5 Stars, Poppy Z. Brite, Subterranean Press

D*U*C*K (Rickey & G-man #5) by Poppy Z. Brite

In 2005, Hurricane Katrina put the Crescent City on the world stage, a horrifying and profoundly decimated stage that touched a nerve in the consciousness of anyone who had either witnessed the destruction firsthand or who sat safely in front of the television, thousands of miles away, and mourned for the unspeakable loss and punishing aftermath.

D*U*C*K is Poppy Z. Brite’s love letter to not only New Orleans but to Rickey and G-man and all the other wonderful and colorful characters that have populated this series. Bad things happen to good people every day, but only in the world of fiction can one nightmarish thing be made never to exist, and that’s what “DocBrite” has done in homage to this unique city.

Of all the places hit hardest by Katrina, nowhere suffered more than the Lower Ninth Ward, Rickey and G-man’s childhood home, the place where they met, became friends, and eventually fell in love. But with the force of words stronger than any hurricane wind, Katrina never was. Poppy Z. Brite spared New Orleans from the crushing devastation, and subsequently gifted John Rickey and Gary Stubbs with the continuity of the hopes, dreams, and their reality that otherwise would’ve been stripped away from them. The levees never failed, the Superdome never became the scene of shocking and tragic loss, people never stood on rooftops begging to be rescued, the streets were never flooded by either water or the human flotsam and jetsam left in the storm’s wake. No, the only storms in this story are the ones of Rickey’s own making, and as he always has, he weathers them alongside the man who has been his anchor and his touchstone for more than twenty years.

There isn’t much that can be said about this book that hasn’t already been said about the previous four in this series. This is Rickey and G-man, their trials and triumphs and their unwavering loyalty to their home. There’s an immense sense of nostalgia to the narrative, which is portrayed as the love of the city from her native sons, though, in fact, we know that that sense of reminiscence is coming from an author who watched a city fall and has now witnessed the pride and spirit of its people rise from the storm waters again.

D*U*C*K can be found in print format at both Amazon and Barnes & Noble. It can be purchased in electronic format, paired with The Value of X in the book Second Line HERE.

Hayden Thorne, Queerteen Press, Small Gems

Small Gem – Clouds’ Illusions by Hayden Thorne

THE day is cold, and dark, and dreary;
It rains and the wind is never weary;
The vine still clings to the mouldering wall,
But at every gust the dead leaves fall,
And the day is dark and dreary.

My life is cold, and dark, and dreary;
It rains and the wind is never weary;
My thoughts still cling to the mouldering past,
But the hopes of youth fall thick in the blast,
And the days are dark and dreary.

Be still, sad heart, and cease repining;
Behind the clouds is the sun still shining;
Thy fate is the common fate of all,
Into each life some rain must fall,
Some days must be dark and dreary.
~ “The Rainy Day” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

I’m not sure if it was Hayden Thorne’s intent to bring to mind this Longfellow poem when she wrote this story, but it came nonetheless.

Filled with awe and wonder and dismay and despair and ultimately, hope, Clouds’ Illusions is a surreal tale which follows a young boy, Simon, as he wends his way through a carnival, clinging to the lone remaining symbol of his childhood—the one thing that remains a tangible reminder of home, family, and safety.

The carnival itself, along with the heavy clouds and torrential downpours that allow only small glimpses of the promise of the sun, represent the discord between the innocence of childhood and the flood of conflicts that arise as Simon grows, transforming from boy, to young adult, then to adult, becoming lost and isolated from his family along the way, as he discovers that his sexuality will be the key to separating him from everything that at one time had meant love and security for him—surreal yet sadly familiar.

But as the Longfellow poem alludes to, in every life there must be rain, for if there is never gray, how will we ever learn to appreciate all the colors that brighten the world? If there is never darkness, how will we ever learn to appreciate the light?

As Simon emerges from the cacophony of trials and tribulations he’s experienced on his journey through life, we see that, in the end, he was never truly alone. He merely needed to find his way back, and that way led him to the man who’d helped Simon discover who he was meant to be and to a new family that redefined home and love.

There is a dreamlike quality to this story, as it fractures the concepts of time and reality, and it does so vividly. The imagery is at once monochromatic, then given to full and vibrant Technicolor pictures that worked beautifully to paint this picture.

Buy Clouds’ Illusion HERE.

4 Stars, Poppy Z. Brite, Three Rivers Press

Soul Kitchen: Rickey & G-man #4 by Poppy Z. Brite

Well, apparently chefs are just moody bastards. (Pardon my Français.) Who knew? Certainly not me. And who knew pretentious food prepared by a pompous, self-important master of “molecular gastronomy” could be cause for a few good laughs? Again, not me. At least not until I read Soul Kitchen.

Murder was afoot ten years ago at an upscale restaurant called the Top Spot, and an innocent man was robbed of his freedom because of it. Milford Goodman was the head chef of the restaurant at the time the owner met her untimely demise, and in a gross miscarriage of justice, he ended up spending that decade in the Louisiana State Penitentiary. Free now after DNA evidence proved he couldn’t have possibly committed the heinous crime, Milford is trying to make a new life for himself. It’s hard to do, though, when the color of your skin and the stain on your reputation overshadows the content of your character.

But Rickey knows Milford, knows all about his brilliance in the kitchen, and faster than you can say two-hundred recipes for corn bread, Milford’s got himself a new job at Liquor, where business is slow, the kitchen’s all shook up, Rickey’s popping pain pills like candy, and somebody’s burning Popsicle stick crosses in the parking lot. Yes, you read that right—Popsicle stick crosses. I didn’t know whether to be outraged on principle or belly laugh at the mental image, see, because it made me think of the little people dancing around the miniature Stonehenge in This is Spinal Tap. But I digress.

After the disaster that was Dallas, Rickey is tempted, though reluctantly, back into the consulting biz when New Orleans businessman Clancy Fairbairn and Doctor Frank Lamotte tap him for some input on their new brain child—an upscale eating establishment on their casino boat on Lake Pontchartrain. There are several things that can be relied upon where Rickey and consulting are concerned. One, he’s always good for a gimmick, and two, when he gives into his love for creating the next big thing, something bad is pretty well guaranteed to happen. ::sigh:: Poor Milford. Just when things were starting to look up…

I’m beginning to think G-man is the only sane and decent guy left in NOLA. Oh, Rickey’s a good guy when he’s not busy being pushy, overbearing, arrogant, or is strung out on narcotics and ignoring the best thing that’s ever happened to him in his entire life. Hmph. Not to worry, though, it all works out in the end.

After the deep, heartfelt love that was Prime, I was just the littlest bit…not disappointed with Soul Kitchen, never that, because let’s face it, this is Rickey and G-man and that automatically equals Yippee! for me. But this shorter, less involved installment in the series felt a little bit like enjoying a five star meal, then being offered JELL-O for dessert. It’s tasty and there’s always room for it, but that’s mostly because there’s not a lot to it. That’s the way this installment felt to me: not quite solid, a bit wobbly, but still molded into something that was awfully pretty to look at.

Buy Soul Kitchen at Amazon and other major etailers.

Aleksandr Voinov, Amy Lane, Riptide Publishing

Country Mouse by Amy Lane and Aleksandr Voinov

When I first saw that Amy Lane and Aleksandr Voinov were collaborating on a book, my initial reaction was, “say what?” ::gaping maw:: Fresh off of Chase in Shadow and Dark Soul, my brain was having a difficult time processing it. Then I moved on to, “but they’re writing styles are so different, how will this work?” ::confusion:: Then my head caught up with the concept and I was all, “holy Jeebus, I think I just hit the motherload of fictional fortune here.” ::big grin::Then I grinned some more and preordered and have now read it, and now I’m grinning even bigger because, yeah, all’s right with my world.

