5 Stars, Anthology, B.G. Thomas, Dreamspinner Press, Eli Easton, Genre Romance, Jamie Fessenden, Kim Fielding, Paranormal, Paranormal Romance, Reviewed by Sammy

Review: Spirit by Jamie Fessenden, Kim Fielding, Eli Easton, and B.G. Thomas

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Amazon

Title: Spirit (Gothika: Book Four)

Authors: Jamie Fessenden, Kim Fielding, Eli Easton, B. G. Thomas

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 260 Pages

At a Glance: Four top-notch authors have once again created an incredibly well written anthology with stories that are both entertaining and thoughtful.

Reviewed By: Sammy

Blurb: Seeing dead people. Haunting and being haunted. Ghosts and those trying to deal with them add a supernatural flair to these four tales of romance. 

In Among the Dead, Neil Gaven sees dead people. A gentle ghost guides him to Trist, who needs his help. But Trist is tormented by spirits, so maybe together they can find a way to live among the dead.

Dei Ex Machina is the story of Sabbio, a Roman slave who was killed 1700 years ago. He’s been alone until he meets landscaper Mason. But because they’re separated by centuries, it will take a miracle to make love work.

The Mill brings a supernatural challenge to Frank Carter and his team of paranormal investigators. The owner’s personal psychic, Toby Reese, is supposed to help. Frank doesn’t have much respect for psychics, but when the dangers of the old mill threaten his team, he realizes he and Toby will have to work together to survive.

Mike Ellsworth finds himself suddenly deceased. Now he’s a ghost with lots left undone in Unfinished Business. He’s never been able to be honest with his wife. He’s never been able to tell the man he loves how he feels. He’s barely been able to admit he’s gay. If only there were a way he could make up for all he’s failed to do….

Dividers

Review:   There is a new Gothika anthology out, Spirit: Volume Four, and this time it has a supernatural and ghostly bent. Four top-notch authors have once again created an incredibly well written anthology with stories that are both entertaining and thoughtful.

The Mill by Jamie Fessenden:

Our first story is an incredibly well-crafted tale about paranormal investigators and psychics. Drawing from historical fact about the many horrific warehouse fires that took place in the early 1900s, the story focuses on an old sewing factory that burned to the ground with over one-hundred souls locked inside. Since then, Hawley Textile mill has attempted to house other industry, but most recently, plans were made to demolish the old building and turn the land into a shopping mall. However, several unexplained injuries and setbacks caused any renovation or demolition to come to a screeching halt.

The current owner, elderly Mrs. Hawley, has hired a paranormal investigative team to come in and debunk or verify the idea that the building is haunted. While visiting her favorite psychic, she also enlists his help to check out the site. When Frank Carter and his team begin to investigate, his little brother sees something on an upper floor of the building. Before any of the team can move to help him, Louis runs screaming from the large hall and falls down a flight of stairs. While he only suffers a concussion and a broken leg, for some inexplicable reason Louis slips into a coma-like state, and nothing the doctors can do seem to wake him up. Around this time, Frank and his team meet up with Toby Reese, and the general reaction is a lot of skepticism and even a bit of hostility. However, Frank slowly begins to understand that Toby is the genuine article. Not only that, but feelings long dormant are stirring in both Toby and Frank, and now they must team up to confront whatever is haunting the factory–and hope they come out unscathed.

What an incredible story. The pacing, the charged atmosphere that permeated every scene in the abandoned factory, and the growing attraction between Toby and Frank made for an exciting tale all around. Ghost stories are tricky things, and to make them raise that tingly feeling along your spine takes some real dedication to making the story as believable as possible. I really enjoyed how Jamie Fessenden used the distrust between the science of paranormal investigation as opposed to the “feelings” of the psychic. Setting up this foil between Frank and Toby made each supernatural moment in the story just that much scarier and more realistic. This was one of those types of short stories that I would love to see in serial form with many more adventures for this paranormal team. Rating: 5 stars

Dei Ex Machina by Kim Fielding:

In her story, Dei Ex Machina, Kim Fielding offers up a story of second chances. Focusing on two men–one corporeal, who has recently lost his husband, and the other one, who has lived in limbo for hundreds of years–this author brings the two together in a lovely story that focuses on the healing and redemptive power of love.

Once upon a time, centuries before Mason ever walked the earth, a young slave named Sabbio was taken from his home and forced to work on building a majestic palace in a small coastal town called Split.  When he died, he did so without ever understanding what real love is, without ever feeling the touch of a lover’s hand, and without ever fully realizing how love transforms a person. Because of that, Sabbio was destined to live a life in darkness, in a terrible form of limbo where he would often forget who he was and what he had once been. When he is able to pull himself from the dark pit, he walks the small town of Split to which his spirit is forever chained.  One day he sees a young American man, Mason. Mason is still grieving several months after his own husband was shot down on campus grounds where he worked. Having the one man he loved ripped from his life has left Mason empty and hurting.

As the days progress on this vacation Mason has agreed to take with his brother and friends, he will become increasingly aware of the feeling that someone is watching him. Little does he know that a chance encounter with one of the locals will lead to his dreams of being able to love again becoming a reality.

