Articles

April Round Up

on Paper/eBook

Mystery Man by Kristen Ashley – B/B+  I have recently discovered the reading crack* that is Kristen Ashley.  Her writing is not for everyone.  There are very long run-on sentences (some of which don’t make sense), some abuse of tenses and apostrophes… but.  But.  The stories are strong and if you like the alpha protector type who likes dirty talk and laugh out loud funny heroines (and heroes for that matter), an authentic girl posse who drinks cosmopolitans and eat cookie dough and other fattening things, this might be for you.
Mystery Man is the first book in the Dream Man series (but I started with book 4, Motorcycle Man because I’d heard that is the “gateway drug” – I’d heard right by the way).
Gwendolyn Kidd has been having the strangest relationship – 18 months earlier she met a hot sexy guy in a bar and with very (and I mean very) few words, found herself having the best sex of her life with him. They don’t exchange names or conversation.  And he keeps turning up, every few days for more hot sex, in the middle of the night, then he says “Later, babe” and leaves.  Matters come to a head when Gwen’s sister Ginger gets in a lot of trouble with a lot of bad people.  Her Mystery Man, Cabe “Hawk” Delgado is a commando type and rides to the rescue.

July Reads

on Paper/eBook
A Little More Scandal by Carrie Lofty – B+   This recently released novella is a prequel of sorts to Flawless and the just now released Starlight and features the patriarch of the Christie family.  I’ve heard good things about Ms. Lofty’s books but had never read one before. A 99c novella is a good way to test the waters with a new author.  I do think it is hard to write a complete story in such a short word count so I was especially pleased with my reading experience.  William Christie is a self made made, a large, arrogant, boorish Scot who is tolerated in Society because of his wealth and a previous advantageous marriage (he is now a widower).  Catrin Jones is a Welsh nurse who, on returning from the Crimea, was the only survivor of a shipwreck.  She realises she will have notoriety for a short time and wishes to use that time to find a suitable husband.  William wants shares in a newspaper and his part of the bargain is her story (which she has been notoriously closed mouth about).  Both have mercenary goals but both are deeply attracted.  I enjoyed the banter and the curious honesty between them.  It definitely made me want to read both Flawless and Starlight – and there are lengthy excerpts from both in the back.  Well played Ms. Lofty.
Sweet Talk by Julie Garwood – See my full review here.
Seven Day Loan by Tiffany Reisz – C-/D+  I found this hard to grade because although the story was written well, ultimately I found parts of the story distateful.  Also, it’s not so much romance as erotica. I think I may have missed something. Maybe it is something to do with The Siren (which I haven’t read yet)? I definitely got the sense that this was related to another book.  I think I would have had a better connection if I had understood the context more clearly but as it was, it felt a bit like a mid book excerpt rather than a complete story. There was something a bit unsavory and unsettling about Eleanor’s background and primary relationship. Daniel seemed nice enough but I wasn’t 100% sure about Eleanor’s ability to give consent.
**please note these next 2 reviews appeared in the July ARRA members newsletter and also on the ARRA blog on 1st August 2012**
Platinum Passion (Gods of Love #1) by Jennifer Lynne – C- Jeannie and Jake have been married for 20 years.  They still love each other but their sex life has waned with the pressure of work, family and life in general.  Pothos, one of the erotes (an aspect of the Greek god Eros) comes to them both, to reawaken their passion.  I’m glad that most of the contact between these 3 was when all three were present.  I was a little uncomfortable at first when Pothos initially appeared only to Jeannie and transported her to a moonlit beach in Port Douglas (where she and Jake had honeymooned 20 years earlier) but it was only a very short time until Jake joined them. After that, the 3 engage in a various sexytimes (no lube! ouch!) and the couple feel reconnected and determined to keep their sexual spark alive.  The story is only about 40 pages long, so there is obviously not a lot of space for character development.  It does have a happy ending but I think the story works better when viewed as erotica rather than a romance.
Aphrodite Calling (Gods of Love #2) by Jennifer Lynne – C-/D+ Himeros, one of the erotes, is called to Gina at her 15 year high school reunion.  When Gina was at school, she was Gerry.  She has since has sexual reassignment surgery.  Gina is struggling to feel desirable as a woman and is obviously pretty uncomfortable with all the stares and whispers at the reunion.  It was a very brave thing for her to attend, particularly as she went alone.  Himeros appears and very soon he whisks her off to take her “virginity” – the first time she has had sex since her surgery.  Her previous boyfriend (pre-surgery) liked having sex with her but it seemed he was a closeted gay man rather than in love with her and when she had the surgery, he rabbited.  The story is about 36 pages long so too short to fully explore all of the issues Gina was facing.  This was my first trans* story.  My impression was that some of it was unrealistic but I feel singularly unqualified to comment further in this aspect of the story.   Himeros becomes enamoured of Gina and they head off into HFN territory after some raunchy sexytimes, including some exhibitionism and some pain play (involving a stiletto heel and no lube).  I never doubted that Gina was a woman but I would have loved her story to be more fully developed.  I’m sure her journey was difficult and her path to self acceptance must surely have taken more than one night.  Again, even though there is a happy ending, I think this story is better viewed as erotica rather than romance.

