Christian Baines, Giveaways

Guest Post, Excerpt and Giveaway: Puppet Boy by Christian Baines

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Please join me in welcoming author Christian Baines to The Novel Approach today to chat about his new novel from Bold Strokes Books, Puppet Boy. There’s also an excerpt from the book as well as the change to win an e-copy of Puppet Boy, so don’t forget to click on the Rafflecopter widget to enter.

Good luck!

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I had no problem with people knowing I was bisexual. But I had no inclination to hold any banners nor be a representative of any group of people.” – David Bowie

Anyone who reads Puppet Boy’s blurb will see that high school senior Eric has a lot on his plate. But when an attractive budding actor named Julien transfers to his class, Eric’s initial scepticism soon turns to fascination. Could Julian in fact be his muse? Even his first boyfriend? That could be problematic. Eric and his girlfriend Mary have been inseparable since they were twelve. But Mary is more complicated than she seems, and for that matter, so is Julien.

Puppet Boy’s characters are a diverse spread. Some are gay, some are straight, some are bi, most aren’t putting labels on it, and no-one is particularly in crisis over their sexuality. They have far more interesting problems. The main plot surrounds the arts clique of an elite Christian high school in Sydney, meaning there are plenty of insecurities to go around. I tend to describe the novel as ‘What if Glee was instead the brainchild of Bret Easton Ellis and Gregg Araki?’ They were certainly big influences on it. But I feel those stories also have something in terms of LGBT acceptance that’s kind of faded in the last twenty years – a casual, but unmistakeable sense of bi visibility, usually without ever putting the label out there.

So where did those stories go? As gay culture has gone so mainstream, and our embrace of gay themes has become more earnest, bi characters have been increasingly shuffled off under broad ‘gay’ or ‘straight’ labels depending on who they’re with at the time. Or their bisexuality is depicted as a character flaw. It’s almost as if it isn’t ‘gay-positive’ enough if a character is bi, or it’s seen as a compromise or half-way point. ‘Oh, Willow can’t be bi. She’s with a woman, so she’s obviously gay now.’ So how does an author try to avoid that?

The tricky thing about tackling bi erasure is that sometimes, erasing labels is exactly the point. Unlike monosexuality which is demonstrated through the gender of our partners, bisexuality is rarely obvious unless the person tells you. As for all those great stories that came out in the 80’s and 90’s featuring sexual fluidity, they were, like Bowie, never out to represent bisexuals in earnest. They just played those characters truthfully and if you didn’t like it or it scared you, then, too bad. You obviously didn’t get it. In that vein, there’s no attempt in Puppet Boy to represent.

The novel’s job is to tell a story, not wave a flag, and unless someone is waving that flag or is in a polyamorous relationship, their bisexuality isn’t really overt. That makes it no less present or real than another person’s homo or heterosexuality, yet for whatever reason, our culture frames it as a tool or weapon rather than a sexual identity, insisting that someone who switches from a male partner to female or vice versa is ‘coming out,’ ‘going gay for you,’ or ‘ending a phase.’

While our pro-LGBT rights world is perfectly comfortable with the idea of bisexuality, our culture struggles to understand or accept the actuality. Glee, for all its supposed pro-gay milestones, introduced female bisexuality couched in titillation clichés, establishing its only major bisexual character as a relatively safe, cutesy, ditsy white girl. Then there’s its disastrous ‘Blame It on the Alcohol’ episode, which pays lip service to acknowledging bi-phobia before safely returning Blaine to the land of gay. Compare that with Skyfall, in which Daniel Craig’s Bond casually hints there might be male lovers in 007’s past. That single, quiet moment, in a mainstream action movie – a Bond movie, no less – was huge. It didn’t out the character as bi. It simply reminded us all that that wasn’t so far-fetched. Bisexuals could be heroes, villains, out and proud, quiet and reserved, in relationships, single, monogamous, poly, promiscuous, selective, chaste, more into men, more into women…everywhere and everything was within reach, right up to being James freakin’ Bond.

I don’t think there’s any trick to writing bisexual characters, so much as keeping in mind the way people treat bisexuality. Many won’t realise or acknowledge it, even if they themselves are bi. Or sometimes they’ll come out as gay because they feel it’s easier. We live in a culture that’s currently obsessed with sexual labels, and so do the characters of Puppet Boy. Deep down, they know they might be selling themselves and each other short, but they still find the idea of a fully fledged bisexual identity threatening, particularly for a man, or within themselves, so they retreat to fallacies like ‘gay for you.’ That might frustrate a few readers, and it does make them unreliable narrators in a sense, but it’s true to how I felt a seventeen or eighteen year old might realistically think or talk in a culture that still tends to dismiss sexual fluidity.

Of course it’s never just a matter of liking women or men or both. Countless factors determine attraction and comfort with intimacy. So I tried to focus on the feelings, not the gender of the characters and love interests in Puppet Boy. Characters might be into one person and not another, and not know exactly why. They can want sex and nothing else, or be totally in love with little or no sexual attraction. They can be messy, selfish, and screwed up, and to me, that’s interesting. That’s more reflective of what we’re like as people.

Puppet Boy isn’t a romance, MMF, MM, or otherwise. It’s also not some kind of bi manifesto, and its characters certainly aren’t role models. I do think more bi role models in fiction would be a great thing, but character came before sexuality in Puppet Boy, and to be honest, I find morally dubious characters more fun. So this was never going to be a book about role models or heroes. Instead, it’s a dark coming of age story that simply embraces the characters’ sexual fluidity as part of who they are. Eric’s primary goal never changes. His sexual exploration travels in tandem with it. When exactly he accepts his sexual identity doesn’t matter. He’s not going to look back in twenty years and think ‘Wasn’t I a good/bad bisexual?’ He’s going to remember the people he cared about, and the people who hurt him. In Puppet Boy, he finds plenty of both.

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PuppetBoyBlurb: A school in turmoil over its senior play, a sly career as a teenage gigolo, an unpredictable girlfriend with damage of her own, and a dangerous housebreaker tied up downstairs. Any of these would make a great plot for budding filmmaker Eric’s first movie.

Unfortunately, they’re his real life.

When Julien, a handsome wannabe actor, transfers to Eric’s class, he’s a distraction, a rival, and one complication too many. Yet Eric can’t stop thinking about him. Helped by Eric’s girlfriend, Mary, they embark on a project that dangerously crosses the line between filmmaking and reality. As the boys become close, Eric soon wants to cross other lines entirely. Does Julien feel the same way, or is Eric being used on the gleefully twisted path to fame?

Buy Links: Bold Strokes Books || Amazon || Book Depository

Add it to your virtual bookshelf on Goodreads

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Excerpt: “Eric, where are we going?” Mary giggled as she ran to keep up with him.

“Harley said we could rehearse where we wanted, and the script says ‘another part of the forest.’ Come on!” He took her hand as they jumped over rocks and fallen branches, heading deeper into the wild parkland that backed onto Christian Fellowship’s grounds.

“Have you been back here before?” she asked.

“No.”

“We could get in a shitload of trouble.”

“For taking a walk?” Eric pulled Mary close to him and clasped her hands in his, bearing down on her with an evil grin. “The trouble starts when I cut thy tongue and ravish thee!”

