Review: The Astral Mage (The Captains Of The Wolf #1) by Hurri Cosmo

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Rating: 2.75 stars out of 5

The Astral Mage coverKyruis has had a life full of woe.  Shuffled from one foster family to the next, unwanted because he is different, a freak of nature, Kyruis has never felt safe, never been safe a day in his life. Kyruis a wanted man. He’s an Astral Mage, better known as a “Soul Giver”, a race of people who can bring people, animals, things back to life by reattaching their energy or souls.  Now most people believe that Astral Mages are but a myth so few exist in the galaxy.  But for those who know better,  the Astral Mages are captured and traded for the highest fee and that is Kyruis’ current fate.

Kyruis is a prisoner on a spaceship, captured and sold to the highest bidder when pirates attack the ship he is on.  Captain Tilbarr of the spaceship Wolf brings Kyruis on board his ship, he has no idea that not only has he found a true Astral Mage but also the one person who makes him feel alive and in love.  But the Confederated Authority, the governing body for planets, is hot on their trail and it wants Kyruis at any cost.  Just as Tilbarr realizes how much he has come to care for Kyruis, Tilbarr also realizes that he might have to give the Astral Mage up or lose his ship and his friends in the bargain.  When the Captain must choose between love and loyalty to his crew, can there be any winner?

The Astral Mage is the first book I have read by this author and it appears to be the first in a science fiction series.  However, I think that although this book shows some promise, I will be stopping here with The Astral Mage.  Let’s go over some of the more winning aspects of the story.  Cosmo works very hard at building a detailed and interesting universe in which to place the story.  At the end of the book, the author has placed a  complex and lengthy Terms and Definitions section that covers construction  elements and minerals, names of the Wolf’s crew to extinct bird species and insects.  One glance at this part of the book and you have the pros and cons of this author’s writing.  Hurri Cosmo is so absorbed in her world building that minutiae that is not relevant to the story basics is included but not a lot of information about the titular race of the story. For example, here is her entry for Screaming Vulture Beasts:

Screaming Vulture Beasts: They are large birds that live in several of the extremely deep craggy valleys that exist on Velel. They are brutal beasts that rip apart their living prey when they capture it, usually in flight. Ancient history of the planet denoted tribes would throw livestock off the cliffs to keep the beasts fed so they would not feed on the people. In modern day, though, the beasts have become wary of the people knowing they can and will kill them if they come close. There are warning systems in place that warn the towns and cities as well if the birds approach. They have become more of a tourist attraction although to get close enough to watch them feed is still considered very dangerous and ultimately stupid.

To be honest, I don’t even remember them in the story as interesting as they sound. But this story is so jammed packed with “stuff” that the important facts and issues are overlooked. There are pages of entries like this. But her entry for the Mages? This is the sum total, already given in the same words in the story:

Astral Mage: The Soul Givers. There are also “carriers”, who are the only ones able to give birth to an Astral Mage. The blood line started to dissipate due to inter-relations with other species. A full-blooded carrier is rare and full-blooded Astral Mages are even rarer.

The author gets so lost in the extraneous details that she forgets the focus of her story is that of the Astral Mages and that happens from the beginning.  We begin the story of The Astral Mage with Kyrius a prisoner on a spaceship rocketing to a destination where he is to be handed off to some unnamed buyer.  Kyruis is a rare almost mythical creature but the Captain of that ship treats him as he would a whore.  This makes no sense considering the fees that are being paid for Kyruis and has been inserted to bring a prurient angle to the story.   You know the author is in trouble when things so south right from the beginning.  Then the story switches focus from Kyrius to Tilbarr, the Captain of the Wolf who attacks the ship Kyrius is on and the book becomes The Captain of the Wolf (The Astral Mage #1) instead of the other way around.  And once the attention is on Tilbarr and his feelings about the mage, it remains there for the rest of the story.  While the reader is patiently waiting to learn more about the Mages, their history, genetic makeup, anything about mages, we get more information about cargos, and metals, and insects and things we really don’t care about.   One of the first things I wanted to know was why only one type of mage?  That doesn’t make any sense either.  Surely if there is one type of gift or magic, there are others.  But as we are given absolutely no information, who knows?

