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February Round Up

on Paper/eBook

Rule of Three by Kelly Jamieson – B  Very good m/m/f menage story where the characters actually talk about their relationship, their plans and (begin to) address potential traps which may arise.  Most of the book is spent developing the relationship and changing it from an m/f/m to an m/m/f.  As unrealistic as I gather they are (I understand from Twitter – my source of all the important information – that polyamory is mostly a couple who each (or maybe just one) have separate relationships with others – a triad is apparently kind of unusual), m/m/f are my favourite type of menage stories.  I felt there is more “equality” to the relationship where all three feel love and sexual desire for the other rather than the concept of the 2 guys “sharing” the woman.   The most unfortunately named Dag* is Chris’ best friend from college.  He has been out of town, having left after realising his unrequited love for Chris would remain so.  He believes Chris is relentlessly straight.  Even though they have shared a lot of women together, there has never been any touching of man bits.  Chris and Kassidy have been dating about a year and have just moved in together.  They are very much in love.  Kassidy develops feelings for Dag, he develops feelings for her and Chris eventually recognises his feelings for Dag.  Lordly it is a sexy book.  I devoured it in virtually one sitting.  The writing was good; Ms. Jamieson has a very entertaining style.  I would have liked more about their life together as a triad, a bit more about some of the practical difficulties and how they would deal together – this stuff was only just brought up at the very end and, while there were discussions, I wasn’t sure how it would work in practice and I wasn’t sure if Chris would actually talk more about his feelings (something he struggled with the whole book).  How would Kassidy’s parents react?  What would happen if there was some jealousy which arose?  Are interactions between 2 of the 3 okay or do all 3 have to be there?  To be fair, this was the getting together book, not the how it works book, but I can’t say I wasn’t curious.  Anyways, I enjoyed it quite a bit.
*I don’t know if it means the same thing here as in the US, but a “dag” is a bit of sheep’s dung caught up in the wool around their rear end and it’s NOT what I want to be thinking of in a sexy book. Especially a sexy book where there’s backdoor activity, if you know what I’m saying.
Hotel Pens by Geoffrey Knight – B  Very good m/m short about travel writer, Joe Jordan, who broke up with his lover some time ago and has been lonely ever since.  Because of his job, he’s always in hotels and he’s a keen collector of their pens.  While in New York for work, he meets Claude, a French ex-pat who is living at the Beacon Hotel and translating m/m romance books into French. Claude courts Joe and teaches him a thing or two about love, himself and New York by writing various messages in pen on Joe’s body in a kind of scavenger hunt.  I found the writing overall to be engaging and sensitive and I liked how as Joe rediscovered New York, he rediscovered himself also.  I was also happy that Joe had things to offer Claude and it wasn’t all one-sided.  The story was very short (56 pages) and ends in a HFN ending.  I wondered what would happen to the couple after – Joe is still a travel writer after all, but maybe there will be further stories for these two?  The author is Australian but I think he’s definitely been to New York, there is a great sense of place in the book.

June Reads

on Paper/eBook
NB This review first appeared in the ARRA June newsletter which is distributed to ARRA members. 

Gateway to Heaven by Beth Kery – B- First published in 2008, I picked this up as a Kindle freebie recently.  Christian Lasher is a rock star who’s looking to take his career in a different direction. He meets art teacher and sculptor, Megan Shreve and is instantly captivated by her.  She’s different to anyone he’s ever met before and she doesn’t know who he is.  Because he doesn’t think she’d go for the “rock god” thing, he keeps it from her so she can get to know him without the hype.  Megan is over protected by her sister Hilary, who gives her all the dirty gossip about Christian PDQ.  When Megan was 3 years old, she was abused by the husband of her daycare provider and even though she can’t remember those events, they have affected her ever since.  Hence her sister’s over protectiveness. But Megan isn’t as fragile as Hilary believes and Christian wants her to chart her own course and not be held in kid gloves.  There is a bit of the on again/off again between Christian and Megan – a few times there I was kind of surprised that she was apologising – especially when it was Christian being the ass.  There is kind of early shades of Bared To You and similar books in the dynamic between them – although, not quite as obsessive.  I enjoyed the chemistry between Megan and Christian and found this one an easy, fast read.  At the end, even though I believed in their HEA, I would have liked to have more about what their lives would be like – what did she end up doing with her career etc.  I do like Beth Kery’s writing and I think this is one of her earlier works.  It does kind of show – I think her writing has become more polished since then. But, I did like this one.
Beginnings and Ends by Suzanne Brockmann – see my full review here. The short version?  Very disappointing.

