Review: Damned If You Do: The Complete Collection by J.L. Merrow

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Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5

Damned If You Do collectionWhat does a male succubus (yes, you read that right, a male succubus) do when he is set free on Earth by an accidental summoning? Why, go looking for his next delightful meal and loads of hot, sexy fun of course.  That is exactly what Rael does after being set free.  But there is another succubus in town, one that is killing the people it is feeding upon, not just enjoying them and leaving them happy.  On the trail of the succubus killer is Detective Lars Thornsson of the Paranormal Enforcement Agency. Lars is half human half Valkyrie and all around gorgeous gay male.  When Det. Thornsson and his hard as nails partner, Chelle Rochelle,  show up at the nightclub looking for the killer show up at the nightclub looking for the killer, Lars has all the club boys drooling. This fact not lost on Rael who decides the detective is just the man for him. Then Lars and Chelle  find Rael instead of the true killer and take him in to headquarters for questioning.  Almost immediately lust and mutual attraction sets in and when the killer sets her sights on Lars, there is nothing Rael will do to keep his man  safe and at his side forever.

The Damned If You Do collection includes all four of the Rael and Lars stories that chart their relationship from beginning to HEA, which is saying a lot when you consider one is a sexy male succubus and the other a half Valkyrie half human. .Listed below is each story and a mini review of each wild zany romp:

Damned If You Do: The Complete Collection is composed of the following four stories which were all initially released separately:

A Calling for Pleasure cover1.  A Calling For Pleasure: The first in the Rael and Lars series.  We see how Rael makes it into our universe, his immediatel impact on Lars and his investigation as well as the start of their relationship.  Wild, wacky, and great fun.  Rael is a charming, sexy and endearing character as his beloved Lars.  Lars is huge and hugely vulnerable, with a sarcastic hard as nails partner  Chelle Rochelle and a wise and wry Police Captain, perfect for keeping within the stated genre and having fun with it.

At 25 pages, it is the shortest story and it shows in the lack of depth in the characterizations and plot.  Its cute, funny and fast.  Really, it just sets the stage for the longer and more involved stories to come and that’s fine when it is in a collection.  You can move on and still be satisfied that you read the first in the series.  It also has my least favorite cover as Rael is described as lithe, gliding and sex on two legs.  That model is just too muscular to be Rael.

Rating: 3.75 stars

Blast From the Past Rael and Lars22. A Blast From The Past: Lars and Rael are living together much to the chagrin of his cop partner, Chelle Rochelle.  Lars continued involvement with Rael is also kept hidden from his captain and coworkers.  Both Lars and Rael are afraid that Rael will be banished back into Hell, something Lars and his squad do with regularity to supernatural offenders.  But this is Rael and trouble is his middle name.  So of course, Rael’s ex boyfriend, Lev, enters the picture, determined to get him back, no matter the cost.  At the same time, someone demonic is setting fires all over the city and its up to Lars and Chelle to find the perpetrator and send him home.

This is such a cute story.  Its short at 68 pages but is still longer than the first story. The plot is more involved, the action swift, and the resolution perfect for the story setting and characters.  Everybody here is over the top in characterization, almost into the parady column but somehow is all works together.  I especially appreciate that with each new investigation, the characters increase in complexity along with the case the book revolves around.  Merrow gives us more back history for each person as the story progresses.  And as we learn additional facts about them, the more fully realized each character becomes.  Also each story also sets the framework for the next in the series.  Great job, and great little story.

Rating: 4 stars

3. A  Wish Too Far Lars and Rael 3A Wish Too Far:  Someone is peddling little pink pills out on the streets.  Those pills, called Wishes, are exactly what the Chinese philosopher has in mind when he said “Be careful what you wish for” because the wish always comes with a painful twist.  Det. Lars Thornsson and his partner Chelle Rochelle of the Paranormal Enforcement Agency  need to find the pill pusher and fast before someone is seriously injured. Rael thinks he knows the drug dealer but why would his cross dressing childhood friend do something like this?  Lars and Chelle’s case goes off the tracks quickly when Rael gets involved but the outcome will shock everyone in the case.

