Review: Wicked Guidance (Wicked’s Way #04) by Havan Fellows

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Series Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Wicked Guidance coverIt’s not every day that a pickpocket steals the wallet out of Wick Templeton’s jeans.  And for Wick Templeton, it means he has to chase that unlucky thief down to retrieve his wallet and phone.  But the thief he catches is just a child, and a smart-mouthed one at that.  For Wick it’s like looking at a mirror, a small Wick mini me, all dirty, thin and full of sass.   And that’s just the start of the trouble, all four feet of it.  It seems that someone wants the kid out of the way – permanently.    Several fired shots later and Wicked is pissed.  No one is going to hurt this kid.  Its time for Wick to do what he does best, investigate, threaten and create total chaos.

And if one gorgeous, sexy Ned Harris turns up to meddle in the case, well no one, including Wick would be surprised.  Who is after Wick’s little 11 year old companion? And what is the deal with Ned Harris this time?  With a little wicked guidance, Wick will see his mini me safe and the criminals behind the threats in jail or dead.  It’s all in a days work for Wick Templeton, a law unto himself.  And with a twerp to protect, those hunting the boy had better run, and run fast, for the most wicked of them all is on their trail and judgement day is coming.

With Wicked Guidance, one more piece of the puzzle that is Wick Templeton is revealed and fitted into place.  With all the other stories, we have seen Wick’s intelligence, his ultra competency, his meticulous planning and control at work.  We have watched him smart mouth villains and outsmart the law.  He’s been witty, and sexy and dangerous.  But we haven’t seen him really care about someone…until now.  Sure we know he is a loyal and trusted friend to a small group of people and that his clients can trust him implicitly when it comes to their cases.  But a softer side, ok, Wick’s type of softer side has been missing until a young boy steals his wallet.

With the creation of Kyle, pickpocket and twerp extraordinaire, Havan Fellows delivers another facet to Wick Templeton’ character.   Kyle is a true eleven year old in every way.  Defiant, smug, mouthy, and full of fire, it’s no wonder that Wick looks at the kid and sees himself.  Fellows does a beautiful job in giving us a miniature Wick while still keeping Kyle believable as a tween out on the streets.  But Kyle is also in deep trouble with the vulnerability of the young that cries out for protection.  Kyle is just a terrific character and his interaction with Wick reveals more of Wick than we have seen in the other stories, starting from the moment Wick chases him down.

He tapped the handy dandy earpiece again then eyed his current problem. “Tried infers that you attempted something and failed.” He waved the wallet and phone in front of the brat before slipping them securely back in his pocket. “You attempted and failed.”

The kid humphed at him. “You gonna call the cops?”

“Why? They can’t protect you from me.”

The thief’s eyes widened for a brief second before he slumped his shoulders in defeat. “I’m real sorry, mister. I just was so hungry.” He rubbed his hand over his stomach for good measure. “I’ve learned my lesson and won’t do it again. Promise.”

Wick scored him a ten for his acting chops. He stepped back and took in the whole picture the kid presented. His blond hair teased the line of medium brown due to its oily matted down appearance, and Wick was sure there was a pale complexion on that face somewhere—if he Brillo padded through the dirt to find it. The bright hazel eyes that shone through the mess held intelligence and fire, defiance at its best. The twerp’s clothes matched the rest of him, filthy beyond any washing machine’s help, with holes in places that never qualified as cool. They hung loosely on his bony frame, as if at one time they fit properly but, with the boy’s new restrictive diet, had become too big too fast for him.

And that’s just the exchange I can quote.  The rest is both hysterically funny and perfectly authentic, especially the words coming out of Kyle’s mouth.  And all the more heartbreaking for all the sarcasm and bleak point of view in someone so young.  And you can see why this youngster appeals to every protective instinct that Wick has.  For me, it’s the most fulfilling and heartwarming relationship of Wick’s to date, his lustmance with Ned aside.  Trust me when I say the reader is absolutely emotionally involved in this boy and his future.

As with all the stories, we have a mystery to solve, and it’s a huge one.  Someone is trying to kill Kyle.  Havan Fellows has drawn us in, first with the introduction to Kyle, than with the developing relationship with Wick and finally with the threat to Kyle’s life.   We worry about the threat and we fear for his future, even while being assured that he is safe with the one person in the world who can protect him….Wick Templeton.  The author craftily sends us on an emotional rollercoaster of a ride, from laugher to fright back to laughter and than back down to dead fear once more.  It’s a true E Ticket ride (google it), one you won’t want to get off.

This is also the story where we see that the tenuous lustmance between Wick and Ned is finally turning into something deeper.  Oh, there is still scores of questions to be answered about both of their background and in Ned’s case, current employment.  But a deeper connection between the men has formed, and while the sex is still hot and spicy, an element of caring has arrived in the mixture too.  I love that Fellows is making this a slow build to something real and perhaps lasting.  We aren’t there yet, but the glimpses she gives us makes us want more.

Wicked Guidance is my favorite book of the Wicked’s Ways series to date.  Havan Fellows has written a story that combines all the ingredients for the classic story you constantly reread.  It flows smoothly from beginning to end, it has laughter, it has wit, it has memorable characters, a mystery and sex appeal.  And with the inclusion of Kyle, Wicked’s Way and Wick Templeton gain a measure of heartbreak and warmth as well.  By the end of the book, I felt like that little boy Joey who calls out “Shane, come back!” at the end of that classic western.  I wanted more…much, much more of Wick, of Kyle, of Ned….just plain everyone.   I think you will feel that way too.  Here is a little something more to wet your appetite:

Wick learned a long time ago that if you just gave a little nudge, a simple word or two, chances of someone talking raised significantly. It felt like he wanted to talk. Maybe he needed a reason to.