Pillow Talk by Maya Banks – B-  After some less than successful erotic romance, I picked up Pillow Talk.  Originally published as part of the Four Play anthology, it has now been released separately by Penguin as an eSpecial.  While Ms. Banks’ books don’t always work super well for me, I find her a reliable read, particularly in the erotic department and this was no exception.  Zoe and Chase are a couple and share a house with Brody and Tate.  The 3 men work together as firefighters and Zoe is an ER nurse.  During some sexy post (and mid) coital discussions, Chase and Zoe discover each other’s fantasies.  Zoe gives Chase the birthday present of a lifetime and afterwards, Chase reciprocates with some group sex involving his most trusted friends.  As an erotic story it works very well. It’s pretty darn sexy and there is definite connection between all the characters (although, sadly no m/m action).  As a romance, it was a little less successful for me.  The story ends with the foursome deciding to pursue a permanent menage but the main interest in that for me is the mechanics of it beyond the sex – how do they manage the jealousy (if there is any)?  how do they each get time with Zoe?  How does Zoe not feel overwhelmed and exhausted? How do each of the guys feel, in the longer term, about having to share Zoe three ways?  How does Brody and Tate feel in that Chase has had the longer relationship?  Is there a “primacy” to Chase and Zoe’s relationship?  If not, how does Chase feel about that?  There wasn’t time in a novella for those issues to be developed, but I’d love to read a book like that which dealt with those issues.  As an erotic palate cleanser, it delivered the reliable sexy read I was after.

Something Like Normal by Trish Doller  – see my full review here.

Fire on the Mountain by PD Singer – B-   Enjoyable story about a young firefighter/ranger in the Rocky Mountains who is teamed with a hot slightly older (by 3 years) and more experienced firefighter for a 6 month stint.  Jake isn’t out and isn’t sure if Kurt is gay.  They are stuck with each other for 6 months, with only short trips to town for supplies.  If he makes a move and Kurt rejects him how will they manage to spend the rest of their season?  But, what if…?   Told from Jake’s 1st person POV, I found the will he/won’t he a bit repetitive and boring after a while.  Once the action started (they are caught in a fire) however, things picked up.  There is another section of navel gazing afterwards and then a happy ending which was, unfortunately cut a bit short for me.  There are other books in the series which I plan on reading – more of this couple together would be fun.
Worth the Wait by Lori Toland – C  Okay short story about a science nerd who invents a time travel device in a cell phone.  He travels back in time to give himself some social advice and there, runs into his hot High School science teacher.  Time travel (which I love) usually does my head in and time travel in 38 pages is that x 1000.  There’s really not enough time to develop the characters, the story or the science and I felt the sexy times at the end seemed a bit out of place with what had been a sweet story up til then. Chris liked it better than I did, so maybe I was just having a grumpy evening last night. 🙂

Safe With Me (The Beginning) by Shaina Richmond  – DNF  – I read about 20 pages in to this 50 page Kindle freebie.  The sex happened quickly, wasn’t romantic and I wasn’t enamoured of either main character.  Not my thing.  So I DNF’d it. Great cover though.

How to Tell a Lie by Delphine Dryden – B-  Cute, sexy shortish novel about two professors who meet online in a MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role playing game – think World of Warcraft for example) and, after some mild flirting for months, realise that they are actually at the same university.  The meet and things progress fairly quickly from there.  I think the aspect of Allison self sabotaging relationships to protect herself from loss could have been explored further and the I love you will you marry me was too fast for me.  But, for the most part, I found this an enjoyable read.  As I don’t play MMORPG’s I can’t say how accurate the play depicted was, but according to my husband (who does play) and from what I told him, it seemed like it probably was (with only a few name changes, I suspect to protect from copyright breaches).