This 73 page story has a little more depth and pathos to it.  The cross dressing being, Shax, is a more vulnerable character with a darker past then we have seen in the previous stories.  The author manages to bring a more fully realized character into the fold while still keeping the humor intact.  Again the story is fast paced, the action and plot threads twisting around  faster than you can shake a canister of salt at it, and the ending is one I didn’t see coming.  My  second favorite story of the group.

Rating 4.25 stars.

Damned If you Do Glutton for Punishment4. A Glutton For Punishment: Once again Rael is the center of attention and it gets him nothing but trouble.  Rael and Lars relationship remains in the closet.  Unhappy with hiding, Rael takes to cooking for his man and is soon discovered as Rael’s talent for gourmet cooking lands him a job on the popular show Devon’s Plate as a guest chef.  But when the show’s host, Devon LaGrande goes missing, all suspicions land on Rael as the cause. With Rael being the center (again) of one of Lars’ investigation, Rael has to move out of their apartment and pretend to be his coworker’s partner, much to his and Lars chagrin.  Then Rael starts to receive threatening letters and the search is on to find the person responsible before Rael disappears too.

At 136 pages, this is the longest and most complicated story of the group.  There are several plot threads being juggled here, and the author does a great job of keeping us involved and in the loop, no matter how crazy a direction the story takes, and it takes quite a few.  Rael has become more than a sexy caricature of a succubus by this time and the reader is more invested in his and Lars future.  Lars and Chelle also have more dimension to them and as the story brings all the threads together in a happy ending, the reader leaves more than satisfied that Rael and Lars have a wonderful future ahead of them.  My  favorite story of the group.

Rating: 5 stars

I think this group of stories works best as a  collection than as separate books.  Had I purchased them separately and read them that way the individual story ratings might have been lower.  But because I was able to read them one after the other, the plots and increasing character depth flowed smoothly together and made for a very satisfactory read.  This is not a collection to be taken seriously.  It is to be enjoyed as the lighthearted fun romp that it is and who doesn’t need one or four of those?

I love J.L. Merrow as an author.  She has the ability to write this lighthearted romp and then pull us into the darker stories like her wonderful Pricks and Pragmatism without so much as a blink of an eye or should that be flick of a key?  If you are a first time Merrow reader, enjoy this paranormal series for the fun it represents and then start in with her other stories, perhaps Trick of Time, another favorite of mine.  I am sure you will be adding this author to your must read list shortly thereafter.  She is definitely one of mine.

Book details:

Ebook, Paperback, 280 pages
Expected publication: June 24th 2013 by Riptide Publishing
ISBN 1626490236 (ISBN13: 9781626490239)
urlhttp://www.riptidepublishing.com/titles/collections/damned-if-you-do-complete-collection
series

Author Spotlight – Sarah Black

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This was first published spring 2012 and since then my admiration for Sarah Black as a writer has grown stronger.  Her characterizations are multidimensional and come fully alive before your eyes, complete with a authentic back story and dialog that fits in their mouths like water in a river.  It flows and carries with it the regional characters that the earth has endowed it with.  As I said, I can always pick out a Sarah Black character or dialog.

Tomorrow The General and the Horse-Lord will be released by Dreamspinner Press and Sarah Black will be here with a guest post to mark the occasion.  Scattered Thoughts will mark the occasion too by giving away a copy of this book, courtesy of Dreamspinner Press to the lucky person chosen at the end of the day from those who comment on her guest blog.  It’s a fascinating look at one manner in which the author gets to know her characters, don’t miss it.

My review will be posted on Tuesday, but really I will say it right now.  I loved this story and you will too.GeneralandtheHorse-Lord[The]

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May 12, 2012

Today I thought I would start a new feature called Author Spotlight, highlighting authors who books I love and often recommend. Today the spotlight falls on Sarah Black. Just her name on a cover is enough for me to buy it,  She has over 42 books to her name.  I aim to read them all. My hope is that this will get you to pick one up as well.

