3.5 Stars, Liam Livings, Literary Fiction, Manifold Press, Reviewed by Sadonna

Review: Escaping from Him by Liam Livings

Title: Escaping from Him

Author: Liam Livings

Publisher: Manifold Press

Pages/Word Count: 148 Pages

At a Glance: A story of liberation and transformation that had me cheering on Ford and his family of choice.

Reviewed By: Sadonna

Blurb: Darryl’s on the run – from controlling boyfriend Chris, an air-conditioner called Dave (deceased), an intolerable, claustrophobic situation and a person he just can’t be any more. The trouble is, he doesn’t have a plan – or any money – and all he knows is he needs to get away from everything. That’s where a lucky lift to Glasgow comes in, which turns out to be just the beginning of a whole new life …

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Review: This is a pretty new to me author, as I’ve only read one short story of his in an anthology prior to this book. I enjoyed that story so thought I’d give this longer volume a try.

Darryl has been living with Chris, a much older boyfriend, in London. Chris found Darryl when he was quite young and slightly desperately in need of some love. He’d grown up in foster care, and met Chris at age sixteen. When Chris asked Darryl to move in, he figured he’d hit the jackpot. But after four years of increasingly controlling behavior from Chris, Darryl is about to crack. Finally, he can’t take it anymore, after one more suggestion from Chris that he shouldn’t waste his time with art but should instead get a job a KFC. Darryl has had enough, and he goes a little bit crazy before he finally takes off.

As luck would have it, he manages to get a ride to Glasgow with Douggie, a truck driver on his way home. Douggie seems a genuine sort, and keeps Ford (as Darryl has now decided to call himself so that Chris can’t find him) entertained on the trip. Once in Glasgow, a serendipitous encounter with Douggie’s wife leads to a potential job as a photographer’s assistant, which is exactly what Ford has been looking for. It turns out that Ewan is a good guy and a good boss.

Finally Ford, with the encouragement of Lena, the one friend from London he is in touch with, decides he can’t stand one more Saturday night in his rented room alone. He goes out to a club and meets Charlie. Charlie is older and he would like to be with Ford, but Ford’s having none of it. He’s taking a break from relationships, or anything else. Charlie seems to accept that and introduces Ford to his band of friends. They are quite the eclectic crew – a drag queen, a florist and his boyfriend (both called Gavin), and other assorted hangers on. They become Ford’s Glasgow family.

Eventually, Ford meets Callum, an aspiring actor, when he comes into the photography studio for some new headshots. They begin dating and things get pretty serious. Neither is making a lot of money, but they are getting by, and their lives are going well on the jobs front. Lena comes to visit from London, and she’s satisfied that Ford is doing okay. There are some tense moments with Charlie, who isn’t necessarily happy to give up on Ford. Lena also gets tired of travelling to Glasgow, but Ford is unwilling to go back to London.

I don’t what to spoil the rest of the story, but eventually Ford has to face going to London, and possibly face his past as well. Callum and Lena are wonderfully supportive friends. The Glasgow family has Ford’s back as well, and it seems that Ford has finally come into this own.

I enjoyed this story quite a bit – from Ford’s meltdown, to his naïve rushing off to Glasgow, to his finally standing up for himself with Charlie. He really learns a lot about life and himself in the course of this story. He learns what love really means and what it doesn’t. I liked that he figures out that self-reliance and taking control of his own destiny still leaves room for someone else in his life, even if it isn’t always easy. Yes, things work out surprisingly easy for him, in that he lands pretty softly in Glasgow after a very shaky start, but some people are just lucky ;) I liked Ford’s voice in this story and look forward to reading more from this author.






You can buy Escaping from Him here:

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Giveaways, Liam Livings, Manifold Press

Guest Post and Giveaway: Escaping From Him by Liam Livings

Liam Livings

The Novel Approach welcomes author Liam Livings today on the Escaping From Him blog tour. Enjoy the guest post, then be sure to leave a comment below to this question – How do you feel about camp? – for a chance to win an e-copy of this or any one of Liam’s backlist titles, reader’s choice.

