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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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….

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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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5 Stars, Dreamspinner Press, Genre Romance, Kim Fielding, Reviewed by Sammy

Rattlesnake by Kim Fielding

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Title: Rattlesnake

Author: Kim Fielding

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 240 Pages

At a Glance: Rattlesnake is an incredibly gorgeous love story, a story of healing and of finally coming home. I cannot say enough about this beautiful novel.

Reviewed By: Sammy

Blurb: A drifter since his teens, Jimmy Dorsett has no home and no hope. What he does have is a duffel bag, a lot of stories, and a junker car. Then one cold desert night he picks up a hitchhiker and ends up with something more: a letter from a dying man to the son he hasn’t seen in years.

On a quest to deliver the letter, Jimmy travels to Rattlesnake, a small town nestled in the foothills of the California Sierras. The centerpiece of the town is the Rattlesnake Inn, where the bartender is handsome former cowboy Shane Little. Sparks fly, and when Jimmy’s car gives up the ghost, Shane gets him a job as handyman at the inn.

Both within the community of Rattlesnake and in Shane’s arms, Jimmy finds an unaccustomed peace. But it can’t be a lasting thing. The open road continues to call, and surely Shane—a strong, proud man with a painful past and a difficult present—deserves better than a lying vagabond who can’t stay put for long.

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Review: Jimmy and Shane…holy smokes. Kim Fielding’s Rattlesnake should be on your ‘must read’ list, and if it’s not, I hope it will be by the end of this review. Smartly written, incredibly tender and romantic, but never giving way to soppy, unbelievable romance, this novel is an exceptionally well done novel that grabs your heart at page one and never lets go.

Jimmy is the consummate drifter, never staying in one place more than a few weeks, rarely involving himself in the humanity that swirls around him, and never getting his hopes up higher than the grass beneath his feet. Hopes and dreams are for people who deserve such things, and never in Jimmy’s entire life has he felt deserving of anything more than scorn from his fellow man. You see that is what he grew up with—from a mother who was never certain who Jimmy’s father was and who never took the time to love her son, much less encourage him at anything, to the brutality of a stepfather who hated the sight of him, and the cruelty of brothers who wanted him gone. Jimmy has learned never to expect anything and has resolved himself to live his life seeking what lay around the next bend in the road.

So when Jimmy sees a drifter like himself alongside that road, he stops to offer the man a lift. Never in his wildest imagination did he think that the dying man he’d offered a ride would become the catalyst in a life-changing event that would bring him face to face with a man who would somehow sneak under all the barriers he’d built around his heart. Suddenly, the small town of Rattlesnake would become his new home—but not for long if Jimmy had his way, because men like him didn’t deserve a home, and thinking otherwise only led to unhappiness and pain.

Shane knew all about pain, for he lived with it every day. Recovered from a near fatal car accident, Shane now limps his way through life with a terrible secret hanging over him. Never able to forgive himself, the past haunts him, and when Jimmy lands at his bar one evening, Shane finally sees the opportunity to do something right–try to save another hurting soul. As these two men become friends and then lovers, the idea that Jimmy will be leaving any day hangs over them like a pall. Unfortunately, both of these lonely men have begun to realize that time is running out for them, and there seems to be nothing Shane can do to change Jimmy’s mind about running away once again.

There are so many reasons this novel was outstanding—I hardly know where to begin. Suffice it to say that I rarely cry at the end of novels, but I surely had the tissue box handy at the close of this one. Beautiful comes to mind, tender, redemptive, emotionally overwhelming—all these could be used to describe Rattlesnake. The real treasure here, the true gem hidden inside this book, was that these two men were so incredibly real—never whiny and yet god knows they both had reason to be so–never distant or stubborn, always so kind, caring, invested. That is the real gem, that the incredible characters Kim Fielding created are fully three dimensional and invested in the people around them, and in each other.

