A MelanieM Review: Arctic Fire by Keira Andrews

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Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

arctic-fire-by-keira-andrewsWhen two strangers are trapped in a blizzard, heat rises.

Haunted by what he lost in Afghanistan, Captain Jack Turner is at a crossroads. While the last place he wants to go is the Arctic, at least the routine mission gets him out from behind his new desk. But he starts off on the wrong foot with the Canadian Ranger guiding him across the forbidding and dangerous land, and Jack would rather be anywhere than sharing a tent with Sergeant Kin Carsen.

The Arctic is in Kin’s blood, and he can’t seem to leave the tundra behind. He wishes he could live openly as a gay man, but the North isn’t as accepting as the rest of Canada. Although he’s lonely, he loves his responsibility as a Ranger, patrolling the vast land he knows so well. But he’s on unfamiliar ground with Jack, and when they’re stranded alone by a blizzard, unexpected desire begins to burn. Soon they’re in a struggle to survive, and all these strangers have is each other.

Many of the things I loved most about Arctic Fire by Keira Andrews ending up working against it as well.  The location, the story line? Outstanding elements! Two complicated men, haunted by their tragic pasts now meeting in one of the most starkly beautiful and treacherous landscapes nature has to offer?  A total draw for me.   I couldn’t wait to dive into their story and romance only to be pulled up short, yes, short by the limited amount of pages.

One hundred pages was just not enough time to do this story and these men justice.  We get just enough about Captain Jack  (that name so conjuers up another Captain) when he is sent on his mission to check out a port for a possible new base.  He immediately collides with the Canadian Ranger Kin Carsen, who wants whats best for the community and to preserve the precious landscape and tundra.  Both men are haunted by losses which eventually pull them closer as does physcial  attraction and the lack of gay men within that same community.

Andrews does her wonderful job of fleshing out both Jack and Kin, starting with their backgrounds.  But there just isn’t enough “time” or length here to finish the job properly.    Their relationship always feels “speeded up” as does the plot trigger towards the end of the story.  That especially felt incomplete as though whole chunks were missing from that scene.

The arctic is another character here.  The author does a grand job of giving the reader a feel for the awe and hold its beauty can have on the people there as well as the frightening costs of not paying attention to its cold and hidden threats that await.

All that said, I really liked this couple and their relationship.  It has so much promise.  Its a HFN and if ever there was a story that needs enlarging or a much longer sequel, its this one.  Its got all the right elements in place.  Its just the beginning.  I’d so love to see more.

Cover art is perfect for the story.  I’d like to see Jack a little more experienced and worn but that’s just me.

Sales Links

7104e-waxcreative-amazon-kindle

Book Details:

Note: This gay romance features emotional repression, hurt/comfort, adventure on the tundra, and love where you least expect it.2nd, 100 pages

Published by KA Books (first published October 2014)
ISBN139781988260099
Edition LanguageEnglish

A Reader Special from Chris McHart! Two Ruined Christmas Eves by Chris McHart (guest blog, playlist, and giveaway)

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Two Ruined Christmas Eves by Chris McHart

Release Date: November 30th 2015

Chris McHart has a special for our readers today.  A playlist for Two Ruined Christmas Eves!

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My playlist for writing Two Ruined Christmas Eves

You thought I would give you now the most famous German folk music songs, right? Sorry to disappoint. I actually love to listen to rock and metal, so my playlist was the following:

Metallica—Everything From Nothing Else Matters to Enter Sandman

Greenday

Nirvana

Coldplay

Linkin Park

And, most of the time: Queen. The most awesome band on earth. I could listen to Freddy all day. Okay, I do listen to him all day… well, in any case, most of the time I’m writing to Queen. For Two Ruined Christmas Eves was my favorite- can you guess it? Yes. The Show Must Go On. What else?

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BLURB

It’s Christmas Eve, and folk music star Jonas is on his way to the most important gig of his career, the Volksmusik Stadl. Well, he would be if heavy snowfall hadn’t stopped him on the highway.

Fritz has to accompany his grandparents to the biggest folk music event in southern Germany, the worst punishment for a metal fan, especially on Christmas Eve.

When these two men meet at the concert after-party, sparks fly. Will this Christmas Eve be something special after all?

Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK | All Romance

Goodreads
Genre: Holiday, mm romance, short story

EXCERPT

Lights flashed at the stage, and a man in a dark suit stepped under the spot they created.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, we’ll go on air in 60 seconds. Before I wish you all a great evening here at the Volksmusik Stadl, I have an announcement. Jonas Goldbaum couldn’t make it. He is presumably stuck in traffic, but we haven’t been able to reach him. Please excuse that he won’t be singing today.”

The man nodded to the camera. “And we’ll go live in three… two… one… Good evening, Ladies and Gentlemen, and welcome to this very special Christmas edition of the most famous folk music event in German TV. I’m so happy to welcome you all, and of course, you at home on the TV, to this show. I hope you all have a wonderful evening with our stars. I wish you all a Merry Christmas!”

The curtain opened, and the first tones sounded. A female singer raised her voice over the guitar.

“I’m standing outside, watching you go, My heart bleeds, my soul is lost, without you…” Why didn’t anyone have mercy on him? Fritz clenched his teeth and tried— unsuccessfully— to tune her out. Ignoring the high notes was impossible. This was going to be a long evening. It was even more awful than he’d anticipated. It was horrible. All these smiling faces, the happy or heartbreak songs, the cameras flashing over the crowd, and he in the middle of it wishing desperately he wasn’t there.

Fritz took another sip, imagining it was a beer or something stronger.

Two and a fucking half hours later, the moderator finally told them they were done. Finally! Okay, he wished them all a great evening, and how much fun he had, and yada yada yada, but Fritz tuned him out as well, after he’d heard it was over. Now he just had to make it through the after-show party. This was the worst Christmas Eve ever.

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Giveaway

Giveaway: Win a $10 Amazon Giftcard

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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cmh

About the Author

I’m a writer of M/M romance and M/M erotic romance from Germany.

