Review: Some Kind of Magic (Being(s) in Love #1) by R. Cooper

Standard

Rating: 4.75 stars

Some Kind of MagicRay Brannigan has always fought against convention.  He was the first were to become a police officer and then detective.  He worked hard to become one of the best on the force, respected by his  peers. Life was pretty good, until he met his mate then his life started unraveling.  Now he finds himself unable to sleep or eat, his thoughts constantly on the one being he wants most in life and can’t have, at least on his terms.  That would be Cal Parker, half human half fairy, consultant to the Police force and son of his retired Captain.  Cal Parker is his mate and Ray can never let Cal know the truth.  Because wolves mate for life, and fairies? Well, everyone knows that fairies don’t do long term anything, so what’s a wolf to do?

When bodies start piling up, all the evidence point to a supernatural Being as the killer.  Ray’s Captain wants everyone working on the case, including Cal Parker.  Working closely with his mate is playing havoc with his senses, all those delicious smells pouring off the fairy and Cal loves to flirt, especially with the grumpy wolf detective.  The more time Ray spends with Cal, the harder it is to fight the pull of his mate.   Then the killer turns his attention towards Cal, and the race is on to protect Cal and catch the killer.

Some Kind of Magic is some kind of charming.  I loved this supernatural tale of romance between a grumpy wolf detective and the flighty half fairy consultant.  Ray Brannigan is almost along the lines of those old noir detectives, detached yet protective of his city, honorable yet fighting his own nature.  The story is told from Ray’s pov, so the reader assembles the facts of the case and the details of Ray’s relationship with Cal as Ray thinks about it.  But right away, we realize that part of Ray is not thinking very clearly, and this is in turn with a being not eating or sleeping well.  A wolf has found his mate and is denying them both the deep relationship that comes with the part.  A lovely touch by the author is the inclusion of “known facts” from old fairytales about werewolves and fairies versus the “new modern knowledge”.

We realize, even if Ray doesn’t, that his perceptions of fairies is off from the start, and that it is fear that is ruling his decision.  So the author gives us a slow build, full of heat mind you, to a sexual explosion between Ray and Cal.  Cal is a lovely character, half human and half fairy, who has his own troubles fitting in with the police and constant human prejudices.  Descriptions of Cal are always accompanied by mentions of sugary confections and candy, savory aromas and rich smells as fairies are constantly feeding on sweets.  The sensual descriptions just add another layer to the reader’s enjoyment of this story as well as makes one want to visit a candy shop.

Humor is not left out of the picture either. At one point, Ray is telling his partner that were natural history was easy to find as the book “I’m Going To Get Fur Where?: A young Were’s guide to their changing body was in every library for Pete’s sake.”  I loved the meshing of worlds here and that does sound exactly the sort of book you would find in the library.

The only element I found to be disappointing was the identity of the killer.  I had that figured out early in the story. But the real journey is the one that Ray and Cal take towards true romance and that is the one that filled me with joy.  Vivid descriptions, wonderful characterizations, and terrific world building, it’s all here.  I hope R. Cooper continues to revisit this world she has created so there seems like a city full of stories await us and I want to hear each and every one.

cover by Paul Richmond is just lovely.

Stories in the same universe include A Boy And His Dragon.

It’s 70 degrees here in Maryland and the Week Ahead in Reviews

Standard

It’s January and it feels like mid Spring.  The woodpeckers are banging out their territory rhythms, the maples are budding out, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see the hyacinths and tulips start to peek out above the ground.  The meteorologists keep saying that it will get colder, and it does, for about a day and then the temperatures start to rise and voila, back to Spring.

Now for us in the past, February is the month to look out for.  It brings heavy snows and ice and all things wintery.  Except for last year, when it brought nada.  We need the water from snow melt, and that is not looking promising for us or any of the surrounding states.  So each day is a surprise, more so than usual.  What will our changing climate do to our day today?  Will it bring Spring or Winter?   Will it be quiet and calm or will winds with hurricane speeds be whipping over our rooftops?  No one can say for sure.  The one thing I do want to do is take those climate change doubters, those head in the sand ostriches, and give them a shake or two.  Tell them to get their heads out of their nether regions and take a good look around.  Time for us to make a change, one person at a time, while it is still possible. Still tut tuting over a favorite backyard azalea that is trying to bloom.

Here is a list with 50 easy ways to help the earth.  Wire and Twines “50 Ways to Help the Planet – go green, its not that hard!

