Anne Brooke, Riptide Publishing

The Heart’s Greater Silence by Anne Brooke

The Heart's Greater SilenceThe Heart’s Greater Silence by Anne Brooke
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Mark is a man who burns his candle at both ends. And he did so quite successfully for a while, until the two ends ultimately met and he got burnt in a most painful and consequential way. Mark is a man whose mind and body are divided between want and need. He is a man who had everything but ended up with nothing when the battle between pure lust and possible love made a casualty of his heart.

Richard is a man of the cloth, married to his God and his vocation, but is physically compelled to carry on an illicit affair with Mark. Craig is the man who could have been everything to Mark, a partner in every way, if only Mark’s feelings for Craig could have outpaced his desire for Richard. When the three men come face to face to face with the truth, the decisions and aftermath of Mark’s duplicity leave him aimless and uncertain of where he will go from there.

Anne Brooke has written a somber and beautiful story of a man who had everything and lost it all because he coveted two very different men. It is dark and solemn and resonates with a sense of conflict and despair that wove the ideal atmosphere. It was moving and played beautifully against the knowledge that sometimes free will and human nature simply don’t leave room for happy endings.

This is the story of a man who was commanded by his desires and driven by a compulsion for one man who ruled his body and the other who fulfilled his need to belong to someone. When their worlds collided, the destruction of life as Mark knew it was profound.

I’m hopeful the ending of this short story leaves room for more of Mark’s journey.

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Dreamspinner Press, Mary Calmes

Cherish Your Name by Mary Calmes

Cherish Your Name (Warder, #6)Cherish Your Name by Mary Calmes
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

4.5/5 stars

Cherish Your Name is a special holiday story starring my all time favorite warder/hearth couple. Make no mistake, I love all the couples in this series, and I especially love Raphael, but as couples go, Malic and Dylan have always been at the top of my list, and this day-in-the-life—well, in this world, that is—installment in the series made me realize why: Malic and Dylan, in some ways, remind me of Sam and Jory from Mary Calmes’ “A Matter of Time” series, so the loving thing is a no-brainer for me.

Spending Christmas with Dylan’s family proves to be one of the biggest challenges Malic Sunden has ever faced. Squaring off with demons? Pish. That’s nothing when compared to facing the less than enthusiastic reception the Shaw family give him. Malic is definitely out of his element when it comes to interacting with the Shaws: after all, they see him as the older man robbing their cradle of their much younger son and brother. They’re suspicious of Malic’s motives and his intentions toward Dylan, and that’s a difficult stigma to overcome. But there are times, thankfully, when actions are far more eloquent and convincing than words could ever be.

A bit of romantic angst, a duplicitous neighbor, and yes, a demon come along to complicate things for the warders. A quiet Christmas just isn’t in the cards for Malic and Dylan, but it will most definitely be memorable.

Cherish Your Name is the perfect addition to the warder series; it encompasses everything the warder and hearth relationship is about—that the home is not the place but the who that is the sanctuary. It is the name of the one who shelters you and gives tangible meaning to the words family and love that is the touchstone, the thing that keeps you grounded and gives purpose and direction when the way becomes unfamiliar.

Mary wrapped this one up and delivered it with a very sexy and sweet bow on top. This is a definite must read for fans of the series.

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5 Stars, K.A. Mitchell, Samhain Publishing

Bad Boyfriend (Bad in Baltimore, #2) by K.A. Mitchell

Bad Boyfriend (Bad in Baltimore, #2)Bad Boyfriend by K.A. Mitchell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Quinn Maloney spent ten years in a monogamous relationship with a straight man. Well, at least Quinn was monogamous. Peter? No, Peter was just an ass who’s “not gay,” and who used Quinn until something different came along; then he made like Houdini and performed an escape act without so much as a thanks for the memories. Upstanding guy, that Peter. Not.

The problem with Peter Laurent is his family. No, that’s not right. The problem with Peter is that he’s a selfish jerk who can’t admit he prefers men to women. So, let’s say the problem with Quinn is that the Laurent family became his family over the course of fifteen years, and Quinn can’t give them up, even if it means being forced to spend time with Peter, his wife, and his infant son. Yeah, it’s like that.

Quinn’s having a difficult time moving on.

And now he’s been asked to be Peter’s son’s godfather. More salt in the wound and more ties to the man who isn’t terribly acquainted with the words honesty or loyalty or honor. So, what’s a guy to do when he’s stuck between the rock and the hard place that is his past and his present? He brings a sexy and gorgeous date to the baptism just to rub a little of his own “take-that-ha” in Peter’s deceiving face.

Eli Wright is young; quite a bit younger than Quinn, in fact. They meet at a nightclub and are kind of caught off guard by the intensity of their sexual attraction to each other. It’s like when a positive and a negative charge meet; then K.A. Mitchell took that charge, which already crackled, and transformed it into a lightning storm of erotic goodness. I sat up and paid attention, that’s for sure, when these two men met. And I didn’t relax again until The End.