“Jules? Come on! You’re missing the fun!”

“Oh yeah.” Julien almost tripped over a rock as he staggered towards them. “Because I don’t want to miss the tongue cutting. That shit’s ace.”

“Fine, you cut the tongue, and I’ll ravish.” Eric knew Jules hadn’t been thrilled with the change of part or the lost opportunity to play Felicity Turner’s lover, but nobody had forced it on him. Eric was happy to do it for Mary. Who’d twisted Julien’s arm?

“Come on! Get with the ravishing already!” Mary snapped playfully, pulling down her blouse to show off three inches of modest cleavage.

“You mean you actually have breasts? Oh sweet and terrible temptation,” Eric mocked, taking out the script and flipping pages. He skimmed the text as she pulled down her blouse some more. “You know, when Shakespeare was around, they’d have tossed you out as a whore for doing that.”

“When Shakespeare was around, they’d have Jules playing Lavinia.”

“Fair call.”

“Huh?” Julien frowned.

“They usually didn’t let girls on stage.” Eric enlightened him. “Relax. She’s stirring you up.” After their encounter with Andy, Eric wasn’t prepared to cast further doubts on Julien’s masculinity. At least, not yet.

“Yeah, I know all about that. You know that’s where the word ‘drag’ comes from, right? Boy enters ‘DRessed As Girl?’”

“Umm, yes.”

“So, is that what you want your dad to think?” Julien asked Mary.

Eric gritted his teeth, wishing Julien would shut up. But the stupid jock wasn’t looking at him.

“What?” Mary asked.

“That you’re a whore?”

Mary smirked at him, and Eric relaxed, unable to resist a smile of his own. Everyone needed a goal. Topping Mary’s father’s shit list was more satisfying than most within their immediate reach.

“Okay.” He found the page they needed. “So if we skip the bit where Tamora’s sons kill Bassianus—”

“Who?” Julien asked.

“Lavinia’s husband. Saturninus’s brother.”

“Saturn… huh?”

“The young, new emperor…” Eric offered, seeing his friend’s clueless face. “Look, let’s not get into the rest of it just yet. One scene at a time, okay?”

“Cool,” Julien approved.

“Now, Mary—”

“Yes, Mister Director?”

“What?” Eric looked up from the script, his eyes fixing on her. “What do you mean?”

“You’re totally directing us.”

“I am not.”

“It’s what you want to do, isn’t it? This play was your idea, so we’re all yours.”

“I don’t want it to be like that,” he grumbled. “Not with you.”

Half truth, and they knew it. Something about taking the play and making it his own appealed to him. Didn’t he have the right to some creative control? Hadn’t it been his crazy suggestion to do this play, and hadn’t he somehow convinced the entire class to go for it? Didn’t he get Harley to go against the state curriculum for them? And fuck it, if he could control Joe, he could control a bunch of high school actors. All his idea. All his.

“Do you want Chiron or Demetrius?” he asked Julien.

“Huh? The brothers, you mean?”

“Yeah, which one do you want? Harley wants us to decide.” He looked to Mary for an opinion, but the girl was silent.

“What’s the diff’?”

“Demetrius gets more lines, just. Chiron’s younger, a bit more out there and fun. I think Chiron would suit you better.”

“Cool.”

“So, act two, scene four?” Mary pulled the sleeves of her blouse down over her hands, covering them in the makeshift ‘stumps’ of her cuffs.

“That’s the first scene where it’s just the three of us, so I guess. Wait, you’ve got it memorised already?”

Mary shrugged away his disbelief. “Actually, it’s not the three of us. It’s just you two. I don’t have a tongue by this point, remember?”

“Oh yeah, right.”

“Or hands.”

“Right.”

“You just cut them off.”

“Yes, I remember. Thanks.”

“Ymoa’re mbelcumb,” the girl mumbled, her tongue folded back inside her mouth to simulate its removal.

“What was that?”

“Ymoa’re mbelcumb!”

“Oh! You’re welcome. Shouldn’t talk with your mouth full, darling.”

“Bewy punnhy.”

“Or empty, in this case.”

“Phuck yiew, ‘itch!”

Eric flashed a grin and went back to the script. “So, now go tell, an’ if thy tongue can speak, who ‘twas that cut they tongue and ravish’d thee.” He pulled her close, his arms tight around her waist.

Mary screamed, an empty, muted sound, from behind her folded tongue as she turned her face away in feigned disgust. Eric wasn’t sure how a tongue-less mouth muted its sound, but they could work that out later. The two of them stood in silence, waiting for the next line.

“Jules?” Eric asked. “Jules?”

“Y’ul’en!” Mary shouted.

“Huh? Oh, it’s me?”

“Where’s your script?”

“Oh shit. I left it in class. Distracted. Sorry!”

Eric shook his head, throwing Julien his copy. “Page fifty-one.”

“Right.” He fumbled awkwardly until he found the right page. “Ah… Write down thy mind, bewray thy meaning so, An if thy stumps…”

Eric had to admit Julien’s cold reading was spot on for a guy who hadn’t read the script. “See, how with signs and tokens she can scrowl.”

“Go home,” Julien answered. “Call for sweet water, wash thy hands.”

An anguished cry pierced the air as Mary threw herself to the ground, beating at it with her cuff-enclosed fists, screaming the same muffled screams as she pounded the rocks and grass.

“Shit! Are you okay?” Julien asked.

She looked up at him with furious, mad eyes, a trail of spittle bubbling over her lower lip and down her chin before she spat it to the ground. Julien fell back as Mary’s vengeful screams levelled on him. She threw herself at him with unhindered fury.

“What’re you…? Hey!” he yelled as she beat her fists against his chest and clawed at his arms with clenched fingers. “What the…? Eric! Arrgh!” A searing pain ripped down his forearm. He whipped it back, catching Mary across the jaw with a loud crack.

The girl screamed as she clutched her stinging face. For an instant, the temptation seized Eric to throw himself at Julien, to wrestle him to the ground and start bashing his head. But it had been an accident. Nobody’s fault. He hoped his friends would see it the same way.

Julien finally tore his eyes away from the blood that was trickling over his arm, in time to see Mary’s eyes, the hatred that had filled them before, now intensified. “Shit! I’m sorry! Are you o— Hey!” He stumbled back again as she spat in his face.

Eric stepped forward, grabbed her hair from behind and yanked it back. Mary screamed in agony, twisting her head around as though he’d pulled it with all his strength. “She hath no tongue to call nor hands to wash,” he recited, suddenly releasing the hair and launching her head forward. More spittle. More anguished moans. “So let’s leave her to her silent walks.”

Mary scrambled across the ground, grabbing Julien’s trouser legs in her ‘stumps’ as she wrapped herself around, imploring him.

“Okay, stop. What the fuck are you doing?” Julien stammered, wiping his face clean.

Another low scream came from Mary as she pressed her head against Julien’s thigh, clutching him tight in her faux dismembered arms. Eric frowned, too intrigued to stop her now. “Keep going.”

“Uh…an…an t’were my case, I should go hang myself.”

“If thou hadst hands to help thee knit the cord.”

Mary let out another scream, then buried her face in Julien’s crotch. Eric had just opened his mouth to ask why, when…

“What on Earth is going on back here?”