The secondary characters in this story were just as important to them as they were to each other. The town was central to the story, never perfect yet so accepting, so careful when watching out for one of their own–and Shane was certainly that, a young man the entire town watched over, often to his consternation. Jimmy fought tooth and nail against this loving town, this caring younger man, this tempting respite from a road that had so often beaten him down. To give in would mean that he forgave himself, that he loved himself, and that was so foreign to Jimmy for you see, it was second nature for him to loathe the man inside. When Shane and the town get too close, breach the walls around Jimmy’s heart, he has to go, to run.

Rattlesnake is an incredibly gorgeous love story, a story of healing and of finally coming home. I cannot say enough about this beautiful novel. Kim Fielding is a consummate storyteller who weaves a magic spell around two lost souls, and reminds us that if we trust with our hearts, there will always be a home waiting for us just around the bend. I highly recommend this novel to you.

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5 Stars, Audio Book, Dreamspinner Press, Genre Romance, Kim Fielding, Narration Rating - 5 Stars, Reviewed by Kim

Audio Review: The Tin Box by Kim Fielding – Narrated by K.C. Kelly

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Title: The Tin Box

Author: Kim Fielding

Narrator:: K.C. Kelly

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Run Time: 7 Hours and 26 Minutes

At a Glance: Kim Fielding has delivered an outstanding story well worth reading, and K.C. Kelly delivers an excellent performance of The Tin Box!

Reviewed By: Kim

Blurb: William Lyon’s past forced him to become someone he isn’t. Conflicted and unable to maintain the charade, he separates from his wife and takes a job as caretaker at a former mental hospital. Jelley’s Valley State Insane Asylum was the largest mental hospital in California for well over a century, but it now stands empty. William thinks the decrepit institution is the perfect place to finish his dissertation and wait for his divorce to become final. In town, William meets Colby Anderson, who minds the local store and post office. Unlike William, Colby is cute, upbeat, and flamboyantly out. Although initially put off by Colby’s mannerisms, William comes to value their new friendship, and even accepts Colby’s offer to ease him into the world of gay sex.

William’s self-image begins to change when he discovers a tin box, hidden in an asylum wall since the 1940s. It contains letters secretly written by Bill, a patient who was sent to the asylum for being homosexual. The letters hit close to home, and William comes to care about Bill and his fate. With Colby’s help, he hopes the words written seventy years ago will give him courage to be his true self.

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Review: Lynn wrote such a lovely review of The Tin Box two years ago that I knew eventually I would have to break down and read it. It’s been sitting on my TBR shelf forever, but lo and behold, it came out in audiobook too! For me, it’s so much better when a story is read to me. Especially if it has content in it that might disturb me, angst filled parts that I would normally skim over and miss something important because I can’t take it anymore. Audiobooks force me to slow down and really get the full impact of a story.

I’m a bit biased when it comes to mental asylums, since I’ve had a family member who’s been in and out of them since he was seventeen. He’s now sixty-two and is residing in one, in their dementia and brain trauma unit. Mental hospitals have come a long way since I first visited him in one when I was eleven years old, and yes, there are some abuses that still occur with patients if family or advocates are not on their toes and looking out for them.

I was so impressed by the way William used Bill’s letters to motivate him into leaving his comfort zone and become more confidant as a gay man. Colby was such a tease as he flirted with William, and I loved how these two interacted with each other. I felt the emotion in Bill’s voice as K.C. Kelly read Bill’s letters and related all the abuses he’ suffered through. Some, but not all, of the description of the asylum brought back some pretty painful and sad memories as a kid visiting one of those places. As you can probably tell, Bill kind of holds a special spot in my heart, as well as all the others who have been placed voluntarily, or involuntarily, in mental hospitals. So many are left in these places and then forgotten.

Kim Fielding has delivered an outstanding story well worth reading, and K.C. Kelly delivers an excellent performance of The Tin Box! Once again he did a wonderful job with all the characters’ voices.

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You can buy The Tin Box here:

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3 Stars, Dreamspinner Press, Genre Romance, Kim Fielding, Reviewed by Sadonna

Review: Phoenix by Kim Fielding

Title: Phoenix

Author: Kim Fielding

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 44 Pages

At a Glance: A poignant and ultimately uplifting story of second chances and renewed courage to experience love.

