Afflicted by Brandon Shire

Title:  Afflicted

Author:  Brandon Shire

Genre:   Contemporary

Length:  133 pages

Publisher:  TPG Books (September 5th 2012)

Heat Level:  Explicit

Heart Rating:  ♥♥♥2 1/2Hearts

Blurb:  A high-priced male escort and a blind gay man meet by chance. What ensues is a hot, steamy romance by two men looking for something more than a one night stand. But can they reach beyond their own insecurities to grasp what they really desire?

Meet Hunter Stephens. He’s gay, tall, dark-haired, and he’s hot. Very hot. But he doesn’t rely on the visual cues when appraising a man because he’s also blind. He listens to the timbre of their voice, trembles at the touch of their skin, and luxuriates in the deep richness of the aroma of man. He’s hard of the hand because he’s a black belt and takes no shit, but soft of the heart because he’s lonely and has been for a while.

Until he meets Dillon.

Dillon Chambers is straight man candy. He’s a high-priced male escort that works with an exclusive agency who handles only the wealthiest of clients. But it wasn’t always like that for him. At sixteen he was thrown out of the house for being gay and struggled to survive, turning tricks on the street and finding food and a place to sleep wherever he could. He met two people who changed his life, but he has never met anyone who could change his heart.

Until he bumped into Hunter.

And now they are both Afflicted.

Product Link:  http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/223266

Reviewer:   Any

Review:  Afflicted.

So am I.

I was really hoping to love this story, I’d heard so many good things, but I just couldn’t get into it.

Initially, I was excited, because this story is partly written from the point of view of a blind man (Hunter)—and I was super curious how it would be written to “show” and integrate the reader into a scene. And to give credit where it’s due, the writing and descriptions in this story are wonderful. I really did get a sense of character and place through the senses of smell, sound, taste and touch.

It was a pity that while the narrative and the writing was solid, the story itself lacked tension. Yes, there was a bit of conflict between characters both internal and external, but I couldn’t care enough about it because I didn’t feel what was at stake, and I never got invested in the characters journeys.

Also, where I thought there might be more conflict, like when Dillon tells Ronald he wants out of the escorting business, it fizzles into a low temperature scene where it’s agreement all around.

Regarding sex scenes. At first, it was hot—at least the lead up, but I was put off (and this may be a personal thing) by the fact they didn’t use protection. Hunter and Dillon barely knew each other—added to that; Dillon is in the escort business—and not a condom in sight.

This might be a forgiving point in the story if I didn’t get such a sense of contradiction. Shawn, someone who was close to Dillon, had watched his closest friends die off in the AIDS epidemic. I would have thought this would make Dillon particularly sensitive to using protection and safe sex.

And while I loved and think it’s fantastic that the author donates 10% of all his book sales to a couple of organizations that help get LGBT kids off the street, I felt nervous thinking of teenagers picking up this story and reading it with all the unprotected sex in here.

I want to end the review on a positive note. Brandon Shire’s writing—the descriptions, use of language, flow of sentences, and variation of imagery—is really quite brilliant. I’ll be interested to read some of his future works.

 

Life After Joe by Harper Fox

Title:  Life After Joe

Author:  Harper Fox

Genre:   Contemporary

Length:  Novella (115 pages)

Publisher:  Carina Press (June 28th 2010)

Heat Level:  Medium – Explicit

Heart Rating:  ♥♥♥♥♥5Hearts

Blurb:   It’s not the breaking up that kills you, it’s the aftermath.

Ever since his longtime lover decided he’d seen the “heterosexual light,” Matt’s life has been in a nosedive. Six months of too many missed shifts at the hospital, too much booze, too many men. Matt knows he’s on the verge of losing everything, but he’s finding it hard to care.