Within Reach by Sarah Mayberry – see my full review here.

Where You Hurt The Most by Anne Brooke (Riptide Rentboys Collection 2012) – B-  This is a short sweet and sexy story about a high class escort who is asked to take on a scarred and broken young man as a client and the connection they form.  Dan was badly burned in a car accident and hides his face under a red hoodie (hence the cover – which is very well done).  I loved the prose.  There was something almost hypnotic (in a good way) about the spare and lyrical way the words were on the page.  The story is short, so to believe the hook, you have to believe the instant and deep connection between the two men.  I think, with more time, I would have totally believed in them but unfortunately, I thought their interactions were insufficient for me to really buy into it.  I will be looking out for more from this author because her writing voice appeals greatly.

The 51st Thursday by Mercy Celeste – DNF I got about 41 pages into this 55 page 99c Kindle book.  The concept was good – guy goes into a bar each Thursday for 50 weeks,  on the 51st Thursday there is a hurricane – the bar-owner Deacon and Thursday are trapped in the bar and hijinks ensue.  Unfortunately, I just didn’t buy the mutual unrequited passion of the pair.  Shelby (aka Thursday) came into the bar each week yes, but they didn’t speak to each other, apart from the basics or ordering a beer.  They didnt’ exchange names or anecdotes or stories or anything.  Deacon identifies as bisexual with a leaning towards men and at the start of the book, Shelby identifies as straight – by the point I got to, he seemed to accept he was gay and no-strings Deacon seems to have fallen in love – so that’s a lot to unpack in a 55 page book.  The early sex scenes had an element of dubious consent to them which bothered me a little – it was consenual but there was… a sort of threat which lingered in the air.  In the end, it was late and I was tired and I just didn’t care enough to read to the end.  There was confusion for me too with which “him” was being referred to in sentences from time to time – it seemed to change and made parts of the story hard to follow.  And, as much as I liked the concept, I felt a bit hammered by the overuse of Thursday by page 10.  However, plenty of people like this better than I did, so YMMV.

Here Be Monsters by Meljean Brook (from Burning Up anthology) – B-/B I enjoyed this short story about Pirate Captain “Mad” Machen and Ivy Blacksmith.  On the one hand, I appreciated that there wasn’t an info dump about the world but on the other, I can’t say I truly understood about the nanoagents etc.  There were a couple of steamy scenes and overall, it was cleverly written and a very good introduction to the MB Steampunk world.  I think I’ll read The Iron Duke next.

Shifting Seas by Virginia Kantra (from Burning Up anthology) – B/B- I’ve been hearing a little about this author lately and so was inspired to try this book.  I enjoyed the story and certainly liked Ms. Kantra’s writing style.  Set in 1813, Jack Harris returns scarred from the Peninsula wars to take up his unexpectedly inherited estate in the north of England.  He meets Morwenna, a member of the “finfolk”, an immortal shapechanger who can shift to any sea creature as well as take human form.  What starts off as merely Morwenna taking her pleasure from Jack begins to be a relationship between them and then the wider town and fishing community.   It seems that for Morwenna to choose a life with Jack permanently, she must give up her ability to shape shift and her immortality – I thought those aspects were not very well explored.  It seemed that Jack didn’t know about it. And there were some little things, like when Morwenna has dinner at the estate, her hair is curled and styled but she didn’t know how to do it herself I don’t think – she’s never worn shoes before she meets Jack so I think her adaption to the human lifestyle was also a bit glossed over.  This could well be because of the limits of the format – there’s only so much you can fit in to 100 pages or less.  It did achieve the goal of making me want to try more of this author’s work so overall, the anthology was a win for me.

The Iron Duke by Meljean Brook – See my full review here.