If you’ve ever read a single word from either of these authors, you’ll know who wrote which character, and I think you’ll see where each author influenced the direction of the story. Owen Watson and Malcolm Kavanagh are both very distinct personalities, both strong and magnetic, each with his own appeal. Somewhere along the way in their cat-and-mouse game, the scales get thrown off balance, leverage becomes a back-and-forth pursuit, and that’s the heart of this book: Malcolm underestimates Owen at nearly every turn, and Owen turns Malcolm inside out and upside down, and sometimes the line blurs between who’s predator and who’s prey, which is oh so beautiful in its value to the direction this relationship-that-wasn’t-supposed-to-be takes. This wasn’t intended to be anything more than a one and done for either man, but lo and behold, the Dom gets blindsided by the stranger who waltzes right into his lair, and it quickly becomes clear this stranger is a man who knows how to yank a chain or two himself.

Owen’s the mousetrap in this relationship, and it doesn’t take long for Malcolm to start craving the bait that will effectively alter the way he sees life. When things coalesce, when Owen tips the scales and becomes more than a stranger, then leaves with so much left unsaid, Malcolm begins to understand that intimacy and need and hunger don’t equate to weakness and vulnerability, and he then yields to his desire for more with the man who has undone him.

Country Mouse is a sexy and salacious little story, every bit as good as I expected it would be. There’s none of that “if you love something, set it free” rubbish going on here. No, this is all about wanting and needing and giving and taking and letting go and then grabbing on, all at the same time. And, ah, the romance of it all. It was good stuff.

I hope these two authors decide to give another go at working together again. Soon.

Buy Country Mouse HERE.

Ethan Day, MLR Press

A Token of Time by Ethan Day

Some sure signs that I’m entirely in love with a book:

• Dinner rule – if you can’t nuke it or pour it in a bowl with milk, you might have to go hungry.
• Conversation rule – if you’re not hemorrhaging, regurgitating, or on fire, I am off limits.
• Note: the breakage of the above rule may induce Linda Blair-like head spinning and much colorful verbiage to spew forth like pea soup.
• I will call you by the characters’ names. (It’s happened.)
• I forget to pack your lunch. (See: it’s happened.)
• I make you miss the school bus because I’ve lost all track of time. (Reference the thing above about it happening.)

Okay, now I’m just starting to make myself look really bad, but you get the point. This is how much I adored A Token of Time, a book that has proven to me that different is better. Well, maybe not necessarily better, but at least equal and awfully damn good.

This is a story unlike any I’ve ever read before from Ethan Day. Oh, there’s still a good bit of humor sprinkled into it, to be sure, and there’s the same richly populated narrative that I’ve come to know and love from him, but the muchness of the romance and the tragedy and the tragic romance in this book is just so very muchy that there were times I wanted to skip to the end and take maybe a wee peek because I couldn’t wait to see what would come of it, yet I didn’t want it to end and I kept trying to convince myself to read slower. The slower thing didn’t really work out so well, though.

Zachary Hamilton is a young man with a gift (or curse, depending upon how you look at it) that has been passed down through the generations of Hamilton women—until Zachary, that is—which turns him and his boyfriend, Nick Williams, into fugitives, on the run from Zachary’s family and a sister who is madness personified and means to do Zachary harm in order to obtain his power for herself. Danger looms no matter where the boys go, and there doesn’t seem to be any corner of the world small or remote enough for them to hide from the evil that’s hounding them. And sadly, it eventually catches up to them.

With a blend of Egyptian mythology and Native American folklore and the unknown and inexplicable, it becomes possible for Zachary to travel through time to a past and a man who, after Zachary loses Nick, becomes the great love of Zachary’s life. Marc Castle was a movie star in the heyday of old Hollywood glamour, and he is an influence in both the present and past tense of Zachary’s life, just as Zachary himself is an influence on the continuum of future events. Zachary’s trip to a time before he existed exacts some positive changes, exposes a killer and saves a few lives, but when you’re borrowing time and time is fleeting and everything hinges on the stone dangling from a chain around your neck, time is also fragile.

A Token of Time fractures the laws of forward motion. It makes time an illusion and reality malleable. It’s a “love will always find a way” romance, heartbreaking and hopeful, and it left me wishing for nothing less than a bit more of that illusive and elusive time with these characters. If you’ve ever in your life wished it were possible to be able to go back in time and do something differently or to influence a change in history, then Token might speak to something in you that you know is impossible but won’t stop the wanting of it anyway.

Buy A Token of Time HERE.

Dreamspinner Press, Mary Calmes

Frog by Mary Calmes

There’s more than one way to be abandoned. There’s abandonment with intention, and then there’s the sort of abandonment that the universe, fate, bad luck, whatever name you give it, delivers on a whim. It’s called death and that sort is the permanent kind, the kind that leaves a man unanchored because he has no one to ground himself to, and he’s maybe a little scared to believe it’s possible to belong to someone, somewhere, because to invest in a dream like that leaves him vulnerable. If he belongs to no one and no one belongs to him, then there’s nothing that matters to him that can be taken away from him.

But like the song says, “Your prison is walking through this world all alone,” and there’s a difference between being alone and being lonely.

There’ve been songs sung and odes written to the lonesome cowboy, the man who drifts through life looking for the next rodeo, the next ranch, the man whose bright lights aren’t the kind found in the big city but the ones found in the open sky above him, the sky that’s sometimes the only roof he has over his head. Weber Yates is the consummate drifter, the desperado who’s gotta let somebody love him before it’s too late. Web has found someone he’d like to be able to call home but can’t seem to fathom why that person would want to build a home around him.

Dr. Cyrus Benning, brilliant neurosurgeon, meets Web on a Texas vacation, the kind of vacation where a group of city slickers play cowboy for a weekend, and what happens the moment they meet will change both of their lives forever. Over the course of three years, they get together just a few more than a dozen times, but that’s enough for Cyrus to know he wants more, and it’s enough for Cyrus to become Weber’s lodestar, the bright point in an otherwise empty life that keeps guiding him back to a place that he keeps trying to run away from because the final ultimatum is too much for him to believe in. But Web is branded, not a visible mark on his skin but an indelible mark on his heart, and once you’re imprinted you belong, whether you like it or not.

Frog is a sweet and subtle story about perspective and how those perspectives can shift when you allow yourself to believe in something and someone who doesn’t love you for the myth but loves you for the honorable man you are. Web discovers that belonging to someone doesn’t mean giving up who he is but is about gaining a part of himself he didn’t realize was missing until it was gifted to him. And when he transforms, whether it’s from sleeping on the prince’s pillow every night or with a kiss or by being thrown up against the wall and being told there’s no other way, the fairy tale is complete, and it’s a beautiful thing.

Buy Frog HERE.

Hayden Thorne, Queerteen Press

Small Gem – Erl-King by Hayden Thorne

Fairy tales are dreams and dreams are fairy tales, and they both bear a striking resemblance to Hayden Thorne’s Erl-King, a story that resonates with vivid imagery, a dream-like quality, and the pain of a boy who denies himself the right to be whom he was born to be.

Baltasar is a young man of seventeen who is imprisoned by expectations, bound by duty, alone in his conflict to be someone he isn’t meant to be. He is a young man who, in an enchanted forest far different from the black/gray/white of his own existence, is confronted by his own sexuality in the form of the beautiful and timeless forest spirit, the Erl-king. In a realm that allows Baltasar to see all the possible colors his life could be, he discovers his own desires but betrays himself and the one who teaches him what it means to feel and to be true to oneself.

