In the Spotlight: To Fight His Heart by Alex Nortan (Excerpt and Giveaway)



To Fight His Heart by Alec Nortan
Publisher:  NineStar Press
Cover Artist: Natasha Snow

Release Date: Aug. 8, 2016

Purchase Links:

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Book Blurb

The only way for Matt to be with Jordan is to put his life back on tracks. And if it requires physical injuries, Matt is ready to pay that price. One price he isn’t ready to pay, though, is other people’s mistakes. And as his past catches up with him, a lot of such people are ganging up on him, including cops.

Category: Romance
Genre: Contemporary
Sex Content: Non-explicit

Pairing: MM
Orientation: Gay
Identity: Cis
Length: Novelette

Words: 22000
Pages: 73


Stupid phone. Jordan told me to call him two weeks ago. Two weeks and I haven’t mustered the courage to call. How can I tell him I want him back in my life, but I have to rebuild my life first? How can I ask him to put his life on hold until then, when I don’t know if it will take days, months, or years?

I put down the phone and go to get my bike. Even if I change everything else in my life, I still need to get some exercise.

Thirty minutes later, I reach my destination. It’s a closed-down factory not far from the docks. The fence has a hole in it, right where my contact told me. I go through it and hide my bike behind a bush. The door is unlocked, as I’d expected. I enter and hear voices. And funny noises. I walk down the hall to the right, as instructed, and emerge in a wide warehouse space. Machines are rusting everywhere. Small ones are scattered around seemingly haphazardly, some no bigger than a small table and others the size of a car. The biggest ones, the size of small houses, are neatly aligned, occupying a whole side of the place. Some of the casings are missing, probably eaten by rust, revealing wheels and chains crisscrossing inside the beasts. A web of gangways had been built around and above them, probably to help maintain them. These are now rusting away, with some parts missing.

Standing on top of the nearest machine, a boy, who looks barely sixteen, sits gazing down at me.

He whistles and the place becomes quiet. From behind the machines, a dozen people appear. There are four girls, and two of the guys look to be older than me, though not by much. Most of them are wearing cargo pants and hoodies; a few have on shorts and T-shirts. The only thing missing is guns. With them, they would look like a gang.

A girl walks over to me. She’s short, with brown hair tied in a ponytail. She’s wearing a dirty white skintight top and a cap. “Matt?”

I nod. “Gaby, I suppose?”

We shake hands. She turns to the group. “This is Matt, the guy I told you about.”

A boy comes forward and scrutinizes me.

He turns to Gaby. “Are you sure he won’t cause us any problems?”

I can’t help smiling at the rebuke.

Gaby keeps a straight face. “He’s the one who busted those dirty cops three years ago. Trust me, he won’t be a problem.”

This wipes the smile off my face. I’d rather leave that feat in the past. However, it gets me a few awed stares from the others around us.

“Too bad he didn’t get rid of the clean ones, too,” the kid grumbles, walking back a few steps.

“Did you take me in because of that?” I ask Gaby.

She shakes her head. “No. Don’t worry about it. But the cops don’t appreciate what we do. They can sometimes cause us trouble. I told you about it. If you don’t like it, you can go away.”

I stifle a snort. “Trust me, I’ve done worse!”

Author Bio

Alec Nortan is a French social services worker. Though he learned English at school, he chooses this language to write in. His works are gay-related fictions, varying from young adult, science fiction or fantasy adventure, to romance.


Facebook: Alec Nortan


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Barb, A Zany Old Lady Release Day Review: Best in Show by Kelly Jensen


Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Best In ShowJulian Wilkes has been keeping to himself for over a year—ever since he walked in on his lover with another man. Distraught and self-flagellating for missing the signs that his lover had been having outside affairs for quite a while, Julian suffers from writer’s block—not good for any author—and is hiding away in his hometown. His sister is his only friend, and she spends most of her time berating him for wallowing in self-pity.

Finally convincing him to get a companion dog, she literally drags him to Lingwood Animal Rescue where, instead of a dog, a large caramel-striped tabby cat named Marmalade gives him the eye and entices him to bring the big guy home. Little does he know, however, Marmalade is really Macavity Birch, direct descendent of the witches for whom the town is named. The current witch-in-residence, Mac’s Aunt Clare, has cast a spell on him, making the shifter unable to switch to his human form except at night.