Firelight by Kristen Callihanfull review to come.  I appear to be somewhat of an outlier on this one. ETA:  Here it is.
Here Comes the Groom by Karina Bliss –  B-  Enjoyable story about a breast cancer survivor and an ex-SAS soldier suffering from survivor guilt and depression after he was sidelined from a mission which left two of his team dead and one other seriously wounded.  Some years before, the pair made a drunken agreement to marry each other if they were both single at age 33.  Guess what?  I liked this quite a but but the ending felt a bit strange to me.  I’m not sure the adventure of the last chapters fit with the rest of the book and I’m not sure that it actually solved anything. I would have liked a little more about how Jo and Dan were going to work on getting over their various emotional wounds.  This is the first in a 4 book series (only the 2nd and 3rd are out yet) and maybe we will see more of Jo and Dan as the series progresses.  I liked the New Zealand setting and the farm and small town life felt familiar to me.  There is a little bit of series bait in the book but it didn’t take up a lot of room so I give that a pass.   I did like Dan and his attitude to Jo’s mastectomy scar and the prospect of a recurrence of cancer.  I liked how Dan helped Jo feel sexy again.  I have the next 2 books lined up on my reader and I’m curious to know more about Nate and Ross.

on Audio

The Duchess of Love by Sally Mackenzie, narrated by Abby Craden –  B-  I reviewed this for AAR so watch out for it in an upcoming Speaking of Audiobooks column.
 Bedding Lord Ned by Sally Mackenzie, narrated by Abby Craden – C  I reviewed this for AAR so watch out for it in an upcoming Speaking of Audiobooks column.

Once Burned (Night Prince #1) by Jeaniene Frost, narrated by Tavia Gilbert – B Another book I reviewed for AAR.  You know the drill.

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The Shadowy Horses by Susanna Kearsley, narrated by Sally Armstrong – A- see my full review here.

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Sophia’s Secret by Susanna Kearsley, narrated by Carolyn Bonnyman – (This book was released in the US and renamed The Winter Sea and the US audiobook release won Rosalyn Landor an audie award this year.  I’m not a huge fan of Landor audie or not so I went with the Bonnyman option – she narrated Mariana and I enjoyed her narration very much.)   Full review to come. ETA:  Here it is.

Driving Mr. Dead by Molly Harper, narrated by Amanda Ronconi – A-   This short novel (just over 5 hours on audio) was hiliarious.  I started to laugh from the first and spent a lot of the listen with a smile on my face.  Miranda is a hiliarious screw-up klutz type person – disaster follows here wherever she goes.  Taking a job as a V-Line driver – transporting vampires safely during daylight hours, she travels to Washington state where she picks up Colin Sutherland – a finicky, uptight vampire who hasn’t left his property since 1948.  Hijinks ensue.  So funny.  And yes, there is romance with a HFN (which suited the length of the story). I’m pretty confident that these two will be in it for the long haul though (pardon the pun).    Miranda’s musing about whether “adam’s apple porn” exists was just one of the things which had me laughing.  A feel good fun romance and Ronconi nails the narration.

May Reads

on Paper/eBook
Let’s Pretend this Never Happened by Jenny Lawson (aka The Bloggess) – B+.  If you’ve ever visited www.thebloggess.com you’ll know what to expect here.  It’s funny, with some poignant and moving bits too, but mostly it’s just really funny.  You will probably need tissues – from laughing so hard – and people will look at you strangely if you read in public.  Also, very cool cover.

Lord of the Fading Lands (Tairen Soul #1) by CL Wilson – A-.  See my full review here.

Lady of Light and Shadows (Tairen Soul #2) by CL Wilson – A.  I don’t want to say too much about the plots in the last books because I dont’ want to spoil it for new readers.  But, if you read the first book and like/love it, you will love the rest I think.
The epic love story upon which the fate of the world hangs continues in this second book of the quintet.  Ellysetta has started to forge soul bonds with Rain and as their wedding draws closer, the Eld Mages step up their efforts to capture her.
Even better than the first book, I was forced into very late night reading because I just could not put this book down.  The last 100 or so pages are so packed full of drama and action that I just had to keep going until Rain and Ellysetta were safe.