Reviewed By: Sadonna

Blurb: First a soldier and then a diplomat, Juberi now spends his solitary days on a single ambition: trying to resurrect the phoenix, which has been extinct for centuries. He’s not pleased when he is obligated to attend a public ceremony in memory of an elderly friend and former colleague. But at the ceremony, Juberi meets the friend’s beguiling son, Desen. Despite being from a markedly different culture, Desen has much to offer. But after decades of denying his own desires, Juberi fears there is no alchemy that will reopen him to love.

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Review: I have to say I am a big fan of Kim Fielding’s writing – regardless of whether it’s fantasy, contemporary, historical, dystopian, short story, novel, or novella. I am always surprised by something, and happy that I decided to spend my time with her words, and this story is no exception.

Juberi is a retired diplomat and former soldier who now spends his days in his home lab trying to reanimate a phoenix. He pretty much keeps to himself and his house staff, and doesn’t have much of a social life. But he is required to attend a ceremony honoring a former colleague from his diplomat days, so he begrudgingly goes. After the ceremony, he meets Desen, the son of the former colleague. He is intrigued by Desen but also a little apprehensive because of the cultural differences.

Desen has heard much about Juberi from his deceased father, and flatters Juberi with his remembrances. He asks to see Juberi privately after the ceremony and although he’s still a little nervous, Juberi agrees. Desen is interested in a more private audience with Juberi to ask him a favor, so invites him to his residence. While he feels he can’t do what Desen asks of him, all of this sets Juberi to remembering his time in Desen’s land. He feels he is too old and too set in his ways to be of any use to Desen, or anyone else, really. But that doesn’t mean that he might not still be convinced.

I so enjoyed the interplay between Desen and Juberi. Their conversations and interactions were sweet and filled with longing and desire. It seems that maybe this meeting was destined after all. I also enjoyed Juberi’s relationship with Saura, his longtime servant. She truly has Juberi’s best interest at heart and takes good care of him.

I recommend this story for those who enjoy a short hot and sweet story about mature characters getting a second chance at finding something good.

 

 

 

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Giveaways, Kim Fielding

Interview and Giveaway: The Rattlesnake Blog Tour with Kim Fielding

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We’re so pleased to welcome author Kim Fielding to The Novel Approach today, on her Rattlesnake blog tour. Kim sat down and answered a few questions from Will Parkinson, so enjoy and then be sure to click on the Rafflecopter widget below for the chance to win a $20 Dreamspinner Press Gift Card and an e-copy of Ms. Fielding’s book Astounding!

Good luck!

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WP: Kim, do you have pictures that you use for your characters? Can you share them with us?

KF: I don’t exactly have pictures for the characters in this book. Catherine Dair is making me some amazing drawings of Jimmy and Shane, though. I’ll share them when they’re ready—and I’ll have the drawings made into trading cards.

Today, however, I can share a picture of Shane’s shirt! It’s a blue plaid Pendleton like this one: Sir Pendleton Wool Shirt. He wears it all the time. In fact, this shirt inspired his character. I saw the shirt in a Western-wear shop and almost immediately got a mental image of a man wearing it. He was tall and thin, with a cowboy’s drawl. But he moved with a careful limp as he crossed the worn wooden floor of an old building. I knew he worked there. And that was Shane.

WP: What kind of book would you like to write that people would see as a huge departure for you?

KF: I write in a lot of genres. And sometimes I do light and fluffy, and sometimes angsty. So I think it might be hard for me to surprise readers. But… I’ve had a plot bunny for a while now: a historical novel about a man shanghaied from San Francisco in the late nineteenth century who ends up finding gold in the Klondike. It’s not m/m romance, but will require lots of juicy research. I love research.

WP: Have you ever killed a character? Was it traumatic for you? If you haven’t killed one, would you ever consider it?

KF: I’ve killed a couple of them, and it was really traumatic. I dreaded writing those scenes. In one case, the death happens off page, but it was no less painful for me. And in the other case, I actually killed the poor guy twice in one book! It doesn’t help when I know that the story will have a happy ending; hurting my beloved guys hurts me.