 

A Different Kind of Forever by Dee Ernst – B  I picked this one up after seeing a positive review of it at Dear Author .  This is an older woman/younger man story – Diane is 45, divorced and a mother of 3 teenage girls.  Michael “Mickey Flynn” Carlucci is 26 and a rock star – singer/songwriter, keyboard and guitar player in the band NinetySeven.  Michael was all but raised by his older sisters and in Diane he has found someone who finally compares favourably with them – his womanly ideal.
I could certainly understand their attraction to each other, even if I did wonder occasionally how long it would last.  But, as Michael himself says:

“Forever, Diane.  I will love you forever.”

She looked at him.  “Michael, think about what you’re saying.  You and I will never grow old together.  You know that.   There is no forever with us.”

“Of course there is,” he said softly.  “We aren’t like everybody else, you and I.  You know that.  We’ll have a different kind of forever.”

Michael and Diane have the sweetest meet cute that I have read in a long time – involving a big dog who loves pastrami.  He falls for her pretyt much instantly even though she doesn’t believe him really.  Early in their relationship, she asks him how many times he’s been in love.  This is his response:

He thought.  “Three times.  My first great love was Theresa Milano.  She moved next door to us when I was in the third grade.  She was in public school, and I was in Catholic school, but I was determined to make it work.  I proposed to her half-way through the fourth grade, but she had become infatuated with a shortstop. She broke my heart.   But we stayed friends.  She’s an intern now, at Columbia Medical School.  I still see her.”

“How sweet.”

“There was an actress.  We dated for about a year.  Then I stopped touring and we lived together for six months.  All that togetherness was a big mistake.”  He sipped more wine.  “And then there was a week ago Tuesday.”

*sigh* I did like Michael.  A lot.
In the end, Dabney and I give this the same grade, although I think we had different things we liked/disliked about it.  I did notice some typos and grammatical errors and there were a couple of references which dated the book to an earlier work (as it says in the front).  But, there was something so compelling about the passion and connection between Michael and Diane.  I grade with my emotions, so it gets a B.  I did wonder how they would be in 20 years, but Michael was quite right in point out that life is precarious and either of them could get sick, get hit by a bus etc, way before age became an issue – I could get with the idea of living for now and worrying about tomorrow when/if it comes but still – 19 years is a big gap.  I was seriously worried toward the end (even though I knew there was a HEA) which says much about the writer’s ability to suck me in.  There is much unresolved at the end of the book and it has a very abrupt ending – like Dabney, I could have used an epilogue checking in in a year or so to round of my experience. 

The Cool Part of His Pillow by Rodney Ross – C  When I browse NetGalley, I search by genre – specifically, romance.  So I thought this book was a romance about a guy whose husband has died.  But it wasn’t a romance.  The book tracks a year in the life of Barry Grooms, from the day before his 45th birthday, to his 45th birthday (the day on which his husband Andy dies) to his 46th birthday.  This book is a book about Barry’s journey in grief and him getting to a place where he feels he can move on, at least, when the book ended, I thought that’s where he was supposed to be.  I wasn’t 100% sure he was quite there yet.  He has other difficulties and tragedies in the year of the book and it brought me to tears a couple of times.  But, I’m a romance reader and the reason I persisted with the book was that I thought there would be a romance.  Then, after 300 pages of the 330 odd page book, I thought maybe he’d just meet someone at the end and it could be a vaguely hopeful happy ending. But alas.  So, I’ve graded it as a romance reader.  I would not have chosen to read the book had I known it wasn’t a romance.  That’s my reading preference talking and not really a reflection of the book.   There are many great non-romance books out there I choose not to read every day, for the same reason.  In terms of this book, there were parts of it that were very moving and well written and parts of it that I found confusing, with references I didn’t understand and which were inadequately explained – like I was not in on the joke.  The first part of the book, where Barry is snippily describing all his friends and his horrible nicknames for them predisposed me to think he was a bit of a dick actually.  I did believe that he and Andy had a strong connection, but truthfully, in the book itself there weren’t many flashbacks which showed me this – mostly the kind of things Barry shares are neutral or negative.  But, the real and pervasive grief that Barry suffers shows me that there was more to that relationship and I would have liked to have seen a couple of scenes of very happy times to balance out the other.  I’m not sure what I would have graded this had I gone in with only a “gay fiction” tag.  Possibly around the same.  But, be warned, this is not a romance.  There is no HEA, there is no relationship – this is a stroy about Barry getting over the death of his spouse and moving on.  But, it did make me cry, so there is that.