Then Matt meets Aaron. He’s gorgeous, intelligent and apparently not interested in being picked up. Still, even after seeing Matt at his worst, he doesn’t turn away. Aaron’s kindness and respect have Matt almost believing he’s worth it-and that there could be life after Joe. But his newfound happiness is threatened when Matt begins to suspect Aaron is hiding something or someone…

Product Link:  http://ebooks.carinapress.com/DA5F1C32-B217-45C4-9A08-834C2CB13486/10/134/en/ContentDetails.htm?ID=076D8C2A-CCF8-4906-86EC-456ADC1AD2F3

Reviewer:   Any

Review:  In the head of a wonderfully flawed character, brimming with hurt at the loss of both his childhood friend and lover, we explore the range of emotions involved in grief and moving on.

While Matt isn’t the type of personality I particularly like, I found him interesting, and I could empathize with him. Why? Because this story was more than a romance, more than the sum of Matt’s personality, it was a reflection of the downs of life—particularly that of loss.

As I read this, I was upset and angry for Matt—for being left, abandoned, lied to–yet despite every turn for the worst in this novella, I was constantly hopeful. Hopeful that things would pick up. Hopeful they’d get better for Matt. Hopeful that he’d be able to trust and love again.

Passionate. That’s a word I’d use to describe this story. Not just the story itself, but the writing. I feel as if this story really meant something to the author. William Faulkner said, “If you are going to write, write about human nature. It’s the only thing that doesn’t date.” Certainly, Ms Fox does this—you can feel that in every story she writes—and I believe that this story won’t date for precisely this reason. How can it when the soul of Life After Joe is seeped in such rich emotion?

Highly recommend.

In Search of Saints by Harper Fox

Title:  In Search of Saints

Author:  Harper Fox

Genre:   Contemporary with a touch of magic

Length:  Novella (83 pages)

Publisher:  FoxTales (August 5, 2012)

Heat Level:  Medium

Heart Rating:  ♥♥♥♥♥5Hearts

Blurb:   Mitch is on a last-ditch drive to save his career with the Scottish Institute of Archaeology after his ex-lover Lewis stole his research into the legendary Pictish saints. Mystical pre-Celtic statues are hidden somewhere on mist-wreathed Dove Island. Now Mitch is tearing out to the coast in the hope of reaching the saints before his treacherous ex can stake a claim. At his side is his devoted assistant, Owen.

Owen adores Mitch, but he’s the quiet, loyal type. Despite himself, Mitch is still dazzled by memories of flamboyant Lewis — and in danger of destroying his newfound happiness with Owen. As the race for the saints intensifies, Mitch is losing perspective. Will he learn how to appreciate the love of a good man before he plunges himself and Owen too far into the deadly mysteries of Dove Island?

Product Link:  https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/212784

Reviewer:   Any

Review:  This short novella had me almost to the point of squealing. Yeah, it wasn’t pretty to listen to, but jeez was I deliciously giddy on the inside. I just couldn’t help it; I was so freaking excited to read another Harper Fox story.

And I was NOT disappointed. There are hit-and-miss authors out there, but I’m getting solid ‘Wows’ with each story of hers I try.

Okay, so for this review, I want to state that, despite giddy squealing, I was a little anxious as to how this story would play out as the two main characters (and love interests) are already together at the start of the story. I wondered then how Mrs. Harper would keep the tension and suspense.

She was clever. (Of course—I’ve come to expect nothing less). While Mitch and Owen are together physically at the start of the book, Mitch is far and away from being emotionally attached as he is still hung up on his ex, who betrayed him, not only by leaving him, but stealing his research as well.

Very quickly, the author shows us the obstacles between Mitch and Owen and their HEA, with Owen quickly drawing away from Mitch. This gives the story a separation-reunion theme that resonates deep. I longed for Mitch to recognize the intimacy he had with Owen, to see what a beautiful person he was. That longing drove the tension and suspense, and it was wonderful.

This story had something else going for it that I really liked—a touch of the mystical. That might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I found just a hint of the paranormal/magical in this story to give it a little something special, an extra dimension to the story, if you will. And to me it made the climax just right, tying in the relationship developments and the setting, where Mitch is trying to prove his archeological theory and find the ‘saints’ before his ex does.

Short, emotional read. Loved it. Recommend.

