A Mika Review:  Smoky Mountain Dreams by Leta Blake

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Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

Sometimes holding on means letting go
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Smokey Mountain Dreams coverAfter giving up on his career as a country singer in Nashville, Christopher Ryder is happy enough performing at the Smoky Mountain Dreams theme park in Tennessee. But while his beloved Gran loves him the way he is, Christopher feels painfully invisible to everyone else. Even when he’s center stage he aches for someone to see the real him.

 Bisexual Jesse Birch has no room in his life for dating. Raising two kids and fighting with family after a tragic accident took his children’s mother; he doesn’t want more than an occasional hook-up. He sure as hell doesn’t want to fall hard for his favorite local singer, but when Christopher walks into his jewelry studio, Jesse hears a new song in his heart.

I liked it. I didn’t love it; I did feel like it’s missing that usual Leta Blake spark. I must reiterate I love Leta Blake; both of her previous books are 5 star reads for me. The sex was scorching hot. The romance wasn’t an issue at all. She definitely knows how to write those scenes perfectly. That pearls scene had me panting through it. It was so raw, and gritty. You can definitely feel what Chris feels during that scene. I might need to borrow that idea someday. Thanks Leta for that inspiration. 😀

While I found the romance and sex scenes great; I found the rest of it to be sub par at best. I really think all the time she took on the description of the setting was so time consuming, that  it dragged the story out.. I got so confused by the earliest meeting of Chris and Jesse going through the park descriptions that it took away from most of my concentration of the story. I had to keep pushing to continue on as I found myself wanting to put it down around 30%. It was going so extremely slow.

Both characters had good qualities I liked and bad. Chris was easy to like. He was so “go with the flow”. I loved that he just wanted to be loved and have a family and possibly his family to spend holidays with. I liked that Jesse overcame a lot of things from his earlier childhood to become a stronger person. He was a firecracker as a teenager, and I really liked his relationship with his in laws a ton. I can’t say much without you guys figuring things out.

Another think that got under my skin was the parents, and again I don’t know what it’s like to be gay or come out of the closet. So I don’t know those feelings but I do know I won’t be abused for anyone mother, father, sister, or brother. Chris was a grown man and has to deal with that every holiday. No one was on his side but his brother in law and how long did that take. I hate his mother, she doesn’t deserve him. What makes a man put up with that?

I just couldn’t deal with the same issues throughout the book. To me acceptance is a theme in this book, so why do parents feel the need to use God as a scapegoat to disown or  abuse them? When a mother gives birth to a child, I was lead to believe that they would care for them unconditionally. Yes, I understand you don’t like it, but they are still your children. What does him loving a man in his bedroom have to do with you loving him?

I do love children themed stories; I find them to be more realistic fiction which I adore. With reading books involving children, I like that the author doesn’t make everything rainbows and butterflies. L.B. did something good for me; she had one child disliking Chris from the beginning. I really enjoyed that, what kids are just going to be accepting? It’s confusing and scary and I totally get. I liked this book, it wasn’t L.B’s best in my opinion but I did enjoy it.

Cover Design by Dar Albert at Wicked Smart Designs. I think the cover was okay, I couldn’t picture either one of them being Jesse or Chris. It might just be me, but they both seem to be manly man which I enjoyed reading about. By manly, I mean the beards, Henley, jeans, sweaters and boots. I would have preferred those items on the cover.

Sales LInks:   All Romance eBooks     amazon              Buy it here

Book Details:
eBook, 424 pages
Published November 14, 2014 by Leta Blake Books
ISBN: 9781626227255
Edition Language: English

A MelanieM Review: Spaghetti Western (Delectable #5) by E.M. Lynley

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Spaghetti Western coverCordon-Blue trained pastry chef Riley Emerson arrives in Aspen, Colorado for a summer season as a pastry chef in a famous local restaurant.  His boyfriend had gone ahead months earlier and arranged for an apartment for both of them.  Only when Riley got into town he found that his boyfriend had gotten into far more than just renting an apartment, his boyfriend had also found another boyfriend as well.  Furious, heartbroken and desperate, Riley takes the advice of a local diner operator and signs on to be the chef at a guest ranch that operates just outside of town, the Rocking Z Ranch.

Cattle rancher Colby Zane spots a drunken newcomer getting in over his head at Aspen’s Club Rawhide, a raunchy, gay bar outside of Aspen.  A quick and timely rescue sees Colby and the man spending the night at Colby’s hotel…with nothing happening except some sleep.  The next morning the dude was gone and Colby was left getting the supplies he needed before heading back to the ranch.

Neither man expects to see the other again.  Until Riley shows up as the new chef at the Rocking Z, hired by Colby’s aunt.  A tentative peace turns progressively warmer as their initial attractions flares back to life.  But there are other problems waiting in store for them both.  The Rocking Z is having financial problems and  outside investor, Fitz Wellington, is more than willing to cause problems and raise issues where he pleases, including coming between new lovers.  The race is on to save the Rocking Z but the Riley and Colby still be together at the end?

What an endearing story!  Spaghetti Western is the only story I have read in the Delectable series by E.M. Lynley, but its works just fine as a stand alone novel.  However that being said, I enjoyed the characters, plot, and yes, fantastic recipes, so much that I intend to look at reading the other stories in the series as well.

Spaghetti Western turns on that most delectable of plot devices, two characters, obviously meant for each other, have a chance meeting, connect only to part, and then finds themselves reunited under the most unlikely of places.  In Spaghetti Western, Lynley has chosen Aspen, Colorado and the surrounding ranches as her setting for this engaging love story.  It’s a great choice for a location and makes the connection between Riley and Colby realistic and believable.

