Two Important Closure Announcements -Torquere Press and All Romance

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Announcement clip art

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is sharing the closures of two well known publishing houses.  If you have books you need to download or are a writer with rights at either establishment, please take note.

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From All Romance:

“It is with a great sadness that we announce the closing of All Romance eBooks, LLC. For the first year since opening in 2006, we will be posting a loss. Despite efforts to maintain and grow our market share, sales and profits have declined. The financial forecast for 2017 isn’t hopeful. We’ve accepted that there is not a viable path forward.

All Romance has always been a labor of love. Over the years we’ve developed wonderful relationships with the vendors we’ve worked with, the publishers whose content it’s been our pleasure to sell, the authors who supported us, and the customers who it’s been our honor to serve. On midnight, December 31 our sites will go dark. Between now and then, we encourage consumers finalize any transactions, download purchases, and back up libraries.

If you directly publish content for sale through our platform or All Romance has acted as your publisher via our Publishing in Partnership program, you should be in receipt of an email from us with additional information. If not, please contact us at info@allromanceebooks.com.”

Torquere Press

Posted by Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware

 

Troubled publisher Torquere Press is closing. Owners Kristi Boulware and Joanna Talbot announced their decision yesterday in an email :
We have thought long and hard about where things are with Torquere and made the very hard decision that we need to begin the process of closing this chapter of our lives….We have done everything we could to turn things around but with the saturation in the industry, the financial hardships we are in, my health in constant decline along with the negativity we have had hurdled our way. We feel like we are currently fighting an uphill battle.

A MelanieM Review: Fire and Light by Berengaria Brown

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Rating: 2.5 stars ouf of 5 stars

Fire and Light coverSeveral years after the divorce, Hugh’s ex-wife decides that she doesn’t want her son and gives Hugh full custody.   Hugh loves his son and finds this a wonderful turn of events, even if it means he has to rearrange his life.  With 6 year old Orion living with him, Hugh and his son are adjusting to life as a family when a chance encounter with a man named Quigley changes all their lives forever.

This is a short story about a romance that starts in an equally small amount of time.  Hugh has just gotten custody of his son from his ex-wife.  She is in a new relationship and her boyfriend does not want Orion around.  Quigley is a man on a 2-week vacation.  All three meet cute in a surf shop and bond over board shorts and goggles.  In that 2 week time frame, the men fall in love and decide to be a family, along with Orion.  Orion adjusts beautifully.  Everyone is happy. The end.

That’s the story.  Short, sweet and has no character building, no foundation on which to build a realistic love story and certainly no depth.What it does have is loads of sex scenes, with a smattering of story.  It’s fluffy with some lovely scenes between Hugh and his son.  That is really the best part of Fire and Light, the father-son relationship.  Of course, that is also the component that makes the acceptance of a stranger and the instant family kind of creepy.

If Berengaria Brown is a must read author for you, then go ahead and pick this up.  But for the rest of us, I would give this a pass.

Book Details:
ebook, 2nd Edition, 57 pages
Published June 19th 2013 by Torquere Press (first published June 16th 2011)
ISBN 1610404882 (ISBN13: 9781610404884)
edition language English

Review: Roughstock: Tag Team – Fais Do Do by B.A. Tortuga

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Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5

Tag Team- Fais Do Do coverLandon Gaudet, also known as Nutbutter, is a little Cajun with a huge heart.  A horse whisperer, loyal friend and brother, a man of all trades at the rodeo including bull riding, Landon appears to be a happy person.  But he is missing one thing….his soulmate, the man with the three blue circles tattoo his dreams have shown him.  Landon’s twin sister, Lauren, is a well known Cajun healer who lives on their property in the bayou, has seen the man in her prophesies too.  But Landon is unprepared for the reality of the man his dreams has shown him, Adam Taggert.

Adam Taggert, one of the triplet Taggert brothers, is feeling his age.  Over six feet and over thirty, Adam competes with his brother, Chris, in the tag team roping events to accolades and top prizes.  Unlike the others in his group of friends, Adam has never settled on one person to love.  Instead Adam plays the field, moving from one person to another with all the speed of a bronc out of the gate.  His one regret is that he gave up Beau Lafitte, the cajun he lost to bullrider Sam Bell.  Unable to commit at the time, Beau has become Adam’s biggest regret.

At a party on Beau and Sam’s farm, Adam meets Landon and sparks fly.  And what starts out as a fling on Adam’s side starts to turn serious for both of them.  But obstacles, real and imagined, start to pile up and threaten to undo the fledgling relationship and all of Landon’s dreams.   With Adam’s family disapproving of Landon and Adam’s low sense of self worth,  can Landon and his dream of a life with his soulmate become a reality or breakdown under the weight of too much opposition.

Fais Do Do is a Louisiana country dance party and that’s the perfect title for a book about two completely opposite men dancing around each other, hoping for romance and a forever love.  From the opening paragraph, BA Tortuga plunges the reader into Cajun country and the patois of the bayou.  Here the cajun patter flows over the tongues of men such as Beau Lafitte and Landon Gaudet with a fluidity born of the bayou with its deep French origins.  And its not just the parlance, but the culture as well.  From pig roasts to voodoo, from swampy waters to small nut brown men, the Cajun culture (and BA Tortuga’s love for it) is embedded deeply throughout this story and the characters involved.  Here is a excerpt as Adam meets Landon at the party:

“You met Adam?” Sam Bell asked, leading Landon across the yard, the piles of bullriders and their women just filling the place up. Shit, the ropers and the family hadn’t even made an appearance yet. By midnight, the booze and the music would be flowing, and the whole bayou would ring.

Landon did love it here at Beau and Sam’s farm, more than almost anywhere, and Sister was here, Cotton and his gal Em. Even Adrian and Packer.

“No, sir. I mean, I knowed him good, oui? He rides and rides, but I ain’t never spoke to him, me.”

“Safety man. Like him. You.”

Landon nodded. Sam’s words got better every time they chatted together, and Landon was happy for it. Him and Sister, they prayed and lit candles for the man, spent hours on their knees with Maw-Maw’s rosary beads clicking. Sister’d even sacrificed a chicken for healing, pouring the blood out during the new moon to suck the sickness and hurting from Mr. Bell and into the dirt.

His sister was pure hoodoo, witchy as all get out, but he’d never met a better traiteur, or treater. Magical healer. Didn’t reckon he ever would.

“Adam. Cajun. Landon. Tag.”

Landon looked up, the sun bright as a penny, and the glow surrounded a tall, tall cowboy, making the man shine. Landon caught his breath, the universe spinning.

His dream. Shit fire and save matches. Ever since he’d been a boy, he’d done dreamed of this very second. Right here. Right now. The cowboy would have a light blue shirt on, a belt buckle from a 1999 roping championship. There’d be a tattoo on the inside of the man’s wrist when he went to shake — three blue circles ina row, touching. This was his cowboy. His family. The one meant to be his amant.

His. “Hey, kid.” Kid. Like he was some petit fils. “Comme ça?” “C’est bon.” Oh, the man knew some Cajun, did Adam. Landon held a hand out, and, sure as shit came from a goose’s ass, there was that ink on the man’s wrist, permanent. Three blue circles in a row. One. Two. Three.

This one was his, deep down. In his body cells. “Pleased. You want a beer?”

Adam smiled at him, eye lines wrinkling up like to catch the sunlight. “You legal to drink, boy?”

“Shee-it. I reckon.”

