outlast the Night (Lang Downs #3) by Ariel Tachna

Standard

Rating: 5 stars

OutlasttheNightBroke, despondent and soon to be divorced Sam Emery has no where to turn but to his brother Neil when he leaves his embittered wife and old life behind him.  Sam is also leaving the closet as well, another reason for the divorce and the hatred his soon to be ex feels for him.  Sam only got married to please his controlling father and that was a disaster from the very beginning.  Now Sam turns to Neil, his younger brother who lives and works on a sheep station and Sam is unsure of his welcome there when he tells his brother he is gay.  Sam knows that Neil loves him but will he be accepted?  And what will an out of work bookkeeper do on a sheep station?

The brother who meets Sam is not the brother Sam remembers.  Neil accepts Sam’s sexuality with an openness that surprises Sam.  But then again, Neil lives at Lang Downs, a sheep station owned and operated by a gay couple, Caine Neiheisel and Macklin Armstrong and his views have undergone a fundamental change in the process.  Lang Downs has been described by those that live there as a “miracle”, a magnet and haven for those in need.  Sam has been hurt to his core by the constant verbal abuse thrown at him by his wife, shattered by the loss of his job and made to feel like a total failure by his life to date.  A miracle is just what he needs if only he can accept it.

Jeremy Taylor is another man in need of a home and sanctuary.  The youngest brother of the family that owns the neighboring sheep station, the two families have butted heads since Jeremy can remember.  But since his father died and his brother took over, things have gotten out of control because of his brother’s bigotry and hatred.  One explosive argument and fight leads to Jeremy outing himself to his brother and his exit from the only home and lifestyle Jeremy has ever known.  Immediately Jeremy heads over to the one place he hopes to be accepted – Lang Downs.   But the animosity runs deep between the seasonal buckaroos and Jeremy when the hands have problems looking past Jeremy’s last name to see the man underneath. And then the problem is compounded when Sam and Jeremy become friends  to his brother’s consternation because Neil’s antipathy towards Jeremy’s family.

Can two men in need of love and a home find it with each other at Lang Downs?  It will take another small miracle to overcome Sam’s insecurity and fear and Jeremy’s family’s reputation if they are to find happiness with each other and outlast the night.

I finished this book and immediately wanted to go back to the beginning and start the series a fresh because I can’t get enough of this universe that Ariel Tachna has created. This book and series has such compelling characters as well as a captivating setting that it is impossible to put the books down once started and the stories stay with you long past the last page.  Really this is fast becoming one of my top favorites in contemporary fiction series.

Outlast The Night is as strong and enthralling book as the one that started the series.  Lang Downs is such a large and isolated sheep station that it acts as its own small village.  By using the sheep station as her setting, Ariel Tachna ensures that all the beloved characters of the previous novels are fully present and engaged in the current story as are the newly introduced main characters.  Tachna creates her web of characters that works much the way that nature herself does, they are all interlocked with each other.  Their actions have reverberations throughout the sheep station and all those who live there, just as it does in nature.  The men, women, children and animals all live in intimate connection with the earth at Lang Downs.  From the seasonal variations in their lives and work to the animals themselves, both wild and domesticated, all are aware of the fundamental role nature plays in their lives.

Winter, the season the book starts in, brings a slower pace to the sheep station.  Breeding is finished, and the seasonal jackaroos are gone until spring.  The village has shrunk down to those “year rounders” who make Lang Downs their home, school, and workplace. Through the previous novels, we have gotten familiar with the sights and sounds of the place and its citizens.  We see the bare necessities of the bunkhouse, the functionality of the sheep sheds, complete with odor mind you, and the predators that keep watch for the unwary animals in field and barn. The author brings Lang Downs vividly and authentically to life before our eyes and before we know it, we feel right at home there along with Caine, Macklin, and Kami. Of course, Kami the aboriginal chef is in the main house kitchen, creating food for all who live there and dispensing advice to those who need it.  Molly, Neil’s fiance, is a marvelous female character, a force in her own right. Well, I will let you see them through Sam’s eyes:

Sam finished eating, doing his best not to telegraph his unease to the rest of the room. Caine and Macklin sat at a nearby table talking with several other jackaroos Sam hadn’t met yet, but it was obvious from the body language that they were well known to Caine and Macklin. Sam figured the two men knew everyone pretty well by the end of the summer, but it took a certain degree of familiarity to choose to sit at the table with the bosses. Two teens joined them at the table a moment later, obviously sure of their welcome, and Sam realized one of the boys closely resembled the youngest of the jackaroos.