Told from alternating points of view, we first meet Riley Emerson,of a wealthy, distant family, more recently of the Cordon – Bleu in Paris, France.  Graduated, he is on his way to Aspen to meet up with his boyfriend who he meet in France and start working as a pastry chef in a famous local bistro.  Too bad the boyfriend who went ahead to settle them into the town before starting their jobs together, found other entertainment instead.  Arriving early, Riley surprised his boyfriend and another men otherwise engaged . End result? Riley found himself sans boyfriend, apartment, and job in one swoop of Fate.  Right away we are on Riley’s side,  We have seen how decent and lovable Riley is and this event finds us firmly committed to Riley and his search for something better.

That “something better” comes in the form of Colby Zane and his family, along with the Rocking Z ranch they all work on.  Lynley gives us a real feel for the life lived on a working ranch, and a guest ranch at that.  Whether it is preparing food for that has to be upscale and beautifully plated for the guests while also having to be nutritious and substantive for the workers as well, the ups and downs of ranching, and endless financial juggling that goes on is all here to be experienced through Lynley’s characters and situations.   I loved the chuck wagon scenes and those that take place in and around the barns.  All are equally full of substance as they are of fanciful romantic notions and a hope for a meaningful future for two lovely men.

I loved the character of Riley, Colby and his aunt, and many more.  Only the Fitz came across as a bit cartoonish, albeit a total villain.  But all the others were characters I enjoyed spending time with and would look forward to meeting again and again.

What else here is not to be missed?  That would be the scenes of cooking and the recipes at the end.  There are quite a few I tried to my delight and several still to be tasted.  All will be added to my recipe box for future dinners and special moments.  Don’t miss out on a single one.  How I love it when a story doubles as a romance and a cookbook.  Be still my heart!

If you love romance, cowboys, and chefs and recipes to die for, well then, I have  a marvelous story for you.  Spaghetti Western has oodles of heart, in a recipe of love packed full of just the right ingredients for a heartfelt ,heartwarming romance you won’t want to put down.   Pick it up and enjoy your journey to Aspen and love!

Cover art by L.C. Chase.  Just adorable. Loved it.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner eBook & Print     All Romance eBook (ARe)  amazon   Spaghetti Western

Book Details:

ebook, 1st, 220 pages
Published September 17th 2014 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN139781632161352
edition languageEnglish
seriesDelectable #5
charactersRiley Emerson, Colby Zane
settingAspen, Colorado (United States)
Rocking Z Ranch, Colorado

Books in the Delectible Series are:

Brand New Flavor (Delectable, #1)
Lighting the Way Home (Delectable, #2)
An Intoxicating Crush (Delectable, #3)
Gingerbread Palace (Delectable #4)
Spaghetti Western (Delectable #5)

 

A MelanieM Review: Midsummer Baker (Midsummer #4) by Megan Derr

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Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

A sweet baker with spicy taste…

midsummerbaker400Marcell is Midsummer’s baker. While he works for his aunt in the family bakery, he’s the one with the magic baker’s touch.  A good and quiet lad, Marcel is hiding secrets  of the past and of the heart. Those of the past are known only to himself and two others reviled by the citizens of Midsummer.  Marcell’s life has not been without pain wether it was the loss of his parents or the bullying he encountered at school but the truth is about to come out and no one is prepared for the consequences.

The Withers Boys, Boyd and Tye Withers, are faerie half-brothers,  Their faerie mother died, leaving them when they were in their late teens but really she had abandoned them much earlier drowning herself in booze.  Known for their green thumbs and ability to always be in trouble, the Withers Boys have their own secrets to hide.

A stolen hideaway, a dark night, and  evil on the prowl.  What happens when all the hidden secrets are exposed?  Will Marcell find a happiness he never thought would be his?

Midsummer Baker is probably my third favorite of the Midsummer stories to date.  More a series of vinaigrettes than a cohesive tale, it still brings plenty of surprising layers and heart to this tale of love in the most unlikely of places. Each chapter represents a slice from Marcell’s life.  From these, we are able to build a picture of a sweet child who was the target not only of bullies at school, but someone worse.   Now grown, Marcell has harbored not only the secrets from his past but a hidden love that he feels will never be returned.  Marcell is such a sweet character it is easy to connect with him and his dreams.

The Withers Boys now have names.  Before Midsummer  Baker, they only appeared as references to mischief makers often in trouble with the law and various members of the community.  Now we get their painful back story, and they become not pests to be avoided but teenagers and young adults with a poignant sad story of their own.   Unexpectedly, there is a hidden connection to Marcell and the drama and romance takes off.  I wish we had more of Tye and Boyd.  They are great characters that deserve a  longer and deeper in scope story than this one.

There is publisher note included at the bottom that contains spoilers to the story.  It references the type and variety of love story found here.  I didn’t find it offensive but others might.  If anything other than a strict M/M squicks your bonnet, then you just might want to check out the note below.  Otherwise, I liked the story, love the series and want to see Megan Derr what happens next when Derr returns to Midsummer once more.

Categories: Free Read Gay Paranormal Poly Urban Fantasy

 

Cover art by Megan Derr.  Love the cover.

Sales Links:     Less Than Three Press       Amazon          Midsummer Baker  ($0.99)

Book Details:

Editors note:  Contains stepbrother incest and threesomes

free ebook, 18 pages at Less Than Three Press
Published July 19th 2011 by Less Than Three Press (first published August 29th 2010)
original titleMidsummer Baker
ISBN139781936202843
edition languageEnglish
seriesMidsummer #4

Midsummer Series in order they were written and should be read (available in print, ebook and audio):

Midsummer Moon
Midsummer Curse
Midsummer Law
Midsummer Baker
Midsummer Days (Print collection of all stories)

A MelanieM Review: Midsummer Law (Midsummer #3) by Megan Derr

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Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

midsummerlaw400Kirby Hindon is Sheriff in MIdsummer, a magical, supernatural town.  On the easiest day, the job carries with it a almost constant list of surprises and supernatural  happenings that most Sheriffs never have to deal with.  But one of the toughest parts of his job is notifying the next of kin when someone is killed.  That’s the Kirby is facing now. Hobgoblin Kerry Greyling is dead and Kirby needs to contact his brother as next of kin.  The biggest surprise appears when Kerry’s brother, Merry, shows up to collect his belongings.