There were times when Quinn and Peter ran neck-and-neck for the title of “Bad Boyfriend” and poor Eli’s heart got trod on in the process. He was a tool in Quinn’s game of revenge until the rules changed and the game became complicated by feelings. That’ll happen to a man who opens his eyes one day and suddenly realizes that the world is a much more colorful place than the monochromatic little corner he has painted himself into, and it’s all because someone has come along and changed the palette through which he sees his life.

The sum total of Bad Boyfriend is that it’s one of those books that makes me really, really glad I love to read.

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4 Stars, Dreamspinner Press, Sarah Black

Marathon Cowboys by Sarah Black

Marathon CowboysMarathon Cowboys by Sarah Black
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Drama and romance tangle in a wonderful way in Marathon Cowboys, the story of two very different men who meet through little more than chance and who find a common bond in the love of their respective art.

Jesse Clayton is a brilliant artist whose passion for his craft allows him to express himself through the symbols he chooses to represent his vision. Jesse’s theory on art is that it captures reality and preserves it for those who are too preoccupied with their own lives to pay attention to the world around them while it’s turning. Jesse’s art is frequently controversial and he often leaves a wake of anger behind him with the subjects he chooses to address, but for him, it’s the statement and the emotions that make what he does meaningful in spite of the sometimes negative consequences.

Lorenzo Maryboy is an ex-Marine and budding cartoonist who’s traveling to Marathon, TX to stay with Jesse Clayton, The Original—the grandfather of JC3, the artist. Lorenzo’s medium of expression is the Devil Dogs cartoons he draws that depict slices of life in the Marine Corps, cartoons with messages delivered in a non-political way. Lorenzo wants his art to make a statement without being too controversial. He served most of his years in the Corps under DADT, after all, so he’s accustomed to keeping things low key, doing his duty, and not drawing attention to himself.

When the Marathon cowboy from San Francisco and the Navajo ex-Marine connect, it’s a coming together of two different worlds; one man who stands firmly on one side of the fence with his art, living openly and proudly as a gay man; and the other who refuses to come down on either side of that fence with his own work, inexperienced in what it means to openly express his sexuality. The passion between them extends beyond the physical and into the realms of friendship and respect for each other. But when Jesse’s work crosses the line into betrayal, it could destroy the fragile bond of new love between them.

Sarah Black has written a moving story of love, loss, and second chances told through engaging men who learn what it means to trust and what it means to sacrifice that trust for the sake of being true to oneself, even at the risk of losing the one person who has come to matter more than anyone else in the world. It’s a story of life influencing art and art influencing life, and I loved the journey to forgiveness and redemption.

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Dreamspinner Press, Sarah Black

Flamingo by Sarah Black

FlamingoFlamingo by Sarah Black
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Sixty-one year old William has spent a good portion of his life as a near recluse, taking sanctuary in the bookshop he opened in 1971, a mere couple of years after the Stonewall uprising that brought the gay rights movement out of the closet and into the social consciousness.

Having been passed over in the Vietnam draft because of his homosexuality, William’s father strongly urges him to leave their small Ohio town for New York City, where William might find others who are like him. It was the painful denial of father to son that helps to shape William’s isolation and reinforce his fears, but he made the move and eventually found his passion amongst the bricks and mortar and pages of his shop, where he carves out a small living space in the back.

Tommy is the young man who disrupts the quietude of William’s life. Going to school on the GI Bill that barely keeps him financially afloat, Tommy fosters a friendship with the much older William, connecting through the beauty of poetry and the love of the written word. Tommy and William forge an unlikely bond with each other, a friendship and a respect for each other that transcends their differences but for William also underlines them. How could a man forty years his junior—beautiful, intelligent, vibrant—possibly want to be with him? It is a culmination of all his doubts and repression that he has cultivated over the years that keep William from seeing the truth—that love cannot be defined or neatly compartmentalized into right or wrong.

Feeling as obsolete as the ink and paper books he surrounds himself with, William believes his love for Tommy could never be reciprocated; he believes that he is nothing more than a warm and comfortable place for Tommy to land when the young man needs the security and comfort William can offer. But, through the magic of words, Tommy opens up and attempts to show William how he truly feels, though sometimes words are not enough, and it’s the actions that must speak to the heart.

Flamingo is a beautifully understated story, intimate in its feelings rather than in actions. This is one of those stories that embraced me emotionally in a subtle way. Its quiet and simple message—that love is a risk, and that the real danger in life may come from never taking that risk—was shown through two characters I loved spending some time with.

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J.M. Snyder, JMS Books LLC

Santa Vic by J.M. Snyder

Santa VicSanta Vic by J.M. Snyder
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Beneath Vic Braunson’s tattooed, pierced, and buff exterior lies a gooey marshmallowy middle. Vic might look tough, but the man has a heart of gold, and it beats only for Matt di Lorenzo.