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Christian BainesAbout the Author: Born in Toowoomba, Queensland, Christian Baines has since lived in Brisbane, Sydney, and Toronto, earning an MA in creative writing at University of Technology, Sydney along the way. His musings on travel, theatre, and gay life have appeared in numerous publications in both Australia and Canada.

Dual passions for travel and mythology have sent him across the world in search of dark and entertaining stories. His first novel, The Beast Without, was released in 2013, followed by an erotic short story, The Prince and the Practitioner.

Amazon Author Page || Twitter || Facebook Author Page || Facebook

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Bold Strokes Books, Charlie Cochrane, Genre Romance

Guest Post and Excerpt: Don’t Kiss the Vicar by Charlie Cochrane

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We’re so pleased to welcome author Charlie Cochrane to The Novel Approach today to chat about her new novella from Bold Strokes Books, Don’t Kiss the Vicar

Welcome, Charlie!

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How and where does a story and its characters start?

I know that some authors get an idea then plan their novel/novella down to the nth degree, and more power to their elbows if that helps them to craft a really good story. I honestly believe this is something there are no hard and fast rules for; so long as a tale gets out of the author’s head and onto the page or screen then it matters not how it gets there. Which is just as well, because I’m a total pantser; if I try to write to a plan I find it’s like wearing shackles.

I usually begin stories with two characters and a conversation, then maybe construct several different key scenes and conversations which eventually go into the whole, finding their natural place in the action. It’s similar to doing a jigsaw, although you don’t know the picture on the box until you’ve completed it (which sometimes means going back and changing some of those original pieces!)

In the case of “Don’t Kiss the Vicar” I had the character of Dan Miller (said vicar) spring pretty well fully formed from my imagination right at the start of the creative process. A man of the cloth in a sprawling village parish not unlike the one I live in, a man of great integrity who finds himself having to hide his true nature from his flock. I have to admit that I’ve put several snippets of local geography into the tale, to form the backdrop I wanted to set the action against, although I haven’t included any of my fellow parishioners.

The other main characters in “Don’t Kiss the Vicar” appeared one by one in my head – and on the page – rather like in a Shakespeare play where the key players gradually emerge. I based them on the sort of people I’ve known in the various churches I’ve been a member of, snatching little bits of personality here and there then amalgamating them into something new. So Margaret, Sylvia and Harry are as real as I can make them without being vaguely libellous; although the interesting thing is that I had to curb some of their characteristics as they were getting a bit too “BBC sitcom” to be convincing, even though they are based firmly in reality.

Dan’s love interest, Steve, was the biggest challenge. He had to be likeable, but still believably prickly with Dan. These two men had to be in the classic romantic situation of feeling attraction for each other but not daring to show it. Very Beatrice and Benedict! It’s a widely used trope, so the author has to attempt to keep the pairing fresh while treading a well worn path.

I hope I succeeded…

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Dont Kiss the VicarBlurb: Vicar Dan Miller is firmly in the closet in his new parish. Could the inhabitants of a sedate Hampshire village ever accept a gay priest? Trickier than that, how can he hide his attraction for one of his flock, Steve Dexter?

Encouraged by his ex-partner to seize the day, Dan determines to tell Steve how he feels, only to discover that Steve’s been getting poison pen letters and suspicion falls on his fellow parishioners. When compassion leads to passion, they have to conceal their budding relationship, but the arrival of more letters sends Dan scuttling back into the closet.

Can they run the letter writer to ground? More importantly, can they patch up their romance and will Steve ever get to kiss the vicar again?

Buy Links: Bold Strokes Books || Amazon || Barnes & Noble

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Excerpt: “Vicar!” The shout, the almost friendly wave meant the decision to veer off was taken too late.

“Steve!” A cordial wave back as the distance between them narrowed. “Didn’t think you frequented this place.”

“Is that why you come here, then? To get away from the parishioners you like least?”

Dan tried to find an answer, but somehow the connection between his brain and mouth had become severed. Helpless, he could feel the flush rushing up his neck, and could see—without looking at the bloke—that Steve was less than amused. What the hell else was he going to think other than that he’d hit the nail on the head, and Dan was too dumb to cover the fact up?

“Rex!” A high pitched, agitated female voice broke the awkward moment, as did a huge Great Dane, about the size of a rhinoceros, which came haring out of the woods, onto the path and straight into Steve’s leg.

“Shit!” Steve staggered, arms flailing in a futile effort to keep himself upright. Dan’s attempt to reach out and catch him before he hit the stony path was equally ineffective, but at least he could keep the nasty, snarling brute at bay with the aid of the stick he habitually took when he walked. Jimmy had said it gave him gravitas, now it provided the ideal weapon.

“You should keep that thing under control,” he said, as the woman came up and made a lunge for the Great Dane. “What if it had gone for a child?”

“He’s just nervous,” she said, flustered. “Here, Rex. Here boy.” The dog stood off. “He’s a rescue dog. Doesn’t like men.”

“Then take him somewhere he won’t have to see them. Are you all right?” Dan tried to focus his anger into something useful, rummaging in his pocket for a clean hankie. “You need something on that hand.”

“I’m fine,” Steve said, trying to hide the bleeding while keeping a nervous eye on the dog. “Can somebody not take that bloody thing away?”

“There’s no need for that sort of language,” the woman said, at last managing to get a lead onto the dog’s collar.

“I think there’s every need for it. And worse,” Dan said. “You’d better take him off if you don’t want the air turning blue.”

“Well, really! Come on boy.” She hauled the dog away at last.

“Right. Show me that hand.”

“I’m fine.” Steve got to his feet, brushing the dirt off his trousers and managing to get blood on them.

“That hand’s a mess.” Dan grabbed it, none too gently, which made Steve wince, but it served him right for faffing. “This cut’s full of crap. You need to have it cleaned out and a steri-strip put on. Might even need a stitch or two.”

“I’ve had worse,” Steve said, trying to free his paw.

Yes, you have. There’s that intriguing scar on the back of your hand and the one above your left eyebrow. Don’t think I haven’t noticed. Don’t think I don’t imagine tasting them.

Dan became aware of the strange look he was getting and ploughed on. “So have I. Come on, the vicarage is closer than your house. We can dress this there.”

“Oh, for fu…goodness sake. I can sort it out myself. I’m not a child.” Steve tugged his hand away, clearly avoiding Dan’s gaze.

“Will you not let somebody help you? Must you always be so bloody stubborn?”

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Charlie CochraneAuthor Bio and Links: As Charlie Cochrane couldn’t be trusted to do any of her jobs of choice—like managing a rugby team—she writes. Her favourite genre is gay fiction, predominantly historical romances/mysteries.

She’s a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, Mystery People, and International Thriller Writers Inc., with titles published by Carina, Samhain, Bold Strokes Books, MLR, and Riptide.

To sign up for her newsletter, email her at cochrane.charlie2@googlemail.com, or catch her at: Facebook || Twitter || Goodreads || Blog || Website

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5 Stars, Bold Strokes Books, Historical Romance, Jess Faraday, Paranormal Romance, Reviewed by Lisa

Review: The Strange Case of the Big Sur Benefactor by Jess Faraday

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Title: The Strange Case of the Big Sur Benefactor

Author: Jess Faraday

Publisher: Bold Strokes Books

Pages/Word Count: 99 Pages

At a Glance: Clever, clever, clever!