I’ve always had stories in my head, but a while ago I allowed them to get out and on paper. Looks like it has been a good decision, although the more stories I write, the more I have in my head. Maybe I’ll have all of them out someday, and there’ll be nothing more to write, but for the next years, I don’t see that coming.

When I’m not writing, I spend time with my family (I have the best husband EVER) and try to keep all my animals happy. I also enjoy gardening and cooking, although I’m still looking for someone to clean up afterwards. And, of course, I love reading, whenever I have a quiet moment.

Writing and reading is my break from everyday stress and I hope you join me!

Links: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Google + | Goodreads

Sign up for Chris McHart’s Newsletter here!

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A Sammy Review: Behind Closed Doors (Browerton University #1.5) by A.J. Truman

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Rating: 3.25 stars out of 5

Behind Closed DoorsAt Browerton University, a lot can happen behind closed doors.

Two frat brothers can reveal their true feelings. An honor student’s dark past can come to light. Ten hours in a car can turn strangers into lovers. And a coach can teach his star quarterback a very valuable lesson.

Catch up with some familiar Browerton students and meet new ones. Four stories. Four doors. Endless possibilities.

Door Number One: The Whitmore Room (Out in the Open prequel)
Door Number Two: Is There a Porn Star in my Class?
Door Number Three: Road Trip Cone of Silence
Door Number Four: Coach’s Revenge

BEHIND CLOSED DOORS is a collection of gay new adult romance stories filled with humor, heart, and hot guys. The book is intended for audiences 18+ as it contains explicit sex and language. Approx. 30,000 words.

Behind Closed Doors is comprised of four short stories that give a quick glance at life at Browerton University. The first story, The Whitmore Room, is a prequel to the first book in this series and tells of Greg’s first gay encounter with his fraternity big. The second story, Is there a Porn Star in My Class?, has Blake on the quest to figure out if his classmate is the stunning porn star Austin Kelly or just a regular guy. Next is Road Trip Cone of Silence. When Henry sees an ad with someone looking for another person to drive to Chicago with over break, he takes the chance to get away from everything, including his closeted potentially ex-boyfriend. But his driving mate Nolan is not quite what he expected. And rounding out the stories is Coach’s Revenge. When the QB of the football starts to harass a fellow player who just came out, the coach takes it into his hands to teach the QB a lesson.

Porn stars did not go to college in the middle of Pennsylvania. They lived in Los Angeles or Miami, where it was warm, where they didn’t need their brains. Blake wished his life was this exciting. It wasn’t. Porn stars did not go to Browerton University and take art history classes on Wednesday afternoons. They didn’t study the David. They were the David.

The stories in this book all have one thing going for them. They’re quick, often hot, little reads. You can fly through them in an afternoon and still have plenty of time left to do chores without any guilt that you put a book first (…speaking from experience.)

Unfortunately, they suffer from what I call “short story syndrome.” For the most part, they lack depth and don’t necessarily grab the readers attention. The second story in particular had this issue for me. It moved very quickly and the end felt like a freight train coming out of left field. The relationship and characters unfortunately lacked development for me.

The first story is one that I was conflicted about. It was great to see Greg again, but reading about him with another guy was a bit off putting for me. It is a prequel, which is important to note, but I felt like I understood enough about what happened in this situation from the first book to not necessarily need this. I also felt like when it came to the actual sex scene between them, it was over in literally the blink of an eye. I suppose that if you’re going to go there, you should probably actually go there the whole way.

The story I preferred the most was Road Trip Cone of Silence – though the title confused me. I kept thinking the author typo’d code and made it cone. This one had a little bit of trauma and a lot a bit of hot. Like the others, it happened to fast, but it was a cute story.

As for Coach’s Revenge, I’m very conflicted. It was steaming, but it was also very heavily dub-con. I don’t mind dub-con at all, but this one just didn’t quite sit right with me and I wasn’t really expecting it to go there.

In general, the author still shows some good story-telling skills, but I think that maybe they are more suited for long stories than short ones.

The breakdown of story ratings:

The Whitmore Room: 3 stars
Is there a Porn Star in My Class?: 3 stars
Road Trip Cone of Silence: 3.5 stars
Coach’s Revenge: 3.5 stars

The cover art by James at GoOnWrite.com is nice and simple, but it doesn’t really apply to any of these stories specifically. So as far as a generic cover, it’s nice, but not original.

Sales Links: Goodreads | All Romance (ARe) | Amazon | Buy It Here

Book Details:

ebook
Published June 30th 2015 (first published June 29th 2015)
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesBrowerton University #1.5

A BJ Review: Grateful by Kim Fielding

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Rating:  4.5 stars out of 5

Sleigh Ride Advent StoryNate Roth’s latest dumb stunt has left him with a broken arm, black eye, and stitched chin—and extra trepidation about visiting his family for Hanukkah. He fears his relatives will put him through another round of criticism for his foolish choices and his nonexistent love life. Several mishaps during his short journey to his parents’ house don’t bode well. But along the way he meets impossibly gorgeous Gio DiPietro—and maybe it’s time for Nate’s risk-taking impulses to turn out well for a change.

This is a part of the 2015 Dreamspinner Press Advent Calendar. Since it’s a short story, I’m going to try to avoid going into the plot more than the blurb already does. Don’t want to spoil it! But will say that from the first line, this little story made me smile.

Nate is a thirty-year old klutz who can’t say no to a dare but has a streak of bad luck a mile wide. And he names his house plants. He is absolutely freaking adorable. Then we get meet Gio, and I’m all in, because Gio shows dogs. Just like me! Add in that he’s resourceful, sweet, and has an adorable shaggy dog… and this book had me reeled in, hook, line and sinker.

Thoroughly adored Nate’s family and oh, how it made me I wish I had one like that! The gift-giving scene was perfectly beautiful and had me teary. Now that’s a tradition I’d love to be able to try.

For such a short story, the author does an exceptional job of character building. I feel like I know these guys, or that I want to! Low on the heat meter, but plenty of lovely emotional feels to make up for it!