To drink. To fuck. To dance. To catch him the cowboy the bon Dieu offered to him.

He wasn’t no child. Not no more.

Adam looked him up and down, one eyebrow arching. “Well, then. C’mon. We’ll have us a couple three beers before things get crazy. These Cajuns, they’re nuts.”

“We is, us, for sure.” It wasn’t a bad thing, though. It was just a true thing.

You had to be crazy to love it here in the swamps.

Reading that passage you can almost hear the honey slow dialect of a man of the bayou, with hope in his heart for this man and their future.  Such a lovely way to start this story, with a dance, some beer and hope.  But as the author also grounds her characters in reality, any path to a commitment and love is going to be a long and complicated one, especially between two men so opposite each other, both on the social register and in outlook.

As with all her Roughstock stories, Tortuga brings in a number of elements to supplement the main romantic storyline.  Present are Beau Lafitte and Sam Bell.  Sam who is dealing with a near death accident in the rodeo arena, is still in recovering with his brain injuries.  Beau is trying to adjust to a difference in their relationship and Sam.  Coke Pharris, renowned bullfighter and his lover, Dillon Walsh, rodeo clown are involved with this group too.   All of these men have intermingled past histories, including that of Adam and Beau before he fell in love with Sam.  It helps to have read the core books in the Roughstock series because that will give the reader a foundation of knowledge with regard to this ever enlarging group of friends and coworkers.

It also helps to have some knowledge of a rodeo and the various events and jobs that go along with it.  Otherwise, a “safety”, the role of a clown or bullfighter, and other sundry terms and positions might fly over the readers head.  But if you have even a remote idea of the rodeo world,  then this series and book will make you want to fly out to the nearest event and climb into the stands for a better looksee at the men and animals that compete on a daily basis.  BA Tortuga has this universe down pat, and through these men, the reader will get an authentic feel for the hardship and passion the ropers and riders have for their  sport.

Tag Team – Fais Do Do has a couple of aspects to its story that might make people either uncomfortable or bogged down in the narrative.  There is some heartfelt angst that one character in particular will have to endure.  And it will be caused by the one person who is capable of inflicting such pain.  For some, it will lessen their connection to this character and that would be unfortunate.  Because I do feel that this is a pretty realistic if unpleasant viewpoint and might not be an uncommon as some would think in southern (or any) society.

The other is the colloquialisms or vernacular spoken by Beau, Landon or Laurel Gaudet, “Sister” as she is known.  It is pretty thick, just as musical and full of french words and phrases, enough to confound anyone not familiar with the Cajun dialect.   Here is Landon and Sister in their home:

“Bubba?”

Landon looked over at Sister, who was busily stirring the eggs. “Yes, ma’am?”

“You gon’ go be with him forever and leave me here alone, you think?”

His heart said he was in love with Adam, but Landon said what he knew to be true. “Sister, I ain’t never onced left you. Never once for always. I will take care of you ‘til the Rapture.”

They were twins. He wasn’t about to leave her with no way to take care of herself, and he needed to see her face. Half of him was missing when she wasn’t there.

Her dark eyes looked relieved, and she found a smile for him. “You think your man will like me?”

“Why wouldn’t he? You’re…” He searched for the right word, but fuck if he didn’t know one. “Laurel.”

She laughed, whacking him with one hand. “Uh-huh. Tell me about him.”

“Oh, lady, he’s fine. Tall and strong with these eyes like chips of rock and he can ride…” He sighed, seeing his cowboy up in the saddle, moving like Adam was one with the horse, like the wind itself.

“I knew he had to love horses.” She grinned, eyes dancing.

“He’s a cowboy. A real cowboy, not just a bullrider.” “Oh, Bubba. You have it so bad.” He put down the tack he’d been repairing for Albert and

looked over, serious as a heart attack. “He’s it, Adam. For me. I been dreaming on him my whole life. I ain’t sure I’mhis one. I fear that was Mr. Beau.” Laurel shook her head, dark hair all wild and loose. “Mr.

Beau was made to comfort Sammy in the black times, Bubba. I know that.”

Landon shrugged. “Sure. I know that, but we don’t know God, not for true. I think maybe he has a mean streak, giving people to the wrong folks. Mr. Beau is a good man, a Cajun.”

“Maybe your man, he just is a little stupid, eh? Maybe he got him some Cajuns crossed.” Laurel put her spoon down, came to him with open arms, hugging on him hard. “God ain’t mean, not a bit. The Devil, he’s a trickster and a liar and he fools folks, but God loves him us. I know that.”

“I want to believe that, Sister.” He rested his head on her, eyes closing.

“Then quit fighting it and do so.” She patted his back, her hands warm, and he could see why people came to her for the healing. Her touch felt soothing, and her voice held the surety of an angel who’d seen God’s face.

“Witchy woman.”

“Yessir, and thank God for it. Someone got to keep you boys whole.”

“Mmm.” He hugged her tight, absorbing some of her strength. “We need to get back to cookin’.”

“Yep. Need to make a soft cake for Auntie down the road. We got to pray over her bad tooth. I think it’ll take the both of us.”

He wrinkled his nose. Tooth stuff was always smelly. Still, he always helped when he could. “All right.”

“You’re a good man, Bubba.”

“You think so? I ain’t… You know I ain’t as book learned as all them boys I ride with.”

“Pshaw.” She put a hand over his heart. “You got all you need right here.”

“I sure hope so, Sister. I surely do.”

I love the way it sounds and is used to bring these marvelous characters to life.  But I also recognize that some readers will have trouble with the dialog, making it a barrier to the personalities instead of a path to who they are as individuals and as a rich culture grounded in geography and history.

My only real quibble is that I felt the resolution of the issues (huge ones) between Landon and Adam came about too easily considering the events that tore them apart.  At 185 pages, the author had plenty of time (and length) to extend the reconciliation out to a reasonable amount of time.   But that is it for quibbles, mostly.  There are some editing issues, with the wrong name used in a sentence when they are clearly talking about another character.  But overlooking those, this is a terrific story as is the series.  Consider this highly recommended.

Cover illustration by A. Squires is perfect for the story and series.  Great job.

Book Details:

ebook, 185 pages
Published September 25th 2013 by Torquere Press
ISBN 161040582X (ISBN13: 9781610405829)
edition language English

Books in the Roughstock series:

Roughstock: Blind Ride — Season One – Novel, m/m, core
Give it Time: the Seven of Wands – Novella, m/m
Roughstock: And a Smile — Season One – Novel, m/m, core
Doce — A Roughstock Story – Novella, m/m
Amorzinhos — A Roughstock Story – Novela, m/m, threesome
Roughstock: File Gumbo — Season One – Novel, m/m, core
Roughstock: And a Smile — Coke’s Clown – Novela, m/m,
Shutter Speed, A Roughstock Story: the Seven of Pentacles – Novella, m/m
Roughstock: City/Country – Novel, m/f
Roughstock: Picking Roses – Novel, m/f
Needing To: A Roughstock Story – Novella, m/m
Roughstock: Tag Team – Fais Do Do Season Two – Novel, m/m

Upcoming Roughstock Novels
Roughstock: What She Wants – Novel, m/m/f
Roughstock: Terremoto – Season Two- Novel, m/m

Roughstock Shorts:
Cowboy Christmas (Coke and Dillon)
Barbed Wire and Bootheels (Sam and Beau)
Some Good Doctoring (CB and Jonesy) – Free Read

Review: Bar None Anthology by Sean Michael, BA Tortuga, Julia Talbot, and Kiernan Kelly

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Bar None coverDo you like your bartenders hot, sexy, and maybe even artificial?  Torquere Press presents an anthology where all the stories revolve around the bars, drinks and the men who serve them.  Authors BA Tortuga, Julia Talbot, Sean Michael and Kiernan Kelly deliver four sexy and ultimately loving romps through the bars and bartenders of our dreams.

