An Alisa Review: Ace of Hearts by Caitlin Ricci

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Rating: 3 stars out of 5

 

Ashton lived for show jumping, until an accident killed his horse, Atreyu, and left him unable to ride. He blames himself for Atreyu’s death and has sworn off horses. Rubbing salt in the wound, his boyfriend and friends were okay with Ashton being ace, but not with his retirement. His mom has purchased him a house with acreage in the hopes that he won’t give up on horses entirely, and a puppy, Leia, but neither is able to pull him out of his depression.

 

Ty lives next door, and it’s a dream come true to find his idol is his new neighbor. Ashton wants nothing to do with him, but being trans in a largely-unaccepting world has made Ty stubborn, and he’s long-used to dealing with people who are hurting, so it’s going to take more than Ashton can muster to push him away.

 

Oh man, did both of these guys have trust issues.  I know it comes with the territory a lot of the time with being ace or trans but they had a hard time letting it go even when reassured or shown they can be trusted.  I liked how stubborn Ty could be as it was just what Ashton needed in his life but I couldn’t help but feel that Ty just quickly fell for the first person who really accepted him.

 

These two but heads more than not at the beginning and it seemed that Ty’s ability to cook Indian food was what won Ashton over.  I was glad Ashton was able to find a balance with horses though didn’t like the fact that he felt he needed to hide to extent of his inability to ride from his mother.  Ashton’s sudden turnaround didn’t work with the beginning of the story for me but I was more than happy for Ty to gain Ashton’s mother as a support when he had been left with none after his grandfather’s death.  I wished we could have seen more of how their relationship continued to build than just down the line where they were now living together.

 

The cover art by Michelle Seaver is nice and gives a cute visual of Leia.

 

Sales Links: Less Than Three Press | Amazon | B&N

 

Book Details:

ebook, 34,000 words

Published: September 27, 2017 by Less Than Three Press

ISBN: 9781684310883

Edition Language: English

A Lucy Review: Bump by Matthew J. Metzger

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Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5

David’s pregnant.

He’s always wanted to have children, and being a stepfather for the past two years has been a great adventure. There’d even been a plan to start looking into adoption and turn their family of three into four.

But now there’s a bump, and David doesn’t know what to do. He’s spent years escaping the grip of his own body and burying the past—but there’s no way he can hide from his history if he lets the bump get any bigger. It’s not just his baby; it’s also his breakdown.

He doesn’t know if he can do this.

Books dealing with this subject matter fascinate me because I can’t begin to imagine the strength it takes to go through with what it’s going to do to your body and your mind, yet it’s something you’ve always wanted. That’s the dilemma David is in right now.  He and his partner, Ryan, were in a car accident and his HRT was reduced due to liver issues.  Reduced too much, apparently, because what happened was pregnancy.  David is a veterinarian, an educated, established man and this rocks his being to the core.

This was interesting to me because I remember reading of Thomas Beatie, a transgender man who carried three children with his now ex-wife.  The media made it seem so happy and carefree and at the time I wondered how true that could be.  Here, it is far from simple.  David first can’t even decide whether to keep the baby, knowing what it may to do his core self having to now be seen, again, as female.  I did appreciate that David didn’t just make the decision without consulting Ryan, even though Ryan himself puts David before anything.  When David makes but can’t keep an appointment for an abortion, it’s a rough time ahead.

There were times during this story things weren’t explained until later.  Such as, I didn’t realize for a while that Ryan is in a wheelchair and you don’t find out until much later why.  Not a huge deal but it did have me going back a couple times to see if I missed something.  His status as well, sort of popped out of nowhere and surprised me.

David and Ryan are a solid couple and thankfully they talk to each other.  When David needs space to deal, Ryan gives it without getting his feelings hurt.  David knows he’s being unreasonable sometimes, “I’ll make it up to you.”  I just really liked them together. Add in that Ava, at age five, actually acts like a five-year-old and this family seemed real.  Alas, Ryan’s brother, Jay, and his mother, Aggie, also seemed too real and disgusting.  All I can say is, go pregnant David!  We do get Ryan’s mom, who makes up for Ryan’s lack of family sense.  The reason for naming the baby Sam was a little heartbreaking.  “He’d died because he hurt, not because he’d hurt other people.”  David’s feelings on both Ben and Sam, also so real.

What this story focuses on is what having this baby that they so want is doing to David.  Especially since for years he’s not had to come out as trans.  He has been just a man and that will inevitably change.  “Because ultimately, David wasn’t a trans man. He was a man.  Nothing else. No qualifier.”  The dysphoria David suffers comes through loud and clear.  When he hears Sam’s heartbeat, it’s not a happy thing for him.  “He’d never known he could hear his own dysphoria.”  It’s never ending. “He’d been so horrified by his own baby moving that he’d thrown up.”   The fact that he’s also dealing with snide comments, stares and the massive waste of space that is Ryan’s brother and mother, well, I’m glad Ryan is who he is. “Knights riding in on white wheelchairs to save the day.”   Glad that David has friends such as Vicky who knew him before and support him always.  That Ava and Ryan’s ex are there for support as well. That the midwife, Nadia, is what medical professionals should be.