Then there are the characterizations.  Cosmo can’t decide if Kyruis is a young, innocent victim in need of a savior or a sexually experienced being with hidden resources and strengths, wounded faun or clever mouse, child or sex object.  Cosmo swings back and forth between the two with a rapidity that will give the reader whiplash.  The same divided characterization haunts  Tilbarr as well, seasoned pirate or gullible sailor with a need for love?  Honestly, the wavering characteristics make it hard to believe in any of the characters you meet while reading this story. That lack of believability has always meant a lack of connectivity for the reader as well and it shows here.

So while there are some nice points and creative aspects to The Astral Mage, in the end it is overwhelmed by too many extraneous details, weak characters, and a missing focal point.  I would give this a pass, there are better m/m science fiction stories out there.

Cover design by Lee Tiffin doesn’t make any more sense than the book does.

ebook, 243 pages
Published March 16th 2013 by Silver Publishing
ISBN 161495903X (ISBN13: 9781614959038)
edition languageEnglish
urlhttps://spsilverpublishing.com/the-astral-mage-ebook-p-1414.html
seriesThe Captains Of The Wolf

Review: Eye of the Beholder (Winterfield series) by Edward Kendrick

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Review:          3.5 stars

Eye of the BeholderPreston Davison and his friend Cary Fielding were friends in high school and then their lives took two wildly different paths.  Cary went off to college and Preston went on to become ‘The Sergeant’, a minor star in gay pornographic movies. The two kept in touch and it was Cary who finally gave Preston the push to leave the adult film company he was working for and try to start over.  But on the very night Preston quits his job, he is brutally attacked and his face destroyed by an unknown assailant.  Now afraid to go outside with his “monster” of a face, Preston lives with his friend the nurse who treated him and starts working on his own web design company, secure in the fact he will never have to meet any clients face to face. But one of his new clients has a very familiar name and soon Preston is writing to his old friend under a pen name.

Cary lives with his boyfriend, Hugh, and has tried to move on with his life after failing to find his friend after the attack.  But memories of Preston won’t go away.  Then one day, Cary’s firm decides it needs a new  website.  The designer Cary chooses only conducts their meetings online and corresponds only with email.  But something about the way this person “talks” feels so familiar to Cary….

Can Preston overcome his fears and tell Cary who he is? Unbeknownst to Cary and Preston, the person who ruined Pres’ face is still around and waiting for his chance to strike once more.  What will win out?  Fear or love?  Is beauty truly in the eye of the beholder?

I really liked this story and wavered in assigning a rating.  The true strength of this story is the character of Preston Davison, the ex porn star disfigured by a gruesome attack.  The attack happens “off stage” so we jump immediately to the aftermath and it’s devastating effect upon Preston and his life.  We are there as Preston grapples with the remnants of a face that once was beautiful and the lack of a career to land on.  I actually wished there was more of this section of the story.  What Kendrick gives us as Pres starts to pull whats left of his life together is so realistic, so heart wrenching, especially a scene in a part with a little boy, that I wanted more of his recovery.  And I wanted the payoff promised by the interaction with the young boy (more about this later). Pres is helped by his “Tabby Cat”, the nurse who cared for him in the hospital and became his friend.  I loved that character too.  Tabitha is a lovely creation, and I really enjoyed every part of her friendship with Preston.  This part of the story is a solid 4 star rating.

It’s when we turn to the other characters and elements of the story that the rating starts to waver downward.  Cary is a less substantial figure here with respect to Preston.  Cary’s present relationship is not fulfilling but he stays in it more out of habit than anything else.  I could wish for a more  forceful or lively presence here but Cary comes across as just too passive a character for this to work as well as the author had hoped.  The other part of the story that didn’t work as well for me was that the attacker was easily identifiable early on in the story. And although this didn’t really bother me,  the resolution at the end came far too easily for everyone concerned. No big denouement, no great dramatic”aha”, so it didn’t ring true considering the heinous nature of the attacks on Preston. Given the strength of the first part of this story, the last half just sort of petered out.