Reviewed By: Lisa

Blurb: Billiwack, California, 1884. When translator Rosetta Stein comes across her rival, Bartholomew Vincent, under attack by weird, raven-headed man-beasts behind the infamous Puckered Rosebud Gentleman’s Club, she senses opportunity. She rescues him in exchange for a crack at the commission he stole from under her nose—a strangely inscribed artifact found by Big Sur bigwig George Taylor Granville in the Santa Lucia mountains. Misfortune has stalked Vincent from the moment he took on the project, and he’s only too happy to share it. In the meantime, a lady marshal has come to Billiwack, investigating rumors of strange, unlicensed weapons, and she can’t seem to decide if she’d rather kiss Rosetta or arrest her. And Vincent is suffering romantic complications of his own, in the forms of Rosetta’s charming layabout brother, and an amorous professor who won’t take God, no! for an answer.

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Review: Clever. Clever, clever, clever! That’s almost all I can say about Jess Faraday’s The Strange Case of the Big Sur Benefactor, but…of course you know there’s more.

Let’s start with the title of the book, which seems to play on the original title of Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and though there isn’t a Dr. Jekyll in the book, there is a Dr. Hyde, and this particular doctor is the source-by-proxy of some issues for our characters in this novella.

The Strange Case of the Big Sur Benefactor is categorized as lesbian fiction, and, indeed, the romance that plays alongside the mystery in this novel focuses on Rosetta Stein (a cheeky play on the Rosetta Stone, yes?) and Marshal Erin St. George, who believes Miss Stein may be up to some illegal activities aimed at the US government. There is also a secondary couple, however, in Bartholomew Vincent (Rosetta’s chief academic rival) and her brother Franklin Stein (please, tell me you see the humor in that one), who do enjoy each other’s company off page–physically, if not altogether romantically.

The supernatural mystery in the story is packed tight with tension and owes the quite human vices of greed and rivalry to its source. There are more shrewd elements woven into the plot as well—the butler Baskerville being a particularly touching, though admittedly minor addition to the cast of characters. There really isn’t a single thing I disliked about this book.

One of the things touched on briefly and contrasted thoughtfully in the book is the position of gay men and lesbian women in history. There were no laws on the books that made two women loving each other illegal at the time this story is set (or ever, to my knowledge)—two women could live together all their adult lives and merely be thought of as spinsters, a perfectly acceptable living arrangement—but there being more social advantages for men during this time: at their clubs, in pubs, anywhere a single woman of a certain breeding and comportment wouldn’t have been permitted or accepted, which made it somewhat easier for a gay man to meet like-minded gentlemen. What Jess Faraday does in the characters of Rosetta and Franklin, then, is to flip their stereotypical roles—Franklin is the flibbertigibbet in this story, if you will, while Rosetta pursues an academic career not inherently accepted as appropriate for a woman, and I love the way the siblings are juxtaposed.

Faraday is a brilliant wordsmith who knows her way around the crafting of historical fiction, understanding where the balance exists between too much detail and not enough, firmly placing her readers in the time and place her stories are set without bogging down the flow of the storyline. What I hadn’t experienced yet from this author, in my reading of her work, is the paranormal element she’s woven into this novella, and I must say it’s just earned her a spot on my list of favorite historical paranormal fiction authors.

The Strange Case of the Big Sur Benefactor is another big win in this author’s repertoire.

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You can buy The Strange Case of the Big Sur Benefactor here:

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5 Stars, Bold Strokes Books, Historical Romance, Jess Faraday, Reviewed by Lisa

Release Day Review: Fool’s Gold (Ira Adler: Book Three) by Jess Faraday

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Title: Fool’s Gold (Ira Adler: Book Three)

Author: Jess Faraday

Publisher: Bold Strokes Books

Pages/Word Count: 322 Pages

At a Glance: In a word: Outstanding.

Reviewed By: Lisa

Blurb: For once, Ira Adler has it easy. He has money in his pocket, a comfortable arrangement with an undemanding young man, and no one’s punched, chased, or shot at him in years. Suddenly, an explosion turns everything upside down. Eager to leave London, Ira accompanies his friends to America to settle a family matter. But though a handsome lawman and a trip aboard a luxurious ocean liner provide welcome distraction, Ira soon finds himself embroiled in a plot that stretches from London’s back alleys to the dusty dirt roads of California. Before he knows it, Ira is up to his neck in train robbers, rattlesnakes, unscrupulous cattle kings, and persistent young women driven to frenzy by his exotic accent. Just when he’s ready to flee back to Britain, Ira gets a fistful of second chances. But London is calling. Will Ira answer? Or will he embrace a new life abroad?

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Review: Jess Faraday’s Fool’s Gold could have been subtitled “: Or The Misadventures of Ira Adler”. The series itself is the evolution of a character who’s become so beloved—all the characters, really—that revisiting him book after book, then waiting for the next adventure to begin, is sweet torture.

The Ira Adler series is a Pygmalion-esque story of evolution. From street whore to respectable gentleman, Ira is the beneficiary of a dangerous benefactor’s tutelage, becomes the object of that man’s obsession, and finally… Well, I think we may still be working on the finally part as the author leads us through a tangled web of emotions—hate, love, grief, regret, making peace with the past—there is still so much more for Mr. Adler to experience, and even as he’s mourned for and said his goodbyes to the past, he may have found a future in Marshal Calvin Sutter, someone to open up a whole new world of possibilities for Ira. The man himself felt somewhat rudderless and off course in Fool’s Gold as he battles jealousy and confusion; his life rocked off its foundation, which leaves him homeless and unsure; but he’s set a new course for his life. It only remains to be seen, now, where it will take him.

As the saying goes, life is a journey, not a destination, and Ira Adler is taking us on quite the trek through Victorian London and on to the American West. He becomes embroiled in a crime and mystery not of his own making (as always seems the case with our hero) that threatens his life nonetheless: framed for a robbery at sea, getting held up at gunpoint on a train bound across the barren prairies of the US, a near miss with a buffalo stampede; these are just a few of the various and sundry other pitfalls he experiences in Fool’s Gold until, finally, he finds himself at a crossroads between England and America, where he sees that America, in her relative infancy, holds the possibility of new beginnings.

As this journey sweeps Ira along in its wake, he becomes as much a passenger in the adventure as we are, and just when you wonder what else could possibly go wrong for him, something does. Fool’s Gold is non-stop action, start to finish, not to mention this installment is not too terribly kind to the heart or tear ducts. As many things as go wrong for Ira, though, some things go right as well, and while they might not have gone right the way I want to see them go, that’s okay. An occasional cry never hurt anyone, now, did it?

Which leads us to Cain Goddard, scholar and criminal, also known as the dreaded Duke of Dorset. Goddard, the man who, for some unknown reason, the author perhaps feels should be beyond our contempt, but isn’t. I don’t think I’ve ever loved a man of such ill repute more, and the source of all my tears? Yes. Cain Goddard. What’s happened in the evolution of these books is nothing less than superb, nothing less than heartbreaking, and while Ira’s journey isn’t over, things have most certainly changed course. And that’s all I’m going to say about that, because to say more would be unfair to those of you who want to experience every single nuance of these books for yourselves.