 

 

 

Irresistible by Talia Carmichael

Title:  Irresistible

Series:  Something in Common Series # 4

Author:  Talia Carmichael

Genre:   Contemporary

Length:  Novella (143 pages)

Publisher:  Dreamspinner Press (August 22, 2012)

Heat Level:  Medium

Heart Rating:  ♥♥♥2 ½Hearts

Blurb:   A Something in Common novella

Del Jenkins prefers to be alone—or so he tells himself until his younger brothers try to make him a playdate with bookstore owner Harper Hillman. Del’s brothers just want him to make a new friend, but there is no way he can be friends with Harper. Not unless Harper’s definition of “friends” includes jumping into bed together and getting naked and sweaty. When Harper turns him down flat because he doesn’t sleep with strangers, Del shrugs it off and suggests they get to know each other better. He already sees something wonderful in Harper, and he won’t give up so easily.

Harper is still mourning his dead husband, and a casual sexual encounter with Del is the last thing he wants. But getting to know each other—platonically, of course—should be harmless. In no way is Harper getting close to another man. But as he and Del spend more time together, Harper realizes it’s too late—he’s already involved. His heart is set on Del, and Harper is powerless to resist.

Product Link: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=3167

Reviewer:   Any

Review:  Not irresistible enough for me.

Firstly, keep in mind I haven’t read the author’s other stories, so this review is based on the book as a standalone.

I tried to get into this, I did, but I struggled. Some moments I got a feel for the story, but it didn’t ever quite stick. Though, I think there are many aspects of the book that have so much potential.

  • There were moments of wit.
  • Sweetness between Del and Harper (and the 6 year-old twins).
  • Interesting backstories of both main characters.
  • Moments of sexiness.
  • I also liked the image Harper had of Del as a tiger.

 

However, these things were overshadowed by a lack of story focus. I didn’t find myself curious to find out answers to things (other than the band Del wore around his wrist), because there weren’t many questions raised. So the story had a slow feeling to it.

The biggest issue for me was there were too many characters in this book. So many were important to the main characters, but I didn’t get a feel for any of them, because there were simply too many to concentrate on. This would be less of a problem, I’m sure, for those who have read the other stories, but reading as a standalone, it was overwhelming and got confusing.

The other thing that felt off in this story was how things jumped so fast. From Del and Harper disliking each other to wanting each other; and when Del tells Harper his secrets—something he’d never been able to tell anyone before—and then suddenly, he was telling all his friends and family about it. I didn’t feel the struggle I should have for such an important turning point in the story.

However, these things aside, if you like to read about sweet everyday moments and if you like family and friend dynamics in your story, then you might enjoy Irresistible.

 

 

The Auspicious Troubles of Chance by Charlie Cochet

Title:  The Auspicious Troubles of Chance

Series:  The Auspicious Troubles of Love # 1

Author:  Charlie Cochet

Genre: Timeless Dreams

Length:  Novel (172 pages)

Publisher:  Dreamspinner Press (June 20th)

Heat Level: Medium

Heart Rating:  ♥♥♥♥♥4½Hearts

Blurb:   Chance Irving is a young man with a gift for getting into trouble—not surprising, as trouble is all he’s ever known. After losing everything he held dear one fateful night, he decides to leave New York and his past behind, and joins the French Foreign Legion. But even in Algiers, Chance can’t seem to shake his old ways, and he ends up being transferred to a unit made up of misfits and rabble-rousers like him—a unit he finds just in time to be captured and thrown into a cell with his new commandant, Jacky Valentine.

A highly respected commandant with a soft spot for hard luck cases, Jacky is the kind of guy who would go to war for you, and the three equally troubled youths from his unit he’s more or less adopted feel the same way about him. Suddenly Chance starts to think that his life doesn’t have to be as desolate and barren as the wastelands around him.

But even after their escape, with the promise of a future with Jacky to buoy his spirits, or maybe because of it, Chance can’t stop making mistakes. He disobeys orders, lashes out at the boys in Jacky’s care, and blazes a trail of self-destruction across the desert—until someone makes him realize he’s hurting more than just himself.