Here is her bio from her website Sarah Black Writes:

“Sarah Black is a fiction writer living in beautiful Boise, Idaho, the jewel of the American West. Sarah is a family nurse practitioner and works in a medical clinic that takes care of homeless folks (they have lots of great stories). Raised a Navy brat, she’s lived all over the country. She and her son James recently moved to Boise from the Navajo reservation in Arizona. When she isn’t writing, she’s doing something with wool. She learned weaving out on the reservation and now has her eye on an antique circular sock knitting machine.”

The author’s love and knowledge of her subjects permeates each story she writes.  Whether they feature a former Navajo Marine heading into the  desert or a wildlife photographer capturing the photo of the year in a river in Alaska, the authenticity her background brings to each story is unquestionable and the realistic characterizations and locations is never in doubt.  I could pick up one of her stories and know it is hers without ever glancing at the cover, her voice is that unique.

Sarah Black’s stories have often informed and educated me.  In Anagama Fires I learned just enough about raku pottery and the intricacies of glazes to fire my own curiousity, sending me off into the realms of research and adult education classes on pottery nearby.  As a former Park Naturalist I am familiar with wildlife photography, yet she made it fresh once more with Sockeye Love, especially in the scene captured in the title.  It had me laughing in joy and the delights that nature continues to surprise me with. The author’s own military background as well as her family’s shines forth in her characters with their own Marine backstories. In Border Roads 4 members from a platoon return home from Iraq and try to reintegrate in the society they left behind. These veterans are scarred physically and emotionally, holding onto the brotherhood formed in war to help see them through the trenches and ambushes of life back at home.  One character is so physically disfigured he hides behind a kerchief, ashamed of how he looks and feeds. Black’s background as a clinic nurse brings this character close to our heart, helps us understand some of the mental and physical challenges he is going through, gives us a man in pain, instead of a victim. I always thought it was a shame this book was narrowed down to m/m fiction as that covered only two of the men from the platoon, the other two were heterosexual.  I think it is possible that the inclusion of m/f content hurt this book and caused it to have a lower following than her other books.  Either way, this is an incredible book of injured veterans returning home, an issue that will be with us for some time to come. A hard, painful must read.

The only time Sarah Black has lost me so far is in Slackline.  Slacklining is a practice in which a 1 inch nylon rope is strung between two anchor points.  The rope is not tightly strung as in tightroping but looser so it has a degree of  play so the rope becomes dynamic (in some cases stretching and bouncing to allow stunts and tricks).  In other words, slack not tight.  The main character injures himself when attempting to cross the sea of Hoy off the coast of the Orkney Islands in Scotland on a slackline.  He was by himself, no backup, no one knew he was there, he was trespassing and didn’t take into account the high winds off the sea and up the cliffs.  I started off thinking what an idiot and unfortunately that impression never left me.  I will give Sarah Black credit in that the character knew he was flouting slackling rules as well as the local laws, but such stupendous stupidity (especially as a Park Naturalist who has seen people do incredibly insane things in nature) left me with no connection to this character and therefore to the story.  But one out of all I have read?  I would love to have those odds at the track.

And finally when Sarah Black gives you a character that combines her love of the Navajo people and the military, then you have characters that will stay with you long after the book has ended.  Lorenzo Maryboy, Navajo, former Marine and cartoonist (Marathon Cowboys) or Code Talker Logan Kee of Murder at Black Dog Springs still linger on, in my heart and thoughts. Give them a chance to introduce themselves to you.  I know you will love them.  I know you will love Sarah Black.

You can find her at her website: Sarah Black Writes   She has free reads there for the taking.

She also has stories at Goodreads M/M Romance Group. Find it here!

