A MelanieM Review: Lessons in Cracking the Deadly Code (Cambridge Fellows #12.7) by Charlie Cochrane

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

St Bride’s College is buzzing with excitement at the prospect of reviving the traditional celebration of the saint’s day. When events get marred by murder it’s natural that Jonty Stewart and Orlando Coppersmith will get called in to help the police with their inside knowledge. But why has somebody been crawling about on the chapel roof and who’s obsessed with searching in the library out of hours?

Yes! The mystery is afoot to borrow another sleuth’s phrase in the latest Cambridge Fellows mystery by Charlie Cochrane.  The author is not following along a specific timeline for her stories, happily for us who follow this series, so here some of our favorite characters like Jonty’s parents can still be seen taking part in solving this  quite puzzling affair. What a joy as I love them so.

In Lessons in Cracking the Deadly Code, St. Bride’s is looking to reestablish many of its older traditions for Saint’s Day, and it has called upon it faculty and staff for assistance.  That includes the mystery of who killed one of its students, and cause behind his death.  Once again it’s Jonty and  Orlando on the job. Orlando especially who was feeling maybe out of sorts, and needing a mystery to solve, got several handed to him.

Because as we all know, nothing is simple in a Cambridge Fellows mystery.  There are layers, and   complications, and a knotted path to follow to the end. A marvelous journey done in companable conversation, affectionate glances, witty phrases (with the  occasional snark thrown in), hewn through years of partnership and love that the author has crafted so carefully and genuinely.  I know these men because I have been through so much with them with this series that coming into this stories feel like visiting with old friends.

Charlie Cochrane is a master at placing her characters and story into a historic setting with accurate touch that’s so subtle that she makes it look easy.  It’s not.  The time period comes alive in her hands just as Jonty and Orlando do, as they have gone through the years in this series, emerging on the  other end of the war, back in England.  All the changes reflected in each story as it is here.  Along with that you get the deepening romance and love over the years of these two remarkable men and often some very gnarly murders as is the case here.

I adore the mysteries Cochrane concocted for this one, all for a story in 110 pages.  Amazing.

I had a great visit and can’t wait to see where the next mystery takes us.  I’m thrilled that the author is happy to go willy nilly all over this couple’s timeline.  I want their journey never to be over and this is a great way to do it.

I highly recommend this and all the Cambridge Fellow Mysteries, but especially 1 through 10 should be read in the order they were written.

Cover art by Alex Beecroft: I love the soft tone of this illustration.  Great for the era and story.  Love the author’s novels too.

Buy Link:  Amazon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 110 pages
Published November 26th 2018 by The Right Chair Press
ASIN B07JM5Q3J6
Series Cambridge Fellows #12.7

A Free Dreamer Review: Rebellion by Naomi Aoki

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Rating: 4 stars out 5

1899, political tensions are rising with the emergence of the Boxer Movement in Northern China, straining ties between the Chinese Imperial Government and the Eight Nations with stakes in the country. As a Captain in the Royal Marines, Alfred Cartwright is deployed to Shanghai, where he discovers more than he’d dared to dream of – Love. Not even the struggles with language or the fear of reprisals if their relationship is found out, can stop Alfred from falling for the Chinese man he encounters. But as the ant-foreigner sentiment of the Boxer Movement grows in strength, their relationship will be put to the test.

Where do Alfred’s loyalties lie? With the man he loves or his country, as they stand opposite each other on a battlefield neither can escape.

I’ve found Asian history in general, and Chinese and Japanese history in particular, fascinating for a long time. So when the review request for “Rebellion” popped up in my inbox, I just couldn’t say no.

First of all, you definitely don’t need to be an expert on China, Chinese history or the Boxer Uprising to understand and enjoy this book. All I knew about the Boxer Uprising before I started this book was that it happened it in China a longish time ago and a vague recollection that it wasn’t actually about boxers. After finishing “Rebellion” I can’t say I know too much more, to be honest. And that’s a shame, because when I read a historical novel, I expect to learn more about the period it is set in. But this book mainly focused on Alfred’s feelings and the time he spent with Zhang, rather than what was going on around them.