He fell in step with the kid and mimicked him as he started kicking the little pebbles out of the way. They walked the duration of the path this way, quietly kicking stones, matching strides with each other. It meant Wick had to shorten his step a bit, but that didn’t cause a problem, neither did the silence. Wick was one of those that could hold his tongue for however long it took to get what he wanted.

Thankfully for us, he won’t have to wait long. Soon he and the readers will get what we want.  So run, don’t walk, and pick up this series.  Start with the first in line, Wicked Solutions and work your way through to the last story released so far, Wicked Guidance.  I read them completely through in one sitting and then did it again.  Thank goodness, Havan Fellows has promised to deliver more Wicked’s Ways and Wick Templeton in the future.  I can’t wait until I make their acquaintance once more and get caught up in their lives and investigations.

Here are the books in the Wicked’s Way series in the order they were written and should be read to understand the characters and the events that follow:

Wicked Solutions (Wicked’s Way #01)
Wicked Bindings (Wicked’s Way #02)
Wicked Incarceration (Wicked’s Way #03)
Wicked Guidance (Wicked’s Way #04)

Cover art by Laura Warner.  Nice job of branding the series, but I consider the design a missed opportunity to design something along the lines of the original pulp fiction novels.  This series cries out for more.

Book Details:

Published July 14th 2013 by Appleton Publishing Avenue

Review: Wicked Incarceration (Wicked’s Way #03) by Havan Fellows

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Series Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Wicked Incarceration coverIt was almost a guarantee that Wick Templeton would end up in prison one day, at least thats what the local wisdom said.  True insiders knew that if Wick Templeton is walking through the prison gates, all the inmates should run and hide for the devil’s at their door and knocking to get in.  With a wicked smile and a knowing smirk, Wick Templeton is being incarcerated.  So why is he so pleased?

It seems that inmates are disappearing only to resurface drooling at the local funny farm. Who is behind the disappearances and what could be their motive?  Wick Templeton is there to find out and if he has to become the king of the cellblock to do that, he will.  So run, you criminals, run while you can.  The most wicked of them all has been incarcerated and trouble has walked through the gates.

Wicked Incarceration, book 3 of Wicked’s Ways, has landed and my love affair with all things Wicked has deepened into addiction.  How I love this wicked, wicked man!  Once more we are thrown into the middle of an investigation of  Wick Templeton’s.  This time, it is a case of a disappearing ex boyfriend of a new client of Wick’s.  That the boyfriend turned up a drooling mess in a psychiatric ward is shock because the guy was sent off to prison and should still be there.  It makes perfect sense for Wick to investigate from inside the prison, at least that is the course that Havan Fellows takes to our absolute delight.

With delicious disregard for the bonds that rules and regulations lay on most men, Wick Templeton flows through the  prison corridors like the devil’s own enforcer, a dangerous wiseguy in orange.  As created by Havan Fellows, Wick has more hidden depths to him than the Carlsbad Caverns and navigating through to the truth about Wick Templeton can get just as tricky.   With friends and foe at his beck and call, Wick Templeton is always the dominant force in every situation, evens when it seems to be a hopeless mess.  Here is a taste of an incarcerated Wick:

He heard Banyu’s exaggerated sigh and smiled. That boy really thought he’d be able to instill proper phone etiquette in Wick.

“Hello, Wick, how are you doing today?”

“I’m in jail, how the hell am I supposed to be doing?”

Banyu laughed over the line. “You put yourself in jail. You can’t use that as an excuse for being a sourpuss.”

Wick straightened and shook his head. “I’m sorry, I thought we knew each other. Hello, my name is Wick Templeton. I’m an Aries, I enjoy long walks over fiery sandlots with broken shells cutting into my feet and smelly water creeping up to me, also putting on false happy faces when stupid people do stupid things that others consider cute. And did you just call me a puss?”

“Um…no?

Good answer. That’s Banyu, Wick’s go to IT genius. Banyu is at it again,  assisting Wick on his investigations.  Banya is another wonderful character among the small group of characters you will meet in this series that orbit around our man Wick.  Another is, of course, Ned Harris., our local law enforcement enigma who is not only hot but hot on Wick’s trail once more.  But is it Wick or the case, Ned is interested in? Wicked Incarceration brings the hint of romance or perhaps lustmance more fully into the picture here.  It’s dangerous, and incredibly sexy.  Just like the men involved.

Havan Fellows seems to specialize in questions with these characters, another of the joys of this series. We are still not sure of anyones true identity. Banyu is only heard over an earpiece. Who is Ned Harris?  Who exactly is Wick Templeton? We are never quite sure, precariously balanced as Wick is between the law and the lawless.   The author  continues to keep us guessing even as we snicker and gasp at Wick’s escapades and intrigues.  And they are many.  We know he will pull the situation together and escape but how?  And  when will Ned pop up, to mess up Wick’s plan and confound us further?  One thing I am sure of. We get a terrific little mystery and a joyfully, deliciously wicked path to journey on before the story will end.

Fellows’ narrative is an absolute treat.  It flows swiftly, even lightly through the maze she has laid out for us and her characters. There is snark, witty lines and tons of trouble on every page.  It’s just so much fun!

One more story to go, and it’s the best yet. But I truly adored Wicked Incarceration, read it twice in fact. So need a new addiction?  Something to make your heart beat faster and your brain giggle?  Meet Wick Templeton and crew in the Wicked’s Way series.  Start with Wicked Solutions, then Wicked Bindings, and then Wicked Incarceration.  You will love each and every one.  They are short in length and large in character and feel.  And you won’t ever want to put them down.  As I said, one more to go and more promised from the author.  I can’t wait.  And neither will you.

Cover art by Laura Harner does an excellent job of branding the series.  I only wish she had used elements of the old Pulp Fiction books on it as well, that was a missed opportunity here.