King of Sword and Sky (Tairen Soul #3) by CL Wilson – A-   Safely married, Ellysetta and Rain journey to the Fading Lands where they will try and heal the Tairens and help the Fey prepare for another war with the Eld.
The cost of saving the Tairens is very high and the High Mage’s hold on Ellysetta’s soul increases.  Another excellent instalment of the series.  The action in the last 100 pages or so of each book is edge of the seat stuff – my tip when reading, make sure you time the last section of the book so you can read it in one sitting.
Queen of Song and Souls(Tairen Soul #4) by CL Wilson – A-  War has come and there are problems at home in the Fading Lands too. The High Mages continues his efforts to capture Ellysetta and to influence/corrupt, one way or another, the Celierian King and Queen.    Lillis,  Lorelle and Sol are missing in the Faering Mists.  Lots of action, lots of romance and drama.  Great stuff.
Crown of Crystal Flame (Tairen Soul #5) by CL Wilson – B+/A-  I think I had built myself up so much for the end of this series that I’m not sure I could be satisifed by the ending.  Maybe I was just exhausted from all the tension in getting Ellysetta and Rain to the “final battle”.  There were both happy and sad surprises in the series and this book and I did shed a few tears but never fear, there is a HEA for Rain and Ellysetta.  An excellent series.  I highly recommend it.
Fall Into Me (Hearts of the South #7) by Linda Winfree  – C/C+   I confess I haven’t read any other books in this series, but was assured by those who recommended it to me that it was a stand alone romance.   I’d heard it was the favourite of the series by a few of my Twitter friends and as it features an older woman/younger man, I thought I’d give it a try.  I think it didn’t work quite as well for me as it did for those friends, but overall, I did enjoy it.  I stopped reading halfway through for a little while when I could see some big messes coming up.  I kind of needed to gird myself to read the rest as it looked like the relationship between Troy Lee and Angel was headed for trainwreck territory.  As much as I believed it would end up well (it is a romance after all), I needed to reinvigorate myself for the rest of the book as I kind of felt tired in advance of what I could see would be the impending drama.
Can I also say that I don’t really know who Tick is, other than a jerk (he really did have too much page time given that this was not his story), and I was confused by Tick’s wife (at least, I assume it was his wife) sometimes being referred to as “Falconetti” but other than that, I didn’t find it a problem to start at book 7 of a series.
The Governess Affair by Courtney Milan – B- See my review here.
Beg Me by Shiloh Walker – C- This one was let down by some really bad editing/formatting – words missing, typos, etc.  It was really distracting.  As for the story, Tania was married to Kyle and he died in a car accident.  They used to enjoy a kinky sex life, including consensual rape fantasy.  Kent, Kyle’s twin (and psycho) brother, raped Tania a year after Kyle died and now Tania feels that her sexual agency and identity has been stolen, as well as her happy memories of Kent (he was Kyle’s identical twin).  Kyle’s best friend is Drake – he has loved her from afar since Kyle first met and wooed her and when Tania asked Drake to help her regain her sexual identity he’s only too willing.  The only thing I didn’t know about the set up going in was that the rapist was Kyle’s identical twin brother.  I felt that was unnecessarily complicated in a short story/novella and the twins’ mother was an absolute nutjob.  I felt that, given all she had been through, Tania seemed to be able to respond sexually to Drake fairly quickly – there wasn’t any time where she was freaking out – I wondered whether that was realistic?  Also, there was a point late in the story where the consent issue was turned around and Drake felt forced to go places sexually he didn’t want to.  I thought that could have been a really interesting aspect to the story but it wasn’t explored.  I liked the premise, but the story didn’t get there for me.  And the errors?  They really were egregious.  I even went and checked that it wasn’t an issue that could have been caused by converting mobi to epub or something (which sometimes occurs) but, no, I bought this one in epub so there’s really no excuse.
Guarding Morgan (Sanctuary #1) by RJ Scott – C/C-  Another book which had a promising premise but I felt was let down by the execution.  Morgan Drake is being protected by the FBI after witnessing a murder which is somehow (and we never really find out why) linked to a crime boss/mafia type person. The crime boss obviously has an inside man in the FBI and Morgan’s handler sends him to the Sanctuary organisation and Nik Valentinov.  There is very little suspense in the time that Nik and Morgan are together and it is of course inappropriate for a bodyguard to start sleeping with his protectee.  I bought into it in Brooke McKinley’s Shades of Grey in part because the men were together for months.  But here, it was less than 2 weeks.  The suspense aspect seemed clumsy and so did many of the sentences.  The structure of many of them seemed odd to me and I kept getting thrown out of the story.  The sex scenes, when they did happen, were the best parts of the book, but I need more than that to really enjoy a novel.  I have another RJ Scott on my TBR so I will give that a go at some stage – maybe this was one of the author’s earlier efforts?  The story had promise but it didn’t really deliver for me.
Hard Tail by JL Merrow – B I really enjoyed the easy conversational style of the narrator in this first person POV story about a closeted guy who helps his run his brother’s bike shop after the brother breaks his leg and the guy’s marriage breaks up.  Tim is a likeable, self-deprecating and very humorous guy and he falls fairly instantly for Matt Berridge, the bike shop employee who is also a klutz.  But, Matt lives with someone and Tim has only just started to admit to himself that he’s gay.
Favourite Quote:
When Matt came back, his face was shining, and not just with sweat. “It’s brilliant!” he enthused a bit breathlessly, his chest still heaving. “I mean, it’s a bit weird ’til you get used to it, and it’s harder work uphill, and when you go downhill your legs are going round like buggery, but it’s like…” He trailed off, hands waving as they struggled to express what his words couldn’t manage. “It’s like the bike’s just an extension of your legs. Like, you’re not so much riding it as being it.” He gave me a rueful smile. “That probably sounds like a load of bollocks to you.”
“N-no,” I managed. My throat was tight, and my vision might even have swum, just a little bit. Matt’s smile was broader than I’d ever seen it, he was talking with his whole body, and his enthusiasm wasn’t so much infectious as in serious danger of causing a pandemic. He just seemed so…so alive at this moment. As we stood there staring into each other’s eyes, I had the strongest, almost painful urge to kiss him.
He’d had me at buggery
The ending was a little abrupt and I would have liked a little more of Matt and Tim happy together but I very much enjoyed this one.  After the previous 2 books hadn’t been so successful for me this was a welcome relief.  I have definitely become a JL Merrow fan.