More than a ghost story, Dei Ex Machina, speaks of an instant connection, a spark that only one person can provide for another. That spark leads to recognition and, in Mason’s case, to a second chance at love. When two wounded hearts come together there is often healing, but Kim Fielding goes one step further in the story. Not only are Mason and Sabbio destined to be together, they discover they are the one thing that completes the other, they are soul mates.

This delightful story is complete and total fantasy, and I dare you not to fall in love with its two main characters. Rating: 4 stars

Among The Dead by Eli Easton:

In the third offering of this wonderful anthology, author Eli Easton gives us Among the Dead.

After a near fatal accident while windsailing, Neil finds himself with a brand new ability: that of being able to see dead people–spirits who are not yet at rest. At first he thought he was crazy, and after some intensive therapy, he realizes that the knock on his head has actually left him with this very real and horrifying ability. In an attempt to save his sanity, slowly but surely Neil becomes a recluse, only leaving the house every first Tuesday of the month for a check in with his boss at his IT job. Other than that, he has little interaction with the world around him.

On one such Tuesday jaunt, Neil sees a man in a bowler hat. Unlike other spirits, this man seems calm, slightly sad, and desiring to somehow communicate with Neil. At first Neil is terrified, for right after his accident he did try to help the spirits that he saw, sometimes with disastrous results. So, when this gentleman appears in Neil’s apartment, he decides to engage him in conversation. After many attempts, Neil is finally able to understand what the man wants. There is someone who needs Neil’s help; someone who Neil had seen before the accident, at the local park. When he agrees to help the man, the comfortable, quiet life he has been enduring will change forever.

This story had quite the shocker of an ending, but the ride getting there was really sublime. Neil was so cut off from everything and everyone after his accident. Alternating between the thought that he was insane, and grappling with the reality that he could see dead spirits, Neil coped by simply choosing to shut out life as much as possible. When he finally decides to help Trist, at the prodding of the ghost in the bowler hat, he is overjoyed to finally find someone like him–someone who also interacts with the spirit world. The instant attraction, the need to cling to one another, and the reality that neither of them is alone anymore is so incredibly beautiful. While the transition into lovers is rapid, it is also utterly believable. This was such a sweet story about finding your soul mate and defying all odds to hang on to him forever. Rating: 4.5 stars

Text by B.G. Thomas:

The last thing Mike remembers is that stupid text, the one that now has him walking the earth as a dead man–or nearly so. Prior to the accident, Mike had lead a double life. For years he has denied that he is gay; instead, he runs a successful business alongside his trophy wife. And for the last year, has been meeting the one person he really loves, Joel. Having met at one of Mike’s seminars, Joel and he have been meeting clandestinely every time Mike can get into the city. In fact, it is Joel who Mike is texting when he accidentally runs that red light and loses his life…sort of…

You see Mike is now seemingly brain dead, on life support and running out of time. He must somehow reach out to both Joel and his wife to let them know how he feels. He must set things straight before he passes on. But will there be time?

B.G. Thomas writes the most compelling story about what is most important in our lives, and the foolish way we have of taking it all for granted. By writing the character of Mike, the author hits the reader hard with the idea that any second may be our last, and we must live life to the fullest, be honest with those we love and never, ever take our eyes off the prize–love.

One should not look at this short story as just an advert against texting and driving—although it is a very strong reminder of just that idea. No, there is a bigger message here. While we watch those who Mike loved, and who loved him in return, agonize over things that were left undone and words of love that were left unspoken, we are forcibly reminded that every second of our lives counts. Now the question remains, what will you do with that very important message? Rating: 5 stars

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4 Stars, DSP Publications, Jamie Fessenden, Literary Fiction, Reviewed by Taz

Review: By That Sin Fell the Angels by Jamie Fessenden

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Title: By That Sin Fell the Angels

Author: Jamie Fessenden

Publisher: DSP Publications

Pages/Word Count:  191 Pages

At a Glance: This is the second book I’ve read by Jamie Fessenden, and while the topics are tough and some of the events made me squirm, I applaud this author’s courage and talent.

Reviewed By: Taz

Blurb: It begins with a 3:00 a.m. telephone call. On one end is Terry Bachelder, a closeted teacher. On the other, the suicidal teenage son of the local preacher. When Terry fails to prevent disaster, grief rips the small town of Crystal Falls apart.

At the epicenter of the tragedy, seventeen-year-old Jonah Riverside tries to make sense of it all. Finding Daniel’s body leaves him struggling to balance his sexual identity with his faith, while his church, led by the Reverend Isaac Thompson, mounts a crusade to destroy Terry, whom Isaac believes corrupted his son and caused the boy to take his own life.

Having quietly crushed on his teacher for years, Jonah is determined to clear Terry’s name. That quest leads him to Eric Jacobs, Daniel’s true secret lover, and to get involved in Eric’s plan to shake up their small-minded town. Meanwhile, Rev. Thompson struggles to make peace between his religious convictions and the revelation of his son’s homosexuality. If he can’t, he leaves the door open to eternal damnation—and for a second tragedy to follow.

Dividers

Review: I read Violated by Jamie Fessenden and was so impressed by his courage and style that I had to pick up this book as well. I wasn’t disappointed.