It’s Christmastime in Richmond and Vic has been asked by his boss to play Santa again at the company party. Saying no isn’t exactly an option, and the deal is sweetened just a bit by the offer of a little extra bonus, which Vic knows will go a long way toward helping achieve Matt’s dream of owning a home of their own. So, Santa Vic it is, even if it’s not the most comfortable of options.

This is the story of a man who comes to realize some truths about himself; that he has been heroic for far longer than he has had superpowers. That the gift of love is something he’s given for many Christmases but hadn’t defined it until he had the opportunity to make the holiday special for a complete stranger, a little girl who would be spending the day in the hospital.

Whether you know Vic and Matt or not, this is a sweet and heartwarming holiday story that can be read as a standalone. J.M. Snyder added just the right amount of spice, as well, to make it a sexy, sexy treat. I have to say this one made me love Vic even more than I already did, and it made me even more anxious for the next installment in the Matt & Vic series.

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Dreamspinner Press, R. Cooper

Let There Be Light by R. Cooper

Let There Be LightLet There Be Light by R. Cooper
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There was an amazing chemistry between the two characters in this book that was fairly visceral, knowing there was a history there that brought them together and, at the same time, tore them apart. It was deliciously aggravating because they were trying so hard to push each other away, yet the evidence was clear that they wanted nothing more than to draw closer. It was a clear and present danger for Hart and Karol to dredge up the past, and even more dangerous to consider the consequences of the circumstances that brought them together again after a three year separation.

Devotion to Queen and country is Hart’s prime directive. Karol is a brilliant scientist and inventor who has become the equivalent of England’s most valuable resource. Dedication to the safety and security of England is what brought the men together, and ultimately, part of what separated them. Now that Karol and the defenses of England herself have been threatened, Hart is once again sworn to do everything in his power to protect Karol. Or die trying.

Fighting or forging a connection—Hart and Karol did a bit of both before this story was done. And then it simply…ended…and I was the one who was frustrated, then, because there seems to be more story there and I want it all. Whether R. Cooper has a sequel planned for this one, though, I don’t know. What I do know is that these men, the machines, and the world they live in seem far larger and more extraordinary than what I got to see in these 102 pages.

I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this story. Just don’t expect a neatly tied up ending.

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Ethan Day, MLR Press

A Summit City Christmas by Ethan Day

A Summit City ChristmasA Summit City Christmas by Ethan Day
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Go ahead and say it with me: Awwww. Seriously, that’s exactly what you’ll want to say when you finish reading A Summit City Christmas, as this is Wade Walker and Boone Daniels at their finest. With their eclectic group of friends and family along for the ride, the guys are all set to deck those halls and celebrate their first Christmas together in Colorado, complete with cookies, wisecracks, and plenty of romance and shmexy bits to go around.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; it takes a village to tell an Ethan Day story, and I’m not sure there’s anyone out there who can populate a book the way he does, with characters who, regardless of how small a role they play in the narrative, still manage to come across as people you’ve known for ages. They are like neighbors, friends, and family themselves, and sure, they may be a little whacky, but they’re familiar in a way that you can’t help but to love them. After all, what’s not to adore about a group of people who laugh and love and mock and snark at one another in equal measure?

This tasty little tidbit is the perfect addition to the Sno Ho series, like unwrapping a gift you didn’t even know you wanted until you realized how much fun you could have playing with it. And it comes fully assembled, no batteries required. All you need to supply is your sense of humor.

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Aleksandr Voinov, Riptide Publishing

Dark Soul (Volume 3) by Aleksandr Voinov

Dark Soul (Vol 3)Dark Soul by Aleksandr Voinov
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I do believe Aleksandr Voinov is the only author who can push my comfort level to its very limits—and make me love it, every salacious, kinky, erotic step of the way.

Anyone who’s been following this series knows that Silvio Spadaro is an entity unto himself. He is at once seemingly without conscience yet has a sense of loyalty that runs so deeply he will extend himself beyond every accepted social boundary to avenge the man he is sworn to protect. All while seducing that man—who is very married—pushing Stefano to accept his attraction and give in to the lust that draws them to each other.

The more that’s revealed about Silvio, the more I’m drawn to him and his utter lack of inhibitions. He is an entirely carnal being who knows how to use his innate sensuality to his benefit, whether it’s against his enemies or for the benefit of those he desires. There have been many times that I’ve wondered at Silvio’s complexity, yet understand him in ways that seem too simplistic to be true. He is, at his basest level, a man who lives by his own rules, but is also a man who is entirely ruled by his need for pain and pleasure, by his sense of loyalty and duty; there is no right or wrong for Silvio—only the ends justify the means by which he gets results. He is unlike any character I’ve ever known. He’s the sort of man who shocks and surprises and seduces with equanimity.

As the war against the Russians escalates, Stefano may have gained another weapon in his arsenal in Franco Spadaro, a man who promises to be every bit as complex as his brother, and whose relationship with Silvio is…unconventional, to say the very least. One thing is certain; it will be interesting to see how both of these men affect the status quo of Stefano’s life.