This isn’t the type of fantasy/fairy tale Kim Fielding stories I’m usually drawn to… it’s a light contemporary, humorous and non-angsty. And there is absolutely no edge of dark here. In fact, this little holiday gem sparkles. A highly recommended light holiday read.

Very cute and whimsical cover.

Sales Links:   Dreamspinner Press | All Romance (ARe) | Amazon | Buy It Here


Book Details:  

Kindle Edition, 41 pages
Published November 30th 2015 by Dreamspinner Press
ASINB018RSHA2C
edition languageEnglish
seriesSleigh Ride – 2015 Advent Calendar

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words Turns 4 and This Week at Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

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Happy 4th Anniversary to Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words!

We’ve all been so busy that our 4th anniversary almost slipped by.  We turned 4 last Thursday and what an amazing 4 years its been. Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words started out as a place for my reviews and small essays, and yes, well, rants on writing.  Little by little it grew, then as we say in cliches, in leaps and bounds, especially in the last year, when we sort of exploded.

All sorts of amazing people joined as reviewers  from all over the place, bringing in a wide spectrum of perspectives born of different ages, gender identifications, race and even location.  Its been splendid and I hope to see it continue.

We’ve had new reviewer columns, author discoveries and interviews, even our own contests and more to come.    I’ll leave more of the reflections to the end of the year column, don’t make me get all weepy now.  Anyway,  Happy Anniversary to us!  We don’t look a day older and that should change in the new year!

More Announcements:

We need more reviewers.  Love to read?  And write reviews?  Send me an email and a link to some of your reviews.  Write me at melaniem54@msn.com and let’s talk.

Also from Jay Northcote a free book (today is the last day): From Jay:

Hi, everyone! Cold Feet – my Christmas novella from December 2014 – is going to be free to download at Amazon for three days this weekend. The offer runs from Friday 4th till Sunday 6th. EST:

Cold Feet by Jay Northcote is free from Friday 4th – Sunday 6th of December 2015

 

Cold FeetBest friends snowed in together. When the heat rises, will they get cold feet?

Getting snowed in at a remote cottage in Wales with someone he’d fancied for ages isn’t exactly how Sam expected to spend Christmas. His feelings for Ryan are pointless. Ryan’s straight—or so he thought.

Until now, Ryan’s kept his feelings for Sam buried. Why ruin a friendship over what might only be gay experimentation? Playing it cool seems safer, until a cold snap makes sharing body heat vital. In their Welsh safe haven, anything seems possible.

As Ryan’s reserve melts away, Sam wants more than stolen kisses under the mistletoe. But a sudden thaw means making decisions. They could face the New Year together—unless one of them gets cold feet.

Buy links:
Universal Amazon link: http://mybook.to/ColdFeet_JayN

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This Week  At Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

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Sunday, December 6:

  • Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words Turns 4 and This Week at Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words
  • A BJ Advent Story Review: Grateful by Kim Fielding

Monday, December 7:

  • Holiday Book Spotlight Continues with Home For the Holiday M/M Anthology (excerpts/contests)
  • Coffee Sip and Book Break with Annabeth Albert ‘Status Update’ (excerpt and giveaway)
  • Get A Roadmap to Your Heart with The Deepest Blue by Christina Lee (excerpt and giveaway)
  • A MelanieM Review: Status Update by Annabeth Albert
  • A Barb the Zany Old Lady Advent Story Review: Elf on the Beach by TJ Nichols

Tuesday, December 8:

  • Cover Reveal for Lane Hayes ‘A Kind of Truth’ (excerpt and giveaway)
  • Our Science Fiction Focus is On Chris T. Kat ‘Against All Odds’  (excerpt and giveaway)
  • A Barb the Zany Old Lady Review: Holiday Hotel Hookup by Jeff Adams
  • A MelanieM Review: Dirty Laundry (Cole McGinnis, #3) by Rhys Ford
  • A Stella Review:  Prickly By Nature (Portland Pack Chronicles #2) by Piper Vaughn and Kenzie Cade

Wednesday, December 9:

  • Book Spotlight is on Tivi’s Dagger by Alex Douglas (excerpt and giveaway)
  • Join in for an Exploration of Life’s Kinks with  J.A. Rock’s The Subs Club (contest)
  • Its Release Day for Professional Distance by Silvia Violet (excerpt and giveaway)
  • Barb, A Zany Old Lady Review: A Trip to Remember by Meg Harding
  • A BJ Review: Y Negative by Kelly Haworth
  • A Barb the Zany Old Lady Review:  The Subs Club by J.A. Rock
  • A PaulB Review: Believing in the Traitor by Charlie RIchards

Thursday, December 10:

  • Voss Foster’s  ‘A Fool’s War’ book blast and giveaway
  • Coffee Sip and Book Break with Indigo by RJ Jones‏ (excerpt and giveaway)
  • The Greatest Gift by Felice Stevens Release Day and contest
  • A MelanieM Advent Review: Kismet by Cassie Decker
  • A Paul B Review: Kenai (Watchers #1) by Caitlin Ricci, A.J. Marcus

Friday, December 11:

  • Jordan Hawk ‘s ‘Maelstorm’ Release Day and Giveaway
  • In the Book Spotlight: Laurie Terson ‘Rockin’ Around the Ranch’ (excerpt and giveaway)
  • LB Gregg’s ‘With This Bling’ Riptide Tour and Giveaway (giveaway)
  • A Melanie Review Redux: With This Bling by L. B. Gregg
  • A Barb the Zany Old Lady Advent Story Review: Home Is Where the Christmas Trees Are by CJane Elliott
  • A BJ Review: SPECTRE (#1-6) by Jordan L. Hawk

Saturday, December 12:

  • A Barb the Zany Old Lady Review: Menorahs and Mistletoe by Jess Roth

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Stella Review: Boys Who Go Bump in the Night (Mad About the Brit Boys #2) by J.L. Merrow and Josephine Myles

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Rating: 3.75 stars out of 5

Boys Who Go Bump In the NightWhen boy meets (supernatural) boy.