In By That Sin Fell the Angels, we face the tragic issue of teen suicide and homophobia in a small town. The book opens with an ominous phone call from a teen who needs someone to talk to before he kills himself. One of the main protagonists, Terry, who received the call, is helpless to do anything to prevent the horrific event.

As the story unfolds, we meet Jonah, the other main protagonist in the story. He is a high school student who is closeted and gay. We see him interacting with the one open gay student, as well as his crew of homophobic friends. Slowly, as the story develops, we see how he comes to terms with his own failings and, ultimately, acceptance of who he truly is.

Add to this a zealous preacher (the father of the child who committed suicide), a flamboyantly gay peer at Jonah’s school, a ridiculously supportive boyfriend to Terry, Jonah’s mother, who is dating a man half her age, and a general town aura of intolerance. The mixture is a recipe for nail biting intensity.

My only complaint about this book was that it went a bit over the top. I only say this from my deep familiarity with school systems and school boards. The manner in which the school board and the principal handled the events was extreme and wouldn’t happen in real life. The feelings might be there of intolerance and hatred, but the words and actions wouldn’t have unfolded the way they did. That said, it made for good drama and added to the depth of the emotions in the story.

What I loved about the book was how the author wove together a rich web of experience, shifting point of view frequently so that we could get inside the heads of a full range of characters. By doing so, we were able to truly look at this town and the topic of homosexuality, and see a highly religious small town through the eyes of an outsider with omniscient knowledge of everyone’s thoughts and feelings. Had the story only been told from one point of view (and I have no idea whose point of view Mr. Fessenden would have chosen), the story would’ve suffered for it.

As I said, this is the second book I’ve read by Jamie Fessenden, and while the topics are tough and some of the events made me squirm, I applaud this author’s courage and talent. I certainly intend to continue reading his work (starting with a backlog of his sizable completed manuscripts).

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5 Stars, Dreamspinner Press, Jamie Fessenden, Literary Fiction, Reviewed by Taz

Review: Violated by Jamie Fessenden

Title: Violated

Author: Jamie Fessenden

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count:  256 Pages

At a Glance: I had no idea how Mr. Fessenden would handle this sensitive topic, and was impressed by the testimony he portrays through this story.

Reviewed By: Taz

Blurb: Derek Sawyer thinks he has it all—a high-salaried position, a boyfriend, a dog, even a new cabin on the lake—until a business trip with his manager and best friend, Victor, shatters his world.

One night of drunken horsing around in their hotel room leads to the most intensely personal violation Derek has ever endured. As if the humiliation of working under his attacker every day isn’t enough, Victor reports Derek for sexual harassment. Now he’s without a job, without a boyfriend, and the mortgage on the cabin is due.

Officer Russ Thomas has worked with rape victims before, and it doesn’t take him long to sort out the truth in Derek’s tale. With his support, Derek finally reports the crime, months after it happened. But restraining orders and lawyers further Victor’s anger toward him, and even though a relationship develops between Derek and the policeman, Russ can’t be there to protect him all the time.

Dividers

Review: WARNING: This book deals with rape, both the experience and the aftermath. This review may serve as a trigger for some people, so please proceed with caution. ~ TAZ

Violated is a sensitive and vivid portrayal of the impact a rape has on a person, with a particular focus on a male being raped. When I read the description of this book, I felt immediately compelled to read it. On the one hand, rape is one of those topics that is usually banned as part of submission guidelines. Of course, that is rape depicted gratuitously (whatever that means). The subject matter itself is permissible, but still taboo.

I had no idea how Mr. Fessenden would handle this sensitive topic, and was impressed by the testimony he portrays through this story. The first chunk of the book established the main characters and their relationships to one another. I had wondered whether the author would’ve chosen to begin the story where the rape had already occurred. This was not the case. Once we meet the characters, we experience the rape, rather graphically, from the point of view of our protagonist victim, Derek. While highly disturbing and difficult to read, it was clear Mr. Fessenden had researched the experiences of men who had been raped. The honesty of the physical experience was described, but moving forward, the book focused on the emotional damage as the protagonist struggles to regain his shattered sense of self-control and power.

And that was what made this story a brave and important read. I don’t know of anyone who has admitted being raped to me, and therefore I have no first-hand knowledge of what the experience is like after the fact. In reading Violated, I feel like I have a better understanding of the multi-faceted and deeply rooted injuries (both physical and emotional) that impact the victim, making recovery an uphill battle.

The author also chose not to over-dramatize the events following the rape, in terms of dealing with filing charges, giving testimony, facing the possibility of plea bargains, and the continued threat of physical violence. Derek had a very real set of concerns for his own safety and how others would view him, and the author provides a believable portrayal of the inner thoughts and worries. But the most disturbing and beautifully portrayed element of Derek’s suffering is the betrayals he endured from people who were supposed to be there for him, no matter what. I can’t even imagine how a victim of rape can heal when even the people they are supposed to trust the most aren’t able to provide appropriate support.

The other protagonist, Russ, was an amazing man. I appreciated that there was a preface that explained that the author had spoken to officers to learn about procedure, and then took some liberties to suit the love interest in the story. While there was clearly a conflict of interest with Russ having any involvement in the activities surrounding the investigation into Derek’s rape, I was prepared for this when it happened.

