JL Merrow, JMS Books LLC, Small Gems

Small Gems – Light the Fire by JL Merrow

Happiness is a warm puppy. – Charles M. Schulz

Though for Kurt, that puppy is about as welcome as a raging case of jock itch when Matt, an overly enthusiastic guy at the gym—who can’t seem to take the hint that Kurt is intensely(!) uninterested in the attention—comes along and makes Kurt begin to think thoughts he hadn’t allowed himself to think in even his wildest thoughts in a very long time.

Light the Fire is the seamless combination of a touching struggle to survive the loss of a lover, and the charming story of a man whose unadulterated and infectious joy becomes a light that draws Kurt out of the darkness of his grief. It’s the story of a man who learns that strength isn’t always measured by the bulk of the physique but in the intent of the heart and the size of the will. It is a story that reawakens the love of home and hearth, and I smiled a smile of deep affection for it. I may have sighed a little too.

In the usual (for me) JL Merrow fashion, Light the Fire left me wishing for much, much more of the story. Matt was delightful, Kurt was in need, and Matt quickly became the sun Kurt needed to rekindle a love for life. This one is quite short but I thought well worth the read.

Buy Light the Fire here:

Jordan L. Hawk, Self-Published

In Which I say, “Ew!” And, “Blech!” But In A Good Way! – Hainted by Jordan L. Hawk

Something coming back from the dead was almost always bad news. – David Wong


Well, if I didn’t know it before, I know it now. Jordan L. Hawk has definitely taught me that dead things just need to go ahead and stay dead, dammit. This book made me channel my inner Haley Joel Osment, “I see dead people”, now just let me go to sleep without seeing boogie men when I close my eyes, thank you ever so much.

Just like Widdershins, Hainted once again offers a healthy dose of mythology and the macabre, though this time it’s in a contemporary rural North Carolina setting, where Dan Miller, resident Walker, has given up carrying on his ancestral legacy in favor of being a full-time surrogate father figure to his brother and sister, Virgil and Bea, following their parents’ untimely deaths. It’s a circumstance, though, that was destined to change sooner or later, because we all know better than to think a man’s destiny gives a rat’s furry arse about his good intentions, don’t we?

Dan becomes an unlikely accomplice to the new stranger in town, a beautiful and edgy and enigmatic man who shows up on the doorstep of Hoary Oak Hill Farm looking for Simone Miller, Dan’s mother. Leif Helsvin needs some serious help; no, actually, he needs a freaking miracle, but since help is the best he can hope for, hope will have to do. It’s the only prayer he has of catching and killing a mad man bent on raising the dead and creating his own special brand of hell on earth, an army of reanimated corpses entirely under his control. It is a nightmare of epic proportions and it’s up to Dan and Leif, and Dan’s friend and fellow Walker, Taryn, to protect the living from this megalomaniacal plot.

Two men, one who has given up on the idea of a relationship because he is now bound to a hometown to which he’d sworn never to return; the other, a man for whom the idea of a relationship is an entirely foreign concept because relationships mean intimacy and intimacy means attachments and attachments mean the possibility of spilling all the horrific secrets in his past, form an alliance and find a way to fall in love amidst the threat of what amounts to a zombie apocalypse waged by a man to whom Leif is regretfully attached. Both men carry their share of burdens and they can either help each other lighten the loads they bear, or they can both be crushed under the weight of their respective pasts. Their choices could mean the difference between success and failure, and the fate of humankind will hang in the balance, if complete trust is not something they’re willing to risk.

Yeah, zombies. Go ahead and say “Ick” because the walking dead are super-icky, and Jordan L. Hawk writes in such perfect imagery that there’s no mistaking your imagination has plenty to work with. If I never see the word “ichor” again, it’ll be too soon. ::shivers:: See? Even that word has the “ick” sound in it, and there’s plenty of it to go around as these manipulators of the physical and practitioners of the metaphysical play at creating and controlling chaos.

This book was another big score for me. It was a great blend of the supernatural and the gruesome, and the perfect harmonizing of a tenuous love story set against a climate of the impossible and the improbable and, ultimately, in the end, one blessed by the divine, though there was plenty of deception and betrayal and fear and danger to overcome first.

Anyone who’s read this book and thinks there ought to be a sequel, raise your hand. ::raises hand:: Uh-huh, count me in.

You can buy Hainted here:

Be sure to stay tuned, because Jordan L. Hawk is coming up next week with a new release, answers to some questions—both serious and not so much—as well as the chance for one lucky reader to win a copy of Widdershins: Book One in the Whyborne & Griffin series!

JMS Books LLC, Paul Alan Fahey

Bomber’s Moon by Paul Alan Fahey

Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves, that if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, “This was their finest hour.” – Winston Churchill

World War II London was a place of suffering and sacrifice, a place where the strength and character of Great Britain was not exemplified only by those who fought on the front lines but also by those who remained in the city to fight the good fight, to stand strong and to be the backbone of a country, and it is in this place that Leslie Atwater is sifting through the dust and ashes of a life lost to the most brutal and unforgiving of enemies—Death.

A tragic accident robbed Leslie of a life kept secret by necessity but made rich by the love he shared with Edward Bridger. It was while Edward was on an assignment for The Globe that he lost control of his car, and it was at that moment that Leslie’s life went up in flames. But as much as it may have brought an untimely end to Leslie and Edward’s romance, this is far from the end of their story.

A quite strength, unarguable courage, collective sacrifice, and a clear and present danger was a way of life for the British during the Blitz. It was time of blackouts and rations and nightly air raids, when at any moment homes might be razed, neighbors and loved ones might be lost. It was a time when Wardens shepherded their flocks into underground strongholds with little more than a hope and a prayer that it would be enough to see them through. Not only has Paul Alan Fahey captured the mood and atmosphere of this time in history in Bomber’s Moon, but has also woven around it a story of intrigue and espionage and treasonous acts in which the cowardly choose sides, but only when they believe they can choose the winning one.

Just when I thought I had the plot figured out, the author threw in a lovely twist that took the story from a game of clues to one of discovery and deception and danger for Leslie. It’s a story of keeping your friends close and your enemies closer. The problem with that, however, is that in wartime, it’s sometimes difficult to tell the difference between the two.

Bomber’s Moon is the story of a romance that refused to perish in one of the most unromantic times in modern history, and is one I enjoyed very much.

You can buy Bomber’s Moon here:

Jordan L. Hawk, Self-Published

In Which I Fangirl-Squee Like This Book Is Made Of Biebs – Widdershins (Whyborne & Griffin, Book #1) by Jordan L. Hawk

He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster. – Friedrich Nietzsche

ACK! And GAH! I’m really feeling a psychotically unhealthy kind of love for this book, peeps.