I have to say, though, that other plot events can be even more excruciating to write. Back in my fanfic days, I wrote a long story in which one character ends up betraying the other in a terrible way. He has to do it, and he felt as awful about it as I did, but I hated writing that scene anyway. (And for those who are wondering, my fandom was the Buffyverse, and it was Xander who did something really devastating to Spike’s progenitor, William Pratt).

WP: Favorite location you’ve ever written about?

KF: To be totally honest, it’s the fictional town of Rattlesnake, California. It’s no accident that the book is named for the town. I’d even go so far as to say that the town itself is a major character in the story. It’s based loosely on a real place, Angels Camp, which is in the Sierra foothills. But even though I’ve spent a fair bit of time in Angels Camp, Rattlesnake is actually a lot more real—in my head, anyway. I can picture the terrain, the shops and houses, the local residents. I know exactly what the best dishes are at Mae’s Café and how the air smells on an autumn evening. I love it so much that I hope to write another story set in Rattlesnake—only this one will take place in the town’s infancy during the gold rush era.

WP: What’s your favorite season and favorite activity for that season?

KF: Fall. Maybe because I’ve always been either a student or a professor, but fall feels like new beginnings. Also, during the summer, the place where I live feels a lot like a convection oven. I’m relieved for cooler weather at last. I do a lot of travel in the fall. This year I’m in Europe in early September, then off to Gay Romance Northwest in Seattle, then to GayRomLit in San Diego. And I love Halloween too! We always decorate the house, and we get so many trick-or-treaters that we have to buy multiple Costco-sized bags of candy. Sometimes I dress up, but even when I don’t, I enjoy helping my kids plan their costumes.

TNA: Thanks so much for being here with us today, Kim. It’s always a pleasure.

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RattlesnakeBlurb: A drifter since his teens, Jimmy Dorsett has no home and no hope. What he does have is a duffel bag, a lot of stories, and a junker car. Then one cold desert night he picks up a hitchhiker and ends up with something more: a letter from a dying man to the son he hasn’t seen in years.

On a quest to deliver the letter, Jimmy travels to Rattlesnake, a small town nestled in the foothills of the California Sierras. The centerpiece of the town is the Rattlesnake Inn, where the bartender is handsome former cowboy Shane Little. Sparks fly, and when Jimmy’s car gives up the ghost, Shane gets him a job as handyman at the inn.

Both within the community of Rattlesnake and in Shane’s arms, Jimmy finds an unaccustomed peace. But it can’t be a lasting thing. The open road continues to call, and surely Shane—a strong, proud man with a painful past and a difficult present—deserves better than a lying vagabond who can’t stay put for long.

Pre-order Rattlesnake at Dreamspinner Press

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Kim FieldingAbout the Author: Kim Fielding is the bestselling author of numerous m/m romance novels, novellas, and short stories. Like Kim herself, her work is eclectic, spanning genres such as contemporary, fantasy, paranormal, and historical. Her stories are set in alternate worlds, in 15th century Bosnia, in modern-day Oregon. Her heroes are hipster architect werewolves, housekeepers, maimed giants, and conflicted graduate students. They’re usually flawed, they often encounter terrible obstacles, but they always find love.

After having migrated back and forth across the western two-thirds of the United States, Kim calls the boring part of California home. She lives there with her husband, her two daughters, and her day job as a university professor, but escapes as often as possible via car, train, plane, or boat. This may explain why her characters often seem to be in transit as well. She dreams of traveling and writing full-time.

Where to find the author: Facebook Author Page || Twitter: @KFieldingWrites || Blog

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THE GIVEAWAY

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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.

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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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You can buy Claw here:

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4 Stars, Dreamspinner Press, Genre Romance, Kim Fielding, Reviewed by Kim

Review: Grown-up by Kim Fielding

Title: Grown-up

Author: Kim Fielding

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 97 Pages

At a Glance: I found Grown-up to be a nice, sweet story about what happens when someone finds their missing piece.

