A MelanieM Review: Squared Away (Out of Uniform #5) by Annabeth Albert

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Rating:   4.5 stars out of 5

 

In the wake of tragedy, SEAL Mark Whitley rushed stateside to act as guardian to his sister’s three young children. But a conflicting will could give custody to someone else—someone Mark remembers as a too young, too hot, wild party boy. Even after six years, Mark can’t shake the memory of his close encounter with Isaiah James, or face up to what it says about his own sexuality.

Isaiah’s totally over the crush that made him proposition Mark all those years ago. In fact, he’s done with crushing on the wrong men altogether. For now, he’s throwing himself into proving he’s the best person to care for his cousin’s kids. But there’s no denying there’s something sexy about a big, tough military man with a baby in his arms.

As the legal details get sorted out, their long-buried attraction resurfaces, leading to intimate evenings after the kids are tucked in. A forever future is within reach for all of them, if only Mark can find the courage he needs to trust Isaiah with his secrets—and his heart.

Squared Away (Out of Uniform #5) by Annabeth Albert is another heartwarming installment in her   Out of Uniform series that I just love.  If you asked me to name which of this author’s series is a favorite, I’d be hard pressed to name one because each has its own special elements that I adore and draw me back to them.  For her Out of Uniform series, Albert really captures both that sense of what it means to be a   part of the “military unit” with her tight knit group of SEALs and their families.   The author manages to convey their sense of duty to country, their drive to serve, the deep bonds between those that serve together, and yes, the stresses and the reality of what it means to be a part of the military today.

Along with the realism of military life, Annabeth Albert makes her stories delightfully inclusive, reflecting the fact that military today is as diverse as the society itself.  Couples are looking much like the ones you see staring back at you at bars, grocery stores and city streets everywhere…they are racially mixed, not just all white couples.   That’s especially true with Squared Away‘s main characters.  You have SEAL Mark Whitley and the younger (now grown up) man who’s been crushing on him since his teens, Isaiah James.  Among the many issues that crop up between them (age differences, perception of attitudes, stability,  etc), race isn’t one of them.  I liked that too.

Trust me this couple has enough to deal with as it is.  Young children left orphaned by drunk driving, revelations about who their parents really were, life adjustments, and then Mark having to rearrange how he sees Isaiah, now an adult and how he sees his own path in the military.  Getting one’s life ‘squared away’ is never an easy task, sometimes it takes a monumental sea change.  And that’s what happens to both men here.  The challenges each man faces in order to move forward towards their goals comes with frustrations here for them and for the reader who wants to shake them occasionally.

This is one emotional, heart felt ride of a story.  It’s typical of Annabeth Albert that we grieve with Isaiah and Mark and the kids, then we chart the growth of their relationship, the steps back and tiny steps forward.  We gnash our teeth in frustration over Mark’s inability to communicate and the consequences for all involved.  And because the writing and characters are so wonderful, we’ve taken them all to heart and we need to know all will be safe and together.  And love the ending so.

Squared Away (Out of Uniform #5) by Annabeth Albert has everything I’ve come to love and expect from this author and series.  A heartwarming story and romance, great characters, and a ending that left me smiling and feeling happy for hours.  Its why I am again recommending this series and this lovely story.  If you’re a Annabeth Albert fan, you’re already way ahead of me.

Cover art: is hot, relevant and wonderful.

Sales Links:   Carina Press | Amazon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 336 pages
Expected publication: April 16th 2018 by Carina Press
Original TitleSquared Away
ASINB0789LDCTR
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesOut of Uniform #5

A MelanieM Review :Renewal : 3rd Annual Queer SyFy Flash Fiction Anthology

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Re.new.al (noun)

1) Resuming an activity after an interruption, or
2) Extending a contract, subscription or license, or
3) Replacing or repairing something that is worn out,
run-down, or broken, or
4) Rebirth after death.

Four definitions to spark inspiration, a limitless number of stories to be conceived. Only 110 made the cut.

Thrilling to hopeful, Renewal features 300-word speculative fiction ficlets about sexual and gender minorities to entice readers.

Welcome to Renewal.

