Monthly Mini Review
HeartShip by Amy Jo Cousins – B A sweet, mostly low-conflict novella about Josh, a college football player (he’s heading into his final year and has been previously red-shirted so he’s 25) and Benji, a 32-year-old massage therapy student who meet on an online fandom for RWBY, a (real) American anime series. After they meet online, they take their conversations to Twitter and catch up once a week to live tweet episodes of RWBY together. Benji’s handle is “princessglitter” and he’s never actually specifically stated he’s a guy. Josh has never explicitly asked him. Benji assumes Josh thinks he’s a girl. But it doesn’t matter because Josh lives in Minnesota and Benji lives in Miami.
Until Josh, who has been sidelined due to a possibly football-ending injury decides to surprise his friend in Florida with a visit.
It’s not a gay for you story. It’s clear very early on that Josh has always known he’s gay. He just hadn’t come out yet, not even really to himself. However, once he meets Benji in person, their flirty online banter and the deep friendship they’ve developed spills over into physical intimacy. It’s fair to say that Josh takes to gay sex like a duck to water and he barely has a qualm about coming out – even to his teammates back in Minnesota. I read it as a “show the world as you’d prefer it to be” kind of thing rather than (unfortunately) actually realistic. There is a little homophobia referenced but it’s dealt with quickly and isn’t a big feature in the story.
Why I read it: I bought the book when it was re-released last year but hadn’t found time to read it. The audiobook is part of the #AudibleRomance package so I listened to it instead.
What it’s about: (from Goodreads) Most people called it a cult. But for twenty years, Josh and Caleb called it home.
In Paradise, there is no television. No fast food. Just long hours of farm work and prayer on a dusty Wyoming ranch, and nights in a crowded bunkhouse. The boys of the Compound are kept far from the sinners’ world.
But Joshua doesn’t need temptation to sin. His whole life, he’s wanted his best friend, Caleb. By day they work side by side. Only when Josh closes his eyes at night can they be together the way he craves.
It can never be. And his survival depends on keeping his terrible desires secret.
Caleb has always protected Josh against the worst of the bullying at the Compound. But he has secrets of his own, and a plan to get away — until it all backfires.
Josh finds himself homeless in a world that doesn’t want him. Can Caleb find him in time? And will they find a place of safety, where he can admit to Josh how he really feels?
What worked for me (and what didn’t): The trajectory of the romance between Josh and Caleb in Goodbye Paradise is unusual for the genre. For one thing, they’ve known each other all their lives. There’s no meet cute. But the main difference is that they always love each other. We don’t see the development of those feelings, there is no courtship as such. Rather, the story is about how the two men reveal their existing love for one another and how they eventually come out into the open, showing that love to everyone by doing so.
Monthly Mini Review
Wow! by Sean Kennedy – B+. This brand new release from Sean Kennedy feels like a little bit of a departure – for one thing, it’s a bit hotter than I’m used to from him (not a complaint). Although it’s not super explicit there are certainly more than kisses.
Mark Hodges works in a bank during the week, but on Saturday nights, he dons drag and becomes “Allotta Moxie” who struts her stuff on stage at a local gay bar, lip-syncing to ABBA, Kylie and other icons. In the past, revealing Allotta to a boyfriend has led to the demise of the relationship so he’s cautious about who he tells and when.
Mark has a crush on Joel, a new employee (not a direct report so nothing icky here) at the bank but he’s shy and lacks confidence. Allotta has a distinct personality. While the book does explicitly confirm that Allotta is an aspect of Mark’s personality it is also clear that Mark only lets that side of himself out when Allotta is on stage. Outside of that, he’s a shy boy. Allotta, however, is a maneater.
Monthly Mini Review
Team Phison by Chace Verity – B- One of my friends recommended this novella to me on Twitter and as it was only 99c I bought it (I’m cheap). While I didn’t connect with it quite as well as she did, I liked this story about a 55 year old guy who meets a 27 year old young man online when they both play a (fictional) MMORPG (that’s Massively Multiplayer Role Playing Game for the non-geeks in the room) which also has some FPS (first person shooter) aspects to it. Phil Hutton is a grumpy gay restaurant owner in Provincetown who broke up with his long term partner a little while before the book began. He’s lonely and looking for love but not having much success. Tyson Falls is a young bisexual man working as a server in a pizza and burger place in Georgia. Over time, they become friends and then more, eventually having to deal with the distance between them to get their HEA.
The story is told entirely from Phil’s POV so I found Tyson to be somewhat opaque at times. While the age difference didn’t bother me, sometimes I was a little concerned about the relative power differential between them – Tyson doesn’t have much money, Phil is quite well off, relatively speaking.
Why I read it: One of my friends rated this one very highly and it was only 99c so I bought it.
What it’s about: (from Goodreads) Letters are magic, don’t you think?
You could be anyone. I could be anyone.
And then, suddenly, we’re more than anyone.
When Abigail Trent agreed to write a letter to a soldier deployed overseas, she expected it to be a fleeting exchange. A friendly back-and-forth that ended barely after it began. She didn’t expect Theodore LaRoux.
It isn’t strange that writing feels so good. It’s right.
Here’s my secret: I like making you feel good…
Abby didn’t expect Roux to be a living fantasy, either–sexy, smart and strong enough to star in every one of her dreams. So, was it any wonder that when he asked for a photo, she sent one that would star in his dreams? The fact that it was a picture of someone else wouldn’t be a problem. After all, it’s not like they’d ever meet…right?
What worked for me (and what didn’t): I do have a soft spot for an epistolary romance. (This novella isn’t only letters but they form a fair chunk of the story.) I did like the book but there were a few things I had to get over.
In seven tours of Iraq and Afghanistan as an Army medic, Special Forces operator and commanding officer, Sergeant Theodore LaRoux knew the drill.
Sergeants aren’t commanding officers. There may be other errors as well – I only checked that one. Roux’s military history didn’t sound right. If accuracy and authenticity is important to a reader, Written On His Skin is probably not going to work that well.
Monthly Mini Review
Edited 11 March 2018. Given the events of the last week. I won’t be reading or reviewing Santino Hassell’s work again. Go here for more information and, if you have a spare hour or ten, here and here.
Reviews of these books will be up soon at AudioGals.