I did notice that this story seems to be the beginning of a series titled Winterfield which is the town they all live in so I am hoping that the boy and his brother will figure in one of the books to come.  Really, that was such a tantalizing scene and its promise has stayed with me all through the rest of the story as I kept hoping the boy would make a reappearance.  So I am still going to recommend this book with reservations.  Forget about the suspense tag and look at it as more of a romance.  I am hoping the stories that come will fill in the narrative I feel is lacking here.  Let me know what you think?  I look forward to hearing from you.

Cover by Reese Dante is nice but really doesn’t speak to the story.

Review: Pack Business (Pine Hollow Wolves #2) by Caitlin Ricci

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Rating: 3.75 stars

Pack BusinessShifter Liam, human Travis and his daughter Hannah are still trying to settle into the new living arrangement as one happy family.  Liam adores Hannah and is quickly falling in love with Travis, the man he rescued from living on the streets, along with his daughter.  Travis too finds himself falling for the shifter with the icy blue eyes who protects them both so lovingly and is paying for him to attend university.  But trouble is brewing from within Liam’s back and Hannah, the 2 year old human is the focus of all the discord.

Hannah can see all the shifters in their true form and calls them all “puppies” because that is what she sees when she looks at them.  And that can be a problem when you are trying to hide from the human society you live in.  Plus there is that all bogeyman tale of human Hunters that could see the shifters in their human form and know they were wolves.  The pack is not ready to find out whether it is truth or fairy tale, they just want the little girl dealt with.  Can their new family succeed and thrive when all around them want the family broken apart and the child to disappear?

Pack Business is a continuation of the Pine Hollow Wolves series started with Almost Paradise. The story begins 6 months after the end of Almost Paradise.  Liam, Travis, and Hannah are living together in Liam’s house with his two Mastiffs, Lucy and Ethel.  They are really starting to feel as though they are a family, and adorable Hannah is the child that Liam never thought he would have as a gay man and shifter.  Travis has started back at school, and everyone is happy, mostly.

Ricci’s wonderful characters that drew me in to  start with are all back and flourishing.  I fell in love with Liam, Travis and Hannah immediately and became invested in their future so I was very excited to see where the story is going.  Liam’s pack is an interesting one where the Alpha is almost two wolves, powerful twin brother and sister who also happen to be African American, a rarity within the shifter universe.  Samson and Evangeline are two strong characters that you want more of, including their backstory, especially Evangeline.  I love Evangeline.  She is strong, charismatic and independent and her brother, the Alpha, loves her and depends on her judgement and strength.  Less is known about her brother but I believe that is intentional.  At least I hope so because i can see glimpses of Samson that just cry out for his own story.

Pack Business also starts to address the fact that Hannah can “see” the true wolf form of every shifter she meets when they are in their human shape.  How do you explain to other people when a 2 year old continues to call you “puppy”?  Staying hidden is to be achieved at all costs and to some that cost is Hannah’s life.  Additionally, Ricci introduces a shifter legend or their own version of a Grimm fairy tale in which long ago there was a group of humans called Hunters who possessed the ability to identify a shifter on sight. These Hunters used their ability to kill every shifter they found.  But as the author tells it, not even the shifters are sure if this is fact or fiction.  With each new element, Ricci ups the anxiety and uncertainty about Liam and Travis’s ability to keep Hannah safe and happy.

I really love this series but recognize that there are several aspects that will not set well with other readers.  One is the fact that if you have not read the first book in the series, not much of this story will make sense,  In fact , Pack Business has more the feel of a really long chapter than a separate book on its own.  To be a satisfying read that deserves a four star rating, this book should be folded in right after Almost Paradise, and read together.  Then it makes sense and becomes an even more compelling read.

Another is that the wolf shifters here are of the I Dream of Jeannie school of shifters.  Blink, they are human, blink and they are wolves sort of thing.  I will admit to a certain niggling little sarcastic voice in the back of my head that goes “Really? And their clothes reassemble too?” I like this story enough to kind of overlook this but I will admit to preferring the more sensible bone jarring, skin stretching, more realistic form of shifting.  It just is more agreeable to the naturalist in me.