“Chris and Seth Simms,” Neil said, following Sam’s gaze. “Chris is the one I was telling you about in Yass, the one who nearly died. Seth is his younger brother. And that’s Jesse Harris sitting next to Chris, and then Jason Thompson, the other kid, and his dad, Patrick, our head mechanic. They’re all year-rounders. Patrick’s wife, Carley, is around here somewhere, although I haven’t seen her this morning. She helps out in the bunkhouses and in the kitchen sometimes, when Kami lets her.”

And that doesn’t even include the animals that play such an important roles on the station as well.  From Arrow, Jeremy’s kelpie (a sheep herding breed),  to Titan, “and a big lug of a horse who loved anyone who brought him treats”, these animals will endear themselves to you in much the same manner as their human counterparts.  And never does Ariel Tachna make the mistake of treating these animals as pets.  These are workers with important jobs to do on the station and are handled accordingly, although with love and affection.

Sam and Jeremy are wonderful additions to Lang Downs and the series.  Sam, so vulnerable and hurting, his self image shattered over time by an angry abusive wife.  Sam feels out of place,in his life and on the station.  A business manager by profession, you can feel his unease and wariness at thinking that he will find a home at Lang Downs. The reader will feel his pain and insecurity and then root for him as Sam begins to pull himself back together, a slow process and a realistic one too.  Jeremy is his opposite, he is so rooted to the land and the sheep that it practically rolls off of him from the moment we meet him.  Coming from a tough family background has made Jeremy equally tough, inside and out.  But still, Jeremy has the capacity to show his gentle side with his dog, Arrow and Sam.  It is a beautiful character and the two of them together are like comfort food and magic at the same time.  A difficult combination to achieve but Ariel Tachna has done it here with Sam and Jeremy.

Authenticity.  Ariel Tachna brings that to this novel and her series in spades.  From the Drizzle Bones the men wear (and wear properly) to the utes they drive, I never doubt that the terms and clothing the author uses are the correct ones.  But just as important as the research is the seamless manner in which the information is doled out to the reader, in spurts and quick asides.  And ever so slowly we have accumulated a wealth of information about an Australian sheep station and how it feels to live and work on one without realizing it.  Really, the flawless manner in which Tachna has created all of Lang Downs is exceptional.

I love that all of Tachna’s characters are fully realized and vivid in their personalities as any you would meet out on the streets around you.  They endear themselves to you because they feel so real, from their flaws to their passions.  And just as real and special is Lang Downs, the heart of the series.  I will let you hear it from Jeremy and Sam:

” “Lang Downs is a pretty special place.

”“Lang Downs is a miracle,” Jeremy amended. “A bloody miracle, and if you don’t believe that, ask Chris how he ended up here. Hell, ask Macklin how he ended up here. Or Kami. Or Patrick. I’d bet most of the year-rounders have a story to tell about how this place changed their lives. I never knew what drove Michael Lang, but even as a young child, I knew things were different here when I came to visit. That’s even more the case now.”

Yes, Lang Downs is a special place and each new story makes it even more so.  I hope that Ariel Tachna has many more stories to tell on her sheep station in Australia, more people to meet, more couples in need of home and a miracle.  I know that I will never get tired of this place and the people who inhabit it as the saga gets stronger with each new story it tells.  If you are already on the journey, pick up this new addition and fall in love all over again.  If you are new to the series, start at the beginning, discover the magic and wonder that is Lang Downs.  Expect to become addicted to a very special place in an isolated territory in Australia and the people who live there.

Here is the series in the order they were written and should be read in order to understand the characters and events that occur:

Inherit The Sky (Lang Downs #1)

Chase The Stars (Lang Downs #2)

Outlast The Night (Lang Downs #3)

Cover art by Anne Cain is as lovely as the book it represents.  The men are perfect representations for Jeremy and Sam and the landscape gorgeous.

Book Details:

ebook, 210 pages
Published May 20th 2013 by Dreamspinners Press
ISBN 1623807093 (ISBN13: 9781623807092)
edition languageEnglish
seriesLang Downs

Ariel Tachna (0101-01-01T00:00:00+00:00). Outlast the Night (Kindle Locations 1171-1175). Dreamspinner Press. Kindle Edition.