Widdershins (Whyborne & Griffin, Book #1 ) is part Historical, part Horror, part Egyptian Mythology, part Fantasy, part Alchemy, part Thriller, part Arcane Grimoire paying homage to an ancient and evil Magick. And it’s one-hundred-percent romantic too; if, that is, you find the story of two men living in a time in history when their attraction was a crime but they found a perfect love in an imperfect world anyway, romantic. It made my wee heart go pitty-pat, and I’m not even ashamed to say it out loud and proud.

This is the story of Dr. Percival Whyborne, scholar of dead languages and comparative philologist at the Nathaniel R. Ladysmith museum in Widdershins, Massachusetts, a place whose name and inscrutable history invite the strange and unusual events destined to befall its labyrinthine streets.

Dr. Whyborne is the sort of man for whom keeping a low profile at his job is as imperative as it is for him to hide his basest and most personal desires from the rest of the world. A life altering event in his youth coupled with a more than strained relationship with his father and bullying brother have fashioned Whyborne, in a most distressing way, into a socially awkward and nearly reclusive man whose confidence in himself and his value as a good and decent person of incomparable worth, is non-existent. But, as the fates don’t often care much for a mortal man’s wants, the practitioners and perpetrators of the macabre and the mystical are there in Widdershins to ensure Whyborne will find no refuge from their violation of the laws of life and death, when he is assigned the duty of translating the grimoire of a dead man, a book composed of secrets and alchemy and the sort of dark power that is a hymn to the gods of anarchy.

Griffin Flaherty is the ex-Pinkerton agent, now private detective, who has been hired to get to the bottom of the secrets contained in the book. He and Whyborne, along with Whyborne’s colleague Dr. Christine Putnam, uncover the truth in what ought to be humanly and humanely impossible, in what, for centuries, drove men of science to their laboratories to attempt to create the elixir of life and find the secret to immortality. And it drives Griffin, Whyborne, and Christine straight into the bowels of a ghoulish and ghastly hell.

This is a story of murder and monsters and mayhem, of power madness and the manipulation of the natural law of things. It is a story of death and resurrection, and a story of the resurrection of the lives of two men whose pasts might have buried them in pain and shame were it not for their inherent dignity and goodness. It is thrilling and suspenseful and unique and in amongst all the action and mystery and danger, there is a lovely story of two men falling in love against all the odds.

Widdershins is brilliant and eloquent. It’s the sort of book that makes me gush like a fangirl on steroids, and celebrate my love of reading. Jordan L. Hawk’s skillful prose and abundant imagination have come together to tell a story that couldn’t have been more perfect if it’d tried. It was an amalgamation of everything I love, from the artful wordsmithing to the world building to the richly drawn cast of players who each portrayed their parts to the utmost benefit of the telling of this story. I was consumed and invested from start to finish, and that alone has propelled the author straight onto my auto-buy list.

Buy Widdershins (Whyborne & Griffin, Book #1) here:

Loose Id, M.J. O'Shea, Piper Vaughn

Moonstruck (Lucky Moon #3) by Piper Vaughn and M.J. O’Shea

The road to true love is awash in the tears of the brokenhearted. – Unknown

Aw. Just…aw. If you’ve been following the Lucky Moon series, at all, then you’re pretty familiar with the formula: a healthy dose of lust plus a dash of conflict equals the recipe for true love. It’s a formula that’s worked for me since the moment I met Shane and Jesse. It’s a formula that’s continued to work for me with Nicky and Luka, and now Surya Patel and Emmanuel Cortez have earned their rightful place among this angsty crew of musicians and the men they love in Moonstruck.

There was nothing easy about Sur and Em’s romance, one that started with sex and running away, moved on to more sex and more running away, gave rise to a need that moved on to friendship and a love that became a heartbreaking study in even more running away and avoiding issues and coming out and living with the unbearable silence of fear and hurt and misunderstanding. If there were any two people who needed a manual on Relationships and Communication 101, it’d be these two guys. For them, silence is its own form of communication, and theirs fairly screams with the pain of their mistakes. They were the perfect examples of how sometimes very intelligent people do not so smart things, of how we all know what we should do but often don’t because pain and pride wreak havoc on common sense, and that while there’s no right or wrong way for a person to feel, there is most definitely a right or wrong way to act on and react to those feelings. But nobody’s perfect and what counts is that, in the end, you’re willing to keep saying you’re sorry until it becomes the indisputable and unavoidable truth.

I think one of the most difficult things about a series like this, where each book features a different couple, is probably the natural tendency to make comparisons between those couples and the sharing of their romantic ups and downs. I’m likely one of the few people who preferred Shane and Jesse’s story to Nicky and Luka’s, though I loved them both. I loved Sur and Em’s story too, but Shane and Jesse still remain the couple against whom I’ll compare all the rest, and that being the case, none have quite compared so far, but they’ve both come so very close, close enough that I’d definitely say if you’re a fan of this series, add this one to the TBR pile.

Buy Moonstruck here:

J.M. Snyder, JMS Books LLC, Small Gems

Quintessential by J.M. Snyder

A computer is like an Old Testament god, with lots of rules and no mercy. – Joseph Campbell

Jerry is an old dog, and Quin is the guy who’s going to try to teach him some new tricks in J.M. Snyder’s Quintessential, a story in which the porn’s the thing that will capture the conscience of a man who has no interest whatsoever in learning how to use a new operating system, especially when the one he’s always used is just fine, thank you very much.

Quin is the quintessential IT geek who responds to Jerry’s call for help, but that help ends up turning into some sizzling sex and a little true confession between the two men—it seems that sneaky little Quin had some ulterior motives where Jerry was concerned, and it’s Jerry who’s reaping the benefits.

It was an apple Eve used to tempt Adam in the Garden of Eden. It’s an Apple that Quin uses to tempt Jerry, too, just not that of the fruity variety. You don’t bite this Apple; no, this Apple has bytes and Quin uses it to his fullest advantage.

If you’re in the mood for a little titillation and flirty banter, for a quick taste of some system software seduction and don’t mind when your men getting it on quickly, then this short and erotic story ought to fit the bill.

Buy Quintessential here:

F. Gordon Scott, JMS Books LLC

Farewell Jake Fisher by F. Gordon Scott

The world needs more love at first sight – Maggie Stiefvater

Jack Fisher is singlehandedly upping the love-at-first-site quota in Farewell Jake Fisher, the story of a man whose life changes for the better after a series of coincidental encounters at his local Meijer Superstore finds him longing for a man with a physical affliction who needs very much to be loved.

Tom’s on-the-job injury, a career ending injury, has left him with the bitter aftertaste of the loss of not only his ability to dance but also the loss of his mobility, which makes him the occasional target of sympathy and even, perhaps, pity. Until Jack, that is, who shows Tom nothing but the heart he wears on his sleeve and the promise of something more in which to invest. Jack’s persistence gives Tom a future, as well as the opportunity to discover talents he’d never have known he had, were it not for the chance meeting that engendered a dream.