Erl-King is gorgeous and reminded me not only why I love folklore so much but also reminded me why I love Hayden Thorne’s writing so well. There is always more to see beneath the surface of the story. On its surface it is expressive and vibrant; underneath it is rich in symbolism and eloquent in subtly relating the trials of coming of age and coming to terms with the challenges of being different than the world expects you to be.

Buy Erl-King HERE.

Carole Cummings, Dreamspinner Press

Small Gems – Rapport by Carole Cummings

The children of the gods play their games, sometimes very dangerous games in which winning means escaping with one’s life. But sometimes those games are little more than an unconcealed pleasure to show superiority over the weak and the helpless who can be controlled and manipulated, trespassed against simply because it can be done. Or maybe it was merely a test, an attempt to find an answer to the question, why him?

It’s been made very clear that Kamen Malick is unlike the gods’ other children, and it’s that difference that made him first a curiosity, easily misjudged, certainly underestimated as the immortal who is weakened by his humanity; then an ally, then more to Skel, who has been, until now, little more than a ghostly presence in the series and whose death has haunted Malick.

Skel was the stepping stone which began Asai’s path to Fen Jacin-rei. He was a tool and a sacrifice in a bid for superiority and domination, and the price he paid was steep.

There’s an undeniable urge to recommend Rapport even if you’ve never read a single word of the Wolf’s-own series. It’s one thing to be able to read and appreciate a story for its rich atmosphere and lush writing, but it’s entirely another to read a story about characters you know nothing about and may not appreciate unless you know something about the world they inhabit and the ways in which they struggle to discover who they are and what their purpose is in the grand scheme of things.

There’s something to be said for seduction, though, and there’s no question this is a seductive scene. Maybe this free short is exactly the sort of enticement you need to draw you into an entirely provocative world. I’m so glad I’m already there.

Download Rapport FREE HERE.

5 Stars, Poppy Z. Brite, Three Rivers Press

Prime: Rickey & G-man #3 by Poppy Z. Brite

Oh, temptation. Life is full of it, sweet and evil temptation.

Rickey and G-man have given in to a few enticements over the course of their years together—booze, drugs, money; the kind of money that will get Rickey exactly where he wants to be in spite of the fact that he has to wager a little bit of himself as collateral just to get there. But the one thing they’ve never been, in fourteen years together, is unfaithful to each other. Is that really so remarkable? I suppose it depends on how much you believe in the idea of falling in love with your best friend at the age of sixteen and then never wanting to be with anyone else. Funny thing about temptation, though, is that it’s persistent. The moment your defenses are at their lowest, that’s the time it’s sure to show up like the proverbial bad penny, and that penny’s name just so happens to be Cooper Stark.

Cooper was once the darling of the New York restaurant scene: celebrity chef, cookbook author, handsome and wealthy, and he almost, almost tempted a young and star-struck Rickey into a one night stand when he was a student at the Culinary Institute of America. That single indiscretion might’ve put a permanent end to his relationship with G-man, but as Shakespeare once said, “All’s well that ends well,” and Rickey’s big old heart won out over his horny little head.

Drugs and ego were Cooper Stark’s downfall and though he’s still a brilliant chef, he’s now working in a struggling restaurant in Dallas, a city that wants a side of beef with its beef, and it just doesn’t seem to appreciate the cuisine in which Cooper specializes. The owner of the restaurant, one Frank Firestone, a man who’s more than a little crazy and has some sketchy connections to the District Attorney of New Orleans, offers Rickey ten-thousand dollars for a week in Dallas to overhaul the menu and turn the restaurant into a profitable venture. Ten grand is a whole lot of temptation for a couple of guys who want to buy out their silent partner at Liquor, so Rickey takes the job and earns his ten Gs because he apparently has the gift of gimmick. And yeah, guess what, that attraction between him and Cooper is still there, and this time around, Cooper’s got an agenda of his own.

Paranoia and scheming apparently is a way of life in New Orleans politics, (or politics in general, come to think of it) and there’s a rather elaborate plot by the DA, Placide Treat, to take Lenny Duveteaux down, which starts with a rather craptastic review of Rickey and G-man’s restaurant. If Lenny goes down, though, chances are that Rickey and G-man and Liquor will go right down with him, so before you can say, “I’ll have fries with that,” (don’t do it. Rickey would kill you.) there’s guilt and betrayal and conspiracy and murder and an explosion and a dead bastard son. And then things get really weird.

Julie Andrews can have her raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens. I’ll just take Rickey and G-man. They’re a couple of my favorite things, like the sizzle to my steak, like the comfort food of my literary soul.

Prime is by far may favorite book in this series. At least, so far. Not only was it kinda funny (Rickey has a bad butt rash in this one. Don’t ask.), but it was also a taut and tense read. The friction between Rickey and G-man was pitch-perfect. These guys are in a real relationship filled with real issues and they work through these issues the best way they know how. In the end, there’s no question they’re going to be okay, and that’s really okay with me.

Prime can be purchased at all major etailers as well as via the publisher, Three Rivers Press/Random House.

5 Stars, S.A. Reid, Smashwords

Protection by S.A. Reid

There’s a saying that goes something like, “life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.” I’m a firm believer that some of those shining little breathless moments don’t take place in reality at all, but in the realms of the fictional people we invite into our lives. Those moments may come from a mere turn of phrase, or they may come from reading a book whose characters are unforgettable. More than a few of those breathless moments happened for me while reading Protection, not because the language of the narrative was exceptionally unique, but because the story itself was so tragically beautiful that it caused me to question my belief in the black and white of some actions which absolutely should not be forgiven, and reinforced my belief that there are times when hate and love truly can coexist within the confines of a single relationship.

Protection opens in pre-World War II England in the fictional Wentworth Prison, where Gabriel MacKenna is serving concurring life sentences for murdering his parents. Is there such a thing as justifiable homicide? That question gave me something to chew on as I learned more about Gabriel and the crime he’d committed. There’s no question he deserved to be where he was, but there’s also this gray area of understanding where Gabriel is concerned which allowed me to empathize with him on every level. He was such a dichotomy of behaviors, incredibly violent and philosophical about the justice he metes out—it’s necessary for his own survival as well as for those he chooses to protect, after all—yet there is a charisma and charm about him, an innate intelligence and aching quality to him that made him irresistible in spite of how much I tried to convince myself he should be entirely beyond redemption.

Dr. Joseph Cooper doesn’t belong in prison. He became the fall guy for a doctor who framed Joey for the death of a mother and her baby, tricking him into writing a confession that effectively robbed Joey of his life and locked the door to his cell before he’d even had the opportunity for a fair trial. The worst possible thing that could’ve happened to him upon his arrival at Wentworth was to catch the eye of Gabriel MacKenna, but that’s exactly what happened, and in Gabriel’s world, a doctor who murders a woman and her newborn child is due the sort of justice that Gabriel serves.

This book is a series of conflicts and contrasts. It contains scenes of rape and violence, which given its setting isn’t unusual or unexpected. What was entirely unexpected was that I found myself trying to justify Gabriel’s actions and his relationship with Joey, and there is a hypocrisy in my way of thinking; I freely admit it. How can love evolve from such a violent beginning? Need, desperation, the want of human touch and the desire to belong to someone can spring from even the most barren ground, it seems. Love can be a prison in its own right, and freedom can be empty when the person you wanted to share your life with isn’t there to share it with you.

These are men who draw a distinction between being queer and being “prison queer” and it’s an important difference to them—one is a perversion and the other is making the best of what’s available. But falling in love with someone who’s supposed to be nothing more than a way to scratch an itch crosses a line. It makes you begin to dream of possibilities of a future that can never happen. It makes you want things you’ve never wanted before and it makes you realize how helpless you are against your circumstances, and that is a heartbreaking reality that clings to me even now, long after finishing this book. Gabriel’s love for Joey intensified his already exaggerated need to protect what was his, and in the end, the depth of that love proved fatal.