Now for the Week Ahead in Reviews:

Monday, 1/14:                          Revolution by Bailey Bradford

Tuesday, 1/15:                         Some Kind of Magic by R. Cooper

Wed., 1/16:                               Horse of Bells by Pelaam

Thursday, 1/17:                       An Unsettled Range by Andrew Grey

Friday, 1/18                              Knight of Wands by Theo Fenraven

Saturday, 1/19                          Trick of Time by J.L. Merrow

So there it is, let’s see what happens.  Have a wonderful week.

A Boy and His Dragon (Being(s) in Love #2) by R. Cooper

Standard

Rating: 4.5 stars

A Boy And His DragonDr. Philbert Jones is a renowned historian but he simply cannot get organized.  His house is in complete disarray, dusty tomes and statues compete with a tower of papers and unidentifiable objects strewn everywhere.  Nothing is where he can find it, so a close friend at the University suggested hiring an assistant, Arthur McArthur, a former student that had  worked for him doing research.  But he knows that  humans can  see dragons as the path to riches or as something to be feared.  Only a few can get close enough to understand them and  Philbert or Bertie as he wants to be called is  looking for that rare human to help him with his next book.

Arthur McArthur loved being a research assistant in college but when he took in his younger sister, his bills mounted until he had to quit the university and get  multiple jobs to pay all their  bills.  Now Arthur finds himself standing in Dr. Jones’ house, amidst gargantuan clutter, facing the dragon himself, and  trying to remember the last time a dragon ate someone,  decades ago surely?  But the interview goes well, and Arthur leaves the house with a new job, and his head in the  clouds.  Professor Jones is gorgeous, brilliant and needs his help to research the Red Dragons, a topic that was the focus of Arthur’s dissertation.  Then Bertie starts flirting with him, calling him a pearl…..surely the dragon isn’t serious, is he?  There is nothing special  about Arthur or does Bertie see something extraordinary in a boy called Arthur.

I loved this book and the author, R. Cooper, who is a recent must read for me.  It started with Play It Again, Charlie, a contemporary romance, so I was not prepared for the intensity of a dragon/human love story that unfolds in A Boy And His Dragon.  One of the things I admire about Cooper’s writing is that she takes the time to fully invest her characters with personalities that have depth and resonate with the reader.  Arthur McArthur is a charming, noble lad who cannot see his own purity and forthrightness that attracts  Beings (dragons, elves, or fairies) like honey to a bee. And Dr. Jones is definitely attracted.  Bertie is another lovely creation.  He is a dragon and neither Arthur or the reader is able to forget that.  His thoughts come from a  different place than ours and Cooper makes us see that in a manner that still lets us relate to this wonderful persona who just happens to breathe fire.

So while juggling the personalities of two completely different beings, the author gives us a slow but intense courtship between Bertie and  Arthur. Neither is especially sure of themselves and each is afraid to take a step forward and admit that they are falling in love.  While the story is told from Arthur’s pov, Bertie’s feelings are telegraphed beautifully as well while still leaving us with an Arthur oblivious to Bertie’s feelings.  And then there are the descriptions of Bertie’s house, full of treasures and tomes laying under mountains of dust and neglect. The portrait she paints of Bertie’s abode is so rich, so realistic it will leave you coughing and wanting to open a window.

This story is so rich, so heated that it begs for another in the same universe.   And of course, with the same characters.  I wanted to know more about Bertie’s parents who seem to disapprove of their romantic son.  And how Bertie and Arthur get on with their lives because you know that will not happen smoothly for these two.  With Arthur’s sister needing their help and Bertie’s friend Zeru, another dragon,  hanging about, you just know complication will arise and I want to be there when they happen.  These are  wonderful characters so full of life that one book surely is not big enough to hold their story.  But while we are waiting, pick this one up and settle in with an unusual love story between A Boy And His Dragon.

Cover is delightful by artist Paul Richmond.  I just wish he had played a little more with the descriptions of Bertie to give him that look that says he is not completely human.

Review of Animal Magnetism Anthology

Standard

Rating: 4.75 stars

Animal Magnetism is an anthology of 15 short stories by 15 wonderful authors of m/m lovers brought together by members of the animal kingdom.  It may be a snake called Ganymede or two kittens in need of a home and names.  It could be a collection of spiders loose in a basement or klepto octopus with a fondness for pens, all types of animals can be a catalyst for love for the right people and under the right conditions!  In these stories, the authors give you all those animals and many more on the path to romance and love.

