Review: Odd Man Out by Lee Brazil, Havan Fellows, Laura Harner , and T.A. Webb

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Odd Man Out 2013 Finale coverChance Dumont. Marcus Prater. Zachary Carmichael. Wick Templeton.  These four men have considered each other brothers, family by choice instead of by blood.  They thought they knew everything about one another and they have been through the worst of times with each other.  Or so they thought.

Now Wick has disappeared and won’t return their phone calls. And the remaining men are left feeling betrayed and angry over Wick’s absence and the events that caused it.  Then the Twins, brothers from Wick’s past, turn up dead, killed in the same manner as other gay young men recently.  The man they thought had been arrested for the previous torture and deaths of gay youth is out of prison.  Could the killer be the same man who killed the Twins?  The killings are starting to look personal, and when a meeting is called at Chances Are, everyone is expected to show, even Wick.

But someone is missing from Chances Are, someone unexpected.  And soon its evident that one of their brother’s has been taken by force.  Is it the killer?  Or someone completely different with their own grudge?  The remaining band of brothers must act and quickly before their family is shattered forever.

Four outstanding series, all on Scattered Thoughts Best of 2013, have been leading up to one explosive finale and Odd Man Out doesn’t disappoint! Each series in the Pulp Friction group (Chances Are, City Knight, Triple Threat, and Wicked’s Way) revolve around a strong, charismatic, and densely layered main character.  In their own series, each man exhibits a magnetism and strength that sometimes push the other characters in their own series into the shadows.  So I was curious as to how the authors would be able to find a balance among such compelling, formidable men.  Would one overshadow the others when combined into one book?  The answer is no, the men and their stories mesh as seamlessly as you would expect given their back stories and history together.

And when by seamlessly, I mean realistically. Because these alphas can spend their time in arguments, shoving, anger and hurt that is the result of letting others close, especially to this almost hermetically sealed off group of men.   As all four series and their main characters collide, each man is in the midst of a personal upheaval caused by the introduction of a new love and partner into their lives.  For some like Ben and Marcus, their acceptance of each other has been relatively easy, or as easy as it can get for a member of this tight-knit brotherhood.  Chance and Rory, Zachary, Archer and Jeremiah too, have also recently settled into a loving partnership.  Only Wick and Ned, well, Wick, is still fighting Ned’s new role in his life in a grudgingly humorous manner expected of Wick Templeton.

So much jostling of roles, so many new men to accept within the tight ranks of family. And it’s not just the original members but Ben, Rory, and Jeremiah who have formed bonds to each other.  I love that as much attention has been paid to the links forming between the secondary characters as it has been to the main ones.  Each author has kept all the threads of their series taut while weaving them into the other stories and the series finale.  It is a testament to how well this group of authors know and like each other that their characters play so nicely and believably with each other.

Each man has some huge issues to work through as they race to save one of their own.  And once again, these problems carry with them substantial emotional baggage that each man must examine before the somewhat broken bonds can be reformed between Wick and Zachary, Chance, and Marcus.  The anger and hurt these men carry because of Wick’s actions resonate through each conversation and scene.  It’s powerful, its authentic and we get it because we have come to believe in these characters and their love for each other.  So when they break trust with each other, we feel the anguish as powerfully as they do.  The four authors have presented the readers with four rock solid characters and made them real and their stories compelling.  How can we not feel as they do?

There is also plenty of anxiety and anticipation to go with the white knuckle suspense of Odd Man Out.  As the authors build momentum and suspense into the search for the missing man, we “hear” the thoughts of the captured man and his tormentor interspersed with scenes of the others gathering clues to help them pinpoint who and where their brother has been taken.  It’s a heart pounding, pulse racing ride and you will be on the edge of your seat every step of the investigation and hunt.

I won’t give anything away but there are moments of humor and funny asides to go with the thrills scattered throughout this finale.  Sometimes it used to alleviate the headache inducing tension that is building, other times it  illuminates a man’s character, a means of hiding one’s true emotions behind a facade.  Odd Man Out is really such a rollercoaster ride of emotions, events and turbulent relationships, a true E ticket (for those who remember them).

I loved this story and all the series connected to it.  I hope this doesn’t mean we have seen the last of Wick Templeton, Chance Dumont, Marcus Prater and Zachary Carmichael.  These characters pack a punch whenever and wherever they appear, whether they are together or separately.  I have come to love them all and would love to see them again wherever their futures are taking them.  They have plenty of stories to tell and I would love to read them all.