Here in the order they are found in the anthology are the stories of Bar None:

Bartender Rescue by BA Tortuga
Kind of a D.R.A.G. by Kiernan Kelly
The Blue Moon Bar By Julia Talbot
Flair, a Hammer Story By Sean Michael

I really looked forward to reading this anthology and it came through as anticipated.  I have a mini-review posted after each title.

1.  “Bartender Rescue”by BA Tortuga – 4.75 stars out of 5

Shane and Galen from the Stormy Weather series return in this short story of burnout and escape.  As the story starts long term lovers Shane and Galen have almost switched place as far as occupations go.  Now it is Shane who is the Owner and CEO of a number of successful bars, heading out each morning in a 3-piece suit, micro managing his bars and neglecting his lover, Galen.  The stress is mounting and Shane is turning to pharmaceuticals to stay awake and energized, none of which makes Galen happy.  Shane knows things aren’t working but doesn’t know how to step off and out of the business treadmill.

When the answer pops up in the form of an old would be boyfriend of Shane’s, Galen is more than ready to take advantage of the situation.  Now if only he can get  Shane to agree.

I love this couple having been with them through all sorts of angst and misadventures, including hurricanes and miscommunications.  Now we get to see a different dynamic with this couple, with beach bum Shane being the uber responsible business owner and Galen ending up the laid back part of their relationship.  Tortuga writes this couple so realistically you can practically watch them walk off the page.  They are settled in their relationship, with bone deep knowledge of each other and their needs telegraphing with each bit of dialog and loving touch.  And it is painful to watch when each person realizes that the relationship and each other is being neglected.  Wonderful writing, great characters and a realistic situation make this story of the best.

I loved every part of this story and the only thing that kept it from a 5 star rating is a lack of backstory for those readers new to Shane and Galen.  Even without going into enormous detail,, even a little past history would have been enlightening for those new to this couple.

2. “Kind of a D.R.A.G.” by Kiernan Kelly. Rating 4 stars out of 5

Kiernan Kelly takes bartenders intergalactic with this story of a bar with a captive audience as it is located on a prisoner planet somewhere in space.  Inhabited by prisoners, a few free humans and tons of androids who handle  almost every job possible, Kelly’s story contains a lot of humor, a few nice twists, and a far reaching ( yep, went there) ending.

Max, bartender and really only of human in residence at Club Grinder, a dive and strip club on Sirius 7.  It is in fact the only bar on Sirius 7, “a penitentiary rock located among a fistful of tiny, uninhabited planetoids at the ass end of the galaxy”.  Other than The Boss who is the  owner of the club, Max is the only human around, the rest of the employees, strippers, Drag Queens Betty Boob and Ivana Hump, every one is an android. In a funny, Lucille Ball twist, Kelly starts off her story with the two Drag Queens breaking an android stripper in the most awkward and humorous way possible. Soon the Drag Queens are using The Bosses D.R.A.G machine to create a new one.  Of course, everything starts to go wrong immediately and the plot takes flight.

I enjoyed this story and found parts of it hilarious. While the plot was predictable, the characters and the charm and endearing personalities make this story outshine its plot structure.  Funny, charming, just a lovely way to spend some time.  I could really see this group coming back for an encore.

3. “The Blue Moon Bar” By Julia Talbot.  Rating 3.5 stars out of 5

Werewolf Hugh Dailin is crazy about his bear shifter bartender Seamus Deane but his wolf pack and family disapprove of homosexuality, wanting him to find a female mate and have a bunch of pups.  But Hugh is sure that his mate is the burly guy with all that great hair and muscles that just happens to work for him.  The tension is getting to them both, with each snarling at the others in frustration and rage.  Something has to give and it does when a lion comes into the bar and demands the return of his cub, a cub that’s gone missing. Then one of their own goes missing too and both must scramble to find the person responsible before more vanish.

I liked this story, especially since shifters, any type of shifter from sloth to owl, are favorites of mine.  But this story needed a little bit more of plot, characterization, background, and exposition. We never really find out who, what and why is behind the mystery. And everything is resolved almost in seconds.  It just feels lacking which is a shame as the bones of this story are wonderful.  Still, I enjoyed Hugh and Seamus and wished I had more of their relationship.

4. “Flair, a Hammer Story”  By Sean Michael. 5 stars out of 5

Author and consultant to bars on drinks, specialty recipes and Flair, Nathan Edwards is wary when he approaches the location of his next client, a man named Xavier who owns an establishment called The Hammer. The exterior is nondescript but what Nathan finds inside is anything but ordinary.

Nathan is intelligent, handsome and OCD which makes for an intriguing combination to Master Jarrod, a Dom who just walked into The Hammer for lunch and a place to check emails.   Nathan is there to train the club’s bartenders in Flair and to give them new recipes to try out for their clientele.  He has no idea as to the type of place The Hammer is or the people who are members.

Artist Jarrod stopped by the Hammer on impulse for lunch and to check on his emails from clients.  But he stays to watch Nathan train the staff, pulled in by the young man’s magnetism, looks, and intelligence.  An invitation to lunch goes well until the Dom in Jerrod comes out to play to Nathan’s consternation.  When Jarrod pursues the relationship, can Nathan accept Jarrod’s lifestyle or will Jarrod’s feelings for Nathan force Jerrod to leave the lifestyle behind?

This is my favorite story of the collection.  It’s just masterful (yes, went there as well)!  Sean Michael gives us two completely authentic, layered characters and then creates a believable and charming slow buildup to a wonderful romance that all readers will love and root for.

Nathan is an especially unusual character.  He has OCD but uses it to his  advantage in his business.  He makes no apologies, sure of himself and easy in his skin.  And while he is startled as to the true nature of the club he is consulting for, it doesn’t bother him even though he is uneducated about the lifestyle.  Then he meets Jarrod, strong, handsome and artistic and Nathan is charmed.  But a stray comment and too strong attitude naturally finds Nathan pulling away.

I really liked that Michael introduced us to a character unfamiliar with bdsm and D/s relationships.  By doing so, the author can educate Nathan and the reader at the same time about the lifestyle and the most common misconceptions.  And Sean Michael does so in a manner that doesn’t feel forced or academic.

This is also the beginning of a relationship so we aren’t sure exactly what compromises each man is going to make for the other. Our only certainty being that these men do belong together.  Books containing elements of bdsm are a minority in the type of books I normally review but Flair, a Hammer story is so well done, from the marvelous characters to the realistic and intelligent relationship between Nathan and Jerrod that it makes me want to read the rest of the stories in the Hammer series to see if they match the promise and the happiness I felt after reading this tale of love found amongst the cocktail glasses, shakers and bottles of a bar and its bartender.   Great job and a wonderful way in which to end this collection.

If you are unfamiliar with any of these authors, Bar None is a great way to familiarize yourself with their style of writing and the characters they like to play with.  I enjoyed them all and think you will too.  Consider this definitely recommended.