I am such a sucker for animal stories and this anthology gave me 15 wonderful stories to curl up with and enjoy.  What delighted me the most was that along with the cute dog and kitten stories, the authors came up with tales that revolved around a falconer and his golden eagle, a pick pocket and a horse with trust issues, a groundskeepers relationship with an Indian palm squirrel named Jonno, an artist with a potty mouthed parrot, and a earthquake that allows a man to find love and start over even as it destroys everything around him.  Some stories are light-hearted romps through a grade school teacher’s  pet experiences to the terrifying race to outrun the waves of a tsunami, the range of emotions and settings are of such tremendous variety that there is something for everyone within this strong anthology. An animal lover and retired Park Naturalist, so many of these stories contain elements that resonate with me, whether is was because of animals I have worked with, situations I have been in or just plain animals that fascinate me and I know you will love them too.  This is a tremendous anthology and I know that I will return time and again to these stories to meet up with the people and animals they have introduced me to and have so totally engaged my feelings.  I highly recommend you pick this book up. Here are the stories in the order they are listed in the anthology.

Stories included are:

A Few Too Many by Heidi Champa. – A sheepdog imbibes after a competition and his drunken state introduces his owner to the new vet in town.
Having a Ball by Cari Z.-  Uncle Jimmy is petsitting his niece’s snake and accidentally overfeeds it too many mice.  Lucky for him, there is a gorgeous herpetologist living a floor above.  Great plot and wonderful characterizations had me laughing out loud.  A favorite of mine.

Along Came Spiders by Matthew Vandrew – A nurse and a  police officer get trapped in a basement full of loose spiders when they come to the aid of an unconscious man during an earthquake.  Again, we get strong characters, great plot and oodles of spiders. Terrific.

Cuddling Up by Chris T. Kat – Big cat keepers have a disagreement over zoo protocol and end up hot and heavy before its over..  The author really knows zoo protocol so the characters actions are very realistic while the sex is as hot and steamy as they come

New Tides by Avery Vanderlyle – I loved this story of a man adjusting to being single after a breakup as well as a new job in an aquarium where the catalyst to a new love happens to be a octopus called Cleopatra.  The author got everything right, from the detail about the University of Maryland’s programs to the curious intellect of the octopus and the wonderful characters trying to find love among the marine fauna.  Absolutely a delight and a story I read twice.

Care and Rehabilitation by Kim Fielding –  A man gets help in dealing with the death of a partner when his St. Bernard mix brings him a baby bird in need of a helping hand from a bird rehabber who knows something about loss.  Fielding gives us a sensitive portrayal of a man unable to move forward after the death of a partner and the event that finally helps him move on.  I loved this beautiful story that relates the rescue of a small bird to the rescue of a man in the stasis of grief.

Butterbean and the Pretty Princess Make a Home by R. Cooper – I have recently found R Cooper and now gobble up all she writes.  Here is another example as to why Cooper has become an instant favorite.  Those names alone are pure gold as are the men behind them.  Cooper takes a normal situation of roommates in love and elevates it with two unique characters dancing around the L word.  All it takes to push them over is two small kittens.  Love, love this story

Jonno by Emily Gould – Palm squirrel meets man, squirrel bites man, man meets vet.  Turns out squirrel not so bad after all. So cute.

On an Eagle’s Wings by A.J. Marcus – After I read that Marcus is also a falconer everything about this story made sense, including the authenticity running from page to page in this tale of love in the wilderness that comes to two lonely men.  Vivid descriptions of the wilderness carry the author’s love of the outdoors and his appreciation of nature and raptors with such mesmerizing clarity to the reader that I felt I was there.  Great job.

Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road? by Skylar Jaye – Can love be found among chickens?  Why yes they can in this story that manages to bring chickens up close and personal while delivering a love story for the egges, oop ages.  Sorry, couldn’t resist

Tears for a Broken Sun by Minerva Wisting – A surprising white knuckle ride of a story inspired by Great Tohoku Earthquake.  Wisting makes us feel every second of every minute of the approaching tsunami.  We understand what the uncomprehending Akira does not, that his dog Wan is trying to pull him away from the shore up the mountain to safety.  Our anxiety mounts as he notices the absence of birds and the wild barking of his dog after the earthquake.  Not a missed step in this superlative story of love found among a natural disaster.

Stripped Bare by Lily Velden – An artist with a potty mouthed parrot has his first showing and love shows up as one of the buyers. Cute and clever.

Wild Horses by Kate Pavelle – A pickpocket named Kai steals a cellphone and its owner wants the phone returned.  When Kai does, he finds not only sanctuary but a path to love as well.  I loved this. While not a HEA, the author shows us tantalizing glimpses into a possible future for everyone involved, including the horses.  Everything about this story fascinates and intrigues the reader, from the hidden backstories of the main characters to the very nature of the special horses themselves.  I wanted so much more once the story was over.