I am such a fan of flash fiction, the ability to  tell a complete story in 300 words or less.  Renewal is Queer SyFy’s Fourth year’s collection of flash fiction and what an incredible winner it is. Like a library full of tiny jewels, Renewal‘s flash fiction is glorious in it’s presentation of the dizzying array of imaginative themes and world building by it’s host of authors, the authors represented, the timeliness and resonance of some of their flash fiction storylines and the huge spectrum of genres included from horror to fantasy to science fiction.

Also by the sheer poetry of some of it’s stories.  As you can imagine, given the shortness of the fiction, the quantity of stories within is immense.  So are the number I call favorites, far too many to list here.  And it’s funny, you read them so quickly, that you can be several stories past one before the impact it leaves kicks in.  The “huh, no, let me think about that” that leads to you flipping back to that tale and pondering the thoughts of the author may have had writing it.  Trust me, there are many of those.

Over and over again, authors stopped my in my “reading tracks”, left breathless by what was before me.

Under Science Fiction Part II (yes it’s divided into sections like Horror and Fantasy etc), there is this story whose lyrical imagery has stayed with me:

I Will Be Your Shelter by Carey Ford Compton.  I would have bought this collection for this flash fiction alone based on this.  I will give you but this small moment from the story that still makes me weep with appreciation:

The operating room is blue, sterile. We are awake for the procedure. Surgeons slice into our numbed, shaved scalps. The drill bites. Lights, metallic tongue, clicks of bone.

Then: she bleeds into me like watercolor.

Such power, such beauty.  And this collection is full of such haunting tales.

As J. Scott Coatsworth said in his introduction “this collection includes many colors of the LGBTIQA (or QUILTBAG, if you prefer) universe—lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer and asexual characters populate these pages—it was our most diverse contest yet.”

I also think it was Queer SyFy’s most outstanding. With pertinent quotes by authors at the beginning of each section and a easily accessible table of contents (I used it often to go back to stories I wanted to reread that I bookmarked), Renewal is a collection of stories that will make you think, occasionally laugh, push some boundaries, give you new authors to explore, and much, much, more.   Don’t you love it when that happens?

And yes, I highly recommend it!

Included Authors

‘Nathan Burgoine
A.M. Leibowitz
A.M. Soto
Abby Bartle
Aidee Ladnier
Alexis Woods
Andi Deacon
Andrea Felber Seligman
Andrea Speed
Andrea Stanet
Anne McPherson
Bey Deckard
Brigitte Winter
Carey Ford Compton
Carol Holland March
Carrie Pack
Catherine Lundoff
CB Lee
Christine Wright
Colton Aalto
Daniel Mitton
Dustin Blottenberger
Dustin Karpovich
E R Zhang
E.J. Russell
E.W. Murks
Ell Schulman
Ellery Jude
Eloreen Moon
Elsa M León
Emily Horner
Eric Alan Westfall
F.T. Lukens
Fenrir Cerebellion
Foster Bridget Cassidy
Ginger Streusel
Hannah Henry
Irene Preston
J. Alan Veerkamp
J. P. Egry
J. Summerset
J.S. Fields
Jaap Boekestein
Jackie Keswick
Jana Denardo
Jeff Baker
Jenn Burke
Joe Baumann
John Moralee
Jon Keys
Jude Dunn
K.C. Faelan
Kelly Haworth
Kiterie Aine
Kristen Lee
L M Somerton
L. Brian Carroll
L.M. Brown
L.V. Lloyd
Laurie Treacy
Leigh M. Lorien
Lex Chase
Lia Harding
Lin Kelly
Lloyd A. Meeker
Lyda Morehouse
M.D. Grimm
Martha J. Allard
Mary E. Lowd
Matt Doyle
Matthew Bright
Mia Koutras
Michelle Browne
Milo Owen
Mindy Leana Shuman
Naomi Tajedler
Natsuya Uesugi
Nephy Hart
Nicole Dennis
Ofelia Gränd
Patricia Scott
Paul Stevens
PW Covington
R R Angell
R.L. Merrill
Rebecca Cohen
Redfern Jon Barrett
Reni Kieffer
Richard Amos
RL Mosswood
Robyn Walker
Rory Ni Coileain
Rose Blackthorn
Ross Common
S R Jones
Sacchi Green
Sarah Einstein
Shilo Quetchenbach
Siri Paulson
Soren Summers
Stephanie Shaffer
Steve Fuson
Tam Ames
Terry Poole
Tray Ellis
Vivien Dean
Wendy Rathbone
Xenia Melzer
Zen DiPietro
Zev de Valera

Cover art by Gus Li is just gorgeous!