Merry is Kerry’s twin brother but they were alike only in appearance.  Where Kerry was dark, Merry is light as well as powerful.  In fact, Merry shimmers from head to toe.  He is a well respected and sought after clothing designer whose clothes are just as unique as Merry.  What happens when a lonely Sheriff  who also happens to be a witch meets up with an equally lonely hobgoblin?  Anything is possible in the town of Midsummer.

Midsummer Law picks up after the events of Midsummer Curse.  All the towns people are dealing with the aftermath of Ferdy the gremlin’s curse and the death of Kerry Greyling, Ferdy’s ex and all round rotter.  It’s been left to witch and town Sheriff Kirby Hindon to notify the closest kin of the deceased and depose of the body and personal belongings.  But what happens next is as unexpected to those involved as it is just what they need.

I love the town of Midsummer that Megan Derr has created.  A place where all the paranormal and supernatural belong, its both a haven and locus for events and relationships of all types.  We’ve had werewolves and kind of weres, weres and gremlins, vampires and vampire hunters and now a witch in search of love in the most unlikely of places.  Kirby Hindon has always existed on the secondary layer of the other stories as a character.  He arrives to haul off the culprit or at the ending of a nasty culmination of events.  Now he’s at the front of his own story and we get a better look at a lonely man with never enough time to practice his magic.

Merry Greyling, twin brother to the nasty Kerry Greyling, is a lovely delight of a character.  A sought after clothes designer, he wears what he makes, along with artfully applied makeup in unusual color combinations.  He’s powerful, quixotic, and lonely.  Hmmmm, where can a partner be found for him?  Derr brings these two together over the death of Merry’s brother and let the rest of the journey to love fall gently into place.

I say gently because there is no drama to be found here, that occurred in the previous story.  This is just two beings trying to work out a long distance relationship and it contain the commonplace errors and miscommunications  one would expect of such an attempt.  It gradually works itself out along the way as Derr starts to fold in the characters for the next short story in the series, Midsummer Baker.

This is a very quick read with none of the depth of the first  two stories.  There is no mystery involved, just two beings in search of love.  I did love the surprise that was Merry and wish we had much more of him and Kirby’s relationship.  We get a few answers to some left over questions but that’s it.  I missed the variety of characters and the layers to the plot that the other stories had, although the romance is a lovely one.   There were also one or two editing issues.  A moment where Kirby looks at Kirby (it should have been Kelly), easy enough to catch and fix but wasn’t.

Midsummer is a town guaranteed to pull you into its stories and relationships.  There is so much to discover here and so many more beings to meet.  I hope Megan Derr continues to develop stories in this series.  I can’t wait for more to come.

Cover art by Megan Derr.   She does a terrific job in branding the series and yet makes each design relevant to the story within.

Sales Links:     Less Than Three Press            All Romance eBook (ARe)        Amazon            Midsummer Law

Book Details:

ebook, 46 pages
Published July 2010 by Less Than Three Press
ISBN139781936202294
edition languageEnglish
seriesMidsummer #3

Midsummer Series in order they were written and should be read (available in print, ebook and audio):

Midsummer Moon
Midsummer Curse
Midsummer Law
Midsummer Baker
Midsummer Days (Print collection of all stories)

A MelanieM Review: Hard Act to Follow (Shooting Stars #3) by K. Vale, Kimber Vale

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Hard Act To Follow coverKyrie Li is 23 and soon to graduate Boston College with a degree in theatre arts.  Greg Dwyer is 30 and a lawyer in a prestigious law firm in Boston.  What they have in common is Kyrie’s sister, Grey Dwyer’s ex-wife.  What else do they have in common?  The fact that each man is deeply and secretly in love with the other.

Kyrie thinks his best friend Greg is straight and still in love with his sister.  Greg believes that Kyrie would never be interested in “dull old” him or that Greg would be accepted if he came out to either his own family or Kyrie’s who Greg is close to.

But one drunken nights changes everything.  A kiss between Greg and Kyrie leads to a wonderful night of passion but misunderstandings in the morning’s light leads Kyrie to pretend he doesn’t remember and Greg to flee from Kyrie’s friendship and family.   Only a threat from Kyrie’s past pulls them back together. Can they patch up their misunderstandings and shattered relationship in time for Greg to save Kyrie and maybe find their own HEA?

Hard Act To Follow is the third story in the Shooting Stars series from Kimber Vale.  The first two stories revolved around the romance of two rock stars from different bands.  In the second story, Double Takes, we first meet Kyrie and Greg when Kyrie is hired to play the part of Gio Savale’s boyfriend on a reality tv series.  Kyrie and Greg appear in largely secondary roles but already Greg is jealous of the fake relationship Kyrie and Gio have.  They were almost my favorite thing about that story so I was happy to see that Kimber Vale was getting ready to write a story for them.

Kyrie is adorably irrepressible.  He blurts out whatever he is thinking and up to now, has had awful taste in men.  He is charming, artistic, with a slight build. Just a lovely character.  Greg is his exact opposite in physical stature and emotional makeup.  Greg is substantial, physically, materially, and emotionally.  Just the sort of anchor someone like Kyrie wants and needs.  Kimber Vale’s characters balance each other out in a way that makes a romance between them logical and perfect.