I find the Pine Hollow Wolves series to be so captivating, so full of promising glimpses into future stories, that I am willing to shove my quibbles with the books into the background.  I want to see what happens with Hannah and her gift/curse.  Are Hunters in fact, real? And is Hannah is a Hunter, what will happen when a Hunter is raised by a wolf pack?  This element just cries out for a YA book, don’t you think?  With Hannah as the heroine?  And there is Liam ready to leave the pack and his financial security for Travis and Hannah.  And Evangeline, with her divided loyalties?  I can go on and hope that Caitlin Ricci does so as well, while answering all the questions that keep popping into my mind.

This is a short book, only 110 pages and it cries out for a much longer length.  But I will take a sequel no matter how long or short it may be.  I am now fully invested in these characters and their future.  I need to know what happens to them and that is wonderful story telling.

Lee Tiffin is the cover artist and this cover is just as adorable as the family pictured.  It works both as a cover for this book and to brand the series.

Books in the Pine Hollow Wolves series in the order they were written and should be read, one immediately after the other:

Almost Paradise (Pine Hollow Wolves #1)

Pack Business (Pine Hollow Wolves #2)

Snow on the Ground and the Week Ahead in Book Reviews

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What Do You Mean It’s Going To Snow?

We had our first taste of winter here in the region recently and parts still bear a light coat of white to prove it.  Schools let out  early, as did many local governments.  The federal government had a liberal leave policy in effect and the stores were crowded with people buying out all the bread, bacon and booze.  Yes, its true, we here in the Washington Metro area go completely bonkers when we think it’s going to snow.  How much snow fell? Perhaps one inch.  Sigh.  But continuing our seesaw season, we are expected to hit  65 degrees F by Wednesday and it doesn’t help that the seeds and nursery catalogs have just started arriving by mail.  Some people are tempted by jewels and clothing, not me.  For me it’s yarn stores and nurseries full of plants and flowers of every shape, size, and color.  Yesterday alone saw me dog-earing page after page of new plants for the season as I scribbled their names along with possible locations in the yard.  Was I a contented camper?  Why yes I was!

And this afternoon sees me off to Busboys and Poets to meet up with the Metro Area M/M Romance group for wild and wonderful conversations and discussions over everything book oriented.  We are a great group of readers, bloggers, authors, and publishers and boy, do we have a lot to say!  I can’t wait.

One more thing…one of my favorite blogs is The Blood Red Pencil where they blog “sharp and pointed observations about writing”.  I adore them.  This week the topic is “Mystery, Magic, and the Aha! of the Reveal”.  It is just a terrific article and shouldn’t be missed.  Here is the link, don’t pass it by. Trust me, these people understand that writing is not for the fainthearted.

So here is the week ahead in book reviews.  I am all over the place.  There is contemporary romance courtesy of Andrew Grey, RJ Scott and Ariel Tachna, three of my favorite authors.  The latest book in Caitlin Ricci’s shifter series and LA Witt’s science fiction/shifter novel that is the first in The Tameness of the Wolf series.  New series, continuing series and great authors, so just be prepare to add to your reading list by the end of the week. What?  It’s February already? *head desk*

Monday, 1/28:                      A Troubled Range by Andrew Grey

Tuesday, 1/29                       Pack Business by Caitlin Ricci

Wed., 1/30:                           Overdrive by Ariel Tachna

Thursday, 1/31:                    A Shared Range by Andrew Grey

Friday, 2/1:                            The Fireman and the Cop by RJ Scott

Saturday, 2/2:                       Eye of the Beholder by Edward Kendrick

Review of Horse of Bells by Pelaam

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Rating: 3 stars

Horse of BellsPrince Donal and his younger brother, Caolan, are hunting in the royal woods when a mysterious stranger saves Caolan from a wild boar.  A case of love at first sight, the two make a pact saying that they will meet back in the woods as soon as possible, saving themselves only for each other.  But royal politics interfere with that promise as their evil stepmother is plotting to kill them and have her nephew seated on the throne. To interfere with her plans, the princes are sent away for their safety and Caolan never returns to the woods.