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 223 pages
Published September 24th 2013 by Torquere Press
ISBN 1610405811 (ISBN13: 9781610405812)
edition language English

Review: The Blight by Missouri Dalton

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Rating: 3.75 stars out of 5

The Blight coverNoah Abbott is the only one who knows he isn’t crazy.  He knows what he saw all those years ago when he was a younger was real just as he knows the fantastical beings, the trolls and the goblins he sees walking around him unnoticed are too.  The trouble is no one else sees them.  Just Noah.  And that fact got him a trip and long stay in a psychiatric ward when he was 16 and Noah’s not going there again.  Now Noah keeps his head down and his eyes to the ground, he works in a box factory doing menial work for menial wages, and he says nothing to anyone.

Then things slowly start to change.  One of his coworkers, Christian, follow citizen on the outskirts of society, takes an interest in him, one that goes far past friendship into that of potential lover, new ground for a virgin like Noah.  And a young woman, Hannah Regent, approaches him and asks for help.  Turns out she sees the trolls and goblins too and needs Noah to help fight them off and keep her safe.

And with Hannah’s appearance, Noah’s reality is shattered.  Turns out he’s an elf on the run. Hannah too.  And that monster he saw all those years ago?  Well, that monstrous troll is back and hunting them both.  With  a Goblin King,to aid them, Noah and Hannah flee to another  universe, one that is their home.  There awaits a mighty quest for Noah, and the fate of all the elves hangs in the balance. But Noah isn’t sure he is up to the challenge.

Wow, what a story.  It has been several days since I finished this book and I am still trying to decide how I feel about it.  Missouri Dalton brings a number of intriguing and thought provoking elements to this story of a “Magpie” child. Noah has been hidden in the human world to protect him (and Hannah) until he can be found and returned to his rightful place as one of the remaining elven royalty.  But that world, Noah’s  “human world”, is that of most people’s nightmares.  He sees things.  Awful things that do harm to others and they are coming for him.  A basic bump in the dark  nightmare that explodes into reality for Noah only no one believes him.  Dalton plays further into our fears by having Noah confined to a less than desirable  psychiatric ward for years, abandoned by family and friends.    This element of the story is so artfully conceived and accomplished that it kept me up thinking for hours on end.

The Noah that is let out of the ward after learning to “play the game” is a person that anyone might meet on the streets today.  Head down, eyes averted, trying to stay as inconspicuous as possible.  His posture is exactly that of a person recently released from a mental institution.  That has also been his persona at work, a box factory that is one of the few places willing to hire excons and the mentally unstable.  Again Dalton has found the perfect setting for Noah and his post “crazy ward” life.  Her descriptions of Noah’s job and coworkers is grounded in the reality of such workplaces and it plays out that way in the story too.

Noah is such an interesting character because he is such a dichotomy himself.  A fake human, a false past, a newly reclaimed elf who just happens to be young by elven standards, a elf teen going through pubescence, it all throws Noah through the proverbial emotional and mental loop until he is not sure who he really is.  Is he a hero?  A virgin turned slut by his own Elvish pheromones?  It is a tumultuous journey that Dalton takes both Noah, now Neiren and the reader on.  Trust me when I say its not a real enjoyable journey, nor are some of the situations and events that happen along the way.

One issue I had with The Blight is that the multiple romances were all too new and shallow to become as meaningful as they needed to be.  Noah/Neiren is a highly charged hormonal elf, new to sex and possibly love.  And he behaves just like you think such a character would.  He is promiscuous, conflicted about love and relationships as well as what is truly acceptable behavior now that he is an elf once more.  So much of human morality has been ingrained in his mind and emotions but that has nothing to do with his current and true reality and quite naturally Noah/Neiren is having problems adjusting.   I thought the author did a great job in making Noah’s dilemma real but those readers who have issues with multiple sexual partners (m/m, potential m/m/m, m/f, m/?) as well as what might be seen as “cheating” will feel uncomfortable with these elements.

And the same can be said about the deaths that occur within the story as well.  They happen fast and the events that follow leave little room for grieving.  I think most readers will be shocked and hurt by these deaths.  We won’t see them coming and neither do the characters making their impact on all of us genuine and  pain filled.

There is something here to upset everyone.  Main character deaths, deaths of beloved characters,  characters behaving badly, polyamorous relationships (no one on one relationships here), and finally maybe a happy for now ending.  Missouri Dalton gives the reader instance after instance of moments and events that will have the reader wanting to put this book down and walk away.

And that would be a mistake.

Because as put out as all of above items will make you, there is also so much substance and wonder to be found here as well. The magic of the Goblin Kingdom, and the Goblin King himself.  The grotto of lost elves, shaking mountains and black dragons, its all here too. I can’t call this story heartwarming because its not.  But it has so much to recommend it, the lovely descriptions of magical place hidden away from our mundane human society, and all the beings trying to survive a calamitous time of war and race death.  The scope of this story and the descriptions make it worth your while to pick it up and decide for yourself.

For me, it was worth the journey.  Here is a taste of how it all starts:

“Noah Abbott, this court has found you incompetent and your parents have decided it is to your benefit to give over guardianship to the state of California. It is the decision of this court that you are to be remanded into the custody of the St. George Psychiatric Hospital until your twenty-first birthday, upon which time you will be re-examined for mental fitness.”

She banged her gavel down. “Court is adjourned.”

I felt the shock of it run over me; it was like being hit by a truck. As I’d been hit by a truck, I was able to make this comparison with some accuracy.

“I’m not crazy, I know what I saw! I am not crazy!”

“Bailiff, please remove Mr. Abbott.”

The men took my arms to take me away; I jerked in their grips, and my tired body protested.

“I know what I saw! I know what I saw!”

The bailiff and his friend dragged me out of the courtroom.

“I know what I saw!” I screamed, my voice hoarse. “I know what I saw!”

That cover illustration by BS Clay is magical.  I love it and think it is one of the best of the year.

Book Details:

ebook, 192 pages / 53000 words
Published September 11th 2013 by Torquere Press
ISBN 1610405714 (ISBN13: 9781610405713)
edition language English

Review: Burning Now by A.R. Moler

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Rating: 3 stars out of 5

Burning Now coverFireman Gideon Sato is combing through the remains of a burning warehouse when he finds the body of a man buried under the  timbers and ashes of the building.  At first, Gideon believes the man is dead so he is stunned when the body moves, the man groaning in pain.  How could anyone survive such a blaze?

Vanya Stravinsky is leaving the restaurant where he works as a chef when he is mugged and knocked unconscious.  The next moment Vanya is waking up in the ashes of a burning warehouse with a fireman standing over top of him.  Shaking from the cold and naked, Vanya is rushed off to the hospital for treatment and questioning about the fire.  One thing all the investigators want to know….how did Vanya survive the blaze?  While the events of the evening are still foggy, Vanya is alert enough to hide his biggest secret and the reason why he was in a burning building making everyone suspicious.

A police detective is sure Vanya is an arsonist and working for the mob.  A panicked Vanya turns to Gideon for help and comfort.  It will take both men to clear Vanya’s name but will their love survive when Vanya reveals the secrets he has been hiding?

Burning Now is A.R. Moler’s take on the slavic folklore of “Zhar-ptitsa”also known as the firebird.  As the story opens, Vanya is a chef in a small Russian-Ukranian bistro, and is mugged leaving work.  The next instant we watch as Gideon, a fireman, finds Vanya under the debris in a still burning building and mistakes him for a dead body.  Moler does a nice job bringing the reader into the scene and action of those personnel involved in putting out a fire.