Sales Links:Mischief Corner Books (info only) | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Goodreads

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 196 pages
Published September 13th 2017 by Mischief Corner Books, LLC
ASINB074ZPB4ZM
Edition Language English

A MelanieM Review: The Lure of Port Stephen by Sydney Blackburn

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Rating: 3.75 stars out of 5

Robbie Wales is young and starting a new job in a new town, on his own. Coming from a split family, he was raised by his mother and maternal grandparents and came out as a teen without a lot of fuss, but his father, whom he only saw infrequently, has never known. As an adult, he’s found he’s got a lot in common with his father, and they’re finally getting to know each other. He fears coming out to his father may jeopardize that.

Then he meets Raj Williams, the attractive man in the trailer next to his father’s in a seasonal RV park. Raj is handsome, sophisticated, yet loves to fish and watch silly Disney movies.

Raj finds Robbie equally interesting. But Robbie’s still in the closet, at least in Port Stephen, and Raj’s ex used that as an excuse to treat him as nothing more than a friend with benefits. He’s not interested in a repeat experience.

Robbie finally finds the courage to come out to his father, but was it all just for a summer fling?

The Lure of Port Stephen by Sydney Blackburn is in many ways like spending the day out on or by the water.  It’s a hot summer day read, sexy, sweet,  and a little steamy.  Its got fish.   Men that like to fish.  And have lots of sex.  Plus there’s a sweet coming out story and falling in love.  In other words, there’s a lot to like here.

Blackburn does a lovely job in the characterization of Raj and Robbie and their respective families.  Robbie, a machinist, is trying to reconnect with his Dad who lives in a trailer with his stepmother by the water.  He’s out to his mom and everyone else but not his Dad, and he’s still trying to figure out their relationship.  Robbie is young but still has a maturity about him that’s wonderful here.  He’s not ashamed to be gay, he’s just not sure of his place yet in his father’s life.  Then he meets the handsome, gay man who has the trailer lot next door to his dad’s for the summer, Raj Williams.  Down from Toronto, Raj has a work job that allows him to move around so he can enjoy his summer at Port Stephens.  Raj never figured on meeting Robbie.  A gay fling that turns into friendship and then more.

I found I started to engage in this romance more when they decided to become more serious about each other.  Up until then, while I enjoyed the characters, I wasn’t terribly invested in the romance.  After several events, especially (my favorites) the ones with Robbie’s dad, the story grew wings for me.  In fact, the scenes that resonated the most with me?  All the coming out ones, and the ones that followed. It includes those between Raj and Robbie’s dad, so funny and poignant.

I thought the ending was sweet if a little abrupt.  Maybe an epilogue wouldn’t have hurt here. but definitely more was needed.  Still I would recommend The Lure of Port Stephen by Sydney Blackburn as a sweet contemporary romance.

Cover art by Natasha Snow is beautiful and perfect for the story.

Sales Links

NineStar Press | Amazon | Smashwords | Barnes & Noble | Kobo

Book Details:

ebook
Published May 22nd 2017 by NineStar Press
ISBN139781947139121

A Mika Review: The Bridge of Silver Wings (More Heat Than the Sun #3) by John Wiltshire

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

The Bridge of Silver Wings coverNikolas and Ben discover that bonds aren’t forged with blood or scars but in the hearts of men strong enough to love. 

Ben discovers the truth of the adage, ‘be careful what you wish for’. Nikolas has exorcised his demons, but when they end up stranded in Russia, the monster inside needs to be let loose. Siberia in winter isn’t a place for good men. There is nothing Nikolas won’t do to keep Ben alive. 

Home again, Nikolas then faces an enemy he can’t defeat: Ben Rider himself. Discovering a new family, Ben realizes he’s been living too long in the shadows cast by Nikolas’s all-consuming love. For the first time, life apart from Nikolas is possible. Is Nikolas strong enough to let Ben go?