I’m not a reader who typically gets caught up in the showing versus telling debate, though my personal preference, if there’s a tip one way or the other, is always going to be in favor of the showing. For me, Farewell Jake Fisher was slightly too one-sided in the telling—long on Jack’s narration and short on the dialogue between the characters and the building of a relationship that I might’ve been more invested in had I been given the opportunity to get to know more about Tom. No offense at all to Jack, but I think Tom could have added some interest to the story if he’d had the chance to emerge as more than just the object of Jack’s attention.

Having said that, however, what’s offered is a sweet confection of a narrative that had somewhat of an autobiographical feel to it, and I did like what I was given.

Buy Farewell Jake Fisher here:

N.R. Walker, Silver Publishing


N.R. Walker’s new release, Blind Faith is due January 26th from Silver Press. I’ve been giving this one the hairy eyeball of intense interest, let me tell you! I’ve never read anything by this author before, but I’m a sucker for a romance with a character who has a disability, because really, what is sweeter and more redeeming than someone who has more than his share of challenges to face and overcome finding the love of a lifetime? It melts my wee little heart, it does.

Silver is running a contest for the chance to win a copy of Blind Faith, so if you’re interested, click on the cover image and head on over there to enter. But hurry! The contest ends at 11:59pm on January 25th! Good luck!

Click Here To Enter!

Here’s the blurb:

Veterinarian Carter Reece, makes a house call to a very special client. Isaac Brannigan’s partnership with his new guide dog, Brady, isn’t going well. Carter tries to help both through this initiation phase, but just who is leading whom?

Starting a new job in a new town, veterinarian Carter Reece, makes a house call to a very special client.

Arrogant, moody and totally gorgeous, Isaac Brannigan has been blind since he was eight. After the death of his guide dog and best friend, Rosie, his partnership with his new guide dog, Brady, isn’t going well.

Carter tries to help both man and canine through this initiation phase, but just who is leading whom?

Casey K. Cox, Self-Published

In Which The Flippity-Floppity Makes Me Ask, “What The Hell?” – The Rise of Alec Caldwell: Volume Three by Casey K. Cox

I’m not confused, I’m just well mixed. – Robert Frost

No, I’m confused, and clearly, so is Alec Caldwell. Seriously flummoxed. A person has to be to use the word flummoxed, right? I was going to go with the whole discombobulated thing too, but I didn’t want to get too carried away. But, come on! This book made me start humming that Britney Spears song “Toxic”—I’m addicted to you/Don’t you know that you’re toxic? Britney…Spears. My apologies to everyone who loves Brit-Brit, but WTF? Just, yikes.

Yes, the fecal matter hit the fan blades in this installment of Alec Caldwell’s flippity-floppity-think-one-thing-then-do-another-contradictory-change-his-mind-so-damn-fast-he-gave-me-whiplash life. This book was like a doctoral thesis on why an open relationship won’t work for Alec and Hamilton, and it seemed to prove its point rather well. Can you really have your cake and eat it too? It doesn’t seem like it, especially if it makes you start smacking your cake around a little bit because you’re jealous that other people get to take a poke at its creamy middle. Does that even make sense? I doubt it. Don’t blame me, I’m still flummoxed.

So, please excuse me while I state the obvious here: there’s a difference between love and obsession. Well, duh, you say, but I honestly am not sure if Alec, or Hamilton, for that matter, knows the difference between the two. They say absence is supposed to make the heart grow fonder, not make it wonder what it’s missing somewhere else. Plain and simple, the mere possibility of being in a monogamous relationship shouldn’t make you faint. And that is why, dear Alec, I believe you’re in love with… not Hamilton. You’re infatuated, you’re definitely in lust, certainly addicted to the boinkery, but true, grown-up love? I sniff skeptically at that. ::sniff:: I’m not saying who I think Alec’s truly in love with, but if you read the book, you’ll probably know exactly who I mean. Then again, I could be way off base because Alec is nothing if not consistent in his inconsistency.

And then there’s that damn Club…

Engineer Casey K. Cox has steered this choo-choo straight to Dysfunction Junction, with a slight detour at Manic Switch, where the most well-adjusted character of the bunch seems to be Bradley, who considers himself a whore and is just damned happy to be so. Go Bradley!

I confess I had a very difficult time remaining engaged in this episode of the porn-opera known as The Rise of Alec Caldwell, mostly because I’m not feeling particularly warm and/or fuzzy toward Alec and/or Hamilton just now. If you’re an emotional reader, you might feel like I did through the entirety of this book: Wait, whaaaaat? ::facepalm:: But truly, it’s almost impossible for me to see all sides of a situation when those sides are mixed and muddled by ambiguity and inconsistency. Jack Kerouac once said, ”I had nothing to offer anybody except my own confusion.” This is Alec in a single sentence, and I’m not sure if his frenetic flip-flopping is attributed to the series’ stream-of-consciousness methodology, or what. Of course I know we’re not always linear in our own thinking, so should I expect a fictional character to be consistent in his? I don’t know the answer to that, but I can say that reading the constant pendulum swing of thoughts and feelings can be an exercise in frustration for me. Mission Frustration: Accomplished. Good on you again, Ms. Cox!

I’m going to be perfectly honest and tell you that I kind of preferred the bounteous blow-jobs and butt sex and prodigious pornication of the first two volumes, over the relationship exploration in this installment, but only because this relationship is, in itself, over-complicated by the fact there are too damn many people in it. But that’s just me.

Maybe it’s a good thing that Volume Four isn’t going to be available for download until later this year. It’ll give these boys a chance to get their crap together, and give me a chance to recover from my discombobulary flummoxity.

You can download the first three volumes here (proceed with caution):

Cardeno C.

Who, Me?

Oh my gosh! The Novel Approach was nominated by author Cardeno C. for a Very Inspiring Blogger Award! Cardeno is a self-described “hopeless romantic who wants to add a little happiness and a few ‘awwws’ into a reader’s day. Writing is a nice break from real life as a corporate type and volunteer work with gay rights organizations. Cardeno often feels that characters write their own stories and just hopes to find enough time to get those stories on the page. And Cardeno loves to hear from readers so please drop a line to share your thoughts on a story.”

I, for one, am completely down with both the happiness and the awwws, and while I still ask, “Who, me?”, I’m exceeding grateful for the honor. Thanks, Cardeno, very much for the nomination!