What holds them apart is Kyrie’s sister who also happens to be Greg’s ex-wife.  Kyrie believes, wrongly, that Greg still has feelings for her and wants to get back together.  Kyrie wants that too.  Why?  Because he is afraid that if Greg moves on to someone else romantically, he will lose him.  Kyrie also thinks Greg is straight (obviously) The last thing Greg wants to do is get back with his ex-wife however much he loves Kyrie and Kyrie’s family.  The connection between Greg and Jasmine as ex spouses feels real but I never got a solid emotional basis for their marriage in the first place.  That missing foundation between Greg and Jasmine was one of the weakest elements here.

Misconceptions and misunderstandings multiply between Grey and Kyrie as their feelings for each other deepen.  The lack of communication between Greg and Kyrie is frustrating but given their age difference and emotional makeup it also seems completely realistic as well.

Another aspect I liked here was the ease of the interracial romance.  Kyrie’s parents are Black and Korean.  That interracial quality to the family and siblings is not highlighted but rather just a gentle side note.  And its the warmth and acceptance that Greg finds in the Li household that he is missing from his own.  Another lovely touch.  Both Boston and New York City are well represented here, especially the boxes that go for apartments in the walkups in NYC.

I was so happy to find that Kyrie and Greg got their HEA.  Gio Savales even made a last minute appearance at Kyrie’s graduation.  There is drama and some danger for Kyrie but all ends happily for this couple.  If you are a fan of Kimber Vale and her romance series, if you love bubbly actors in search of their forever love, pick up Hard Act To Follow and enjoy.   I don’t think you will need to read the other stories to get into this one as I think Hard Act To Follow can be read as a stand alone.  Rockers, actors, or both.  Your choice!  The fun is always in the journey.

Cover art is uncredited.

Sales Links:           Liquid Silver Books         All Romance eBooks (ARe)       Amazon Hard Act To Follow

Book Details:
ebook, 66,000 words
Published August 18th 2014 by Liquid Silver Books
edition languageEnglish
seriesShooting Stars

Books in the Shooting Stars series include (but don’t have to be read in order)

Forever is Now (Shooting Stars #1)
Double Takes (Shooting Stars #2)
Hard Act To Follow (Shooting Stars #3)

Review: Running Wild (Havoc #1) by S.E. Jakes

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Rating: 3.75 stars out of 5

RunningWild_400x600Sean Rush is a mess and he knows it.  Born from a union between a sociopathic killer and a mother hooked on drugs and sex, Sean escaped his violent home life with his two best friends and their mutual love of cars.  Too bad that included stealing cars and street racing them.  Hauled before a judge atfter being caught, Sean and his friends chose the Army over jail and went to war.  But that just piled more bad issues on top of a heap of bone deep problems Sean carries within him.

Now out of the Army, Sean’s energies are looking for an outlet and finds it at Bertha’s, a Havoc MC hangout.  Trouble finds Sean in the form of Ryker, a Havoc Motorcycle Club lieutenant, a bad boy among bad boys.  A gorgeous hot man, Ryker represents everything Sean wants and should stay away from.  And not only does Sean want Ryker but Ryker wants him as well.  Bad enough to break into Sean’s apartment night after night for 8 months for the best sex of Sean’s life.  The problem is that Sean is starting to want more from Ryker and Sean doesn’t do relationships even if Ryker does.  This leaves Sean feeling scared, edgy and more stressed out than ever.

Then his best friend Noah calls. Noah’s in bad trouble and needs Sean’s help to steal an expensive car to save Noah’s hide.  Things go from bad to disastrous almost immediately.  It’s Ryker who saves Sean but that act puts the Havoc MC and Ryker in danger.  Cracks and crevices are appearing everywhere on the road ahead for Sean and happiness, including a relationship and love with Ryker.  But first Sean has to save Noah, outrun the thugs after them, steal a few cars and maybe, just maybe save himself along the way.

Just the name S.E. Jakes is enough for me to buy a book.  Jake’s stable of bruised, and damaged men always make for a memorable read and absorbing tale as her characters fight for love and a future for themselves and their lovers.  You can count on their journey being a hard one, full of illegalities, covert operations and bloody fights.  Running Wild, the first in Jakes new Havoc series,  falls definitely along those standards for an S.E. Jakes action romance, starting with her main character and story narrator, Sean Rush.

What a perfect name for a character on the run from his past, his pain, and his desires.  Sean is in a rush to get somewhere if only he knew where he was going.  Sean’s is a voice of a man in constant pain and confusion.  He fights against his impulses to steal and the adrenaline rush it provides. He fights against a need for love and stability, falling back on his old friends whose decision making processes are no better than his.  Really, Sean is just one pretty mess of a man in need of help and more. The choice of making Sean Rush the “voice” of her story is a risky one.  If you love Sean or can at least commiserate with  a man haunted by his abusive background and how it impacted his teenage/adult years, then you are going to love this story.  On the flip side, if you find that unapologetic thieves that keep making the same mistake over and over unappealing, then Running Wild will make you want to run the other way.

Much like Sean, I think it will be a love him or leave him attitude here for all readers.  For me, I remain a little ambivalent about the character of Sean.  Every part of Sean’s life is a sinkhole of problems.  A father in jail for murder,  guilt and PTSD over his Army experiences, a compulsion to steal that lies close to the surface, and a loyalty to a few who keep pulling him back into the world of thugs and car thefts.  Sean is a realistically crafted character that you will want to shake  some sense into at least every five minutes or  so. He is that person you care about but are not sure you want to let him into your home.  A little of him goes a long way and when he is the narrator of the story that becomes an impossibility.  What saves Sean and the reader is the arrival of Ryker, a Havoc Motorcycle Club lieutenant who falls hard for Sean perhaps to the club’s detriment and his own.