Talk about unexpected events. I could never in a billion freaking years imagine going through the things that Sir Nikolas and Ben went through. I know for sure I wouldn’t have the sanity, resilience or even strength to see the light at the end or put my faith in one person so much. We pick up book three right after the events of Conscious Decisions of the Heart, and the couple are,  literally, off on an adventure in this book. Terrified would be might one word description of the first half of the book. Who goes through things like this? It’s been a good month since reading this, and I wondering what the other people’s family thinks happened, I mean I guess the plane could make sense but where is all the freaking PTSD from that situation. I didn’t see a way for them to survive, and in all this darkness Nikolas persevered and became the dark angel with the brightest shining I’ve ever seen. Certain circumstances, he literally put his life on the line. He is such an amazing character who is so intense, and closed off but has this way about him that just draws you in. I love John Wiltshire for that, I’m all about the damaged hero and he just made my top ten list.

Wiltshire puts them in situations where they are confronted with the possibility that a tomorrow isn’t a promise to me, and in situations like these; these two guys always do something that turn my insides to mush. It might not be the healthiest or sanest ways but it’s why I love them. It was a scene in this book where Nik basically had to put his foot down and didn’t really care about Ben’s feelings. That was one of my favorite quotes ever in this entire book.

“I love you enough to hit you until you get on that thing. Do not make me do it, because this is hurting me more than you.- Nikolas”

Wiltshire takes his readers on a vivid journey and reading it is like watching it unfold right in front of you. These emotions that he seems to bring out of you are gut-wrenching, I cried off and on during the last 45%. He’s able to have two strong men with sordid past and have them fall so deeply in love with each other that no amount of distance or strife will keep them away. This book definitely became my favorite out the series so far. Second half had me not really liking Ben, but as usual he comes out victorious. I wasn’t mad for the reason most people would be, I was mad because I understand him needing to feel like he can stand on his two feet and needing the space to do it. I was mad at the circumstances surrounding certain situations, but it’s my fault really because I doubted Ben and it’s not something we made need to do. While as Nikolas is this dark angel with a vengeful way about himself; Ben is the total opposite. He’s this bright shining beacon who has the most endearing conscience around. I mean he cares for everyone’s well being. His heart is one of the reasons why many adore him, and only Nikolas has him.

Cover Art by Deana Jamoz. This cover is everything that happened in the book. Being in the darkness but fighting your way out until you reach the light. I love it.

Sales Links:   MLR Press         All Romance (ARe)      Amazon        Buy It Here

Book Details:

ebook, 290 pages
Published August 22nd 2014 by MLR Press (first published August 21st 2014)
ISBN13MLR1020140285
edition languageEnglish
seriesMore Heat Than the Sun #3

More Heat Than The Sun Series (should be read in order to understand the relationships and events)

  • Love is a Stranger (More Heat Than the Sun #1)
  • Conscious Decisions of the Heart (More Heat Than the Sun, #2)
  • The Bridge of Silver Wings (More Heat Than the Sun, #3)
  • This Other Country (More Heat Than the Sun, #4)
  • The Bruise-Black Sky (More Heat Than the Sun, #5)

A Barb, A Zany Old Lady Review: Alpha Delta by RJ Scott (part of the Alpha collection from ARe)

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Rating: 3 stars out of 5

Alpha Delta coverFinn Hallan is a member of the elite Norwegian Emergency Response Unit, code name Delta. As part of his mandatory training, he needs to sit through a series of lectures on decommissioning oil platforms, a time when the platforms have only a skeleton crew and are in greater danger of terrorist activity. Scottish engineer Niall Faulkner is one of the guest lecturers and it’s his slim, sexy physique, rather than the topic of the lecture, that immediately captures Finn’s attention.

Over the next few months, the two become lovers, though with both their jobs demanding so much travel, they don’t get to see each other often. And, though Niall now knows that he loves Finn, Finn has been focusing on keeping their relationship casual.

But when Niall is sent out to the Forseti platform to begin the decommissioning process, something goes terribly wrong, and he finds himself running for his life. Apparently the security team who accompanied him to the platform is not security at all, but a team of terrorists. When Delta team is sent to respond to the situation, and Finn realizes that his man is onboard, he has to face the fact that he may lose him, just when he was ready to finally declare his love.