The princes plan to stay in exile until Donal comes of age but a trick by their stepmother, Queen Doireann, sends the brothers on a quest to obtain the Horse of Bells from the Dark Prince, a mission destined to fail as all the others who have tried have been put to death after entering the Dark Prince’s lands. On their journey, the stranger from the woods joins them in their travels.  But the kindness is gone and in its place a bitterness towards Caolan that threatens to derail their mission before they get started.  In this fairy tale, two brothers must fight for their honor and for love if a happily ever after is to be theirs for the taking.

This story has all the basics of a fairy tale.  It has the princes in danger, the evil stepmother, the clueless  King, the dark strangers to the rescue, and even a magical horse.  What is missing from this tale is the charm to go with the Prince Charmings, the warmth and glow of a childhood tale reworked for adults.   I love a good adult fairy tale but unfortunately this one felt a bit flat.

I will skip over the two instances of instant love as that is certainly permissible in a fairy tale, but give me characters that make it even a little bit believable.  All of the characters that Pelaam delivers are pretty one dimensional people, from the princes to the Dark Prince to the King. Even fairytale characters must be fleshed out enough that we identify with them to some degree. How can we feel any angst at all that the prince will be torn away form his true love if we don’t care about the characters?  All have so little depth that it flattens out the story, wiping it of any gaiety and joy  associated with stories of this genre. It  did have one little bit of darkness in it but it felt out of place considering all that had gone on before.

I did like the magical Horse of Bells, a nice creation and the stepmother was suitably “evil” in her mechanisms but I keep waiting for the literary magic to begin, to be swept away into a enchantedl kingdom, where everyone is gay, and all good Princes wait for their Prince to appear.  That would have made a great fairytale.  But I can tell you after reading this, I am still waiting for that Kingdom to appear.

Review of Splintered Lies (In The Shadow of the Wolf #3) by Diane Adams and RJ Scott

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Rating: 4 stars

When cop Joe Christie’s shifter wife and unborn child died, a part of him died with them.  Since their deaths, he has just been going through the motions of life, running on his own in wolf form and avoiding all former friends and partners, including Nick.  That would be Nickolas Alexander, Joe’s former best friend and lover before his marriage to Mara.  Once Joe married Mara, Nick stepped back from their lives and away from Joe.  But Nick has continued to love Joe all through his marriage to a woman that he grew to like as well. And when Mara and their unborn child was killed, Nick stood by Joe as the shattered man tried to cope with their loss and failed.

One piece of information about the ongoing investigation into criminal acts against the shifter population shocks Nick to the core and then galvanizes Joe into action.  Mara and Joe’s unborn child were the recipients of an illegal drug and unknowingly part of a criminal experiment on female wolf shifters and their babies.  They were killed to get rid of evidence of the experiments not in a car accident as Joe and the others had been told. Only two others of their group know the truth and when Nick tells Joe how Mara really died, Joe explodes in rage, determined to find and kill the people responsible.

With Rob, Sam, Doug, and Jamie to help, Nick and Joe set out to find the truth behind the torture, kidnapping and deaths of the shifters.  Nick tries to keep his love for Joe quiet but working next to him in the investigation is unbelievably hard.  And Joe is also finding  that the love and lust he thought he had buried when he married Mara is coming back in full force.  Will his guilt and love for his dead wife make any future with Nick impossible?  And will the conspiracy to kill wolf shifters mean their deaths as well.

Splintered Lies (In The Shadow of the Wolf #3) completes the investigation into a wolf shifter conspiracy that started with Shattered Secrets (In The Shadow of the Wolf #1) and continued in Broken Memories (In The Shadow of the Wolf #2). All the couples from the first two stories are back as well as the auxiliary characters who are now the main characters here, Joe and Nick.  There is a conspiracy aimed at the destruction of wolf shifters.  Shifters have been captured, kidnapped and tortured, experimented on and then killed but the investigations into each case has proven that the leadership behind the criminal acts goes higher than anyone had anticipated, reaching into the top levels of the government itself. Authors Adams and Scott more than accomplish their goals in giving the reader a horrifying mystery to solve as each new angle or case makes the conspiracy behind it even more terrifying in scope.  Before we had abused wolves who can’t or won’t shift back, cases of multiple rapes and prostituted shifters, now it is revealed that pregnant wolf shifters and their fetuses have  been the subject of gruesome experiments.  And when those experiments have failed, the subjects have been deposed of, including Mara and their unborn child.  The subject matter alone here raises the horror factor considerably and thankfully most of the experimentation has been left to the reader’s imagination.  Again, this is such a huge element of the series and it is very well crafted.  Splintered Lies brings the hunt for the people behind the atrocities to a conclusion that is 99 percent satisfying as not all of those who participated are counted for at the end.  Are they setting us up for another book?  It would seem so.