Marathon Cowboys

The Legend of the Apache Kid

Gregory’s Ghost

Review of Life as a Fairy Thrall by Katey Hawthorne

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Rating:       4.25 stars

Tammas and Aeron have just gotten over one shock to their relationship when two more happen right in a row.  Emry is successful in his work on their bond and Kamala appears on their doorstep with a problem and her nephew, Firez, in tow.  Firez is an old schoolmate of Tammas’ and his sister has been kidnapped by a fae.  He has come to ask for their help in rescuing her, knowing it will take all the magic and the assistance of one of the fae to get her back.  Firez is not totally welcome in their home.  He is a part of those who hurt and bullied Tammas in school. Aeron demands payment for their help and Firez must enter into a Fairy  compact if he wants their help.

Kidnapping humans to keep as thralls is illegal. Only those humans who go willingly may become thrall but kidnapping the unwary is occuring in the Fairy Court.  But Tammas and Aeron know that if they can get her back, the chances of the fairies coming after her again are nil.  So with the help of Aeron’s sister, Awela, Kamala, Tammas, Aeron, Awela, and Firez head out to the portal into the Fairy Realm.  The plan is for Kamala to watch the portal until they are safely back while Aeron and Awela travel to the  Court with Tammas and Firez disguised as their human thralls.

Once at Court, their plans become even more complicated, as the Lady holding the girl wants more humans to take her place.  With danger all around them and the eyes of the Fae upon them, Tammas and Firez must act the part of human thralls right down to the collars they wear.  The girl is there but unaware of who they are.  All must tread delicately or the ones to pay the price will be Tammas and Firez with the cost of their freedom.

Life as a Fairy Thrall is the second story in the Fairy Compact trilogy by Katey Hawthorne.  The first story, The Dangers of a Fairy Compact relates the first meeting of Tam and Aeron,  although they have been connected by a fairy compact all Tam’s life.  Without giving too much away of the plot of that story, it  goes without saying that Fairy compacts always come with a price to be paid, ones that will resonate through the years and even alternate worlds. The trilogy is the story of Tammas and Aeron’s entwined lives and the relationship that comes out of a compact neither made of their own volition.  These are not your Disneyfied fairies but the fae of old Gaelic myths and lore.  Capable of great cruelty as as great good, their moods interchangeable and indeterminable.  They cannot be held to human standards something humans often forget.  Katey Hawthorne gives us the Fae made real, from their diaphanous wings and unworldly beauty to the power and magic that swirls around them like an aromatic.

It is through the author’s vivid descriptions and wonderful characterizations that Tammas’ world comes across as realistic as the neighborhood  I  live in.  I can see the small cottage with its gardens and trees surrounding it, but more importantly I can feel it as the story is as tactile as moss on a stone.  The magic here engages all the senses, it is smelled, and stroked.  It is the burbling of a stream and the mist of the woods and that gives these stories a wonderful depth and realism, both needed when the reader needs to believe in the world and characters before her. This tactile nature of these stories carries just as vividly into the sex scenes.  Who knew that winged sex could be so hot?  Indeed it is so be prepared when  entering Hawthorne’s fairy world or her human world either. At the end of the story we are left with Tam and Aeron’s relationship facing yet another hurdle, with another major decision to be made.  It will be a hard one, full of angst as well as love.  I can’t wait to see how the trilogy finishes up.

I love stories of the Fae and have since I was a child.  Tinker-belle never interested me but the Fair Folk of Irish lore fascinated me as much as they had the ability to terrify me.  Katey Hawthorne is giving us a wonderful trilogy in this same tradition.  Start with the first one.  It can be downloaded for free from either Katey Hawthorne’s website, visit http://www.kateyhawthorne.com/p/fairy-compacts.html.  Or visit All Romance Publishers and download it free  from there.  I think you will love the stories as much as I do plus the illustrations by Ruxandra Lache are not to be missed.

The Dangers of a Fairy Compact (Fairy Compact #1)

Life as a Fairy Thrall (Fairy Compact #2)

Review of Synchronous Seductions Trilogy by Havan Fellows

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Rating: 4.25 points for each book and the series overall

Synchronous Seductions is a trilogy of stories about three men,their group of friends and co workers.  In the first story, Harlan’s Ryde, one man wants desperately to regain the lover he cast away years ago. The second, Emery’s Ritches,  one man finds his love staring back from a photograph on a co workers mantel, and finally in Geoff’s Teddy, just when the one man has given up his dream of finding the perfect bear to love,it  he finds him, supposedly straight and working for his boss’s boyfriend.