From his awkward boss to Ava’s ignorant teacher to sitting in a waiting room full of women, it’s just an emotional slap over and over.  We read his struggle and feel his fear that after all this, he’s going to end up with a baby he doesn’t love.  This is something I appreciated because not everyone gives birth and has that “hallelujah” moment, this child is perfection.  Sometimes those hormones have to settle before you can feel it and that’s a normal thing.

This was such an interesting read with a hopeful, happy ending.  Definitely would recommend it.

Cover art: Natasha Snow.

Sales Links:  NineStar PressAmazon

Book Details:

ebook
Expected publication: November 5th 2018 by NineStar Press
ISBN139781949909104
Edition LanguageEnglish

A MelanieM Review: Flash Me (Heathens Ink #7) by K.M. Neuhold

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Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5

 

Liam
I was kicked out at sixteen for being transgender, but it turned out to be one of the best things to ever happen to me. At twenty-one, I have a fantastic new family made up of my brother and a handful of wonderful friends, I own my own photography business, and I’m happier than I imagined possible. There’s just one thing missing… Okay, maybe two…

Wyatt
When I took the position volunteering as a therapist at Rainbow House, I knew I’d found my place in the world, helping teens who were rejected by their families. What I didn’t expect was the friendship I formed with Liam or how it would grow over the years into a crush I just can’t shake. I’m happy to see him finally opening himself up to dating with someone he trusts like Owen. But when he comes to me and asks if I can help his boyfriend, I feel like there’s more to the request than just a few therapy sessions. The more I get to know about Owen, the more I like him, too.

Owen
I’m not sure why I believe so much in fate when she’s dealt me nothing but crappy hands— A stint in prison and enough childhood horrors to fuel all my adult nightmares. But I still hold on to the idea that everything happens for a reason. What I can’t figure out is why fate would plop me naked into Liam’s bed under the pretext of helping him with a photo series for a gallery showing. Or why my stomach goes funny every time he smiles at me. Liam is too sweet to be exposed to my demons but I don’t know how to protect him…Maybe that’s why fate gave us Wyatt.

This is the seventh book in the Heathens Ink series. Each book in the series CAN be read as a stand alone, but characters do re-occur so it’s more fun to read them all!

I am a big fan of K.M. Neuhold Heathens Ink series so I was delighted to see another story in that series  released.  In Flash Me the author centers the novel around Liam, Owen, and Wyatt, people we’ve met before.  It’s Liam, especially, that the light shines so brightly on.  A young trans boy seeking a brother he never knew and shelter at first, here Liam is all grown up.  Liam is soon to be 21, he’s had top surgery, has a successful photography business and is pondering all his next steps. That includes romance.

K.M. Neuhold’s insight into Liam’s life at this stage, the decisions he is trying to make regarding future surgery, his insecurities about dating and his sex life not only bring Liam vividly to life but make him so vulnerable and real that you just want to love him and keep cheering him on.  He also knows who and what he wants.  Both of them.  It’s just a matter of how he’s going to make them see they all fit together.

Yes, Liam wants a polyamory relationship.  It’s one he knows that’s for him and he also knows that Owen and Wyatt are the perfect fit for him and each other.  If they can see it and work through the barriers keeping them all apart.

Flash Me is told from each  man’s perspective so you see how each of them perceives the other two and his place in retrospect.  And how that begins to change.

Both Owen and Wyatt have major issues in their past they must deal with before any relationship will work.  For Owen, its his abusive father and jail.  For Wyatt, it’s also family issues and a father, which I won’t discuss further here.  It will take all three coming together and therapy to deal with these major trauma and issues before they can come fully together as a triad.

I found the writing strong, the characters remarkable, and the romance sexy and heartwarming. Flash Me (Heathens Ink #7) by K.M. Neuhold is  another grand installment in a series I  just think is getting better and better.  I can’t wait to see what happens next.

Cover art is wonderful, that is those characters to a T.

Sales Links:

AMAZON US: https://amzn.to/2PrlaFj

AMAZON UK: https://amzn.to/2LPnm7g

AMAZON CA: https://amzn.to/2PY2HkL

 

Book Details:

ebook, 303 pages
Published September 3rd 2018
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesHeathens Ink #7

Review: Serenading Stanley by John Inman

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Serenading StanleyArchaeology student Stanley Sternbaum has finally decided to live on his own, a fact his mother is not happy about.  Needing something reasonable yet close the college where he is pursuing his masters, Stanley finds an opening at the Belladonna Arms, a rundown little apartment building perched atop a hill in downtown San Diego.  Sure it’s the “penthouse apartment”, up a gazillion steps that no one else wants and the apartment manager is a huge aging flaming drag queen named Arthur.  In fact everyone at the Belladonna Arms is gay, eccentric, living life on the edge or sometimes just plan lost.  It’s hot, kind of seedy but it would be all his so Stanley rents it immediately.