Needless to say, human Mac is discovered, and Julian is not only shocked but also gets caught up in the family mystery when he reveals he’s recently obtained a journal written by Madeline Lingwood, who is Aunt Clare’s sister and the witch who gave this town its reputation. What will happen when Aunt Clare finds out Julian has the journal? And even more, what will it be like to spend his whole life as a cat, or worse yet, as a mouse?

This was a light-hearted sweet romance with both a geeky glasses-wearing MC and a hot redhead tabby cat shifter. Need I say more? Though short, the author did a great job building endearing characters, adding humor and wit to the story, and making this reader want a whole lot more of Julian, Mac, and the Lingwood witches. 

Cover Artist: Alexandria Corza.  Adorable.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | ARe | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 87 pages
Expected publication: July 27th 2016 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 1634774760 (ISBN13: 9781634774765)
Edition LanguageEnglish

An Alisa Review: Sins of the Past by Amanda Young


Rating:  4 stars out of 5


Sins of the PastTwo men bonded by love. A long forgotten secret neither knew they shared in common.

Andrew Vought is a wealthy single parent who’s all but given up on love. Ryan Ward is an up-and-coming landscape architect, who’s never believed true love exists.

In each other’s arms, they find the love they’ve sought. But can a budding new love survive the secrets both men harbor?


Amanda Young did a great job with this short story.  Ryan believes he will never know true love because of how he behaved in his younger years.  Andrew has been looking for love for a long time and continues to hope.  Their connection isn’t instant, but they are both willing to work for their relationship.


I connected with both of these characters.  They both slowly approach their relationship, but don’t know what to do when some past decisions come back to haunt them.  I could feel Ryan’s heart breaking when he felt that he would lose Andrew when he realized their connection to each other.


The cover art is very nice and caught my attention.


Sales Link: Amazon


Book Details:

ebook, 97 pages
Published: 2nd Edition May 14, 2016 by Amanda Young
ISBN: 9781599985992
Edition Language: English

A Paul B Review: The Leprechaun’s Gamble (Gifts of the Fae #1) by A.J. Marcus


Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

The Leprechaun's GambleA leprechaun gets but one chance to find love in the mortal realm.  If the leprechaun is successful, they may live out their life with their true love in the mortal world with occasion visits back to the fairy world.  If unsuccessful, they must find love in the fairy world which has proven difficult to do.  Knowing both the reward and costs, young leprechauns gamble to find their true love.

Ailin is one such leprechaun.  Having passed up his chance last year thinking he was too young for such an adventure, he decides to go forth this year.  He knows that the portal will open on St. Patrick’s Day and will have until the equinox a few days later to find his love.  Having found the portal site, Ailin crosses through then casts a spell to protect himself from the rush of other leprechauns coming through.  Once he regains his senses, he heads to town.  On the way, he meets a brownie, a dark fairy from another fairy kingdom.  Ailin ignores the brownie’s temptations and finds a festival in the nearest town.  He is off to find the man who will love him.

Rohan is a farmer to the north of the town.  He inherited his grandfather’s farm recently and loves the simpler life.  He enters a jig dance contest at the local festival.  As competitors begin to drop, he notices the only one keeping up is a good looking red headed man, who happens to be Ailin in his human guise.  Impressed that he can keep up, Rohan offers to buy the man a drink at the local tavern.  The competitive nature in both men leads to a game of darts where wagers are made by the patrons.  Finding the man challenging, he asks the man to come back to the farm with him.  Ailin is overjoyed at the possibility that Rohan might be the one and accepts.  Now he must turn this attraction to true love in the next few days or else he will never find mortal love.

This is the first book in the Gifts of the Fae series by A. J. Markus.  If you are looking for two alpha males you have found it in this book.  Both men acknowledge their competitive nature, which includes the size of their equipment.  Of course both are well hung, as it seems they have to be the best at everything they do.  It was interesting to see Ailin dance around some of Rohan’s questions as Ailin cannot lie to the human but also did not want to reveal his true nature until he know Rohan was the one for him.  Overall it was an enjoyable start to this new series.

The cover art is perfect for this book.  We have the red headed Ailin with his scruff standing beside the dark haired Rohan wearing what looks like a tam o’shanter.    These fit the description of the characters perfectly.  The rainbow above the author’s name is a nice touch.  Kudos go to Carmen Waters for the cover.