Harlan’s Ryde Synchronous Seductions #1) found in Word Play anthology:  Seven years ago, Ryder Holloway walked away from Harlan Mychals, making the most momentus mistake of his life.  He told Harlan he didn’t love him, that he cheated on him and with that threw away the only man he would ever love, threw away college, dumped his life in the garbage and left town.  Now he is back, pulled his life together, and wants Harlan back too. Harlan has never recovered from his devastating break with Ryder and doesn’t trust that Ryder has changed.

Ryder does everything he can to get Harlan to see him, listen to him, including breaking into his house to leave messages. When Harlan accidentally puts Ryder into the hospital, can Ryder’s convalesce  and his nursing skills give them both their chance at true love.

This short story has it all.  Lovers reunited after a long time apart, intense characters and marvelous dialog.  In the beginning I wanted to swat Ryder with a noodle but as the layers to his character start to peel away, you see the insecurities, and poor self image that set him on a destructive path to begin with and you start to root for him instead.  I loved these characters and wanted them to find their HEA as they so readily deserved it.  So I was thrilled to find that I would see both of them again as the series continued with the great secondary characters introduced here.

Emery’s Ritchies (Synchronous Seductions #2): Ritchie Lymings has just finished dropping off his best friend and secret love interest, Harlan Mychals at Ryder Halloway’s house. Harlan and Ryder have reunited after 7 years of misunderstandings and pride kept them separated.  Ritchie also tried to keep Harlan from letting Ryder back into his life but love with a capital L brought them back together and now Ritchie is wallowing in a world of self pity, made worse by the fact that he never liked Ryder to begin with.

As he mopes into his coffee at a nearby shop, a stranger barges into his pity party and asks to sit at his table offering to make him smile. Ritchie is unaware that the stranger is in fact Emery Hawkins, Ryder’s boss and friend.  Emery has listened to Ryder talk about Harlan and his best friend Ritchie for five years, so much so that Emery has become intrigued by the man Ryder refers to as “the infuriating twit”. Then Emery saw a photograph of Harland and his best friend on Harland’s mantel and he couldn’t stop thinking about the man in the picture. Now  coincidence has  brought Ritchie to him and Emery has never been one to let an opportunity go by to get what he wants.

Again Havan Fellows gives us a wonderful story with a heart of snark!  That would be Ritchie Lymings, snappy dresser, sarcastic manner and a loyal friend. Fellows’ characters are a simpatico bunch, fully realized and totally human.  We first met Ritchie as Harlan’s best friend who saw him through the worst time of his life and we agreed for a while with his viewpoint of Ryder as human pest.  But now we see that Ritchie also loved Harlan and did what was best for his friendship.  All Ritchie’s redeeming features are hidden under a caustic veneer but upon meeting Emery, Ritchie has more than met his match.  For every wall put up by Ritchie and sneering comment he makes, Emery comes back with a plan to break down the wall and has the last word in their arguments until Ritchie finds himself succumbing to Emery’s seductions.  It is such fun to watch the  courting of Ritchie as Emery finds he too must make some adjustments in order for their relationship to succeed.

A real relationship is a juggling act between two people and their baggage.  In this case, the men are constantly reminded of their past because of their close circle of friends, includes some of that “baggage”.  Havan Fellows understands relationship issues and the sometimes painful journey you must take in order to have a successful one.  We watch Ritchie and Emery  do the relationship dance.  Two steps forward and one step back.  Throw in some hot sex, a little frustration, wonderful dialog, and great characters and you will find yourself nodding and thinking “yep, that’s about right,” and then start laughing.

A lighthearted, fun romp that also introduces us to Geoff, Ryder’s smart, small assistant with an attitude much larger than his stature. Geoff is looking for love and finds it in the final book of the trilogy, Geoff’s Teddy.