The few things I did learn about the time period were truly fascinating, however. I had no idea homosexuality wasn’t a big deal, for example. And we did get some details on how the British Empire and other nations behaved in China and how the average foreigner saw the Chinese. I just wish there had been more scenes that didn’t focus solely on Alfred’s feelings for Zhang.

The love story of these two men was deliciously forbidden and horribly dangerous, because while homosexuality might not have been a big deal for the Chinese, it certainly was for the Brits and neither of the nations approved of relationships between a British Marine Captain and a Chinese man. I think the author did a brilliant job of describing Alfred’s conflicting loyalties and I came to really feel for him and his struggles.

Their relationship was made even more complicated by the language barrier. Personally, I loved that the author chose to transliterate whole passages of Mandarin. I’ve always found foreign languages fascinating and I like to try to figure out how a language works. But I can see how other readers might get bored by it after a while. Most of the time, it’s just a couple of short sentences but there are a few longer passages. On a purely superficial note I also liked that the author only put the translation in italics, not the Mandarin.

There were several semi explicit sex scenes that I found really hot, but that’s really not an important part of the story. It just showed the developing bond between the two men.

We don’t learn too much about Zhang. He doesn’t get his own POV and we only learn some minor details about his past. He remained ever mysterious. A little more background info would have been nice.

Another minor niggle was the editing. There were a few minor grammar mistakes that kept coming up. It’s nothing too distracting but I always feel a bit cheated when such simple mistakes aren’t fixed.

My final niggle would be a spoiler, so I’m not going to go into too much detail. Let’s just say that there was a conflict between the two that I didn’t feel was ever really properly resolved. It’s brushed off with a couple of sentences, so the two of them can have their happy end without any distractions.

I did like the ending and thought it was at least somewhat realistic. Though a follow-up on how they’re going to survive would be very interesting.

Overall, “Rebellion” was a good book. I did have a few minor niggles and the book felt a bit short but all in all it was definitely an enjoyable read. A solid four star read and I’m interested to find out what else the author has written. And I also want to read more about the Boxer Uprising in general, so Naomi Aoki did a great job in making me curious.

I quite like the cover. It looks a bit mysterious and I think it works well for the story.

Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK

Book details: Kindle Edition,172 pages

Published November 24th 2018 by Naomi Aoki

A Barb the Zany Old Lady: Christmas Homecoming (The Christmas Angel #4) by L.A. Witt

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

I read this story with a sense of nostalgia as both my father and mother and my father-in-law served in World War II and I could imagine clearly what the times they lived in were like, having been raised on stories of wartime and having lived in neighborhoods where elderly bachelors lived together. We were never to go near their house, though, because God knows why two men would choose to live without wives. I include that here to give a sense of the times. And LA Witt captured it beautifully.

This story was simple and sweet—the story of two young men who parted as teens in 1939 and met again as adults in 1945. But now they were war veterans, marked by the emotional toll the war took on soldiers and sailors, having suffered loss and lived in fear.  And they struggle to find a way to tell each other that they never forgot that kiss goodbye when they parted at their favorite swimming hole.

Roger has a gift for Jack—an angel he picked up in his travels and carried with him throughout the war. She brought him peace as he thought of Jack on those lonely and fearful nights away in a foreign country and she brings them together now.

I can’t describe how good I feel after having lived this story with these men. It wasn’t long, and to be honest, I wish it was longer. It did have some drama, angst, heartache, but mostly it had hope and love and left me feeling warm and fuzzy inside—the hallmark of a sweet romance. I highly recommend it and, in fact, I highly recommend all the books in this series of stories surrounding the Christmas angel.

The cover by Meredith Russell features a 1940’s soldier in uniform standing against a snowy background. A very attractive cover, this represents Roger, home on leave after WWII.

Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK

Book Details:

ebook
Published December 2nd 2018
ISBN 139781642300352
Edition Language English
Series The Christmas Angel #4

The Christmas Angel Series

Christmas Angel – Eli Easton – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Summerfield’s Angel – Kim Fielding – Amazon US | Amazon UK
The Magician’s Angel – Jordan L. Hawk – Amazon US | Amazon UK
A Soldier’s Wish – N.R. Walker – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Shrewd Angel – Anyta Sunday – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Christmas Prince – RJ Scott- Amazon US | Amazon UK

Review Tour and Giveaway for Christmas Homecoming (A Christmas Angel story) by L.A. Witt

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Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK

Length: 24,000 words approx.