Ryker is tender, brutal, and unwaveringly loyal to a club that took him in and raised him.  Ryker made the story for me and he made Sean palatable.  I have to admit that I would have loved viewing this story through Ryker’s eyes instead of Sean’s.  Both came from turbulent, abusive backgrounds.  Ryker was saved and Sean was not.  That fact dictated the manner in which each boy developed, again another  realistic plot choice from Jakes.  But Sean’s voice is so out of control, so wild that he needs Ryker to rein him in narratively speaking and we don’t get enough of that control here.  But what we get of Ryker, the Havoc MC family and his tenuous relationship with Sean smoothes out the clatter enough to make this a really enjoyable story.

Noah is a terrific side character as is Sweet, Casey, Jethro and others.  Many, many others as there are two motorcycle clubs in town to deal with here. The love and rush of stealing and racing cars comes across perfectly.  I totally got the appreciation of a finely crafted machine and the need to take it to its limits on the road (I am a fan of Top Gear British Edition after all). That element is telegraphed in scenes and descriptions that pulls in the reader and makes them understand the nature of Sean and Noah’s obsession with cars.  Loved that about Running Wild!

Aside from Noah, I think my other real issue with Running Wild is that S.E. Jakes had a huge list of elements she wanted to include in this story in order to set the stage for her series.  By trying to tie in numerous plot points, multiple complications from the characters pasts, side storylines that vied for top billing with the main plot…after a while it just felt a tad too ambitious and a little overwhelming for this story and characters.  They have a lot thrown at them while already dealing with a plethora of pain and problems that would drown a superhero.  At one point, I wanted to wave a flag to slow the action down and sort out the who, what and where.  No matter, S.E. Jakes pulls it all together at the end for a resounding ending with a touch of the supernatural thrown in.  I did say there were a ton of elements here didn’t I?  That includes a supernatural or haunted hill  with a mind of its own.

So. Running Wild and the Havoc MC series.  Do I recommend it?  Yes.  It’s exciting, fast paced, and gripping.  It may drive you a little nuts at times as will Sean.  But stick with the story, finish the race with them and enjoy the outcome and the winner’s lap.  See what I did there?  Blame Top Gear!

Aside from Ryker and Sean,  there are a number of characters I want to see get their HEA or at least HFN.  So I will be waiting for the next Havoc story to arrive, along with new installments from the other S.E. Jakes series I am hooked on.  If bad boys on bikes and sexy, angsty tales of love are your thing, grab up a copy of Running Wild and start reading.  Let me know what you think of Sean and Ryker.   Happy Trails!

Cover art by L.C. Chase.  Love the cover and the motorcycle.  Feel the need for a little Steppenwolf coming on…”like smoke and lightnin’,Heavy metal thunder,Racing in the wind, And the feeling that I’m under…”*

*Read more: Steppenwolf – Born To Be Wild Lyrics | MetroLyrics

Buy Links:          Riptide Publishing                 All Romance (ARe)              Amazon               Running Wild

 

Book Details:

ebook, 280 pages
Published June 28th 2014 by Riptide Publishing
ISBN139781626491533
urlhttp://www.riptidepublishing.com/titles/running-wild
seriesHavoc #1

Review: Miles and the Magic Flute by Heidi Cullinan

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Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5

Miles and the Magic FluteMiles Larson believes the world has turned against him.  The poor economy cost him his cushy job and lifestyle, now Miles lives in considerably reduced circumstances back in his hometown in Minnesota. At least that’s how he sees it.  He works in a friend’s pawn shop fixing broken down appliances while living in his friend’s trailer behind the shop.  And all the time, he is thinking “why me, why did this happen to me?”  As Miles begrudgingly goes to work and then home, the only thing that lifts his spirits is a walk in the woods nearby, a place of solice and adventure when little,  now a blessed respite from the disappointment that is his life.   Little does he know that as he bemoans his life, the wood have ears and are listening.

One day at the pawn shop, a box of personal goods to be sold revealed an intricately carved silver flute to be pawned.  When asked to research its origin, Miles’s investigation opens up an enchanted world where one can have all he wants if only he asks the right question.  Before he realizes it his reality becomes one of two worlds vying for his body and soul.  An ethereally gorgeous fae wants Miles to choose him and his world but is everything there exactly as it seems?  Who is the beast he encounters along with the Fae Lord in the Otherworld?  For each choice that Miles might make, a price is to be paid.  But what is the price of being given everything you desire?  What if what you desire wars with true love and happiness? What price will you pay then? Only Miles can answer those questions…now if only he knew what those answers are….

Miles and the Magic Flute is less a romance and more of Heidi Cullinan’s LGBTQ version of Aesop’s Fables.  Or should that be Cullinan’s Fae Fables?  An intricately layered cautionary tale, Miles and the Magic Flute starts with one character whose sense of entitlement and displeasure with his current status starts the games of enchantment to follow.

From the beginning Cullinan builds two very realistic and opposite worlds to vy for Mile’s body and soul.  One is the small town in Minnesota that Miles has returned to after losing his job and condo in the big city.  A sense of desperation covers the town like a layer of dust.  A factory has closed putting much of the town’s population out of work, and sometimes only the largesse of his friend Patty of Patty’s Pawn shop keeps some of them from going without food or a home.  A cluttered store filled with the bits and pieces of peoples lives, the pawn store has been passed from father to daughter as has the trailer behind it.  Into the shop flow various sundry folk, from a hispanic family seriously weighing how they will spend their strictly budgeted dollars to an antagonistic bully who learns that homophobic slurs will cost him big time from the lesbian pawnbroker.   Cullinan paints these small town characters with the same brush as her main ones, and they are as realistically detailed and human as they could be.  You can feel the paint peeling and the cars falling apart from neglect from the author’s descriptions of a small town barely surviving and the people who remain behind while others have left.