Geoff’s Teddy (Synchronous Seductions #3): When Geoff’s boss,Ritchie, makes up a false dinner meeting to get out of a date with Emery, Ritchies makes Geoff come out with him for appearances sake.  But Emery has Ritchies number, and Geoff’s too when he “accidentally” stops in at the same restaurant, his employee in tow.   Emery has brought along Teddy “Fuzzy” Beough,  pronouced “boo”, to take Geoff home when Emery wisks Ritchie away for the night. But that is fine with Geoff because  Teddy is everything Geoff has always wanted.  Teddy is hairy, huge, in fact he is a downright gorgeous bear whose nickname just happens to be Fuzzy Wuzzy to Geoff’s unholy delight. He has a sense of humor about himself and they ended up talking for hours. Too bad Teddy says he’s straight.

The lightest, guffaw inducing story of the trio, you can tell Havan Fellows was laughing the entire time it was being written.  From the twists and turns of Teddy’s name (I will not spoil the entire beauty that is his full name for you), to his introduction to gay sex and Geoff’s meeting with Fuzzy’s parents, it’s one laugh after another.  Don’t look for angst here, there is a brief whiff and its gone.  Fuzzy thinks he is gay because he chose the path of least resistance, at least for him.  Girls were ok, he just can’t sustain a sexual, romantic relationship with one.   And then he happens upon cable at Geoff’s apartment and much, much more to complete his epiphany.  I don’t think that makes Teddy/Fuzzy gay for you, perhaps bisexual at least.  Teddy is simply Teddy, a very accepting, non judgmental person open to all possibilities, including the fact that he might be gay. Geoff is more than happy to demonstrate the ABC’s of Gay Sex or as he calls it Gay Sex for Dummies.  Everyone should have such a teacher.

Whatever you wish to name it, it is happy, it is fun and it leads to much more.  This story is just a delight.  Wonderful, fully layered characters having a great time in a fun romp on their way to true love. In fact, the entire series is like this.  Don’t miss it.  Everyone needs a good, heartwarming laugh.  Here are three.

Cover Artist: Victoria Miller

While it is helpful to read these stories in the order they were written, it is not necessary in order to understand and enjoy the books.

The Series Order is:

Harlan’s Ryde  (Synchronous Seductions Series #1) – found in the Story Orgy anthology Word Play

Emery’s Riches (Synchronous Seductions Series #2)

Geoff’s Teddy (Synchronous Seductions Series #3) available July 20, 2012 from Breathless Press.

Olympics Addiction Continues, the week ahead in Reviews and a new Summer Cocktail

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It’s August, it’s hot and dry here in Maryland.  Normal right?  Well, except for the 100 degree days, but the dryness?  That’s becoming typical too.  We are down about 8 inches here from our normal rainfall, but compared to some of the other states now experiencing record drought conditions, that is nothing.  As we hear of farmers and ranchers selling off stock they can’t feed and the Mississippi is down 20 ft in places,  along with Lake Michigan recording a water temperature in the 90’s,  I think Maryland is getting off easy comparatively speaking.  But we will feel it, make no doubt about it.  Higher food prices, higher costs in transportation, we are all woven together.  A small ripple here becomes a tidal wave there.

So I would like to think that the Olympics in Great Britain are generating tidal waves of good feelings that are crashing upon the shores of many nations.  I love watching athletes from all over the world competing and (mostly, what was with those badminton teams?) giving it their best.  Did you see that rower from Niger?  Never been in a boat, never rowed  before, came in dead last and grinned like crazy! And then there is Michael Phelps putting on a show of remarkable  physical ability, great team spirit and a happiness that I will remember for some time to come.  So many wonderful moments this week from the women competing whether it was gymnastics, swimming, Judo, weightlifting, or women in head scarves running like the wind.  I am just glued to my set and don’t see that changing until the very last whistle is blown and the torch goes out.  How about you?  Are you watching?