THIS CONTEST IS CLOSED

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What inspired this book?

During the start of 2014 I discovered a song called I Love It by Icona Pop, which had been quite high in the charts over the previous months. It’s a sort of synth pop song with quite anthemic chanty lyrics, exactly the sort of song I usually love. And love it I did. In fact, I became slightly obsessed with it, watching the mesmerising video again and again.

The lyrics really got into my head and at the line, I threw your sh*t into a bag and pushed it down the stairs, I had a vision of a man doing exactly that to his boyfriend’s things and that was the starting point of the germ of an idea for the story.

I got this feeling on a summer’s day when you were gone. This gave me the idea for when to start the story, when Darryl would realise, from a small thing Chris had done he noticed in the hot flat, and he realised he couldn’t continue to be in that situation any longer.

One of the verses in the song gave me the contrast between Darryl and Chris: You’re on a different road, I’m in the Milky Way / you want me down on earth, but I am up in space. This was how differently they viewed their jobs. How Darryl is a dreamer, and Chris is very much into practicalities of things.

You’re so damn hard to please, we gotta kill this switch. This was about Chris’s controlling ways, and how everything in the flat had to be just so, or else.

You’re from the seventies, but I’m a nineties b**ch. Darryl is much younger than Chris, which again played into the dynamics of the relationship, and Darryl’s expectations at the start, and Chris’s behaviour.

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Q: Can you tell us about different genres you like to write in, does this book fit into one, or are you branching out?

So far I’ve written gay fiction with romance, with the Best Friends Perfect series, gay romance with my other stories, including And Then That Happened and Christmas Serendipity. They have all been contemporary stories so far. I try to write what I believe is an authentic version of gay men’s lives, based on what I’ve experienced, and what I’ve seen my friends experience. I also tend to stick to the lives of ordinary gay men, with normal jobs in hospitals, offices, shops, hairdressers etc. I believe in the beauty and interest in the every day. The simple pleasures in life are just as important as the big grand events too.

I like to use humour in my stories. Is comedy and camp a genre? I hadn’t noticed I did this until I read some reviews of my stories commenting on the sense of humour. I think it’s because my general default about how to cope with anything in life is humour. I tend to make a joke of things, when others dare to go there. I’ve also noticed with a bit of humour, and a touch of camp, I can get away with pretty much anything. I think somehow gay men are a bit ashamed of camp, like it’s *too gay* like now to be a good gay man you’ve got to be all ‘straight acting’ which is one of the most homophobic phrases I’ve heard. Be gay however you want, camp or not, but don’t be ashamed of however you are gay, and don’t judge others for being gay in their way. I didn’t get a choice, camp came to me, so that’s how I am and that’s evidently how I write, so be it.

Escaping From Him is contemporary gay romance, as the romance between Darryl and the other man is key to the story, but I’ve tried to twist it a bit, and included the unhappy starting point, when he’s with Chris. I wanted to show the contrast between what he’s coming from to what he ends up with. I’m not spoiling anything here by saying it has a happy ever after. But there’s some humour there too, and a good dose of camp throughout.

I may venture into science fiction / fantasy as I dreamed about a story which is set in the near future, in a slightly different reality from the one we live in now. This may well be my first science fiction story. Obviously it has a romance at its heart, I love a romance, I really do, but the backdrop will be more unusual than some of my other stories.

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escapingBlurb: Darryl’s on the run – from controlling boyfriend Chris, an air-conditioner called Dave (deceased), an intolerable, claustrophobic situation and a person he just can’t be any more. The trouble is, he doesn’t have a plan – or any money – and all he knows is he needs to get away from everything. That’s where a lucky lift to Glasgow comes in, which turns out to be just the beginning of a whole new life …

Buy Links: Manifold Press | Amazon US | Amazon UK | All Romance eBooks | Smashwords

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Excerpt: Darryl goes to a cabaret club in Scotland