The Dark Soul series is Vashtan doing what he does best: daring his readers to think outside the paradigm of romance and venture into the realms of the forbidden erotic, to find intimacy in the unexpected, but fully accepting the untraditional is essential to the story.

It is a seduction of the most sublime sort.

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Storm Moon Press

The Forester by Blaine D. Arden

The ForesterThe Forester by Blaine D. Arden
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

4.5/5 Stars

I so wish this novella had been titled The Forester: BOOK #1 because, let me tell you, there’d better be a BOOK #2 in the works or else. Or else I just might cry.

Blaine D. Arden knocks this one right out of the ballpark on her first swing, in a CSI meets Law & Order meets J.R.R. Tolkien fantasy/mystery; then, to top it all off, she throws in a little tickle-your-fancy with a sweet ménage à trois, which comes together in a world where elves and magic rule. It all adds up to one wonderful read, as far as I’m concerned, evidenced by the fact that I was cursing myself the whole way through for not being able to read faster so I could see what would happen next.

There’s been a murder committed in the forest community, and as the Truth Seeker, it’s up to Kelnaht to investigate the crime and find the perp. His abilities exceed simple forensics, however, as he is also able to reach out with his mystical abilities and senses for guidance, which gives the story its police procedural meets the otherworldly atmosphere. But while the mystery was entertaining, it came in second for me when compared to the intrigue presented in the relationship between Kelnaht, his ex-lover Ianys, and the Forester, an elf who has been shunned for reasons I won’t divulge, and whose name is forbidden to be spoken aloud.

The Forester, Taruif, is a bit like the proverbial elephant in the room. He lives on the outskirts of the community, is seen but not heard, is noticed but ignored by all but The Guide. So, what’s a Truth Seeker to do when the one and only person who may be an eye witness to a crime is the one and only person he is forbidden to speak with? It’s a conundrum, especially when the investigator is also incredibly attracted to the forbidden. And especially when the man who betrayed Kelnaht, the man he still loves, is discovered to be the Forester’s secret lover. Whew! Got all that?

Now, the crime is resolved before the end, but the relationship between Kelnaht, Ianys, and Taruif? No, that’s only just beginning, which is why I must have a sequel to this story. There are hurdles crossed, but there are still more in the way, and the navigating of them must be done carefully or else all might be lost, and that must be avoided at all costs because these three men, well, they just fit together so perfectly.

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Smashwords, Z.A. Maxfield

When Angels Fall by Z.A. Maxfield

When Angels FallWhen Angels Fall by Z.A. Maxfield
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If you’ve read the special project Wishing on a Blue Star, then this story is going to be familiar to you, as it is Z.A. Maxfield’s outstanding contribution to that anthology. But whether you have read the entire anthology or not, do yourself a favor and take the time to read When Angels Fall, even if it’s for a second or more times, because it is absolutely indicative of everything that can go so very right in a short story.

From the characterization to the theme of a divine and perfect love, Z.A. Maxfield sweeps the reader along on a journey that transcends belief, yet is altogether too believable for anyone who can, for a moment, bring themselves to become lost in the possibility that angels do exist.

This is a story of sacrifice, transformation, and salvation—all in the name of love. It is the perfect story, for this time of year, especially, and it’s FREE, so you have nothing to lose and possibly everything to gain by giving this one a try.

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Diana Gabaldon

The Scottish Prisoner: A Lord John Novel by Diana Gabaldon


Title: The Scottish Prisoner: A Lord John Novel
Author: Diana Gabaldon
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Pages: 400 (Hardcover)
Characters: Lord John Grey, Jamie Fraser
POV: 3rd Person
Sub-Genre: Historical/Fantasy
Rating: 4




Blurb:

London, 1760. For Jamie Fraser, paroled prisoner-of-war in the remote Lake District, life could be worse: He’s not cutting sugar cane in the West Indies, and he’s close enough to the son he cannot claim as his own. But Jamie Fraser’s quiet existence is coming apart at the seams, interrupted first by dreams of his lost wife, then by the appearance of Tobias Quinn, an erstwhile comrade from the Rising.

Like many of the Jacobites who aren’t dead or in prison, Quinn still lives and breathes for the Cause. His latest plan involves an ancient relic that will rally the Irish. Jamie is having none of it—he’s sworn off politics, fighting, and war. Until Lord John Grey shows up with a summons that will take him away from everything he loves—again.

Lord John Grey—aristocrat, soldier, and occasional spy—finds himself in possession of a packet of explosive documents that exposes a damning case of corruption against a British officer. But they also hint at a more insidious danger. Time is of the essence as the investigation leads to Ireland, with a baffling message left in “Erse,” the tongue favored by Scottish Highlanders. Lord John, who oversaw Jacobite prisoners when he was governor of Ardsmuir prison, thinks Jamie may be able to translate—but will he agree to do it?