The story is fast-paced, complex, and full of nail-biting tension. Can Finn rescue Niall? And will Niall and Finn finally have a chance to declare their love before it’s too late? Readers will enjoy this M/M romance adventure.

The only thing that caused me to downgrade my rating from 4 stars to 3 stars is the very sloppy (if any) editing. There were several instances of character confusion, and they weren’t minor. It’s almost as if the publishers took the first draft and printed it without an editor or proofreader review. These errors were so obvious that I can’t possibly overlook them, and though I hate to downgrade an author’s work, in this case, the errors affected my enjoyment of the story so strongly that I feel I have no choice.

So, if you are looking for a quick read that’s full of adventure, with a gorgeous alpha MC, and editorial errors don’t bug you, you should enjoy this one.

Cover artist:

Available only at  All Romance (ARe)

Book Details:

Published By: OmniLit / All Romance eBooks, LLC
Published: Feb 02, 2015
ISBN # 9781936387793
Word Count: 20,500

Alpha the Series

 

 

 

 

 

The Alpha Series includes M/F as well as M/M Stories.
STRW will be reading and reviewing only the LGBTQ novels, including:

  • Two Howls by Sean Michael
  • Midnight Run by Bailey Bradford
  • Jumping In by C Cardeno
  • Seducing Rain by Amber Kell
  • Alpha, Delta by RJ Scott

Review: Voodoo ‘n’ Vice (Galactic Alliance #3) by K.C. Burn

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Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5

Voodoo n Vice coverIn his anger and obedience to fleet rules and regulations, fleet captain Gideon Arcturus makes a serious error in judgement regarding the Ankyros Ambassador and his lover.  The repercussions from that disastrous event finds Gideon banished to Elora Ki, the compost heap of the galaxy.  Disgraced and demoted, Gideon is now a subordinate to a man he viewed as an inferior and considered an embarrassment to his wealthy and influential father.

Gideon’s last romantic entanglement was a nasty set up by a rival officer that almost cost him everything.  But during a visit to Voodoo, a seedy club in the first district on Elora Ki, Gideon watches a fire dancer on the stage and can’t get him out of his mind.

Tai is a fire dancer with his own secrets and disasterous past.  Hiding out on Elora Ki seems like the answer to his problems, at least for now.  His unique style of dancing keeps Tai from an even worst profession, that of a prostitute on a world that looks down on homosexuality.  He sees what it has cost his friend and roommate and Tai swears that he will never be paid for sex.  Then Tai watches a stiff, reserved freckled man standing at the bar watching him intently.  It’s Gideon on enforced leave.  Soon the sparks fly between them. Before long Tai and Gideon spend every night of his leave together, forming a bond neither wants to break.

But an illegal, addictive  drug, Flare, is being distributed in and around the clubs and brothels.The trade in Flare on Elora Ki and off planet comes under the scruntity of Gideon and the fleet.  Its a drug that almost cost Gideon his life and hurt his career. But it hits much closer to home as a drug lord focuses on Tai, threatening his safety and all associated with him.  Its up to Gideon to save Tai, and destroy the drug ring…but what if Tai’s secret poses an even bigger threat to them all.

When it comes to science fiction, the genre almost always falls on either side of a technology line.  On  one side you have the tech-heavy, science centric fiction and on the other side there’s the fiction that goes off into space, riding an author’s wild imaginative path to intergalactic adventure outside the boundaries of known cosmology and spatial dynamics.  It’s here that you might  find goofy aliens, space outlaws, and heros of all shapes, sizes, and species.  While I appreciate the first science fiction group of writers (think Arthur C. Clarke among others), its the wide open unknown spaces that grab my affection and reading time.  You have a multi-hued, three toed alien for no other reason than you wanted one?  Cool.  I get that.  I want one too.  And throw in the amorphous sparkly blob with the personality of Arthur Gottfried too while you are at it.  Doubly cool.  I appreciate one form but I love the other in much the same way someone might cooly admire a beautifully made model spacecraft but hug the furry spotted one eyed stuffed animal.