Buckle up as two queens of British gay romance take you on a whistlestop tour of all things paranormal. Vampires, genies, ghosts, magicians and shifters all get their chance for a bit of boy on boy action, in five erotic stories that span the range from the humorous to the sublime.

Will you seek to make your fortune with magic and ritual, or pin your hopes on a genie’s power to grant wishes? Discover a shifty young man on a Scottish shoreline, meet a hapless garlic farmer who’s been turned into one of the undead–and if you dare to venture into the cellar, gird your loins for a horny ghost!

These stories have all been previously published, but are now available exclusively in this anthology.

I go into fan mode each time I see something new by JL Merrow, it’s not a news I’m her biggest supporter. So I couldn’t pass this  anthology by JL Merrow and Josephine Myles.  Plus, I haven’t read anything by Josephine so I was curious.

If you want to give a chance to Boys Who Go Bump in the Night you got a nice anthology made of really short stories, all of them interesting and well done. And well written too.  I can’t say a lot about them because they are all so short I don’t want to spoil them for you.

One of the shorter ones is Something Queer by Josephine Myles (3 stars), where Pete, the new barman, meets “something queer” down in the wine cellar. The sexual encounter with a ghost hungry for seed is surreal but so hot. I’m pretty sure Pete wasn’t scared at all.

The funniest one is Leeches and Layabouts by JL Merrow (4 stars), in perfect JL style, the hilarious story of the new vampire Crispin, a garlic grower, one of the best in the South of England. But garlic isn’t a friend of the undead so he absolutely need an assistant. He just need to convince Art and his unbelievable stubbornness in not wanting a job.

Sacrifice by JL Merrow (3 stars) left me a little staggering, the plot was unusual and smart but I think I missed something and I wasn’t able to fully appreciate the mystery aspect and the unexpected ending.

The last two stories are my favorites, for different reasons.

Et in Orcadia by JL Merrow (4 stars) is the story of David who has just lost his lover Kyle and the young Runi. It’s about magic and myth, about loss. I shed some tears cause it was a sad reading but it left me craving for so much more of the main characters together. And the writing was superb and evocative.

One Last Wish by Josephine Myles (4 stars) is the lighter and easier short. A genie and a generous young man meet in a cute and sweet story. It was fresh and it left me with a smile on my face. I need a sequel now!

The COVER ART by Lou Harper is good but not my preferred one. And I’m confused about the wings I’m seeing behind the man on the lower part of the cover. An angel maybe? But there are no angels as characters.

Sales Links:  Amazon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 85 pages
Published November 12th 2015 by Amazon Digital Services, Inc. (first published November 10th 2015)
original titleBoys Who Go Bump in the Night
ASINB017V0VNWU
edition languageEnglish
series Mad About the Brit Boys

Mad About the Brit Boys series is A series of MM and MMF erotic romance anthologies from JL Merrow and Josephine Myles

Mad About the Boys #1

Boys who Go Bump in the Night #2

Review: Horsing Around Anthology by Vincent Diamond, Jane Davitt, Missouri Dalton, Kiernan Kelly, Sean Michael, Aaron Michaels, B A Tortuga

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Horsing Around coverDo you have a love of horses?  Do cowboys make your heart beat faster?  From the fields of England to the dusty rodeo arena, here are six stories about that special bond  that can exist between man and horse.  Horsing Around contains stories by six wonderful authors, truly something for everyone.

Stories included:
Clear Round by Jane Davitt
A Secret in Indigo by Missouri Dalton
Ride Like a Stallion by Kiernan Kelly
For Love and Money by Sean Michael
Old Scars by Aaron Michaels
Loading Up by BA Tortuga

Horses have a special place in my heart so I adored this anthology.  But even if your knowledge or fondness of horses is slight, there is such a variety of stories included within that I  am sure you will find a tale to  love and connect with among them.  Here are my mini reviews of the stories  in the order they are found in the anthology:

1. “Ride Like a Stallion” by Kiernan Kelly  Rating 4.5 stars out of 5

This is a tale told from two very different perspectives.  One is Thomas Bone, a young man injured when he was a child on his father’s ranch.  The resulting injury permanently disabled him, leaving him with the nickname T-Bone and as the object of pity and derision by those around him.  The other?  That would be Gander, the “ugly” mixed breed colt, T-Bone pleaded with his father to save when the mare carrying him was having trouble with the delivery.  And despite everyone’s predictions and expectations, the two grow up together, becoming more than anyone could have imagined but not without some harsh

This story is  unusual as it includes the “voice” of Gander and his perspective on their story as it unfolds. This author’s use of Gander as a co narrator works surprisingly well, offering the pathos of his plight during the events that occur along with the love for “his boy”.  Also especially noteworthy is the spare, utilitarian rancher father.  He is such a strong character that his presence dominates each small scene he appears in, a man who will continue to surprise you throughout the story.  I have three favorites in this anthology and this is one of them.

2. “Loadin’ Up” by BA Tortuga.  Rating 3.75 stars

Kaycee Johns,  owner/trainer of rodeo bucking broncs, is loading his horses up to travel to the next venue when his nephew’s inexperience has one rearing, unwilling to enter the trailer.  Only the intervention of Julian Martinez, one of the new rodeo safety men, saves the horse and gets her settled and loaded without injury.  Their attraction to each other is immediately and lusty, leading to a white hot night of sex and just perhaps something more.

The paragraph above lays out the entire story.  They meet, have  sex, and decide to travel on together.   Succinct and sexy.  What elevates the story is the BA Tortuga signature voice and descriptions.  Here is our first impression of Julian.

“One of the safety men — a new kid, all braids and hawk nose and beaded chaps — looked up from where he’d been cooling down his buckskin and the rope flashed out, easy as you please. The kid caught June right around the neck, and she settled at the weight of an experienced hand. She wasn’t mean; she’d just get away with anything if you let her.”

From just a few words, we can see Julian so very clearly that almost nothing more is needed.  Combine that with her “colloquialisms”, and the regional portrait is clear and defined.