A Timeless Dreams title: While reaction to same-sex relationships throughout time and across cultures has not always been positive, these stories celebrate M/M love in a manner that may address, minimize, or ignore historical stigma.

Product Link:  http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=3049

Reviewer:   Any

Review:  To talk about this book, I have to divide it into three parts. Beginning, middle, and end.

Beginning: (♥♥♥♥♥5Hearts)

It came as a shock, at first, to be spoken to directly from the narrator. It took a little adjusting, but Chance’s wit carried me through the slight awkwardness, and soon I fell in love with the style. Chance’s voice is funny, rude, blunt and sobering. The way he thought and narrated just made his character all the more endearing.

In the first part, we know “Jackie” is an important person to Chance, and we get glimpses of him in the narrative “a man continuously accompanied by chaos and some form of deep-seated lunacy”, which left me curious to know more about the man. Especially since the story opens with Chance shot in the stomach, and Chance knowing he has to get to Jackie. The stakes high, right from the start, and I wanted to know more—would he make it back to this Jackie? And why is this person so important to him? What is their story?

Also, this first part of the story shows us Chance (Chauncey at the beginning) growing up and the momentous events in his life that lead him eventually to a desert in Africa. I don’t want to give too much away, but reading it was emotional and engaging. I certainly sympathized with him.

Middle: (♥♥♥♥♥5+Hearts)

Gah. I was totally swept away in this story. Let me just say, once we got to Chance’s life in the desert I was a goner. Nothing could pry me away from reading. Nothing. I stayed up very late, consequently.

Here’s why:

  • It’s full of tension.
  •  It made me swoon, swoon, and swoon some more.
  • The settings the author used made her scenes unique. For example, and this was the shining star of all scenes in the book (and many of them were good) but she had our two main characters, Chance and Jackie, meet in a box. Yes, a box. I refuse to say more, except that I recommend everyone read it! J
  • The sex was hot and it fit the characters perfectly.
  • Also, and this was what worried me a little when I first started reading—and was relieved to find it not the case—this is not a full on war story. The war is a background and we don’t “see” much of it. The story really does focus mostly on Chance’s growing and his and Jackie’s relationship.

End: (♥♥♥♥3.5Hearts)

Don’t get me wrong, here, I still LOVED the book, but the ending didn’t quite click with me. It seemed too neat somehow. I think I got irritated that we find out Jackie was suddenly wealthy. It seemed too fairytale, and while I love fairytales, it didn’t seem to quite match the rest of the book.

On the other hand, the lead up to the resolution was very emotional, and I got teary. All pluses for this wonderful book.

Overall:   Great characters. Chance and Jackie are particularly well drawn, but also Johnnie, Alexander and Bobby, who I suspect we’ll see more of in future books.

I’ll leave you with my reaction after reading the last page:

Oh hell yeah. More from this author, please.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Campus Visit by Stella Huerto

Title:  Campus Visit

Author:  Stella Huerto

Genre:   Contemporary

Length:  Novel (185 pages)

Publisher:  Dreamspinner Press (August 14, 2012)

Heat Level:  Explicit

Heart Rating:  ♥♥♥♥3.5Hearts

Blurb:  Damian Garza and Alex Murphy became best friends in their closed-minded small town, remained inseparable through Alex’s coming out, and have stayed close while studying at different colleges. They’re close enough that Damian dares a shocking e-mail confession: he’s bisexual and wants to experiment with men. With Alex.

It’s supposed to be a simple friends-with-benefits arrangement, one weekend only. That one weekend turns into two, then three, then a whole season of unexpected passion. But life after graduation can’t be ignored: soon Damian will be obliged to return to his family’s orange orchard, and Alex will fly off to his dream job in Europe. Unless they can admit their feelings to each other—and the world—their time as best friends may be over.

Product Link:  http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=3177

Reviewer:   Any

Review: This is a sexy friends-to-lovers story that has quite something going for it. I read the story in one sitting, and didn’t notice the hours go by until—good gosh, is that the time? Luckily, I’d finished by then.