Reviewed By: Kim

Blurb: It’s time for Austin Beier to grow up. His car is falling apart, his roommates are less than ideal, and he’s just been fired for the umpteenth time. His love life hasn’t evolved past bathroom hookups at his favorite clubs. Forced to borrow money from his father yet again, Austin is walloped by an epiphany—he needs someone to mentor him into maturity. And who better to teach him how to be an adult than Ben, his father’s office manager? Cute in a nerdy sort of way and only a few years older than Austin, Ben is a master of organization and responsibility. But as he gets to know Ben better, Austin learns that whether you’re eight or twenty-eight, growing up is never easy.

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Review: Kim Fielding is an auto-buy for me. I have enjoyed a majority of her stories, and Grown-up is no exception, though at first, I wasn’t sure I was going to like Austin. He basically is nothing more than an overgrown teen who likes to party…a lot! But, Austin also has a sweetness about him that you just can’t help but fall in love with, and I couldn’t help but smile at this overgrown teenager because he reminds me of a few people I know who had the same problem with the business of growing up.

And, as with them, all it took was for Austin to meet the right person.

I found Grown-up to be a nice, sweet story about what happens when someone finds their missing piece. It’s the kind of story that gives you that “aaaaw” feeling. Ben is Austin’s complete opposite, and once I found out why he was this super-responsible person, I just wanted to give him a great big hug for all that he’d been through at such a young age.

My only problem with the story is that some of it felt a bit rushed, especially the ending. But, then again, when I’m enjoying a story, I really hate it when I reach the final page. I’m just a greedy reader who wanted to read more about this couple.

If you’re like me and sometimes need a book to help you calm down after a book loaded with angst, then Grown-up is a highly recommended novella for that, to help gentle and soothe the nerves.

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4 Stars, Genre Romance, Kim Fielding, Reviewed by Kim, Short Story, Wayward Ink Publishing

Review: Standby by Kim Fielding

Title: Standby

Author: Kim Fielding

Publisher: Wayward Ink Publishing

Pages/Word Count: 30 Pages

At a Glance: Kim Fielding has a flair for throwing the unexpected into her stories.

Reviewed By: Kim

Blurb: Who’d have thought being stranded at the airport could possibly have some long term benefits?

Certainly not Tom.

But then, he hadn’t bargained on meeting Rafael…

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Review: I didn’t know this at the time I started reading, but Standby is part of the Stranded anthology, produced by Wayward Ink Publishing.

Due to a delay on his previous flight, Tom missed his connecting flight by 10 minutes! Stranded in Minneapolis, and dealing with a rude ticket agent, he finds he’s in “standby” hell, waiting for the next available seat on an airplane that will take him home to Iowa. With very little money for a motel, Tom finds himself wandering the airport. Weary, he sits down and dozes…until he notices someone sitting down next to him. For various reasons, Rafael comes to the airport to watch the planes fly, and as the two strike up a conversation, it doesn’t take long to realize they’re attracted to each other.

I rather enjoyed Standby. Kim Fielding has a flair for throwing the unexpected into her stories and since the blurb doesn’t give much information about what you’re going to read, I will say she didn’t pull any punches with this short story. I would love to read more about Tom and Raphael. It seems to me their story isn’t quite finished. Yet! Thirty pages is just a warm-up to a pretty interesting introduction of characters.

So, Ms. Fielding, is there a longer version of Standby in the making?






You can buy Standby here:

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5 Stars, Audio Book, Dreamspinner Press, Genre Romance, Kim Fielding, Reviewed by Kim

Audio Review: Housekeeping by Kim Fielding – Narrated by K.C. Kelly

Title: Housekeeping

Author: Kim Fielding

Narrator:: K.C. Kelly

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Run Time: 2 Hours, 42 Minutes

At a Glance: Even if I’m reluctant to try an audiobook, knowing Kelly’s work through previous experience is a sure bet I won’t be disappointed in the narration.

Reviewed By: Kim

Blurb: When Nicky Hauser walks in on his restaurant-owner boyfriend having sex with a waiter, Nicky loses his lover, his job, and his home all in one night. Although he’s nearly thirty, he’s never settled on a true career, and he has nothing to show for his years with Tom. Depressed and unable to find work, Nicky ends up couch-surfing with friends until he lands a house-sitting gig for a wealthy family.