New Excerpt from The General and the Elephant Clock by Sarah Black

Standard

Sarah Black has finished writing her sequel, The General and the Elephant Clock.  And while we are waiting for its release date, here is another excerpt for those of us who need more of John, Gabriel, Kim and all the rest from The General and the Horse-Lord (posted with permission from Sarah Black):

Living Large in the Beautiful World: Kim and The General Discuss Decorating

At the end of The General and the Horse-Lord, Kim and Billy have gone wild with the General’s credit card, ready to redecorate the house. The new book, The General and the Elephant Clock of Al-Jazari, picks up with John and Kim having a friendly little chat about the new couch.

John pushed open the kitchen door. The jury was still out on the new decorating. He had thought he was sending Kim and Billy out for an extra desk and bed, but that had somehow turned into a re-do of the entire house. He had to admit the kitchen was cheerful. Kim and Billy had painted the kitchen walls bright cream enamel, then painted trim in tangerine and aqua. The curtains were tangerine with cream polka-dots, and there were little cars zooming all over the walls, hand-painted by a bunch of Kim and Billy’s artist friends. The new dining room table was Formica, with stainless silver legs, and the chairs were padded in aqua vinyl. Kim and Billy were very pleased with the kitchen. Gabriel liked it, as well, though he might have been just trying to get along. John was okay with the changes. The kitchen, he thought, was fine. It just didn’t look like his kitchen. It looked like the kitchen of a person who was considerably cooler than he was. The same could be said about the living room.

Kim was waiting for him to come in from his run, and he swooped down on John and wrapped his arms around his waist for a quick hug. “How’s my favorite uncle?”

John studied his face. “I’m fine. What’s happening with you?”

“Not too much.” Kim was head down into the fridge, looking for something to snack on that had not had a face or a mother. He’d explained to John this was his new criteria for healthy eating. “Can we talk about the couch?”

John crossed his arms over his chest. “So talk.”

Kim stood up and leaned back against the counter. “Okay, you have every right to be pissed off. You told me not to get a new couch and I did anyway. I know I spent more money on the redecorating than you had planned. What I want to know is if you hate the couch for itself, or if you’re just mad at me for disregarding what you told me to do?”

John sighed. “The new couch is fine. I admit it’s not really what I would have picked out.” He walked over and stared gloomily into the room. The new couch which Kim had been forbidden to purchase was cream colored Italian leather, a semi-circle with a round ottoman that looked like a giant leather polka dot. It was very sleek and modern. He’d purchased some round maple tables in a pale golden finish to go with it, and the rugs on the floor were also round, in various sizes and shades of cream and pale gold. The whole thing looked very…Danish.

“The thing is, four men can easily sit on the couch at the same time, say to watch a movie together. Two men can lay down on this couch at the same time, like if you and the Horse-Lord wanted to lay down together and read books. It’s extremely comfortable, Uncle John. I just wish you would give it a chance.”

“Okay, I’m willing to give it a chance. And I admit it is very comfortable. With the new rug and the new tables it looks like winter, 1968, has come to Albuquerque. Peter Max in psychedelic white, not really my style, but I’m okay with it.”

“Peter Max? Winter?” Now Kim had his arms folded. “Holy shit! It’s not white. It’s cream! Big difference in tone and temperature. Okay, so tell me what you think would be the perfect couch. Maybe we can figure out how to meet in the middle.”

John thought a moment. “I suppose I’d like a couch that’s a little…browner. Maybe plaid would be good.”

“Okay, no plaid. I’m sorry, but no. A person would have to be deranged to buy a plaid couch. I will see what I can do about brown.” Kim looked around. “We could add some caramel accents, maybe a throw. I want you to like it.” He sounded young all of the sudden. “It’s really important to me that you like it. If you want, I can split the cost of the new couch with you.” He tried to hand John some cash. “I’ve got $275.00 as a down payment on my half.”

“I don’t want your money.” John stared at him. Kim was Korean, with eyes that always gave away what he was thinking. He was totally unable to keep a secret. John couldn’t help but notice the light in his face, like he was about to start laughing. “Wait a minute. Is this the money you made writing term papers for the students in my Political History seminar?” Kim was grinning now, and he shoved the cash back in his pocket. “Are you under the impression you’re too old to spank? Twenty-three isn’t too old.”

Kim was laughing now. “You don’t believe in spanking. Okay, let me and Billy see what we can come up with. Something browner.” He turned back to the garage. “What’s brown, anyway? Dirt? Gravy? Shit?”

“Wood, you knucklehead. Wood and chocolate bars and Gabriel’s hair, all brown.”

The General and the Horse-Lord by Sarah Black

Sneak  Peak to the Sequel to The General and the Horse-Lord by Sarah Black