Category Archives: Contemporary

Review: 5 stars for One Small Thing

When you read a lot, you begin to notice the little trends that occur.  At the moment one of those trends is the single gay man unexpectedly becoming a father.  Usually when this happens, it is because the guy is helping someone else become a parent and has to take responsibility after a tragedy occurred.  Other times, it is because a sibling has pasted and the main character has to now raise his niece or nephew.  One Small Thing takes a totally different path however.  In this story main character, Rue Murray, ends up having a one night stand.  When the girl ends up pregnant, with no desire to be a mother, Rue doesn’t hesitate to step up to the plate.  I liked this new turn as it gives this new trend a fresh spin.  The authors did a wonderful job showcasing the uncertainty and fear that Rue goes through during this time in his life, which allowed the story to come across realistically.

The other main character in this story is Erik Van Nuys.  Erik is a science fiction writer who suffers from a variety of phobias.  These phobias have caused a number of problems in his life.  When he’s forced to move into a new apartment, he becomes Rue’s new neighbor, which leads to more than he can handle.  I really loved Erik.  The way he works around his issues made me laugh, especially after he starts babysitting little Alice.  Another area which will keep the reader entertained is watching Erik as he shifts from straight science fiction to gay romance science fiction.

Erik and Rue are two vastly different characters. That the authors kept this in mind and allowed the men to move from total strangers to friends, and then to lovers, made their relationship more believable.   Due to their differences, however, the men have many stumbling blocks to overcome and when misunderstandings occur it looks as if those differences may just end up keeping them apart.  I liked watching as these two become, along with baby Alice, a family.  The authors brought the connection between these two across wonderfully, as well as showed the men’s growing maturity as they dealt with being parents.

Piper Vaughn and M.J. O’Shea make a great writing duo.  Their books are always entertaining and keep the reader’s attention.  After reading one of their stories I always find myself looking for more.  If you have yet to try one of their stories I would say give One Small Thing a try, you won’t be sorry.

Review: 4 stars for Seizing It

 

Seizing It,  is a terrific story that’s centers on two interesting characters, Kit Hall and Dale Miller.  Kit is the receptionist at a veterinary clinic.  Much to his family’s dismay the young man as become withdrawn from others because of his epilepsy.  The fact that he has also been dealing with an abusive ex hasn’t helped matters much. Having known people who have suffered from epilepsy, as well as those in abusive relationships, it was easy to see the author had done her research.  This made the story more realistic and made for a better all around story.

Dale is the new vet taking over the clinic where Kit works.  The way that these two first meet is intense and makes for some oops moments later in the story.  There is a chemistry between the two men that’s hard to miss. But in order for them to have a relationship Dale has a lot of hurdles to over come where Kit is concerned.  With his history, it is easy to see why Kit behaves the way he does, and I like that Dale knows just what to do to help the young man.

Between the actions of Kit and Dale, as well as the many wonderful secondary characters, readers will enjoy this fast paced story that will grabs their attention from page one.  Seizing It, was my introduction to author Chris T. Kat, and this story made me a fan of the author.  I can’t wait to see what the she plans on next.

Review – The Art of Racing in the Rain

The Art of Racing in the Rain

by Garth Stein

borrowed

If you want a quick read that makes you weep and gives you pointers on life, this is the book for you!  It is narrated by Enzo, a philosophical dog and is about his family and his life.  His owner, Denny, is a race car driver who knows how to drive well on a wet race track.  There is a special art to racing in the rain which can be applied to how you live your life as well.

So, to add rain to this man’s life, a whole sh*t load of problems and horrible things descend upon him.  How he reacts to the rain in his life, his focus to make it through the curves leads to whether he will crash and burn or make it through for the win.  It is allegorical and all that good stuff.  It is told simply and well.

So, I read the first 3/5’s of this book in one sitting, then I threw the book down in an emotional tizzy because I felt so manipulated because so much crap gets piled on this poor guy.  It is a little heavy handed, so I suggest you read this for the interesting POV and the emotional rollercoaster it takes you on.  I picked it up again to finish it and didn’t have another freak out, so that was good.  I enjoyed it.  I think if I read it in smaller chunks I would have had a better time of it.  Since it goes so quickly and the chapters are short and easy I ate too much of the book all at once and got a tummy-ache.  I wept, dang it, I laughed, it was nice and it ultimately makes you feel good.  3 stars.