PartyofThreeParty of Three by Daire St. Denis – see my full review here.  This is the one with the TATTOOED PEEN.

OneSmallThing

One Small Thing by Piper Vaughn and M.J. O’Shea – see my full review here.

Brook Street:  Thief by Ava March – C+  The first in Ms. March’s Brook Street Trilogy, Thief follows the story of Lord Benjamin Parker and Cavin Fox.  Ben is fairly sure he’s gay but he’s never had sex with a man and wants to give it a go to make sure once and for all.  He heads to Clements, a gaming hell, where he’s heard that men of a certain persuasion gather.  There, he meets Cavin Fox and is instantly smitten.  Cavin is the thief of the title.  He lives in the rookeries and has an Oliver Twist/Fagin like relationship with Hale – if he doesn’t bring back sufficient funds, he’s punished.  Cavin is also very close to 13 year old Sam, also a protege of Hale’s and has virtually raised him for the past few years.  The story is sweet and sexy and enjoyable but I found myself questioning how ‘easy’ it all seemed to be.  Cavin is the first man Ben has ever been with.  They don’t spend much time together at all before Ben is opening his home, his wallet and anything else he has, to Cavin.  Even after Cavin confesses his nefarious past, this doesn’t faze Ben at all.  The solution was one I wondered about too – it seemed very unequal to me and I wondered how long it would be satisfactory – or, would Cavin eventually feel like a whore, bound by obligation and the need for a roof over his head rather than true feeling?  Perhaps I’m reading too much into this short story.  It’s certainly enjoyable but I found it to have a certain fairytale quality to it.

Sharing Hailey by Samantha Anne King – see my full review here.

The Girl with the Cat Tattoo by Theresa Weir – C+   This cute novella is mostly from the perspective of the cat (Max).  Sick of seeing his owner Melody with losers, Max decides to find her a mate himself.  After venturing outside his backyard, he follows a homeless man to a shelter where he meets Joe.  He likes Joe and thinks he will be suitable for Melody.  It’s cute and sweet and written in a simple style entirely appropriate to a cat’s perspective.  There are some portions from Joe and Melody’s perspective as well to round things off.  Enjoyable but I didn’t love it as much as Sunita and Jayne did at Dear Author.
Bound to You by Bethany Kane (aka Beth Kery) – B  Sexy short story about a blind man who knows what to do with his hands (and his mouth).  Rowr.  John Corcoran is holidaying in his cabin in the woods.  Out for a walk, he hears Hollywood actress/singer Jennifer Turner singing as she hikes.  Knowing there are sinkholes off the trail, he follows.  Both of them fall into a sinkhole and are stuck there overnight until rescue can arrive.  Jennifer (for reasons which are explained later in the story) has a pathological fear of the dark and John helps keep her, ahem, occupied.  Mandi from Smexybooks recommended and I picked it up after hearing from her that this was a dirty story about filling dirty holes 😀

Hell on Wheels by Julie Ann Walker – see my full review here.

Convenient Strangers by Cara McKenna – C  Sexy short about 2 guys both down after recent break ups.  They hook up for the night and the story ends with the hopeful prospect that they’ll see each other again.    These guys also talk a lot about their exes and that wasn’t particularly sexy to me, particularly for an erotic short which focuses only on one night.  I know from listening to the Savage Lovecast that gay men have an advantage sexually over straight people – they’re used to asking “what are you into?” – Stephen and Adam do that here and I appreciated their negotiation and openness.  However, there was so much of it, that I found the sex strangely transactional – which is odd when I compare that to Curio (which I loved), where the sex was transactional (bought and paid for) but didn’t seem that way on the page.

Slow Summer Kisses by Shannon Stacey – see my full review here.

The Last Boyfriend by Nora Roberts  – C+  I reviewed this on for the ARRA blog.  I’ll provide a link when it’s up
Restraint by Charlotte Stein – B  Mandi from Smexy Books recommended this one in a recent post and as it was only 99c from Amazon I immediately went and bought it.  As it is a fairly short story and I was between books at the time, I immediately went and read it.  It’s a sexy short about dirty talking Mallory who goes on holiday with her two best friends.  Another friend is invited but unfortunately, Artie and Mallory dont’ get along. She thinks he hates her because of her potty mouth.  After a revealing conversating in the hot tub, Mallory realises that it’s not dislike at all that Artie is feeling.   Very sexy short read and well worth my 99c.  Thx Mandi!