Jess Faraday’s storytelling skills are flawless. From creating rich and multi-layered characters to texturing each layer of plot so it grounds the reader in the time and place of the novels, these books are not a lesson in Victorian Era or Old West history. They are each detailed yet subtle, every scene perfection, written with a finesse that draws you into the story and captivates and captures the imagination.

There’s a reason The Affair of the Porcelain Dog and Turnbull House both made my list of their respective years’ Best Books. Fool’s Gold will make it a three-peat in 2015. This series is full-immersion historical fiction. In a word: Outstanding.






You can buy Fool’s Gold here:

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3 Stars, Bold Strokes Books, Erotica, Reviewed by Rena, Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Urban Fantasy, Simon Hawk

Review: Blackthorn by Simon Hawk

Title: Blackthorn

Author: Simon Hawk

Publisher: Bold Strokes Books

Pages/Word Count: 240 Pages

At a Glance: While I hesitate to recommend this book to romance fans, I’ll gladly do so to fans of erotic gay fiction.

Reviewed By: Rena

Blurb: Rian Blackthorn’s Gypsy and Elven heritage have earned him the title Master of the Hall of Swords in the realm of Brystyn. There, eighteen-year-old Rian has been training boys in the Ways of the Blade. However, his most promising student, Prince Corin, has fallen deeply in love with him. Already pledged to an Elven Prince of the Vale of Seven Rivers, Rian has managed to keep Corey at bay for the past two years. But when the prince’s journal of erotic writings is delivered to Rian, he discovers a conspiracy that may result in Corey’s death. And when Corey is abducted by Will the Wizard of Winterwood, a sexual deviant, Rian’s love for Corey is slowly awakened. And if by life or death, he can save him, he most certainly will.

Dividers

Review: The premise of Simon Hawk’s fantasy novel certainly has a lot of promise – that it’s an erotic fantasy can be a plus, depending on the reader’s preferences. Once I started reading it, I quickly understood what kind of erotic fiction it is, i.e., that it’s more along the lines of a James Lear novel, for instance, than what gay erotic romance readers might be familiar with. That’s not a bad thing by any stretch. I’ve read a few erotic gay novels before and found some to be either cheeky or campy fun, depending on the writers. With Blackthorn, the fantasy setting caught my attention, and I wanted to see how plot and erotic elements worked together.

To an extent, they complement each other in that in a fantasy world, it’s quite liberating seeing different characters enjoy each other in scenes that run the gamut – from wildly erotic to bizarre (the mad prince’s sex romps) to touching, at least after the fact (Tannen’s erotic dream spell on Rian). The sexual traditions within certain races, and the open relationships everyone has with each other, make logical sense within the context of the world Hawk has created, even with certain groups harboring extreme prejudice against homosexuality.

Unfortunately, that’s really where the erotic elements end insofar as their effect on the overall story’s concerned. The difficulty I had with the book was the way the sex seemed to override the plot itself. I reckon the rate of sex scenes would be around 1-2 per chapter, and they tended to make the story come to a full stop every time, to the point where I ended up forgetting who’s who, what’s what, and where I was once the story picked up again at the beginning of the next chapter.

There’s certainly a great deal more attention placed on the sex scenes, as far as details go, from what I’ve seen. The setting and characters overall, both major and minor, are very vaguely drawn, and readers are left to depend on more generic physical descriptions (everyone has long hair) of people and places, which, to me, doesn’t work very well in grounding the story to its world and giving it its unique edge. The language used, particularly during sex, is inconsistent in that characters speak anachronistically modern phrases – I remember one character crying out, “Oh, my God!” – while in non-sexual scenes, the dialogue tends to be a little more fantasy-like with its slightly formal sentence structure.

And the plot is pretty complex, which could’ve benefitted from that extra attention. As it stands, I often found myself confused about different races or tribes coming together against a common enemy – and especially the reasons behind certain animosities. A number of the characters also go by nicknames, some of which are close enough for me to completely lose track of which name refers to whom (Shadow vs. Sparrow, for instance). And as noted, it doesn’t help that sex scenes cut off the action abruptly and go on for a number of pages, and I’m forced to skip forward in order to catch up.

It’s because of this generalized treatment of individual characters that relationships also don’t materialize as I’d hoped. There’s a romantic relationship between Tannen and Rian, for instance, but we don’t really see that because they spend most of the book apart from each other, and when they’re together, they have lots of sex that really echoes every other character’s sex scenes. If Rian realizes he’s in love with Corin (or Corey), it’s also not terribly convincing as he has lots of sex with Corin in addition to everyone else. As far as I could see, anyway, there’s really nothing setting any of those intimate moments (between Rian and Corin) apart from everyone else that indicates a deeper connection between them. I can say the same thing regarding any regular interaction between the two, besides Rian protecting or saving Corin from Will’s lusty clutches.

So anyone who hopes to enjoy some sense of romance might find him/herself disappointed in this regard.

There are quite a few shadows of Tolkien throughout the book that I found to be rather cheeky touches. Helm’s Deep comes to mind as well as Bilbo’s line about not seeing dragons during his birthday party. Whether or not they were intentional, I still found myself chuckling and nodding when I read those passages.

In the end, while I hesitate to recommend this book to romance fans, I’ll gladly do so to fans of erotic gay fiction. Even though the erotic elements don’t merge smoothly enough with the book’s plot, there’s still some fun to be had, seeing certain fantasy tropes – such as those mystical, dignified elves – turned on their heads with a great deal of winking and nudging.






You can buy Blackthorn here:

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4 Stars, Bold Strokes Books, Jon Wilson, Mystery/Suspense/Action Thriller, Reviewed by Lisa

Review: Cheap as Beasts by Jon Wilson

Title: Cheap as Beasts

Author: Jon Wilson

Publisher: Bold Strokes Books

Pages/Word Count: 240 Pages

At a Glance: A recommendable read for lovers of classic murder mystery.

Reviewed By: Lisa

Blurb: Like most soldiers, Declan Colette lost his fair share in the war—in his case a sailor, drowned off Iwo Jima. Since then he’s been scratching out a living as a cut-rate PI, drinking too much, and flirting with danger. Then a girl arranges to consult him, only to be murdered en route, and the cops tag Colette as their prime suspect. To save his neck he’ll need to find the real killer, a quest that pits him against a rival detective firm, a dangerously rich family, and a desperate foe whose murdering ways started back during the war.

Could this be the case he’s been waiting for? Catching the killer could make his reputation. Failing, could cost him his life.

Either way: win-win.

Dividers

Review: Having so recently binge-read Joseph Hansen’s iconic Dave Brandstetter collection, I’ve been on the lookout for more of the same and seem to have discovered yet another interesting mystery series—or at least the start of one—by author Jon Wilson.