This sort of summed up the book for me:

“No race has ever been won in the first corner,” he said.  “But plenty of races have been lost there.”  …

“That’s right,” he said to me, “If we’re going to be a cliche, let’s be a positive cliche.”

Review – A Bar Tender Tale – Melanie Tushmore

Where to start with this one? Perhaps with the admission that I put it down a few times in the beginning, slightly annoyed by the litany of Things That Show Nathan Is Very Gothic. But I got over my annoyance with that later, realising that in fact, I own a loofah with a bat on it, so maybe it wasn’t all that bad. I decided I could just go along with him not having grown up yet.

Like I say, I got past that, and enjoyed the fact that the prose was good, despite a few early awkward attempts at exposition that made me abandon it again in a fit of pique a few times for a short while.

I’m telling you this because once I got over these admittedly minor annoyances (it’s worth bearing in mind that I am particularly highly strung when it comes to good storycraft), the book was good enough for me to get genuinely excited over. I came to enjoy Nathan as a character, especially, and he went from being irritatingly Very Gothic You Guys to genuinely interesting and endearing.  Auryn, his love interest, whilst less well-developed, is an interesting enough character who Nathan is clearly interested in, which is the important bit.

What really rescued this book from okay to brilliant was something I don’t see very often: a story that ended in the place it ought to have, without being overwrought. It finishes up without an ‘and then they lived happily ever after andadoptedsixcatsanddiedineachother’sarmsbecauseit’strueloveyouguys’ ending, but with a simple fade-to-black on what is obviously a happy relationship, but doesn’t have to be forever. It’s such a refreshing change that despite a bit of a rocky start, I’m giving it a solid (wait for it)…

4 stars. For excellent concept, good execution, and a solid ending that wasn’t overwrought or too sappy.

Review – Laurel Heights by Lisa Worrall 5+ stars

Thankfully for everyone around them, Detectives Will Harrison and Scott Turner aren’t partners.  The fact that these two can’t stand each other is clear for all to see.  The men have totally different personalities, and handle cases in completely different manners.  The one thing they do have in common is hiding the fact that their gay.  When they are assigned to work undercover on a murder in a gay exclusive neighborhood, secrets become a little hard to keep.

When I asked to review Laurel Heights by Lisa Worrall, I was hoping it would be good.   I was wrong however, this book was outstanding.  The characters are well written, and the plot is full of so many twists and turns that you will find yourself reading this book in one setting just to see how it ends.

Will and Scott are exact opposites in everything from how they dress to how they run a case. More than once the men end up bumping heads and their partners have to come in and pull them apart.  The tension between these two is so strong that it is easy for the reader to see the fine line between love and hate.  The reader also knows that with as strong as that tension is, the passion will be just as intense, and they are not wrong.  Watching these men go from enemies to lovers is something else.  The chemistry between them pops off the page and I loved the fact that the author threw a little bit of humor in.  When the men are caught making love by their partners the comments Scott and Will tossed back and forth about their sex faces made me laugh.

Unlike some stories that mix romance with mystery/suspense plot lines, Laurel Heights is wonderfully balanced.  The mystery subplot in this story involves the murder of two young men, members of an exclusive gay neighborhood.  When Will and Scott go undercover, moving into one of the available homes, the remaining members of the community are automatic suspects.  At first, as the neighbors are being introduced, it is hard to imagine any of them being a killer.  When everything is said and done and the killer is finally revealed more than one reader is sure to be surprised.

When I got to the last page of Laurel Heights I was shocked and went to the author’s blog in hopes of finding out when the follow up story would come out.  Unfortunately I did not find anything, so let me take this moment to say to Ms. Worrall, “Please.  Please.  Please.  You can’t let the story end there, there has to be more.”