Sales Links:   eXtasy BooksAmazon

Book Details

ebook, 53 pages
Published March 14th 2016 by eXtasy Books
Edition LanguageEnglish

Series:  Gifts of the Fae

The Leprechaun’s Gamble (Gifts of the Fae #1)

On Tour with H. Lewis-Foster and In The Blue Moonlight (tour and contest)



Book Name: In The Blue Moonlight
Author Name: H. Lewis-Foster

Author Bio:

H. Lewis-Foster lives in the North of England, and has always worked with books in one form or another. As a keen reader of gay fiction, she decided to try writing herself, and is now the proud author of several short stories and her debut novel ‘Burning Ashes’. She was also delighted to see her first play performed earlier in 2014.

H. likes to create characters who are talented, funny and quite often gorgeous, but who all have their faults and vulnerable sides, and she hopes that you’ll enjoy reading their stories as much as she loves writing them.

Author Contact: Twitter

Publisher: Wayward Ink Publishing
Cover Artist: Lily Velden in collaboration with Design Bug


Sales Links:       amazon                Wayward Ink Publishing    All Romance eBooks (ARe)BestsellerIcon100X100


SMIn the Blue Moonlight H. Lewis-FosterIn The Blue Moonlight Blurb:

Simon has a good job and a nice house, and according to his best friend Chris, he’s turning into a boring old fart. So it’s totally out of character when Simon bares his bum to the local constabulary on a night out with his brother’s student mates. He hopes he’s put the incident behind him, when Simon bumps into one of the officers.  Simon fears he’s in trouble, then thinks he’s in luck when PC Mark Timmis buys him a drink – but life in a rural English town is never as simple as it seems.


In The Blue Moonlight Excerpt:

On a count of three from Tim, the most vocal of the group, six students and one financial expert lowered their trousers to reveal a remarkably varied set of backsides. Glancing sideways, Simon spied a pert pair of buttocks which could have graced a swimwear ad, a scrawny little bum which could barely have held up its owner’s jeans, and an unusually hairy arse adorned with a love-heart tattoo.

Then Simon looked round at the uniformed recipients of their cheeky display. Their jaw-dropping looks of surprise were priceless, and Simon genuinely hoped a passer-by had snapped them on a mobile phone. Simon soon realized, however, that it was he and his mooning chums who were far more likely to end up on YouTube.

Only one of the policemen wasn’t gaping like a truncheon had been shoved somewhere unexpected. A smile crept onto the face of the tall, blond and undeniably handsome officer. Simon instinctively smiled back, until he noticed the copper’s colleagues had recovered their professional poise and were readying themselves for action. Tim gave his orders once more.

“Leg it!”

Pages: 22 pages

Tour Dates: November 12, 2014

Tour Stops:  Parker WilliamsScattered Thoughts & Rogue WordsThe Hat PartyInked Rainbow ReadsFangirl Moments and My Two Cents,
BFD Book BlogPrism Book Alliance, Amanda C. Stone,  Fallen Angel ReviewsMM Good Book ReviewsMultitasking Mommas,
My Fiction NookAndrew Q. GordonDawn’s Reading Nook, Molly LollyJade CrystalBecause Two Men Are Better Than One,
Kimi-ChanVelvet Panic

Contest: Enter to win a Rafflecopter Prize: E-copy of In The Blue Moonlight. Must be 18 years of age or older to enter. Use the link provided for the entry form and for all additional contest details.

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A MelanieM Review: A Taste Of Copper by Elin Gregory


Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5 (rounded up to 5)


Your master has the field for today, but his name, whatever it might be, is without honour.

Taste of copper 400x600Sir Maheris Schade, the Black Knight, has been charged with guarding a strategic bridge that leads into his Master’s kingdom.  His orders?  To allow no one to pass over the bridge.  It doesn’t matter that recent horrific events have made his Master, the Count of Tancred,  the most hated man in all the land.  All that matters to Sir Schade is duty and honor.  Many times the Black Knight has been challenged and each time he has bested his opponent.  And the toll of that constant fighting is showing on his body and soul.