More problematic are the characters of Joe Christie and Nick Anderson.  Joe is lost in his grief over the death’s of Mara and their child. And all the emotions he is going through seemed grounded in reality.  You can feel how shattered he is,  how his grief has immobilized him in his loss. But when it comes to the backstory of his and Nick’s earlier relationship, you want to know what was the pivotal point that made Joe choose Mara over his very real love for Nick.  Over and over Joe reveals how guilty he felt over dumping Nick for Mara and that Nick still appeared in his dreams but the reader never understands why Joe felt the need to make the choice he did and that serves as a huge disconnect between the reader and this character.  How can the reader mourn the loss of Joe and Nick’s relationship is it never feels completely real to begin with? Then there is Nick who in his love for Joe steps back and away from the man he loves.  He says he understood Joe, but again, we never feel either his passion for Joe or the bargain he made with himself.  Nick just comes across as way too passive with regard to his past with Joe.  Ultimately, while the confused sexual tension between the men had a certain gravity to it, the rest of it felt flimsy in its construction.  So while I liked the characters I never bought into a loving connection between them and the story suffered from it.

An intriguing angle I wish had been more throughly explored was the idea of  shifter assimilation versus shifter integration into human society. Sam posed that part of Joe’s behavioral problems was that he was trying to act “human”, from his method of dealing with his grief to crowded human conditions.  I loved this concept.  It came about  very late in the book and has so many great elements to it, so many places you could go with it that I wish it had been the focus of the story or  maybe the central idea behind its own series.  Again I felt like it was given short shrift but maybe that’s on purpose.  I certainly hope so because an exploration of what it means to be a wolf shifter in a human society could certainly benefit from another great perspective or even two.

So if you love shifters, add this series to books that you should read.  I adored two out of the three couples but the rest of the book has so many good elements that I don’t think it should be missed either.

Here are the In The Shadow of the Wolf books in the order they should be read in order to understand the long reaching plot and characters:

Shattered Secrets #1

Broken Memories #2

Splintered Lies #3

Another splendid series cover by Reese Dante

 

Review of Taming The Lion Tamer by Caitlin Ricci

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Rating: 4 stars

When Quinn Fitzgerald and his rescued Asiatic lion, Aseem,  show up for their job posing for an animation studio’s artists, all he wants is a chance to promote the mission of his big cat sanctuary and earn some needed funds for his cause. The last thing Quinn expects is to find romance in the form of animator Charlie Deagman.  But the quiet artist captures his attention and on impulse Quinn invites Charlie  up to the sanctuary for the weekend.

Charlie Deagman can’t believe the gorgeous zoologist is asking him to come visit for the weekend.  During the entire session, Charlie could barely keep his eyes off of the man and his lion.  Charlie loved watching the affection that was obvious between man and cat, and the gentle way  Quinn had about him, a far cry from Charlie’s ex.  And when the weekend came around, Charlie found himself on the road to Wyoming, and just perhaps on the path to love as well.

Caitlin Ricci’s Taming The Lion Tamer is just an adorable story, fun, light and very sexy.  Ricci gives us two lovely, decent men in search of love, a meet cute situation and lovely big cats to boot.  Both the characters of Quinn Fitzgerald and Charlie Deagman are so likable in their own way that our affections for them are engaged immediately.  Quinn Fitzgerald found his love for big cats on a mission to Kenya and has worked to rescue them in the US ever since.  The isolation of his sanctuary has made him a single guy for  far too long and we get that totally.  Charlie Deagman is shy, kind,  and family oriented as he lives with his sister and her kids.  His ex who runs the animation studio is a jerk and not deserving of Charlie.  So both men are available  when they meet at the studio.  Caitlin Ricci lets us watch as Quinn and Charlie fall into lust with each other during the weekend that also sees them acknowledging that they like each other as well.  Thank goodness there is no real “instant love” but two men who click with each other.  At the end, there is the possibility of love, an acknowledgement that each missed the other when the weekend was over and hope for a future together.