When Nicky’s clients discover that he loves to clean, demand for his services skyrockets. Word of mouth leads him to Spencer Cartwright, a busy computer consultant and a slob. Spencer and his wife divorced when he came out, but he’s never found the time or courage to settle down with a man. As Nicky sets Spencer’s house to rights, the two men find friendship. But Nicky’s past experiences make him wary of risking everything on love.

Dividers

Review: Since there’s an ebook review of Housekeeping done by our very own sweet Jackie, and she wrote such a wonderful review, I decided to try the audible version of Housekeeping instead of only reading the ebook. Not to mention Kim Fielding is fast becoming an auto-buy author for me. I just love the stories I’ve listen to or read by her so far. She has a writing style that grabs you from the first page on, and I found that Housekeeping is a romance I enjoyed listening too.

Nicky is someone I would absolutely love to come live with me—a man who loves to clean…need I say more? I just thought it was a shame his previous boyfriend was such a sleaze.

As for Spencer, he’s cute in his own way, even if he is a slob, and I was so tickled pink when I found out that this was no rushed romance. These two MCs take their time getting to know each other, and I love a story that allows the couple interaction and getting to know each other instead of the WHAM BAM, now we’re in love version of romance.

Another plus for Housekeeping is K.C. Kelly, who is one of my favorite narrators. Even if I’m reluctant to try an audiobook, knowing Kelly’s work through previous experience is a sure bet I won’t be disappointed in the narration. I love that he throws something called emotion into his narrating without overdoing it, and he’s got a voice that sure as heck doesn’t put me to sleep, which is not good, especially while I’m driving.

So, I would recommend this audiobook or the ebook version of Housekeeping to anyone who loves a sweet, getting-to-know-you romance. I would do a re-listen just for the fact that Nicky is my fantasy man when it comes to cleaning. My toes are curling on this one since I’m a little OCD myself.






You can buy Housekeeping here:

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4.5 Stars, Audio Book, Dreamspinner Press, Kim Fielding, Paranormal Romance, Reviewed by Kim

Audio Review: Night Shift by Kim Fielding – Narrated by Max Lehnen

Title: Night Shift

Author: Kim Fielding

Narrator:: Max Lehnen

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Run Time: 3 Hours, 20 Minutes

At a Glance: This was a fun audiobook to listen to, and Max Lehnen gave an excellent performance

Blurb: Aside from a sympathetic parole officer, Aiden Finn is alone in the world. He knows this is his last chance—after a lifetime in and out of prison, one more mistake will land him there to stay. Unfortunately, his job as a night custodian at a motel is neither satisfying nor good for building his confidence, and booze and burglary are always just a step behind him.

Enter beautiful, exotic, and secretive Luka Gabor, the motel’s new security guard. He seems to know a great deal about literature, history, and travel but otherwise remains a mystery. Aiden has to admit, the sex has never been better, and he might even be feeling the beginnings of friendship. He dares to hope that this time, he won’t mess things up—if lurking monsters don’t ruin his plans.

Dividers

Review: I’ve yet to read anything by Kim Fielding that I didn’t like, or love, and Night Shift is another winner for me.

Aiden is the night custodian at the Snooze Inn motel. Most nights are monotonous, except for the occasional drunk who vomits on the motel floor to highlight the evening. Aiden has his fair share of problems, like being an ex-con and doing his best not to listen to the monster in his head that whispers how badly Aiden needs to have a drink.

His parole officer, Ms. Simmons, is a no nonsense type of person who is Aiden’s only link to becoming a better person and staying out of trouble. And prison. Aiden is trying so hard this time around to improve himself, and Ms. Simmons gives him assignments she’d like him to do which go beyond the call of duty. You could tell she was on Aiden’s side and was hoping that he’d make it on the outside. I fell a little bit in love with Aiden as I learned more about him.

Luka Gabor is new to the night shift, filling in for the previous security guard, who is out due to a heart attack. Luka is much easier on the eyes than the guard he’s replaced, so Aiden takes him up on his offer to meet during their breaks, even though socializing with others is not one of Aiden’s strong points. And, well, things do get pretty interesting for Aiden during break time. Luka is a man with a secret. Let’s put it this way: he has an interesting way of getting his daily sustenance, a first for me since I’ve never read or heard of this before.