At the Black Knight’s side, his squire Olivier.  Olivier has had other Masters but none has he loved like he loves Maheris Schade.  Olivier only wished that the Black Knight showed any interest in returning his love.  Instead Olivier has settled for a gruff Master/Squire relationship with occasional benefits on the side.

But everything is about to change.  The King and his men are approaching the bridge and they intend to cross.  As the army approaches, an intriguing archer arrives first to upset their status quo and leave Olivier questioning not only his Master’s resolve but their relationship as well.

I first encountered the author, Elin Gregory, when I read her splendid book On A Lee Shore, another historical romance.  So I was delighted to see another story from Gregory, this time set in the Middle Ages.   A story of approximately 58 pages, it takes place over the course of three momentous days.

Sir Maharis Schade, with Olivier at his side, has been holding the bridge against an onslaught of knights as war wages in the lands around him.  Gregory drops us into the action as the constant battling and lack of resources is wearing the Black Knight and Olivier down.  Their armor, tents, and clothing are  showing the wear and tear of their circumstances.  The worn, oft-repaired state of their equipment is also starting to  reflect their mental, emotional and physical status as well.  Down to just the two of them, Elin Gregory makes us feel every bit of the weariness and exhaustion that is starting to overtake them.

In concise, detailed descriptions, Elin Gregory’s narrative uses the perilous situation, the depth of their honor, and the terminology of the times to bring these men vividly to life.   This is not the expected  romance per se but it exists, subtly at first.  Then the thread of love weaves itself through the story in a manner both dramatic and poignant.  There are  several scenes in A Taste of Copper that will make you weep.   The weight of honor and duty upon a chivalrous man has never been so heavy.  That it is born by two makes it doubly heartrending and affective.

The author builds the drama and suspense in just the right increments, allowing the readers to learn to like, then love, finally able to comprehend  and root for the complex relationship that exists not just between the Black Knight and Olivier but Hywel the archer and his love.  Looking back, I find it hard to believe that all the events and the emotions and actions they engendered took place in only three days.  But that timeline restriction works beautifully to build the sense of alarm and resignation as the King and his men approach.  That sense of urgency, along with regret, run like the warp and weft of a tapestry the author is weaving in A Taste of Copper.

At first, I wanted more from this story.  Then I realized that while I want more of these characters amidst the aftermath of their battle and war,  I wanted it to come in a sequel, not as additional length to this story.  I would love to see Elin Gregory revisit these characters and their relationship but if I only get them in this story, then I am content.  A Taste of Copper is a small bit of literary perfection.  It is a historical slice of two mens lives that happens to contain far more emotion and depth than is first seen at first read of the page.  I can see this will be one of my favorite historical reads of the year.  If you are a lover of historical stories and romance, put A Taste of Copper on your must read list today.

Cover Artist:  Meredith Russell. Gorgeous cover, worthy of the wonderful tale within.  One of my favorite covers.

Sales Links:   Love Lane Books    All Romance eBooks    amazon      A Taste of Copper

Book Details:

ebook, 26,900 words, approx. 58 pages
Published September 26th 2014 by Love Lane Books Limited
(first published September 24th 2014)
Love Lane Books

Review: Angel’s Truth (Angel #2) by Liz Boreno


Rating: 3 stars out of 5

Angel's Truth cover  “Freeze or I’ll shoot!” Aaron yelled and aimed the gun at Jordan’s chest.
“Angel, no, please.” Hacking fluid-filled coughs broke up Jordan’s words.
“Jordan?” Aaron whispered his name as recognition painted a mural of memories of their life together on his face.
“Yes.” He coughed red into his dirty hand. “Please help.”

And with those words, Angel’s Truth begins, picking up immediately from Angel’s Hero when supposedly dead Army Captain Jordan Collins arrives home after a month as a POW in Afghanistan.  Sick and injured, Jordan finds his enemy Major General Troy Hart  just leaving his home before Jordan reaches out to let his husband, Aaron “Angel” Collins, know he is alive and home once more.  As Aaron welcomes Jordan home and rushes Jordan to the hospital, Jordan reveals that Hart is the man behind his imprisonment in Afghanistan and death sentence he was under.

As Jordan adjusts to freedom, he also has to contend with PTSD, a shattered confidence, and the fact that his enemy,Troy Hart, is still free. Aaron realizes that the man he thought was a friend to him during those painful times where Aaron was looking for answers about his husband’s disappearance and unlikely death is actually a danger to them all.  Now Aaron must help Jordan recover his emotional and physical health and together discover just what Major General Troy Hart’s betrayal and deception means to them and to the nation.