Show and Tell by Liz Makar – First grade teacher Damian Coletti kills the class room pet yet again.  Can the new pet store owner save the class from another loss and find love at the same time?  Why of course, he can.  Funny,  with terrifyingly accurate portrayals of kids and great characters looking for love romp through the pages of this story.

The Conch Republic by G.S. Wiley – Wild conchs lead two men back to love in this story set in Key West.  I have never read a story that used live conchs as a springboard to love so this is a first.  It’s so successful that it might start a whole new take on the puppy love thing.  Conch love, who knew?  Great story, wonderful characters and a plot so easy to relate to that I felt like I was in a Key West state of mind.

Cover: Cover Art by Shobana Appavu . The cover works best when viewed up close so you can see all the different types of animals.  At a distance, it all seems very confused and busy.

Review of Play It Again, Charlie by R. Cooper

Standard

Rating: 4.75 stars

Pushing forty, Charlie Howard’s life is caught in a pattern of pain and routine.  After a disabling accident left Charlie’s body more broken than able, he retired from the force and became a professor at a community college teaching criminal justice and forensics.  The aftermath of the accident did  more than leave him with almost crippling pain, it deprived him of his boyfriend as well.  One who wouldn’t stick around for his surgeries and recovery.  Charlie’s days are filled with phone calls from his sisters, teaching and chats with his friend and co worker. Jeanine.

The days merge together and Charlie watches the world pass by from his apartment in the building owned by his grandmother. Charlie is afraid to move forward with his life, hiding behind a wall of “I’m Fine” until he meets a haircolorist named William housesiting for Charlie’s third floor neighbor.  From the moment that Will drops a flower pot off the balcony that lands at Charlie’s feet, the fey, flamboyant man seems determined to invade Charlie’s life.  Glitter twinkling around the eyes, and hands always fluttering in motion, Will seems like the very embodiment of transience to Charlie.  But to Charlie’s consternation, everything about Will speaks to Charlie too.  He wants to protect him, make him safe, kiss him and so much more.  Lucky for Charlie, Will wants much the same from him.  Their quick bed room encounters start looking more like dates and their feelings for each other deepen even as they go unexpressed.  Both men must overcome their pasts before a new future can be written for them both.  Only time will tell if they are up to the challenge.

In a genre populated with stories of  instant love and relationships that just fall into place, Play It Again, Charlie is that gem of a novel where love is hard won, a relationship develops at a snail’s pace, and only after two totally different, difficult men learn to communicate. This novel is long, frustrating, irritating, illuminating, and so very satisfying at 370 pages.  Even more impressive, the story gets better with each subsequent read, as the reader is now familiar with the flow of the dialog and the reticence of it’s main character so that many qualities you might have missed the first time around now shine through even more brightly.  There are so many strengths to this book, it is hard to know where to start.

Cooper’s characters are the pillars upon which this story rests, and their shoulders are most definitely up to the task.  Each could have been a caricature but in Cooper’s hands, they thrive, breathe and grow into our hearts.  Charlie Howard is especially impressive.  There is so much depth to Charlie that clarity of character comes together only over a length of time.  The story is told from Charlie’s POV and when we meet him, Charlie is graying, his face lined from the ever present pain radiating out from his hip, his hair has gotten long due to lack of care, and the suits he wears to class present a formal ill-pressed exterior, complete with bad ties.  His injury forces him to leave the police force and his “cop social circle” behind and he retreats in isolation to his apartment.  Charlie take his responsibilities seriously and shoulders the weight of his family’s needs without complaint.  Repressed, honorable, and hurting.  Charlie is such a complex man that it is hard to get a feel for how he really looks to those around him, caught up in his own vision of himself. It’s Charlie’s self image that’s presented initially to the reader.  It’s not until William, “Will” as it were, comes into play, that we start to see Charlie as others do. Then a whole new portrait of the man is revealed, tall, handsome, firm, gentle, and partly Hispanic.  Charlie is that wonderful character that continues to reveal itself as the barriers he constructed peel away to give us an even more complex personality far more vulnerable that we had anticipated.

Will is that “twink persona” that is heartbreakingly beautiful in his insecurities, brash in his embrace of his sexuality, and charming in his endless enthusiasm for life.  Will is twenty nine when we meet him,although he comes across as much younger,  flitting from one temporary home to another, never really landing anywhere for long.  Even his business is run over the internet and is conducted at other peoples homes.  Kicked out of his house at the age of 16 by parents who refuse to accept his sexuality, Will has only his sister to fall back on.  Referred to more than once as “Holly Go Lightly”, that character is certainly applicable when it comes to Will. Will loves the old classic movies, preferably black and white with a cast that includes Humphrey Bogart.  Stylish and fragile, impetuous and flighty, he parties hard, works harder and has little time for permanence in relationships. He also comes with Daddy issues and a vast amount of insecurity regarding his lack of education and “smarts”.  But he watches Charlie from the balcony above as Charlie goes about his routine and something about Charlie calls to him, makes him want to push his way into “Sergeant Howard’s ” life in any way he can.  Will is immediately engaging, capturing our hearts along with our hopes for his happiness. Watching Will try to win over Charlie’s wary, grumpy cat speaks volumes about the character and we trust him with our affections.