Now, here are The Rules

1. Display the award logo on your blog.
2. Link back to the person who nominated you.
3. State 7 things about yourself.
4. Nominate 15 bloggers for this award and link to them.
5. Notify those bloggers of the nomination and the award’s requirements

7 Things About Me You Probably Never Wanted To Know And Were Afraid To Ask: :)

1. I am an eternal optimist.
2. I believe that a sense of humor is the one and only key to a sense of balance in my life.
3. I am saddened that we live in a country where people can’t seem to differentiate between the Constitutional right to free speech and the moral imperative to say the right thing and to behave compassionately toward each other rather than to belittle and trample upon other’s feelings and beliefs.
4. I believe that just because you CAN do something doesn’t mean you SHOULD do it.
5. I am appalled that there are people in this country who believe it’s more important to have the right to hug a gun that it is critical to hug and value a child.
6. I am passionately committed to loving my children unconditionally.
7. If I didn’t lack the imagination, I would be a writer.

And Now, 15 Inspiring Blogs I Follow: (In No Particular Order Whatsoever)

1. Rhys Ford
2. Hayden Thorne
3. P.D. Singer
4. Eden Winters
5. Coffee & Porn In The Morning (Sh, there’s pretty pictures!)
6. Sinfully Sexy Books
7. The Armchair Reader
8. M/M Good Book Reviews
9. Aleksandr Voinov
10. Pants Off Reviews
11. J.C. Lillis
12. Carole Cummings
13. J.P. Barnaby
14. Attention Is Arbitrary
15. Rick R. Reed

If you haven’t visited some of these blogs, just clink on the links and see what makes them so special. :)

Casey K. Cox, Self-Published

In Which Someone is Going The Right Way For A Smacked Bottom – The Rise of Alec Caldwell: Volume Two by Casey K. Cox

Everybody, sooner or later, sits down to a banquet of consequences. – Robert Louis Stevenson

Do you remember in the movie Jurassic Park, when Dr. Ian Malcolm is talking to Dr. Alan Grant about Chaos Theory? In science, chaos means something only slightly different than the typical utter confusion, madness, and mayhem we mean when we use it in everyday language, but let me tell you, in this installment of Alec Caldwell’s evolution, chaos and Chaos Theory—the lack of order in a system that nevertheless obeys particular laws or rules—both could apply. There is an underlying order to the Master/slave, Dom/sub relationship, right? Well, what happens, then, when you throw a switch into the stream, especially one who seems more inclined to his submissive tendencies? It seems to me what you get is man who’s struggling against the current of an order and structure of mastery and servitude. And flailing. And maybe is failing at succeeding to be one or the other, let alone both. They say no man can serve two Masters. Well, in this installment, it appears to me Alec isn’t doing such a great job of serving even one.

The Rise of Alec Caldwell: Volume Two, in which a little freedom is a baaaaaad thing?

You know what’s fun? Trying to figure out the motivations of pretend people. You know what’s not fun? Not being able to figure out the motivations of pretend people. Hmph. I don’t mind telling you I was a little pissed a lot pissed at Alec for a good bit of this book, and I’m just not altogether convinced that he has what it takes to be a Master to his own boys, plural, at least not until he learns how to be a good and honest and devoted boy to his own Master. I may also be rushing to judgment. We’ll see.

In Volume One of the series, I spent a lot of time questioning whether Hamilton loved Alec as much as he professed to. In Volume Two, I spent much of the time questioning whether Alec even knows what love is, or whether he merely equates love with whomever gives him the best orgasm. Mr. Right, a slew of Mr. Right Nows, and the random one-offs that fall somewhere further along the spectrum of temporary bliss keep Alec in a state of post-coital befuddlement. I have to tell you, at this stage of the game, I’m siding with Hamilton (although, after a certain incident, I’m reserving the right to a righteous hate on him. We’ll see what happens) and getting behind that latter theory that Alec is a moment-to-moment kind of guy. Alec… Oh, that boy is becoming a habitual liar by omission, and that grated on me more than a little. And remember that whole loyalty thing? Pfft. ::sigh:: But Hamilton isn’t perfect either. And there’s still time for Alec to mature and to redeem himself, and I’m going to let him because he went a long way at the end of this volume to show me he understood the error of his ways, as well as it becoming clear that Hamilton understands he needs to take a firmer hand with his boy, while at the same time creating new boundaries. A little freedom went a long way. A lot of freedom was, well, blurgh. (That’s the sound I made while I was reading.) Maybe all will be well in Volume Three. Somehow, I can’t bring myself to believe that, though.

There are rules and a certain order, even among the chaotic universal maxim that if something can go wrong, it most definitely will. Casey K. Cox breaks a lot of rules in this series, seemingly penning these stories in a sort of stream-of-consciousness method that goes against the flow of what I’m used to but I’m really enjoying. I’ll be honest, in order to bear with this book, I almost had to convince myself it was an Alt U fantasy, set in a parallel London where a plethora of Augustus Gloops gorged themselves on the chocolate river of unlimited, consequence free, and condom-less sex. (Eek, bad metaphor!) But seriously, this London is a vast urban habitat where the feral and fascinating cockmonster preys. (Eek, bad slang!) No, honestly, this is a city where the men are at least a squillion times hornier and more virile (without the aid of chemical enhancement) than in real life. (Eek! No… that’s not even bad hyperbole. It’s true.) Let’s be for realsies, though, in real life, I don’t think anyone’s pecker or pucker could withstand this much friction. A dude’s gonna chafe sooner or later. But, hey, this is fiction and sometimes the rules of realism just don’t apply.

Good on Ms. Cox for writing a story about people who have made me question everything I thought I knew about love, relationships, sex, aberrant behavior, social norms, and fidelity. Not the monogamous kind of faithfulness but the sort in which a man has the strength of character to tell the truth and not to endanger the men he supposedly loves by having unsafe sex because he’s so driven by his little head that he is incapable of stopping to think of the consequences of his actions with the big one.

Yeah, I said I was pissed, but I’m really more frustrated than anything else. Hamilton just needs to keep his boy bound and gagged for a bit.

On to Volume Three!

You can download the first three volumes of The Rise of Alec Caldwell here:

Bear Bones Books, Jeff Mann

Please Welcome Guest Reviewer And Author Brita Addams – Purgatory: A Novel of the Civil War by Jeff Mann

Purgatory: A Novel of the Civil War, is an extraordinarily well written gay romance, set against the backdrop of the American Civil War. Told in first person, present tense, it flows beautifully, with emotion, drama, villains, heroes, and good friends.

This rest was pure poetry. So lyrically told, the story of loving a man during the Civil War came to life with memorable phrases and passages that evoked a setting without a simplistic description.

There is a wonderful grittiness to this story, created by the hardships of war–Drew’s lack of shoes and most clothing, the tortures he undergoes for the amusement of those in the Rebel camp. The fact that most of the men looked upon Drew as something less than human, and how the blond Colossus appears strong, but is but a little boy inside, missing home and craving human touch.