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 145 pages
Published December 3rd 2013 by Pulp Friction

The Pulp Friction Series of 2013 are:

Wicked Truths coverWicked’s Way Series by Havan Fellows:

Wicked Solutions (Wicked’s Way #1)
Wicked Bindings (Wicked’s Way #2)
Wicked Incarceration (Wicked’s Way #3)
Wicked Guidance (Wicked’s Way #4)
Wicked Truths (Wicked’s Way #5)
Odd Man Out (4 series finale, #6)

Chance In Hell coverChances Are Series by Lee Brazil:

Chances Are (Chances Are #1)
Second Chances Are (Chances Are #2)
Fifty, Fifty Chances Are (Chances Are, #3)
Ghost of a Chance (Chances Are, #4)
Chance in Hell (Chances Are #5)
Odd Man Out (4 series finale, #6)

Darkest KNight coverCity Knight Series by T.A. Webb:

City Knight (City Knight #1)
Knightmare (City Knight #2)
Starry Knight (City Knight #3)
Knights Out (City Knight #4)
Darkest Knight (City Knight #5)
Odd Man Out (4 series finale, #6)

Duplicity coverTriple Threat Series by Laura Harner:

Triple Threat (Triple Threat #1)
Retribution (Triple Threat #2)
Defiance (Triple Threat, #3)
Crucify (Triple Threat, #4)
Duplicity (Triple Threat #5)
Odd Man Out (4 series finale, #6)

Review of Alone In A Crowd (Cattle Valley #27) by Carol Lynne

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Rating: 4 stars

Sheriff Ryan Blackfeather has worked hard to overcome his torturous past to get where he is today, successful in his job as Sheriff, in a town where he has friends and is respected, and most importantly, content and happy, in love with his two partners, Nate and Rio.  But a phone call from Oklahoma revitalizes old memories, bad ones that upset his hard won equilibrium and makes him pull away from those he loves.  Ryan’s mother has died and the landlord wants the trailer moved off his lot or the rent paid for.  Without telling either Rio or Nate why he is going, Ryan leaves on a trip back home, to face his past and confront the abusive father who raised him.

When Nate and Rio realize that Ryan has been withholding the truth about his travels from them, they are hurt and worry about the man they love.  How can they help with when Ryan doesn’t realize he needs their help to begin with.  As the emotional turmoil of Ryan’s past starts to tear at his relationship with his partners, Ryan understands that only by returning to Oklahoma and confronting his demons can he save all he has now, including the men he loves.

Carol Lynne’s Cattle Valley series were some of my first books when I started reading m/m fiction.  As I have said back in our Series week, I love starting a novel and then discovering that I have a slew of books yet to read in the series.  So there is a huge reservoir of affection that wells up in me when Cattle Valley is mentioned. I think there was six books in the series when I started and now it is up to book #27, each running anywhere from 98 to around 130 pages.

Cattle Valley series began in 2007 with All Play and No Work (Cattle Valley #1).  In this book, Lynne introduces us to Cattle Valley, Wyoming, a gay haven established by a man mourning the death of his gay son.  The millionaire wanted to build a place where everyone was gay, and safe, and could build a meaningful, rewarding life among others just like themselves.  So he deeded his land to the town and the GLBTQ community came.  Lynne starts off her Cattle Valley series as Ryan Blackfeather arrives from Texas to take the job as Cattle Valley’s first Sheriff. Ryan is a part of a triad, his other partners being Rio Adega and Nate Gills.  When their small Texas town’s disapproval of their relationship becomes overwhelming, Ryan convinces his men to make the move with him to Cattle Valley.  That move and the trio’s adjustment to Wyoming starts the river of books that are the Cattle Valley series.

In each book, Carol Lynne concentrates on one or two pairs of men and their relationships.  It is also a staple of Lynne’s that the characters for the books that follow are introduced in the current one.  And then as the town fills up with people and businesses, during the course of book the characters we have already met continue to pop up again and again in every story.  So Ryan as Sheriff, Nate (who eventually becomes the Mayor) and Rio who runs the local gym are focal characters for the series.  These men and their relationship were also my first introduction to m/m/m!  Lynne has taken their relationship and reexamined its dynamics throughout the series and she does so again in Alone In A Crowd (Cattle Valley #27).

In previous stories we learn Nate and Rio’s history. Here we concentrate on Ryan Blackfeather who has always come across as the rock of their relationship.  Ryan has always seemed so controlled and steady while not detracting from the deadly abilities he gained in the military. So it’s interesting that it’s Ryan who starts to fall apart when confronted with his past, a real switch of rolls within the triad.  Lynne’s descriptions of the reservation and the living conditions Ryan faced growing up in a derelict trailer are both heartbreaking and realistic. Any one familiar with the plight of Native Americans on reservations today will recognize the authenticity Lynne brings to the scenes in and around Tahlequah, Oklahoma, capitol city of the Cherokee Nation.  Whether it is Ryan confronting his father in the nursing home or both men facing their pasts in a dusty cave on the reservation, the descriptions brings the men to life and we feel the anger and pain of their conjoined past rise up around all of us.

In addition to Ryan’s story, another character from the past comes back to Cattle Valley.  Smokey Sharp from Rough Ride (Cattle Valley #4) reappears in town, sober and hoping to make amends to the people he wronged in the past.  That would be Erza James, Palmer “Wyn” Wynfield (a favorite of mine), and Elliot Simmons, owner of the grocery store. Smokey is suffering from rheumatoid arthritis which limits the work he can do.  Ryan finds Smokey work on Robert “Oggie” Ogden’s Second Chance Ranch as a ranch manager.  Carol Lynne uses Smokey and Oggie to set the stage for the next book in the series.  Oggie’s ranch will become home for GLBTQ youths homeless and/or in trouble.  She is already lining up the characters: Drake Smith, Chief of Security of Montgomery Enterprises who wants to help financially, and maybe even Joseph, Nate’s ex boyfriend who runs a GLBTQ youth center in NYC.  And then there is Dean Grooper, former school custodian, using alcohol to drown his pain over the loss of his long time partner.  We meet him here too.

And this brings me to my main quibble with Carol Lynne’s stories lately.  Too many characters crowded together into books too small in size to adequately give each character sufficient attention. In the first 6 or even 8 books, the town is still small and Carol Lynne concentrates all her wonderful powers of characterization into a small group of people. With a small focus group, it is easy to become invested in them and their stories.  And quite frankly, easy to remember who is with whom. I love those people and can remember each and every detail from their backgrounds.  Then the town got bigger (as towns will), more people came and Lynne left behind the one couple/one book format for multiple pairings in a novella sized book.  After a while I felt I needed a town chart and name tags for everyone who showed up in a scene plus all the newcomers making their debuts to get them in place for the next in the series.  There were so many people crying out for attention that my brain hurt and characters were forgotten.

Another quibble for me is the pairings. Lynne took Cattle Valley from strictly m/m or m/m/m into other pairings such as m/f/m which doesn’t interest me. Multiple relationship combinations make sense in that Cattle Valley is set up as a town of tolerance so any pairing outside of m/f  would be acceptable in town, I am just not interested in reading them specifically. And yes, you can skip those books like I did but as each book moves the series forward, we miss out on events that will be mentioned down the line. It also seemed to bring in an element of “MarySue” into her writing that had been absent up until then.

Carol Lynne packs a lot of emotion into a story and her characters.  She also packs a lot of sex. She has dealt with sex when one partner is paralyzed, sex with multiple partners, interracial sex, fem gays, Bdsm, D/s, you name it and Lynne has probably addressed it in a story .  Her sex scenes are vivid, hot and never unintentionally funny.  In Alone In A Crowd, she had the boys do things with an ear of corn (ok that was funny but intentionally so) I had not read before and still left me able to have corn on the cob at my next meal!  I can’t tell you how much I appreciated that as I love corn.  She also mentions a douche attachment for the boys shower, something I think should be brought up more as it is a realistic part of anal sex.  Carol Lynne did a great job here while still giving us realistic elements.

I had stopped reading Cattle Valley around Neil’s Guardian (Cattle Valley #17), overwhelmed by too many characters and too little plot in too few pages.  With Alone In A Crowd (Cattle Valley #27), Carol Lynne returns to the form that made me a fan to begin with and does it with the characters that started it all. I hope this continues with the next in the series, #28 whatever that may be.  And in the meantime, I might just have to go back and pick up the ones I missed.  I still love Cattle Valley and its vision of a town of tolerance and equality.  Alone In A Crowd brought that all back.  If you are new to the series,start from the beginning.  See Cattle Valley as it gets off the ground, meet  all the inhabitants as they find their way to town, watch as the romances form and carry over, story after story.  You will have 27 to go and counting.  For those who got lost along the way like me, pick it back up again and remember why you loved it.  And for those who never left,  here is a gem of a story to treasure as Cattle Valley continues to grow.

The Cattle Valley Book Series covers by Posh Gosh are my favorites in a series cover.  They brand the series while still conveying the subject of each book.  Great job.

Here are the stories in the order they should be read to understand the series and the characters.

Cattle Valley: All Play & No Work,Cattle Valley: Cattle Valley Mistletoe Cattle Valley: Sweet Topping Cattle Valley: Rough Ride Cattle Valley: Physical Therapy Cattle Valley: Out of the Shadow Cattle Valley: Bad Boy Cowboy Cattle Valley: The Sound of White Cattle Valley: Gone Surfin’ Cattle Valley: The Last Bouquet Cattle Valley: Eye of the Beholder Cattle Valley: Cattle Valley Days Cattle Valley: Bent-Not Broken Cattle Valley: Arm Candy,Cattle Valley: Recipe for Love Cattle Valley: Firehouse Heat Cattle Valley: Neil’s Guardian Angel Cattle Valley: Scarred Cattle Valley: Making the Grade Cattle Valley: To Service and Protect Cattle Valley: The O’Brien Way Cattle Valley: Ghost from the Past Cattle Valley: Hawk’s Landing Cattle Valley: Shooting Star Cattle Valley: Confessions Cattle Valley: Shadow Soldier