Here is the series in the order they were written to date:

Wicked Solutions (Wicked’s Ways #01)
Wicked Bindings (Wicked’s Ways #02)|
Wicked Incarceration (Wicked’s Ways #03)
Wicked Guidance (Wicked’s Ways #04)

Dog Days of Summer and the Week Ahead in Reviews

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Canis Major Dog StarHere it is mid – August and the Dog Days of  Summer are almost over.  I know many of you have heard the term but do you really know where it came from?  I know that some of you are looking at your four pawed companions panting away the summer heat beside you, whether on shared walks or just sitting together in the backyard. One look at how the heat is affecting them, and I am sure you think “ah, dog days indeed.” But to understand where the term Dog Days of Summer, you must look to the sky.  The night sky that is and the Dog Star, Sirius, the brightest star above (no, we are not talking about the Sun right now).

Osiris

The Egyptians called Sirius the dog star after their god Osirus, whose head in pictograms resembled that of a dog.  In Egypt, and in ancient Rome, Sirius was in conjunction with the Sun in the summer (ie. it was up in the sky at the same time as the Sun) and ancient Egyptians and Romans argued that it was responsible for the summer heat by adding its heat to the heat from the Sun. Those in ancient times called the period of time from 20 days before to 20 days after the conjunction “the dog days of summer” because it coincidentally fell at the time of year when it was very hot.

The Dog Days of Summer start around July 7th ( I have also seen July 3rd at the start date as well) and runs until August 18th, normally the time in the Northern Hemisphere when it is the hottest.  It is the time we head for the beach, the air-conditioning, anywhere but the office.  It is also a great time to catch up on your reading and make headway on your “to be read” pile. Here are some books and one great series (Wicked’s Way by Haven Fellows) that you will want to add to the list.

Monday, Augusts 12, 2013:                   Nischal by Bailey Bradford

Tuesday, August 13, 2013:                     Wicked Incarceration by Haven Fellows

Wed., August 14, 2013:                           Wicked Guidance by Haven Fellows

Thursday, August 15, 2013                   Guest Blog by Haven Fellows

Friday, August 16, 2013                          Fall For Me by Ann Lister

Saturday, August 17, 2013:                   Home Sweet Home by TA Chase

Sirius

I will leave you all with two quotes about the dog days of summer.  Both perfection in tone and ability to paint a portrait of this time of year.

“Sophia and Grandmother sat down by the shore to discuss the matter further. It was a pretty day, and the sea was running a long, windless swell. It was on days just like this–dog days–that boats went sailing off all by themselves. Large, alien objects made their way in from sea, certain things sank and others rose, milk soured, and dragonflies danced in desperation. Lizards were not afraid. When the moon came up, red spiders mated on uninhabited skerries, where the rock became an unbroken carpet of tiny, ecstatic spiders.”
― Tove Jansson, The Summer Book

“The first week of August hangs at the very top of the summer, the top of the live-long year, like the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning. The weeks that come before are only a climb from balmy spring, and those that follow a drop to the chill of autumn, but the first week of August is motionless, and hot. It is curiously silent, too, with blank white dawns and glaring noons, and sunsets smeared with too much color. Often at night there is lightning, but it quivers all alone. There is no thunder, no relieving rain. These are strange and breathless days, the dog days, when people are led to do things they are sure to be sorry for after.”
― Natalie Babbitt, Tuck Everlasting

Review: Wicked Bindings (Wicked’s Way #02) by Havan Fellows

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Rating:  4.75 stars out 5

Series Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Wicked BindingsWick Templeton, private investigator and all around pain in the ass, receives an email on his private account that only his friends have.  The problem?  It’s not from any of his friends, but from that enigma from his last case, Ned Harris. There is a serial killer on the loose, murdering prostitutes and both men are out to stop him.  From Ned Harris’ point of view, it’s all about procedure and legality.  For Wick Templeton?  Not so much.  Wick has always done things his way and Ned is about to find that out.  As the two mens investigations intertwine, so does their interest in each other.  Wick and Ned are playing head games with each other as the killer taunts them from behind a maze of clues.

Who will find the killer first?  Or will the killer have the last laugh and turn the tables on Wick and Ned?

Wicked Bindings is the second installment in the Wicked’s Ways series, a series that just gets better by the book.  We pick up shortly after Wicked Solutions ends.  In that story, Ned and Wick part, each thinking they got their own way in the resolution of that case.  As Ned leaves Wick’s office, Wick tells Ned:

“You have no idea what I’m capable of, Ned. Don’t begin a game you can’t finish.”

With these men, a threat is as good as a flirty come on and neither man is very good at resisting either one or each other. This is how it all starts again in Wicked Bindings:

 Wick chuckled and turned back to his computer, tuning out his overnight guests’ babblings. He brought up his private email and his curiosity piqued once more; he didn’t recognize the sender. Since he didn’t use this email for anything except his closest friends, it never received any type of spam.

The subject line contained one three letter word: tag.

And with that one word, the game is on once more.   There is an investigation into the deaths of several prostitutes that pulls both men in and now they have a murderer to catch.  And there will be a clash or two as the sexual sparks fly and their methods of investigation collide on each side of the law.

Without consciously doing so, his hand moved the mouse and his finger depressed the left button when the pointer hovered over that small word.

“Want to come out and play with me again? If you are interested you’ll have to take a turn for the worse, but remain brave and don’t worry—I’ll protect you. Ned.”

So much attitude and characterization is packed into that piece of dialog.  Havan Fellows has created two wonderful characters in Wick Templeton and Ned Harris.  These men ooze vitality and sex appeal.  They are witty with a love a gamesmanship  that they deploy at every possible moment and the reader gets to come along and experience the fun and sometimes terror.