3. “Old Scars” by Aaron Michaels  Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Owen  Parker is working with one of his horses on his stable outside of Reno when Jerry appears to ask for a job.  Last time Owen saw Jerry was at the Nevada State Prison where Jerry was incarcerated.  Owen was filling in for a friend with the Nevada’s saddle horse training program for prisoners and Jerry was an inmate assigned to the program.  Now five years later, Jerry has survived his time and is looking for employment.

Owen’s specialty is mustangs, a wild, unpredictable horse not easy to train and  Owen just happens to have a horse that everyone else has failed with.  Ace is one scarred old mustang with one chance left to make it, but something about this animal reminds Owen of Jerry. Jerry had a special touch with the horses in the prison training system and before he can understand why, Owen is giving Jerry a job and Ace to train.  And there is the attraction Owen has always felt towards Jerry to consider.

Jerry realizes that this job with Owen and Ace might be his last chance to make it outside prison.  His love for horses and his feelings toward Owen being the things that kept him sane while incarcerated.  Can he save Ace, and in doing so save himself as well?

An exceedingly well written story, Michaels’ characters come to life amidst the dust and heat of a Nevada stable corral and the mustangs brought there for training and a new life.  The author’s sure touch with characterization carries over to the horses portrayed here as well.  Ace with his scarred hide and suspicious outlook, his “scars weren’t from whips or spurs, but from battles out in the wild”.  The affection the men feel for these wild horses is clear and telling, along with an appreciation for the mustang’s nature and natural history.  The men too come across as lean, whip cord tough, and wary as the horses themselves. Another one of my favorites here.

4.”Clear Round”  by Jane Davitt. 5 stars out of 5,

There is cause for an uproar in the village when the manor and field that is normally used by the region for their annual horse is sold to an “outsider”, a builder not favored for his plan for a new factory inside the village boundaries.  Appointed town messenger and beggar if need be, Danny Felden, owner of Merrydown Stables, visits the new owner, Seth Trent, to obtain use  of the field for yet another year,if for no other reason then he runs the event and his niece is entered in her division.  Unfortunately, Seth is uninterested and afraid of horses.  Undeterred, Danny manipulates Seth into a bargain for free lessons with Danny for the use of the field.   Sparks fly between the prickly Danny and the arrogant Seth, leading to romance and love.  But a disaster on the field leads to a explosive argument and separation.  It will take a clear round to bring the men back together and for love to prevail.

I adored these characters.  The dialog throws as many sparks as does the developing romance, with prickly and defensive Danny clashing with the smoothly arrogant Seth to everyone’s amusement and interest.  A clear round during a horse show is one free of errors, no missed jumps or knocked down poles, horse and rider working in unison for a  perfect round.  Its hard to do and a wonderful analogy for a romance.  I loved this story and think you will as well.

5. “The Secret in Indigo” By Missouri Dalton. Rating 4 stars out of 5

Traumatized by the loss of his lover in a fire, rider and horse trainer Beau is still in mourning for Patrick five years later.  Now working for a traveling circus, Beau helps to train and manage the horses for a sibling horse act.  Liam, the brother trick rider is interested in Beau, but Beau has no intention of opening himself up for more hurt and another love.  Then the past arrives to inform Beau that his boyfriend’s death was no accident.  With murder in the air and revenge on the mind, can Liam save Beau from his past and leave him open for a future with Liam?

This story starts off dramatically with a barn ablaze, screaming horses inside waiting to be rescued.  Missouri Dalton dumps us into the conflagration and the pain of the moment.  Its intense and scary and the rest of the story never lives up to the emotional  introduction and the events of the moment.  It picks up five years later with an emotionally withdrawn Beau, who drinks to forget, cut off from family and friends.  Our knowledge of Liam is limited, the return to Georgia a little too swift.  This story would have benefited from a longer length and more exposition.  Still, its got some stunner moments.  And horses, of course.

6. “For Love and Money” By Sean Michael  Rating 4 stars out of 5

Football star Deon Jerome, “linebacker extraordinaire”, is afraid of horses.  Now his agent has signed him to a lucrative ad campaign but the problem is that he must ride a horse for the ad and Deon is panicking big time.  Now he needs an old friend’s help, a friend whose phone number is memorized rather than listed on his cell phone.  Truck Wilson was a large animal vet and the closeted Deon’s occasional friend with benefits.

When Deon travels to Truck’s  home and farm  for help with his horse phobia, their old attraction flares into something more like love than just convenience and friendship.  With love before him warring with the fear of coming out, which will Deon choose?

Sean Michael’s gift of characterization is front and center in the men in this story.  Deon Jerome Green is a big man full of fear outside of the football field.  He is afraid of horses and he is afraid to come out as gay. But Deon’s need for Truck and the requirements of the commercial bring Deon to Truck’s for work on his phobia and a weekend of sex and togetherness culminating in a life changing decision for them both.  Michael gives us a realistic portrait of a man trying to come to grips with his fear of horses as well as being out about his sexuality.  It’s a sexy, compassionate and ultimately rewarding short story.

Consider this solid and varied anthology of horse stories highly recommended.  Great authors, with a variety of stories to choose from, truly something for everyone to enjoy.

Cover illustration by BSClay works extremely well for the stories within.

Book Details:

ebook, 230 pages
Published November 13th 2013 by Torquere Press
ISBN 1610406079 (ISBN13: 9781610406079)
edition language English

Review: A Small Miracle Happened by Mari Donne

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

A Small Miracle Happened cover DonneA job opportunity just brought Daniel Sobel to a small Midwestern town, a move he is now regretting. The location and population of his new place has quickly made Dan feel like the only Jewish gay man in a small Midwestern town, especially with the approach of Hanukkah. Dan is feeling isolated and lonely, removed from his large Jewish family and his culture. The only welcoming sight is his new neighbor’s rainbow flag hung in the window of the condo next door, the only color in a sea of blandness.  On the first night of Hanukkah, Dan is missing the items he needs to celebrate Hanukkah, things that cannot be purchased in this small town. But with a ring of a doorbell and a misplaced package everything changes.