Will is that perfect match for Charlie.  If Will is Holly Go Lightly, then Charlie is Linus Larrabee (that would be the Humphrey Bogart version, not the Harrison Ford one). Will has watched the movies.  Charlie has read the books they were based on.  Even their sexuality is yin to the other’s yang.  But what they really have in common is an inability to communicate their wants and hopes to each other.  Charlie is so reticent as to be non verbal at times, Will is his opposite, hiding his feelings and hopes behind constant chatter. Neither man is willing to risk the tentative stage they are at by talking to the other about what they really want to have in a relationship.  It is so frustratingly real, so irritatingly authentic that the reader is often left wanting to deliver a strong slap up the head to each by the end of a page or chapter. When you find yourself grinding your teeth as the characters prevaricate about their feelings, then you know the author has done an outstanding job.  R. Cooper does that outstanding job and then some.  I now feel the need for major dental work having finished the book twice.

There is some kink involved, but it is on the light side, and made wholly believable in the context.  Even the sexual side of their relationship lacks the communication they so badly need, as each starts assuming things about what the other wants and desires. Both men are as uncommunicative in bed as they are elsewhere, which makes complete sense given who they are. Insert another teeth grinding session.  Sometimes their dialog feels so intimate that reading it comes across almost voyeuristic in nature, so close do we feel to them both.  Everything about these men and their story will strike you as realistic, and uncompromisingly truthful.

Trust me when I say that this is a long, drawn out novel, but also trust me when I say it is wonderful, worthy of the time spent, and one you will remember and return to. This was the first book I have read by R. Cooper and now I will be searching out the rest.  Do not let this remarkable story pass you by.  Get it, curl up somewhere, and prepare to be transported into an unlikely love affair, worthy of Bogart and Bacall. or perhaps Audrey Hepburn.  Will never could make up his mind.

Cover is nice.  But Will’s hand needs a little polish, a little more sparkle.

Book available at Dreamspinner Press, Amazon and All Romance.

Sunday After The Storm, September Thoughts and The Week Ahead in Reviews

Standard

Well, that wasn’t a fun night for anyone around here in Maryland, or even straight up the coast and into NYC.  High winds, tornados, hail, and rain,  lots and lots of rain.  Our neighborhood was without power for about 8 hours, but at least we did not have tornados to  deal with, as others in Maryland, Virginia and NYC did.  Other than some branches falling, we came out of it rather well.  I wish I could say the same for others.  Nature is all stirred up and doing something about it.  Perhaps we should listen a little harder to what she is trying to tell us.  Just a thought.  Now on to more pleasant things….

September always seems to me to be the reset  month.  Summer has ended but Autumn has yet to make it’s appearance.  September is the breather between the two.  September gives us time to gather our thoughts, to recollect on Summer doings and to think ahead and plan for Fall.  For a gardener, it can be such a busy time.  Hydrangeas need fertilizing and mulching in, so do the roses, some of which are still blooming.  Trees get to be trimmed, old vegetables dug up and composted while still remembering to refill the hummingbird feeders for the last of the migrants on their way south. Some flowers will be left standing, their seed-heads offering food to Goldfinches and the like.  The windows will open and Kirby will be the first there to rest his head on the windowsill, contemplating the birds, and squirrels, and the hawks circling in the sky above.  The geese honk overhead, hurrying their way to the Marshlands as a few leaves turn yellow and drop.  I love this time of year.  I have time to smell the last  rose, put mums in the planters, and admire the Ruby-throated Hummingbirds skimming through the gardens, visiting the feeders before their long journey ahead. Less humidity means more time spent outside, reading, observing, and enjoying the cooler breezes.  I hope you all are doing the same.

Here is the week ahead in Reviews:

Monday:                      Play It Again, Charlie by R. Cooper

Tuesday:                       Alone in the Crowd (Cattle Valley #27) by Carol Lynne

Wednesday:                Love in La Terreza by Ethan Day

Thursday:                    Unconventional At Best Anthology

Friday:                          Love, Hypothetically by Anne Tenino

Saturday:                      Life As A Fairy Thrall (Fairy Compacts #2) by Katey Hawthorne