In each new book, the author uses the interpersonal interplay between Wick and Ned to reveal more of their characters and their history.  Of the two, Ned continues to remain more of an enigma.  Wick (and the reader) is not sure exactly what branch of the government  Ned works for, and Ned continues his own personal investigation into Wick’s past and circle of friends.  Through this approach, Fellows creates a level of tension between the men is not strictly sexual.  Is Ned trustworthy?  What is his real intensions towards Wick?  Friend or foe?  As their head games continue, the murder investigation adds another layer of tension and apprehension on top of the existing doubts about each other.  It’s a delicious feeling and the reader can’t help but smile while cringing in dread as the men close in on the killer.

Havan Fellows does a tremendous job of creating a scene that contains comedy and terror, both occurring at the same time.  It’s a wonderful ploy to keep the reader engaged at  several levels.  You are laughing even as you fear for the safety of two men you have come to love.  And yes, I loved every minute of it.   I admit it.  I am addicted to Wick and his Wicked Ways.  You will be too.

These are short stories, under 50 pages or so. And while these are quick reads, they all have the feel of a much longer story.   The end is wrapped up nicely while still leaving us with a clue to the continuing growth in the relationship between Ned and Wick.  The book did not leave me wanting, while the two men made me crave so much more.  Like a certain food item, you can’t have just one.  You want more, so much more.

Havan Fellows has promised that the mysteries will continue with more of Wick and Ned past these four books.  That’s a promise to cheer about. If you are new to the series, start with the first book, Wicked Solutions and work your way forward.

Here are the books so far in the Wicked’s Ways series.  Read them in the order they were written and released in order to understand the characters and the developing relationship:

Wicked Solutions (Wicked’s Way #01)

Wicked Bindings (Wicked’s Way #02)

Wicked Incarceration (Wicked’s Way #03)

Wicked  Guidance (Wicked’s Way #04)

Cover art by Laura Harner does a good job of branding the series while losing the opportunity to make a great pulp fiction cover.

Book Details:

ebook
Published March 17th 2013 by Pulp Friction
ISBN13 HFPF000001
edition language English
series Wicked’s Ways

Review: Wicked Solutions (Wicked’s Ways #1) by Havan Fellows

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Book Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5

Series Rating: 5  stars out of 5

Wicked Solutions coverWick Templeton is an ex cop, and a man with a plan.  Wick’s plan, as a private detective, is to take only the cases that interest him and only when he feels like making the effort. That’s what happens when an injury forces you to retire from the police force, you cop an attitude.  Although if anyone was asked, it was an attitude you always had.  When an ex boyfriend calls in need of his help, Wick decides a little wicked intervention is needed to protect the ex and solve the case.  What he doesn’t figure on is an enigma called Ned Harris.

Friend or foe? Criminal or cop?  Wick doesn’t know but he likes the way the man fills out his slacks.  But Ned the puzzle is going to have to wait because there is a crime to solve and Wick is the man to do it.

What a great story and a delicious new addiction! Havan Fellows has created an over the top private eye, Wick Templeton, in an action-packed adventure series guaranteed to bring a smile to your face as well as quite a few snorts as Wick moves through an investigation like a devil with guns, knives and sarcastic comments to spare.

In the first story of the series, Wicked Solutions, we are introduced to Wick Templeton, a man who lives his life on his own terms and no one else’s.  Here he is:

Wick Templeton had retired from the police force years ago when an injury to his left side kept a doctor from clearing him to do anything but paper pushing.

He wasn’t a paper pusher. He needed the action of the streets, his fingernails dirty to feel like he contributed. Otherwise he was mean as a bear, and not the type he preferred in his bed either.

So he made do with his own company, so he could do things his way and play by his rules. Technically he wasn’t a private investigator, though he did have his license, for legal purposes. No, he leaned more toward the title of problem solver, hence the name Wicked Solutions. Have a spouse cheating on you and require proof? Sure, he’d take the pics if his schedule permitted. Have an issue with an overly friendly person who pops up everywhere?

Wick would help out there also.

Here is a man in pure pulp fiction form and we love him for it.  Wick is smart, crafty, and dominant in every way.  Oh, and have I said sexy?  He is that too.  Wick has more layers to him than a puff pastry.  And it seems that the more Fellows reveals about him, the more we understand that what we are given is just the “tip of the iceberg” as far as his character goes.  And the mystery about Wick, and Ned, and all of the other people we meet is part of the delicious fun of this book and the series.

In each story, Wick is given a mystery to solve. In Wicked Solutions, it appears that an ex-boyfriend is being set up to take the fall for some illegal activities and needs Wick’s help to keep his job and prove his innocence.  While Wick is not eager at first to help, when he does agree, he will do so by all means, legal or not.  He has a small group of friends he trusts, including one who is an IT  wiz.  It’s such a giggle and a snort to watch as Wick goes about the business of offending and outsmarting all of those around him.  I just loved it.

Havan Fellows writing is so well done here.  The story flows smoothly, the dialog crisp and perfect for the characters, and the ending leaves one wanting more while still giving the mystery the resolution is deserves.  Just a great job all around.  There is an element of romance here but it builds slowly over the  next four books.  We see in this book only the interest between the men and the hint of what will follow.  It really works as a neat tease for the rest of the series.

At 43 pages, it is a quick read.  Far too short for my tastes because I just love this character.  But it works at 43 pages, a true complete story.  It also sets up the next book in the series, as does each book that follows.  I have to admit I read them all in one sitting, grabbing each up like a bonbon and devouring them.  You will want to as well.  But you must start with this one and get a feel for Wick and all the wonderful, snarky adventures to follow. I can’t recommend this character and this series highly enough.  You are going to love him too!

Wicked’s Ways series:

Wicked Solutions

Wicked Bindings

Wicked Incarceration

Wicked Guidance

Cover art by Laura Harner.  The design works to brand the series but I wish it had been a little more “pulp fiction” in design.