Christian Parsons, neighbor and owner of the rainbow flag, is standing at his door holding a package from Dan’s grandmother. Inside is a menorah, candles— a dreidel, some chocolate coins, and a tin of cookies shaped like a Star of David. Delighted and overcome with the love and warmth of family,   Dan invites Christian in and is soon explaining the meaning of the contents of the box and Hanukkah. Chris is unfamiliar with the Jewish religion and its holidays but if it means he can spend time with Dan, he happily accepts.  Soon the men are spending each night together, lighting a candle and discovering more about each other.  Flirting turns to fun and games and then something deeper.  What will happen when the eight days of Hanukkah are over?

A Small Miracle Happened by Mari Donne is a lovely, warmhearted romance set against the backdrop of the Jewish holiday, Hanukkah.  Two young men, one Christian (literally) and one Jewish, have recently moved into neighboring condos.  Dan and Chris are people out of place in this homogeneous Midwestern town, one by religion and both by their sexuality.  The author employs the much used plot device of a “misdirected package” to bring Dan and Chris together then turns that happening into a story richly textured with the story of Hanukkah and Dan’s warm and loving Jewish family.

I loved the manner in which Mari Donne relays the facts behind Hanukkah and the elements associated with the holiday, from the menorah (in all its aspects) to the making of the latkes.  Its all gently incorporated into the story with an appreciation and love for Jewish ritual and Judaism.  That’s not to say its not without its humor, because there is plenty of that to be found within A Small Miracle Happened as well.  The meaning behind the letters found on the side of a top called a dreidel are revealed during a very sexy game of “Strip dreidel.” And the nightly dinners, researched and cooked by Chris, are used to define and explore kashrut law, keeping kosher as it were.

As Dan teaches Chris, the reader unfamiliar with Hanukkah and Judaism learns as well.  It’s a wonderful technique, lovingly employed here by Donne.  It enriches the story while adding depth to the characters.  I loved both Dan and Chris, neither of which is the typical gorgeous gay single guy.  Dan is overexcitable, family oriented and comfortable in his homosexuality.  Chris is none of those things.  Chris’ family is not eager to accept his gayness and is just as happy for him not to appear at the Thanksgiving or Christmas celebrations at home.  Chris is tall, awkward, and shy.  Yet Donne makes their relationship and attraction believable and endearing.

A Small Miracle Happened is a short story at 79 pages but the author makes the most of this length to deliver a story that feels much larger in heart and scope.  It has been divided into eight chapter, one for each night of Hanukkah.  And then the author goes one step further and gives the reader a delightful epilogue that made the story even better.  I try my best to avoid the avalanche of overly saccharine stories that appear at this time of the year and I know I am not alone in that.  But A Small Miracle Happened is that marvelous seasonal read that sidesteps most of the holiday story pitfalls while retaining the charm and joy of the season.  I loved A Small Miracle Happened and think you will too.  Make it part of your holiday reading list.  I highly recommend it.

Cover art by April Martinez is simple and effective.  I thought it was perfect for the story within.

Book Details:

ebook, 79 pages
Published November 26th 2013 by Loose Id
original title: A Small Miracle Happened
ISBN13 9781623006372
edition language English

Review: The Unwanted – The Complete Collection by Westbrooke Jameson

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Rating: 2.5 stars out of 5

The Unwanted Complete CollectionThe unwanteds, that’s what society calls the people who make up the lowest of society.  The prostitutes, the drug users, the poor, the discarded and the dying.  Shots, Derek, Ambrosia, Renzo, and Sara are all young prostitutes.   In addition, they picked up Joel, a gay teenager thrown out of his house because of his sexuality. Together they form a family, willing to do any to keep each other safe and fed.  Unfortunately, Derek is sick.  He contracted the deadly VIS virus and is moving into the final stages of the disease.    The group is barely scraping by when an encounter with an alien john changes everything for all of them.

Recently a race of aliens called Narsoreal made contact and landed on Earth.  In three years time, several major diseases were cured and human technology advanced because of Narsoreal information and assistance.  In return, the alien race asked to collect and bond with humans who are genetically predisposed towards symbiosis with the Narsoreal.  For the governments of the world, only the unwanted were viewed as available for collection and bonding.

When Shots picks up a john called Alimund a Norsoreal, Shots changes not only his life but the lives of everyone in his small family of unwanteds.  Because for each one of them, there is a Narsoreal who is their bondmate, if only they will accept them.

There is so much promise buried within The Unwanted that I wanted to rate it much higher than it deserves.  Originally, each Unwanted had their own story released separately, then a collection of all the stories was published.  And it is much easier to read as a collection than they would have been as individual stories if for no other reason than the flow of the narrative works better.  Unfortunately, whether it is as a collection or separate short stories, there are just so many issues and missed opportunities that I have to give The Unwanted a fail.

Let’s start with some of the most basic issues, the world building.  It just doesn’t make any sense nor does it feel “alien” in any manner.  Jameson makes the aliens and their planet pretty much just like us, only with a few alterations that are so unbelievable that they further disconnect the reader from the Narsoreal and these stories.  The aliens land because they are looking for love.  They bring advance technology, enough to cure some diseases but not VIS or at least that’s the accepted knowledge.   There’s some nonsense about not having the right materials for them to help us build space ships ( a throw away line that makes no sense either) but really the author makes no attempt to give us anything authentically alien.  Not the people, not their abilities (more on that later), not even their technology.  And when we do find out what elements make them “different” from us, its laughable. Really the Narsoreal are so dubious a creation that its screams worst alien ever. They are poorly thought out and mindbogglying lame brained unless you are a prepubescent boy.   If you are going to create aliens, complete with alien physiology and culture, then make it believable.  Don’t make them a reflection of juvenile wants and desires, a cardboard alien worthy of  a Space Hooters or sex doll.