The second world starts off as nothing more than a shivery feeling as Miles walks through the woods nearby.  A feeling of being watched, a ripple in the air, the appearance of a small white flower in winter, and little by little Cullinan’s Otherworld, the Fae Dream world arrives to encroach on Miles’ reality and the well being of all.  I loved how the author built up not only Miles anticipation and sense of alarm but the readers as well.  Layer by layer the magic comes and at first its wondrous and enchanting….and then it deepens to something more.  And as we begin to  get a true sense of exactly what and who the Fae Lord represents, Cullinan continues to pivot us and Miles back and forth between reality and desire, human and Fae until the contrasting images and worlds start to blend eerily into each other. The author’s locations and world building is superb and each feels as real as the other.

Heidi Cullinan has also provided the readers with one of the most realistic and wonderful lesbian couples that I can remember. Patty with her blunt ways and mannerisms that cover a depth of personality just waiting to be revealed.  And  Julie whose perceptions and world views are startling and compelling.  I loved this couple and they provide the anchor that the story and Miles requires.  Patty and her long time lover, Julie, have slowly been pulling Miles out of his depression over losing his job and successful life in Atlanta at Fetterman Financial.  Patty gave him a job fixing the appliances she pulls out of trashcans or brought into the store.  Julie feeds him vegan food she cooks from her amazing garden out back and items she has traded for.  Cullinan does an exemplary job of conveying how grey and small this world appears to Miles in his current  emotional state, the businesslike and frank manner in which Patty deals with her customers and Miles, and the generous, compassionate nature that is Julie’s answer to everything she confronts in life.  And while we see their trailer, business and partnership only from Miles’ viewpoint, it is clear that Miles’  self-absorbed outlook keeps him from seeing his friends  and their lives in a clear and realistic way.

And that is part of what I feel is a real issue for the reader here.  The story is told from Miles’ point of view.  And he is whiney, complaining, and his sense of entitlement is hard to take after a while.  I get that we need to see Miles at his worst in order to get a base line from which we can chart his growth but that doesn’t make his selfishness and self centeredness any easier to take.   Even as Miles realizes that he sees everything now through his “Atlanta filter”, comparing and contrasting his current life against that which he lost, his musings become a Greek chorus of want, hate, and envy.  “I hate this, I hate my life, I hate what I’ve become, I hate what I lost, I hate realizing that I never really had it.” and finally “I hate my life and I would do anything and give anything to change it.”    Heartfelt worlds that the woods, or someone in the woods is listening to and geting ready to answer with an offer.

But the most damning words here are probably the ones that the readers will recognize, if not understand.  How the readers feels about hearing Miles utter them will reflect in how much the reader will like this story.  Those words are the ones that will propel Miles to accept an offer too good to be…well good.  And they are “I’m better than this.  I deserve so much better than this.”  What an all too human phrase…one that probably propels many a person into actions that they will regret later on.  How readers feel about Miles’ sense of entitlement will be the lens through which they view this story.  For many, I think it will mean they look at Miles and his predicament with a sense of detachment.  And no matter what befalls Miles, that lack of emotional investment in his problems and terrors will keep readers disconnected from the story and Miles.  I will admit I came perilously close to that detachment myself.  It took me much longer to connect with Miles than I anticipated and by then the story was almost over.

As I said this is a story of lessons and morality.  “Beware of what you wish for, as you just might get it”, “Be happy with what you have,” actually Miles and the Magic Flute is a roll call of lessons from Aesop’s Fables among others.  Whether it is about appearances being deceiving or giving one’s enemies the means for your own destruction, Cullinan lines them up and marches Miles through them on his way to  enlightenment, redemption, and finally love.

Yes, there is several love stories here, although no romances.  I wish I had a better understanding of “the Beast” here, he is the one character without much substance.  There is so much about Miles and the Magic Flute that is as wondrous as its plot.  From Terris and Murali to Patty and Julie and the worlds they all inhabit, Cullinan’s ability to bring both the magical and the mundane to life is amazing.  I just wished I had more of a connection to Miles, that I had wept when he did but ultimately that didn’t happen here.    Other readers might find themselves incredibly moved by Miles’ story and the terrific ending that Heidi Cullinan has crafted for them all.  Pick up this book and decide for yourself.  I am still so very happy that I read it and journeyed for a while in their shoes.

Cover art by Wilde City Press.  What a beautiful, magical cover.  Loved it.

Publisher’s Note: This title has been previously published and has been revised from its original release

 

Buy Links:    Wilde City Press       Miles and the Magic Flute ” Amazon          ARe

 

Book Details:

ebook, 2nd Edition
Published May 27th 2014 by Wilde City Press (first published June 7th 2010)
original titleMiles and the Magic Flute
edition languageEnglish
urlhttp://www.heidicullinan.

Review: Out of the Gate by E.M. Lynley

Standard

Rating: 3.75 (rounded up to 4) out of 5

OutoftheGateLGBritish actor and now successful American TV star Wesley Tremayne remains deeply in the closet.  Afraid that coming out would hurt his burgeoning tv show and career just when he is at his most popular, Wes has never met anyone he wanted enough to make that change in his life.  But a day at the races with his friends and fellow actors changes everything.  He spies an attractive man down on the field only to lose sight of him.  Only when he and his friends decide to buy a race horse at a claiming stake for publicity, does Wes find out that the attractive man he saw is a horse trainer , one they persuade to train their new horse after they bought him.

Horse owner/trainer Evan Taylor is having troubles of his own.  His relationship with his documentary journalist lover is on rocky ground, and several of his horse owners have pulled their horses from his barn without giving him reasons for their actions.  Evan left his own acting career behind in Hollywood and never looked back after he become a horse trainer with his own barn. With his experiences in Hollywood still painfully fresh all these years later, the last thing Evan wants is to deal with a group of actors who bought a horse on a whim.  Still, after they meet his demands, they appoint Wes as their go between and everything starts to change for each of them.