With Mann’s command of prose, you hear the campfire crackling, feel the anger between the enemies, both in the war and within the camp. We smell the gunpowder and the sizzling bacon, you hear the pain and longing in the character’s voices, as well as the cracking of the bullwhip. The character’s pain touches you as though it was your own. The story causes you to examine your own feelings on a variety of subjects.

Mann gives us a history lesson without the lecture. You sense the cruelty of war, empathize with both sides, and you want most everyone to get home safely.

Anyone who reads or writes gay fiction should read this book, and then read it again. This is the way it should be done. The subject of male/male love isn’t glossed over, but rather dealt with in a realistic way, with the feelings of guilt and anger commensurate with the historical period. You cheer Ian and Drew on, but fear for their utter destruction at the same time. The story delves deep within your soul, turns you inside out and rights you again, with your senses as you’ve never known them to be.

This isn’t a boy meets boy, boy loves boy, let’s get it on kind of book. Their relationship is one of secrets and worry, doubt and danger. It is raw and fierce. Drew faces unimaginable horrors, while, to keep more than one secret, Ian must sit back and watch.They must fight against religious zealotry, the incongruity of which is profound in Mann’s portrayal of Sarge and George.

For Ian and Drew, what starts out as compassion and simple emotional comfort becomes the foundation upon which their attraction is built, and upon which Mr. Mann has created this masterpiece.

The punishments Drew faced were indeed congruent with punishments and tortures delivered on both sides of the conflict–lest we forget Andersonville and its ilk. Neither side was exempt from cruelty. Civil War Punishment

The one problem, for me, is first person. Ian, who tells the story, supplies rich details of his surroundings, the people he deals with, his prisoner come lover, Drew Conrad, all the evil that exists in the hatred for those on the other side of the war, but we know precious little about Ian himself.

He likes bear-like men, he has lived for years as a coward, but found his feet upon meeting Drew, but I got no sense of what Ian looked like, other than he was a small man, compared to the Achilles Drew. Minor point, perhaps, but I like to imagine the characters. The lovely cover doesn’t portray the men as described, particularly Drew.

I will read this again, because Ian and Drew are such special characters. Gay fiction will never be the same for me. Jeff Mann raised the bar considerably.

You can visit Brita’s Blog HERE

Buy Purgatory: A Novel of the Civil War here:

Casey K. Cox, Self-Published

In Which I Give My Potty Mouth Free Rein – The Rise of Alec Caldwell: Volume One by Casey K. Cox

Women need a reason to have sex, men just need a place. – Billy Crystal

Warning: I’m about to say stuff, so rather than assault your unguarded and delicate sensibilities, I thought I’d give you a heads up first. Please, excuse my crudely crudeishness.

And now… the naughty bits…
Continue reading

Hannah Johnson, Self-Published, Smashwords

Know Not Why by Hannah Johnson

Sarcasm isn’t just a way to mask your emotions and distance yourself from others. It’s also super-duper satisfying. – Unknown.

Howie Jenkins is a man with a plan. Yeah, that’s right, his plan is to work at the locally owned Artie Kraft’s Arts and Crafts store so he can increase his odds of getting laid because, of course, arts + crafts = babes. Everyone knows that. Everyone but me, I think. If I’d been Howie’s BFF, I’d have been less worried about how sad that plan is and more concerned with the fact that the biggest flaw in the questionably brilliant idea may be that the mean age of the patrons who frequent arts and crafts stores isn’t exactly within Howie’s 18-25 year old demographic. And they have 2.2 kids. And the employees are largely older women. I’ve been to arts and crafts stores. I know these things. I am that thing. But more power to the boy. He goes for it, gets the job in spite of the fact that Howie is probably the last guy Arthur Kraft wants to hire, and score! there’s a pretty, perky, and blond teenage Kristy Quinn who works there and is just ripe for the pickin’. Almost. Too bad Kristy already has a boyfriend. And she thinks Howie’s gay. Ouch. Double whammy.

And then there’s also Cora Caldwell, of the Rocky Horror Show Caldwells, but Cora could easily eat Howie and then reassemble his bones into something edgy and artful, so Cora’s a big no. Plus, she’s fairly awesome in a totally bitchy way. I kind of girl crushed on her, as well as Howie’s above-referenced BFF Amber. And then there’s the fact that the ‘rents keep trying to make with the matching between Amber and Howie, but she only has eyes for Howie’s twinly opposite and over-achieving brother, Daniel, who’s in love with the aggressively ordinary Emily.

It’s a conundrum.

I’ve been thinking about this book for a few days now and have come to the conclusion that I think whether you like it or not will depend entirely upon whether you like Howie Jenkins, the story’s narrator. See, Howie is…slightly annoying. But in a rather adorkable way! He’s adorkably annoying. Or annoyingly adorkable, I can’t decide which. Sometimes I just wanted him not to talk for a minute, that’s all. That Howie, well, he’s turned being a wiseass into a true art form. In fact, wiseassery may very well be his first language, but there’s a valid reason he hides behind all that snarky comedy, and you’ll just have to read the book if you want to find out why. I found him utterly endearing and wanted him to shut his freaking pie hole, all at the same time. He’s kind of like my kids—can work a last nerve like a pro, but now that he’s gone, I miss him.

But Howie’s not the only character in this book who lets his snark-flag fly high and proud. No, most of the characters are quite fluent in the articulation of mocky banter, others are merely fluent in utter nonsense, while still others don’t speak anything but literal and just get lost in the crossfire of all that extra-witty repartee. While I loved the premise of this story, I have to say there were times when the sarcasm overload began to take its toll on me. There was a lot of adorable and very touching stuff going on in this book too, though, so I soldiered through and am ultimately very, very glad I did.

What began as quite possibly the doofiest plan in the world turned into such a sweet enemies-to-lovers, coming-out story, as well as an unlikely romance between the unquestionably more sophisticated and giftedly eyelashed Arthur Kraft and our cluelessly adorable Howie, who tried so hard to be straight, but one kiss from Arthur, and Doh! hey, hm, maybe Howie’s not as straight as he always thought he was. And suddenly Howie’s living a double-life, one in which he can be himself at the struggling little arts and crafts store where his friends know the new and improved Howie, and the other where he has to hide the fact that Arthur is the first person in the whole wide world who has ever made Howie feel the way he feels when they’re together.

And P.S. – Howie has the best mom ever.

There is no doubt about it; this book is just precious, but for me, sometimes it felt like it suffered under the weight of its own über-verbose preciousness, meaning that at 317 pages, this one probably would’ve been trimmed down quite a bit had it been traditionally published. As it stands, however, for a self-pub, I’d say Hannah Johnson has a very promising future in this writerly biz.