Book Details:

ebook, 43 pages
Published January 15th 2013 by Appleton Publishing Avenue
ISBN13 9781937252342
edition language English
series Wicked’s Ways

Review: Love On The East End by Lily Sawyer

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Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

Love on the East End  coverWhen restauranteur Gabriel Meyer needs several cases of wine for an event, William Thomas, owner of Rolling Hills Winery comes to his rescue with the necessary vintage and the offer of a date.  One magical date later leads to others with Gabriel and William find themselves falling hard for the other. One night, on their way home, the two men come across a young man desperate to end his life. Ben Stewart has been bullied over his sexuality until one incident at school pushed him over the edge.  William and Gabriel vow to help Ben and stop the bullying. But as Gabriel and William discover love on the east end of Long Island, a larger threat looms.  Hatred and bigotry personified visits the island and targets Ben.  Can the men rescue Ben and find the love they have always wanted with each other?

Love on The East End is an interesting romance with a lot of heart  but not the same amount of depth.  Lily Sawyer has created some lovely men for her story.  Both Gabriel Meyer and William Thomas have followed their dreams and chosen careers to Long Island where one has established a restaurant and the other a winery.  Both are well educated gay men, content in their lives and missing only love and romance.  They meet in a realistic fashion and fall in love.  It’s all very sweet, containing little drama or suspense.  We know how this is going to end from the moment they meet.  They go on walks and romantic getaways but it’s all sort of bland.  There is nothing about the descriptions or dialog to bring us intimately into their lives or spice up things and unfortunately, this includes the sex scenes.  True, Gabriel has an ex-wife, but she’s lovely and a friend to them both, which I have to admit is refreshing.  I liked her.

The only aspect of this story that brings an element of angst is the story of Ben Stewart, a young gay teenager being bullied to the point of suicide.  This was my favorite section of this book.  Ben is heartbreaking and realistically characterized.  I wish Sawyer would have concentrated more on Ben and the men’s relationship to him as friends and mentors.  It is also where I found my most frustrations.  The bullies hurting Ben are at school but Sawyer brings in an outside threat that takes away focus from the school and Ben’s problems there. Had the focus remained on Ben and the high school situation, so often in the news these days, then this story would have come across as more timely and relevant.  As it is, the attack that did occur struck me as less than realistic, considering the time and venue.  Still, Ben, Gabriel, William and Ben’s mother’s handling of the situation is well done and satisfying to the reader.

Love On the East End is a short story at 96 pages and a sweet one.  It is a quick read and a lovely way to spend the time.  I think you all would enjoy it

The cover for this book is gorgeous.  Absolutely one of my favorites but my copy of the book did not include the name of the cover artist who definitely deserves recognition for this lovely cover.

Book Details:

96 pages

ASIN
B0052UQ20K

Review: A Silence Kept by Theo Fenraven

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Rating: 4.25 stars

A Kept Silence coverWhen Mikal Gray discovers that his boyfriend is cheating on him, the results are devastating.  It costs Mikal not only the man he thought he loved, but his home and his job as he had worked as his partner’s business manager in their restaurant.  And it evens costs Mikal, their annual summer vacation spot on Fire Island.  Mikal can’t even begin to concieve of spending his month avoiding their mutual friends and watching or watching his ex hook up, so he decides to rent a house in the opposite direction.  Mikal figures this way he will have a home for the summer while he figures out what to do next.

His realtor tells him that the 1800’s farmstead on the Hudson would be the perfect place for him.  Quiet, charming, near the water, everything Mikal could want except for one little thing she must mention.  It is already occupied by a ghost. Not believing her, Mikal signs the papers and steps into a old tragedy that will cut close to his heart and a ghost who needs his help.  With his friend Alice, and a handsome ghost hunter named Seth, Mikal sets out to unravel the mystery of the weeping man of New Paltz.

A Silence Kept is a short  supernatural  mystery, only 80 pages, but it has the feel of a much longer story.  Theo Fenraven does a remarkable job of letting the reader step onto the farm and into the mystery along side  Mikal, our narrator.  This is such an intimate way to tell a story and when it is done well, as it is here,  it brings with it the closest connection a reader can feel with the main character.  Mikal is deeply hurt by his lover’s betrayal.  He had thought that they would make it last so everything he had was tied into the relationship and his partner.  They worked together at his boyfriend’s restaurant, Mikal as his business manager, they lived and vacationed as an established couple.  Now all of that is lost and Mikal is left to mourn and try to figure out how to move on.  I don’t know anyone who has not gone through this brutal event, it hurts and its devastating in that the loss goes beyond the death of love into other areas of the person’s life.  Fenraven gets that and puts all that pain and heartache into Mikal, but not without a dash of humor thrown in:

“But we were exclusive,” I shot back. “We were together three years, and you threw that away for some twink who can’t even make radish roses. Are you insane?”

“I’m in love with him,” he sniffed, running a hand through his close-cropped hair. “It happens.”

I stared at him, remembering how that gesture used to turn me on. I remembered a lot of things in that moment, and some of them were pretty good. Like the time he’d made me chicken soup when I’d been down for two days with a nasty cold. Or the time he’d bought expensive tickets to a concert I’d really wanted to see. The night he told me he loved me, and then went on to prove it three times. How he smelled right after a shower. How he smelled when he hadn’t had one in a few hours, which was even better.

We had history, damn it. We’d created a life together. For a moment—just a moment—I almost relented. The thought of starting all over again with someone new made me want to curl up in bed and sleep until the next millennium.

That sounds so real, including that bit about the radish rose, human and oh so authentic.  Mikal is a fully rounded human being, he sounds like one and acts that way too.  As do all the characters in this story, all alive and multilayered.  I loved one, each and every one.  And Fenraven’s gift of creating moving characters does not stop with the living, but extends to the dead and ghostly as well.