Cover Design: Meredith Russell

The Christmas Angel Series

Christmas Angel – Eli Easton – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Summerfield’s Angel – Kim Fielding – Amazon US | Amazon UK
The Magician’s Angel – Jordan L. Hawk – Amazon US | Amazon UK
A Soldier’s Wish – N.R. Walker – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Shrewd Angel – Anyta Sunday – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Christmas Prince – RJ Scott- Amazon US | Amazon UK

Blurb

August 1939. Roger Miller and Jack O’Brien have been close since childhood. By the time they realize there’s more between them than friendship, Jack is leaving their sleepy Iowa town for college. But they console themselves knowing he’ll be home for Christmas. Right?

It is Christmas before they see each other again, but that Christmas comes six years and a world war later. Aged, beaten, and shaken by combat, they’re not the boys they were back then, but their feelings for each other are stronger than ever.

Neither know the words to say everything they’ve carried since that peacetime summer kiss, though. Even as they stand in the same room, there’s a thousand miles between them.

But maybe that’s some distance the little angel in Roger’s rucksack can cross.

This 24,000 word novella is part of the multi-author Christmas Angel series, and can be read as a standalone.

The Christmas Angel Series

In 1750, a master woodcarver poured all his unrequited love, passion, and longing into his masterpiece—a gorgeous Christmas angel for his beloved’s tree. When the man he loved tossed the angel away without a second thought, a miracle happened. The angel was found by another who brought the woodcarver True Love.

Since then, the angel has been passed down, sold, lost and found, but its magic remains. Read the romances inspired by (and perhaps nudged along by) the Christmas angel through the years. Whether it’s 1700s England (Eli Easton’s Christmas Angel), the 1880’s New York (Kim Fielding’s Summerfield’s Angel), the turn-of-the-century (Jordan L. Hawk’s Magician’s Angel), World War II (L.A. Witt’s Christmas Homecoming), Vietnam-era (N.R. Walker’s Soldier’s Wish), the 1990’s (Anyta Sunday’s Shrewd Angel), or 2018 (RJ Scott’s Christmas Prince), the Christmas angel has a way of landing on the trees of lonely men who need its blessing for a very Merry Christmas and forever HEA.

Read Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words review here.  We highly recommend it.

L.A. Witt is an abnormal M/M romance writer who has finally been released from the purgatorial corn maze of Omaha, Nebraska, and now spends her time on the southwestern coast of Spain. In between wondering how she didn’t lose her mind in Omaha, she explores the country with her husband, several clairvoyant hamsters, and an ever-growing herd of rabid plot bunnies. She also has substantially more time on her hands these days, as she has recruited a small army of mercenaries to search South America for her nemesis, romance author Lauren Gallagher, but don’t tell Lauren. And definitely don’t tell Lori A. Witt or Ann Gallagher. Neither of those twits can keep their mouths shut…

Website: http://www.gallagherwitt.com
E-mail: gallagherwitt@gmail.com
Twitter: @GallagherWitt
Blog: http://gallagherwitt.blogspot.com

 

 

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Review Tour for Rebellion by Naomi Aoki

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Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK
 
Length: 51,835
 
Blurb
 

1899, political tensions are rising with the emergence of the Boxer Movement in Northern China, straining ties between the Chinese Imperial Government and the Eight Nations with stakes in the country. As a Captain in the Royal Marines, Alfred Cartwright is deployed to Shanghai, where he discovers more than he’d dared to dream of – Love. Not even the struggles with language or the fear of reprisals if their relationship is found out, can stop Alfred from falling for the Chinese man he encounters. But as the anti-foreigner sentiment of the Boxer Movement grows in strength, their relationship will be put to the test.


Where do Alfred’s loyalties lie? With the man he loves or his country, as they stand opposite each other on a battlefield neither can escape.

Find Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words review here.  We definitely recommend it.
 

Author Bio


Naomi would love to runaway to Japan or China and live there for a few years… but she can’t. Instead she goes there in her books, hoping to drag the reader into a world they’ve never been to before.


Historical. Contemporary. Time offers no constraint to the stories she writes, happily dabbling in both so long as there is a happy ending.