More standard noir than I might say the Brandstetter series is, with Cheap as Beasts Wilson has gone the way of the seminal hardboiled 40s gumshoe archetype, and made a bit of a mystery of Declan Colette himself. We do get the opportunity to learn a few things about him—namely, he’s not out to win friends or influence people, sometimes at risk to his person. Collette doesn’t seem to care much about whose buttons he pushes, whether inside the law or out. He’s a hard drinking, chain smoking, tough talking PI, not perfect, by any means, and his wise-cracking, antagonistic demeanor often finds him trouble in one form or another, though he proves throughout the narrative he has a detective’s eye for detail and the tenacity to see a case through to the bitter end.

Told in the first person, as most noir is, the author establishes the reader’s intimacy with the character and his story from the outset. The occasional second person address directed toward readers then adds yet another layer to that familiarity and engages us as we become better acquainted with our protagonist. The requisite femme fatales and bevy of suspects are introduced as we learn details along with Collette about not one but three murders which revolve around one wealthy family—the young widow, the children, cousins, and, of course, those in their employ; all come under suspicion in the beginning, the investigation complicated further when certain pieces of evidence disappear. That, coupled with more than a few red herrings, keeps things interesting from beginning to end, though I felt the motive for the first murder could have been more clearly defined.

As an aside to the mystery, reader’s are offered a mere glimpse of the personal side of Declan Collette, a World War II veteran who suffered his share of loss. Though we only get the barest hint of the emotional scars it left behind, it isn’t particularly difficult to piece together those clues and come to the right conclusion. The attraction he feels for Morgan O’Malley, he of the wealthy family, is tempered by the grief that causes Collette to keep Morgan at a respectable and business like distance, even though the attraction is entirely mutual. Collette does his level best to be off-putting and succeeds admirably, and though any potential ties between the two men seem to be severed by novel’s end, as the saying goes, it ain’t over till it’s over, so perhaps Book Two will be more enlightening on a personal front.

Though not as dark and nuanced as Hansen’s seminal noir series, Wilson’s crisp prose and engaging characters make Cheap as Beasts a recommendable read for lovers of classic murder mystery.






You can buy Cheap as Beasts here:

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Giveaways, The Year In Reviews

Simply the Best 2014: The Finale – The Year In Reviews and a Giveaway

2014

We have reached the end of our journey, folks, the final choices for our Top Reads of 2014. In case you’ve missed the others, check out Sammy’s and Tina’s selections HERE; Jackie’s, Lana’s, and Jules’ HERE; Lynn’s and Chris’s HERE; and Kim’s and Kathie’s HERE.

Rena and I are the last to go, and I paired the two of us together because we each, by coincidence, themed our lists just a bit. Rena’s choices are not only all selected from the Historical sub-genre, but they are also unique to the genre, each in their own ways. For my selections this year, you’ll find some among them (and yes, I listed two series because I’m a big cheater) are self-published, one falls under the Historical sub-genre, two of them are Alt U/Alt History, and one of them is a chronologized serial set in the 1980s world of sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll. And one features a group of some of the most charming and twisted killers I’ve ever read.

As we’ve reached the end of the line and are now looking forward to discovering some of the best books of 2015, The Novel Approach is offering you the chance to win a $25 Gift Card to Amazon or All Romance eBooks, winner’s choice! Just click the Rafflecopter image to enter before Midnight Pacific time on Saturday, January 3, 2015.

Good luck!

Rafflecopter Giveaway

And now, here are Rena’s and my selections for the best of the best this year had to offer.

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Rena:

21529170Flight of Magpies by KJ Charles:Flight of Magpies is another brilliant addition to KJ Charles’ magnificent A Charm of Magpies series. Reading the book was one of those instances where I was so deeply immersed in Lucien and Stephen’s world that I actually got upset when I realized how far I’d gone and how little I had left to read. It’s an experience that’s not new to me; it began with The Magpie Lord, and it had yet to show signs of fading or slowing down. That said, I don’t want it to happen, considering how much I adore this series.”

 

23202149Bloodline by Jordan L. Hawk: “Fans of Jordan L. Hawk’s Whyborne and Griffin series are in for a pretty dark treat with Bloodline – with a generous dose of tragedy, at that, but in ways that are a lot more complicated than simply death. As an installment of the series, Bloodline is perhaps the darkest and grimmest so far, but it does end in bittersweet hope that marks a new era, so to speak, for the characters involved.

The stakes in this book are significantly higher because everything becomes personal for Whyborne. We get to see his family’s history, which is intricate and bizarre and is steeped in magic.”

22544017Prosperity by Alexis Hall: “The first thing you’ll notice when you crack open Alexis Hall’s Prosperity is that the book’s written in some pretty heavy vernacular. Piccadilly, an orphan and a guttersnipe, narrates the story with so much sass and attitude to spare that his language, if at first a little challenging to get into if you’re not expecting it, almost serves like an emphatic exclamation point to his hilarious commentary. As he’s grown up in the streets of London, he’s illiterate and is sadly hardened for a boy his age (eighteen, he reckons, but isn’t sure), and his interactions with so many different characters – mostly adults who’re educated in varying degrees – are a never-ending source of delight. He’s alternately exasperated, mystified, resentful, contemptuous, and childish in his dealings with his fellow adventurers. And from a hardened urchin who thinks lowly of himself, Dil gradually develops into a cautiously hopeful young man who starts to believe that, hey, he’s got some worth, after all.”

bsb-juniorwillisJunior Willis by Richard Natale: “Richard Natale’s Junior Willis is a beautifully subdued account of a man’s sexual maturation during some of the most tumultuous decades in the 20th century. The novella begins in the 1950s, when Tom Larson’s first tour of duty in the Korean War places him in the path of Colonel Philip Dore, a married and closeted gay man who awakens Tom’s true nature. From here on, the story follows Tom through the years as he not only falls in love, but also gets himself hurt again and again, the miserable laws of the times compounding the pain by forcing him to suppress his needs and lose himself in work, if not seek comfort and questionable companionship in brief and unsatisfying liaisons.”

22224746Mending Him by Summer Devon and Bonnie Dee: “There’s no emotional wallowing in this book, which can be the downfall of historical gay romances, given the outlaw nature of same-sex relationships. Part of the book’s strength lies in the authors’ masterful use of restraint in laying out the complications and the triumphs not only of the lovers, but also of the Chester family, whose loving relationship with the two men shapes painful choices they all make along the way. The resolution to the problem of gay lovers in the 19th century is also plausible; modern readers might grieve over the lack of an out and proud relationship, but in their practical and emotionally rewarding way, Robbie and Charles prove to us that men in their position can carve out a happy life together, regardless of society and, especially, family. There’s defiance tempered by prudence and vice-versa, and one can’t ask for anything more.”

Dividers

Lisa:

17453304Chance Assassin: A Story of Love, Luck, and Murder by Nicole Castle: “I’m in awe of this author’s ability to write a story starring not one but two characters who should be unappealing in every way. Nicole Castle has made Frank and Vincent loveable to a degree that has left me obsessing over this book. It’s a hallmark of truly brilliant storytelling I haven’t experienced since reading Maria McCann’s As Meat Loves Salt and I fell for the insane Jacob Cullen. This author’s writing style is fresh, her characters funny and vibrant, her version of romance refreshing, and this book is one disturbing, endearing, horrifying, and sexy surprise after another.”