Soon Lord John and Jamie are unwilling companions on the road to Ireland, a country whose dark castles hold dreadful secrets, and whose bogs hide the bones of the dead. A captivating return to the world Diana Gabaldon created in her Outlander and Lord John series, The Scottish Prisoner is another masterpiece of epic history, wicked deceit, and scores that can only be settled in blood.

Review:

It’s entirely possible I’ll be the only person ever to read this book and say that, for a Lord John Grey novel, I think it contained too much Jamie Fraser. An unpopular sentiment? Yeah, most likely, but it’s true for me, nonetheless.

Set during the same timeframe as Voyager, the third novel in the Outlander series, this installment in the Gabaldon created world that blends historical events and settings with the mystical concepts of time travel and the paranormal is reliably impressive in its attention to detail. It’s stunning to think that these characters have made their way from Diana Gabaldon’s imagination to the page for some twenty odd years, and, to this day, are every bit as sublime as they’ve ever been, but while this story was as entertaining as I’ve come to expect from this saga, when it comes to revealing many new insights or details into Lord John Grey’s life, it felt more than a bit lacking.

Lord John is at the top of my list of favorite tragic heroes. His decades long, one-sided love affair with Jamie is truly the epitome of the unrequited love story. The somber realization that, for John Grey, the soldier, spy, and consummately honorable man, there will always be a part of himself he must hide from the world is never more clear than when John and Jamie are together and trying to find a balance in their conflicting feelings toward each other—a balance between John’s desire and Jamie’s aversion toward John’s sexuality—and the grudging respect and friendship that might take hold were it not for that disparity. What Diana Gabaldon has always done so well with John Grey is to portray him as a multi-dimensional character; his homosexuality is most definitely a part of his makeup, but it’s not the entirety of him. At his very foundation, John is noble, loyal, and faithful in his duty to King and country. The knowledge that he will never know Jamie Fraser as anything other than the man he’ll never have is utterly poignant.

But there was nothing particularly earth shaking or groundbreaking in The Scottish Prisoner that couldn’t have been gleaned from having read Voyager. There is a bit of espionage, a murder mystery, and a plot to draw Jamie back into the fold of the Jacobite uprising, this time from the Irish, that was dependably well written (as I’ve come to expect, always, from the author), but at its core, this offering merely provided a means for the audience to follow Jamie through his struggle as both a literal and figurative prisoner of the crown and his certain knowledge of a future that does not support the efforts of the rebellion.

And while Jamie is shackled by circumstance, a condition that can and does change for him, eventually, Lord John Grey will always be a prisoner of his nature, something that cannot be altered because it is who he is meant to be.

I love Jamie, truly, madly, deeply, but I wanted more John in this novel, certainly more than I got.

Reviewed By: Lisa

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Andrea Speed, Dreamspinner Press

Infected: Freefall (Infected #4) by Andrea Speed


Title: Infected: Freefall (Infected #4)
Author: Andrea Speed
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Pages: 350
Characters: Roan McKichan, Dylan Harlow
POV: 3rd Person
Sub-Genre: Urban Fantasy
Kisses: 4.5




Blurb:

In a world where a werecat virus has changed society, Roan McKichan, a born infected and ex-cop, works as a private detective trying to solve crimes involving other infecteds.

Conceived bearing the lion strain of the virus, Roan is the only fully functioning virus child in the country—maybe in the world. But that doesn’t mean he’s okay. He’s still struggling with the death of his husband and the guilt of finding new love; his old enemy, the Church of the Divine Transformation, is becoming increasingly hostile; and he’s taken on a tragic cold case involving a long-missing boy.

As Roan fights to control the lion inside him, his world explodes with all kinds of trouble. The leader of the church is ramping up the violence against him, calling Roan out as a traitor to his kind. There’s a loose Infected terrorizing the city. And Holden, male prostitute and Roan’s unofficial assistant, brings him a case involving the suspicious death of one of Holden’s clients, which puts Roan far too close to a murderer for his state of mind….

Review:

Roan McKichan is a man in free fall, his body doing little more than floating along in a gravitational pull between grief over the loss of Paris, and the virus that continues to morph inside him in unexpected ways. He is a man who has jumped from an airplane at fifteen-thousand feet and can’t seem to decide whether it’s worth the effort to pull the ripcord on his parachute. Roan is a man reincarnated—but it seems, at times, he might have forgotten to come back from the dead.

The thumbnail overview of the fourth installment in the Infected series is that Roan’s life is at a turning point, and, honestly, I have no idea where Andrea Speed will take him. Freefall brings the series to an arc in which the focus is on whether Roan can find a reason to keep living, or whether he should just give up and join Paris in the afterlife—and whether his virus would even allow him to do that, as it seems as though it’s becoming its own entity.

Roan’s conflict and the depressive state he currently calls home give this book a rather mournful quality, which works perfectly as a foil to everyone around him—his lover, Dylan; his ex, Dee; his assistant, Fiona; his could-be-good something or other, Holden—who are trying desperately to help a man who isn’t sure he wants to be saved.