She is a mother of three teenage children, one of whom loves to tell people that her mother writes romance stories about gay men just to see their reaction. While she could never claim to be fluent, she has just completed a Bachelor of Arts majoring in Chinese, with minors in Creative Writing and Japanese.


Her stories are based predominantly in Japan or China and her historical stories often involving time periods or situations not often talked about with her characters often being actively involved in the events occurring around them.


Twitter: @naomiaokiauthor
Pinterest: naomiaokiauthor
Facebook: @naomiaokiauthor
FB Reader’s Group: Kiwi Authors Rainbow Reads
Amazon: amazon.com/author/naomiaoki

 

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A Barb the Zany Old Lady :The Magician’s Angel (The Christmas Angel #3) by Jordan L. Hawk

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Vaudeville stage magician Christopher Fiend is performing in the little town of Twelfth Junction. Next stop is Chicago where he will audition for the big time, his hopes set on a career in a venue as big as New York City. Edward Smith’s brother not only owns the theater, he lives and breathes it, but Edward wants nothing to do with theater. When he spots the green carnation in Christopher’s lapel during his performance, he realizes they are of a kind and when his attention is returned, they spend “quality time” together during intermission.

Then during the second half of the show, when a dead body turns up in Christopher’s act, everything stops, the performers are stuck in this little town during the investigation, and Christopher’s hopes for his big time audition are crushed. Not only that, the lone police officer suspects him. No one knows he spent intermission with Edward, and he doesn’t want to jeopardize Edward’s reputation so they decide to solve the crime together.  What follows is a highly detailed investigation that nevertheless left this reader in the dark. Kudos to the author for an excellent mystery. 

The one thing that bothers Edmund is that clearing Christopher’s reputation is going to send him on his way to Chicago and, though it’s only been a short time, Edmund is falling in love with the clever magician.  However, the angel, purchased by Christopher in Port Angeles early in his career, may have other plans for them.

Readers will have time to enjoy this and spot the link to the previous book. This is one of several books written by authors using the common theme of a Christmas angel crafted in the 18th century who finds her way to those who need her as time goes by. The series does not need to be read in order, though it is fun to go step by step to try to find the link from one location where she pops up to another. The angel is the only link—there’s no crossover of characters. I love these stories so far, and this is no exception. Those who want a treat that does not put on calories should consider enjoying this series.

The cover by Meredith Russell depicts a gorgeous young man in a tux, sporting a green carnation boutonniere, the scene set against a background of stage curtains. This is the perfect depiction of both the character and the locale of the story.

Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK

Book Details:

ebook, 108 pages
Published December 2nd 2018 by Jordan L. Hawk
ISBN139781941230336
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesThe Christmas Angel #3

 

The Christmas Angel Series

Christmas Angel – Eli Easton – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Summerfield’s Angel – Kim Fielding – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Christmas Homecoming – L.A. Witt – Amazon US | Amazon UK
A Soldier’s Wish – N.R. Walker – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Shrewd Angel – Anyta Sunday – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Christmas Prince – RJ Scott- Amazon US | Amazon UK

Loving the Christmas Angel Series? Check Out Our Review Tour and Giveaway for The Magician’s Angel (A Christmas Angel Story) by Jordan L Hawk

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Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK


Length: 27,000 words approx.Cover Design: Meredith Russell

The Christmas Angel Series

Christmas Angel – Eli Easton – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Summerfield’s Angel – Kim Fielding – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Christmas Homecoming – L.A. Witt – Amazon US | Amazon UK
A Soldier’s Wish – N.R. Walker – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Shrewd Angel – Anyta Sunday – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Christmas Prince – RJ Scott- Amazon US | Amazon UK

Blurb

Vaudeville stage magician Christopher Fiend lives for the spotlight. His chance at big time stardom awaits him in Chicago, the next stop on the circuit after the little town of Twelfth Junction.

Edward Smith wants nothing to do with his family’s theater. Until Christopher catches his eye on opening night, then treats him to a very special performance during intermission.

When a dead body turns up in the middle of Christopher’s act, suspicion immediately falls on him. If Christopher and Edward can’t work together to clear his name, Christopher won’t make it to Chicago in time. Edward knows he shouldn’t get attached to a man who will be gone in two days, but his heart—and a very special angel—have other ideas.