I also like the fact that Ricci seems to have done her homework as to what the big cats are fed, and the treats that are given as part of the new approach to animals kept in captivity. All in all, a good job with the Sanctuary descriptions involved, including the long hours required and the devotion needed to the animals rescued. Definitely not a job for those not totally committed. Just lovely.

This is such a fun, romantic and yes, sexy little story and I would love to see more of Quinn, Charlie and Aseem the Asiatic lion.  On the cover of this book is says it is part of The Men In Uniform series but quite frankly that is a stretch (and the other books in the series aren’t mentioned) unless you consider khaki shorts and shirt a uniform.  So my only real quibbles here are with the title and the cover.  It looks like there is a man in a circus outfit on the cover and the title alludes to a Lion Tamer which is the exact opposite of Quinn Fitzgerald who would be appalled by that association, given that he rescues big cats, not “tames” them.  Nor would you consider kind, gentle Charlie to fit that description either.  *shakes head*  But the story is just lovely, the men charming, and the ending just the right amount of HEA.  More please, Caitlin Ricci!

Cover:  Reese Dante.  Too dark to see the details.  My other quibbles with the cover are mentioned above.

Review of Theory of Attraction by Cleon Lee

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Rating: 4.25 stars

Ethan Roberts is waiting in the outside office for his interview for TA when he spots Aaron Marcus, Sociology PhD candidate sitting nearby, obviously there for the same reason.  On first look, Aaron’s quiet, reserved behavior makes Ethan give him no more than a casual glance.  But as his waiting time extends, Ethan’s attention is drawn back to Aaron and he starts noticing things that he had missed the first time around. In fact after he makes introductions, Ethan starts to think that perhaps the answer to the endless parade of bed partners might just be a monogamous relationship with the adorable Aaron.  Now only if he can get Aaron to take his courtship seriously.

Aaron is shy and nerdy, hiding behind his glasses.  His prickly, insecure nature comes from past hurts and humiliations so the last person he would trust to have his best interests at heart would be the resident gay Don Juan himself, Ethan Roberts. He doesn’t understand why Ethan keeps giving him things, from a gorgeous and outrageously expensive bouquet of flowers to a box of chocolates the lactose intolerant Aaron can’t eat. But the more Ethan pursues him, the closer the two men become.  Little by little, Ethan helps Aaron understand that he is reliable enough for Aaron to lean on and Aaron gets Ethan to believe that a real grown up relationship is the key to happiness.

The Theory of Attraction is the first story I have read by Cleon Lee and I loved it.  I found the characters endearing and complex enough to keep my interest.  I thought also that the way Lee allowed their relationship to build in small realistic steps instead of huge leaps of “instant love” emotionally rewarding and satisfying.  I admit that nerd love is always a big hit for me and Aaron definitely fits in that category.  But Aaron is far more complicated than the typical stereotype.  I love that he mentors troubled gay youths in a realistic manner, and that past hurts have caused him to be very wary of future relationships.  Cleon Lee makes it easy to understand that Aaron’s cold demeanor is really just a preemptive strike aimed at shielding himself from more pain and disillusionment. Ethan is also more than his “golden boy” exterior.  Good looks equaled frequent casual sexual partners for Ethan. And the author has Ethan deciding that his lifestyle had gotten stale and unrewarding prior to meeting Aaron  and that was a nice change to the stories that have people changing for someone else.  Again a nicely authentic touch and a terrific job in crafting  main characters you will trust with your affections.

The author delivers a delightful romance between two endearing characters in Theory of Attraction and in the end isn’t that what makes us smile? I loved reading this.  A sweet, endearing love story that went down as easily as Hot Toddy on a cold autumn day.  Don’t hesitate to pick this one up.

Cover:  This is another Reese Dante cover that is just perfection.  It fits the characters and the setting.

