Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
Based on the blurb, this book wasn’t quite what I thought it would be, so I struggled to rate it and review it without spoilers. This is billed as a paranormal erotic romance, and while that is true, it is so much more. Tags are spoilers, so as per usual, I will only give them when I think stories could be triggering to people. This book contains multigenerational family trauma, sexual abuse, incest, attempted suicide in first person, suicide, bipolar and OCD mental health issues, drug and alcohol abuse, and ghosts thrown in with kinky sex. Since this is told in a single first person point of view, I got very attached to this character, but talking about him is a spoiler. This story is not told in linear time, so it might be difficult to get into the first two or three times it goes from the present to the past, but then it seems very natural as he shares his life through memories. The characters become complex and multifaceted the more the book goes on–one minute I might hate a character and the next I felt sorry for them even though that doesn’t absolve them of their awful choices.
Let’s start with the erotic romance, which I think worked very well. He meets a Dom named Devon in a club and everything goes sideways. Luckily another Dom named Mike helps him when he needs it, allowing the reader to get to know more about the main characters before any sex actually happens. The trust comes when the paranormal aspects are believed by everyone involved, which helps the romance move forward. I think this was effective. All the characters here are likeable and believable. The sex scenes are hot. With an 11 year age gap, the huge disparity in circumstances, and the added D/s aspect, there is plenty of the hurt/comfort trope in play. Devon ends up being compelling as a Dom and very endearing as a person.
There are so many great secondary characters in this book: Officer McBride, Devon’s sister-in-law Maya, Dom Mike, and the medium Maxine are the obvious favorites. There are also well written characters that evoked very negative emotions for me like Uncle Barry, Mom Dana, and Vern. Barry seemed confused about right and wrong without ever trying to figure it out. Dana deserves credit for doing the best she could at the time, she made an effort…but not enough of one to actually heal, so that saddened and frustrated me. She had plenty of opportunities to get help from mental health professionals, but just didn’t. That may seem like victim blaming to some, but she had children to raise and could have done better by them. As for Vern, I hate him. At its heart, this is the story of two brothers and their tragedy, as well as how everything got to this point–it’s a story of an American family tragedy.
As for the paranormal aspects, occultism is treated with respect here, not as a party trick. I believe in energy work, in cleansing, in the benefits of ceremony and feel like this is a really good idea for anyone who wants to find closure for grief and trauma…we have funerals for a reason. Often, the difference is at a funeral people focus on the good, forgetting the bad…and that might not help people find any sort of resolution, especially with the ridiculous notion of not “speaking ill of the dead,” which is just a whole layer of guilt people get wrapped up in. I don’t agree that intention matters most. For many, this will be a lot of woo but this is based in what some people actually practice, so either the author does believe or has done excellent research on the topic. It does walk a fine line…and then gets preachy at the end. I would have rated this higher, but I don’t like being prostalitized to. Also, evoking Robert Monroe and the Matrix Control System is strange in an LGBTQIA book because he believed one reason for his theory is because all mobiles are split into two genders, ever seeking reunion with each other. Ugh.
This book is a rare gem–entertaining and packs an emotional wallop without wallowing in emotional pornography. I like how the ideas of Platonic solids, sacred geometry, and reincarnation are synthesized together, yet the New Age ideas used to explain the phenomena were a bit offputting for me. There is a lot to unpack here, but I’m not going to get into spiritual arguments about an erotic fictional book. Finally, there is an epilogue about 4 years later than the main events of the book. I liked the range of reactions to what happened because in the end, people still choose how to process things. Having or creating an opportunity for closure doesn’t mean everyone will let go and move forward in a positive way. I’m glad theirs is psychological work with a therapist, rather than only relying on New Age ideas.
The cover design was made by Written Ink Designs | written-ink.com. At first I thought the images combined with the title were a bit misleading, but the more I think about it, I really like them for the metaphorical imagery. The main character is trapped until he gets to see the bigger picture and find his asylum, his safe place where he is free.
Cover Art:= is dark and works for the story.
Published January 2nd 2020 by JMS Books LLC
Rating: 5 stars out of 5
When fifteen-year-old Romeo’s mother leaves one day and doesn’t return, he finds himself homeless and trying to survive on the streets. Mute and terrified, his silence makes him vulnerable, and one night he is beaten by a gang of other kids, only to be rescued by a boy who pledges to take care of him.
Julian is barely two years older than Romeo. A runaway from an abusive home, he has had to make some difficult choices and sells himself on the street to survive. Taking care of Romeo changes him, gives him a purpose in life, gives him hope, and he tries to be strong and keep his troubles with drugs behind him. But living as they do is slowly destroying him, and he begins to doubt he can be strong enough.