Buy Know Not Why here:

Aleksandr Voinov, Rachel Haimowitz, Samhain Publishing

Break and Enter (Red Cell Book One) by Rachel Haimowitz and Aleksandr Voinov

Maxim #35:

That which does not kill you has made a tactical error. – Howard Tayler “The Seventy Maxims of Maximally Effective Mercenaries”

Cyberpunk! It’s my second favorite punk behind that of the Steam variety, and Rachel Haimowitz and Aleksandr Voinov have delivered some really fantastic steamy Cyberpunk in Break and Enter (Red Cell Book One), the story of a cybernetic Special Forces soldier-turned-mercenary who has been hired to locate and breach a corporation’s security protocols but winds up an unwitting pawn in a game of corruption.

Major Victor “Cyke” Kellermann is part man, part machine, and is wholly endangered by the Judas at SenTech who is bent upon embezzling from the company and making Cyke his scapegoat. Cyke is having a hell of a time accessing the information from the SenTech database that will clear his name, as he’s now been pegged as nothing more than the David who’s attempting to slay the corporate Giant; that label given to him by a law enforcement that may or may not be fully complicit in the SenTech CTO’s illegal activities.

Break and Enter is a page-turning, all-out suspense laden cat-and-mouse thriller between Cyke and the police, one that gets continually more dangerous for the man who is far more than human but certainly not infallible. It’s Cyke’s tenacity and dire need for physical proof of his innocence that unintentionally throws him onto the radar of an EMT known as Bear, the man who will find a way beneath, behind, and inside Cyke’s defenses—and not only those of a technical nature. Bear does some raiding of his own and along the way, steals Cyke’s heart.

This is a dark and atmospheric story; a slink in the shadows, back to the wall, how-will-Cyke-ever-get-out-of-this-one? nail-biter. I loved it and can’t wait for book two to see what these two skilled storytellers have hidden up their scheming sleeves for these two men.

Buy Break and Enter here:

Alex Beecroft, Riptide Publishing

Blessed Isle by Alex Beecroft

To love is to risk not being loved in return. To hope is to risk pain. To try is to risk failure, but risk must be taken because the greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing. – Leo Buscaglia

Captain Harry Thompson of His Majesty’s Royal Navy is a man of honor and commitment to his duty to country and King. He is a man for whom respect and dignity holds far more value than to risk obeying his physical appetites. There is no temptation worth dying for, as far as Harry is concerned, especially when that temptation is called lust, and those hungers he feels are not safely aimed toward those of the opposite sex. No man is worth losing everything for, that is, until Lieutenant Garnet Littleton boarded the HMS Banshee and kindled a very dangerous flame in Harry, making him want things he should not want, feel things he should not feel. Garnet is guilty of the mutiny of Harry’s sensibilities, of commandeering Harry’s desires, of striking out against the barriers Harry has constructed to protect himself and his sterling reputation, and of crumbling Harry’s resolve when he is left with nothing, including that well guarded reputation, to lose.

Blessed Isle is Harry and Garnet’s story to tell, and they both narrate their thoughts, feelings, and memories in the form of journal entries, recounting all the hardships they endured, decisions that at the time seemed to spell nothing but doom, and the tragic events that lead to a love story to be passed down through time, to be read in a place they could only dream of, where their commitment to each other as partners and lovers would be celebrated as something more than the crime it was when they lived.

Told with no small amount of wit and warmth and playful banter, Alex Beecroft has written a fast paced and engaging story of tragedy and despair, a story that follows these two men through sickness and health, through danger and exposure and the threat of sure death, all leading to the love of a lifetime, an honest and abiding love that must be hidden from the world but is celebrated in these pages. It’s a story of fear and hope and courage that tells of the bitter times that made the sweet that much more gratifying.

Buy Blessed Isle here:

All Romance Ebooks, Casey K. Cox, Small Gems

Small Gems – Be My Boy – A Free Story by Casey K. Cox

Those who unlock your compassion are those to whom you’ve been assigned.”
― Mike Murdock

Casey K. Cox’s FREE short story, Be My Boy, isn’t at all what I was expecting it would be. For one thing, with the Master/Slave dynamic as the entire premise of the book, I was expecting quite a lot of BDSM, which is most likely owed entirely to my misunderstanding of the context of that type of relationship. In fact, there was none whatsoever. And I guess, going hand-in-hand with the BDSM, I was also expecting some pretty heavy erotica, which, again, was not the case.

In the end, this is what Be My Boy boiled down to for me; this story has all the makings of a deeply romantic relationship and of an urgent bond that grows between a man who is emotionally crippled by the death of his Master, and the young man who comes along to redeem this broken soul. What I’d have loved is if there’d been just a bit more to it, but there was something so gentle and sentimental about the relationship between Owen and Mitchell that I’m eager to forgive that it left me with some questions I’ll just have to guess at myself. Honestly, they’re more a curiosity than they are relevant, anyway.

There was a bittersweet sense of yearning to Owen’s lost and tattered life, a life he’d spent in servitude to Cole for more than twenty years, a life that was cruelly snatched from him not only by Cole’s death but by the greed and spite of a woman who couldn’t bear to see Owen get what she believed herself to be entitled to. Owen was a man who was ripe to be taken advantage of, and he very much was until Mitchell took him home and made Owen his own.

I loved the twist on the Dom/sub relationship in this story, Owen being the older man and Mitchell being the “boy”, though only in the chronological sense. And although there’s a sense of tentativeness involved on Mitchell’s part, being rather new to his role as a Dom, there is no doubt at all which man is the Master and which is the Slave within this pact, and for lack of a more original conclusion, I can only say that I’d love to see more of these two, mostly to get a better feel for Mitchell and his family ties, but also to see more of the growth between him and Owen.

Though the story begins with Owen in a perfectly horrid situation, of which I don’t want to give too much away, I’d definitely say this story is worth reading.

You can download it here:

Josephine Myles, Samhain Publishing

Screwing the System by Josephine Myles

To touch is to heal
To hurt is to steal
If you wanna kiss the sky
Better learn how to kneel
On your knees, boy — U2

Cosmo Rawlins isn’t really what you might call lazy. No, he’s more of what you’d call…aggressively unemployed. But he has his music! Yeah, he has his band to consider, so why would he want to submit to the drudgery of a 9 to 5-er when there’s practicing to do and songs to write and band members to clash with? He wouldn’t. But that doesn’t mean Cosmo doesn’t have some experience with the interview process; his expertise in the world of the gainfully employed pretty much extends to knowing exactly how not to get a job but still qualify for those wonderful government bennies he enjoys. Everyone has their strengths, and Cosmo’s is knowing how to work the system without actually working.