First thing I want to say about this book is you have to be in the mood for some sexy fun, and quite a lot of it. The story follows Damian and Alex as they move from experimenting (Damian is bi and wants to try out being with a guy—and wants it to be Alex, because he trusts him) to something a lot more emotional. The tension of the story for me was held in the questions: Is this more than just sex? When and how will they realize it? And, this especially considering the fact Damian feels he is responsible for helping his family back in his homophobic village, and Alex has a new job overseas: What will they decide to do when they do realize what they mean to each other?

Second thing I liked was the way I felt gooey at some moments in the development of their relationship. Just loved the scene that starts on the beach with Damian taking shots of Alex. The author did a good job in building up the images in my head. Actually, all throughout this story the author carefully involved the senses. In particular, I noticed the smells of things. Oranges. Salty coastal breezes. Soil. Redwood Trees . . .

A couple of things that didn’t quite work for me:

1)      The beginning couple of chapters seem fun, but pretty unbelievable to me. So I’d recommend suspending believability for a while. It gets more real and involved in the middle of the story, though.

2)      Max—the village villain—was maybe a bit too bad, and his character felt a little contrived, there solely for the purpose of bringing the story to its climax.

Those points aside, it was a fun, easy read. Recommend.

 

 

The Square Peg by Alex Snow and Jane Davitt

Title:  The Square Peg

Author:  Alexa Snow & Jane Davitt

Genre:   Contemporary, BDSM, D/s

Length:  Novel (229 pages)

Publisher:  Loose Id (August 7th, 2012)

Heat Level:  Explicit

Heart Rating:  ♥♥♥3Hearts

Blurb:  Benedict, a successful accountant, who’s just been dumped for being boring, is surprised and pleased to learn that he’s inherited half ownership in a gay bar from his estranged father, seeing it as a chance to get out of his rut. That’s until he meets his new partner, a mouthy, disturbingly hot Brit called Shane, and discovers that the bar’s in the red and Shane’s not interested in renovations that could drive away their regulars.

When a late-night confrontation turns into the hottest sex either of them has experienced, they realize there’s one way to fit a square peg into a round hole, but are they solving problems or papering over the cracks? As they explore the new dynamic between them, pushing their limits until Ben’s shocked at where his desire to dominate Shane takes him, the renovations to the bar begin. They’re building something new, something good — but fear and an unexpected act of violence may tear down what they’ve created.

Product Link:  http://www.loose-id.com/the-square-peg.html

Reviewer:   Any

Review: I had mixed feelings about this book. At some points I flew through the pages, eager to see what would happen next, and at other points, I was tapping my toes.

Let me start with the things that had me flying through pages:

  • The clean writing. The authors use clear, precise sentences to convey information, and they employ many of the senses in any given scene. That led to a more tactile experience of the book, where I felt, smelled, and heard as well as saw the story being played out.
  • The two perspectives. This choice was great. I loved reading how the other felt/thought. It kept things interesting.
  • The Square Peg. I liked the idea of the bar and its transformation (which nicely echoed the relationship status between Shane and Benedict – at least for the beginning).
  • The sex scenes. Yeah, they were pretty hot for the most part. Certainly they had me flushed. 😉 (More on this further down . . .)
  • Vin. What a wonderful likeable character. His story is going to sweep me away. I can just feel it, and the end of The Square Peg alludes to that story coming pretty soon. This hook was a great way of sucking in readers for wanting more.

The things that made my foot tap:

  • The 180 lust to love. This happened too quickly that it didn’t feel real. I would have liked a little more development emotionally between Shane and Benedict.
  • Ben as a Dom. I think this was the crux of my issues with the book. When I first started reading, I was introduced to a character who, to me, did not feel the confident Dom type. In fact, I was thinking, if anything, it would have been Shane to be the more aggressive of the two. Now, as the story progressed, I accepted the fact it wouldn’t be as I anticipated, and went with it, but that first transition made the experience a bit rocky.
  • Coming hand-in-hand with this ‘something’s not quite right with Ben as a Dom’ was the way Ben seemed to second guess his actions after giving Shane a firm hand. I wavered with this one. Sometimes I was irritated, I guess I just wanted strong and commanding and no quibbles. Then, at other times, I thought maybe these insecurities show a more realistic side to someone trying out being a Dom for the first time.