This is the story of their struggle to find a way off the streets and stay together at all costs. But when events threaten to tear them apart, it is Romeo who must find the strength within himself to help Julian (and not let their love story turn into a Shakespearean tragedy)
There’s a lot that can be said about This Is Not A Love Story by Suki Fleet. It’s a hurt/comfort story without a lot of comfort going on. Reading the majority of this novel feels like poking at an open wound. It’s that’s raw and incredibly painful. Not a story I could read without taking needed emotional “timeout” breaks. Honestly, parts of this are so agonizing, I wondered if I wanted to continue.
So why the 5 stars? Why read it at all?
Because it’s extraordinarily well written, with an eye towards making the reader feel almost at a cellular level what Suki Fleet’s homeless teenagers are going through on a daily basis as anonymous, non people of the streets. The humiliation, the deprivation, the starvation, and pain. The exploitation and danger that exists for them and just the edge of survival each one walks is brought vividly and horrifically to life in the persons of Romeo and Julian, and others we meet.
Hope? That doesn’t occur until late in the story. Until then it’s sheer determination and love for each other that carries each young man through the darkest of times, and yes, they get plenty dark and gritty.
Told through the mind and heart of Romeo, an artistic mute who’s never without his drawing pad or Julian, his protector and the person he loves, we see the cost of that protection on Julian, on them both. The way being homeless is eating away at them, the despair, their ragged physical state and the things they are willing to do to survive. Each character is someone so vulnerable, so achingly young and discarded that the more you read, the more gut wrenching the impact.
Not surprisingly the story contains elements of thoughts of suicide, drug use, rape, self harm, and abduction. If any of these are triggers of yours, please take note.
After all that, the novel ends on a note of hope and happiness. It’s truly needed after the darkness the characters and the readers have endured for most of the story. It wasn’t quite enough to lift the heaviness of heart I felt after reading the book but held so much positivity for the future that I could leave it at that, hoping that the worse was finally behind them
I’m not sure this story is for everyone but for those that love a great contemporary novel with amazing characters and unforgettable plot ….and a journey that’s dark, gritty and full of pain. This is a story for you.
Cover art with the dim backdrop of London and not so bright characters grimly hints at the tone of the story.
Sales Links: Amazon
Kindle Edition, 453 pages
Published March 27th 2019 (first published March 22nd 2014)
Original Title This Is Not a Love Story
SeriesLove Story Universe
CharactersRomeo Danilov, Julian Lavelle
Invitation to the Blues (Small Change #2)
Publisher: Monster Press
Release Date (Print & Ebook): March 28th, 2018
Length (Print & Ebook): About 81,000 words
Subgenre: Contemporary romance
Content warning: depression, suicide, thoughts of worthlessness, food issues
Barnes & Noble: http://bit.ly/2C9aiJP
Angus & Robinson: http://bit.ly/2Cudrzz
Eight months ago Jude Lucen fled his partner, his career, and a hospital in Boston after a suicide attempt. Now back in Philadelphia, he feels like a complete failure. Piano has always been his passion and his only escape. Without it, he has nothing. Well, nothing except a pathetic crush on the most gorgeous man he’s ever seen.
Faron Locklear came to Philly looking for a fresh start and has thrown himself into tattooing at Small Change. He’s only met Jude a few times, but something about the red-haired man with the haunted eyes calls to him. Faron is blown away by Jude’s talent. What he isn’t expecting is the electricity he feels the first time they kiss—and the way Jude’s needs in bed speak directly to his own deepest desires.
Jude and Faron fall fast and hard, but Jude has spent a lifetime learning that he can’t be what the people he loves need. So when the opportunity arises to renew his career in Boston, he thinks he has to choose: music, or Faron? Only by taking a huge risk—and finally believing he’s worthy of love just as he is—can he have the chance for both.
The Small Change series is set in the Middle of Somewhere universe and features crossover characters from that series. Each book can be read on its own.
Content warning: This book contains explicit discussion of depression, anxiety, attempted suicide, and feelings of worthlessness.
My problem with Faron was that he was stunning.
He was tall and taut, with broad shoulders and an elegant neck. His tawny brown skin was flawless and he had dreamy, gray-brown eyes that always seemed to focus on something in a plane beyond this one. His riot of corkscrew curls was sometimes loose, but today was caught up in a topknot. It had been bleached nearly white when I first met him and was now growing out. His cheekbones were high and broad, casting shadows that made him look like he was candlelit from every angle. His mouth was lush and full, and his rare smiles turned his chiseled beauty to a warmth so engaging that you didn’t ever want him to look away from you.
His beauty was a problem because it made me want him and I hated wanting anything. Desire was the beginning of disappointment.
It wasn’t just his looks, though. I could’ve handled that. I’d known a lot of beautiful people.
