Review: One True Thing by Piper Vaughn and MJ O’Shea

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Rating: 4 stars

Dusty Davis has moved to California with his best friends Ru and Erik and their  daughter Alice.  West Hollywood so far is everything Dusty hoped it would be.  He can walk down the street and not draw stares for his clothes or nail polish and their new house is adorable, a great change in every way from Delaware.  There is only one thing missing…..a boyfriend.  When he watches Ru and Erik cuddle and interact, it only highlights how lonely he really is. But a trip on the sidewalk has Dusty falling  into the arms of a gorgeous man, who picks him up, smiles and disappears into the crowd.   So Dusty starts to look for him everywhere and when he finds him, Dusty is confused because the man, Archer Kyriakides doesn’t remember him.  But that doesn’t stop Dusty from going out with him.  But its not the same as Dusty hoped as the man is cold, and completely shallow.  Then Dusty meets Asher Kyriakides who is Archer’s twin brother and the mystery is solved.  It is Asher who picked Dusty up off the side walk and Asher who has occupied Dusty’s thoughts and dreams since the incident.  After Dusty realizes  his mistake, he and Asher start to date and it is everything he had hoped for in the beginning.  Except that Archer seems intent on causing problems for the new couple every way he can.

Asher Kyriakides has not been able to get the adorable blonde man out of his mind since they meet on the sidewalk.  Then he walks into the apartment he shares with his twin brother Archer and is devastated to find Archer kissing that same cute blonde.  Crushed, Asher finds his life stagnating on every level.  He is a photographer who is filming porn actors because he needs the money instead of working as a fashion photographer.  His brother is running up their bills, partying all night, and in general making Asher’s life miserable when he tries to make his brother act  responsibly.  It only starts to look up when he starts to date Dusty and even make plans for their future.  But Archer means trouble and tries to tear the two men apart.  When Archer goes too far, Asher must finally decide between his future with Dusty or his obligation to his brother.

We first met Dustin Davis in One Small Thing which gave us the story of Ru and Erik’s relationship.  Dusty had a large role to play in that story and he captured our hearts with his endearing personality and vulnerability.  I thought even then that he deserved his own story and was thrilled to see a sequel that followed our small family out to West Hollywood for a new start for all of them.  The authors certainly picked the right place to plop down our wonderful quartet of characters and it was easy to envision Dusty flip flopping his way down the Boulevard on his way to a meeting with Asher and a future.  Vaughn and O’Shea have given us a character to cherish in Dusty so it is important that his soul mate measure up to the reader’s idea of the right person for him.  And the person they chose has readers including myself blowing hot and cold, mostly because  of his brother.  The authors present us with a problematic  package when they created Asher and Archer, the twin Kyriakides brothers who represent a sort of black and white or yin and yang of siblings.

Asher, the good twin, seems to be  a lovely match for Dusty.  Except that when it comes to his evil twin, Archer, he has all the resolve of a wet noodle.  He lets his brother ride roughshod over him time after time, trampling his feelings and even his relationship with Dusty into the ground with no recompense at all from Archer.  In fact, no matter how awful Archer behaves, Asher lets him get away with it to the reader’s utter astonishment.  I can understand a twin brother’s bond being responsible for absorbing some of the impact of Archer’s actions but there is no answering bond from Archer, it is completely one sided.  So on one front, Asher loves Dusty and they appear perfect for each other, than the other passive doormat side of Asher comes out and threatens everything they have built up to date.  I won’t go into details here but trust me when I say both Archer’s actions and Asher’s response are so unbelievable that it almost derailed the entire story for me.  The only thing that pulled the plot back onto the tracks was Dusty’s reaction and the manner in which he forced Asher to handle the situation.  Yes, Dusty is the saving grace, not only in this incidence, but for the entire book.

Archer remained pretty much a one dimensional evil villain of the piece.  I kept waiting for some explanation for his hatred of his brother, some bit of back story that would explain his illicit drug use, casual sex, and complete disregard for his brother’s feelings but it never came.  In fact, Archer was the major disruption for this story.  Had he been removed, the one element of Asher’s character that was not only unbelievable but distasteful as well would have been removed too.