The painful backstory of the ghost is quite literally a haunting one.  It will hit close to home for Mikal and for the reader as well.  I love the supernatural touches  that Fenraven uses to introduce the ghost into the story, the blasts of cold air, and moving rocker, and more.  But those little chills are best left for the reader to discover on their own.

My only issue with this story is the resolution at the end.  At 80 pages, I felt it was a little rushed and wished for a longer ending.  But my quibble aside, I loved this story.  It intrigued me as the mystery was so well done and it left me satisfied at the end.  I wouldn’t mind seeing more stories of Seth and Mikal sometime in the future, they make a great pair.  I highly recommend this for all you lovers of romance and tales of the supernatural.  Within these pages, you will find both lovingly accomplished.

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 80 pages
Published February 28th 2013 by Voodoo Lily Press (first published September 12th 2011)
ASINB00BNWB6UC
edition languageEnglish
urlhttp://voodoolilypress.com/

Review: Velocity (Impulse #3) by Amelia C. Gormley

Standard

Rating: 4.25 stars

Detroit handyman Derrick Chance and his lover, Gavin Hayes’ relationship has come a long way since they first met but many obstacles loom on the horizon, each with the power to destroy what they have built and split them apart for good.  Gavin is still waiting for the results of his HIV test since he learned that his ex boyfriend may have given him the disease during one forced encounter between them.  Derrick is facing not only moving from the only home he has ever known but he has been outed to his local hockey team and someone is sending him threatening messages.

Already full of self doubt, Gavin’s insecurities bloom and his self worth plunges when his ex, Lukas, returns and wants to involve Gavin in his rehabilitation to Derrick’s consternation.  And the biggest issue?  Although Derrick has professed his love, Gavin has held back his declaration.  So many issues and the holidays are just around the corner.  Can Derrick and Gavin let go of their respective pasts and move forward into their future? Or will the past continue its hold and break them apart forever?

I am going to presume this is the last book in the Impulse series by Amelia C. Gormley and I think this is a wonderful way to see Derrick and Gavin out.  I did have a  few issues with this book but those will  be addressed last.  One constant in this series has been the wonderful characterizations the author brought to her stories.  From the moment we meet lonely Derrick Chance we realize that there is something very special about him.  Traumatic circumstances came together at a developmentally important stage of his young life that helped to isolate this man from the normal societal milestones.  Derrick was left to the care of aging grandparents who later passed away leaving him alone in their house, earning his living by repairing appliances as out of date as he is and doing minor house repairs for neighbors close by.  Here is a man caught in stasis and the author makes him not only relatable but endearing in his way.

Gavin is almost his opposite.  Experienced sexually and socially for all it did him, Gavin’s self image has been battered by an abusive ex to the point that he trusts no one, with the exception of one friend.  And for two books we have watched Gormley slowly bring these two men with their divergent backgrounds together in a way that has seemed not only realistic but true to the core of her characters personalities.  And while most of the battles fought were internal, the last book Acceleration ended with problems from the outside of the relationship starting to press in on the couple.

There are several main issues at work here and Gormley treats them all with sensitivity and compassion, from homophobia to conveying accurate knowledge and clinical histories of HIV and domestic violence .  First there is the problem of homophobia rearing its ugly head at Derrick’s local hockey team.  Now out to his teammates, someone within the team has been threatening Derrick, demanding he quit or suffer the consequences, following that up with destruction of personal property and more.  I loved the way the author dealt with this issue as she went in a direction different from most authors. Given that homosexuality and sports are in the headlines these days, the manner in which this was resolved felt authentic and timely.

Secondly, there is the subject of domestic violence and awareness of the victim mentality that those who have been subjected to DV carry within themselves.  This accounts for a larger portion of the story and again Gormley has done her homework, putting forth not only how domestic violence affects its victims but how it can manifest itself in their behavior and reactions to others.  Much of the information is imparted between conversations with Gavin and Hannah,a victim, as she relates her circumstances and following actions.  I applaud the author’s efforts to get this information accurate and out there but unfortunately, this element of the story came across as more of a information dump.   Also, Gavin’s interactions with his ex Lukas are drawn out too far.  He knows that Lukas is a liar and manipulator and yet he believes his story instead of Derrick’s?  While it might not be implausible (yes, we get it, Gavin has a DV victim mentality), as he reverses himself immediately it just doesn’t ring true with coupled with his other actions.

What does seem real and gritty and painful are the emotions that roll through Gavin with regard to his possible HIV status, his wavering about the test results, and his confusion about his future.  Gormley really seems to have a window into the thoughts processes of a person in this awful predicament and it comes across to the reader as painfully read in every aspect.  Then you hook DV with the possibility of HIV and have the same individual responsible and yes, there is a very good reason that Gavin is an emotional mess.

Another element that surprised me was the depths of pain and humiliation that Gavin requires to be sexually satisfied.  In one scene, Derrick supplies a huge amount of said bdsm elements to their sexual play without discussing it with Gavin first.  No setting of safe words or limitations, just moving right into the scene without too much preparation.  And this, I will admit, bothered me on a couple of levels.  At this point, Gavin has not trusted himself to tell Derrick he loves him or trusts Derrick to go with him to get his test results.  I had assumed, perhaps wrongly, that trust is a huge element in such sexual play and that if he did not trust Derrick in these other areas, than it must be lacking here too.  But after such thought and discussions, I can see Gavin separating his trust issues into compartments and that trusting Derrick sexually (and physically) was different from trusting him with his love and HIV status.  I just am not familiar enough with bdsm to be knowledgeable but it did bother me to a degree while I could still see why it was necessary to Gavin’s character.