Wes and Evan fall first into friendship, then attraction pulls them into something far deeper. But Evan still has a boyfriend to content with, even a absent one and Wes remains in the closet, a barrier to any future relationship with Evan who won’t be anyone’s secret, not even for a man Evan is growing to love. Wes must decide if Evan is the one man for whom he will climb out of the closet for.  And Evan?  Evan faces several enormous decisions of his own before he can move forward….including telling Wes about a past that continues to haunt him and solving the mystery of the dwindling owners.

Out of the Gate is a story framed by the horse racing world, from the title and gorgeous cover to the many racing locales found within.  That specific framework helps to boost this novel out of the already full field of romance stories by giving it a unique foundation for Lynley’s romance and unusual profession for one of her main characters.  It feels authentic, grounded as it is in fact and the author’s fondness for this sport and the people who spend their lives inside of it.  It was this aspect of Lynley’s story that drew me in to begin with as I was unfamiliar with this author prior to this story.

From Lynley’s bio it is certain that horses in many ways have been a constant in her life…but what was surprising is the racing element and the time the author spent at the track with its riders, trainers, owners and yes, horses.  That is a route that few women horse aficionados take.  Normally it might be hunters or  dressage or anything other than Thoroughbred Racing.  I loved this aspect of the story especially as Lynley’s conception and attention to detail in her story made this a standout among the many romances I have read lately.  From the horses you meet inside with their gentle nuzzling and desire to run to the assistants and “boys” who ride them, each and every one comes to life within this story.  The reader will feel as though they have walked past the stalls, smelled the aroma of fresh hay and horses direct off the track.  Just a wonderful job on this author’s part to make the reader feel a part of the racing scene so important to her story.

Lynley provides some wonderful characters to go along with this terrific locale.  Wesley Tremayne is a lovely character.  Like many other actors, he has stayed in the closet to protect himself and his career.  He wants to stop hiding but has never met a man important enough to put his career on the line for him.  Tremayne becomes instantly relatable due to the rationale behind his closeted status.  With so many actors in the news lately because they are coming out and acknowledging their homosexuality this feels very current and brings us into Wes’ mind frame when we first encounter him in the story.  I loved Wes, even when he is indecisive about leaving the closet, we understand his fears.  The women friends here are terrific characters as too.  From Julia, his friend and”beard” to Vanessa, their wealthy friend and cohort and even Nicky Holloway, Evan’s assistant trainer, none of these woman comes off as a cardboard creations but important secondary supporting characters.  I appreciated their personas as much as their roles.

If I have some quibbles it would be with two male characters here, one of them being Evan Taylor.  I loved Evan the trainer. And his romance with Wes is endearing and sweet.  That worked incredibly well.  Where I felt the characterization was uneven was with Evan’s past and the demons he is fighting.  I wish Lynley had given us more of a foundation for Evan’s problems.  I don’t mean vivid descriptions but something more pressing than a small one time relating of facts and a few scenes of frailty.  Something of that power and pain needs to have the same amount of framework behind it that all the other elements Lynley provides in her stories and I just didn’t feel like that happened.   The same goes for Evan’s film producer boyfriend, Gary.  Gary is particularly hard to pin down.  His actions comes across as almost sadistic yet then he acts as a concerned boyfriend/ex partner. His persona is a little too fluid to be reasonable although he does work well as a villain.  I wish he had as many layers to him as the other characters.  Even one insubstantial character can take away something from the others around him and Gary does.

Lynley provides her story with several mysteries.  The one that will have the most impact comes to a dramatic and quick resolution towards the end.  The action is wonderful and the result satisfactory.   Did I wish for a little more?  Yes, but Lynley pulls all her plot threads together and provides a denouement that brings all the problems and drama the characters have been through to an ending the reader will love.

As I said this was my first story by  E.M. Lynley but it won’t be the last.  I loved her ability to bring me into her characters world and their messy all too human lives.  If I had a request, it would be for Lynley to return to the track and horse racing for another story and romance.  All this did was wet my appetite for more stories with a similar setting.  I think you will feel the same and recommend this story to all lovers of hot men and contemporary romance.

Cover art by Reese Dante.  Wonderful, wonderful cover.  I love the racing in the background and the tone of the design and coloration.

Buy Links:    Dreamspinner Press         ARe          Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 270 pages
Published April 21st 2014 by Dreamspinner Press (first published April 20th 2014)
ISBN 1627986839 (ISBN13: 9781627986830)
edition languageEnglish
url http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=4896
settingHollywood, CA
San Francisco, CA (United States)
Berkeley, CA

 

 

Review: Succulent Dark (Frostbite #3) by D.J. Manly

Standard

Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5

Succulent Dark Frostbite coverVampire hedonist Teak has finally gone too far with that last drunken orgy and seduction of that priest.  Now the council has given him two options.  Be entombed in a coffin for over a 100 years or be vanished to the wildnerness of Canada, forbidden to feed on the locals and ordered blend in by resuming his mortal profession, a physician, something he hasn’t done since 1923.

Teak has no intention of following orders in Canada until he meets pharmacist Marcus Kent who confounds him totally.  Attracted to Marcus, Teak tries his tricks but nothing works! Marcus seems immune.  Can a potential seducee become the seducer? Teak is about to find out.

I loved this story.  In Teak, Manly has created the total unrepentant vampire who also happens to be the local vampire bad boy.  Teak loves to party, love to drink blood and have sex and if he can do all three together, than he will do it to the extremes.  Manly’s Teak is over the top outrageous and absolutely charming, even when hanging from silver chains about to the sentenced by the Vampire Council.  Teak is the shameless bad boy of rock, without the band of course and the reader will fall for him immediately.