No fire was ever done until all the hot spots had been extinguished, and the chief declared it out. Gideon Sato poked through the rubble of the warehouse with his pike pole. The men of Station 18 had spent most of the night getting the blaze under control and out. Smoky steam still drifted up from numerous spots of semi-collapsed debris. Gideon hooked the end of the pike under one suspicious looking metal slab that had probably fallen from above and flipped it back.

He froze. A filthy soot covered pair of bare feet protruded from under smaller chunks of debris. Aw hell. There was a victim. Gideon shouted back over his shoulder at a colleague. “Hey Victa, got a crispy critter over here. Better tell Cap’ we’re going to need a body bag.”

As you can tell from that scene, Moler inserts dialog that would probably found at any arson site in the nation where firefighters might use callous sounding terms to gloss over the horrifying nature of finds like this one.  Unfortunately, the next bit of inner dialog and descriptions of Gideon pulling out Vanya from under the debris counters that effectiveness with some disastrous and confusing intermingling of thoughts and actual events.  This is an example:

Gideon began to shift some more of the debris. The feet and lower legs weren’t charred. Interesting. He pushed away chunks of burned boxes and there was an overlapping set of metals rods held off the floor by a toasted ex-washing machine. As Gideon shoved back the rods and a layer of burnt cardboard, there was a whole body beneath, lying face down. Wow. Whole as in filthy dirty but completely unburned. Also very, very naked. Mr. Dead-of-Smoke-Inhalation was one deliciously built guy. Ewww. Gideon gave himself a little shake. Skeevving on a dead body was just gross. Still, he did have to wonder why the guy was naked.

While I don’t fault the content, the format is confusing and hurts the overall cohesion of the story.  This is a pretty typical example of the style of narrative of Burning Now. Why not break out the dialog from the events that are happening?  As it is written, it strikes me as more confusing with the commentary buried within third person narrative.

There are some good ideas within this story.  I would have loved to have been given more plot to go along with the folklore.  From the sources I found ” In Slavic folklore, the Firebird (Russian: жар-пти́ца, zhar-ptitsa), is a magical glowing bird from a faraway land, which is both a blessing and a bringer of doom to its captor.”  But we never really get any background on Vanya or his family, except for the city in Russia where they came from.  This is a huge hole when you are basing your story around a mythical beast.  You need the background material in order to ground your story and that is missing here. Is Vanya a curse or a blessing? How does the reality of being a firebird relate to the folklore?  We never find out.

Equally absent is any sort of meaningful relationship between Vanya and Gideon.  When a main character reveals something as outrageous and mind boggling as the fact that they are a mythical being,  the relationship between the men should be solid and believable enough to make that scene emotional and dramatic as the reader would reasonably  expect it to be.   Unfortunately, I found it hard to invest myself in either man or their relationship.

The fact that Burning Now is only three chapters in length also hurts the story.  The author just did not have enough pages to round out their story and invest their characters with the necessary back histories to make the events and relationship seem realistic (even with the mythical element involved).

In the end, while I found parts of this story interesting, the main characters and plot fell short for me.  I would recommend this story only to those diehard fans of A.R. Moler’s or those who covet one more story involving the firebird legend.

Cover illustration by BS Clay is lovely and vibrant.

Book Details:

ebook, 89 pages
Published September 8th 2013 by Torquere Press
ISBN 1610405293 (ISBN13: 9781610405294)
edition language English

Review: Fever Anthology by M Rode

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

If you love cowboys, than this is the anthology for you.  From cowboy tv stars to those that ride bucking bulls and every permutation in between, these 8 stories will make you laugh, make you sigh, even reach for a fan or too but always make you remember why you love a cowboy.

Stories included in Fever are:Fever cover

Loose Riggin’ by Julia Talbot
Two Buckets and a Snakeskin Suit by Aaron Michaels
Torn by Sean Michael
Cowboy and Indian by Rob Rosen
Heart of Dixie by Mychael Black
Ready to Ride by Katherine Halle
White Hat/Black Hat by Kiernan Kelly
In the Pocket, a Roughstock story by BA Tortuga

I really enjoyed this anthology, especially because cowboys are a real weakness for me.  Of special interest was the new story from BA Tortuga in her Roughstock series, I cannot get enough of those boys.  It also introduced me to a series I hadn’t heard of, Mychael Black’s Hearth and Home series, so that was a plus too.  Here in sequence as they appear are mini reviews of each story:

1.  Loose Riggin‘ by Julia Talbot: 3.5 stars

One cowboy on the way up, one cowboy bull rider on the way down.  Baron LeBlanc is a top bullrider at the end of his career.  During one ride he injuries himself badly and an young bull rider, Arlen Deamus, offers to take care of him and become his traveling partner.  I loved this story and thought the characters and the plot were full of promise.  It is the perfect introduction for a longer story.  Julia Talbot draws us in with her wonderful characters, great names and vivid descriptions but just as we are settling in, its over. As a short story, it ends so abruptly that it feels incomplete and the reader feels more than a little frustrated after investing emotionally in the story.  I would love to see this author expand Baron and Arlen romance into a full length book.  I will be first in line to pick it up.

2. Two Buckets and a Snakeskin Suit by Aaron Michaels: Rating 3.5 stars out of 5

While on vacation, Marcus and his sister Shelly attend camel races outside Las Vegas.  Shelly is dying to meet an Australian cowboy and these camel races have more than their share of those.  But when Marcus is hurt after he falls off a camel, he is the one who captures the attention of the only Aussie cowboy there.  This was a cute little romance between a man talked into riding a camel by his sister and the Aussie cowboy who just happens to be a chiropractor who comes to his aid.  Michaels did a nice job with presenting us with a well rounded character in Marcus and Shelly but I would have loved a little more back story on Vic.  But it’s cute, hot, and has a realistic HFN.

3.  Torn by Sean Michael: 5 stars for the heat alone

Pistol, an injured bull rider, returns home to his partner Bender and their ranch after a long  6 month absence on the rodeo circuit and shoulder surgery.  He is unsure of his welcome after receiving an angry  phone call from his  partner following his injury.  Bender’s love for Pistol is both the source of his anger and the one thing that will heal it.  This is my second favorite story in the collection.  Sean Michael gets everything right in this story.  We get all the information we need about these two men and their long term relationship from Michael’s descriptions of their tense posture, their loving gestures and a dialog that  telegraphs a well established intimacy at every level.  Bender is tired of his lover’s injuries and this last one scared him badly.  Pistol loves riding bulls and is frightened that his time as a bullrider is coming to an end.  The situation is tense, hot, loving, angry, gentle, just everything you would expect from two scared people who love each other deeply and are faced with a serious situation.  The ending is perfection, but then so is this short story.  It doesn’t need to be longer, it doesn’t need any additional backstory.  It ends where it should.  Lovely.  Here is a tease. Pistol is returning home after surgery unsure of his welcome:

He opened the door, pushed it open and stood, trying to keep them from the arm still in the sling. “Hey y’all, you happy to see me?”

“You should have called and let me know.” Bender waited for the dogs to have their hello, blue eyes on him like twin laser beams.

“I didn’t want you worrying. Jack needed his guest room back.” He’d been imposing. Not to mention, the man’s mother-in-law had come to help with the last few days of Mary Ellen’s pregnancy, and he’d wanted to come home. Bender told the dogs to “scatter,” and they did.