This was a fun audiobook to listen to, and Max Lehnen gives an excellent performance in Night Shift. Thank you, Kim Fielding and Dreamspinner Press, for taking the time to find this talented narrator. I’m looking forward to listening to more audio performances by Mr. Lehnen.

Night Shift, both the print and audio edition, are highly recommend to those who like a touch of reality with their paranormal. The book would have worked as a contemporary, without the paranormal elements, based solely on Aiden’s situation, but the hint of the paranormal made it an even more interesting read. Nicely done, Ms. Fielding.






You can buy Night Shift here:

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4 Stars, Dreamspinner Press, Holiday Romance, Kim Fielding, Reviewed by Lisa

Review: Saint Martin’s Day by Kim Fielding

Title: Saint Martin’s Day

Author: Kim Fielding

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 31 Pages

Rating: 4 Stars

Blurb: Five years ago, Neno Kovač fled California, graduate school, and his lover, Toby Cowan, to return to his native Croatia. Since then, he’s led a quiet life as a librarian—until one November afternoon when Toby, who has never stopped loving Neno, shows up in Zagreb. When he left the United States, Neno wasn’t ready to give up his home and family to take a chance on a long-distance relationship. But Saint Martin’s Day has arrived, the day pressed grapes turn to wine and autumn turns to winter. Perhaps it will be a day when other changes are possible as well.

A story from the Dreamspinner Press 2014 Advent Calendar package Celebrate! Continue reading

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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, Audio Book, Dreamspinner Press, Fairy Tale/Mythology/Folk Lore, Kim Fielding, Reviewed by Kim

Audio Review: Brute by Kim Fielding – Narrated by K.C. Kelly

Title: Brute

Author: Kim Fielding

Narrator:: K.C. Kelly

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Run Time: 11 Hours, 14 Minutes

Rating: 5 Stars

Blurb: Brute leads a lonely life in a world where magic is commonplace. He is seven and a half feet of ugly, and of disreputable descent. No one, including Brute, expects him to be more than a laborer. But heroes come in all shapes and sizes, and when he is maimed while rescuing a prince, Brute’s life changes abruptly. He is summoned to serve at the palace in Tellomer as a guard for a single prisoner. It sounds easy but turns out to be the challenge of his life. Continue reading

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5 Stars, Dreamspinner Press, Historical Romance, Kim Fielding, Reviewed by Kim

Review: The Pillar by Kim Fielding

Title: The Pillar

Author: Kim Fielding

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count:

Rating: 5 Stars

Blurb: During his youth, orphaned thief Faris was flogged at the pillar in the town square and left to die. But a kind old man saved him, gave him a home, and taught him a profession. Now Faris is the herbalist for the town of Zidar, taking care of the injured and ill. He remains lonely, haunted by his past, and insecure about how his community views him. One night, despite his reluctance, he saves a dying slave from the pillar. Continue reading

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5 Stars, Dreamspinner Press, Kim Fielding, Reviewed by Kim

Kim Fielding’s “Motel. Pool.” Is A Ghost Lover’s Paradise


“I know what a ghost is. Unfinished business, that’s what.” ― Salman Rushdie


Title: Motel. Pool.

Author: Kim Fielding

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 206 Pages

Rating: 5 Stars

Blurb: In the mid-1950s, Jack Dayton flees his working-class prospects in Omaha and heads to Hollywood, convinced he’ll be the next James Dean. But sleazy casting couches don’t earn him stardom, and despair leads to a series of poor decisions that ultimately find him at a cheap motel off Route 66, lifeless at the bottom of the pool.

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Dreamspinner Press, Kim Fielding, Reviewed by Sammy

Kim Fielding’s “Pilgrimage” Takes You On A Journey Of Love And Second Chances! – Reviewed by Sammy


”To live, to TRULY live, we must be willing to RISK. To be nothing in order to find everything. To leap before we look.” – Mandy Hale


Title: Pilgrimage

Author: Kim Fielding

Publisher: Dreamspinner

Pages/Word Count: 200 Pages

Rating: 4 stars

Blurb: Fiscal analyst Mike Carlson is good with spreadsheets and baseball stats.