So it won’t surprise you that the Galactic Alliance series by K.C. Burn falls somewhat into the latter category and that I have become very fond of this series. It features a dead Earth with what’s left of its race scattered to the stars.  Where of course, they encounter the Ankyros, a lavender alien species that must have three beings to reproduce and have a family unit.  They evolved from a type of herbivore , a grazer with a hive racial organization and two distinct body types(not sexes).  The Ankyros get even crazier in culture and physiological description but meeting them is one of the joys of this series.  There was a war between the humans and the Ankyros, just recently over with all sorts of complications and reverberations for both.  If you had to sit down and make sense of it all, than you won’t enjoy this book or series.  But if you can just take it as is, then the entertainment and fun that K.C. Burns has in store for you has just begun.

The first story, Spice ‘n’ Solace (Galactic Alliance #1), introduces you to Jathan One-Moon, Galactic Alliance’s most important negotiator, and his lover, the brothel owner, Kaz. It is also our first introduction to that seediest of seedy outposts, Elora Ki.   Book two, Alien ‘n’ Outlaw (Galactic Alliance #2), brings the Ankyros species into sharp relief with its center story of a romance between an elusive human thief Darien Lancaster and R’kos, son of the Ankylos Emperor.  Until now, that has been my favorite. But with Voodoo ‘n’ Vice K.C. Burns deepens her plot with the misery that drug addiction brings along with a new race of aliens that has subjugated humans and manipulated their DNA.

Again its Burn’s characters that are easy to love.  Tai, the fire dancer with a huge secret to hide and Gideon, the 30 year old repressed gay son of an influential military family with an austere, controlling patriarch at its head.  Both are easy people to connect with and ultimately love. Gideon is the character that has the farthest to grow, from an upright, humorless Captain to someone capable of seeing the gray in a situation and being flexible enough to love and accept love, regardless of whether it comes from a human or alien source.   His growth as a character is realistic as are his actions and fear of romantic entanglements. Burn’s is also setting up her next story in the series with Gideon’s replacement, Sven, and Tai’s roommate who undergoes a traumatic event. At least I am hoping to see each of them once more.  They deserve a HEA too.

Seedy, disreputable and wild, Elora Ki is such a vibrant, alive location, just as important in this book as the people who inhabit it.  A sort of wild frontier where almost anything goes and everyone who comes there has a story, I enjoy the new districts or levels that K.C. Burns invents for each couple and story.  New “red light” districts, new nightclubs with owners both illegal and honorable.  They are as much fun as the plots wrapped around them.  There is also an ugliness and horror to its neighborhoods, it has its own tenements and squalor recognizable outside the realm of the safe and well off.  It works well to balance off the glitzy clubs and bars where everyone works at some profession. It’s a stratified society where some of its most important citizens are also among its most mean and conniving.  That works well too.

The romance here arrives quickly but I can forgive that as each man is so in need of each other.  I love the tattoos that decorate Tai’s body and the fascinating history behind them provided by the author. I hope this is not the last we have  heard of Tai’s planet and people.  Again, there will be parts here that make little sense if you are looking for a scientific foundation upon which to lay Burn’s creations.  Think more Marvel Comics than American Scientific Journal, but its in her descriptions that these people, their histories and their love for each other comes alive.    That makes the astounding beings, places, and events here jump with possibility and magic as well as an intergalactic love that feels not only reasonable but right.

I love this story and definitely recommend it to all who can suspend belief in the real and supposed futures set forth by science fiction authors and scientists alike.  K.C. Burn gives us the human element and spirit alive and kicking in a galactic space not always open to humanity and the chaos we bring with us. I read the first two books out of order and it didn’t seem to make that much a difference after going back to Solace ‘n’ Spice.  In fact I enjoyed getting to know the Ankyros people in Alien ‘n’ Outlaw first, and then pick up small pieces of intelligence about them in book one.  You decide the order in which to read the first two stories, but Voodoo ‘n’ Vice should definitely be read third in order for all the events and people who pop up to make sense.

Cover art by an uncredited artist is perfect for the fire dancer Tai and Gideon.