Before Pistol could say anything Bender was on him, mouth covering his in a kiss that smashed his lips against his teeth and totally stole his breath.

Oh. Oh, thank God. He pushed up into the kiss, damn near sobbing with relief.

4. Cowboy and Indian by Rob Rosen: 2 stars out of 5

Jed sees a poster for a fifty-dollar prize for the longest bronco buck advertised outside a saloon.  He figures his horse Bessy needs a new saddle and aims to get it for her by riding in the rodeo.  Along the way he runs into an Apache warrior, Taza, who wants to help his people.  They make love, not war and end up with a future neither of them ever dreamed of.   There are quite a number of things about this story that I have issues with, but the portrait of Taza, an Apache warrior, is the largest.  Having a Native American character, especially in a historical story, can be a iffy element if not handled just right.  For me, Taza just did not work.  From his pidgin English which reminded me of the “Me, Tonto, you white man” variety to the fact that he drops trow for an unknown white man just after the awful Apache wars have ended….well it’s not just unrealistic but downright ridiculous.  Here is their first interchange:

 “Jed,” I told him, with a polite nod. “White man sounds so, well now, formal.”

With his free hand, he pounded his chest. “Taza,” he informed me. “In your language, means Apache warrior.”

I nodded my head. “Pleasure, Taza.”

And then he nodded, releasing the beast before sending it swinging. “You want to pleasure Taza?”

The only way that piece of dialog would work is in a Mel Brooks comedy.  And it just goes further downhill from there.  This is the one story I would skip over.

5. Heart of Dixie by Mychael Black: Rating 4 stars out of 5

Mack Sexton has been in love with his best friend and handyman Les Spencer for a long time.  Les feels the same but neither man has acknowledged let alone acted on their feelings.  Then one day everything changes.  Heart of Dixie is a snapshot of a relationship that is part of a series called Hearth and Home by Mychael Black.  I am unfamiliar with that series but got enough of a taste of it from this story that I will be scampering back to pick up the rest.  Black develops the characters and setting to the point that it and both men feel real and the reader connects with them from the start.  Mack’s sister, Kate, is a lively character in her own right and the interaction among the three of them comes across as long established and affectionate.  Enjoyable and romantic.  I loved this one.

6. Ready To Ride by Katherine Halle: 4 stars out of 5

Eric is an orthopedic surgeon volunteering his time with the Justin Sports Medicine program. Ben Greene is champion Saddle Bronc rider Eric has come to love.  When Eric’s volunteer time with the rodeo comes to an end, Ben must travel on the circuit alone.  And while neither man has talked about where their relationship is going, both love each other deeply.  When Ben is receives a season-ending injury during a ride, Eric decides that, conversation or not, he is bringing his man home for good.  I loved Halle’s characters and thought she got the character of Ben with his avoidance of “mushy talk” just right.  While most of the story is seen through Eric’s eyes,  Halle shows us that Ben’s actions telegraph his feelings perfectly to his lover and that words are not always necessary.  This story has romance, cowboys and HEA in a nice short package.

7. White Hat/Black Hat by Kiernan Kelly: 4.25 stars out of 5

The time is 1968, the place Hollywood where a new TV western is getting ready to go into production.  Two men, Dallas Frank and Stone Grant, arrive to audition for the two leads, Black Bart and Sheriff Carson Star, the White Hat/Black Hat title characters.  To each man’s surprise and delight, they win the roles and secretly the love of each other.   For the next forty years, they pretend to hate each other in public while continuing a love affair that has lasted as long as their show.  Then their show is cancelled.  What will they do now?  Kelly gives us a terrific look back at old Hollywood and its outlook on homosexuality.  Through small interludes we watch as Dallas (real name Joe Bob) and Stone Grant (real name Arvin Mason) settle into a long term relationship while playing the Hollywood game to protect the series and their reputation. The ending is rewarding, the relationship has a very authentic feel as does the times the men pass through.  My third favorite story of the collection.

8. In the Pocket, a Roughstock story by BA Tortuga: 5 out of 5 stars

Sterling is a new bullfighter and he loves his job.  He also loves working with his hero and fellow bullfighter, Coke Pharris.  But rodeo clown Dillon Walsh is tired of the youngster drooling on his man and figures a little matchmaking is in order.  When stock  contractor Colby Tyburn asks for an introduction to Sterling, Dillon sees an opportunity and takes it, maneuvering Sterling into a date with the stock contractor.  Colby Tyburn has been watching Sterling for some time and loves what he sees….a gorgeous energetic young man, all want and desire.  Sparks fly at the first introduction but neither man expects the white hot sex to turn into something deeper and just perhaps, permanent.  In the Pocket is a Roughstock story. So if the reader is familiar with the series, than you already know all about Coke Pharris and his rodeo clown lover, Dillon Walsh.  They happen to be a favorite couple of mine so it is wonderful to see them make an appearance here.  But the focus of the story is the young (and virginal) bullfighter, Sterling, and the older, more experienced man, Colby Tyburn, a roughstock contractor.

Sterling is a bouncy Tigger of a character.  He is youthful, energetic to the extreme and has a bad case of hero worship when it comes to Coke Pharris.  Unfortunately for Sterling, Coke is taken and Dillon is not happy that Sterling can’t keep his hands off his man.  BA Tortuga paints the perfect portrait of innocent enthusiasm and lustful need all wrapped up in one young man who doesn’t seem to know what to do with it all.  I just loved Sterling, he absolutely made me smile.  Colby Tyburn could have come off as a predator but his appreciation for Sterling and all of his qualities, not just his physical traits, brings him back to a person the reader can relate to.  Their sexual encounter is sexy, white hot, and ultimately very touching.  It is not necessary to have read the other Roughstock stories, but it does help to round out the back history of the other men mentioned, however casually.   There are over 17 stories in the Roughstock series, Coke and Dillon’s story is called Roughstock: And a Smile- Season One. I absolutely recommend them all.  Here is a taste:

Nate (was) screaming his head off to get the bull’s attention. Joa landed, but luckily the Brazilian was ready, and they sort of strong-armed each other.

“Gotcha.”

He flung Joa toward Pharris and put himself between the cowboy and Merry-Go-Round. He heard Coke grunt, but then he and Nate were busy playing a game of slap the bull on the nose, trading off as it went round and round. This was his favorite part, the fun part. They did their little dance, and he pulled his butt in, hearing the whoosh as two thousand pounds went by.

“Woohoo!” He grinned at the gate shut, jogging over to Pharris, who clapped him on the back.

He loved his life.

Loved it.

Cover illustration by BSClay is perfect in tone and design for this collection.

Book Details:

ebook, 195 pages
Published June 5th 2013 by Torquere Press
ISBN
1610404858 (ISBN13: 9781610404853)
edition language
English

A Book Giveaway, Riding the Weather Rollercoaster, and the Week Ahead in Reviews

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So far the Washington Metro area has felt like Seattle, WA, and now we are aiming for Phoenix, AZ.  We have had close to 12 inches of rain in the last month alone, and that doesn’t seem to be letting up as we head towards the middle of July.  Really, folks, nothing like 100 percent humidity for a smokey Fourth of July.  Now the heat wave that baked the western states has hit here as well.  Temperature is rising to 98º today.  Now add to that the fact that the ground squishes with every footstep and a high humidity….well, it is little wonder I expect to see monkeys swinging from the maples at any time.  It is downright tropical outside.  Well ok, we did see a runaway red panda last week that escaped from the National Zoo (now safely back home after a trip to Adams Morgan, a very trendy place).  And a couple of teenage black bears that decided to tour downtown Washington for a suitable condo to live in.  I am betting air-conditioning and a pool were on their list of must haves!   So I am seeing a day spent inside knitting and reading on the agenda for the rest of the day.  I did get my coleus and caladiums bought on sale planted yesterday, as well as some yanking of smartweed but anything else will have to wait until the temperatures go down.