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4.5 Stars, Anthology, Dreamspinner Press, Eli Easton, Historical Romance, Jamie Fessenden, Kim Fielding, Mystery/Suspense/Action Thriller, Mythology, Paranormal Romance, Reviewed by Lisa, Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Urban Fantasy

Review: Claw (Gothika: Volume Three) by Jamie Fessenden, Kim Fielding, and Eli Easton

Title: Claw (Gothika: Volume Three)

Authors: Jamie Fessenden, Kim Fielding, Eli Easton

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 220 Pages

At a Glance: All three authors’ stories are unique not only in voice but in storyline too, and unlike with some anthologies I’ve read in the past, there isn’t a clunker story in this bunch.

Reviewed By: Lisa

Blurb: Beasts lurk in the shadows of wild and forgotten places and in the hearts and souls of men. They are the stuff of dreams and nightmares, but are they feral and savage, or just misunderstood? Creatures of myth and legend stalk these tales of dark desire and animal passions. Three men come face-to-face with such creatures and find they are much more than they seem. While there is danger, there might be unexpected benefits as well, if they can accept the impossible and dare to venture into the primordial regions where nature and the beasts still reign. Three acclaimed authors of gay romance explore the boundaries between man and beast and the place where their worlds overlap.

Dividers

Review: There are a variety of reasons I wanted to give this collection of stories a good seeing to, not the least of which is the three authors involved. Sadly I’ve never had the chance to read Eli Easton’s work, and only a novella each by Jamie Fessenden and Kim Fielding. Too many books, too little time…

This speculative fiction anthology is the third in the Gothika omnibus, and Claw, as its title suggests, focuses on shifters. In this case, those of the canine variety: Jamie Fessenden’s Isolation, Kim Fielding’s Transformation, and The Black Dog by Eli Easton round out the threesome and each give their own personal touch to the werewolf lore.

Isolation is, at its heart, a second chance story, the tale of two men who fell in love as teenagers but couldn’t last through Sean’s betrayal of both himself and of Jack, the man Sean asked to stand beside him while he, Sean, did what was expected of him and married a woman.

Four years later, divorced, more than a little gun-shy and seeking forgiveness, Sean finds Jack in a cabin in the remote wilderness—the means to the title of this story. Jack has isolated himself, by choice, by necessity, it doesn’t matter. What matters is he’s living the way he wants to live, even if it is a lone-wolf sort of existence.

The shortest of the three stories, what Isolation lacks in word count it makes up for in heart, a little humor, and some truly suspenseful moments, not only from the creature that lurks without and within but in the sense that perhaps too much water has flowed under the proverbial bridge for these two men to find their way back to each other.

I like the spin Fessenden offers in his version of shifter lore, as well as the fact that the author resisted the urge to tie things up in a trite little bow of happily ever after at the end. I’m not sure why I expected it, but it was refreshing not to find it. There was simply too much left to resolve between these two would-be lovers for that outcome to be believable. Isolation was a satisfying appetizer to the start of this three-course read.

Kim Fielding’s Transformation is the second novella in this anthology, a story set in rural Oregon in the late 19th century. Transformation ticked all my boxes for a lovely historical read, as not only does the author ground readers in the time but also draws us into the sense of place, the rugged and untamed landscape in which the story takes place. In fact, if someone were to put a gun to my head and force me to choose, I’d have to say this one was my favorite of the trilogy. I’m such a sucker for the finding-love-against-all-odds trope, and that’s the story Fielding wrote here, with a supernatural twist.

This novella begins as a fish out of water story, though, when we’re introduced to Orris Spencer, the seventh son of a seventh son, his father an extravagantly wealthy man we never meet but certainly know the type. Orris was sent down from university after being caught in flagrante delicto with another student, Daniel, and to further add to Orris’s disgrace, his father sends him away, penniless and shamed, to live with his older brother Samuel, now an outcast himself as he’s shunned the soft life of privilege in New York City to work the land and provide for his family on their small Oregon farm.

I loved the portrayal of Orris and Samuel’s relationship, which blossoms under Orris’s own transformation, the more he proves to both himself and Samuel that he’s capable of being so much more than the studious misfit Samuel expects him to be. Samuel also proves to be not at all what I’d expected from him when first introduced, and I wanted to cheer out loud each time he imparted his wisdom and understanding on Orris.

There’s more to the story, however, than the brothers’ relationship, in the supernatural element and the canine beast that’s stalking and killing sheep on Samuel’s and surrounding farms. This storyline also serves to introduce the Bonn brothers, and more specifically Henry Bonn, the man in whom Orris discovers a kinship of loneliness and desire.

The duality of this novella’s title is revealed at its end, in the full transformation Orris undertakes, part sacrifice and part an honoring of his heart’s desire. Transformation is a wonderful second course in this trilogy.

To round things out, Eli Easton’s The Black Dog puts the finishing touch on the collection, set in the rugged landscapes of northern Scotland and bringing to life the legend of the coimheadair, a gigantic black dog said only to appear in times of national crisis.