It was like the Eurovision Song Contest for drag queens. They came from all countries and in all colours, shapes, sizes and costumes. Some looked like a big butch builder had put on a dress, heels and wig. Others looked exactly like a woman, until I noticed the Adam’s apple, strategically covered by a neckerchief. Some came on and sang, others lip synched – there was a nice mix of modern pop music, Lily Allen, Lady Gaga, some classics, Abba of course, Donna Summer and an awful lot of Mariah Carey. An awful lot. Much more than I’d have expected. Some did stand up, acid-tongued quips about modern life, as a gay person, or just in general, about living in the UK. Others entertained us by telling their life stories, suitably tragic and dark, which left the audience with only one option: to laugh along. I kept expecting it to end, but on came the next drag queen, a little bit different from the last one.

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You can connect with and find out more about Liam Livings at the following social media sites:

Website | Facebook | Twitter – @LiamLivings

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5 Stars, Julie Bozza, Manifold Press, Reviewed by Tina

Julie Bozza’s “A Threefold Cord” Is Threefold Brilliant – Reviewed by Tina


“And someone may overpower one alone, but two together can take a stand against him. And a threefold cord cannot quickly be torn apart.”—Ecclesiastes 4:12


Title: A Threefold Cord

Author: Julie Bozza

Publisher: Manifold Press

Pages/Word Count: 57000 Words

Rating: 5 Stars

Blurb: Grae Edwards and his co–stars Chris Willoughby and Ben Clyde work together well. Maybe they even have a chemistry. Certainly they are friends and Grae is tempted to ask for more … After the beautiful tart Chris has the temerity to turn him down, Grae settles into a comfortable loving relationship with the more chivalrous Ben. But the idea of Chris never quite goes away – and when Chris finally suggests the three of them spend a night together, Grae glimpses a solution he hardly dares hope for.
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Julie Bozza, Manifold Press

Julie Bozza Takes Readers On A Stroll Through The Aphothecary’s Garden

And the secret garden bloomed and bloomed and every morning revealed new miracles. ― Frances Hodgson Burnett

Hilary Kent has something Tom Laurence very much wants—his garden. But it’s not just any garden Tom’s after; it’s the centuries-old physic garden planted by a priest called Thaddeus who disappeared under mysterious circumstances, some four-hundred years before, that Tom’s most interested in because he’s reading Medieval History at Uni and plans to make the apothecary’s garden the foundation of his graduate thesis.

Hilary inherited the tower and its accompanying garden from an estranged cousin, moving from London to the quiet countryside that is the perfect accommodation for his preferred solitary life. Hilary is firmly ensconced in his golden years and aims to spend the rest of his days enjoying the seclusion his new home affords him, and that’s still his plan even though he’s given Tom permission to begin excavating Thaddeus’ original designs from the now overgrown disarray the garden has fallen into after years of neglect.

Tom is a young man who might be called nothing less than an old soul in the body of a confident and enthusiastic student of the history he’s about to unearth, a history that will uncover a mystery without any clues. His friendship with Hilary is one that blossoms and flourishes, and with care and nurturing affection, grows into a deep and abiding love in spite of the 4+ decades’ difference in their ages. But it’s not a love that is so easily cultivated, at least not on Hilary’s part, not by any means.

Hilary is of a generation that recalls very much what it was like to hide his attraction to other men, because he is of a generation that remembers a time when who he is was against the law. It takes some getting used to, this idea of living and loving openly the way Tom’s generation is striving to do, and it’s something he tries very hard to continue to foster in Tom while denying himself the right to do the same. Though, this time it’s not about his sexuality but about the conflict of falling in love with a man hypothetically young enough to be his grandson, an issue that Tom is blind to, not seeing their difference in age as an issue at all.

The Apothecary’s Garden is a gentle romance in which the conflict is internal for poor Hilary, who loves Tom so deeply but can’t seem to fathom it’s possible those affections might ever be returned. There is a forty-two year age difference between them, after all, so if that’s something that you’d have a difficult time with, I can’t say this is the book for you because it’s the crux of the conflict in their relationship for the entirety of the book.

While this novel was perhaps just a bit too sedate for my tastes, the drama in some instances a bit on the theatrical side to suit me, I can say without hesitation that Julie Bozza holds an obvious affection for her characters. Hilary was entirely sympathetic in his doubt and self-denial, acknowledging his love of a man he thinks he can never have, convicted in his belief that Tom could never see him through the eyes of anything other than a dear friend. The bond that grows between Tom and Hilary is genuine, making it easy to see how they could be kindred spirits, perhaps separated by generations but connected by their similarities.

There were some lovely metaphors in the story, illuminating the love that grew from the seeds of friendship for these two men, and the way in which a garden, much like that love, cannot survive until all the detritus that chokes the new and fragile blossoms of that love, which keeps it from thriving and growing into something lush and beautiful, has been removed to allow a new life to begin.

The Apothecary’s Garden is a book I’d recommend unreservedly if you’re looking for a story that leads you quietly along the path to its happy ending. Don’t read it if you’re expecting loads of angst and conflict, don’t read it if you’re expecting erotica, but do read it if you’re looking for an understated and touching romance.

You can buy The Apothecary’s Garden here:

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Chris Quinton, Manifold Press

Fool’s Rush (Fool’s Odyssey #3) by Chris Quinton – The Future Of Vampire-kind

For fools rush in where angels fear to tread. – Alexander Pope

There was a time, not so long ago, that Xavi Escudero might’ve been described as impulsive, reckless, self-centered, maybe even a bit of a cheeky brat…but that was so much a part of the man’s appeal it was easy to be drawn in by his charms, even when it was clear he needed something more. Or someone, perhaps. Xavi is still a little impulsive, truth be told, maybe still a little reckless too, and he’s definitely still a bit of a cheeky brat, but the self-centered part has dissolved under the influence of his deepening feelings for his lover Andreas Rousakis, the intimidating, dangerous, deadly when it’s demanded of him vampire Warden who is nobody’s inferior, and who has laid claim to Xavi for himself. Not that Xavi is complaining, mind.

Murder brought them together, a near death experience brought Xavi over, and now the discovery of a hidden treasure has put Xavi to the ultimate test, which has thrust him, and all of vampire-kind, into a very unwelcome spotlight as far as some are concerned, especially Xavi. The US is in a perpetual state of suppressive turmoil, though in Barcelona HARC is close to manufacturing an immunization that would make humans immune to the vampire virus and, with luck, would allow humans and vampires to peacefully coexist. There are those who see Xavi’s mysterious vampire hero mystique as a step closer to bringing their community out into the open, to show humans that vampires are not insensate and evil monsters to be feared. It is an opportunity to manipulate the media machine before the media machine has an opportunity to manipulate them, to fight the overwhelming prejudice from without, but first they must fight the prejudice from within that has fractured their community into the isolationist faction and those who wish to be able to live outside the walls of Renaissance.

Xavi is faced with a challenge from Father Esteve—find out if the Treasure of San Pedro-by-the-Wall can be traced to any living beneficiary. It’s not a challenge Xavi accepts readily, but accept he does in spite of, not because of, Father Esteve’s attempts at coercion, and it’s his investigation that brings trouble of another sort to the threshold of his and Andreas’s relationship, and brings out the worst in one of the members of their own society.

Fool’s Rush, the third book in the Fool’s Odyssey series, is part mystery, part suspense, and part solidification of a romance that Xavi was having a difficult time putting a name to, this bond that is more than a gold collar and goes beyond a promise. He and Andreas form a connection that exceeds anything resembling what we know and delves into the mysticism and mythology of their kind, delivering them to a new level of commitment and opening them up to a new life with each other.

It’s a revelation and a turning point as Xavi comes to know his own heart in this installment, and Chris Quinton handily leads Xavi, Andreas, as well as their fans to the place we’ve all been anxious for them to reach since they first met.

If you’re not already a fan and are looking for a sleek and sophisticated, futuristic paranormal romance, I wouldn’t hesitate to direct you to this series. If you’re already a fan, then I can say without hesitation you won’t want to miss this one.

You can buy Fool’s Rush here:

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