**pick of the month**

Muscling Through by JL Merrow – A.  I had been reluctant to read this one because I’d heard that it involved a romance between a “simple” man (in the sense of his intelligence) and a Professor and I wasn’t sure about the concept.  But, I’m so so glad I did.  Told from the 1st person POV of Alan “Al” Fletcher, the reader is always aware that Al isn’t being taken advantage of.  He isn’t a caricature and, while there is humour in what is apparent from the page (such as his and Lawrence’s – Al calls him “Larry” – first meeting and Larry’s mistaken but not unrealistic assumptions), he is never made fun of.   Also apparent are the reasons why Larry wants to be with Al.  Al is an artist and they are able to talk about their shared love of art and Charlie Chaplin movies.  There is also a strong physical attraction and the sex is pretty hot.  Larry is around educated, erudite scholars all the time, so perhaps he doesn’t need that at home.  What he has with Al not that – but it is nevertheless real and enduring.  Enough of Larry’s thoughts are shared with the reader that we can tell that he thinks Al has been failed by the education system rather than that Al is retarded or intellectually disabled.  Al is blunt and direct and very literal in how he sees things.   He thinks he’s stupid but he doesn’t let that bother him all that much.  I’m not doing a very good job of describing why I liked Al so much and therefore this book.  It is so much better than I expected.  Perhaps I’ll let Al speak for himself for a bit.

Toby gave me a cheque for my paintings that sold at the do. It was more than I make in six months pulling in punts. I didn’t know what to spend it on, ’cause my mum said she didn’t want me to buy her nothing. So I was going to buy Larry something, but he said I should spend it on something I always wanted. So I bought a cat. I asked Larry first, because it’s his house and all. The cat didn’t cost much, because it was from the Cats Protection League and they don’t have posh cats there, only ordinary ones. I didn’t want a posh cat. I got Larry for when I want posh. I bought a litter tray for the cat, and some food bowls and a scratching post, and then put the rest of the money in the bank. I thought maybe I could buy Larry something later when he wasn’t looking. 

And that’s why Muscling Through is my **pick of the month**.

The Rebuilding Year by Kaje Harper  B/B+  Firefighter Ryan was injured in the line and as a result, had to change careers.  He starts medical school at a small college, where he meets up with (slightly) older (there’s only 7 years difference in their ages) former landscape architect and current head groundsman, John.  Both identify as straight and for a long time, the men enjoy a strictly platonic friendship.  John is paying child support to his ex-wife for his teenage children who live interstate and Ryan needs a place to live, so he rents a room from John and they become closer.    Gradually, they start to explore their attraction to one another, come out, to themselves and then to their families, on their way to their HEA.  I really enjoyed this one.  The characterisations were complete and interesting enough that even though I was quite a way into the book before there was any romance, I didn’t find it dragging at all.  John’s relationship with his children is explored and both men have to come to grips with coming out and being “gay dads” to John’s children.  The scene where John comes out to John’s daughter left me with a little conflict – it was kind of dumped on her and I didn’t see a lot of explaining to her, whereas there had been with John’s son.  However, that’s a small thing really.  The book takes place over that one year and there are things in the future which remain unknown – where will Ryan do his internship and will that mean John has to move house/jobs? etc, but I believed in their HEA and who knows, maybe we’ll see them again sometime.   I really like this author’s books and she’s definitely on my autobuy list now.