So this is what I have been reading in between watching the Olympics:

Monday:                       The Druid Stone by Heidi Belleau and Violetta Vane

Tuesday:                        When Forever May Not Be Long Enough by Mychael Black and Shayne Carmichael

Wednesday:                  The Florist by Serena Yates

Thursday:                       Priceless by M.A. Church

Friday:                            Suicide Point by Georgie Leigh

Saturday:                        Brook Street: Thief by Ava March

Now on to this Sunday’s Feature Cocktail.  In a nod to the British Olympics, here is the recipe for a Pimm’s Cup.  This recipe is  for one drink. Make as many as you like!

 

 

 

 

 

Pimm’s Cup Ingredients:

About 1 cup ice cubes
1/4 cup (2 ounces) Pimm’s No. 1
6 tablespoons (3 ounces) ginger beer or ginger ale
1 cucumber slice
1 sprig fresh mint (5 to 6 leaves)
Directions:

Fill highball glass with ice. Add Pimm’s, then top with ginger beer, garnish with cucumber slice and mint sprig, and serve.

Now I am off to watch the Olympics and finish Megan Derr’s Poison, the 4th book in the Lost Gods series.

Don’t Judge A Book… by Scarlet Blackwell

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101 pages

Rating: 3.75 stars

Rhys is a librarian in the small town of Hawks Reach.  Surrounded by the books he loves with a passion, real life rarely intrudes into the musty book shelves that are his life.  Somewhat priggish, Rhys is disconcerted to find that he is expected to supervise a young man with community service hours to fill. Dismay turns to distain when he meets Darren, a young car thief sentenced to work at the library for 100 hours.

Darren is a young man in with a rough crowd and no real family to fall back on.  With Rhys’ harsh judgements of him constantly ringing in his ears, it is inevitable that the two men clash brought on by mutual misconceptions. And then there is also Darren’s confusion over his own sexuality and attraction towards someone who finds him beneath contempt.  When Rhys is attacked by Darren’s gang, events come together to make both men challenge their  perceptions of each other. Can two young men so wrong for each other make a future together?

I thought this was a interesting story of two mismatched characters finding common ground for a romance.  While I liked each character individually, I don’t think I ever bought the idea of a romance between the two of them.  The indifference and hurt exhibited from their initial rough sex scene seemed far more realistic than did the fact that they harbored feelings of love for each other.

Darren was the more likable of the two main characters.  The product of an alcoholic mother and absent father, his membership in a gang was an accurate portrayal of a young man in trouble.  It was very believable that any gay sexuality was buried deeply within him so as not to offend his gang.  With hidden depths, he was definitely the book that certainly shouldn’t have been judged by his cover.  Rhys never overcame his priggish beginnings in this story.  His leap from contempt to love for Darren was not realistic given how emphatic he was throughout the majority of the story especially as Darren’s friends beat him up not once but twice.  Also stretching the boundaries here is the fact that Rhys never called the police or told his boss at the library even though he was trying to get rid of Darren.  I could see Rhys having sex with Darren but even that would be a stretch given the lack of trust there.  But full blown  romantic love?  I am not sure I  ever found that between the covers of this book and the characters within.

Cover:  Reese Dante for this series.  Sexy men, same cover for a variety of stories.

Review of Absent-Minded Astrophysicist by TN Tarrant

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Rating: 4 stars

136 pages

Dr. Liam McGregor, child prodigy, astrophysicist, and all around brilliant mind is absent minded when it comes to everything outside of his lab except for his cat. He is constantly walking into doorknobs, desks and even people because his attention is so firmly tuned to space above.    Awkward around people and socially inept, Liam’s lonely and feels unattractive when he stops to think about it, which isn’t often.  Isolation has been his companion for far too long.  But a change may be coming in the very attractive form of the new head of security.

Jareth Manning is emerging from his own dark period.  His partner recently died, and his former employers tried to discredit him when they found out Jareth was gay.  Now he is starting over as the new head of security at Northwestern Institute for Interstellar Research.  It didn’t take him long to notice Dr. McGregor if only for the amount of ambulances called to the campus to attend to astrophysicist’s many accidents.  Jareth finds the astrophysicist cute, shy and very kind hearted.  When Liam is attacked by a colleague, it gives him the chance to get to know Liam better.  As both men grow closer, can Jareth get Liam to focus on what is before him…..a chance at love on earth.

