Never A Hero (Tucker Springs #5) by Marie Sexton

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Release Date is May 13, 2013 from Riptide Publishing.  Review reposted on May 14, 2013.

Rating: 4.5 star

Never A Hero coverOwen Meade watches from his window as the duplex next to him exchanges one renter for another looking at the men he sees carrying boxes and moving furniture.  Two are clearly a couple and the others are astonishing in their diverse physiology and tattoos.  And Owen wonders who they are and what they do, knowing the chances of finding out are slim as he never leaves his house.  Owen stutters, and years of  verbal abuse from his mother over his sexuality as well as his congenitally amputated arm have left him so traumatized socially that he confines himself to his rooms in his side of the duplex, rarely venturing out unless absolutely necessary.  Owen works at home and has his groceries delivered, making his hermit like lifestyle possible until his new neighbor changes everything.

Veterinarian Nick Reynolds moves into the downstairs duplex with his three dogs and immediately goes to meet his new neighbor. Friendly, outgoing and unflappable, Nick lets Owen know immediately that his arm doesn’t bother him as his sister has a congenitally amputated arm too. Introductions soon turn into friendship with Nick and his sister who pulls Owen into piano lessons for the both of them.  And always Owen senses that Nick is attracted to him, an attraction that Owen returns.  In fact, Owen thinks he just might be falling in love with Nick, but every time they get close physically, it is Nick who pulls away leaving Owen confused and hurt.

Nick is hiding a secret of his own and Owen must become his own hero, thwart his mother and Nick’s own fears, to save the day and his future with the man he has come to love.

What a lovely book!  Marie Sexton has provided us with many wonderful characters before but Nick Reynolds and Owen Meade are at the top of the crowd.  Owen has had a life time of parental abuse from his mother that has resulted in a stutter, lack of self confidence and a painful shyness about his truncated arm.  I have never met a character quite like Owen before . Marie Sexton has done a great job in bringing this man totally to life so that we get a glimpse of what it must feel like to be a person with disabilities, their apprehensions and difficulties in doing small things for themselves that others accomplish with ease.  The title comes from the fact that his mother refused to let him wear super hero costumes on Halloween because of his disability. And the author brings home to the reader the pain and unrelenting stress his mother’s abuse that Owen suffered from as a child and into adulthood. Owen’s endearing, easy to empathize with, and you feel angry on his behalf when his mother reenters the picture.

Nick Reynolds was also a surprise.  I never guessed at his secret and found myself as confounded as Owen was.  Here again, the author moves forward with knowledge and sensibility to defuse a delicate situation and handle this serious topic with needed sensitivity.  Plus Nick is a veterinarian, a favorite vocation of mine.  Gorgeous, caring, you just know he is the perfect match for Owen. He has his own flaws and is easy to relate to.  I loved him as well.

Another thing I have come to count on in a Marie Sexton story is the beautiful flow of her narrative.  Never dense, never jerky, the story moves forward so smoothly, so effortlessly that the chapters transition one into another without bringing the reader up short once.  She makes it look so easy that you forget how difficult it is to achieve.

As this is a Tucker Springs, Colorado book, other characters from previous stories make appearances to my total delight.  Really, I can’t get enough of this series, I hope you feel the same when you get started.   Never A Hero contains everything you need for a fabulous story, so don’t be surprised when you find yourself still awake at 2 am because you just can’t put this book down.  I wanted to don my Superman duds and head out to the Light district to find Nick and Owen, Seth, El and all the rest.  By now they feel like close friends.  So grab a few tissues, this book and curl up in anticipation as you start in on Never A Hero.  You don’t have to have read the other books in the group but it helps to identify the various characters who pop up in this story.

Tucker Springs Website

Here are the books in the order they were written:

Where Nerves End (Tucker Springs, #1) by L.A. Witt

Second Hand (Tucker Springs, #2) by Marie Sexton

Dirty Laundry (Tucker Springs, #3) by Heidi Cullinan

Covet Thy Neighbor (Tucker Springs, #4) by L.A. Witt

Never a Hero (Tucker Springs, #5) by Marie Sexton

Review: Life, Over Easy: Fragments Book 1 by K.A. Mitchell

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Rating:  4.25 stars

Life Over Easy coverJohn Andrews life was all planned out, had been since he was young and entered the pool for the first time.  His life revolved around his diving.  He was tutored at home and on the road,  his social circle extended out only as far as his  teammates and diving competitors, even the most normal rites of growing up passed him by, no dances, no television watching or movie going, nothing but diving and diving competition.  Even after winning two Gold Olympic medals, that didn’t change.  John was on target to repeat or perhaps exceed  his goals at the next Olympics until a accident during training changed his life forever.  Now he copes with brain damage, blurry sight, vertigo, and life with a cane as a college freshman, on his own for the first time in his life.  But the place inside of him that used to be filled by diving is empty and John doesn’t know how to fill

One accident six months ago changed Mason’s life forever.  One deer in the middle of the road, one car crash later and everything he loved and thought he would have forever was gone.  Now its Jim Beam and sex that Mason uses to fill the emptiness inside of him, crawling into bed drunk with any number of nameless guys to the consternation and disgust of his roommates and friends.  He needs to concentrate on his school work and project but it seems impossible.