The only question, then, is what do you do when you come up against someone who is a cog in that system and who’s at least equally proficient as you are at getting exactly what he wants? I reckon all you can do is bend over and take your licks—and like it.

Alasdair Grant is a self-made businessman who owns his own company, though he wasn’t always the corporate suit he is today. Oh no, Alasdair has a past that had nothing to do with following the status quo and being a slave to The Man, and everything to do with making an easy buck, which didn’t have much to do with a good work ethic and had everything to do with necessity. But now Alasdair is The Man, his work ethic has changed considerably since his biker days, so when he finds a very crafty Cosmo in his office, supposedly interviewing for a job, it becomes obvious pretty quickly that the only thing Cosmo’s working his hardest at is to avoid being hired for the position in Alasdair’s sanitary services company, and Alasdair decides then and there that Cosmo may be well suited for a very different, mutually beneficial position, a flexible and open position—on his knees, on his back, on all fours, bent over a table; it’s all relative, really, as long as Alasdair’s the boss and Cosmo’s following orders. But… there’s always a but, isn’t there?

See, Cosmo’s not exactly the sort of bloke who wants to be dictated to, at least not beyond sex. And even then, he’s only just learning that sexual submission can be pretty freaking intense, at least when he’s with Alasdair and Alasdair’s lighting his arse up with a flogger or a cane or his bare hand. But Alasdair… Alasdair’s a Dom, in the bedroom, the boardroom, where ever. He is in control and doesn’t know any other way to be, which causes a lot of conflict for both men, but it also teaches them a few things too, especially Alasdair, who learns that giving up a little bit of control is sometimes the only way to hang on to the one you love.

Screwing the System is the story of a man who sets out to claim and to tame a work-avoiding welfare abuser but instead discovers the secret to being in command may be far less about managing Cosmo’s life and far more about managing his own, living life on his own terms rather than living by the rules of good business, and forgiving himself and his ex-lover for an ending that was beyond their capacity to control.

This is a May/December romance between two men who are strong in different ways but in all the right ways for each other; it’s a story of teaching and of learning that the exchange of trust and the surrender of control is, in the end, the ultimate strength, and that it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks as long as everything works between the only two who matter.

I loved Cosmo and Alasdair in much the same way I loved Ollie and Ben in Handle With Care, not for the similarities in their romance but in the fact that it was the younger men who came along with the passion for their art, and their cheek, and their take-no-prisoners attitudes, and turned the lives of their older men upside down.

Screwing the System will be available for purchase on February 12,2013 here:

Aleksandr Voinov, L.A. Witt, Riptide Publishing, Small Gems

Small Gems – Quid Pro Quo by L.A. Witt and Aleksandr Voinov

Please, God, don’t let me be reading too much into this. – L.A. Witt and Aleksandr Voinov

I probably am. Reading too much into this, that is. How can I not, though, when there’s so very much there to want? Sometimes I wish there was a magicky button I could push to bend authors to my will, to make them write faster and not tease me with these little morsels of salacious goodness and then make me wait for interminable periods of time for more. But since there isn’t, I guess I’ll just have to take what I can get and shut up about it.

Quid Pro Quo is a lot of sex in a little package and it may well be some of the hottest erotica I’ve ever read. It’s definitely some of the hottest erotica I’ve read so far this year, hands down. This is the first short set in the Market Garden universe, where the rentboys cater to the moneyed clientele and the question arises, at least in this installment, of who really holds all the power in this provocative exchange: Tristan, the prostitute, or the nameless john who is an eager and willing pawn in this bid for control over Jared’s orgasm.

It’s not very often that I’ve considered recommending a book for a single sex scene alone, but for this one I might make an exception. L.A. Witt and Aleksandr Voinov have created the perfect atmosphere of want and need, of dominance and submission, and of temptation and voyeurism and a hunger that may only ever be able to be satisfied within the framework of the job.

All I know is that I’m anxious for the next installment. I don’t know whether it will continue with more Tristan and Jared, or if there’ll be other Market Garden boys introduced. Whichever direction these authors decide to go with the series, though, I’ll definitely be along for the ride.

Buy Quid Pro Quo here:

Carina Press, JL Merrow

Trick of Time – The Next Installment In The JL Merrow-thon Of 2013

The play’s the thing… – William Shakespeare

In contemporary times, Ted Ennis endures. He understands loss better than most. Ted has borne a terrible, terrible grief, the result of a deadly accident that has left its share of scars behind. Plagued by the physical remnants of that accident, his employment options limited by his afflictions, Ted now works at the Criterion Theatre, thanks to the kindness of a friend. It is at the Cri, where the play “Wild Oats” is in production, that Ted’s life takes a turn toward the inconceivable, as he steps out for a cigarette and steps into the year 1886 and directly into Jem Pocket’s arms.

Jem is a whore by necessity, compassionate by nature, and accepting well beyond the limitations of the century in which he resides. His connection with Ted is immediate and intense, their affair beginning amidst the incredible odds against them, the futility of their situation compounded by the fact that Ted’s presence in the past may have already altered the future. It’s a conundrum, for sure, but like with any problem where love is involved, it seems there’s always a way.

Why is it that every time I finish a JL Merrow book, it seems the first thing I think is, oooh, I hope there’s a sequel, and that I think that whether there needs to be one or not? Trick of Time doesn’t need a sequel, I just want one.

Part of my fixation with this one has not only a lot to do with the fact that I loved Ted and Jem but also with the fact that it combined a couple of my extra-super-special-obsessiony-fangirl plot devices: time travel and rentboys. Oh, and it was set part of the time in the Victorian Era, so there’s that fetish too. It was the perfect fusion of so many of my favorite fictional brain-foods that it pretty well couldn’t miss.

It’s a story of the impossible wrapped in a romance of the improbable, and I loved every word of it.

Pre-Order Trick of Time here:

Dreamspinner Press, Small Gems

Small Gems – We’re Both Straight, Right? by Jamie Fessenden

Friendship is love minus sex and plus reason. Love is friendship plus sex and minus reason. – Mason Cooley

Money makes the world go around. Or at least that’s how the song goes. But as poor, struggling college students, money is something Zack and Larry aren’t intimately acquainted with, though Larry’s got a get-rich-quick scheme that’ll earn him some cold, hard cash. And all he has to do to rake it in is be gay-for-pay in front of a camera. And all Zack has to do is agree to be Larry’s partner-in-porn. But they’re both straight, right? Of course they are.

Until gay-for-pay turns into gay-for-you in this best-friend-turned-lovers story of two guys who’ve known each other since junior high but didn’t really know each other, or rather didn’t know they could know each other any better until they started rehearsing for their roles as straight guys having sex together in the porn biz. Well, Larry’s completely comfortable letting his freak flag fly. Zack, not so much because, seriously, how’s a guy supposed to reconcile his lifelong heterosexuality when he’s gobsmacked by his lust for the guy he’d never before seen as anything more than a friend? But then he truly sees Larry, not with his eyes—or not only with his eyes, at least—but with is heart and with his hands, and suddenly Larry is the only one Zack sees.