That brings us to characterization or the lack of it.  The only members of the Unwanted that come close to being a layered personality are Shots and Ambrosia, with Ambrosia being my pick of the litter.  The rest of the small group of prostitutes and discarded never rise above a character outline.  They certainly have no credibility as young people who have been abused, abandoned and made to prostitute themselves as the only means to survive. As a described by the author, this group has seen it all from their lowly position on the streets but the reader never gets any sort of desperation or emotions that would reflect this status.  Its more what they say they are then what actually comes across, and that’s a huge fault when it comes to characterization.

But if they are bad, then the aliens are so much worse.  The really only alien thing about them is that they physically morph or their body changes (permanently) according to the wishes of their bondmate.  Of course, they don’t tell their human bondmates that fact.  So  one ends up looking like Legolas with long white hair and elf ears.  Another ends up with wings, and another with a penis and a vagina.  *shakes head*  If you are going this heartstoppingly stupid and young, why stop there?  Where is the woman with three breasts?  Of course, there is no continuity here.  So the one alien is another species, a worker bee, who doesn’t change. Which is a good thing because his human bondmate thinks he looks like a bulldog.  Awkward. But if there were any logic to this, then it would be the worker class who would change their physiology, to better help them shoulder the load so to speak.  Another thing is that these aliens are rich.  So you have rich aliens who change their physical state according to their lovers wishes?  And the upper echelon of the world’s societies doesn’t want them to bond with?  That makes no sense either.  Who among the rich wouldn’t want a mate who is rich, changes according to your desires and cures diseases by their bond.  Oops, did I forget that exchanging fluids with these aliens cures every disease you could humanly have?  The Narsoreal are a kind of one stop shopping for any of your sexual, emotional, financial and pharmaceutical needs. Do they have personalities too?  Not really because how could they?  They aren’t real in any respect, merely objects that reflect the needs and desires of their human companions.

And that’s both my problem with these stories and the promise I see as well.  Had these stories been a treatise of the objectification of others, or a humorous take on loving yourself, or some sort of allegory about making love to one’s dreams, that would have been one thing.  All the elements are there for any of those takes on the human condition or maybe just an alien comedy.  All but one human changes the alien into the lover of their dreams and that one can’t because that alien’s different? It’s all instant love and instant bonding.  But how is that believable is that love if you change them almost immediately without getting to know them?  These humans don’t love the aliens, they love what the alien becomes. What a great subject for these stories!  But was that ever addressed any where? No, I mean even their cum changes from purple grape flavor to black licorice, a sort of Skittles of choices. Oh look, he shoots purple jism, If that’s not a juvenile giggle fest in the making I don’t know what is.  If you were the alien, wouldn’t you be a teensy bit upset over wings, a purple penis,  purple nipples and purple cum, a purple grape tasting cum?  That other alien has it worse, his human loves the color pink. But as written, the Narsoreal are both intergalactic doormats and any teenagers sexual wet dream mashed up together.

Add to that just awful dialog.  The aiiens say things like  “Yes, my treasure, I will change for you. I will become whatever pleases you most, my prince, my darling.” or to Joel Flowers . “I will be your giant if you will be my flower.”  The group explains it away as the aliens speak “formally”.  No, that’s bad romance talking, not Downton Abbey.

Add all of that up from the terrible world building, poor characterization, cheesy dialog and a plot with promise that misses on every level, and you have a collection of stories I can’t  recommend to anyone other than a friend of the author’s.   I think thats one of the problems when you self publish, not enough eyes and assistance (read that as editing) for the author and their writing.  I hope that the next stories from Westbrooke Jameson achieve the promise I saw here.

Cover Design by Morris Duncan. Cover Photo Credit to Joel Kramer via Flickr Creative Commons License.  The cover makes no sense either.  No aliens, nothing other than an alley?  Consider the cover a missed opportunity too.

Book Details:

ebook
Published August 2013 by Westbrooke Jameson
edition language English
series The Unwanted

Review: Playing Ball Anthology

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Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5

Playing Ball coverAre you in love with the boys of summer?  Can’t wait for opening day and the cry of “play ball”? Baseball is America’s favorite pastime and the focal point of the love, heartbreak and the dreams of a nation of fans and players alike.  In this anthology four terrific authors share their passion for the game of baseball with four stories of love…the love of the game as well as romance between men who share a passion for baseball and each other.

Here are the stories in the order they are to be found within this anthology:

“One Man to Remember” by Kate McMurray
“Home Field Advantage” by Shae Connor
“One Last Road Trip” by Kerry Freeman
“Wild Pitch” by Marguerite Labbe

What a treat to pick up a book whose authors and collection of stories share my love for baseball and the boys of summer!  From stories situated in 1927 that bring the Babe back to life to the present day game and romance, these four stories will keep you happy and engaged, especially during those months where the fields of dreams are empty and the stadium seats wait for summer and the fans to arrive once more.

Here are my reviews for each story in the order found within the book:

1.  “One Man to Remember” by Kate McMurray:  Rating 5 stars out of 5

It’s 1927, New York City. Babe Ruth and the Yankees’ unstoppable batting lineup, Murderers’ Row are on their way to a season that will go down in the annals of baseball as legendary.  Across town, a rookie infielder for the Giants, Skip LIttlefield is racking up as many hits as the Babe but no one is noticing.  No one except a  famed sports reporter named Walter Selby, a notorious dandy whose sexuality is an open secret.  Walter has been watching the kid make hit after hit in seeming anonymity as everyones attention is focused on the Babe.  Everything about this rookie puzzles and intrigues Walter so he arranges an interview that will have far ranging repercussions for them both.

Kate McMurray has gifted us with a small historical gem of writing with One Man to Remember.  She has captured both the flair of the era as well as the homophobia and secret society of gay men during those times.  Its clear that McMurray has done her homework not only for the information she imparts about that storied run of Babe’s and the Yankees but the every day life as lived in 1927.  Whether it is snappy slang of the day to notorious places represented by The Penguin Club off Fifty-Sixth Street near Times Square, the author submerges us as throughly as her characters in this time period and brings off a home-run of a story.

The men, their love and knowledge of the game and the manner in which they have to hide their romance is both realistically and beautifully laid out in a story so well done that it cries out for a sequel.  One of my favorite stories in an anthology full of great tales.