As stated in the publisher’s blurb, Angel’s Truth picks up exactly to the word where Angel’s Hero ends.  If you haven’t read the first story, this one won’t make any sense as there is very little back story included in this sequel.  At 64 pages, it is a tad shorter than Angel’s Hero and somehow that works to this story’s advantage.  The narrative is tighter, and some of the more problematic plot elements from the first story are gone, including a fractured timeline that jumped back and forth between present day and the beginnings of their romance.  That was more confusing than helpful.  Luckily, that is absent here.  But other larger errors appear.  Let’s get to those now.

But while the loving relationship between the men is reestablished by their reunion, some of the issues I had with the plausibility of their professions and Jordan’s escape still stand.  This is Jordan’s explanation as to how he arrived (sick, coughing up blood and in Afghanistan Army uniform pants) back in the US, apparently only miles from Bethesda, MD.  The conversation picks up at Walter Reed Army Medical Hospital in Bethesda where Jordan is telling his story to his superior officer:

“… had “accidently” dropped a piece of paper with information about a cargo plane to the United States in his cell weeks before. Jordan then explained that he hitched a ride on a delivery truck, and offered to read the English map to the US for the pilot in exchange for a ride home. “

Now Jordan changed some of the details about the nurse who helped him get free to protect her. But all this took place in two days time.  In two days, he got free from a horror of a desert prison, just before his date with a firing squad, hitched a ride out of said desert (not that a mixed heritage of black and Korean American wouldn’t stick out like Uncle Sam) but he is also limping on a severely broken ankle, with a bad case of pneumonia, and wearing an Afghanistan Army uniform.  And after the reader makes a huge leap over that implausible plot canyon, you still have to believe that he then hitches a ride in a native’s truck to an airfield, hitches another ride (still coughing up blood, same attire) on a foreign cargo plane, which lands in Bethesda (with no problem apparently even without an airport or the ever present homeland security), and then makes it to his house on foot, just a couple of streets over.  Only in a comedic send up of the military and Washington, Dc would such an escape be possible. Or remotely realistic.

Then there is the fact that in the story Aaron calls 911 and Jordan is taken immediately to Walter Reed Army Hospital in Bethesda, MD.  Our local 911 responders are not allowed to do that even if the person being transported requests/demands to be taken to Walter Reed for emergency care.  Instead the injured party would be taken to a civilian emergency room, evaluated, and then later transferred if required.  That’s the law and that fact can be easily checked with Walter Reed authorities, also known as Command Personnel.

In addition, it says Jordan was a prisoner for over 2 months time.  Sometimes its a “little over a month”.  As a prisoner of war under harsh conditions, a month or so would have an enormous impact on the prisoner’s health and mental state.  But the actual time as a POW seems to fluctuate from page to page. These things alone serve to disconnect me from the story, pulled out of whatever dramatic action is happening to think about the errors in front of me. If the reader can’t believe in the characters or the plot, how can they invest even a part of themselves in a story?  I don’t think they can. Then there is the lack of security and isolation around an escaped ill prisoner who just “came back from the dead”. These days that happenstance is called a major security risk.

Unfortunately, this author just stumbles into one pitfall after another with her characters and story location to this story’s detriment. And this leads into one of my issues with this series.  To some it may land on the side of nitpicking, but to this reader it says the author hasn’t done their research.

Writing about Washington, Dc and it’s surrounding environs can be tricky. You either get it right or you don’t. And Liz Borino mostly doesn’t get it. Built as the only Federal city in the United States so many people have decried its lack of “thereness” , of that inescapable uniqueness that cities such as Baltimore, Chicago and New York City have and are associated with. And that’s intentional. On our maps should be the sentences “here lie the NSA, the CIA, the FBI” and all the other alphabet agencies so necessary to the security of our nation just like it used to say “there by dragons” on ancient maps. Here lie Congress, the Capitol, the White House, and all the other government organizations meant to reside here from the very beginning. Then the World Trade Organization, all the embassies….and soon you can understand why the District of Columbia lacks the very individual nature, the vivacity associated with other cities. It’s not built into its personality on purpose. It thrives on anonymity, on power disguised behind common tailoring and less than modern haircuts….on people who are secretive and withdrawn by nature. No one who burbles on at work makes it here…unless its done on purpose and with a hidden agenda.  How long would Aaron have lasted at the CIA?  Not long, if he even made it through the door.