Roan is still going through the motions of life, but his private investigating and the cases he accepts in this book take a secondary role to his personal struggle, except for the two instance in which the case and his private life directly intersect; the first being when the Church of the Divine Transformation, the cult that equates the virus with divinity, decides that Roan is a threat that needs to be eliminated; the second being when Holden hires him to investigate the death of a john, which lands Roan in the hospital, for better or for…worse? We shall see.

Freefall leaves some loose threads to be tied up as the series moves forward, not the least of which is what exactly is Roan becoming? And will it be good or bad for him, in the end? Will Dylan be the man who can inspire Roan and convince him that a future is worth fighting for? And how will Holden Krauss fit into the scheme? Makes me wish book #5 was ready to hit the presses, like, yesterday.

In spite of the sense of doom and gloom in this installment, Andrea Speed manages to infuse the story with plenty of her trademark humor—gotta love the fact that, regardless of what Roan is going through, his smartass is always residing somewhere just beneath the surface, maybe somewhere in the neutral zone between the human and the lion. The man truly is a hybrid.

While I can’t say this is my favorite book in the series, to date, I can say that it’s not to be missed.

Reviewed By: Lisa

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Josephine Myles, Smashwords

Boats in the Night by Josephine Myles


Title: Boats in the Night
Author: Josephine Myles
Publisher: Self-Published
Pages: 164 (.pdf)
Characters: Smutty, Giles
POV: 3rd Person
Sub-Genre: Contemporary Romance
Kisses: 5




Blurb:

Like two ships passing in the night—if one was a narrowboat and the other a luxury yacht.

Disgraced private school teacher Giles Rathbourne has been sent home on extended sick-leave and is stuck in a rut of obsessive housework and drinking. His ex may have been a snobbish bastard, but without him, Giles is adrift, rattling around his huge, lonely house. When a dreadlocked narrowboater’s engine breaks down at the end of his canal-side garden, Giles is furious at this invasion of his privacy—for a while.

Smutty might not have ever held down a proper job, but the fire-dancing, free-spirited traveller can recognise an opportunity for mutual benefit when he sees it. Giles’ extensive gardens are in as desperate need of attention as the upper-class hunk is himself, whereas Smutty knows a thing or two about plants and needs a place to moor up.

A simple business arrangement between two men who have nothing else in common? It would be—if they could keep their hands off each other!

Review:

All the charm and wit of Josephine Myles’ Barging In is back in Boats in the Night, an opposites attract story that touches on the world of narrowboating but at its essence is the story of two men who seemingly have very little in common, with the exception they’ve both been burnt in the past, making trust a bit difficult to come by.

Smutty and Giles couldn’t be more different—the dreadlocked boater with little to his name and the posh teacher with the comfortable financial portfolio—but a chance encounter when Giles is at his lowest, after a bitter break up, proves to be exactly what he needs to discover that love defies both explanation and expectation, and that sometimes finding the person you want to be with means having to let go of some preconceived notions about what you thought you’d always wanted and needed.

This is the story of two men who come to discover their pasts are more closely linked than they could ever have imagined, and find a connection to each other, one based on little more than the simple fact they’ve both found someone who doesn’t necessarily reflect who he is on the surface, but offers everything he didn’t even know he wanted until faced with the possibility of losing it.

Smutty and Giles are incredibly engaging characters who drew me into their world as I cheered them on, watched them connect, and proved that love truly is the great equalizer.

Reviewed By: Lisa

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This Is One Of The Best Videos I’ve Ever Seen On YouTube

There seems to be some question as to whether the story this video was made as a response to is legit or not, but one thing is absolutely certain: Johnny Robinson is an amazing young man. This video is so powerful, with a message that, whatever prompted it, is something every gay teen who’s struggling with bullying should see.

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J. Tomas

Without Sin by J. Tomas

Title: Without Sin
Author: J. Tomas
Publisher: Originally Published by Torquere Press (April 2009)
Pages: 155
Characters: Jacob Smithson, Avery Dendritch
POV: 3rd Person
Sub-Genre: YA/Contemporary Romance
Kisses: 5




Blurb:

Sixteen-year-old Jacob Smithson has a temper. He’s picked on because he likes boys, and fighting gets him kicked out of public school. As a last resort, his parents place him in St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Boarding School for Boys.

At his first mass at St. Thomas he sees Avery Dendritch, a senior who serves as altar boy during the service. When they meet, the attraction between them is hard to deny. The two become fast friends, and as the school year progresses, their friendship deepens until Jacob feels he’s found a place where he belongs.

But the other students gossip about their growing relationship. Avery can ignore them; Jacob can’t. As the rumors and slurs start up again, can he curb his temper, or will his fighting get him expelled from St. Thomas, too?

Review:

J. Tomas captures perfectly all the angst, urgency, and desperation of what it means to be a teenager in love in Without Sin, the unreservedly romantic story of two boys who struggle with every bit of the conviction of their youthful dreams, their honest passion, and the inspiration of first love to find a place for themselves within the walls of St. Thomas Aquinas School for Boys.

Falling in love for sixteen-year-old Jacob Smithson and seventeen-year-old Avery Dendritch was the easy part of their story. The hard part for them was finding a way to contain the enormity of that love, to keep those feelings between themselves when all they want is for the rest of the world to disappear so they can be together. Under the watchful eyes of the Catholic Church, as well as the prejudice and taunting from fellow students, the boys steal furtive kisses, incidental touches, and secret smiles at every opportunity, knowing that to be caught would mean to be separated forever, yet knowing, without hesitation, that the risk is worth it.

This is a story of perseverance, of walking away when you want nothing more than to stay and fight, and fighting when you know you should walk away because it means you’ve just endangered the very thing you’ve tried so hard to protect. Jacob and Avery are confronted with this conflict a number of times, until it builds to a pivotal moment for the boys that will test their commitment to a love that, with the innocence of youth backing their passion and resolve, will last forever.

J. Tomas (J.M. Snyder’s Young Adult penname) chose to write this novella in the present tense, which I thought worked perfectly for this particular story, though I understand it might be an acquired taste for some. As the reader, witnessing events as they unfolded gave me the opportunity to feel as though I was experiencing the story as more than a bystander—I felt like a participant in the events as they happened, which seemed a bit voyeuristic at times, but also lent an intimacy to the narrative—the intensity of emotion, the fear of Jacob and Avery being caught when they chanced to steal a moment together, the frustration at not being able to live openly and honestly was something that I felt right along with the characters. The sense of urgency and desperation in their relationship occurred within a very short time frame, and the present tense stylistic choice seemed only to magnify it all.

Believing in forever is easy when your whole life waits before you, unrehearsed, unscripted, endless with possibilities and chances to be taken, which worked into the ideal ending and made me wish that J.M. Snyder might consider bringing these characters back someday as adults, if for nothing more than to allow me to see if forever truly did last.

Reviewed By: Lisa

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Aleksandr Voinov, Storm Moon Press

Counterpunch (Belonging #3) by Aleksandr Voinov


Title: Counterpunch (Belonging #3)
Author: Aleksandr Voinov
Publisher: Storm Moon Press
Pages: 173
Characters: Brooklyn Marshall, Nathaniel Bishop
POV: 3rd Person
Sub-Genre: Alt. U/Fantasy
Kisses: 5




Blurb:

Fight like a man, or die like a slave.

Brooklyn Marshall used to be a policeman in London, with a wife and a promising future ahead of him. Then he accidentally killed a rioter whose father was a Member of Parliament and had him convicted of murder. To ease the burden on the overcrowded prison system, Brooklyn was sold into slavery rather than incarcerated. Now, he’s the “Mean Machine”, a boxer on the slave prizefighting circuit, pummelling other slaves for the entertainment of freemen and being rented out for the sexual service of his wealthier fans.

When Nathaniel Bishop purchases Brooklyn’s services for a night, it seems like any other assignation. But the pair form an unexpected bond that grows into something more. Brooklyn hesitates to call it “love”—such things do not exist between freemen and slaves—but when Nathaniel reveals that he wants to help get Brooklyn’s conviction overturned, he dares to hope. Then, an accident in the ring sends Brooklyn on the run, jeopardizing everything he has worked so hard to achieve and sending him into the most important fight of all—the fight for freedom.

Review:

Aleksandr Voinov slips seamlessly into Rachel Haimowitz’s Belonging world with Counterpunch, the story of a man whose life is ravaged by a single, tragic moment, an event so life altering that it strips him of everything he’d once accepted as the inalienable rights of his status as a freeman. Brooklyn Marshall transforms from a man sworn to protect and to serve to a man who is sentenced to persevere and submit, a punishment that creates a man who must fight for every scrap of dignity he can win, though each small victory is laced with the ugly truth that he is a slave and his life is no longer his own.

This is the story of a man who is two years into a life sentence, if life is a word that can be used to describe passing days not doing what you choose to do but what others force you to do because choice is not an option. Brooklyn is a commodity, his success in the boxing ring a means of lining the pockets of the men who own him. All the aggression and anger at the injustice of his circumstances, toward slavery as a whole, is meted out as punishment of his opponents; it is the one place where, for a brief time, Brooklyn is permitted to be the master of his own fate, though the satisfaction of those moments of victory are tinged by the bitterness of guilt, the sting of betrayal, and the helplessness of his circumstances.

True to form, Aleksandr Voinov pulls no punches in this novel. A sense of desperation blends perfectly with the oppressive rage of a man who is shackled by the tangible and intangible bonds of a society that once defined him as free but snatched it away as punishment in a bid for retribution.

The story is not a romance yet perfectly expresses Brooklyn’s deep sense of desire for a connection, a desire that is blunted by past betrayal, abandonment, distrust, and captivity at the hands of the freemen who control his every move and response. It’s a perfect juxtaposition to his relationship with Nathaniel Bishop, the man who challenges Brooklyn and makes him want things he can’t allow himself to hope for. Nathaniel is a man with secrets, a man with connections both personal and professional that will shake the uncertain foundation on which Brooklyn exists.

Counterpunch doesn’t promise happily-ever-after, but what it does do successfully is make the reader hope that Brooklyn and Nathaniel can forge a bit of happiness for themselves from a future that holds more promise than the past.

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Hayden Thorne, JMS Books LLC

Renfred’s Masquerade by Hayden Thorne



Title: Renfred’s Masquerade
Author: Hayden Thorne
Publisher: JMS Books LLC
Pages: 216
Characters: Nicola Gregori, Gustav Renfred, Constanza Renfred, Davide Renfred
POV: 3rd Person
Sub-Genre: Historical/Fantasy/YA
Kisses: 5+





Blurb:

Young Nicola Gregori has always wanted to follow in the footsteps of his father, a brilliant clock-maker who’s famous for his wild, fantastical designs. But his father instead sends him to school to learn more practical matters. Nicola, stricken with infantile paralysis that left him with a deformed right leg, becomes an object of mockery and cruel jokes in school. He learns that in order to survive his daily ordeals, he needs to vanish in the crowd, to stop aspiring, to stop dreaming, and above all, to believe himself unworthy of respect and love.

Tragedy strikes when Nicola turns sixteen. Gustav Renfred, an old friend of his father, takes on Nicola as his charge and whisks him away to an isolated islet filled with empty mansions and bordered by a bluebell forest. There Nicola slowly learns about the tragic story that tightly weaves together the fates of Jacopo Gregori, Gustav Renfred, and Gustav’s twin sister, Constanza.

Magic, impossible dreams, and unrequited love come together in Ambrosi, the Renfreds’ mansion, where Nicola is caught up in a world of haunting portraits, a ghostly housekeeper, and the mysterious disappearance of Davide, Constanza’s adopted son. When Nicola’s invited to one of Renfred’s magical masquerades, he discovers the answers to riddles as well as the mounting danger that the Renfred family faces with every passing hour.

With the masquerades’ existence depending on the physical and mental strength of an ailing Renfred, the task of solving the mystery of Davide’s disappearance before time runs out falls on Nicola’s shoulders, and he has no choice but to depend on things that he’s long learned to suppress: courage, self-respect, and the desire to aim for impossible goals.

Review:

A boy’s journey into a world of magic, clockwork devices, and self-discovery has never been done more beautifully than in Hayden Thorne’s Renfred’s Masquerade, a novel that immerses the reader in an allegorical tale which tells the story of Nicola Gregori, a young man who discovers the courage to step out from behind a physical affliction and accept that love is worth fighting for, that honesty is worth the risk, and that, regardless of the many illusions surrounding him, the boy he’s fallen in love with is all too real.

Nicola has learned to disappear into the scenery, to become entirely inconspicuous to avoid the teasing and bullying that accompanies the lame right leg which impairs him physically and disfigures him emotionally. Feeling shameful of his appearance, Nicola has learned the cruelest result of his deformity may be his father’s emotional distance. He is a boy who wants to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a master clockmaker, to weave his imagination into the faces and bodies of the keepers of time, but Jacopo Gregori has a far better life planned for his son than the one he himself has lived.

Orphaned by the deaths of both his father and his beloved Pietra, the housekeeper who’d become surrogate mother to Nicola after his own mother died when he was yet an infant, Nicola becomes the ward of magician and alchemist, Gustav Renfred, the man whose secrets and gifts will become the catalyst by which young Nicola will discover a hidden strength, empowered by his compassion for a family that had been broken by a past deception which returned to cause immeasurable damage in the present.

Isolated on an island off the coast of Traviata, magic and wonderment go hand in hand with tragedy as Nicola learns he is so much more than his disability. In a race against time, Nicola must find a way to rescue Davide Renfred, the young man whose own sense of disgrace has caused him to disappear within a masquerade where there is no shame in his sexuality.

Renfred’s Masquerade is a brilliant coming-of-age story, a masterpiece in the same vein as the author’s stunning The Twilight Gods. Hayden Thorne’s writing is a love affair with language and symbolism, her books ones that engage the mind and envelope the senses. The settings are a breath of life, as much a part of the plot as the characters, becoming characters themselves that are wholly imperative to the narrative.

This is not a story of romance as much as it is an exposition of a boy who becomes a young man and learns a valuable lesson in the transformative power of love. He learns that the value of a man is what is beneath the façade, that what lurks in the heart and mind is far more powerful than what is visible on the surface.

Hayden Thorne’s work is a celebration of storytelling, and Renfred’s Masquerade is a novel that made me realize how terribly insignificant a numerical rating can be on a book that exceeds my ability to enumerate all its merits.

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