The Christmas Angel series of holiday romances follow the travels of an angel ornament through the decades as she inspires (and sometimes nudges) lonely men to find their Happily Ever After. The Magician’s Angel is the third in series, which can be read in any order.

The Christmas Angel Series

In 1750, a master woodcarver poured all his unrequited love, passion, and longing into his masterpiece—a gorgeous Christmas angel for his beloved’s tree. When the man he loved tossed the angel away without a second thought, a miracle happened. The angel was found by another who brought the woodcarver True Love.

Since then, the angel has been passed down, sold, lost and found, but its magic remains. Read the romances inspired by (and perhaps nudged along by) the Christmas angel through the years. Whether it’s 1700s England (Eli Easton’s Christmas Angel), the 1880’s New York (Kim Fielding’s Summerfield’s Angel), the turn-of-the-century (Jordan L. Hawk’s Magician’s Angel), World War II (L.A. Witt’s Christmas Homecoming), Vietnam-era (N.R. Walker’s Soldier’s Wish), the 1990’s (Anyta Sunday’s Shrewd Angel), or 2018 (RJ Scott’s Christmas Prince), the Christmas angel has a way of landing on the trees of lonely men who need its blessing for a very Merry Christmas and forever HEA.

Dec 2Amy’s MM Romance Reviews, Dec 4 Cupcakes And Bookshelves, Xtreme Delusions, Dec 6My Fiction Nook, Open Skye, Sexy Erotic Xciting, The Secret Ko, Rainbow Book Reviews, Dec 8 Mirrigold, Dec 10Making It Happen, Megan’s Media Melange, Two Chicks Obsessed, Dec 12Drops Of Ink, Lillian Francis, Momma Says: To Read Or Not To Read, Scattered Thoughts & Rogue Words, Wicked Reads, Dec 17Bayou Book Junkie, Dec 19MM Good Book Reviews, Dec 21 – Bonkers About Books

 

Read Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words review here.

 

 

Author Bio

Jordan L. Hawk is a non-binary queer author from North Carolina. Childhood tales of mountain ghosts and mysterious creatures gave them a life-long love of things that go bump in the night. When they aren’t writing, they brew their own beer and try to keep the cats from destroying the house. Their best-selling Whyborne & Griffin series (beginning with Widdershins) can be found in print, ebook, and audiobook.

A Barb the Zany Old Lady Release Day Review: A Soldier’s Wish (A Christmas Angel #5) by NR Walker

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Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

I found this story even more painfully nostalgic than the previous story, Christmas Homecoming, which took place in the post World War II era.  I am a similar age to the MCs and the era in which the story takes place was very painful as I, and many others I knew, lost family and school friends in the Vietnam War. So I fell in love with Richard, the young soldier, immediately.

Gary is a typical teen of the era. Going with the flow, he accompanies his buddies to an event in New York that will later be known as Woodstock. He meets the lonely soldier in a diner along the way.  The young man, Richard, is about to ship out to California where he’ll be sent on to Vietnam to fight in the war no one wants and become a vet that no one acknowledges.  But in the meantime, he has a few days R&R, and on the spur of the moment he acts on his desire for Gary, something he’s never done before, and he goes with him for the weekend. That weekend cements their relationship and the author very cleverly tells the story from that point until a year later via letters Gary exchanged with his soldier. 

When the letters stop, Gary loses his mind until he finds Richard, with the help of a friend, in a San Diego Veterans Hospital with a mangled leg.  The next segment of the story is told through Gary’s visits with Richard at the hospital until he’s finally able to come home to San Francisco, where Gary now lives with one of their friends from Woodstock.  The story is slow burn, very poignant, often heartbreaking, but romantic as well. As the young men fortify their love for each other, Gary presents Richard with a beautiful Christmas angel who seems to help him find the strength to be true to himself, despite his parents’ strict Christian beliefs and their inability to express any love for him.  They do, we hope, live happily ever after.

If you are looking for a slow-burn romance, one with two strong, loving characters, this is one to add to your holiday list this year. Though part of the Christmas Angel series, each book can be read as a standalone.

The cover by Meredith Russell features a handsome young soldier in camo set against a background of firefights and helicopters in a night sky. Representing the era of the Vietnam War, this is Richard the MC of the story.

Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 224 pages
Published December 2nd 2018 by BlueHeart Press
ASINB07KVRLNKG
Edition Language English
Series The Christmas Angel #5

The Christmas Angel Series

Christmas Angel – Eli Easton – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Summerfield’s Angel – Kim Fielding – Amazon US | Amazon UK
The Magician’s Angel – Jordan L. Hawk – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Christmas Homecoming – L.A. Witt – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Shrewd Angel – Anyta Sunday – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Christmas Prince – RJ Scott- Amazon US | Amazon UK

A MelanieM Review: The Bibliophile by Drew Marvin Frayne

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Nathanial Goldsmith is the only son of the richest man in the Idaho territory, Jessum Goldsmith, the Silver Baron of the Western Lands, as he is called in all the newspapers. But life in the late nineteenth-century American West weaves no magic spell for Nathanial, who longs for the academic worlds his father has forced him to leave behind.

To toughen him up, Nathanial’s father has indentured him to a ranchman, Cayuse Jem, a large, raw-boned, taciturn man Nathanial’s father believes will help teach his son to “become a man.” Cut off from his books and the life he has always known, Nathanial is not only forced to co-exist with Cayuse Jem, but to truly get to know him. In doing so, Nathanial discovers there is more to this silent horseman than meets the eye. And, in the process, Nathanial also learns a few things about life, about human nature, and about the differences in being a man and a boy…

I love historical fiction and romance but I’m also very aware of exactly how difficult it is to get it right.  Not only does the author have to craft a splendid plot, create multidimensional characters, give them chemistry with each other, as well as a romance to root for, but then they must place all that within the structure of a certain time period without making it look like a information dump.  Or that they haven’t done any research at all (please don’t get me started in on the use of Wikipedia as research).

So yes, rare is the author or novel that pulls it all together and gets it right.

The Bibliophile by Drew Marvin Frayne gets it right.

The Bibliophile is essentially the journal of young Nathanial Goldsmith.  It starts in September 1888 and ends in October 1890, three years that become a lifetime of growth.  The first thing the reader notices is that the language is correct for the time period.  Not modern in phrase or thought, it takes a while to adjust to Nathanial’s diary entries and internal dialog.  But very soon, that strangeness of “the tongue” and era become second nature and you ease into Nat’s world and connect with someone on the turning point of his life.

I can’t being to say enough of how Frayne was able to draw me into the mind and heart of Nat, a young book lover who only wants to stay in college and become a teacher yet is doomed by the fact that that he is the only son of a wealthy, hard man determined to mold him into the image of the son he wants, not the person Nathanial actually is.  The first entries are heartbreaking in their earnestness and honesty over his situation.  He’s at college and knows he must return to Idaho and a family that holds him and book learning in little regard.  And books are the only things he truly loves because he’s had so little of it in his life.

Nathanial has been away from the mansion his silver baron father calls home for a while so in many ways he’s younger than another boy who would have stayed on the frontier of Idaho.  He’s not “tough” or manly as his father would have him.  An altercation see’s his father sending him off to be an indentured servant to a brusk, somewhat wild rancher.  And this is where the story will, I believe, hit home with most readers.  The scenes where Nathanial is going through hardships he never believed of as a servant to Cayuse Jem are authentic, painful, and gritty.  He’s a child of privilege now a servant  performing chores he never dreamed of or knows how to do.  Since the reader has come to care greatly for Nat, this is an especially hard section to get through.

It’s also the beginning of Nat’s training.  Cayuse Jem starts to call him “boy”.   If you see that in terms of sexual use, you would be correct. The relationship here is very much daddy/boy or dom/sub without the kink. Although the sexual relationship does not come until an emotional bond is developed and Nat is ready for a sexual one.  He is also 18 when the journal starts.  But over and over again, throughout the story, the rancher is training Nat, gentling him as though he is one of the wild horses he works with, to be his. They love either other, no question, however, there is a definite framework or dynamics to their relationship. There are numerous references to historic Greek practices of older men taking younger ones as lovers, also Nez Perce same sex couplings, are used as foundation material by the author.  How the reader feels about all this will frame out how they will continue on with the story.