S.A. Reid has written a story that challenges perceptions and confronts perspective. Protection is a book I’ll read again sometime; maybe the next time I’m in the mood to have my heart yanked out through my tear ducts. It’s painfully beautiful and beautifully painful in its defiance of the rules of traditional romance, and I loved that the author made me believe in and be grateful for all of its contrasts.

Buy Protection HERE.

4.5 Stars, Poppy Z. Brite, Three Rivers Press

Liquor: Rickey & G-man #2 by Poppy Z. Brite

Well, no one warned me there was going to be a decade time span between The Value of X and Liquor, but that’s okay; that made it feel a lot like I was getting to spend some time catching up with good old friends I hadn’t seen in a really long while, and it was so good to be with them again.

Rickey and G-man were reunited after Rickey’s failed attempt at culinary school, which nearly tore these two boys apart, but they’ve been inseparable ever since Rickey arrived back in NOLA, moving in together, working together, loving each other. These two guys seem to be “it” for the other. I mean, sometimes fate gives you one chance at happiness and when it does, you sit up and pay attention. If you don’t, it’ll knock you on your arse and make you pay for that mistake. They’re smart boys, though, and found the value of what they’ve got with each other.

Some of their history is retold in this installment of the series, easily making Liquor a standalone read if the teenage angst of coming out and falling in love with a best friend isn’t really your cup of tea. John Rickey and Gary Stubbs are all grown up now and dreaming of owning their own restaurant someday—well, mostly Ricky is. G-man’s more like his dad, Elmer: go with the flow—but all they’ve had so far is a long series of crap jobs in other people’s kitchens that have barely helped them to make ends meet. But inspiration strikes like lightning, sometimes only once, and when it does, yep, you sit up and pay attention. And you also use whatever resources are available to you, though sometimes that means taking the bad with the good.

I’m not a foodie, far from it. I’ve never cared how a restaurant kitchen runs or what it takes to get a restaurant up and running from ground zero. Mostly I just want my food hot and palatable and free of other people’s hair, (blech) but darn it if Poppy Z. Brite hasn’t created two characters who’ve made me care…a lot. The writing in this book is so descriptive that I’d swear I gained five pounds, reading it. It makes me want to hop on a plane to New Orleans and eat my way around the city, because though this book isn’t really a romantic chronicling of Rickey and G-man relationship, it is very much a love affair with food and with the city and the people who live there.

The cut-throat ambition, superstitions, and stress that is the restaurant business are all lovingly detailed by an author who has firsthand experience there, and it shows in the ease with which Poppy Z. Brite draws you into the story. This may not be the most deeply plotted book I’ve ever read, (there’s a paranoid coke-head nemesis out to get Rickey) but it is one of the most genuine depictions of a partnership I’ve ever read. These men drink, smoke weed; they make mistakes with each other and go weeks at a time putting work and life ahead of their relationship; they aren’t cookie cutter characters and they charm with their authenticity and imperfections. Rickey and G-man are what make these books irresistible to me, and I love them in all their realism.

Buy Liquor at Amazon and other major Etailers.

Dreamspinner Press

The Cellmate by Rachel West

I haven’t read a lot of prison dramas—more than a couple, though, and The Cellmate is unlike any I’ve ever read before. If you’re looking for a raw, gritty, confrontational, in-your-face story filled with violence and non-con/dub-con sex, then skip this one because it’s not at all what you’re looking for.

The Cellmate is a lovely story; it’s gentle and romantic, which is the perfect fit for the characters. They’re both so young, and in spite of the fact that they’re convicted criminals, are also incredibly innocent, and I loved that contrast. Jesse is a victim, a victim of circumstance, a victim of betrayal; the only criminal act Jesse ever committed is being gay—according to his father.

But Andy is no victim. No, he really did commit a crime of sheer stupidity and is paying the price for that act. He’s exactly where he should be, but that doesn’t mean he shouldn’t be given a second chance. He knows he screwed up and is remorseful for his decision to get behind the wheel of a car, drunk. But remorse and regret don’t mean squat to the victim of his stupidity. Good people do bad things all the time, and Andy’s one of them.

This is a story of two young men who try to make the best of the hands they’ve been dealt, finding comfort in each other’s bodies in the dark that does nothing more than offer them the illusion of privacy, but it’s not long before that distant intimacy grows into something more. It’s not an easy journey by any means, though. Jesse is haunted by his past and it takes patience and no small amount of hurt for Andy to break through the barriers Jesse tries to build around himself. In the end, they both find redemption in each other and atonement for their actions and find that doing time may not have been an excuse for the crime—or for the sacrifice, in Jesse’s case—but the reward was well worth it in the end.

I’m a fan of Rachel West’s Everything Under the Sun and I connected just as well with her easy-going writing style and the open and honest emotion of her characters in this short but touching story.

This author hasn’t released anything new in a while; I hope that’ll change some day soon.

Buy The Cellmate HERE.

4 Stars, Poppy Z. Brite, Subterranean Press

The Value of X by Poppy Z. Brite

I think I’ve found a new obsession and their names are Rickey and G-Man. Actually, her name is Poppy Z. Brite, so yeah, she made me love these boys; I’ll give credit where credit is due, but Rickey and G-Man are the reason I’ll keep coming back for more until there is no more left to come back for.

The Value of X is the beginning of their story together, and it’s not an easy start. How can it be when neither of the boys is old enough to have any say-so in what goes on in their lives? They’ve been best friends since the fourth grade, but somewhere about the time their hormones kicked into “from zero to sixty in two-point-two seconds” gear, they come to the undeniable conclusion they wanted to be way more than besties, and their struggle to discover if the other felt the same was a big part of the draw for me.

It’s also at about that same time that Rickey’s and Gary’s parents, (their moms and Rickey’s dad, at least; Gary’s dad mostly just goes with the flow.) come to the conclusion their boys’ feelings for each other don’t fit into the find a nice girl, get married, and make babies blueprint, so they come up with a plan to keep the boys apart after high school graduation, thinking that distance will “cure” them of their feelings for each other. Go ahead and groan at this part; I did. The saddest thing about the plot, though, is that it almost worked, and that made my heart clench for the better part of the book.

Rickey’s love affair with food and plans for his future guarantee he’s going to go along with his parents’ plan to send him to culinary school in New York State, which is a hell of a long way from the Ninth Ward in New Orleans. For Rickey and Gary, it may as well have been in another galaxy far, far away. These boys are kids from families with no disposable income, which means no spontaneous trips home for Rickey during the school year. The story is set in the early ‘90s, so they don’t even have the luxury of cell phones and video messaging. They are as separated as two eighteen year old boys could’ve possibly been at that time, and the letters they write to each other become increasingly distant as well, until they cease altogether.

This book is filled with all the urgency and angst of first love, and the promises that are made with the innocent faith that those vows will be easy to keep. But the reality of it is that promises are easily made and sometimes are just as easily broken even though the intention was never there to do so. Rickey and Gary persevere, though, in spite of temptation, in spite of the drugs and alcohol they turn to, to cope with the hurt and anger and desperation they feel. One of the many things I love about these characters is that they are perfectly imperfect. They aren’t the stuff born of fantasy; they’re real and flawed. They don’t have six-pack abs or trendy clothes or look as though they belong on the cover of a magazine. They make mistakes and really questionable decisions, but they learn. The most important part is that they learn, in the end, what they truly mean to each other, so I’ll read on and see what’ll happen next for them. I’m looking forward to finding out.