Review: Blue-Eyed Soul by Fae Sutherland and Chelsea James 4 Stars

Remey Dufrense followed his dreams and became a rock star.  While his tour bus was driving through a small town in Massachutes he felt a connection that made him realize that he’d found his true home.     Finally reaching a point when he can take some time off, Remey bought a home in Haven and can’t wait to move in.  As soon as he gets there he knows he’s made the right choice, only some of the local residents aren’t as excited.

This is a great story by co-authors Fae Sutherland and Chelsea James.  The characters are terrific and pull you right into their story.  Remey is a well-known rock star who is looking for a small town to settle down in, some place that reminds him of home but is more forgiving of his sexual orientation.  Aleksander is the band teacher at Haven’s local high school.  He’s also a single father who knows exactly what life with a musician is like and will do anything to protect his little girl from getting hurt. Even though the connection between Remey and Aleksander is there from the beginning the authors give them a few obstacles to overcome.  I like that the authors took into account the press hanging around, Aleksander’s daughter, and the fact that the men come from two different worlds, as they felt their way along the budding relationship.

Blue-Eyed Soul is the type of story that will earn the authors many new fans.  The characters are easy to care for; I was just as upset as Aleksander when Remey had to leave Haven for a business obligation.  The situation the men find themselves in may not be one that everyone would find themselves in but the authors do a great job making the story believable.  If you have not yet read anything by these authors this is a terrific story to start with.

Review Chase in Shadow by Amy Lane 3.5 stars

Chase is a young college student who finds himself so far in the closet that he would need a flashlight and GPS system to find his way out.  The fact that he is trying to prove himself to his homophobic, abusive father isn’t helping.  With college and living expenses becoming too much to handle, Chase is in need of another job.   When his friends jokingly tell him about a local porn site, he sees a way to not only earn some money but also get what he’s craving from other men.

The connections between Chase and the many secondary characters are evident and varied, yet the underlining guilt and emotional issues he suffers from keep the relationships from becoming stronger.  While the author keeps the truth about Chase’s mother hidden until the end, the many hints she drops lets you know to expect something beyond tragic.  When Chase reveals what happened, and why, it becomes easy to understand his many hang ups.  Expect to keep a few hankies handy as you will need them.

I had a hard time getting into Chase in Shadow, which was unusual for an Amy Lane book. If any other readers should find themselves in the same spot I just want to say, “Stick with it”, the story gets better as it goes along.  The story is full of angst from the very beginning and can in no way be considered a light hearted read.  The many secondary characters lend a lot to the story, and it’s easy to see the strong connections forming between them and Chase, even if Chase doesn’t want to acknowledge them in the beginning.  I liked that the author let Chase’s issues play out realistically, although some readers may have a bit of a problem reading the strongly written scenes.  As Chase in Shadow came to an end I was glad that I had given this story a chance and while it may be some time before I read it again, it was a story that stayed with me long after I finished it.

Review – Cop Out by KC Burn 4.5 stars

From the very first moment this story is full of angst.  When Detective Kurt O’Donnell and his partner Ben answer a tip from an informant things go to hell in a hand basket very fast.  When Kurt awakes in the hospital and learns of his partner’s death, the survivor’s guilt he suffers from comes across very realistically.   Unfortunately these aren’t the only hard times Kurt has to overcome.  The author went out of her way to bring out every emotion from Kurt as he learns the truth about his deceased partner, and eventually in the end, himself.

Kurt’s partner went to his grave guarding a major secret.  Kurt is surprised to learn that Ben not only had a significant other but that his S/O is a man.  Seeing the damage Ben’s death has caused, Kurt goes out of the way to try and help Davy.  You can see the connection between these two grieving men forming from the moment they meet.  While it is easy to understand Kurt’s reasons for helping Davy it isn’t hard to see that their growing relationship is a train wreck waiting to happen.  When Kurt has trouble introducing Davy to his large, Irish catholic family, the other man walks away, refusing to once again be another man’s secret.

Cop Out is not a light hearted easy read, but if you want something to sink your teeth into than this is the book for you.  KC Burn jerks every bit of emotion from the readers as they follow both Kurt and Davy through their journey of grief and renewal.  The secondary characters are just as strongly written as the main characters and lend a wonderful dimension to the story.  Cop Out more than earns its 4.5 star rating and is one story I won’t have any trouble re-reading in the future.

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