A New Addition to the Garden, the Week Ahead in Reviews and the Sazerac, an American classic cocktail

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So, here we are again.  It’s a rainy Sunday in Maryland, perfect day for reading and snoozing with the pooches.  I was out earlier in the week, gallivanting around and made a quick stop into one of our local nurseries to check out their perennial sale (50 percent off woo hoo!) and what did I behold? A zen froggy waiting for someone to take him home.  Really how could I pass him up?  Here’s are 2  pictures.   He is now perched in all his zen-like concentration behind the fish pond to Kirby’s everlasting confusion.  I watch Kirby looking at him every time he goes out and can just see the slow wheel turning in our third smartest dog’s mind.  Like “hmmmm, didn’t see that before, wonder if it is edible” “will he play with me?”.  Cracks me up everytime.  So I believe our zen froggy deserves a name.  Any suggestions?

 

Now on to the Week in Reviews.  There were just some lovely books this week. Lashings of Sauce was a standout based on just the shear number of great authors who contributed to this anthology. We run the gamut from contemporary romance to supernatural lovers this week:

Monday:                           (Un)Masked by Anyta Sunday & Andrew Q.Gordon

Tuesday:                           Shelton’s Homecoming by Dianne Hartsock

Wednesday:                    Wick by Megan Derr

Thursday:                         Lashings of Sauce-a British Anthology

Friday:                               Weekends by Edward Kendrick

Saturday:                           The Cool Part of His Pillow by Rodney Ross

Cocktail of the Week: The Sazerac

The Sazerac, created in New Orleans in the 1800’s, an American Classic Cocktail

Ingredients:

1 1/2 teaspoons (1/4 ounce) club soda
1 sugar cube (preferably rough-cut and unbleached*) or 1/2 teaspoon raw sugar, such as turbinado or Demerara
4 to 5 dashes Peychaud Bitters
5 tablespoons (2 1/2 ounces) VSOP Cognac
1 tablespoon (1/2 ounce) absinthe
1 cup ice
1 lemon
Directions:

In chilled cocktail shaker or pint glass, pour club soda over sugar cube. Using muddler or back of large spoon, gently crush sugar cube. Swirl glass until sugar dissolves, 20 to 30 seconds, then add bitters and Cognac and set aside.
Pour absinthe into chilled double old-fashioned glass or stemless wineglass. Holding glass horizontally, roll between your thumb and forefinger so absinthe completely coats the interior, then discard excess.
Add ice to cocktail and stir until well chilled, about 20 seconds. Strain cocktail into chilled glass rinsed with absinthe. Using channel knife, cut thin 4-inch strip of peel from lemon directly over glass, then place peel in glass and serve.

Freedom Is Not Free and the week Ahead

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It looks as though the sun might come out for our Memorial Weekend here in Maryland after all, humid but at least it’s sunny.  I hope everyone is enjoying their weekend.  Please don’t forget to spare up time to think about our veterans, what they have sacrificed for us and the Nation.  With so many still fighting abroad and many more fighting to survive their injuries here at home, take the time to send a prayer if you are religious, send thanks if you are not and perhaps visit a memorial.  If you are close by, start with the Vietnam Veterans Memorial here in DC and Arlington Cemetery in Virginia.  Two places where service, honor, and sacrifice spreads out before us in stark contrast to each other.  One in black, one in white.  Unforgettable and painful in every way.

Freedom Is Not Free is a website dedicated to aiding wounded service members, their families and the families of the fatally wounded. Listed here are poems from the enlisted honoring veterans and sharing what it means to them to be a part of the military.  Be prepared with tissues, as many of these poems strike straight into your heart.

My thoughts also turn to the fallen gay soldiers for whom the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was far too late.  Let us not forget their additional sacrifice as well.  I would leave you with these images for Memorial Weekend:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And now for the week ahead and some outstanding new books:

 

Monday:                                Reviews of several short stories by Silver Publishing

Tuesday:                                Armed and Dangerous, Cut and Run series #5 by Abigail Roux

Wednesday:                          Infected: Shift  (Infected #4) by Andrea Speed

Thursday:                              Acrobat by Mary Calmes

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

Saturday:                                New Vocabulary Gone Bad – When A Bare Rises To the Occasion Due Ewe Here A Yelp?