A Novel Seduction by Gwyn Cready See my full review here.

The Virgin’s Revenge by Dee Tenorio – See my review here.

Still Into You by Roni Loren – B  This is a sexy short which is described as book 1.5 of the Loving on the Edge series but it reads easily as a standalone.  Seth and Leila have been married for 8 years but have fallen into routine and rut and are not feeling connected anymore.  Seth overhears Leila on talkback radio asking for help after she’d been tempted to cheat and realises that desperate times call for desperate measures. He takes her away for a long weekend to “The Ranch” a sex fantasy resort where anything goes to try and revitalise their connection and save their marriage.  The sex scenes were certainly very hot and enjoyable (*fans self*) but I particularly liked that issues about jealousy and communication were covered and that the story was about rebooting their relationship and not just an excuse for a lot of sex scenes.  Seth’s job is one of the barriers in their relationship – he works very long hours chasing after a promotion which will mean he can finally afford the house Leila wants and he believes she should have (she comes from money, he does not).  However, this aspect of the story was left unfinished – while I thought Seth was going to make a change, the reader wasn’t told what that would be and that loose end was left dangling in the wind.  I did believe that Seth and Leila were well on the path to saving their marriage and I appreciated that the the book didn’t pretend that one weekend would fix everything.  And, did I say the sex scenes were hot?  This is my first Roni Loren book but I think I will be checking out more from this author.
Overseas by Beatriz Williams – B  I reviewed this book for ARRA and will post a link to the blog post when it goes live.  This was a book I really wanted to read and Heather at ARRA was kind enough to approach the publisher to get a review copy for ARRA (and thus, me!) and I very much appreciated her efforts.  Thank you Heather! 🙂 When I finished, I didn’t quite know what to make of it.  I was kind of “I liked it, but…”  Now, I’m finding that the more I think about this book, the more I like it.  Weird.

Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry – B+/A-  Full review to come. ETA:  here it is.

Fallen from Grace by Laura Leone – B-  This is my second male prostitute book.  I liked Curio better but this one explores different aspects so they can’t really be directly compared I don’t think apart from the obvious.  Sara’s attitudes bothered me from time to time – she was pretty uptight and uncompromising.  On the other hand, Ryan wanted to stop being a prostitute so maybe her ultimatum is what he needed.  There were things I wish were further explored in the book and I did wonder why Ryan couldn’t just save his money and then leave town and set up somewhere else – surely Catherine doesn’t have an unlimited reach?    Those aspects lessened my enjoyment of the story somewhat but I did otherwise like it.

Easy by Tammara Webber – A  Excellent book.  Full review to come.  If you’re not usually a YA reader, don’t let that tag put you off.  The main characters are 18/19 and 21/22 and the romance is fully satisfying.  I’m not a big YA reader but I’m so glad I went outside what I thought my comfort zone was because it is a great book.  And really, apart from the YA tag, not outside my comfort zone at all as it turns out.
ETA:  Review is up – here it is.

Holiday Secrets by Jill Sorenson (from Risky Christmas anthology) – C+ Good story but it felt a little rushed, like too much was being fit into the short word count. It had the effect of making it seem a little staccato. I liked the characters though. I think a longer length suits this author better.

Surrender by Pamela Clare – B-  The author has recently put out an extended mix of this book but I read the original.  It’s one of her earlier books and I think it shows a bit, as her later books are more polished and I think, more tightly plotted.  I did like this book and plan on reading the others in the series – the historical setting of the war between the British and the French in America is a fascination for me.  Even though Jamie and Clare were at Fort Ticonderoga much later, when I read this book I did think it did put me in mind of the Outlander series.  I’m afraid Jamie is the winner in that hero battle for my money. Hands down.

on Audio

If You Hear Her, If You See Her and If You Know Her (Ash Trilogy) by Shiloh Walker, narrated by Cris Dukeheart  – C  I reviewed the trilogy for AAR and my full review is in this Speaking of Audiobooks column.

The Convenient Marriage (abridged) by Georgette Heyer, narrated by Richard Armitage –  A-  A delightful farce about a young woman who persuades the Earl of Rule to take her to wife instead of her older sister (who is in love with another man).  There is a wonderful subtext especially from the Earl and Richard Armitage brings it to life.  The story dragged a little toward the end when I just wanted Horatia and Marcus to have a conversation and sort it all out but otherwise, I was charmed.  In hindsight, I suppose I didn’t really know why the Earl fell in love with Horatia and why (apart from the general – he’s rich, handsome and charming) she fell for him. Perhaps that’s in the unabridged version?  In any event: Richard Armitage.  Say no more.