Permanently Legless by JL Merrow – B  This is a very short story about a veteran who returns from Afghanistan having lost both legs to an IED.  He meets up again with a gorgeous young man with whom he’d hooked up shortly before deployment (and who he felt was way out of his league even when he had legs) .  The story was complete in that the does-he-like-me conflict was resolved but I enjoyed Chris and his self-deprecating humour and his attitude to life and would have liked to have spent more time with him and his gorgeous young thing.  It felt, to me (who has never been a soldier, never been to Afghanistan and who is in possession of both legs) to be a realistic portrayal of disability.

Cinder by Marie Sexton – B This is Marie Sexton’s take on the Cinderella story, only with 2 boys.  I certainly enjoyed it but I wondered, in the end, how the royal line would continue with the Crown Prince and Heir Apparent being gay.  I suspect I wasn’t supposed to think about this – it is a faery tale after all but I did.  As a faery tale however, it worked and I liked it quite a bit.

 

 

 

 

The Saturnalia Effect by Heidi Beilieau and Violetta Vane  B-  This short is set in a prison where Troy, a new young inmate with a 40 year sentence is impressed to kill fellow lifer, Daniel.  Troy falls hard for Daniel but doesn’t see a way out of his dilemma – if he doesn’t kill Daniel (or himself), then “Pliers” will kill him – but not before a bit of non consensual torture and rape.  Some of the imagery of the story was a bit lost on me I’m afraid and there were parts there were merely suggested but I wasn’t with it enough to work out what had happened exactly.  Maybe that was supposed to be that way.  The ending has a supernatural magic to it so that the men can get their HEA which was a bit odd in terms of the rest of the story, but at least is gave me the HEA and that was way better than the alternative.    Overall, however, enjoyable enough.

Her Best Worst Mistake by Sarah Mayberry – B+  see my full review here.

Skin Deep by Pamela Clare – B  Ms. Clare is part of  the “RockIt Reads” author group, who self publish but “guarantee” the quality – in terms of story, and editing etc, to their audience.  I can say that I only spotted one typo in this book – where a name was mispelled, so I think the quality of the editing etc was very good and the cover is fine also.  As for the story, well, I’m a sucker for a scarred, tortured hero, so this one hit the spot for me.  The epilogue was a bit overly saccharine (but this is nothing new) and the freebie short “Beer Run” included as a bonus at the end was too full of guns, their makes and models and what kind of bullets they take for my liking.  But, the bromance between Julian and Marc continues!   Skin Deep is the Megan Hunter’s story – fans of the I-Team series will remember her as Marc’s sister and the reason he broke out of jail, kidnapped Sophie and was on the run in Unlawful Contact.    Our hero is Nate West, a former Spec Ops Marine who was burned on most of the right side of his body by an IED in Afghanistan.    Because it’s a novella, there’s not a lot of room for conflict, so much of it was confined to whether Megan could enjoy a sexual relationship and Nate’s issues were kind of glossed over.  A person from Megan’s past is stalking her and her daughter and Nate and the I-Team boys come to the rescue.  It is fairly standard as it goes, but I really enjoyed it.  I liked Nate quite a bit and it was nice to see Megan get her HEA.  Like I said the ending got too sappy, but up til then, I was lapping it up.

on Audio

The Witness by Nora Roberts, narrated by Julia Whelan (who is totally Sophie Eastlake) – B+   I reviewed this one for AAR.  You can check out my review of the print version (I gave it an A) here.
One Grave at a Time by Jeaniene Frost, narrated by Tavia Gilbert – C+  An excellent performance (as usual) by Tavia Gilbert was the highlight of this book.  I thought the plotting was a bit thin and there wasn’t much tension in the romance (well, there wasn’t any tension in the romance).  I wasn’t as captivated by the story as I have been in earlier books.  There were plot devices I didn’t understand and which I found boring and repetitive – especially the conversations with evil Ghost Inquisitor Kramer.  Enjoyable enough but by no means the strongest of the series.  There is also a storyline regarding someone called Madigan who takes over from Don Williams which really doesn’t go anywhere – I suspect the thread will be picked up in future books.