Constable Hayden MacLairty doesn’t buy into the legend at all—it is just that, after all, a legend, a tall tale that’s been passed down from generation to generation in the small town of Laide, the place where American author Simon Conto has chosen to do some research on the Black Dog for his next book.

I have to say right off the bat, one of the things I loved immediately about Hayden is the Jamie Fraser visual that Eli Easton then references for a bit of a comical turn in this otherwise mystical and mythical tale. True to the Viking ancestry, Hayden is a mountain of a man who catches Simon’s eye—certainly after he was tackled and nearly flattened by Hayden in a case of wrong place, wrong time.

The local flavor and colorful population of Laide add to the charm of this story, moving the plot forward and adding to the suspense and mystique, as it’s revealed there are secrets locked inside the dementia addled mind of Hayden’s own mother, things Hayden has a difficult time reconciling.

While The Black Dog takes on the taste of the bittersweet in the end, Hayden and Simon find a way to their happy ending, and bring a lovely close to this charming trio of supernatural treats.

As an overall summary, I can easily recommend Claw when you’re in the mood for a touch of speculative fiction with a little variety in its mythology. All three authors’ stories are unique not only in voice but in storyline too, and unlike with some anthologies I’ve read in the past, there isn’t a single clunker story in this bunch.

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4 Stars, Audio Book, Dreamspinner Press, Jamie Fessenden, Mystery/Suspense/Action Thriller, Narration Rating, Narration Rating - 2.5 Stars, Reviewed by Sadonna

Audio Review: Murder on the Mountain by Jamie Fessenden – Narrated by Cliff Bergen

Title: Murder on the Mountain

Author: Jamie Fessenden

Narrator: Cliff Bergen

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 7 Hours, 15 Minutes

At a Glance: The narrator in this case was okay, but I didn’t love his rendition of this book.

Reviewed By: Sadonna

Blurb: When Jesse Morales, a recent college grad who aspires to be a mystery writer, volunteers to work on the summit of Mt. Washington for a week, he expects to work hard. What he doesn’t expect is to find a corpse in the fog, lying among the rocks, his head crushed. The dead man turns out to be a young tourist named Stuart Warren, who strayed from his friends while visiting the mountain.

Kyle Dubois, a widowed state police detective, is called to the scene in the middle of the night, along with his partner, Wesley Roberts. Kyle and Jesse are instantly drawn to one another, except Jesse’s fascination with murder mysteries makes it difficult for Kyle to take the young man seriously. But Jesse finds a way to make himself invaluable to the detective by checking into the hotel where the victim’s friends and family are staying and infiltrating their circle. Soon, he is learning things that could very well solve the case—or get him killed.

Dividers

Review: Murder on the Mountain marks my first foray into M/M audiobooks. I’ve been reluctant to dive into the audiobook pool because I usually have a VERY vivid movie going on in my head when I read books—a narrator may or may not capture my take on that movie. I had several friends recommend this book to me, so I thought I’d try it in audio.

I really liked the story of Jesse and Kyle. They meet after a tourist named Stuart has gone missing, and Jesse discovers the body after everyone on the mountain goes to look for him. Jesse has had a kind of strange afternoon; he remembers seeing Stuart – and his friends – earlier in the day, and he’s quite shocked to be the one to discover the body.

After the authorities are called, Jesse meets detectives Kyle Dubois and Wesley Roberts. Since he found the body, the detectives are quite interested in his statement. He immediately feels an attraction to Kyle, but he tries to keep his head in the game for the case at hand – which he believes is murder. It turns out that Jesse is an aspiring mystery writer, and this makes the detectives more than a little skeptical.

As the detectives begin to work the case, though, Jesse rather inserts himself into things by staying at the hotel where the rest of the friends and family of the tourist are staying. It turns out it is a wedding party, and the wedding was to have taken place that Saturday. There are a number of potential suspects, including the fiance’s family, and Stuart’s brother and best friend—it seems all have something to hide.

Kyle is quite unhappy at Jesse’s poking around, but he can’t help but be grateful for the information that Jesse is able to get by befriending the party. He also admits a number of things to Jesse, including his bisexuality and his devastation at the loss of his wife five years earlier. While they are getting to know each other, Kyle also worries that Jesse is putting himself right in the crosshairs of a killer. What’s to stop the murderer from going after Jesse if he – or she – determines that Jesse is getting too close?

There are a number of twists and turns, as you would expect with a good murder mystery. There might have been a number of motives for killing Stuart, but there are no clear clues or physical evidence that would tie any particular person to the murder. A lot of skeletons in a lot of closets are also revealed. As the whole sordid episode unravels, there is a suitably exhilarating climax.

I really enjoyed both the mystery part of the story as well as the budding romance between Jesse and Kyle. Kyle is actually interested in someone for the first time since his wife’s death, but he’s having a little trouble dealing with that emotionally. Jesse is a young guy who is not afraid to say what it is he wants. He really wants Kyle and he is very upfront about it. Both characters were likeable and believable. I also liked Kyle’s partner Wesley. He has Kyle’s back and his best interests at heart. As for the motley crew of family/friends/suspects, they made for an interesting and circuitous tale with several surprises thrown in for good measure. I would definitely recommend this story to any mystery lover.