None of the characters here are believable within the ethos of Washington, DC , whether it be political, military or intelligence agency.  I think Borino had a good idea somewhere in here but not the attention to detail that these characters, their professions, the location, and even the plot requires.

Do I think all of the above will bother every reader?  Probably not, which is why this got by with a 3 rating instead of the 2.5 it deserved.  Some readers will love the romance and the “aww” factor found in the reunion and HEA.  I will admit this is a tighter narrative on the surface than Angel’s Hero, and thus a better story as far as that goes. But as someone who lives in the Washington, DC Metro area, all the errors committed within these stories caused any enjoyment I might have found in the Angel series to fade away, like Cherry Blossoms in a stiff wind…in the Spring of course.

Cover art by Anthony Walsh.  Again, very nice cover. Works for the story and characters.

Angel series include:

Angel’s Hero (Angel #1)
Angel’s Truth (Angel #2)

Book Details:

ebook, 64 pages
Published March 14th 2014 by Lazy Day (first published March 10th 2014)
ISBN 1612581250 (ISBN13: 9781612581255)
edition languageEnglish
seriesAngel #2

Review: Reviewing Life (A Review Story) by Lara Brukz


Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Reviewing Life coverAfter a life spent as an alcoholic,  Marshall Ellerbee finds a himself at an AA meeting and on the path to sobriety.  Finally sober, Marshall find a new outlook and the strength to change his life in every aspect.  He starts a new job at the Wellness Center that houses his sponsor and starts making amends.  Then his sponsor suffers a heart attack and dies.  His replacement is none other than Kyle Young, Marshall’s ex-lover’s best friend.  Kyle was no friend to Marshall even when Marshall and Eric were just dating.  But after the drunk driving accident that cost Eric the use of his legs, Kyle’s distain turned to hate.  And now Marshall is expected to work with the man who hates him.  Marshall wants to show Kyle that he has changed, but will Kyle accept that fact and Marshall?

Kyle Young is floored when he finds out that the athletic manager for the Wellness Center where he was just hired is none other than the drunk that almost killed his best friend, Eric.  But Marshall appears sober and when Marshall saves Eric’s life, then Kyle must finally accept the fact that Marshall has turned his life around and become a better person, not just a sober one.

When the men find themselves attracted to each other, and not just physically, it upsets the fragile state of their budding friendship.  Is a romance even possible between two men who shared  a past such as Marshall’s?

I thoroughly enjoyed Lara Brukz’s first story in the series, Five-Star Review.  That novel was Eric Carillo (a reviewer of M/M Romances) and Cade Montgomery’s (author of M/M Romances) story.  But Marshall Ellerbee figured largely in that tale as the ex-lover who, driving drunk, put Eric in the wheelchair and the lifestyle that isolated him in his loft.  His attempts to re-enter Eric’s life after the accident only caused more pain and heartache through a scheme hatched by a drunken Marshall.  In another story, it would have been easy to write  Marshall off as the villain he certainly was but in Brukz’s hands, Marshall was also a person in great pain, drowning in alcohol, destroying his life and others in the process.  Eric could never bring himself to hate Marshall although he hated what the man had done and who he became under the influence of alcohol.     Brukz created a character who could be redeemed but not in that story.  I think many of us who read Five-Star Review wanted to see what happened to Marshall and now we have our answer in Reviewing Life.

As the story opens we find Marshall sitting in at his first AA meeting, listening to people relate the traumatic events that finally made them get sober.  It is a bleak picture and Marshall sits there shaking wondering if he has the courage to go to the podium and acknowledge that he is an alcoholic.  It is a powerful scene and handled with the  painful realism it deserves by Lara Brukz.  Alcoholism and the path to sobriety is a topic of much larger and detailed stories.  But Brukz’s treatment rings with sincerity and the need to make Marshall Ellerbee’s recovering alcoholic as authentic as possible.  We get glimpses into Marshall’s upbringing and his use of booze as a bandaid for the problems he encountered.  And Brukz makes Marshall work for his acceptance, asking for forgiveness and trying the make amends for his past actions.