But painfully shy Stanley is not prepared to find the man of his dreams living just below him. Fellow tenant Roger Jane is a gorgeous nurse at the local hospital and he is everything Stanley has always dreamed about.  But when Roger seems interested in Stanley, Stanley shrinks into his shell, hiding in his apartment, and avoiding Roger as well as all the other tenants in his building. Stanley’s poor self image and debilitating shyness is behind his self imposed isolation. And because of that Stanley is constantly rebuffing the invitations from Roger to go out. He just can’t believe Roger would be interested in him.  Stanley’s innate kindness will prove his undoing when little by little the other renters draw him into their lives.  Slowly Stanley emerges from his shell but is it too late for Roger who has been waiting all this time for Stanley?

I have only recently found John Inman but he quickly became a must read author for me because of his humor and quixotic characters.  Serenading Stanley certainly contains all the elements I have come to expect from a John Inman story and perhaps just that much more.  Stanley Sternbaum is painfully shy, dominated by his mother, and unaware of just how cute he is.  He is kind, thoughtful and intelligent, but years of living with his mother and his father’s early disappearance from his life, has left Stanley so shy, so emotionally stunted, that he would rather spend his time in the past and the long dead than with the living.  The character of Stanley is a personable young man and as the story is told from his pov, we get to know him far better than he knows himself, a wonderful aspect of Serenading Stanley and due totally to John Inman’s amazing storytelling and gift with characterization.

The novel has quite a cast of characters in addition to Stanley.  Inman has the Belladonna Arms crammed full of the strange, the beautiful, the edgy and the outrageous and any combination thereof.  And yet, although some of them teeter on the brink of stereotype, there is still so much beguiling humanity to be found with each and every one of them that we care what happens to them unconditionally.  These characters are created with affection.  And even in the most humorous and undignified situations, they remain realistically human and defiantly brave.  How could you not care about their future and their happiness?

There is the obese Arthur, a flamboyant drag queen who runs the Belladonna and tries to run everyones life.  The fragile and exquisite Sylvia, the trans who desperately needs to complete her transition, Chi Chi the beginner hairdresser with more enthusiasm than talent, Ramon, the leather boy/masseuse who can’t escape trouble, and all the rest, including the gorgeous Roger whose beautiful facade few people can get past to the person underneath.  Even Stanley’s mother who does barely escape caricature turns recognizably real towards the end, earning our understanding and compassion with her actions and words.  I loved them all.  But no matter how great your characters, it’s the story they inhabit that must grab your heart and Serenading Stanley does that and more.

Inman takes his time creating the edifice for his plot.  Slowly different characters and their life stories appear to buffet the walls Stanley has built around himself.  Each neighbor’s needs, impositions, banging on his door interruptions of Stanley’s studies brings the shy man closer to becoming part of the swirling melting pot of life that is the Belladonna Arms.  It’s slow, with missteps to match Stanley’s painful steps forward.  There is laughter, and tears and quite a bit of gnashing of teeth as we watch Stanley’s isolation  crack and then shatter as he welcomes friends and  love into his life.  It’s a well rounded story and Stanley’s not perfect, so there are times you will be quite frustrated with the narration.  But really, its with Stanley and his refusal to be hurt that causes the reader the most pain and finally the most joy as he gets it together and moves forward in love.

I definitely recommend Serenading Stanley and its author, John Inman.  I loved Shy, Loving Hector, and Hobbled, and now add Serenading Stanley to my list of must reads.  Add some humor and love to your reading list with John Inman’s stories starting with Serenading Stanley, you won’t be sorry.

This is how it starts out:

THE sign hung crooked atop the six-story apartment building. It read “BELLADONNA ARMS.” The sign was rendered on a rusty metal frame with old-timey neon tubing, and nothing looks tackier in the daylight than old-timey neon tubing on a rusty metal frame. Stuck in the dead grass by the front steps leading up to the entrance of the apartment building was another sign. This one was handwritten on a slab of cardboard and stapled to a wooden stake pounded into the ground. The lettering on this sign was rendered in pink Magic Marker. It read “VACANCY.” And under that, this time scrawled in magenta Magic Marker and sprinkled liberally with glitter, were the words “TO APPLY PLEASE BE CUTE.”

Cover art by Aaron Anderson.  This cover leaves me a little cold.  It’s surprisingly drab considering the colorful Belladonna Arms and the people who live there.  And where is the notorious pink sign saying only the cute should apply?  A definite miss in design and tone.

Book Details:

ebook, 234 pages
Published October 14th 2013 by Dreamspinner Press (first published October 13th 2013)
ISBN 1627981934 (ISBN13: 9781627981934)
edition language English