Mariana

Mariana by Susanna Kearsley, narrated by Carolyn Bonnyman  – See my full review here.

The Bride by Julie Garwood, narrated by Roslyn Landor  – C+ I have a confession to make. This is my first Julie Garwood.    I’m actually reading her latest romantic suspense right now and I have a few of her other historicals on my TBR but this is my very first.  I have to say that it was enjoyable enough but was a fairly standard “Highlander romance” – it was not enhanced by the narration I’m afraid.  Landor is not my favourite narrator.  Her heroes all sound really old, stuffy and blustery – she deepens her voice and out comes an old windbag.  Adding a Scottish accent actually helped in this case because it muted the old and stuffy and as Alec is full of bluster, it worked better for me.   I’ve tried Landor 3 times now.  She won an Audie this year for her narration of Susanna Kearsley’s The Winter Sea so she has plenty of fans.  I wouldn’t not listen to a book because she was the narrator – probably.  But there’d be a definite hesitation.

One Small Thing by Piper Vaughn and M.J. O’Shea

Why I read it:  My friend Chris recommended this one on Goodreads and when I saw it on NetGalley, I snapped it up.
What it’s about:  Rue is a hairdressing student working part time in a bar who takes a walk on the wild side and tried the hetero sex one night.  Surprise surprise Natalie turns up pregnant.  She doesn’t want the baby and Rue, having been abandoned by his own parents, cannot bring himself to reject his child, so agrees to take her.  After baby Alice is born, Natalie signs over her parental rights to Rue and bows out of the picture altogether.  
Desperate for help with child care, Rue approaches his neighbour, Erik, a sci-fi writer who rarely leaves his house.  Told in the alternating 1st person POV of both Erik and Rue, this is the story of how, the cobble together a kind of family, together with Rue (and soon Erik’s) BFF, Dusty (totally non sexual with Dusty, BTW).  

What worked for me (and what didn’t):  Once I got over the hurdle of believing that Rue would actually leave his newborn daughter with a virtual stranger, references or no, with no childcare experience, the story was actually delightful.  I occasionally had some difficulty in identifying which POV I was in, but otherwise, the story flowed easily.  The relationship between Erik and Rue grows over time and the camaraderie and friendship of Rue, Erik and Dusty and their gradual realisation of the depth of feeling between them (in terms of family) as well as the more romantic relationship between Rue and Erik was both believable and enjoyable.  Erik is full of anxiety and uses Star Wars as therapy – there are some funny lines in the book (which I understood only thanks to my husband’s own love of the movies and therefore his insistence that I watch them all.  Over and over.)  In Rue’s case, it is Dusty that showed him the joy that is Star Wars and he’s not always happy about it. 

I’d do anything to keep her out of that place, even subject her to the evil machinations of Emperor Palpati—oh, seriously. I’m gonna kill Dusty. I should not know that.

As for Erik, he might be somewhere on the autism scale but it’s never explicitly made clear.  He doesn’t like to be touched by anyone – except, as it turns out, by baby Alice, Rue or Dusty.  He has strict routines which he feels he must adhere to – although, as his relationship with Rue develops, he is able to let some of this go.  He also has a slight stutter which is more prevalent when he’s upset.  So, not your usual hero material I guess.  But he’s kind and sweet and initially baffled by the whirlwind that is Rue coming into his life.   Erik had never identified as gay – he’s never had a girlfriend or a boyfriend before – before Rue, relationships of any sort were a very alien concept

I’d always been able to recognize beauty, but I’d never been moved by it.

Not until Rue.

In Erik, Rue finds a safe place to fall and the partner he’d never realised he’d been desperate for.  Much to his surprise he takes to fatherhood like a duck to water and falls instantly and deeply in love with his daughter.  He finds nothing makes him happier than spending time with his little family and the realisation that Erik is a large part of that sparks the more romantic aspects of the book.  I suppose I would have loved an epilogue to check in with them in a year or so as the events toward the end of the book could threaten the status quo – would Rue’s new environment lead him to want something else?  Erik, while having come out of his shell a great deal, would always be on the anti-social side of the things and would the new environment suit them both?  I choose to believe they’ll be fine, but would have loved a short epilogue to seal the deal.  Having said that,  I gobbled the story up.  Sweet, fun and sexy, this one hit the right spot for me.

Grade:  B+

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