Buy Links:   Carina Press       Amazon             ARe

Book Details:

Kindle Edition
Published May 26th 2014 by Carina Press (first published January 1st 2014)
ASINB00I15VLGI
edition languageEnglish
seriesGalactic Alliance #3

Books in the Galactic Alliance series in the order they were written and should be read:

Spice ‘n’ Solace (Galactic Alliance #1)
Alien ‘n’ Outlaw (Galactic Alliance #2)
Voodoo ‘n’ Vice (Galactic Alliance #3)

Review: The Heir Apparent by Tere Michaels

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Rating: 3.75 stars out of 5

The Heir Apparent coverArchie Bank, body guard and driver for Henry Walker, scion of the powerful and wealthy Walker family, is also Henry’s childhood friend and secret lover.  Archie has used his job to help pay for his education and help support his mother and is now poised to graduate college.  But graduation means a change in jobs, leaving Henry Walker behind.  Henry doesn’t want to lose Archie but doesn’t know how to come out to his family or make a stand for their relationship.  All Henry sees is Archie slipping away from him forever.

Then a kidnapping goes horribly wrong, ending with Henry in the hospital and Archie under suspicion.  Together Archie and Henry must unite in order to uncover the mastermind behind the kidnapping before more lives, including their own, are threatened.

I love Tere Michaels.  Her Faith, Love & Devotion series is among my top all time favorite contemporary m/m fiction.  In The Heir Apparent, I see all the components that make her writing so enthralling and addictive, along with some minor issues that bring it down a notch or two.  First, the plot. It is full of suspense, well balanced with romance and hot, sexy scenes.  There are several layers to the mysteries here, not just the person behind the kidnapping.  I really enjoyed that aspect of the story, even though I identified correctly early on exactly who the person was behind the plot.  While some may find it frustrating that the characters did not recognize where the threat was coming from, I thought Michaels handled the reasons behind that gullibility with rationality and sensibility.

The two main characters are well defined with Archie  probably being my favorite, a kind of Upstairs Downstairs sort of thing.  Archie’s mother was a servant as well and they were part of the Walker home for a long time, albeit in their strictly defined roles. I do wish Michaels had given us more of a past recollection of Archie and Henry’s childhood together.  It would have helped give a firmer foundation to their current relationship than the one we are given.  Henry’s father at one point  talks about the boys misadventures as children, with Archie in the role of the child who always lead his precious son into scrapes.  But other than a tidbit here and there, nothing really substantial is relayed to the reader about their back history.  Henry takes a little bit longer to come to grips with.  He will not acknowledge his romantic relationship with Archie nor tell his father he is gay.  To be sure, Michaels has made Mr. Walker a powerfully intimidating personality, however Henry shows little spine with regard to him or his father’s close associate (almost an uncle figure here).  With Henry’s insecurity and passiveness, it takes some time before the reader connects with him, and that hurts the story in the beginning.

The Heir Apparent really picks up and delivers powerful, emotional scenes once the kidnapping begins.  This is when the story and all the characterizations gel for the reader.  From that moment on, Henry’s father becomes a person who  we identify with and connect with emotionally at the most basic of levels, that of a father who loves his son and fears for him.  Powerful stuff indeed.  Even shadowy characters, like Henry’s stepmother, come forward with a greater presence and impact once this traumatic event takes place.  Tere Michaels builds the story, layer upon layer, until all the pieces fall into place at the end, and the criminal is identified and caught.

Do the men get their HEA?  The plot points in that direction but, in my last quibble, the resolution to their relationship issues, doesn’t seem entirely satisfactory.  It ends with some things a little unclear and some readers will find that frustrating.  I know I did.

But with all my quibbles aside, do I recommend this story?  Yes, absolutely.  A Tere Michaels book is always something to be grabbed up, you never know what marvelous things to expect inside.  And some of the issues I had with the story, others might find not objectionable at all.  To tell the truth I did go back and forth between a 3.75 and a 4 star rating but the quibbles won out in the end.  Pick up a copy and  make up your own mind.  I would love to hear what you think.

Cover art by Dar Albert is got two gorgeous torsos to look at but what it has to do with the story is anyones guess.  Call this a miss.

Book Details:

ebook, 166 pages
Published February 26th 2013 by Loose Id
original title
The Heir Apparent
ISBN13
9781623002589
edition language
English