Dusty remains one of my favorite characters.  He is irrepressibly positive in his outlook, his buoyant good nature, his huge heart and personality make me smile just thinking about him.  The authors have painted such a vivid portrait of Dusty that he leaps laughing and giggling right off the page and into our hearts. Dusty is so gentle and kind (and talented) that you not only want him to be your hairstylist but your friend as well.  Dusty is both the heart of this story and it’s saving grace.  It doesn’t matter whether he is feeding Alice or having a heart to heart with Michelle, who Dusty is and what he stands for is never in doubt.  Give us more Dusty and I am a happy camper.  He is a perfect creation and the real reason to buy this book.

Without Archer’s involvement, this is a 4.5 to 5 point story.  Take him away, and it has every thing to recommend it.  It has not only Dusty, but Ru and Erik and Alice too.  It finds Dusty happy in his new job, making new friends (love Michelle), and finally having someone to love and who loves him back for the marvelous person he is.  Another new character deserving of our attention and affection is troubled porn actor Josh.  I could have used more of him, and so much less of Archer.  I liked the ending, although for some reason it seemed for of a HFN than HEA.  And again, that speaks more to the characterization deficits of Asher and not Dusty.  Because while Dusty is still moving forward with new friendships, new apartment, an ever expanding future, Asher’s career remains that of a porn photographer, which would be fine if he enjoyed and liked it, but it’s not.  It’s one he is ashamed of and remains in.  When he goes forward, it seems that its because Dusty has pulled him there, not a formula for a healthy relationship.  So perhaps Asher too needs some time to grow into the man Dusty deserves.  I would love to see a third book in this series, one that reunites Dusty, Asher, Ru, Erik, Alice, Josh and Lane in the not too near future with a real HEA for them all.  And please if we must see or hear of Archer again, let it be at his graveside. A perfect solution if ever there was one.

Cover:  OK, how adorable is this cover.  The model, Austin Anomic (aka Austin Mitchell) is the one who visually inspired the character of Dusty. Read Piper Vaughn’s blog on Austin and his picture with the cover of this book.  Austin and the cover of One True Thing are both adorably perfect.

Books in the order they were written and should be read:

One Small Thing – read my review here.

One True Thing 

Hurricane Sandy Relief Organizations, Donations, Plus the Week Ahead in Reviews!

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Brrrrrr, it’s gotten cold here in Maryland.  While most of Maryland got very lucky with respect to Hurricane Sandy, she brought the artic air from Canada down with her swirling air masses so we have 3 ft of snow in Western Maryland and our ski resorts are very  happy indeed to get a jump on the season. Our fall ended with the roar of winds and rain as the remaining autumn color fell with the torrential rains.  We might actually have a real winter once more. And looking at all the fallen leaves and branches, I am reminded that people not that far away desperately need our help.

My thoughts and hopes go out to all those in need in New York and New Jersey.  The devastation is unbelievable and Hurricane Sandy’s impact on human lives continues to widen along with the death tole.  There are several reputable organizations that are accepting donations to the Hurricane Sandy relief effort.  The Red Cross is one of them.  The American Humane Society is another.  I have a list below that will link you directly to the organizations accepting donations.

One close to my heart is the Ali Forney Center for housing homeless GLBTQ youth in NYC.  It was badly damaged. Here is the link.  Every dollar counts.  If you can spare $1 or $5, everything is needed, everything helps. However you can help, even if it is just re-tweeting the call for donations, all assistance is appreciated and direly needed.

Red Cross

Ali Forney Center  Housing for Homeless for GLBTW Youth

ASPCA

Humane Society of the United States

So, turning away from the subject above, here are the books I am reviewing for the upcoming week.  Don’t be surprised if I throw in some extras. Without further ado:

Monday   11/5/2012:                         How To Raise An Honest Rabbit by Amy Lane

Tuesday   11/6/2012:                         One True Thing by Piper Vaughn and MJ O’Shea

Wed.         11/7/2012:                         But For You by Mary Calmes

Thursday 11/8/2012:                         Ralston’s Way by Talia Carmichael

Friday      11/9/2012:                          Long Hard Ride by Talia Carmichael

Sat.           11/10/2012:                        Back To Hell by Amber Kell, Whispered Secrets and Hidden Eyes by Amylea Lyn

The Week Ahead and a Great Recipe for Stuffed Cabbage!