Now on to the exciting week ahead.  Kendall McKenna’s latest release, The Final Line is just out.  It is the another book in her wonderful Recon Diaries series.  On Monday, Kendall McKenna will be here with a guest blog and a book contest.  We will be giving away, courtesy of MLR Press, a copy of The Final Line to one of the people who comment on her blog and my review, which will be posted the next day.  Here is the blurb for the book:

Staff Sergeant Corey Yarwood is an instructor at the Basic Reconnaissance Course. His last deployment ended in horror, but he can’t remember those events. Battling severe PTSD, Corey’s drinking is growing out of control.

Sean Chandler walks into a dive bar, and into Corey’s life. An actor and a musician, Sean has the empathy and compassion to sooth Corey’s pain, and the strength to support him as he struggles to heal.

Corey’s lost memories are pivotal to a civilian murder, and a military investigation. Remembering could mean salvation, or destruction. Will the truth be too much for Sean to handle?

So mark your calendars for July 8 and 9 for your chance to win a copy of this wonderful book!  And thank you, MLR Press and Laura Baumbach for the copies of The Final Line.  Now here is the week ahead in reviews:

Monday, July 8, 2013:                 Guest Blog with Kendall McKenna, author of The Final Line

Book Contest.  One copy of The Final Line will be given away

Tuesday, July 9, 2013:                  Review of The Final Line, last day to comment for the contest

Wednesday, July 10,2013:          Pickup Men by LC Chase, winner of contest announced

Thursday, July 11, 2013:             Changing Planes by Karenna Colcroft

Friday, July 12, 2013:                  Fever Anthology by M. Rode

Saturday, July 13, 2013:              In Pursuit of the Bang On, Well Done, and apparently Endangered Short Story

So that’s our exciting week ahead.  I will leave you with a picture of Winston, recently groomed.  He has settled into our family as though he has

DSCN3917 always been there.  And here is a recipe for a drink to keep this hot weather in its place!  This cocktail is called appropriately Adios Motherfucker or AMF.  I have included the recipe as well as a link to the video on how to make this delicious drink.  A great way to say goodbye heatwave or  anything else to want to get rid of:

Adios Motherfucker CocktailAMF Recipe:

Scale ingredients to servings
1/2 oz vodka
1/2 oz rum
1/2 oz tequila
1/2 oz gin
1/2 oz Blue Curacao liqueur
2 oz sweet and sour mix
2 oz 7-Up® soda

Pour all ingredients except the 7-Up into a chilled glass filled with ice cubes. Top with 7-Up and stir gently.
Read more: Adios Motherfucker recipe http://www.drinksmixer.com/drink735.html#ixzz2YHs7Z756

Review: The Curtis Reincarnation by Zathyn Priest

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Rating: 4.25 stars

The Curtis Reincarnation ebookJordan Braxton leads a quiet life as a website designer and shares his house with his sister, Becca. His sister has one main obsession, the rock star Tyler Curtis and when she wins two tickets to one of his concerts and backstage passes to his after concert party, Jordan has no idea his life is about to change.  Becca is sure that Tyler Curtis will sleep with her that night and doesn’t want to take along any of her friends, just in case they might divert attention away from her.  So the only logical person to take would be her gay older brother, someone the notoriously straight rocker would never look at.

Tyler Curtis is not what the public sees.  Tyler Curtis is a rock star image his manager has carefully crafted and promoted, nothing at all like the young man behind the eyeliner and bad behavior.  In fact, the real Curtis is crumbling under the pressure of stardom and the abusive manager who controls his life.  But Tyler Curtis’ life is about to change when Becca brings Jordan with her instead of her best friend.  But will there be enough of Tyler left to put back together once the real Curtis comes out for love?

I love a story with a rock star at it’s center and The Curtis Reincarnation is no exception.  But Zathyn Priest puts a lovely, and angst filled twist to the normal rock star persona with the creation of Tyler Curtis. Rock star Tyler is a carefully constructed front, whose bad boy image is maintained by Frank, Tyler Curtis’ manager. The young man beneath the facade, whose real name is Alec Tyler, is an abused, lonely, and physically ill artist.  He is as far from a rock star as you can get and Priest delivers him to the reader so realistically that his painful vulnerability scrapes against the reader’s heart as we learn more about him and his past.  But the road to Alec Tyler starts with two very different characters, that of Jordan Braxton and his outrageous sister, Bec.  This is our first meeting with the two of them and the beginning of Chapter 1:

A vision of pure horror scrambled down the stairs wearing a heavy clay face mask, a midriff T-shirt, and a pink lacy thong. Long red hair frizzed on one side of her head while lying sleek and straightened on the other. Shrieking like a banshee, she tripped over the last stair, fell forward, bounced off the wall, regained her balance, and lunged for the phone in Jordan’s lap. The laptop was hit next, saved by Jordan’s challenged reflexes while he attempted to ease the pain of his sister’s merciless dive. “Jesus Christ, Rebecca! What the hell are you doing?”

She ignored his high-pitched inquiry and frantically began to dial numbers. Faced with a rear end view, and seeing more of Bec than he ever needed to, Jordan looked down at the laptop screen and attempted to blank out the sight of his barely dressed sister from his mind before it etched forever into his memory banks. Pacing the lounge room in scanty knickers, Bec dialled, hung up, and dialled again. Her frenzy partnered with cursing, stamping feet, and frustrated screams. After a few minutes of this behaviour, Jordan lifted his gaze from the screen and took a chance at needing extensive therapy.

From within the tortured howls and cussing, Bec squealed like a piglet. “Shh! Oh my God, it’s ringing!”

“Did I say anything?”

She waved a hand. “Stop typing! Shh!” Somebody answered her call and the squealing escalated into a shrill scream. Her hand clamped to her forehead, she trembled and tried to give her name between moments of excited yelling and foot stomping. The call ended with Bec in a teary, quivering mess. She disappeared up the stairs without another word. Jordan peered into the furry orange face of an abnormally large cat beside him.

“And that, Furball, is why I’m gay”.

That scene not only had me laughing but also beautifully defines each character and their relationship with each other.  Of course, you know too that Bec has won her tickets to the show and from then on everyones lives start to change.  I know people like Bec and the author must as well because that characterization is darn near perfect.  Jordan is her opposite, all responsibility and patient older brother, personality traits needed for what lies ahead.  I think all the characters created for this story are marvelous, from the despicable Frank the manager to Taylor Mason, the reporter who turns into a friend.  They bring the reader immediately into the story, throwing out connecting lines left and right for us to grab onto.

Another component of the book is Alec’s epilepsy.  While not getting too much into details, the author treats Alec’s condition with sensitivity while letting the reader see what it takes to live as an epileptic from Alec’s viewpoint, that of  an isolated young man whose disease has gone  virtually untreated for years. I thought this was an interesting aspect to Alec’s story and an unexpected one. It highlights the need for a strict schedule for medication and physician monitoring, a necessary detail when using illness in a story. I think Zathyn Priest did a great job with both Alec and the effect that epilepsy has on his life.

