Review of The Walls Have Ears (College Fun and Gays #3) by Erica Pike

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Review written for and first viewed at JoyfullyJay as a part of Boys Masturbating Through Walls Day:

Rating: 3.25 stars

Harley Santos, newly arrived from small town, Maryland, is trying to adapt to his new life as a college freshman in Philadelphia.  While he had his fears about city living and life on campus before he left home, Harley has found he likes his roommate and college seems pretty cool.  In his first week in his dorm room he listen through the thin wall to a student masturbating on the other side.  When this becomes a regular occurrence,  Harley starts masturbating along with his unseen neighbor. Shared moans become whispered words between walls and a strange relationship developes between Harley and the unknown boy next door.

After Harley and his roommate, Ryan, have a chance meeting with the two hot guys, Devon Marx and Tasha Novokov, rooming next to them, Harley thinks he knows which of them is his nightly “companion”. But that guy, Devon, asks Ryan out instead of Harley, and Harley is heartbroken believing that Ryan has been mistaken for him. The other roommate, Tasha,  is dark, handsome, straight and seems intent on befriending Harley.  What’s a gay boy to do when everyone he is attracted to is not attracted to him?

This is a short story whose main attraction is the prickly little porcupine known as Harley Santos.  I found his character to be snarky, pissy, and quite adorable. And totally not deserving of the predictable plot he has found himself in.  Harley comes from a large close knit Portuguese family in a small town in Maryland.  He’s tortured himself with scary images of the dark side of city life and the what if’s of college gone bad.  He’s slight in stature, slender in physique so I can see his behavior as a shield he erects against slights and injury, real or perceived. So does it seem realistic that he falls “in love” with the guy next door just because they are masturbating together?  It doesn’t to me.  Lust yes, love to the point of his heart breaking when Devon picks his roommate? Ummm, no.

Harley then transfers his affections to Tasha while maintaining that he loves Devon who loves Ryan who is understandably confused about the whole thing because no one is talking to each other. Got that? Instead letting Harley get his snark on, Erica Pike turns him into avoidance guy, and then has him sobbing his heart out so traumatized that he is stuttering again (we didn’t know he stuttered to begin with).  To use the current lingo, Harley so doesn’t deserve this.

By the end of The Walls Have Ears, I was beginning to wish that This Reader Didn’t Have Eyes because the ending had me blinking in disbelief.  Erica Pike can write realistic characters AND put them into realistic situations, at the same time.  Just don’t look for it here.

Cover.  Cover Artist Dakota Trace. I just don’t care for the cover for the series .  Different color, different model on the top, same bad graphic on the bottom.

Publisher: No Boundaries Press

Review of Grade-A-Sex Deal (College Fun and Gays, #2) by Erica Pike

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Grade-A-Sex Deal (College Fun and Gays #2)

Rating: 5 stars

Daniel Corrigan hates his life.  He used to have it all.  Affluent lifestyle complete with great paying job, loving wife, two children, great house and even a dog.  Now all gone because he simply couldn’t live a lie any longer.  With two little words “I’m gay”,  he’s lost everything and everyone in his life, with the exception of his brother, a college principal.

Now depressed, penniless and living in a college dorm room, Daniel makes a living teaching macroeconomics at his brother’s university. The only bright spot in his life is Troy Anderson, a sexy student in his class.  The deal they made, exchanging sexual favors for a favorable A in his class, is about to come to an end along with the semester and Daniel is not sure he can handle the loss. What will happen when the Grade-A-Sex deal comes to an end?

I love surprises and this short story is all that and a cupcake with dark chocolate sprinkles on top. From the title, I would never guess at the angst, bitterness, and despair that is emerges from the tale of Daniel’s life after he comes out.   I am always amazed at the courage it takes for someone to come out of the closet, whether they are a teenager or a middle aged adult.  While you hope with all your heart for acceptance and love, the stories you most often hear of those of loss, contempt, and pain.  Daniel is no different.  His expectations of his family’s reaction might have been naive but the actuality of their disgust and rejection was crushing. Erica Pike got this so right, I often had tears in my eyes as I read the story (and this is a short story mind you).

Daniel’s room is littered with the debris of his life, left over food containers, clothes he can’t be bothered washing, all symptoms of a deeply depressed man just going through the motions.  Every detail Erica Pike paints for us is meticulous.  There is not a false word or emotion here.  Troy Anderson has surprises of his own in store for us.  Needless to say, my lips are sealed here.  Just know that Troy is no cardboard figure, he too is fully alive and breathing.  It just takes a little longer to get to know him.  The sex is hot, fast, and overlaid with desperation.

When I first read about the sex for grades issue, it bothered me, but as I got further into the story, it became easier to accept. Daniel had only done it a few times and it fit right in with his poor self esteem and “hitting rock bottom.” If one ignores the depression cycle he is on, his behavior is hard to understand. As it is, he is not a likeable human being at the beginning of the story. However, the deal entered into between the teacher and the student here is a way for the older man to have any type of a relationship with this man he has come to love. It is more a ploy of desperation than something he does with others, and he despises himself for it.

I have not read the first College Fun and Gays story. I really don’t feel its necessary in order to read and appreciate the beauty of this little gem.  But you know that I won’t be able to rest until I go back to the beginning of the series.  I will let you all know what I find.  In the meantime, you will just love this!

Cover:  I don’t know if it is just me but any cover color in the red range is hard on my eyes and this is no exception.  There are some wonderful graphics in the background that really clue you into the story but they are lost with the highlighted image of the college.  I also  prefer a stylistically plainer font. IMO, it’s just easier to read. Grade A story, Grade C cover.

Book available from No Boundaries Press, Amazon, and ARe

Review of Under The Gun by Michael Mandrake

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Rating: 4 stars

P.I. Camdyn Hardy is having a bad day, bad week, bad everything.  His business partner and lover has walked away from their business and their relationship.  And the worst part?  Tay left him for a woman.  It’s not as if he didn’t know that Tay had taken a walk on the hetero side before, but damn, to leave everything they had build up together?  So cold, so final, so on the downlow.  Now Camdyn is looking for a partner to fill up all the empty spaces, both in the office and in his heart.

Malik Day had been doing a good job of hiding his sexual identity from the Army right up until the time he caught some fellow soldiers beating up on a private from his platoon.  Why the attack?  The private had been caught beating off to a Playgirl.  So he intervened and was consequently ushered out of the Army, courtesy of DADT.  So he came home to parents not thrilled that he’s been discharged from the Army and determined that between the Church and a godly girl, Malik can be saved from his sinful lifestyle.  And he needs a job.

A chance encounter at the shooting range gives both men a possibility for a future together as partners in all ways if only they take a risk and reach out to each other.

This is short story from Michael Mandrake exudes testosterone, sweat, and the smell of two men at their prime physical condition.  The dialog smacks of men from a certain station in life, middle class, assured of who they are, confident in their sexuality and their abilities. And both men have a love of guns that adds kink to the sexual play they enjoy.

Both men are very likable and the author has done a good job of giving them dimension within the confines of such a short story.  The sex is hot, especially if you like it a little kinky, and by that I mean gun fetish.   I liked that it clearly lust at first sight and then a case of personalities/sexual needs meshing, not a love at first sight which would be out of character for Camdyn and Malik.  Very nice job on all accounts.

Cover: Cover art by Dakota Trace.  Very sexy cover,  from the models to the gun, all perfect for the story within.

Available from No Boundaries Press