Two men, damaged by life’s accidents.  When John turns up at the wrong house for a party, they meet and while their first encounter isn’t promising, John and Mason are drawn together even as they hide secrets from each other.  John can see auras around peoples heads and he sees two over Mason’s.  And Mason?  He is seeing and hearing his dead lover.   Can both men over come multiple obstacles, including one not of this earth, to find the love both need and deserve?  Life is never easy, but this is ridiculous.

I love K. A. Mitchell.  She is a “go to” author for me and this book demonstrates why I grab up every book she writes.  The characters are unusual to say the least.  John Andrews stands out because he is different on so many levels.  First of all, he is that driven individual who has been pursuing a specific goal since childhood and succeeding at it.  Young athletes are in a category all their own.  They deprive themselves of a normal childhood, delaying or denying all together many hallmarks of growing up in order to pursue their dream, whether it be  that of an Olympic high diver or other sport.  They create a tunnel of efforts, so focused and driven that they seem almost innocent and guileless outside of their sport.  Take that goal, that lifestyle away and you have a person adrift in their own life, no  longer tethered by long term goals.  We see that happen to so many athletes once the Games are over.

K.A. Mitchell takes it one further.  John has had an accident that makes him unable to compete.  From a finely toned athlete, he now copes with a brain damaged during a 2 story fall.  He has vertigo, blurred vision, and  has a condition called Synesthesia, a neurological condition where “one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway.”  Colors can be associated with sounds or words, or music is combined with sounds or specific sights, etc.   Mitchell’s vivid descriptions gives us a intimate look at how it must feel when even a short walk turns into an overwhelming cavalcade of colors and sights.  John has to deal with the loss of his life’s goal, his new disability, life as a college student, and all the while he feels empty inside because that one feeling of being “airborne”, floating in space as he dives is forever gone.  Mitchell makes us feel that loss as acutely as John does.  And then she brings it crashing up against an equally deep cavern of loss and pain that is Mason’s.

Most of us have not lived John’s life but I would bet that we all know someone like Mason or lived through a similar trauma.  Mason is easily the most identifiable and recognizable of the two men.  We can connect with Mason who is drowning in the loss of the man he thought he would marry and spend the rest of his life with.  Booze and sex are the fillers of choice for Mason, and we get that.  His friends (wonderful characters in their own right) feel helpless to stop the downward spiral, some have given up all together as Mason lashes out at them in his pain.  This is all very authentic in the emotions radiating off the characters and the pages of this story.

But then Mitchell takes it an additional step further, journeying into the paranormal.  John’s condition lets him see people auras, he knows what they are feeling by looking at the pulsating colors above their heads.  And Mason’s dead lover hovers over all the proceedings, alternately angry and amused by being “stuck” to Mason.  I have to admit I wish that this element has been left out of the story.  It was terrific with just the obstacles they were already facing but then you add ghosts and “auras” and we start tipping over the edge.  It is too much for this story to handle, there is just too much to do justice to all the elements involved.  Then at the very end, one final piece is added.  Mitchell throws in BDSM at the last minute into a relationship that had not previously explored this type of sexuality.  It just seems very awkward and out of place.  I could see where she was going with it, and that made sense but it really needed to be introduced much earlier in the book and in their relationship. But as it was I just thought it was a tad strange for them to take it to that level at that time.

So those were my quibbles with this story.  Too many ingredients to give this a 5 star rating.  It was almost there too.  Do I recommend this book? Absolutely, these are wonderful characters and their stories are compelling.  I wish Mitchell would bring out another book in this series because I like where it is going.  Life is never easy, this book reminds of us of that fact.  But there are solutions and answers for everyone, and Life, Over Easy reminds us of that too.  Pick it up and let me know what you think.

Cover by Natalie Winters, interesting but not as interesting as the story within.

Mitchell, K.A.. Life, Over Easy: Fragments, Book 1 . Samhain Publishing, Ltd..