There are some issues with editing, and I think that certainly some areas could have been streamlined and made more concise.  But in the end, Velocity is a wonder of a book and a marvelous way to complete Derrick and Gavin’s journey to a full partnership and loving relationship.  The ending was just perfection and it left me smiling long after I put down my Kindle. If this is your first time meeting Derrick and Gavin, go back to the beginning Inertia and see how it all began.  Then proceed immediately to Acceleration as their relationship and events  pick up speed and finally to Velocity where it all comes together with emotions on high.  I really cannot recommend this series enough.  Amelia C. Gormley is a amazing author and I cannot wait to see what she writes next.

Here are the books in the order they were written and should be read to understand the characters and their relationships:

Inertia (Implulse #1)

Acceleration (Impulse #2)

Velocity (Impulse #3)

Cover art by Kerry Chin.  I love these covers.  They are lush and different and just amazing.

Review: The Family: Liam by K. V. Taylor

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Rating: 5 stars

The Family Liam coverLiam Corchoran is not in a good place.  He is depressed and lonely, and older than most of the kids attending college for the first time.  A farm boy used to chores, family and friends, he is unprepared for the lifestyle around him and it doesn’t help that his college roommate is mostly absent, appearing occasionally in their shared room, only to disappear again shortly thereafter.  Liam falls easily into a circle of sex, alcohol, classes, drugs and depression, wondering why he feels so empty inside.

Gianni Fiorenza is Liam’s roommate.  He is also a century old vampire and a predator of the highest order.  The latest victim in his sights?  That would be Liam Corchoran, his roommate.  Something about that human intrigues Gianni which also pisses him off, so of course Liam has to pay. Soon, however, the game starts to turn into something more resembling friendship as Liam opens up to Gianni about literature, family and those things important to him.  But Gianni is a monster and he doesn’t do friendship, so even as things start to deepen even further, Gianni changes things permanently for Liam in a way that will reverberate through time.

These are not your sparkly, PG 13 vampires.  With Liam, the first book in The Family series by K. V. Taylor, we return to the vampires of true monster status, but with an updated twist.  I always have such high expectations of Taylor when it comes to her characterizations and here she exceeds them. And she has also done the same with her settings. This is not a universe of Rainbow Bright and Unicorns, but a much darker, malevolent place in which humans walk at their peril. I love how even a visit to a night club can turn from a simple night out into one of pain and horror in the hands of this talented author.

The characters of Liam and Gianni are wonderful dark creations, capable of quoting obscure literary passages, listening to everything from Verdi to rock, while expressing and feeling a range of emotions that sometimes has little to do with being human.  Gianni especially has that authentic feel of someone so removed from the human condition, elevated to true monster status that it is hard to connect with him as a character to begin with.  Instead, all feelings that Gianni will engender in the reader comes slowly, as he reveals more of himself to Liam over time, and the person he is  comes out in force, not just the predator but the man he once was.  Liam too is recognizably real and human.  Full of aspirations, binging on sex and alcohol to fill in those empty spaces within himself, we can understand him and the bleak place he is in. A place that Gianni manipulates beautifully for his own pleasure and hidden agenda. If this is a love story, it is not the one you are probably expecting.  It is a love story  certainly, but it’s participants are monsters and it follows that it’s their definition of love, not a human one.  That might be harder for some to accept.

Instead of humans being regarded as “love” interests or wonderful creatures, they are once more relegated to the status of food, so we understand immediately there must be something unusual about Liam to garner such interest from Gianni, the suave, arrogant vampire on the prowl.  But, like an onion, this story has so many layers, and they have to be peeled back before each new revelation can surface, bringing many tears to accompany a certain sweetness buried here as well.  There are some amazing side characters too that still stick with you, like Aldo and Madison and James, Liam’s brother.   But it is the haunting nature of human versus vampire and the question of what it is to really live and love that is addressed here, and it is done so in a manny you won’t soon forget.

Liam is only the beginning.  The rest of the series is listed in the order the author intends to write and release them.  I can’t wait to see what comes next in this remarkable series.   K.V. Taylor has created a website just for this series.  You can find it here. Follow my links and pick this right up from Belfire Press and Smashwords.   If you order by Feb. 21 (tomorrow) use this code for 20 percent off at Amazon and Smashwords (use code KC42D for 20% off through Feb 21). Kobo, Apple, Sony, B&N, and Diesel will be available in a few weeks.

The Family Series:

1. Liam (sort of romancey) released Valentine’s Day 2013
2. James (sort of action/adventurey)
3. Madison (sort of self-discovery)
4. Aldo (decidedly dark fantasy/horror)
5. Gianni

The Family: Liam by K. V. Taylor

Published by Bellfire Press, 260 pages

Cover Art & Design © 2013 Courtney Bernard http://www.cbernieillo.com/

Family Crest Art © 2013 Tricia Lewis

As with all her novels, here is the soundtrack to go along with the story:

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club – “American X”
Rolling Stones – “Bitch”
Oasis – “Hello”
Arctic Monkeys – “Dance Little Liar”
Muse – “Hysteria”
Stereophonics – “I’m Alright (You Gotta Go There to Come Back”)
Pulp – “Common People”
Avett Brothers – “Ill With Want”
The Radio Dept. – “Keen on Boys”
The Verve – “Lucky Man”
Franz Ferdinand – “I’m Your Villain”
The Perishers – “Nothing Like You and I”
Flogging Molly – “Selfish Man”
James Taylor – “Sweet Baby James”
Kaiser Chiefs – “What Did I Ever Give You?”

And of course…

Ludwig van Beethoven – Sonata No 8 in C minor op 13 ‘Pathetique’
Franz Liszt – Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2, Lento a capricccio

Review of Acceleration (Impulse #2) by Amelia C. Gormley

Standard

Rating: 5 stars

Acceleration book coverQuiet, down-to-earth Detroit handyman Derrick Chance is still adjusting to the fact that he has a boyfriend.  Gavin Hayes is a wonder to him.  Gavin is gorgeous, loving, outgoing with tons of friends and a job he loves.  True, Gavin comes with an ex-boyfriend with a hideous outlook on AIDS/HIV who not only raped Gavin but maybe even gave him the AIDS virus too. Derrick tries not to dwell on this side of his new lover but inside him a small voice reminds him that everyone leaves Derrick and Gavin will too if his tests turn out to be positive.  Not a good thing to hide from his lover.