Banished to Canadian wilderness, Teak is a vampire out of water.  It’s city boy vampire meets Northern Exposure and it works as Teak encounters one unknown after another, from curling to an attractive mortal immune to vampire lures.  The other main character, Marcus Kent, is not as fully fleshed out a character as Teak but still he works as the tasty human morsel who turns into the first real love Teak has ever known.  Their romance was charming and a tad old fashioned, just a lovely change of pace for Teak and the reader.

If I had a quibble about the story, it would be that it (and the character of Teak) turned a little overly gushy towards the end.  With his love for Marcus hanging, Teak turns almost weepy, definitely not in keeping with the characterization Manly has established.  I would also have loved to have seen more of Teak in his doctor’s office interacting with his patients because other important part of the changeover for Teak is the reigniting of his love for his profession.  He loves being a doctor again.  It’s a wonderful element of the story and I would have enjoyed seeing Teak’s reaction to medical advancements.

Succulent Dark is a succulent little piece of supernatural fiction, highly enjoyable and leaving the reader wanting more of this couple and this universe.  I definitely recommend this story, it’s the best of the Frostbite collection.

Collection cover art by Posh Gosh, great cover.

Book Details:

ebook, 1st Edition, 54 pages
Published December 13th 2013 by Totally Bound
ISBN 178184867X (ISBN13: 9781781848678)
edition language English
series Frostbite #3

The Frostbite Collection includes:

Gravedigger (Frostbite #1) by Aurelia T. Evans m/f
Night Fall (Frostbite #2) by Jenna Byrnes  m/m
Succulent Dark (Frostbite #3) by D.J. Manly m/m
The Study of Blood in Winter (Frostbite #4) by Catalina Dudka m/f

Review: Second Star to the Right by A.F. Henley

Standard

Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5

Second Star to the Right coverMason Lawrence should be happy.  He is incredibly wealthy, owns a successful company and his days are full with his business and his spare time is spent with friends and business associates.  But Mason is unhappy.  He has long held a crush on his best friend who is straight and very married.  Just spending time with him playing tennis is painful and his friend is beginning to notice a difference in the way Mason is treating him.  Something has to change and it arrives in a totally unexpected manner.

Out of concern for Mason’s lack of companionship, a friend tells Mason about a discrete escort service where Mason might find someone to spend his only vacation with.  Wary but desperate, Mason hires Jack, an outspoken, gorgeous escort to spend a week with him at his cabin in a lakeshore vacation property.  And at first, Jack is everything Mason could hope for.  He is funny, gregarious, blunt, and sexy.  A blond Peter Pan whose refusal to grow up endears him to Mason a man who has never really been a child.  Then their relationship of employer/employee starts to turn into one of friendship and then something a little more.  Can love be possible when one refuses to grow up and the other afraid of his own emotions?

The trope of rent boy/John love is a standard within the m/m genre.  Whether I enjoy a story with this plot is entirely up to how an individual author handles this topic and the twist they give to the rent boy in question.  A.F. Henley’s Second Star to the Right  and her character Jack are wonderfully endearing additions to this genre.  I have a fondness for prostitutes that make no excuses for the fact that they are, in their words “whores”.   Jack is unapologetically blunt about his tastes, his profession, and his expectations for the week ahead, much to Mason’s astonishment.  He is golden, sexy, and tall, everything that Mason wants and has never been able to have. And now that Jack is Mason’s for the week, Mason isn’t exactly sure what to do with him.

Henley makes Mason’s confusion and hesitation  both humorous and endearing when confronted with Jack’s direct manner and easy going sexuality.  Everything about Mason’s character is reflective of his personality.  He is small in stature, a fact he is uncomfortable with, comparing himself unfavorably with all he meets.  Shy and awkward, small and amenable, Mason is someone who has always been too old for his years, too responsible, too mature to enjoy childish games and pastimes.   Throw someone of that persona in a cabin for a week with a sexual adult Peter Pan and the mixture has bound to be entertaining, and a little explosive.

And while Jack is forcing Mason to open up and relax, Mason’s actions and gentle treatment of Jack is forcing Jack to reflex on his own life, including the fact that he is almost 30, an age too old for his profession.  How is a man who refuses to grow up going to live when he ages out of the only profession he has ever known?  By the time they (and the reader) have reached this stage in their relationship, both men have tumbled out of their complacency into a place of fear about their current status as well as the future.  Henley has made us care, through their interactions and past revelations, about these men. And now we teeter on the brink of self discovery along with them, full of anticipation and anxiety for the next step each man will take.  Will it be towards each other or away?

Of course, there is an emotional explosion and a denouement that offers a future for both Mason and Jack.  I think that if I had a quibble with this story, its with an ending that felt a little too abrupt for the  story that preceded it.  We get a week with Mason and Jack that feels realistic in the manner in which their relationship grows.  The arguments that come feel natural as well given each man’s emotional makeup and their present occupations.  I wish Henley had given us a little more of the events that follow upon their return to the city.  It would have made the epilogue that much more satisfactory by giving us the building blocks upon which that ending is built.

However, that issue aside, I did love Second Star to the Right.  I loved Mason and Jack in all their frailties, insecurities, and kindness, especially towards each other.  When you temper bluntness with compassion, sexuality with caring, then you have a recipe for a terrific love story and Henley has given that to us in Second Star to the Right.  I think you will enjoy it as much as I did. Consider it a highly recommended.

Cover by Aisha Akeju is simple in design but works for the story within.

Book Details:

ebook
Expected publication: February 19th 2014 by Less Than Three Press LLC
original title Second Star to the Right
ISBN13 9781620043165
edition language English