2. “Home Field Advantage” by Shae Connor.  Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5

Toby MacMillan lives for baseball and loves his team, the Atlanta Braves.  In fact Toby has grown up with the Braves as Toby is the grandson of Atlanta Braves owner Ray MacMillan. Toby owns 30 percent of the team and expects to inherit the rest from his conservative grandfather upon his death.  And that’s primarily the reason Toby has hidden his sexuality from his family and team.

Then a new rookie arrives from the minors, Caleb Browning, ready to make his appearance in the major leagues.  Caleb Browning is talented, naive, attractive and gay.  And he has eyes for Toby.  A dinner engagement highlights their attraction to each others as well as the dangers that any relationship between them will bring to each of their careers.  Despite their good intensions to remain just friends, a romance begins that soon deepens into love.  What will happen when a fastball to the head, threatens not only Caleb’s career but their  love affair as well?

Situated in present times, Shae Connor’s looks at the reality of major league players coming forward about their sexuality and the fragile acceptance they are met with.  Toby’s entire life has revolved about the Atlanta Braves, a team owned by his grandfather.  His is a  character in love with the game while still aware of the realities of being a gay man involved in professional team sports and the sacrifices that requires.  Toby is an endearing characters whose reality is grounded in the truth of the men who love and control the game itself.  Toby realizes that while change is coming, the progress is as slow as acceptance itself.

I had a little more of a stretch to believe in Caleb Browning.  I really don’t see someone who plays ball, whether it is in the minor or major leagues, not being more aware of the consequences of his “gayness” while remaining a ballplayer.  His naivete seems not only extreme but unrealistic, so it took me a while to commit to their relationship.  But once committed, I threw myself into their romance with all the fervor of a fan at the game.  And by the time I got to Toby’s speech towards the end I was cheering them on.  You will be too.

3. “One Last Road Trip” by Kerry Freeman.  Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5

After many years in the major leagues, bad knees sees Second Baseman Jake Wilson retiring from San Diego Padres and heading back home to a small town near Atlanta.  He is making one last road trip, pulling along a small trailer of possessions both physical and emotional.  On his way, he visits his ex wife, his grown children, getting reacquainted with his present and bringing up memories of his past.  And always present in his thoughts is Mikko Niemi, the young man he fell in love with in college and has never forgotten.

From his Facebook account, Jake has learned that Mikko’s long term partner has died and Mikko has started to date once  more.  So Jake is heading home to Mikko hoping it’s not too late for them to reconnect and ignite a love that never should have been abandoned.

Kerry Freeman, Kerry Freeman, you hit a home run to the heart with this one.    Not only it is about older ex lovers getting a second chance at love but the main character is a retired MLB player feeling every inch of his years in the game and the injuries that go along with it.  I loved the character of Jake Wilson.  His rueful examination of his past actions along with acknowledging how much he was still grateful for his ex wife and children, well, it is a heartwarming and compassionate portrait of a man at a certain stage in life who has come to grips with who he is and where he hopes to be.   Jake is a large hearted individual aware of his short comings and his strengths.  He is easy to connect with and root for.  In fact all the people in this story are well rounded, layered characters that a reader will love spending time with.

If I have any small quibble at all, it is that I wish we had gotten a little bit more of Jake and Mikko after their reunion.  A little more interplay between them would have sweetened an already emotionally satisfying romance.  But that quibble aside, I loved this story and you will too.

4. “Wild Pitch” by Marguerite Labbe. Rating 5 stars out of 5

Ruben Martell and Alan Hartner have been together as friends for a long time. They met during their early years playing baseball, and their friendship stayed strong through marriages, different teams, and locations, and even through death of a wife and divorce.  Now they are business partners in a batting cage/ sports bar and coach rival Little League teams.  And through it all, Ruben Martell has loved Alan Hartner, not just as a friend, but with a passionate hidden love.

Except for one night where their relationship crossed the lines of friendship, neither man has ever referred to each other as anything other than best friends.  But the pain and stress of hiding his feelings and hopes from Alan is causing Ruben to question their friendship and business partnership.  Ruben isn’t sure how much more he can take of the status quo without even a glimmer of hope for their future. As Ruben pulls away from Alan and his kids, Alan realizes just how much he might lose unless he takes a chance on a wild pitch.

Wild Pitch by Margueritte Labbe brings together all the elements needed for a great romance and then spices it all up by  using baseball to frame this long term relationship between Ruben Martell and Alan Hartner.  This story is so great on so many levels I don’t know where to start.  Both men have been together since their earliest times in baseball.  With a love for that sport as the cement that initially held them together, Labbe lays out for the reader how that relationship has changed and deepened over the years, morphing from friendship to brotherly love to something far more dangerous and passionate, especially on Ruben’s side.

The author delivers this story with an intimacy and warmth that makes the reader a companion and friend to these men right from the start.  I loved feeling included as Alan and Ruben deal with Alan’s kids and the Little League players they coach.  These are  real kids spouting dialog that can be heard on school and park playing fields country wide as well as at home.  I loved them and wanted as much of this aspect of the story as I did the romance.

But it’s the emotional realism of the scenes that Labbe has written as the men break through the stasis of their present relationship into that of a recognized romantic love that will catch at your heart and perhaps even bring out the sniffles.  Watch out especially for that moment where one son’s asks how much love a heart can hold…sniff.  Well, just have the  tissues handy because you will find yourself bawling away like I was.  A remarkable story to end a collection of marvelous tales.

This collection of stories demonstrates just why baseball is so often used as a metaphor for life.  It is full of passion, and history.  It’s hilarious and heartbreaking.  It’s about the grand gesture and small intimacies.  And its about love and all the memorable diverse characters drawn to the National Pastime.  Every story here is a home run!   It is already on my must reread list.

Cover art by Aaron Anderson is perfect.  It has an almost old time look about it with the design and font that works perfectly for this collection.  Great job.

Book Details:

ebook, 270 pages
Expected publication: September 25th 2013 by Dreamspinner Press