No, it was everything.
He was graceful and forceful at the same time. His focus was intense, whether it was on the things that only he saw or on whoever he was listening to. And he made me feel calm—as if he held the whole world in his hands and slowed it down or sped it up to whatever speed I was going.
It was intoxicating: a promise of peace as long as I was in his presence.
And hope was even worse than desire.
About Roan Parrish:
Roan Parrish lives in Philadelphia, where she is gradually attempting to write love stories in every genre.
When not writing, she can usually be found cutting her friends’ hair, meandering through whatever city she’s in while listening to torch songs and melodic death metal, or cooking overly elaborate meals. She loves bonfires, winter beaches, minor chord harmonies, and self-tattooing. One time she may or may not have baked a six-layer chocolate cake and then thrown it out the window in a fit of pique.
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Rating: 5 stars out of 5
Jamie left home to prove he could cope alone, without the suffocating support of his parents. But instead of finding freedom, he’s struggling with university, money, and depression.
Drawn together by an undeniable spark, their relationship won’t survive the present, unless they can come to terms with the past.
Why I Left You by Colette Davison has a much deeper, complicated storyline than indicated by that short synopsis. Well written and layered, Why I Left You deals with the more serious themes of depression, the impact of media use and teenagers, and suicide. That the discussions for these topics are framed out around a halted romance between Brett and Jamie works beautifully to deliver an emotional punch as well as let the reader into some of the issues that a person with depression deals with on a daily basis.
By necessity Why I Left You is told from both the pov of Jamie and Brett because at the beginning the question of what exactly is wrong with Jamie is up in the air. You are as in the dark as Brett. Then the author moves us through Jamie’s thoughts and actions and it quickly becomes clear. For Brett? It takes longer.
At times this will be a tough book to read. If suicide and depression are triggers for you, you might reconsider reading this story. I will say that Colette Davison treats Jamie’s depression responsibly, complete with doctors and a treatment that includes medication over a long term and no instant cure.
Where does this leave the romance? Still smack in the middle as both Brett and Jamie try to reconnect and figure out what it all means. Again a nice realistic and authentic relationship. The book ends on a wonderful note of hope and love and so much promise of the future for them both, especially after what the past held.
I loved Why I Left You by Colette Davison and recommend it.
Cover art by Charlotte LR Kane is fitting for the storyline and eye catching.
Kindle Edition, 234 pages
Published November 7th 2017 by Smudged Ink Press
Original TitleWhy I Left You
Edition Language English
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Book Title: Why I Left You
Author: Colette Davison
Publisher: Smudged Ink Press
Cover Artist: Charlotte L R Kane
Genre/s: gay contemporary romance
Length: 72,000 words/234 pages
Release Date: November 7, 2017
Jamie is struggling with university, money and depression. The last thing he needs is for Brett—the guy who left him four years ago—to walk back into his life. Yet it could be just what he needs.
Ever since Jamie left him, Brett has been running away from commitment. But when he meets Jamie again, he’s forced to re-examine every aspect of his life.
Brett and Jamie are drawn back together by an undeniable spark, but unless they can come to terms with the past, their relationship won’t survive the present.
**Contains explicit language and scenes**
Buy Links ~ Available on KU
Holy shit. Jamie was kissing him. Brett’s head told him to back off and walk away, but his body remembered those lips and how much he’d once enjoyed having them pressed against his own. His body wanted to lean into the kiss and respond with four years’ worth of regret. For a few precious moments, he let himself give in to desire. His heart hammered against his ribs, desperate to escape his body and reclaim what it had lost. His fingers tingled as he wrapped an arm around Jamie’s shoulders and held him tightly, his thumb making small circles on Jamie’s shirt.
Then his brain kicked into gear again. What the fuck was he doing? This was the guy who had ripped his heart out in the worst possible way. Besides, Jamie was clearly at least half-gone. What they were doing was a mistake at best.
He pulled away, breathing heavily as he stared at Jamie, whose pupils were blown wide.
“You’re drunk,” Brett said in the most matter-of-fact tone he could manage.
Jamie curled his upper lip and turned away, shaking his head. It was dumb for Brett to follow him, but he did it anyway. They’d been best friends long before they’d realised they were attracted to each other. Brett had always looked out for Jamie, back when they’d lived next door to each other. Those instincts kicked in.
“Let me walk you home.”
Jamie stopped and rounded on him, fists clenched, teeth gritted. “Don’t pretend you give a shit.”
About the Author
Colette’s personal love story began at university, where she met her future husband. An evening of flirting, in the shadow of Lancaster castle, eventually led to a fairy tale wedding. She’s enjoying her own ‘happy ever after’ in the north of England with her husband, two beautiful children and her writing.
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