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What an outstanding day here in Maryland!  Sky is blue, air is cool and crisp,  The day will be perfect for turning off the overworked air conditioners and opening the windows.  Payment indeed for the 7 tornados and torrents of rain that hit us on Friday.  Yes, that was 7 tornados touching down all over from Frederick, MD to Northern VA.  What is going on with our weather?   But today is a gift I am going to take advantage of and head outside to read and take pictures of the garden.

Let’s look at what is coming up this week.  Sorry all, things came up that pushed back my next installment of VGB.  It will be posted at the end of this week.  Last week was a banner week with wonderful books from great authors.  For those who missed it, Saturday’s substitution was Mind Magic by Poppy Dennison. New author, first book in a new series. Loved it! This week will be some new authors for me as well as a continuation of a series I just love:

Monday:                Still Waters, Sanctuary #4 by RJ Scott

Tuesday:                Seizing It by Chris T Kat

Wednesday:          Murder at The Rocking R by Catt Ford

Thursday:              Five Star Review by Lara R Brukz

Friday:                   One Small Thing by  Piper Vaughn and MJ O’Shea

Saturday:               New Vocabulary Gone Bad!

Now for a great recipe that can be used as a main course or secondary dish.  I just love this one. It came from Laura Calder again.  Can’t go wrong  with her recipes or her quirky show French Cooking At Home.  Great taste and the presentation is so pretty! And it is easy to make.  What’s not to like?

Stuffed Cabbage:

Ingredients:

Kosher salt
1 medium or 2 small savoy cabbages (about 1.5 pounds)
3 ounces white bread
About 1/4 cup milk
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 onions, chopped
1 shallot, chopped
1/4 pound trimmed and chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
A few handfuls fresh thyme, chopped
1 teaspoon quatre-epices, more to taste, recipe below
Freshly ground black pepper
About 1 pound pork sausage meat – I like to use sweet Italian

Directions:

Bring a large pot of water to boil. Salt it generously.

Core the cabbage. Gently peel away the leaves to expose the heart (by heart, I mean the ball of more yellowish leaves at the center which are too tightly packed to bother prying apart). Cut out that core of inner-most leaves and shred to add to the stuffing. Cut the thick ribs out of the remaining leaves (they will look like you’ve stolen a sliver from a pie). Set aside.

Blanch the cabbage leaves for 5 to 7 minutes. Drain, and refresh under ice-cold water. Drain and pat dry with a towel.

Break the bread into crumbs in a bowl, pour over the milk and set aside to soften. Heat the butter and olive oil in a skillet and gently fry the onion and shallot until transparent, about 5 minutes. Add the chopped cabbage, mushrooms, garlic and thyme. Cook another 5 minutes. Add the bread and cook until the milk has evaporated. Stir through the quatre-epices and season generously with salt and pepper. Add this mixture to the sausage meat in a large bowl and mix thoroughly with a fork. Make a small ball and fry it in the frying pan. Taste it to check the seasonings. Adjust as needed.

Lay a tea towel on the counter with a piece of cheesecloth or muslin large enough to wrap the cabbage in. You’re going to reconstruct the cabbage, but with layers of stuffing between the leaves. So, first lay down the large outer leaves, in a circle, slightly overlapping with the prettiest side out. Spread over a layer of stuffing. Lay over another layer of leaves and repeat the action. Continue until you have run out of leaves. Pull up the edges of the cheesecloth, like a bag, and twist, as if making the head of a puppet, to shape the cabbage into a round loaf shape. Tie a string around the beard of cheesecloth where it meets the cabbage ball, to secure the package. The cabbage can be prepared to this stage in advance, refrigerated and then cooked before serving.

To cook: Steam the cabbage over water or good chicken stock (about 2 cups) for 45 minutes. The flavor from the stuffed cabbage will drip into the water or stock and give it the most amazing flavor. When the cabbage is done, boil down the cooking juices and serve a spoonful around each wedge of cabbage in a soup bowl.

Quatre Epices or Four Spices (a common French spice)

1 heaping Tbsp black peppercorns ground
2 tsp whole cloves ground up
2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1 tsp ground ginger