WicklowsOdysseyWicklow’s Odyssey by R. Cooper: “The timing of this book couldn’t be more perfect, and you don’t have to be a Civil War history major to appreciate the events that build up to one of the more tension filled and action packed climaxes I’ve ever read in a book. You need only know the motives for the war, who fought it, and its outcome to understand how beautifully R. Cooper has twisted it to suit this clockwork, steam driven adventure, where a great iron beast is the Trojan horse that, if not lamed, could bring victory to the South. Every single anachronism purposefully woven into this novel does nothing but add to the sense of intrigue, every single character introduced along the way not only adds to the adventure but also exposes more about Wicklow Doyle, revelations that are sometimes frustrating, sometimes heart-tugging as he tries to understand what he’s feeling, but each and every one is a new layer peeled away from this complex man’s prickly exterior.”

BSB-TurnbullHouseTurnbull House by Jess Faraday: “With its (The Affair of the Porcelain Dog) brilliant and stunning sequel, Turnbull House, the continuing story if former rentboy, Ira Adler, and his ex-lover Cain Goddard (the infamous Duke of Dorset) Jess Faraday has done nothing more than secured her place on my must-read-authors list, and did it in little more than the opening paragraphs of this book.

With characters who are layered with charm and complexity, settings that play out visually like a full color series of daguerreotypes on the mind, a mystery that reveals how far apart Ira and Goddard have grown since Ira walked out two years before, and a fluid prose that draws the reader into the lives of the characters and the time of the story, Turnbull House is as flawless a historical novel as I’ve ever read.”

Daron_Omnibus_Cover_500px1-231x300Daron’s Guitar Chronicles (Volumes One thru Five) by Cecilia Tan: “As addictive as any books I’ve ever read, as heart-rending as any series I’ve ever loved, Daron’s Guitar Chronicles is, if not perfect, the quintessential compilation of music, drugs, sex, love, lust, and pain. My one fear as I got farther along in Daron’s saga was that the author would fail in her effort to keep this storyline fresh and vibrant and emotionally encompassing through its hundreds of chapters. I’m happy to report she damn well did. Daron’s Guitar Chronicles is a brilliant feat in fiction, far too luminous for this simple 5 star rating.”

2146294723251880Baal’s Heart (Caged and Sacrificed) by Bey Deckard: “Bey Deckard has written a book that’s a study in contradiction and a sublime characterization of three men who will eventually become one, introducing two characters in the dominant Baltsaros and the submissive Tom, two men who should be difficult, if not impossible, to love, but then makes it entirely impossible not to love them. When Jon comes between them, through no fault of his own, and then falls in love with both his captain and with Tom, becoming the foundation upon which both men will anchor themselves, Jon risks not only losing his heart but his sense of self, in the process, and it’s an evolution that’s a glory to witness.”

“As impressed as I was by Bey Deckard’s debut, Sacrificed has exceeded any and all expectations I might have had for the follow up to Caged. It’s a grand adventure the author is taking us on, a journey of heart, soul, and imagination that promises, at the end, even more to discover as this extraordinary series continues.”

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4 Stars, Bold Strokes Books, Brian McNamara, Reviewed by Tina, Young Adult

Review: Bottled Up Secret by Brian McNamara

Title: Bottled Up Secret

Author: Brian McNamara

Publisher: Bold Strokes Books

Pages/Word Count: 264 Pages

Rating: 4 Stars

Blurb: Brendan Madden is in the midst of his senior year of high school and couldn’t be happier. He has a great group of friends, his pick of colleges, and he has recently come to terms with his sexuality. One night, he meets Mark Galovic, a gorgeous, younger classmate of his. In a matter of minutes, Brendan is hooked. As the friendship between them grows, Brendan reaches his breaking point when he spontaneously confesses his feelings to him. Brendan is shocked and elated to find out that Mark feels the same way about him. The two begin to date, but because Mark is not out, it must remain a secret. As their friends and family become suspicious, openly gay Brendan becomes increasingly frustrated with their discreet relationship, while Mark becomes more and more paranoid that they’re going to be found out. Continue reading

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5 Stars, Bold Strokes Books, Historical Romance, Literary Fiction, Reviewed by Rena, Richard Natale

Review: Junior Willis by Richard Natale

Title: Junior Willis

Author: Richard Natale

Publisher: Bold Strokes Books

Pages/Word Count: 84 Pages

Rating: 5 Stars

Blurb: From the moment he leaves the Midwest in the early 1950s, Tom Larson is forced to confront his sexual and romantic desires at every turn. His awakening begins in Korea where he has an affair with his commanding officer. On a trip to pre-Castro Havana with his then fiancée, he embarks on a star-crossed romance with a young Cuban zealot. In Los Angeles, during the life-altering summer of 1969, Tom, now a successful film/TV writer, is consumed by shame by his unrequited love for Junior Willis, a handsome young man who taunts him with vivid tales of heterosexual prowess. Tom’s tortured journey from self-loathing to self-acceptance and happiness mirrors the slow but steady evolution of gay consciousness from the post-War War II years to Stonewall. But when he finally stops questioning his nature and his yearning for affection, love finds its way to Tom’s doorstep. Continue reading

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4.5 Stars, Bold Strokes Books, Reviewed by Lana, Rosalie Tarr

There’s Magnetism And Murder In Rosalie Tarr’s “Bonded” – Reviewed by Lana


“Words are a pretext. It is the inner bond that draws one person to another, not words.” ― Rumi


Title: Bonded

Author: Rosalie Tarr

Publisher: Bold Strokes Books

Pages/Word Count: 166 Pages

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Blurb: Alec Whitehall is old-fashioned—literally. Approaching his 123rd birthday, the steely vampire has nothing better to do with his time except to investigate and hunt murderous vampires as a means of regaining some sense of his withering humanity. While trailing his current case in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the last thing that Alec expects to find is his bonded mate—an unwelcome distraction, he’s sure of it. But that’s exactly what happens, and he’s shocked to realize that his mate is a young attractive man named Aidan Copperfield.
Continue reading

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Bold Strokes Books, Jess Faraday

Ira Adler and Cain Goddard…Will They or Won’t They? – A Guest Article And Giveaway From Jess Faraday


In the creative writing class I’m teaching, I start off by emphasizing how important it is to know how the story is going to go before you start writing. We map out the Triggering Event, the Turning Points, and try to bring it all to a Tidy Logical Conclusion in the end. We do outlines and idea maps and lists and little pictures. Because it’s a lot easier to work the plot kinks out of 40 pages of outlines than out of 400 pages of text, and besides, if things change while you’re doing the actual writing—and they will—nobody’s forcing you to stick to the letter of the original plan.

But the truth is, even with an outline, and especially with a multi-book story arc, sometimes you just don’t know.

The Affair of the Porcelain Dog, the first of my series set in Victorian London, was a kind of coming-of-age story. The main character, Ira Adler, was the “kept man” of crime Lord Cain Goddard. Over the course of the story, as Ira matches wits with Goddard’s blackmailer, he uncovers secrets about Goddard’s past—and about his own, which cause him to question—and eventually leave—his cushy life with Goddard.