Gavin is a wonderful and inventive lover.  Derrick appreciates that because as a virginal 30 year old, he had no frame of reference to work with.  But Gavin is happy to teach him things about himself through sex and their sex life couldn’t be better.  Now if only Gavin and Derrick could say the same about the other areas of their burgeoning relationship.  A life of caring for his ailing grandparents has left Derrick almost completely nonverbal.  He has no idea how to share his inner thoughts and parts of himself with Gavin and Gavin is getting increasingly frustrated with him.  Gavin has shared everything about himself with Derrick and expects Derrick to do the same, to Derrick’s consternation and horror.

After his last partner, Gavin never again wants to have a partner who won’t share everything about himself with Gavin.  Gavin needs someone who will be open about himself and there for Gavin when he needs them. And Gavin thought that Derrick was that man but he can’t seem to get Derrick to open up and share himself with Gavin, no matter what  Gavin has tried.  Derrick has had so little control in his life, that when his grandparents died and he regained his life and life choices, he finds himself unable to give that control up to anyone, except maybe in bed.  But the thought of letting Gavin into his life, into areas where he is vulnerable, areas he has kept sealed off, well Derrick is not sure if he even wants to try.  To keep their relationship accelerating and their newfound love alive, can Gavin and Derrick adjust enough,compromise enough to be  the man each other wants and needs.

I had wondered how Amelia C. Gormley was going to follow up her wonderful first novel, Inertia (Impulse #1).  If her characters would continue to keep me absorbed in their story and the momentum that was building to a meaningful relationship.  Well, I shouldn’t have worried, Acceleration (Impulse #2) is a wonder of a novel all on its own and an marvelous sequel to a book I loved.

Gormley has given us two magnetic and endearing characters as the foundations to her stories.  Derrick Chance is especially captivating.  He has so many unexpected facets to his personality that it just amazes me as each new one is revealed.  Here is a man arrested emotionally and socially at an early age.  Through the deaths of every important person to him, his parents, his maternal grandmother and grandfather, then his only brother and finally his other grandparents, from the youngest age he has submerged his wants, his very socialization to care for his family, spending much of his adolescence and teenage years in hospitals and then through sleepless nights at home.  And finally at the age of 30, he starts to look outward from his isolated life in his grandparents house and finds Gavin.  Oh my, what an incredible journey Gormley has set Derrick and the reader on….no less than the blooming inner and outer life of a closed off individual.  Then she partners him off with Gavin Hayes, a man equally complex who carries with him a backstory of pain, abuse, and insecurity.

Gavin is a sexually aggressive man who has been made to feel embarrassed and ashamed about his need for a little pain and roughness in his lovemaking.  When Derrick and Gavin come together sexually for the first time, it is a restrained affair.  Derrick is a virgin and awkward in his lack of knowledge.  Gavin is possibly HIV positive, he is awaiting his results of his test.  The virus would have been transmitted by his exboyfriend on purpose, a fact that devastated Gavin and left him reeling emotionally. So you can well imagine what a tentative affair that should have been, but like everything  else in these books what came next surprised, delighted, was incredibly hot and demonstrated how the author intended to go about her compelling tale of love and growth.

Acceleration sees an “quickening” to their sexual life and what a life that is turning out to be.  Gavin and Derrick are venturing into bdsm and adding  pain to the mixture of dominance and submission. As a reader, let me say that this is not something I normally would read, nor am I knowledgeable about the lifestyle but Gormley makes their forays into bdsm completely understandable, especially given their  personalities and background. If this makes you uncomfortable, let me say that it is related in a way that not only makes sense for the characters and fits in easily with their story, which is the relationship growing between these two remarkable men. Don’t let that keep you away from this marvelous series.

Do not expect caterwauling angst or scenes of high drama, that would be out of character for both Gavin and Derrick.  No, what we are given is a realistic look at the bonds and relationship dynamics of two very different men who have fallen in love.  It is clear that love is not going to be enough to make this partnership succeed, the men have been through too much for that to happen and feel authentic.  Instead we get the normal fights any couple gets into, over communication issues, and how to meld friends and lives.  All wonderfully normal and yet in Gormley’s hands, still very exciting, full of doubts and anxiety of their future together.

As the title  states, here we have the relationship as it accelerates into  unknown waters of commitment and long term planning.  Gavin’s boyfriend returns briefly in this book, in a funny episode that shows how deep are the still waters that exist within our wonderful Derrick.  How I loved that scene.  There are so many more great scenes I could relate but I feel that would take the joy of discovery away from the reader, and this is so good, I cannot bear to have that happen.  Gormley gets it all right in her Impulse series, from the characterizations to the unique “voices” she has created for two men that capture our hearts and imaginations.  When Acceleration ended, all I could think of what, “ok, what happens next?”.  I want to know where our guys go from here?  At the end of this book, they have made a commitment to a major change in their lives but there are some powerful elements stirring, one especially is fraught with danger for Derrick, who in his complete innocence, doesn’t begin to understand the hate behind homophobia.

S o run, don’t walk to the computer and grab up this eBook for yourself.  If you are new to this trilogy, go to the beginning and start with Inertia (Impluse #1) and then move on to this one.  This series is one of my best for 2012 and the author quickly adding herself to my must buy list. You won’t be sorry, I promise you.

Love this cover by Kerry Chin. Dramatic,  erotic, just perfect.

This is the Impulse trilogy in the order they were written and should be read to understand the characters and the events within:

Inertia (Impulse #1) read my review here.

Acceleration (Impulse #2)