*The Value of X can be found in hardcover from the major e-tailers. To purchase it in electronic format, it can be found in the book Second Line, which pairs it with the fifth book in the series.*

Andrea Speed, Riptide Publishing

Josh of the Damned Triple Feature #1 by Andrea Speed

I want to see this series animated. Can someone get right on that, please? Seriously, I don’t think I’ve ever read an Urban Fantasy that begs to be Manga-ized more than the Josh of the Damned series does. It’s like waking up on Saturday morning as a kid and getting to watch Scooby Doo, except without all that pesky pretend stuff. This is real world, people, and jinkies, it’s a far out and unusual place.

From sinister facial hair to Squidwardian sea beasties to the Queen Mother of all butt-kicking, snake-headed mythological she-monsters, Andrea Speed pulled out her trademark snark and poked at my fantasy-loving funny bone in these three short episodes.

But wait, there’s more: Colin the hot vampire is there, and Bobo the lovesick snow monster is there, and Gary, the foul-mouthed, bad-tempered Reverse Tooth Fairy is there too. This definitely ain’t Kansas, Dorothy, so don’t even go there. This is Oz in full and living colorful craziness, and I kinda wanna live there for awhile. Just until the Zombie Apocalypse, of course. Then I want to be far, far away.

Josh finds out some things about his boss, Mr. Kwon, and he finds out a thing or two about himself, too, which causes some doubts to arise over his relationship with Colin. Finding out that you’re kind of irresistible to the things that go bump in the night—irresistible like creature-crack to a strung out junkie monster—will tend to plant a few ideas into a guy’s head. Namely making you realize that the undead lover you jones for might be jonesing for you for no other reason than he can’t help himself. That right there would drive a stake into the heart of just about any romance—but never fear, fans; when the Quik-Mart corporate boys come to play, Colin and Bobo prove to Josh who his real fiends…err…friends are. And humans are safe for at least another day.

I’ll be tuning in and turning on because I’m very much ready and waiting for more madcap monster mayhem.

Buy Josh of the Damned Triple Feature #1 HERE.

Dreamspinner Press, M.J. O'Shea

Coming Home by M.J. O’Shea

Click Here To PurchaseBill Gates once said, “Be nice to nerds. Chances are you’ll end up working for one.” Someone also once said, Karma’s a bitch. That’s a good one too, because when Tallis Carrington returns to Rock Bay, Washington, humbled and lower than he’s ever been in his life, he stares a former nerd called Karma right in the face. It takes a while, though, for him to recognize that his own special brand of Karma is really called Lex Barry, and Lex? Oh yeah, Lex is staring right back at him.

It’s been said you can’t go home again, that once you leave behind the narrow view of the small world of your youth and set out to explore the big wide unknown, returning again to the place you came from is impossible. You can’t relive the past, nor can you change it, nor can you deny that you yourself have changed in significant ways. But sometimes being able to go back home again depends on why you left in the first place, and sometimes fate and circumstance leave you with no better option; then, really, the best you can do is to go back to the beginning and try to make a clean start, even if that means living with your grandma, facing the wrath of half the town, and being forced to prove that you’re not the same person you were when you left.

Tallis knows as well as anyone that he dug himself a deep enough ditch to try to climb out of. Being the mayor’s kid gave him some cache, and attempting to keep a secret that would’ve ruined him if anyone had ever discovered it put a lot of pressure on him to be someone he wasn’t or didn’t really want to be. Bullying, picking on the weak, degrading and humiliating one boy in particular, a boy Tallis tortured mercilessly for no better reason than he was a reminder of who Tallis truly was, was the way he hid and the way he led those who chose to follow him. But there’s also a saying that goes something like the bigger they come, the harder they fall, and when a scandal rocks the small town of Rock Bay, Tallis falls with a resounding thud, leaving town in disgrace.

Lex owns the café and sandwich shop where Tally goes to apply (read: beg) for a job, mostly because it looks like it’s going to be his last chance in a town full of people whose memories are long and unforgiving. Lex was the perpetual victim of Tallis’s cruelty, so when Lex’s nemesis walks into his shop looking every bit as beautiful as he was in high school—but doesn’t know who Lex is—all those humiliating memories come crowding back in to remind Lex of how miserable Tallis and his gang had made his life. But sexy Lex is his own form of revenge now and yeah, he tortures Tally in his very own way.

Coming Home is a sweet and sexy and angsty story of redemption and second chances and the difficulty of coming out and overcoming intolerance and a sordid past in a small town. Atoning for his mistakes and proving to the one and only person who truly matters that he’s not the person he once was—that, in fact, he was never really that person to begin with, but wore that façade like armor to protect himself from becoming the victim of the very cruelty he dished out—becomes a mission that Tally accomplishes until his past comes back to insinuate itself in the present and sends Lex into self-preservation mode and Tally back to square one.

Sometimes actions really do speak louder than words—it’s not what you say but how you say it that really matters when you’re trying to convince someone you truly do love them. Tally makes a pretty solid statement to argue in his favor, and I loved that Lex heard that message loud and clear.

Buy Coming Home HERE.

5 Stars, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Maria McCann

As Meat Loves Salt by Maria McCann

It’s said the opposite of love is not hate, nor is the opposite of hate love. The passion behind both emotions is too connected and too keen for them to be entirely contrary to each other. Crimes of passion, after all, have been committed in the name of both love and hate. Sometimes it’s difficult to detect a difference between the two.

No, the opposite of love and hate both is cold, cruel, and calculated indifference.

I am anything but indifferent toward this book.

I hate it with a passion that burns with the intensity of a thousand suns. I love this book with a passion that burns like a madness that has wormed its way into me and will never leave. Reading As Meat Loves Salt is a slow and subtle torture, like your skin is being flayed in small, barely discernible strips—until you reach the end and realize that you’re nothing but a raw nerve that’s been scoured by a story so gritty and seductive that it may very well ruin me for other books for some time to come.

As Meat Loves Salt is the sort of novel you read and it makes you realize how ridiculous it is to either rate or review it, because sometimes a book is so unparalleled there’s nothing to compare it to, nothing that you can use as a barometer against which to measure all you felt about it as you became absorbed by the words the author chose to tell the tale, words that were pure poetry and the writer’s postscript to a love affair with storytelling.

It is epic, from the gruesome opening to the forbidden obsession to the betrayal and eventual descent into madness; this is not a romance, nor is it a love story. It is a story of possession, of control, of dominance, of manipulation. It is the story of two men who misused the word love, when what they really meant was they wanted and needed each other with a fixation so overwhelming that it consumed them whole. It is a story of deception and a deceptive story, a study of virtue and vice, in which Patience, Wisdom, Grace, and Mercy are no more than mere humans, a story in which Courage and Providence stand shoulder to shoulder with Vanity and Shame, a book where Eternity is Hell not Paradise. There is no Eden, in the end, no Utopia where men and women will live as equals. In the end, there is only Sodom and Gomorrah and a pillar of salt to witness its destruction.

Too much salt will not preserve but spoil. Too much salt will not season but taint. “It seemed like wine and tobacco, I was delicious, but still not reckoned a necessity of life.” As oversalting is to meat, Jacob was to Christopher and Christopher was to Jacob—something that was so vast it set out to taint and spoil rather than to preserve.

I am lost to describe the beauty of this book. I reckon I’ll never read another like it again.

Buy As Meat Loves Salt HERE.

Josephine Myles, Samhain Publishing

Handle with Care by Josephine Myles

That which doesn’t kill us makes us stronger, but that which can kill us makes us reclusive, as crippled by our own fears and doubts and insecurities and guilt as by the physical limitations of a body that, after years of hedonism and neglect, is taking out its revenge on Benjamin Lethbridge.