A little curious is the switch in pov from time to time in the book’s narrative. Told mostly in third person, it occasionally switches to Frank’s pov and then back again.  I understand why the author did it, and while it helps to achieve a tone of suspense, the switch also throws a small wrench in the flow of the story.  A very small quibble in an overall terrific narrative.

I do have a larger issue with the insta love between Alex and Jordan.  Jordan is older looking for commitment and his HEA but Alec is almost a child in comparison. Definitely, childlike in behavior, Alec’s 18, shy, constantly blushing, a virgin and an abused soul.  Jordan is 27, older, and experienced, and by the end of the first evening, they are boyfriends, from funny evening into serious relationship in a blink of an eye.  I just wish the author had given them more time to get to know each other before settling into a serious and committed relationship.  For me, it would have made their love more believable than the love at first sight that occurred.

Those issues aside, this story and these characters will pull you in and hold you fast.  Once the characters meet and fall in love, events that will change all of their lives start to come fast and furious.  By the end of the story, the reader will feel totally happy with all aspects of The Curtis Reincarnation, and of course, the HEA that Jordan and Alec achieve together.  This is a heartwarming story, more on the love than rocker side, but it’s sweetness and terrific characters will make this a comfort read for the readers who find their way to this book.  If you are a fan of Zathyn Priest, you are probably on your way to get this book now.  If you are new to this author, put both the author and The Curtis Reincarnation immediately on your “must read, must have” list.  I absolutely recommend them both to you.

Cover Art by Scarlet Tie Designs.  It works well with the story inside.

Book Details:

eBook, Paperback, 300 pages
Published February 1st 2013 by MLR Press (first published May 1st 2008)
ISBN 160820779X (ISBN13: 9781608207794)
edition languageEnglish
original titleThe Curtis Reincarnation
urlhttp://www.mlrbooks.com/ShowBook.php?book=ZPCTREIN
charactersJordan Braxton, Alec Tyler (Tyler Curtis)
settingLondon, England (United Kingdom)

literary awardsGoodreads M/M Romance Member’s Choice Awards Nominee

ebook, 1st Edition, 220 pages
Published November 2008 by Torquere Press (first published May 1st 2008)
original titleThe Curtis Reincarnation
urlhttp://www.zathynpriest.com

Review: Fennel and Forgiveness by Ari McKay

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Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

Fennel And Forgiveness coverMaitre’d Darius Cooper of the renown Montgomery House has his work cut out for him this week.  Rhys Montgomery, owner of Montgomery House,  has decided to allow the Gourmet Network to use the restaurant for an episode of a reality show, while still keeping it open for business.  That means  Darius has to keep things running smooth and ensure that their famous and famously volatile chef, Executive Chef Stephen Pierce, is kept happy, no small feat.  But things start to go wrong from the beginning.  The bride picked out by the Gourmet Network turns into bridezilla, and the man in charge of the reality show shoot?  None other than Max Boyd, the only man Dare ever loved and the man who broke his heart seven years past.

Max Boyd has had seven years to grow up.  He left Darius Cooper to pursue his career, not ready to settle down to one man and a long term relationship.  But those years apart have seen Max mature and realize that he had left the only man for him behind in his pursuit of life as a producer.  Now Max wants Dare back but as Dare has made clear, Dare doesn’t trust him and wants nothing to do with Max.

With Chef Stephen Pierce threatening the bride, the owner threatening to toss them out , and Dare asking him to leave, how will Max pull off the production shoot  of Southern Wedding Belles and get his (and Dare’s) second chance at love?  Sometimes all it takes is a little fennel and forgiveness.

I love a plot where former lovers reunite for a second chance at love, that always gets to me.  So no surprise that the book description was really the thing that drew me to this story in the first place. I found this to be a sweet story but somehow just short of satisfying and it is hard to put my finger on exactly what component is the problem.

McKay has given us a wonderful location and setting for the story.  Montgomery House is a famous, historic restaurant in Charleston, SC.  and in it McKay has placed a renown chef with a huge ego and volatile attitude to match his reputation, an owner immensely proud of his restaurant and his restoration work and a Maitre’d equipped to handle both men and all other challenges except the one closest to his own  heart.  So far, great.  I loved them, the restaurant, and even the silly reality show brought into the mixture.  Southern Wedding Belles.  Someone has been watching a lot of TLC to get that one so right.

I think my problem is with the character of Max Boyd, the tv producer and the man who devastated Darius Cooper when he left him all those years ago.  I think the back story created for Max is a pretty realistic one.  Max was someone too young to handle a long term relationship with an older man who wanted to settle down.  Instead Max wanted to concentrate on his career, again understandable.  But the older Max still seems a little immature in my opinion.  Here is Max, after he has seen Darius again for the first time in seven years:

Looking back, he had to place the blame for their break-up squarely on his own shoulders. He’d panicked when Darius had asked him to move in, because at the time, he’d been more interested in climbing his career ladder than in settling down with one man yet. Ten years his senior, Darius was as solid as he was intense, and he’d wanted a commitment with a capital “C”, no holds barred and no going back. Unfortunately, Max was too immature and self-absorbed at the time to deal with the tougher aspects of sustaining a relationship and to compromise as much as he needed to. Max hadn’t been able to love Dare the way he deserved back then, but age and experience had helped Max understand that relationships required more than romance and sex; respect and a mutual commitment to making it last were vital.

The damnable thing was that he hadn’t been able to find anyone he wanted to commit to since then. He kept comparing his prospective partners to Dare, and they all fell far short of the mark.

So Max hasn’t found anyone as good as Dare so far?  And all this time, Max never looked up his former partner? Uh, no.  While McKay made me believe in Darius’ pain and the devastation Max inflicted upon his self image and ability to trust, I never really believed that Max loved Darius all that time they were apart.  I think it is that lack of belief in Max and Darius’s love that leaves this story foundering a bit.  It is sweet but not particularly memorable (or believable).

Also, while there is some discussion about them not getting back together immediately because of the pain inflicted, of course it happens almost immediately within the duration of the production shoot (after saying it would take time). Sigh.  I could see that a longer version might have made for a more realistic, better imagined reconciliation than the one that occurred within this story.  But as it is, it is too saccharine and far too unrealistic to be believed.

However, there is a lot to like here as well.  Mostly I loved Chef Stephen Pierce and Stephen’s PA Robert Logan.  Arrogant, snarky, and so much fun, they were the most interesting and absorbing characters in the story.  It was their story I wanted to read about, not Dare’s (disliked that nickname) and Max’s.  Ari McKay (a pen name for two people coauthoring as Ari McKay) has written the owner Rhys Montgomery’s story in Bay Leaves and Bachelors.  So I can only hope that Stephen’s story will be written as well.  That one I can’t wait for.

This is a sweet story, enjoyable and short at 102 pages.  It is just not very deep and multi dimensional but that fine, not every romance has to be.  I think most people will enjoy Max and Darius’ relationship.  I know they will love Montgomery House and the rest of the characters involved there.  I certainly did and look forward to more in this series.

Cover illustration by BS Clay.  Models are cute but Darius is 40, where is the older man in this picture?

ebook, 102 pages
Published May 8th 2013 by Torquere Press
ISBN
161040470X (ISBN13: 9781610404709)
edition language