The Spiral Path by Mary Jo Putney, narrated by Barbara Rosenblatt – C.  This is an oldish MJP and one of her few contemporary novels. I remember really enjoying it in print when I read it a few years back but I think it has dated and/or I have changed since then because, while I liked it well enough, I can’t say it was as good as I had remembered.  Kenzie Scott and Rain Marlow are estranged spouses and both celebrated actors.  Rain asks Kenzie to act in her directorial debut (she adapted the screenplay also) but the movie dredges up Kenzie’s traumatic (secret) childhood.  The Spiral Path the title refers to is a labyrinth and I’m still fascinated by them.  Barbara Rosenblatt does a great job of the narration but the production values were fairly poor – it’s an old cassette recording which has been spliced together for my iPod but I can hear her swallowing all the time (which is really off-putting!) and there’s a large portion of the book where I got distracted by her heavy breathing.  More modern audiobooks don’t seem to have this problem (thank the Lord!).

Seeing Eye, from Strange Brew (anthology) by Patricia Briggs, narrated by Jennifer Van Dyck – B-  As I’m a romance reader, my grade reflects that there’s not much romance in this story.  We first met Tom and Moira in Hunting Ground, and it was nice to know how they’d met.  As Urban Fantasy (sans romance) a good short story, as a romance, not so much.  Also, Jennifer Van Dyck gave a really strange Rumpelstiltskin type voice to Tom which was odd and not terribly attractive.  Holter Graham or Lorelie King (who narrated the Alpha/Omega and Mercy Thompson series’ respectively would have done a much better job) IMO.

To Say Nothing Of the Dog; Or How We Found the Bishop’s Bird Stump At Last by Connie Willis, narrated by Steven Crossley – B+ A very funny historical/time travel story with a hint of romance.  Excellent narration by Steven Crossley – I’m sure I found it that much more enjoyable because I was listening to him rather than reading it myself.  His female voices were very very good and he differentiated the male characters very well too.  The humour is quite dry and again, Crossley excels.  The plot is very convoluted but basically revolves around 2 historians from Oxford in 2057 going back to 1888 to fix a “parachronistic incongruity” which could have disastrous effects (including changing the outcome of WWII).  But, it’s much more than that. And, it’s filled with interesting (and presumably) true historical anecdotes about the small things which made a big difference.  (To Say Nothing of the Dog refers to the book Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog) by Jerome K. Jerome.  Ironically, Steven Crossley narrates that one too).  I can see on Goodreads that Mr. Crossley has narrated Judith Ivory’s The Proposition and Julie Garwood’s The Wedding and Baroness Orczy’s The Scarlet Pimpernel.  All of which I now want to listen to.

Summer Days by Susan Mallery, narrated by Tanya Eby – DNF  The narration is Tanya Eby’s usual very good standard.  The story is so full of WTFery, I could not suspend my disbelief enough and thought all the characters were pretty stupid. I found it very difficult going indeed.  In the end, I bailed a couple of hours in.  Head on over to my Goodreads rant about the first 2 chapters if you want more.

The Curse of Chalion by Lois McMaster Bujold, narrated by Lloyd James – A  This book is straight fantasy with only a very very little thread of romance – less than Lord of the Rings, for example, but the story was so wonderful and the narration was just excellent.    Lord Cazeril returns to Chalion after nearly 3 years away, having been betrayed and sold to a slave galley after a siege.  Through a series of events, he is given the role of tutor/secretary to the Royesse (Princess) Iselle and her companion the Lady Beatrez (?spelling).  He becomes aware of a longstanding curse hanging over the royal house of Chalion and it turns out he’s got something to do with breaking it.   That brief summary doesn’t give the story justice.  It’s just excellent. If you like fantasy, you’ll love this one.  Lloyd James is a wonderful narrator.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like he’s done much else that I’m likely to listen to.

Never Love A Highlander by Maya Banks, narrated by Kirsten Potter – C+  I reviewed this one for AAR, so watch out for it over there in an upcoming column.  Overall, an enjoyable listen.

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