As a side thread to this is also an indelible storyline about two Nez Perce men who are incredibly important to Cayuse Jem and Nathanial.  That would be Chuslum and Motsqueh.  These two men will earn as deep a portion of your heart as Nat and Cayuse Jem do.  From them we venture into the lifestyle of the tribe, the Indian wars, the current situation, medicine and culture. It’s a rich, vivid element of The Bibliophile and one for me that is perhaps my favorite.

As Nat’s journal entries continues, you forget almost that he’s writing…you are there walking alongside them during their daily duties, getting a feel for life as it was lived in Idaho in the late 1800’s, from the politics to the books read, the food eaten,  and yes, even the clothes worn.  The author naturally immerses you into their world, making you care what happens to them, well aware that back then life was so precarious and could turn on a moment.

There are things I could go into here but this is a book that needs to be experienced.  Be prepared to weep.  I cried buckets.  I should have expected that and I still wasn’t ready. Damn you, Frayne!

The amount of emotional growth Nathanial shows during this story is amazing, especially in the last pages.  I needed that epilogue.  It was perfection. The flawless narrative touch.The author had me worried the chapter before and then delivered the 5 star send off.

After the story was done, I thought to myself….I didn’t get to savor all the nuances, the bits and pieces that I was sure that I had missed but I was still not ready to dive back in to the emotional journey that Nat needs to go through.  But I will and soon.  Because this is a book to be treasured.  I’ll just remember to have my box of tissues handy.

Cover art by Natasha Snow.  Not sure how I feel about this cover.  On the surface its fine, has all the elements.  But it doesn’t stand out, the tones,while right for the era are just blah.

Sales Links:  NineStar Press | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook
Published November 26th 2018 by NineStar Press
Original Title The Bibliophile
ISBN 139781949909432
Edition Language English

A Caryn Advent Calendar Review: The Faller by Daniel de Lorne

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Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

A historical set in Australia – why haven’t I read one of these before?  I have to admit that’s what caught me about the blurb on this one, and I loved the term “faller” instead of the North American “lumberjack” that I am used to.  The author did a great job of making me feel like I was right there in the jarrah forests, with men hewing railway sleepers from the mighty trees with only muscle and axe, living in primitive and dangerous conditions to support the booming timber industry.

The story starts with Charlie Young, skinny, short, and, yes, young, in the forest trying valiantly, and mostly failing, to cut railway sleepers with 4 other experienced fallers.  Working the forest was potentially a lucrative job, but the fallers got paid by the piece, so Charlie was in very real danger of running out of money and starving.  The best faller in the group was big, strong Jack Tapper, able to turn out perfect sleepers at a rate 2-3 times faster than the others.  Jack kept to himself, but his size, reputation, and mere presence intimidated all the men in the camp, and especially Charlie.

Even though Jack was exactly the sort of man that Charlie was most attracted to.

When all the men but Charlie and Jack went in to the town for a four day holiday around Christmas, Charlie found that Jack felt the same way he did, and knowing their time together alone was short, they made the best of it.  But the hyper-masculine nature of the timber industry in 1912 Australia was not a safe place at all to be gay, and hiding their connection proved to be a lot harder than Charlie thought it would be…

As is usual with short stories, I wanted more – more time to build the background, more time for the men to learn about each other and fall in love, and more time to develop the conflict that would give interest to the story.  But even in the constraints of a short story, I thought there was too much of Charlie’s inner monologue going on, which made the story move slowly.  The conflict and danger toward the end of the book was certainly very real – I don’t think the word homophobia could come close to adequately describing what could happen to a gay man in this setting – but somehow seemed superficial, and the resolution and ending seemed a bit too easy and abrupt.  Charlie’s immature decisions were consistent with his character, but I think the author made the bad guys a little too villainous, and it felt over the top.  Jack, on the other hand, was beautifully portrayed, with just the right amount of description and dialogue.  The historical details were really well done and clearly well researched though, and for me that made up for a lot of the areas I didn’t like.  Overall, I really enjoyed this, and I will look for more form this author.

Cover art by L.C. Chase doesn’t do justice to the historical aspects of the story, but the lumberjack is spot on.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 1st edition, 46 pages
Published December 1st 2018 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 139781644050453
Edition Language English