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Dreamspinner Press, Kim Fielding

“Alaska” Proves To Be The Perfect Setting This Holiday Season



“Did someone drawed a fireplace for you, Uncle Marco?”
“Not this year, honey.”
“Then how will Santa find you?”
“Oh, I’m sure he’ll find a way.” — Tia Fielding


What a beautiful, heartbreaking little Christmas story this is by Kim Fielding. Another new author to me, but I quickly became a fan. Though Alaska did break my heart and make me cry, it put it all back together again. That’s the hope of Christmas.

We first meet Marco and Scott on the roof of Marco’s house on Christmas Eve when they are 12 and 13 years old. The roof is the only place the two of them can find peace from the hellacious reality of their lives. Both boys live in terrible but different circumstances.
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Dreamspinner Press, Kim Fielding

Review: Housekeeping by Kim Fielding

BLURB: When Nicky Hauser walks in on his restaurant-owner boyfriend having sex with a waiter, Nicky loses his lover, his job, and his home all in one night. Although he’s nearly thirty, he’s never settled on a true career, and he has nothing to show for his years with Tom. Depressed and unable to find work, Nicky ends up couch-surfing with friends until he lands a house-sitting gig for a wealthy family.

When Nicky’s clients discover that he loves to clean, demand for his services skyrockets. Word of mouth leads him to Spencer Cartwright, a busy computer consultant and a slob. Spencer and his wife divorced when he came out, but he’s never found the time or courage to settle down with a man. As Nicky sets Spencer’s house to rights, the two men find friendship. But Nicky’s past experiences make him wary of risking everything on love.

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Dreamspinner Press, Kim Fielding

Review: The Tin Box by Kim Fielding


“Every man has his secret sorrows which the world knows not.” – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

 

I’ve read several books by this author and enjoyed them immensely. I had no idea she was going to take me on such an emotional ride with this one.

William takes on a job as a caretaker at an old asylum while working on his dissertation for his PhD. While there, he comes across an old tin box. Inside were letters written by a former patient named Bill to his lover Johnny. As William reads the letters, he’s realizing he has a lot more in common with this patient besides having the same name. You see, Bill was sent to the asylum to be “cured” of being a homosexual.

Colby works at his grandpa’s grocery store in the same small town. Colby is out and proud and doesn’t care who knows it. When Colby meets William, neither one could know they would change each other’s lives forever.

I loved William. I wasn’t too sure about him in the beginning, he seemed a little too uptight and full of himself, but as his story unfolded, my heart went out to him. Forced by his parents to be “cured” for his deviant, sinful, homosexual behavior, he is ultimately brainwashed into suppressing his true self. Having read about religious organizations in the past trying to make gay people straight, I had somewhat of an idea of what it all entailed. Never could I have imagined what lasting affects it could have on a person, on William. It was utterly heartbreaking.

I absolutely loved William and Colby together. If ever two characters needed each other it was these two. Colby was such a delight, his sense of humor, his laughter, his positive outlook on life. He showed William it was okay to be who he was. Colby was definitely the shining light William needed to come to terms with who and what he was.

I have never read a story in which one of the most heartbreaking characters wasn’t even physically there. The letters William found in that tin box were devastating and so sad. The realization of what those letters meant was gut-wrenching to say the least. For William, I believe it was kind of a wake-up call for him. He had a choice of how he wanted to live his life, he had his freedom. Bill, the man who wrote those letters, never had a choice. He had his freedom taken away simply because he loved another man. I believe that voice from the past made William stronger in ways he never thought possible. It shows in the letter William writes to Bill at the end of this story. Wow, I had to swallow back tears as I read it, so beautiful.

What a talent this author has for bringing us such a dark and sad topic, and balancing it with light and sweet scenes. By talking about a subject that isn’t really touched upon too often in this genre, and making us realize just how far we have come, and just how far we still have yet to go. I thank you, Ms. Fielding, for writing such an inspiring story that I know I will never forget.

This book is definitely a must read for everyone.





You can buy The Tin Box here:

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