However, I’m not sure I’m sold on audiobooks. The narrator in this case was okay, but I didn’t love his rendition of this book. I would have liked a little more energy, I think – although I thought he did a good job with Jesse’s part in particular. I’m reserving judgment, but I’m not 100% convinced that audiobooks are for me. I’ll try a few more before I decide, but definitely this does not convince me to steer away from reading my books.






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4 Stars, Audio Book, Dreamspinner Press, Holiday Romance, Jamie Fessenden, Reviewed by Kathie

Audio Review: The Healing Power of Eggnog by Jamie Fessenden – Narrated by Robbie Ravena

Title: The Healing Power of Eggnog

Author: Jamie Fessenden

Narrator:: Robbie Ravena

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Run Time: 1 Hour, 55 Minutes

At a Glance: I would definitely recommend this audio even if you have read the book

Blurb: Will Sutherland hasn’t been home to see his parents in four years – not since they reacted badly when he came out. This Christmas, he’s finally worked up the courage to go home, where he’s surprised to find they’ve taken in a boarder. Ryan Bennett is just a couple years younger than Will, cute, sweet…and openly gay.

As Will deals with his jealousy of the man who’s been receiving the love and acceptance he was denied, Ryan finds himself falling for Will’s brooding good looks. But Ryan also suspects the Sutherlands may be using him as a pawn in their long-standing conflict with their son. Will this Christmas finally tear the family apart, or is there a chance they can put their hurt and anger behind them.

A story from the Dreamspinner Press 2013 Advent Calendar package

Dividers

Review: This truly is a Christmas Story. Eggnog, Christmas Party, Christmas Decorations and the mending of a family, all in the spirit of Christmas. I usually don’t like novellas, not as much detail and background are written into the story, and they seem so rushed, but this story just moved along nicely. It had a beginning—Will arriving for Christmas meeting Ryan. Lots of great sensual sex scenes—those parts Jamie seemed to take his time with. Family drama that kept Will away from home, and Ryan’s family drama that drew him to Will’s house. And finally, the story ends with a happily ever after, both for Ryan and Will, and Will’s parents, all on Christmas morning.

I would definitely recommend this audio even if you have read the book. Robbie Ravena uses a lot of different voices to portray the characters. I enjoyed listening to him especially when he was speaking the role of Gary, Will’s Dad. “Squirrels! They think they own the damned place.” I could just see him saying that.






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4 Stars, Anthology, B.G. Thomas, Dreamspinner Press, Eli Easton, Jamie Fessenden, Kim Fielding, Reviewed by Sammy

Review: Bones (Gothika: Volume Two) by Kim Fielding, Eli Easton, Jamie Fessenden, and B.G. Thomas

Title: Bones (Gothika: Volume Two)

Author: Anthology

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 260 Pages

Overall Rating: 4 Stars

Blurb: Vodou. Obeah. Santeria. These religions seem mysterious and dark to the uninitiated, but the truth is often very different. Still, while they hold the potential for great power, they can be dangerous to those who don’t take appropriate precautions. Interfering with the spirits is best left to those who know what they’re doing, for when the proper respect isn’t shown, trouble can follow. In these four novellas, steamy nights of possession and exotic ritual will trigger forbidden passion and love. You cannot hide your desires from the loa, or from the maddening spell of the drums. Four acclaimed m/m authors imagine homoerotic love under the spell of Voodoo. Continue reading

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5 Stars, Dreamspinner Press, Jamie Fessenden, Mystery/Suspense/Action Thriller, Reviewed by Sammy

Review: Murder on the Mountain by Jamie Fessenden

Title: Murder on the Mountain

Author: Jamie Fessenden

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 210 Pages

Rating: 5 Stars

Blurb: When Jesse Morales, a recent college grad who aspires to be a mystery writer, volunteers to work on the summit of Mt. Washington for a week, he expects to work hard. What he doesn’t expect is to find a corpse in the fog, lying among the rocks, his head crushed. The dead man turns out to be a young tourist named Stuart Warren, who strayed from his friends while visiting the mountain. Continue reading

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Dreamspinner Press, Jamie Fessenden, Reviewed by Tina

Jamie Fessenden Does “Screwups” Just Right – Reviewed by Tina


“I am more than my scars.” – Andrew Davidson


Title: Screwups

Author: Jamie Fessenden

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count:

Rating: 4 Stars

Blurb: In 1996, Jake Stewart is starting his third year at the University of New Hampshire. Even as a successful business major, he is absolutely miserable. Not only is Jake pursuing a field he hates when he’d rather study art, he is utterly terrified of what will happen if his father finds out he’s gay. When he finally gets up the courage to move into the creative arts dorm on campus, his new roommate, Danny, is openly gay—and there’s no denying the attraction between them.
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Dreamspinner Press, Jamie Fessenden

Jamie Fessenden Introduces “The Healing Power of Eggnog”



“Then came the healing time, hearts started to shine, soul felt so fine, oh what a freeing time it was.”– Aberjhani


The Healing Power of Eggnog is part of Dreamspinner Press’s Advent Anthology. It was a quick read at only 68 pages. The title refers to the eggnog concocted every Christmas by the mother of one of the main characters.