It wasn’t an easy-breezy change of course for this friendship, far from it with all the anxiety and all the questioning Zack does, but it was a sweet and erotic little romp that was a quick and sexy and fun read.

Buy We’re Both Straight, Right? here:

Cary Attwell, Self-Published, Smashwords

The Other Guy by Cary Attwell

Accept the things to which fate binds you, and love the people with whom fate brings you together. – Marcus Aurelius

Have you ever just wanted to hug a book really hard and then kiss it and then thank it for giving you hours of bliss? Oh. Well, maybe it’s just me. But, gaaaah, I want to shout my love for this one from the rooftops, for it is sublime. And then it ended. And now I want a sequel. I’d settle for an epilogue. A haiku?

The telephone rang
Emory professed his love
Happy forever

Okay, I suck at the haiku, but you get the point. I want to see what happens after the phone call.

The Other Guy is the story of Emory James, and to say that Emory is unlucky in love is kind of an understatement, considering that his fiancé has just ditched him at the altar and run off with her first college boyfriend (picture Elaine and Ben at the end of The Graduate). But never let it be said that Emory’s not a classy guy. The booze, food, and band are already paid for, after all; the reception must go on. And furthermore, so must the honeymoon. Or at least that’s what Emory decided once the sobbing stopped. A trip to Thailand, where no one knows him or the humiliation he’s suffered, is just what he needs; a week in paradise where he can be someone other than Emory James – The Other Guy. Emory can be the Good-Looking Bastard and none will be the wiser. He’s such a trooper. And Jeremy Renner’s playing him in the movie.

Well, this is where Nate Harris enters the picture, and this is where things really started getting good. Chemistry? Pish. Nate is a force of nature, and it’s clear from word one that he and Emory have a connection that goes far beyond a simple bromance. But Emory? Well, Emory’s not gay and things happen and then he blurts right out why he’s in Thailand on his aborted honeymoon after Nate kisses him in the rain… Emory’s not gay? Pish. And then that force of nature that is their attraction to each other takes over. And then Nate flies home. So much for their vacation romance.

Or is it?

It wouldn’t be much of a book if that was the end of the story, would it? Nope. Months later, Fate with a capital-F makes sure to give these boys a karmic boot to the posterior, and shoves them directly back into each other’s orbit, and if there were any two people whose lives needed to coalesce, it’d be these two. But you can’t possibly think it’d be that simple, can you? Nope. So, Emory is probably gay, or at least bi, but getting him to admit it to himself, let alone to anyone else, becomes a roadblock to his and Nate’s happiness. And then there’s angst. And the return of the fickle fiancé who’s decided she made a big mistake. Yikes, conflict.

Well, if there’s anything we’ve all learned from romantic fiction, it’s that love always finds a way. Sometimes all it takes is the verbal smackdown from your best friend, and the courage to face your fears, and the chance to ask for forgiveness that all comes together in the perfect storm of resolution and helps a guy navigate his way to Happily-Ever-Afterland before he takes a wrong turn at The-One-That-Got-Awayville.

But I still want to know what happens after that phone call.

The Other Guy is Cary Attwell’s debut novel, and all I can say is that I’ll be watching for any- and everything else I can find from this author. This book is charming and clever and I adored it so much that I couldn’t put it down. In fact, I may just go ahead and read it again.

Buy The Other Guy here:

Dreamspinner Press, JL Merrow, Small Gems

Small Gems – Dulce et Decorum Est – JL Merrow-thon Book Five

Healing is impossible in loneliness. – Wendell Berry

George Johnson is a man whose soul bears a heavy burden, weighted by the yoke of shame and self-recrimination, so deeply scarred by an event in his youth that even years later its aftermath leaves George running frightened from the man he once was, the man he was born as, a man who no longer exists. A man who was branded a coward.

Meeting Matthew Connaught was synchronicity and irony and destiny all rolled up into a single monumental turning-point for George. Matthew is a veteran of World War I, and a part of him was left behind on the battlefield as a permanent reminder of his sacrifice, but his scars don’t serve only as proof of how much Matthew gave. They serve as proof of how much he has survived.

Dulce et Decorum Est is indeed a terribly sweet and touching historical romance that first appeared in the 2010 Dreamspinner Advent Anthology Naughty or Nice. It is a story of a forbidden love and of a family’s affirmation, and is a story of courage, even when that courage is born in fear. It is a story of truth and of the wisdom in knowing when to run away and when to stand still and just be with the one who makes you feel whole again. Matthew was the light in George’s darkness, and I just couldn’t help but to embrace them.

Buy Dulce et Decorum Est here:

JL Merrow, Samhain Publishing

Hard Tail – Book Four In The Great JL Merrow-thon of 2013

Love makes your soul crawl out from its hiding place. – Zora Neale Hurston

And then there were Matt Berridge and Tim Knight and a cat named Wolverine who’s really the star of the show but deigns to allow his insignificant humans to share his space if for nothing more than the fact that they feed him. And, if he’s being honest, those conveniently placed bipeds truly are the chattier set-pieces for us readers to enjoy while Wolverine is between scenes, so there’s that too. What can I say? The cat has personality.

Watching Matt and Tim’s evolution was a little bit like watching two people slow dancing to the same tune at different rhythms. They danced around each other but not with each other for quite a long time, moving to a similar song—one called Denial; Tim to the denial of his sexuality, Matt to the denial of his own self-worth. It’s not until they both find the courage and the strength to be honest with themselves, and with each other, that they are able to come together in perfect syncopation and dance to a love song of their own making.

Once again, Hard Tail was peopled with a delightful cast of characters, this time playing against the sport of cycling, the family dynamics of a favored son and the spare who doesn’t seem to quite measure up, a failed marriage, and a hypocritical, bullying bastard of a boyfriend who learns the hard way that he should be a bit more selective with whom he decides to pick a fight.

In much the same way that I loved Al and Larry in Muscling Through, I loved Matt and Tim to bits; Matt for his kindness and klutziness and sweet simplicity; Tim for his courage to face his fears, to come out of the closet and to be with and to fight for the man he loves in spite of there being a bit of a false start. And in much the same fashion as all the other JL Merrow books I’ve read so far, the humor was pitch-perfect. I’m also noticing a slightly inconvenient pattern in these books ending well before I’m ready for them to.

If you’ve read Pricks and Pragmatism be sure to watch for a quick little cameo from Luke and Russell. Then you can thank Russell for being his wonderful self. I did.

Buy Hard Tail here: