Review: Welcome, Brother (College Fun and Gays #5) by Erica Pike

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Welcome Brother coverArts student Kyler Morris has heard all about The Nova Britannia Brotherhood at college.  Unlike the other fraternities, The Nova Britannia Brotherhood works for charities and supports the college clubs and athletics that none of the other Greek organizations do, like fencing, the Chess Club ,the Knitting Club and more.  But the real reason Kyler applies for membership is that the members of the Nova Britannia Brotherhood are some of the most well connected people in every known industry.  Once a member graduates, he is assured of a job in the profession of his choice.  But first Kyler has to get accepted and that means passing the inspection of the most idolized and important man in the fraternity, Nova Britannia Brotherhood President Hunter Kingsley.

Once accepted Kyler finds out that Hunter isn’t as intimidating as he thought.  In fact, Hunter takes Tyler as his protege and a relationship is formed.  But both young men are hiding secrets.  Kyler is gay and crushing heavily on Hunter.  Hunter too has a hidden agenda, one he has pursued for several years.  When all the secrets come out in the open, will Kyler, Hunter and the Nova Britannia Brotherhood survive?

Welcome, Brother is the fifth book in the College Fun and Gays series by Erica Pike and one I enjoyed immensely.  I have read most of the books in this series and found them generally to be an uneven lot.  But like the stories I liked best, These Walls Have Ears and Grade-A-Sex Deal, these story has memorable characters and a great plot.

The Nova Britannia Brotherhood is unlike the other Greek fraternities in that it is more inclined toward social good and charities than bongs and beer parties or at least that was its origin.  There was an interval where a certain faction dismissed it founding mission and guidelines and tarnished its reputation.  But under the leadership of Hunter Kingsley, the organization has returned to its illustrious status and moving forward with new goals and membership.  Pike gives the reader a neat twist on the typical college fraternity story while still holding on to the elements that draw a reader in.  I liked her setting and thought her descriptions really brought the college and Brotherhood alive for us.

Placed in this setting is a trio of likable and endearing characters.  Kyler Morris, Hunter Kingsley, and Liu Wong, a trio of vulnerability and intelligence. While the main characters involved in a romance are Kyler and Hunter, Liu adds a lively and ultimately pain filled note to the story.  Gay bashing figures strongly in this story as does its impact upon its victim.  Pike treats this issue with intelligence and sensitivity, just a great job. Pike has made all three young students not only realistic but worthy of our empathy and affection.  Hunter Kingsley especially could have and initially does come off as too good to be true.  But there are hidden depths and angst to Hunter that are slowly revealed as the story moves forward.  Kyler is adorably young and impressionable.  And Liu is a friend anyone would be proud to have.  We like them and therefore, care greatly about their future.

If there is to be a quibble, it deals with the ending.    It seems to be missing a chapter or two, an epilogue at the very least.  For me, it just seems it  ends without a clear resolution or additional information.  And these are characters that deserve that and so much more.  If this story came with a more polished and complete ending, it would have garnered a 5 star rating.  But that quibble aside, I loved these characters and this story.  I recommend it as a quick and delightful read.

The books in this series can be read as stand alone stories. Books in the College Fun and Gays series are as follows:

Hot Hands (College Fun and Gays, # 1)

Grade-A-Sex Deal (College Fun and Gays, #2)

The Walls Have Ears (College Fun and Gays, #3)

Little Stalker (College Fun and Gays #4)

Welcome, Brother (College Fun and Gays #5)

Cold Hands (College Fun and Gays, #6)

College Fun and Gays: Anthology One

Book Details:

ebook, Second Edition, 35 pages

Published July 12th 2013 by Ice Cave Publishing (first published April 27th 2013)
ISBN13 9789935915443
edition language English
series: College fun and Gays
Previously published by No Boundaries Press at 29 pages

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

What An Amazing Week in LGBTQ History and the Week Ahead in Reviews

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Rainbow Empire State BuildingLast week was such an amazing week for the LGBTQ community.  SCOTUS ruled on DOMA and Proposition 8, declaring DOMA unconstitutional and returning Prop 8 to the lower courts, essentially removing the opposition to gay marriages in California, marriages which resumed almost immediately following the decision.  Celebrations were countrywide, loud and joyous.  Even the President phoned to offer his congratulations on the ruling to the couple named in the suit.   True, the opposition has vowed to continue to fight equality, but that tide is turned and their efforts will ultimately be futile ones.   Some people will always continue to be clueless (see Paula Deen) about history lessons. No putting the genie back in the bottle or ushering people to the back of the bus once they have tasted equality.  To be adult about it, nuhuh, ain’t goin’ to happen, folks, so just deal! Woohooo, what a week.

In the FYI portion of the blog, I found Fynn’s F*&k You Scarf Pattern from Missouri Dalton’s The Night Shift.  You can find the pattern here, courtesy of Ravelry and Missouri Dalton.  Really, this pattern is too hysterical for words and looks great too.  Winston is doing great in his adjustment to the household and other dogs, almost seamless.  He is a joy for all of us.  New books are arriving in the Bellingham Mysteries series from Nicole Kimberling (Loose id) and the Recon Diaries series by Kendall McKenna, so look for book giveaways soon.

It’s been a soggy, humid week around here, with fireworks going off willy nilly it seems at local jurisdictions seemed to have planned Fourth of July celebrations anywhere but on the fourth.  Let me tell you, my dogs are  not happy about that! Sigh.

So here is the week ahead in reviews:

Monday, July 1:                      Scattered Thoughts June Book Review Summary

Tuesday, July 2:                     The Curtis Reincarnation by Zathyn Priest

Wed., July 3:                           Birds of a Feather by Nicole Kimberling

Thursday, July 4:                   Son of a Gun by A.M. Riley

Friday, July 5:                         Bully for You by Catt Ford

Sat, July 6:                               Pickup Men by L.C. Chase

American Flag CocktailAnd here is a Fourth of July cocktail recipe for you to enjoy.  Happy Fourth of July in advance!

American Flag Cocktail:

American Flag drink recipe made with Blue Curacao,Creme de Cacao,Grenadine,. How to make a American Flag with all the instructions and ingredients.
Recipe Rating: 4.6 stars based on 13 votes
Ingredients to use:
0.33 oz Blue Curacao
0.33 oz Creme de Cacao
0.33 oz Grenadine
Directions:
Mix together with crushed ice in a glass and garnish with mint leaves

For more Fourth of July cocktail recipes, visit this site.

It’s Raining and the Week Ahead in Reviews

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Once again it’s raining here in Maryland, formerly known as The Temperate State.  Before today our rain total was 6.11 inches this month.  I think its safe to say we will be adding several more inches to that total just on today’s rainfall alone.  Hard to believe we are looking at July just over the horizon.  My lavender is looking a little soggy and I have lost several herbs to the dampness.  The only ones happy are the hosta and the frogs.

I have some wonderful books on the review schedule this week including a history of the riots at Stonewall Inn by Martin Duberman.  I will be posting that on Friday to mark the 44th anniversary of the Stonewall demonstrations that sparked the gay civil rights movement.  Yesterday I posted several Youtube videos on the topic.  If you have a chance, check them out, especially the one on the Stonewall survivors.  The vid and the people it focused on are just remarkable.  As we wind down gay pride month and look towards the Supreme Court’s decision on gay marriage, take a moment to remember all those LGBTQ youth in need of shelter and a hand.  Organizations in need of donations can be found here and at the GLBT National Help Center.

Now about this week’s books, there are some terrific stories to be had this week.  All fall within the m/m contemporary fiction range with the exception of Stonewall (non-fiction), but within that category you will find a variety of stories from the whimsically titled When Dachshunds Ruled the Serengeti by Michael Murphy to A Casual Weekend Thing by A.J. Thomas, a police mystery.

Monday, June 24:         Heart of the Race by Mary Calmes

Tuesday, June 25:        A Casual Weekend Thing by A.J. Thomas

Wed., June 26:              Hobbled by John Inman

Thursday, June 27:      When Dachshunds Rule the Serengeti by Michael Murphy

Friday, June 28:           Stonewall by Martin Duberman

Saturday, June 29:       The Curtis Reincarnation by Zathyn Priest

Yesterday, I had the best Cosmo I have ever tasted at Ricciuti’s in Olney.  If you are local, and never had a meal or drink there, remedy that fact right away.  Housed in historic Olney House, Ricciuti’s outsources all its food, fine and beer locally. It believes in using only seasonal and local produce and it shows. It has stone ovens, great staff and now the best Cosmo ever.  It’s raining, a fine day to head over and taste some of the best food our local farms, wineries, and breweries have to offer.  I might even see you there.