Will came out to his parents four years ago and hasn’t been home since. His parents were involved with a very strict church at the time and handled the revelation of his sexuality very badly. He has finally worked up the courage to go home for Christmas this year.
Continue reading

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Allison Cassatta, Booyah! Books, Brad Boney, Edmond Manning, Jamie Fessenden, Jeff Erno, Lane Hayes, Luke Hartwell, Taylor V. Donovan

The Latest Edition Of Booyah! Books Is Out! Who Made The List This Month?

Every Month, Mary Calmes so graciously hosts The Novel Approach and gives us the chance to spotlight some of the books we thought were particularly recommendable reads.

If you’d like to see which books captured our attention in the month of July, head on over to Ms. Mary’s Place and see who made our list of top picks.

Cheers, and happy reading!

Lisa

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Dreamspinner Press, Jamie Fessenden

“Billy’s Bones” Strikes A Nerve

“Coming to terms with incest is not easy. Learning to be a survivor, not a victim, gives new meaning to life” ― Lynette Gould



Billy’s Bones was the first book by Jamie Fessenden I had read. I saw the disclaimers about it maybe bringing up painful memories of childhood sexual abuse, of which I am a survivor. I made the choice to commit to reading and reviewing it anyway. I am grateful that I did. While Mr. Fessenden loosened the reigns I have tightly held on the memories of some of my more painful experiences, he made me feel even more empathy for Kevin than for myself. I channeled my pain and cried and cried. I don’t want to give Billy’s Bones any more therapeutic credit than it deserves, it is a novel, not a self-help book. I am sure some survivors could read Kevin’s horrifying story and spiral down into a deep place. For me, it was cathartic to cry for another little boy, also for the little boy left behind and the man he has, and is trying to, become. I am tearing up now, just thinking about Kevin and Billy.

Although he is the title character, Billy is not one of the main characters in Billy’s Bones. They are Tom and Kevin. Tom is a therapist to whom Kevin is sent after attempting suicide when he finds out his wife is pregnant. They have one session and Kevin never contacts Tom again.

Three years later, Tom buys a new house and the hot tub needs repairs he just can’t afford. The electrician gives him the name of a friend and handyman who does this type of work on the side. The name is Kevin Derocher. At first, Tom & Kevin act like they don’t remember each other, but it soon comes up that they do. They develop a close friendship. Man to man not man to therapist. Kevin’s wife has since divorced him and is in love with someone else, but remains close friends with Kevin.

As Tom & Kevin become “friends” the sexual undertones to their relationship can’t be denied. Kevin is hyper-sexualized, a symptom of many survivors of childhood sexual trauma. Tom is gay and believes that Kevin is, too, on some level. Kevin isn’t out even to himself. Any sexual touch not initiated by him sends him into a panic attack. Tom recommends that Kevin see his business partner for therapy after a particularly violent panic attack.

There was recently a discussion on another author’s blog regarding the “need” readers have for sex between their MCs. This book is a perfect example of why we don’t need our MCs to have sex. While Billy’s Bones is a romance, it is equal parts mystery, psychological thriller and bromance. The tenderness with which Fessenden treats Kevin (using the character of Tom to do so) is deeply moving. It is a human being caring about another human being in pain. Yes, Tom may benefit if Kevin gets to the source of the memories he can’t access but still reacts negatively to. But Mr. Fessenden proves that getting lucky isn’t Tom’s main motivation. He is frustrated to be in a loving relationship without the sexual aspect that would normally go with it. But he cares about Kevin the man enough to want to help him remember and heal any way he can, regardless of how it affects himself.

The memories uncovered and the callous way in which Kevin’s mother treats those memories and her son made me want to puke, then slap her. Maybe even puke on her. That is my own bullshit because my mom was a lot like that. I’ll cop to a very visceral reaction to that particular part of the book. I am still glad I read it though.

I realize after mulling this review over a bit that I kind of made Tom sound like he had super-human patience. This is not the case. He is portrayed as more patient than most, and incredibly supportive, but definitely human. Tom was frustrated at not being able to be sexual in any way with his partner. He got angry at Kevin for not seeking the help he so obviously needed. He was not some kind of mutant with no needs. He definitely had needs, some of which Kevin was able to meet, others which Kevin couldn’t meet at the time.

Mr. Fessenden treated the subject matter and the victim so tenderly, almost lovingly, that it made me feeling some bad stuff not so bad. I think it took balls to take on a subject so difficult to write about. I don’t know Mr. Fessenden’s personal history, but if he hasn’t experienced childhood sexual trauma and it’s aftermath, he is a deeply insightful and empathetic human being. This book deserves well more than five stars. It IS an emotional read. It is also so satisfying.

Recommended in the highest way possible.

Reviewed by: Tina

You can buy Billy’s Bones here:

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Abigail Roux, Aleksandr Voinov, Amy Lane, Ariel Tachna, Charlie Cochet, DC Juris, DH Starr, Eden Winters, Edmond Manning, Ethan Day, J.P. Barnaby, Jacob Z. Flores, Jamie Fessenden, K. Piet, M.J. O'Shea, Marie Sexton, Michele L. Montgomery, P.D. Singer, Piper Vaughn, Ramblings, Rhys Ford, Rick R. Reed

I’m back, sick as a dawg, and suffering from sleep deprivation. Man, was it worth it!