Kyle Young also has a past that includes alcoholism, although not his own.  So Kyle’s approach to the disease and those afflicted is colored by his own experiences, again a realistic handling of the subject matter.  I liked Kyle and the sober Marshall found in this story.  Their romance was slow to build, as it should be with two characters and their past issues.

At 124 pages, it would be a challenge for any author to bring in the full range of issues and milestones in an alcoholic’s road to recovery.  There are several mentions of the temptation to drink again, including one scene at a bar.  The need for support for a alcoholic is there throughout Reviewing Life, a necessity for someone to remain sober.  Lara Brukz introduces a few secondary characters at the Wellness Center, including a young man called Toby.  I loved the scenes that took place there and can only hope the next novel is located at the Center and brings  back not only Toby but the other children and adults as well.

Of course Eric and Cade are strong secondary characters in this tale, so those readers as fond of them as I am will be overjoyed  to see them again.  This is a strong romance which could have benefited by additional length to add some more layers to  Marshall’s recovery and Kyle’s background.  However, I enjoyed Marshall and Kyle’s romance and think most readers will too.  Consider this definitely recommended for both the story and the author. More please.

This is how Reviewing Life starts…

“I LOVED vodka. Vodka martinis; Bloody Marys; screwdrivers. Oh, and I loved green apple vodka. Simply an amazing drink. It was what I went to when I was happy, when I was sad, when I was frustrated. I used any excuse as a reason to practically drink myself into a coma.”

Cover art by Catt Ford.  Just a terrific cover, love the artwork.

Books in this series include:

Five-Star Review (A Review Story #1)
Reviewing Life (A Review Story #2)

Book Details:

ebook, 134 pages
Published November 20th 2013 by Dreamspinner Press (first published November 19th 2013)
ISBN 1627982752 (ISBN13: 9781627982757)
edition language English

Review: Ghosts of Bourbon Street by Rowan Speedwell


Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Ghosts of Bourbon StreetPaul Thibodeaux is stuck, his life in stasis and he doesn’t know how to break out of the funk he is in.  Paul spends his nights bar-tending at the New Orleans family owned and run gay bar and his spare time reading or picking up one night stands.  Increasingly those anonymous “dates” are preceded by an enormous amount of alcohol and followed by a morning’s worth of recovery.  And although Jean-Thom’s, his bar, features male strippers, Paul has never looked beyond their feet, preferring to stay isolated in his self imposed shell to his brother and friend’s concern.

The building that houses both the bar and the family apartments is full of whispers and faint sounds that wake Paul in the night and kept him company as a child.  And although Paul’s adult self has closed himself off, they still linger and watch over him.  When one of the bar’s dancer’s finds his way into the garden behind the bar, it signals a change in both their lives that neither either expected but  both desperately need.

New Orleans is such a unique and rich setting for a story.  Full of history and charm, music and life spill over the streets into the buildings and gardens that are the old section of the city.  New Orleans’s colorful past and architecture calls out for a supernatural treatment and Rowen Speedwell answers with her short story Ghosts of Bourbon Street.  

There is so much I enjoyed about this story.  Speedwell’s characters are well drawn, especially Paul Thibodeaux, a young man who loses himself in books and drink rather than face life and his future.  We find him at a time when Paul must either move forward or be lost to alcohol.  We are given just enough background on Paul to help us understand what brought him to this  moment.  His efforts at college and the manner in which the character fell into his current situation make Paul is a totally believable character.  The same goes for Michael, the dancer, with his own set of problems and decisions to make.  I thought his character had some really lovely touches, starting with his beautifully pedicured feet, the first thing that Paul recognizes about him.

Ghosts and New Orleans go together like bourbon and water so putting them together in a story just doubles the pleasure for a reader.  I loved the ghosts Speedwell has created for her story. I only wish we had gotten not only more appearances by them but a better telling of the ghostly history and connections to the family.  The gay bar, Jean-Thom’s, is worthy of its own story since Speedwell tells us that it has been a gay bar since it first opened.  Each dancer is surely worthy of their own story and it would make a delightful series.