This was such a cute story.  Liam McGregor was a lovely character.  I know we have seen the absent minded scientist before but Liam is a special edition to that category.  A little pudgy, with a heartbreaking background, I just fell in love with him.  TN Tarrant did a nice job with Jareth Manning as well.   Tall, gorgeous and a widower. Combine two lovely characters with two heartbreaking backstories and you get a short story with lots of heart. That’s Absent-minded Astrophysicist in a nutshell.

My only quibble here is that perhaps the author tried to fit too much into limited space.  I think she had material here for a much larger book and wish she had gone in that direction.  Her secondary characters include Dr. Forrester (head of the Institute) and his two partners.  They clearly deserve a story of their own.  Liam’s backstory left me with more questions than answers by the end of the book as did Jareth’s family who appeared out of nowhere.  As I said, I love the main characters and story.  I just think they got a little overwhelmed by too much information.

This is such a lovely little book.  Don’t let it pass you by.  I would love to see more of the characters she brought to life here.

Cover:  Same cover used for others in this series.  Cover artist is Reese Dante

Review of Josh of the Damned Triple Feature by Andrea Speed

Standard

Rating: 5 stars

Josh Caplan is not just  your average convenience store clerk.  But that’s ok because the Quik-Mart where he works the night shift? Well, it has a hell portal out back, werewolves peeing on the outside ice machine, and an endless parade of weird customers from hell. Whether it is the zombies buying frozen burritos or a love lorn yeti, Josh handles it all with a commendable nonchalance and sangfroid far beyond his years. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that his oh so hot boyfriend is a 300 year old vampire with powers out the whazoo!  Can anything upset Josh’s unflappability?  Why yes, there is.  All it takes is a visit from a voracious facial hair, an attack from an overcompensating Cthulhu, and a visit from the Hell Boss herself with a mission for Josh to make a job at Wendy’s look promising.  It’s all here.  Read it for yourself.

While it is true that I am addicted to all things Andrea Speed, Josh Caplan holds a special, albeit warped, place in my heart.  With each new customer that walks the aisles to the freezer section, Josh is ready for anything, even if it’s a few extra cents from the Take A Penny tray to help him/them/it complete their purchase.  That lovesick yeti from Peek-A-Boo (Book #2) is back and Josh calls him Professor Bobo as a nod to one of my favorites MST3K.  Great smacks into wonderfulness!  Josh has gotten fond of him and who wouldn’t?  Then there is Colin, his vampire boyfriend who is fond of sweets, Bailey’s Irish Creme and  rock n roll.  He’s handy to have around when the  hell customers get frisky or the human customers pose a threat.  Yep, you read that right.  Most of the time, it’s the humans that cause the most problems. Ok, that is par for the course at convenience stores anywhere. Moving on.

Triple Feature contains three new Josh of the Damned stories. Night of the Mustache, I Was Cthulhu’s Love Slave, and Interview With The Empire where we finally learn why Josh is so special.  I started giggling from page 1 and didn’t stop until the end.  I mean really. Stan Cthulhu? Stop it.  Really, I mean it.  Now I am going to have to start reading all over again.

Reading these stories are like munching on bonbons stuffed with weed.  Oozy chocolately goodness on the outside, mindbending surprises on the inside.  Combine all that with snappy dialog, outrageously memorable characters, and all too short stories and you have the Josh of the Damned series.  Throw in some added sweetness as well, because it’s there too.  I just love these books.  Just thinking about them makes my day.  Pick them up, and give them a read.  Josh and company will make your day too.

Cover:  Cover artist is LC Chase.  The cover is just one more treat in this veritable basket of goodies.  I would love to have a framed copy.  Just outstanding.

Available from Riptide Publishing, Amazon and ARe.

Check out Andrea Speed at http://andreaspeed.com/