I’m not even going to lie… GayRomLit 2012 was the most fun I’ve ever had with all of my clothes on. Heh. Shhhh, sorry I went there. :-D

Bonnie (a lovely fan whose last name is escaping me), Rick R. Reed, Michele L. Montgomery, Me, and Rhys Ford at dinner

But seriously, let me tell you, there are very few things I will leave my family for, and GayRomLit 20–, yes, all of them—for many years to come, I hope—is the one event for which I’ll put the hubby on full-time kid duty and bid them all farewell, even if it means they eat like crap the entire time I’m gone (Hey, they were all alive this morning, so I count it as a Daddy Success; although #1 son is suffering from some gastrointestinal issues. ::insert “God, mom, you’re so inappropriate!” here::), and even if it means I have to suffer from sleep deprivation ::dear gods:: and a miserable cold every single time afterward.::sniffles:: :-P Trust me, it’s so very worth it.

The lovely, lovely Eden Winters and P.D. Singer

There were dozens of stellar moments from the weekend, starting with the sheer number of amazing and talented people I met, both authors and readers alike, topped only by the fact that now I get to call at least a few of those wonderful people “friend”. I don’t know what they’ll call me, though. Probably “Restraining Order”. And I finally got to meet two women whom I’ve loved for years — Michele L. Montgomery and Rhys Ford — and had the thrill of meeting so many of the authors of whom I’ve been a rabid fan for what feels like forever!

Yes, there were some embarrassingly bad fan-girl squee moments for me–ugly crying all over Amy Lane in the middle of a crowded restaurant, tackle-hugging Piper Vaughn in an elevator, ninja-leaping over the arm of a chair in the hotel lobby so I could hug Aleksandr Voinov (who I didn’t know was going to be there), threatening to club Marie Sexton over the head so I could steal her freaking amazing boots, and asking waaaaaay too many questions in the Author Q & A with Lynn Lorenz, M.J. O’Shea, Abigail Roux (who is really Ty Grady in disguise), and J.P. Barnaby. They were sick of me before it was over, I know, but dammit, how many times do you get a chance to sit down with authors and ask them deep and thought provoking questions such as: Abigail, do you make up all the sayings on Ty’s t-shirts? ::eyeroll:: Yes, I asked that question. Am I an idiot? Why yes, yes I am. Whatever. ^_^

The incomparable Amy Lane

And I’m going to sneak this one small thing in here too, which was just an amazing, amazing experience for me–listening to Edmond Manning read a passage from King Perry! They gave me the entire seat, but I only used the edge, swear. I don’t think it’s any big secret that I have a deep burning passion for that book, like a sick love for it, so listening to him read and getting to meet him in person was an over-the-top moment. He’s funny and charming and his kindness radiates from him in waves. AND, I’ve had the privilege of reading the first three chapters of book 6 of the series, King Daniel, which was one of his giveaway items. ::heaven:: I’m all verklempt from the awesomeness of it.

Edmond Manning – hotel soap really is lucky! :)

Some of my most wonderful memories didn’t revolve around the scheduled events at GayRomLit at all, though. They revolve around the dinners I had the immense pleasure of sharing with Rhys, Michele, Rick R. Reed, DH Starr, Jacob Z. Flores and his husband Bruce, and Jamie Fessenden. Yeah, the conversation was wildly inappropriate–ask Rhys about when she was little and gnawed on her cousin’s nuts when he sat on her face (she can show you on the dolly where the bad touch happened), or ask Rick R. Reed about his sexy-ass sword and tool…er, I mean tulle, pics. Oh, ha! Or you could ask him about the story he wrote about the guy who air-launches a carrot out of his bum-hole. Yes, he went there. I read the story. It really exists. And how’s this for a supremely bad move on the restaurant hostess’s part: They sat a family with children next to us–can I get a witness? It was a caca bad move on the restaurant’s part, for sure, right guys? But my after dinner conversation with DH and Jacob about education and diversity and the responsibility I feel toward raising decent and compassionate human beings? Well, that was pretty much just the perfect way to end the evening. It proves there were actually some grownup moments among all the “Dear God, did we really go there?” times.

Jacob Z. Flores, his amazing hubby Bruce, and my lucky breath mints

So, now I’m brain dead. It was a C-I-L-L my brain cells D-E-D sort of weekend from which it’ll take days to recover, and all I can say is, Atlanta 2013. If you want to attend an event where fun spills over into friendships, GRL is the one. I know I’ll be there.








Michele L. Montgomery, DH Starr, and a case of the big rainbow balls

Charlie Cochet, who is pocket-sized, adorable, and I wanted to bring her home with me!

The amazing Ethan Day. I had had many gin & tonics here. :-P

DC Juris and Michele L. Montgomery

Michele L. Montgomery and Rick R. Reed

Q&A with Abigail Roux and J.P. Barnaby

The wonderful Jamie Fessenden

The inexhaustible K.Piet

The lovely Amy Lane and the electric Ariel Tachna

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