It doesn’t seem fair, really, that after standing in as a surrogate father to his little sister, Zoe, Ben would finally start living for himself, living the sort of life his peers had always taken for granted; a life that, at the age of eighteen, Ben had set aside in order to assume the responsibility of keeping what was left of his family together, then to have it all come tumbling down around him in a haze of drugs and random sex and pretending to be someone he wasn’t that left his diabetes ravaged body in a state of steep decline. Now it’s the caretaker who’s in need of being taken care of. But no one has ever said that life is fair.

Renal failure is the price Ben paid; daily dialysis is the concession he’s making for the chance to live long enough for a kidney and pancreatic transplant. It’s a heavy debt to carry, knowing that in order for you to live, someone else has to die. But no one has ever said that life is fair.

Ben’s porn stash is the foundation for the little bit of promise he’s been able to mine from his situation. Or, rather, it’s the guy that delivers his porn who’s added that little bit of color to an otherwise dull and dreary picture. With his purple hair, piercings, tats, and knee melting smile, Ollie is the Manga-kitty-skaterboy who came swooping in, in his big yellow truck, sent by the parcel delivery gods to keep Ben in long supply of major fantasy material.

Ben’s the older man to Ollie’s twenty-year-old self, but it’s only Ben who’s hung up on the numbers. It’s lucky for Ben that Ollie’s into older men. It’s also lucky for Ben that he’s an X-Men fan and Ollie’s a comic book aficionado. It’s also lucky for Ben that Ollie’s the kind of guy that sees beyond the bloated stomach and the catheter tube and the awkwardness that has kept Ben from living out loud for so long. Whoever said life isn’t fair?

Handle with Care is the comical and clever and utterly charming story of two men who’re falling in love for the first time—not just being one half of a couple but being in a partnership—though the journey is all about the making of and making up for mistakes, until they finally get it right. Unfortunately all they have to go by is how not to do a relationship, and it’s hard to build something when what you have to work with is the raw materials of past sexual encounters and a relationship that clipped your wings before you learned that what you really wanted to do was to fly.

Ben learns to let go and to hang on, all at the same time, because it’s the sweet and lovable Ollie who shows him that it’s okay to be cautious, but it’s even better to take a chance on the something that promises to be kind of wonderful if Ben can only allow himself to fall and trust that Ollie is the one he wants to fall into.

Handle with Care is a “so nice, I read it twice” book, and it was every bit as sweet the second time around.

*Handle with Care will be available at Samhain Publishing on 4/24/12. Pre-order it HERE.

5 Stars, All Romance Ebooks, Small Gems, Taylor V. Donovan

Small Gems – Heatstroke by Taylor V. Donovan

Free Download Here

Sometimes a book sneaks up on me.

I’ll be reading along, things will be going well, maybe I’m feeling happy with the way the story is progressing; it’s flowing a bit slowly and that works because the pace fits the somber mood of the story that’s being told.

Then suddenly there’s that “lightbulb moment,” the exact moment when the story turns, where something is revealed, where a character says or does something that changes the entire momentum of the narrative. But sometimes that lightbulb moment doesn’t necessarily illuminate like a one-hundred watt bulb—sometimes it’s like a flash fire, like Icarus flying too close to the sun, and when it happens, I feel as if I’ve melted just a little bit inside.

And that’s exactly what happened with Heatstroke, the story of a teenage boy whose family’s deep, dark secrets not only robbed a boy of his father, but also robbed that father of everything in his life he’d once held dear.

This is a story of sacrifice, a story about a young man in the 1960s who had it all—fame, fortune, a meteoric career in show business—and love: the greatest of all his blessings was the love. But in the 1960s, a time when mere gossip and innuendo, a time when the slightest whisper of an inappropriate relationship could ruin a man, the love that Richard and Manny shared was a love that they could never allow to see the light of acknowledgment in public. And it was that secret, the surrendering of what was an all-consuming bond, and the discovery of that secret by a wife Richard didn’t love, that nearly destroyed two men’s lives, cost one his career and his child, and tore them apart.

Taylor V. Donovan tells this short but incredibly moving story through Michael Spencer, a grandson who never had the opportunity to know his grandfather but who comes to know him intimately through the journals the man kept over the span of a few short years. Michael learns about his true identity, learns he has a family history of which he was unaware, and comes to discover how very dear the cost was to his own father who’d paid a steep price for the lies of a woman whose hatred directed her every move.

Richard Bancroft is a larger than life character, though he never spends more than a few moments in the book. The words he wrote were his confession, his salvation, and ultimately, his damnation, but in the end, they also became his greatest comfort because they became the roadmap that would lead his son and grandson home to him again. They are the chronicling of a momentous and all consuming relationship with a man who would turn out to be the love of his life, though the life of that love was cut all too short by the threat it represented.

If you’re a believer that the truth is the light and that love will always find a way, give this FREE read a try. I’m absolutely glad I did.

FREE Download of Heatstroke HERE.

Dreamspinner Press, Lee James

Small Gems – A Crack in Time by Lee James

I was only five years old in 1970, so my memories of that time have more to do with kindergarten than Kent State, but that doesn’t mean I don’t recall bits and pieces of the era, absorbed through the thoughts and feelings and actions of a seventeen-year-old sister who, for a very long time, regretted not being at Woodstock and wanted nothing more than to move to California and live on a beach somewhere.

It was the post Helter Skelter time, when the jungles of Vietnam became the platform for a new era of protest for an entire generation of youth, and “make love, not war” was their campaign slogan. It was the dawning of the Age of Aquarius, flower power, the era of free love…but only to a certain extent. In 1970, free love wasn’t yet entirely liberated.

Eighteen-year-old Micha Dahl knew that as well as anyone, living in Middle-of-Nowhere, Montana (not exactly the hotbed of liberal thinking) and working as a waiter at the Longhorn Café. Micha had a plan: work, save money for college, and avoid the draft on a student deferment. Simple plan, really, but life doesn’t much care for simple plans, especially if your number comes up before you have a chance to carry them out. But sometimes irony has a way of twisting things around and making you grateful for the oddest things.

Meeting Second Lieutenant Trent Valiston and beginning a nearly two year affair with a married man certainly wasn’t part of Micha’s original plan. Losing touch with Trent for forty years wasn’t part of the plan either. But life doesn’t much care for plans, simple or otherwise, does it?

A Crack in Time is a memory, a recollection of a few significant events in one man’s life that imprinted on his mind and on his heart and might have helped to shape his years in ways that wouldn’t have been possible had they never happened. For Micha, 1970 was the age of discovery, as he embarked upon his own sexual revolution and erotic liberation. There is a beautiful realism to this short story—that people walk into and out of our lives, and that at the age of eighteen, sometimes what feels as though it could last forever will eventually become a mere footnote within a small yet significant chapter of the whole of a life story.

There is a sense of melancholy to this narrative that makes it a perfect addition to DSP’s Bittersweet Dreams collection. As the decades accumulate behind us, as we spend more time recalling images and events from the past, those memories become the hallmark of a journey that changes course with each new experience. For Micha and Trent, their paths eventually again crossed, but not in a happily-ever-after sort of way. That doesn’t mean, however, that their feelings for each other were diminished in any way. It simply means that sometimes life gets in the way of the order of things.

Buy A Crack in Time HERE.

J.M. Snyder, JMS Books LLC

The V in Virtue & The V in Vulnerable by J.M. Snyder

So, it’s really no big secret that I find Matty diLorenzo and his big, burly lover Vic Braunson utterly shmooptastic. In “me-speak” that means their relationship is like a milk chocolate outside with a sweet, creamy, marshmallowy center, and I just want to curl up under a blanket and gorge myself on them because, really, it makes me happy. Yes, they are the Mallomars of my fictional romance—gooey and delicious and I just want to eat them up.

The five books in J.M. Snyder’s V series, which is an offshoot of the Powers of Love series, are slice-of-life vignettes that not only focus on each of the strange superpowers Vic inherits every time he and Matt make love, but also focus on the everyday things this couple, like any couple, might consider—everything from the decision to get a pet to confirming their bond by making a formal commitment to each other.

Book four, The V in Virtue, and book 5, The V in Vulnerable, follow the boys through an agonizingly long and celibate week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, then goes straight into a robbery at gunpoint that sends Vic to the rescue.

At some point along the way in their relationship, Matt decided it would be a good idea to abstain from sex for the week between the holidays, then to celebrate at the stroke of midnight on December 31 by making love, in honor of the anniversary of his and Vic’s first time together. Oh, it has all the earmarks of a truly romantic gesture—until roughly day three of no sex, at which point it starts to feel a whole lot more like Hell Week than the holidays. But, of course, the wait ends up being more than worth it, even if midnight finds them at a party at Roxie’s place and Vic has to use his super-strength to guarantee them a little bit of privacy so they can ring in the New Year in their own way.

The series has been a sweet and shiny lead up to the “with this ring” portion of the program, and finally Matt settles on the perfect time and place in which to find the tokens that will symbolize and announce to the world their bond with each other. Unfortunately, some would-be robbers also settle on the exact time and jewelry store that Matty does, and a hostage situation quickly sucks all the fun right out of ring shopping. Well, that and the fact that Roxie also invited herself along on the excursion.

A phone call from Officer Kendra, Vic’s friend on the Richmond police force, alerts Vic that Matty’s car is parked outside of the jewelry story where all the action is going down, and Vic rushes to the rescue in his city bus, using his latest superpower—the ability to create mirror images of himself—to thwart the criminals and collect his reward from his lover: the perfect ring and a solemn vow to love each other forever.

I’m not sure if book five is the final book in the V series, because the end felt very much like a ceremony of two, a communion between the only two people who really matter, but that doesn’t mean I still wouldn’t like to see the Full Monty, with Roxie and Kendra playing “best men” to these two lovable grooms.

Buy the V series HERE.

4.5 Stars, Dreamspinner Press, K.Z. Snow

A Hole in God’s Pocket by K.Z. Snow

Faron Weaver and Greg Aubuchon are on sabbatical from the lives they knew growing up, from the religion that taught them there was no place for them and those like them. They’re living in plain sight of their God, attempting to contain and translate and find purpose within His plan while, at the same time, trying to find a place in the grand scheme of a life that leaves them feeling as though they’ve fallen through a noose, which leaves them hanging somewhere in the limbo between sin and salvation. They are two men, each within the inner circle of a system that has insulated them from the secular world both in belief and in practice; both are living sparely alongside the fringes of an extravagant world. They’re two men who are living in the shadows while trying desperately to find their place in the sun.

Faron is the man who has mortgaged himself, body and soul, for a place to live in the English world while he decides if there’s a viable option for him outside the Amish culture in which he’d grown up. He’s not opposed to using the men he meets, not only to fulfill his physical desires but also to provide a roof over his head and put food in his belly in exchange for the sex he’s more than willing to use as collateral to buy himself more time away from his family.

Greg is the man who’s preserved himself, body and soul, for a place to live in the English world while he decides if there’s a viable option for him within the godly world in which the desires of the flesh have no place. He is the Good Samaritan who sees a man in a bar one night, broken and lost, and takes him in because his compassionate nature doesn’t leave room for him to do anything else.

A displaced Amish man and a displaced Catholic monk both struggle to find a new place in the world where the perceived stain of their desires can’t eclipse the belief that there’s a place for them within that faith and that they haven’t been misplaced but have merely found a new seat at God’s table.

A Hole in God’s Pocket is a story of divine intervention, if that divinity can be defined by the miracle of finding someone so like yet unalike you, then falling in love with that person in spite of all the doubts and indecision that seem bent upon keeping you apart. It’s a subtle and introspective story, a story of self-reflection for two young men who have so much to look forward to, if only they can move beyond the past and the ingrained belief that who they are works in direct opposition to that divine plan.

K.Z. Snow treats the subject matter in an understated way, never proselytizing but simply stating the belief that there is a perfect plan for love within an imperfect world, when it is driven by the belief there is a place for everyone in that plan.

The relationship between Faron and Greg builds slowly and sedately; there are no lightning quick burst of uncontained passion between them, but, rather, theirs is a slow discovery that they’re each who the other has been searching for and that what they’ve found is worth whatever sacrifice they have to make in order to hang on to it. They are the juxtaposition of the spiritual and physical relationship of love and what it means to belong somewhere and to someone despite what man’s self-imposed moral authority attempts to dictate.

If you’ve considered reading this book based solely upon the beauty of its title, know that what lies behind the title is every bit as beautiful.

Buy A Hole in God’s Pocket HERE.

Eden Winters, JMS Books LLC, Small Gems

Small Gems – Same Time Next Year by Eden Winters

There is love that lasts a lifetime. There are lifetimes that are defined and punctuated by love. It’s a gift, though it’s both a beauty and a burden when the string that measures the months and years of one life is cut short by the Fates, all too soon.

Same Time Next Year is the bittersweet tale of two men, best friends as children, best friends and lovers once they were old enough to realize their feelings had evolved into a desire to be everything to each other. They found that sometimes all too rare blessing of a soul mate, the one and only person whose mere presence is the thing that gives meaning to and makes tangible the difference between loving someone and being consumed by a love that defies even death, that transcends the boundaries of the earthly plane and enters the spiritual.

Eden Winters makes it possible to live a lifetime in a mere thirty-two pages of story, not in the detailing of each of Greg’s and Jerome’s years, but in the showing that time is fleeting and that we are merely the borrowers, using it for as long as it’s allotted to us before we make the journey to the place where it is measured infinitely.

And yes, I cried like a baby. It was wonderful.

Buy Same Time Next Year HERE.

Itineris Press (DSP), Laura Lee

Angel by Laura Lee

If you ask one man why he climbed a mountain, he may simply answer, “Because it was there.” Ask another man why he climbed the same mountain, however, and he may tell you that it was a spiritual journey, a personal challenge, an ascension toward heaven that, as he reached the summit of that mountain, made him feel as though he might reach out and touch the face of his God.

Laura Lee’s Angel is a bit like a journey up a mountain, at once daunting yet supremely beautiful. It is the story of a man whose faith in his God is challenged but is never truly broken, and in the end, it isn’t he who gives up on his faith but his faith that gives up on him.

Paul Tolbit is a Christian minister at Hope Church, a church like many others seeking ways to increase its bottom line by increasing the number of souls it attracts on any given Sunday morning. There is a business side to salvation, after all, and it’s Paul’s job as the shepherd of the church to increase his flock in order to increase the church’s income. There’s only one problem with that task: since his wife Sara passed away from cancer six years earlier, Paul has been having trouble finding the inspiration he needs to deliver God’s message in a way that will draw new members to the pews, let alone keep his current membership coming back. It’s not a crisis of faith but a crisis of apathy that has Paul in its grip.

In the eyes of God and the church, Paul and Sara had formed the perfect union. They were the ideal marriage of man and woman, the holy symbol of what the Bible meant when it said, “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” Theirs was a partnership that strengthened the church because its members were strengthened and inspired by them. When Sara died, she took with her a part of Paul himself. He lost the love of his life and the love for life that he’d once embraced so thoroughly through his faith.

They say God answers every prayer—His answer simply may not always be the one you were seeking. It was at a particularly low point that Paul wished for a spark of inspiration, not anything so miraculous as an angel to whisper in his ear, but something that would make him feel as though God were at least somewhere nearby and could give Paul the strength he needed. But the answer to this particular prayer came in the form of someone Paul could never have possibly imagined.

Ian Finnerty is definitely no angel, though he appears as one when Paul first lays eyes on him. Ian is both the point and counterpoint to what is considered to be virtuous; an alcoholic with a history of nameless and random sexual encounters; he is both beautiful and stained, kind and generous but broken in body and in spirit, and he becomes Paul’s inspiration—the young man to whom Paul can offer salvation, the young man who will become the lightening strike in the building storm of Paul’s relationship between himself and his religion.

The bond between Paul and Ian is an evolution, a personal and private benediction and a communion of souls. How can Paul, a lifelong heterosexual, suddenly find himself sexually attracted to a man, any man, let alone a man eighteen years his junior whose life has been nothing short of a sin in the eyes of the church? We’re all supposedly created in God’s image and have been offered the gift of free will, which means we have been gifted with choices, so Paul chooses to love the sinner, not the sin. Love is merely one of God’s mysteries that precludes labels and defies explanation, so with maybe a little bit more than a savior complex propelling Paul toward Ian, he invites the young man into his life, completely, fully unrepentant of the deep love that grows between them, though Ian’s past and Paul’s struggle to acclimate to the jealousy it inspires causes more than its share of friction in their relationship.

Reading Angel is, in a way, like reading two separate books that have been woven together into a single story. It’s both a beautiful and tragic romance as well as a treatise on the church’s position on homosexuality and the hypocrisy that lies within that position, which clearly straddles both sides of the fence: the church will not discriminate against a man or woman on the basis of sexuality, but neither will it acknowledge or sanctify a union between a same sex couple. The church will welcome everyone through its doors, with open arms, but the minister of that church is excluded from the right to welcome whomever he chooses into his life, is forbidden the right to love whomever he chooses.

The love Paul and Ian shared was indeed akin to climbing a mountain—a test of strength and endurance and faith, and a challenge which they ultimately failed because Paul failed to protect their love from the clutches of those who believed it was their business to protect the church from the love the two men felt for each other. Paul and Ian reached the summit of their mountain together but after all the missteps and fights, after the hiding and denial, the only place for them to go from there was downhill, and it was Ian who tumbled first because he was the one who’d been placed upon an impossibly high pedestal. Simply put, the Ian that Paul had objectified was not always the Ian who actually existed in the reality of human frailties and faults, and that was a terrible burden to bear at times.

It’s impossible to read this book and not bring personal beliefs and biases into it. Your own personal mythology might weigh either favorably or unfavorably into what Laura Lee has to say. Angel is a book that’s contemplative and provocative, a work of true literary fiction in its purest form that explores the thoughts and feelings of a man who understood the pattern of his life had been cut and sewn by the single thread of his faith, but then came to discover that that pattern would change forever when his thread became entangled with the strands of someone who didn’t conform to a specific design.

Make no mistake that this is a bittersweet story and it does not end in a happily-ever-after. I wish I’d known and had a few tissues handy when I fell back down the mountain with Paul and Ian, but both the climb and the descent were very well worth it.

Buy Angel HERE.

Miho Li, Siren Publishing

FMB Blog Tours Presents: Incognito by Miho Li – Leave A Comment For Your Chance To Win A Free Copy Of Miho’s Book!

This tour is being presented by FMB Blog Tours

Book Title: Incognito
Author: Miho Li
Genre: Contemporary, Erotica, Male/Male
Words: 25,377

Book Description:

“When Ren sees the new transfer student—Shin, black hair, storm-cloud-gray eyes, and more beautiful than any guy had a right to be—he makes it his mission to get to know him. Too bad Shin is about as sociable as fungus, and about as likable, too. But Ren isn’t good at giving up, so he takes on the challenge of cracking Shin’s titanium shell. What he finds underneath, though, is way more than he’s prepared to handle.

People are disappearing in Akita, and Shin might be behind it. As Ren’s feelings grow for the reserved man, so do the number of missing person reports, and Ren doesn’t know if their budding relationship is enough to withstand both the well of secrets and the organization Shin works for.”

Purchase: http://www.bookstrand.com/incognito


There was a heavy sigh and then, “Ren, just go talk to him already.”

Ren’s gaze snapped back to his friends. He flicked shaggy blond hair out of his eye and said, “What?”

“Shin,” Hideyoshi said, making vague hand gestures at the student Ren had been ogling.

Shin had settled in the grass beside a tree and was propping a book open in his lap. Messy strands of black hair fell across his pale cheeks, and he brushed it back with fingers that were surprisingly elegant for a guy.

“Go talk to him.”

Shin Sarutobi was a newly transferred junior, and despite sharing several classes, Ren had yet to find the right opportunity to talk to him. Not because he was intimidated but because Shin treated everyone around him, professors and students alike, with what barely qualified as cool indifference. He spoke in class when necessary but otherwise remained removed from everyone else and, from what Ren could tell, preferred it that way.

The exception was Kyouya Tsutano. Kyouya had transferred in about a month before Shin. It had been a big deal, what with his family being corporate millionaires. Rumor had it Kyouya’s dad died recently, and he had returned to Akita to live with his uncle.

From the start, Kyouya and Shin had a volatile relationship—they always looked pissed just being near each other. Except Ren had overheard them arrange meetings, and Kyouya remained the only person to date Shin spoke with on a regular basis.

Naturally, Ren assumed they were sleeping together. He entertained the theory that Shin and Kyouya were trapped in an unhealthy relationship based on angry but mind-blowing sex.

He chose not to share this theory with his friends.

In any case, the fact remained that Shin was a jerk. A gorgeous jerk with ink-black hair, intense gray eyes, and long legs that made him one of the few students taller than Ren, but a jerk nonetheless. Ren watched as a line formed between Shin’s brows, and he glanced in the direction Kyouya had gone with a sour twist of his lips.

Shin was also a jerk in dire need of an intervention.

Ren nodded decisively. “I’m going to talk to him.”

Hideyoshi gave him a flat look before apparently deciding against voicing what he was thinking. Ren ignored him and crossed the lawn with purposeful strides toward Shin.

With blond hair and blue eyes thanks to his European half, Ren wasn’t used to making the first move. Shin, however, was definitely worth the exception.

“Hi,” Ren said. He didn’t believe in pick-up lines.

Shin didn’t acknowledge the greeting.

Ren cleared his throat, undeterred. “Your friend looked pissed.”

Shin’s gaze lifted, passing dismissively over Ren’s smiling face before returning to his book.
“Uh…your boyfriend?” Ren said, hedging for a response.

Without lowering his book, Shin turned his head and looked up at Ren with ill-concealed impatience. “Did you want something?”

Ren considered this. “Should I answer that honestly?” Because there were a great many things that Ren wanted, including but not limited to Shin spread out on his bed in nothing but a silk ribbon.

Maybe it was best not to be quite so forthcoming yet.

About the Author:

Miho grew up on horror, fantasy, and romance novels (although she hid the romance novels, considering she probably shouldn’t have been reading them at eleven years old). She started writing horror first, but these days, her work features more boys kissing boys than heads exploding, which everyone agrees is an improvement. She has a love of all things fantastical, and her favorite romances are the ones that don’t happen easily. Reading or writing about characters overcoming adversity in order to reach their happy endings, whether that’s together or not, is what fuels her love of the written word.

Find Miho at:

Her blog: http://miho-li.blogspot.com

Twitter: twitter.com/miho_li


***Deadline for giveaway entries is 11:59pm PST on April 6, 2012***