The connection here between Paul and Michael, such as it is, is too rushed for me to call it a romance.  One night, one sexual, emotional connection, and then perhaps a romance.  This is definitely a story full of possibilities instead of finalities, which realistically is the way to go considering the length of the story.  Could this story have used more length to infuse time and backstory to the characters?  Certainly but the flavor and supernatural air of Ghosts of Bourbon Street make this a story to recommend.

Cover by Jared Rackler certainly conveys the spooky charm of the city and the story.  Well done.

Book Details:

ebook, 73 pages
Published November 29th 2013 by MLR Press
edition language English

Review: Dime Novel by Dale Chase


Rating: 2.75 stars out of 5

Dime Novel coverDime novelist Benedict Bright has come out west to meet the man he has made famous in his dime novels, Arizona Marshal Evan Teague.  But the real man and the actual American west are very different from the popular stories he has written, stories that the Marshal has nothing but distain for.   When Benedict convinces the Marshal that he wants his next book to be authentic, Evan Teague begins Benedict’s education about life, not just surviving in the wild west but about his sexuality as well.  Nothing is like Benedict imagined it would be especially Evan Teague.  The longer Benedict stays in Arizona, the more he changes, including falling for the man he writes about.  When his education is over, will Evan continue to be a part of his life or will the Marshal break his heart?

I am a long time fan of western fiction, starting with the outstanding Louis L’Amour and Zane Grey.  So I am always excited to come across a new story set in the old west.  Dime Novel refers to those stories that were both cheaply made and cheaply sold.  Known as Penny Dreadfuls in England, as the format crossed the Atlantic the price was raised to a dime, hence the name dime novel.  They were overly dramatic ( think soap opera) stories with covers to match. While other genres appeared in dime novels (most notably the detective genre), it is the westerns that are the most fondly remembered.

The first dime novel was published in 1860 and flourished well into the early 1900’s.  So it works well that Dale Chase sets his story about the adventures of a dime novelist in Arizona 1897, just as the dime novel was at its height of popularity.  But writing historical fiction comes with pitfalls not found in contemporary fiction and Dale Chase walked into most of them.

The story is told from Benedict’s pov, one that seems to veer from the vernacular of the late 1800’s to that of current phraseology. Benedict will converse in courteous, polite tones one would expect from an “easterner”of the times, then drop into sexual language that could be found on Grindr.  Phrases like “sob sister” also pop up in Benedict’s dialog, however, that term did not appear in the American lexicon until 1912, years after 1897.  And with the dialog fluctuating between centuries, I was not surprised to find the behavior of the main characters follow that pattern as well.

Would a well known U.S. Marshal sexually accost a stranger almost immediately upon their arrival in town?  Especially if that stranger just happened to be a novelist from the East?  I am thinking no.  Actions like that would get them hanged, especially the rough sex that occurred in “the common two-story wooden boarding house” where the Marshal made his home, one that had “an atmosphere of cigar smoke and cooking grease”.   Those structures were notoriously flimsy with thin walls perfect for eavesdropping.  So a well known marshal takes the eastern novelist past the “heavy set woman” who oversees that establishment up the stair for a good fucking? No, I think not.  Not without a hanging party appearing shortly thereafter.  Any sexual  same sex relations would have been circumspect at best with hidden signals and masked intentions.Plus cigars were expensive and if you could afford a cigar then you could afford to live in a boarding house that didn’t reek of rancid oil .

With the dialog and character actions out of sync for that historical time period, the story is lost amidst glaring inaccuracies and inconsistent characterization.   The characters of Benedict and Evan never solidified into real human beings as their actions and interactions seem both “out of character” given social mores of the times and of the personas created for them by Chase. And as the characters lacked substance than so did any romance that happened between them.

There are many outstanding western novels available to read.  Among m/m authors who write great historical fiction of the American West, I count those novels of Lucius Parhelion, Shelter Somerset or Barry Brennessel.  All of those authors brought the American west to life with accuracy towards characters and time period.  Run and grab up one of their stories and give this one a pass.

Cover art by Wilde City Press.  No artist is credited with this cover.  The design would have been fine in another story, perhaps a modern western.  However, given that the title and plot is formed around a dime novelist, should there have been an attempt to model the cover after a typical dime novel.  What a missed opportunity. Here is an example: Buffalo Bill dime novel cover_buffalo_bw

Book Details:

12,000 words, Published 2013 by Wilde City Press