Overall though, this was a good read, and I would recommend it to those in the mood for a light, erotic read. It’s fun.

 

After Ben by Con Riley

Title:  After Ben

Series:  Seattle Stories, # 1

Author:  Con Riley

Genre:   Contemporary

Length:  Novel (300 pages)

Publisher:  Dreamspinner Press (July 16th, 2012)

Heat Level:  Medium

Heart Rating:  ♥♥♥♥4Hearts

Blurb:   A year after the sudden death of his longtime partner, Ben, Theo Anderson is still grieving. The last thing he’s looking for is a new lover. But as Theo soon discovers, sometimes life has other plans.

While Theo experiences a powerful physical attraction to fellow gym member Peter, it’s his new online friend, Morgan, who provides the intellectual challenge to make him come alive. Morgan is witty, brave, and irreverent, and Theo is ready to take the plunge… until he discovers Morgan might be half his age.

Theo’s late partner was significantly older—enough to strain Theo’s relationship with his family—and the potential of another relationship being cut short leaves him gunshy. Theo needs to lay Ben’s memory to rest, reconcile with his family, and rekindle neglected friendships if he’s to start afresh with a new lover. But Theo isn’t the only one with a past.

His biggest challenge, in living after Ben, might not be his to face.

Product Link:  http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=3084

Reviewer:   Any

Review: There are so many things to love about this book.

I particularly appreciated these things:

1) The author is very good at hooking the reader with clever, well-written sentences at the end of scenes and chapters. The opening sentence is a great example: “Sometimes, just sometimes, Theo forgot he was single.”

Brilliant. It opened up so many questions for me that I needed to read on.

2) The story is emotion driven.

3) Characters and relationships are complex, not all honky-dory.

4) The fact Morgan and Theo get it on in the later part of the book, so the sex doesn’t overshadow the plot and therefore (at least the first time they meet and do the deed) it’s more intimate.

About 80% of the book I really enjoyed, certainly the first half felt quite refreshing, slow but I felt I was really discovering the character.

However, there were a couple of things that didn’t quite do it for me and this is where I found myself starting to skip: The flashbacks. Some of the ones with Ben were important for the main story line and character development, but sometimes there were too many and it felt unbalanced to the central romance. I could have done with about half of them.

Also, even some of the current story was written in flashback. Theo would go home to his mum and dad and then think about what’d happened with Morgan or his interns etc, when I feel this might have been more effective if those scenes played out in current time.

And, the last little thing that wasn’t for me was very little sex, to way too much. I’m talking about balance here. That first explosive sex scene between Theo and Morgan was wonderful, but it quickly got boring the more they went at it (especially when other plot points were still open — like what happened to Morgan and more on those issues, which I would have found more fascinating to focus on). I guess, for me, it felt not quite right considering the slower, more emotionally intimate beginning.

One thing that I am GLAD I knew before reading, otherwise I would have been disappointed, was that Peter is NOT the love interest, although he is lovely and has (I thought) a spark with Theo and they do get physically close. If I had NOT known he wasn’t the main love interest, I would have anticipated Morgan being Peter . . . (especially for the first half of the book) I would have thought that maybe Peter was Peter Morgan. In fact, I know myself as a reader, and I would have been secretly hoping that was the case. However, knowing that going into the story helped and I had not much issue with that little plot.

In fact, I really loved Peter. I would LOVE to read his story. Also, I would be interested in Evan’s brother’s story as well. I have temporarily forgotten his name, but I got the feeling there could be an interesting story there . . .

I absolutely loved the Jory and Evan’s story. Such characters, lovely side romance. 😀

All in all, I liked this story. I think this is going to be one of those authors that just gets better and better and I can’t wait to see how she develops her next books.