In Ira’s just-released second book, Turnbull House, circumstances bring Ira and Goddard back together again. The youth shelter that Ira founded at the end of Porcelain Dog is in danger of losing its building, and Ira taps Goddard for a loan to save it. Goddard is happy to lend him the money, and promptly weaves a web of obligation that will keep Ira tied to him for the next two years…or even longer, if Ira can’t find a way to pay the money back. In his heart, Ira knows better, but, as he says,

There was no need for melodrama. It was just a loan, and possibly a bit of recreational sodomy. If I kept my head, we could leave it at that.

Of course we all know neither of them could leave it at that, and it’s difficult for a man to keep his head when he finds himself in a love triangle with his two best friends, snatching rent-boys from the clutches of London’s second most feared criminal, and locked up as a murder suspect.

The third book in the series, Fool’s Gold, has been contracted, and is about half-finished. I won’t say anything more, except that Ira’s relationship with Goddard continues along its perilous path. Will they be together in the end?

Buggered if I know.

But it’s going to be fun to find out.

Blurb: The Affair of the Porcelain Dog – London 1889.

For Ira Adler, former rent-boy and present plaything of crime lord Cain Goddard, stealing back the statue from Goddard’s blackmailer should have been a doddle. But inside the statue is evidence that could put Goddard away for a long time under the sodomy laws, and everyone’s after it, including Ira’s bitter ex, Dr. Timothy Lazarus. No sooner does Ira have the porcelain dog in his hot little hands, than he loses it to a nimble-fingered prostitute.

As Ira’s search for the dog drags him back to the mean East End streets where he grew up, he discovers secrets about his own past, and about Goddard’s present business dealings, which make him question everything he thought he knew. An old friend turns up dead, and an old enemy proves himself a friend. Goddard is pressing Ira for a commitment, but every new discovery casts doubt on whether Ira can, in good conscience, remain with him.

In the end, Ira must choose between his hard-won life of luxury and standing against a grievous wrong.

Blurb: Turnbull House – (Sequel of The Affair of the Porcelain Dog)

London 1891. Former criminal Ira Adler has built a respectable, if dull, life for himself as a confidential secretary. He even sits on the board of a youth shelter. When the shelter’s landlord threatens to sell the building out from under them, Ira turns to his ex-lover, crime lord Cain Goddard, for a loan. But the loan comes with strings, and before he knows it, Ira is tangled up in them and tumbling back into the life of crime he worked so hard to escape. Two old flames come back into Ira’s life, along with a new young man who reminds Ira of his former self. Will Ira hold fast to his principles, or will he succumb to the temptations of easy riches and lost pleasures?

Excerpt from Turnbull House:

“So,” Goddard said, taking a long sip from his glass. “You never told me why you decided to contact me after all this time.”

“Well…” As I searched for the right words, he quietly set his drink on the polished wood floor. “It’s funny you should—”

The kiss came as such a surprise that I scrambled backward across the divan and almost tumbled over its rounded arm. Whiskey sloshed over the rim of my glass, splashing silently onto the Chinese rug. What remained I belted back in one go before setting the glass on the floor and wiping my shaking fingers on my trousers.

It wasn’t that I was averse to the idea of kissing him, but I really hadn’t expected it. In fact, if I’d seen him start toward me in the first place—he was remarkably quick for a man in his mid-forties—I’d have assumed he was going for my throat.

Goddard chuckled under his breath. “Sorry. Did I startle you?”

“You might say that.”

I was also taken aback by the presumption. I had always liked it when he took control, and the hard, whiskey-flavored slickness of his mouth had left me aroused. All the same, I was no longer his plaything. Part of me felt as if he should have at least asked permission.

I forgot my objections when he leaned in a second time, slowly, and cupped my face in his smooth, muscular hands. Now that I was expecting it, the kiss felt like coming home after a long, unpleasant journey. For just a moment, all of my troubles dissolved, and nothing existed except his fingers in my hair, the traces of his jasmine and bergamot cologne, and the smooth, familiar contours of his mouth.

And then as suddenly as he had moved in, Goddard pulled back, leaving me confused, disappointed, and blinking in the gaslight and shadow.

“Why did you come, Ira?”

“To ask you for money,” I said.

I know. I know. But every drop of blood in my head had surged to my cock, and I found myself incapable of the higher functioning required for either diplomacy or deceit.

Perhaps that had been the idea.

About the Author: Jess Faraday is the author of the Ira Adler series (including the Lambda-shortlisted Affair of the Porcelain Dog), the steampunk thriller The Left Hand of Justice, three book translations, a handful of short stories, and numerous nonfiction articles. She also moonlights as the mystery editor for Elm Books.

She is a graduate of the University of Arizona (B.A.) and UCLA (M.A.). Since then, she has earned her daily bread in a number of questionable ways, including translation, lexicography, copyediting, teaching high school Russian, and hawking shoes to the overprivileged offspring of Los Angeles-area B-listers.

She is currently at work on her fourth novel, Fool’s Gold, a mystery set in Victorian London and the American west.

You can find Jess on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Pinterest, and her Blog.

The Giveaway: THIS CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED

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Bold Strokes Books, Charlie Cochrane

We’re Awfully Glad To Have Charlie Cochrane With Us Today, And She’s Giving Away A Book!


As part of my non-writing life, I attended a development day, where one of the speakers discussed “Relationship Marketing” and the increasing loyalty as someone moves from being a prospective customer to a brand advocate. (How does this relate to the story behind “Awfully Glad”? Bear with, bear with…) I immediately could relate this concept to a potential reader moving, one hopes, to being someone who recommends your book to their friends, but the more I thought about it, the more I realised it could apply to me and my characters/settings.

I’d better explain.

I’ve always loved the war poets of WWI, especially Wilfred Owen, and I have a penchant for visiting war graves. (I maintain a war grave in our local churchyard.) So I guess I was always a “Prospect” in terms of writing a story set in the era, not least because I could visualise the scene – and hear the cadence of the language – so clearly from reading old soldiers’ reminiscences. It would always be an easy era to write from the technical point of view, if not from the potentially harrowing storylines.

I became a “customer”, ie first time writer of the era as part of my Cambridge Fellows Mysteries series. From the very first book, set in 1905, I could feel the shadow of war hanging over Jonty and Orlando. They’d have signed up, they’d have been officers, officers had a notorious small likelihood of survival, so what would have happened to them? I explored that in All Lessons Learned, but writing that book wasn’t enough. I’d become…

…a Client (repeat purchaser!). Or in this case, repeat writer. Awfully Glad is my fourth foray into WWI, and I’ve also had a short story featuring a guardian angel who was a WWI soldier before he died. My usual writing style tends to be light and humorous, and I have some pretty odd storylines (who else has written about weresloths?) but when I start exploring this era, my stories are more serious and my style more sober. That’s not to say there aren’t lighter parts – the wonderful humour these soldiers maintained in the face of such suffering is astonishing and that had to be reflected, too. But each of my WWI stories has had to deal with loss, either of one of the main players or someone close to them, because that’s the reality of the times. As is romance, and finding new hope among the ruins, and that’s featured heavily, too. I promise a happy ending for all my stories.

The next step on the marketing line is a supporter, who tries new products, which made me think of how I’ve tried to take a different look at the era rather than just repeating “soldier meets soldier, soldier loses soldier, soldier gets soldier back”. Awfully Glad was inspired by stories I’d read about WWI concert parties and the wonderful female impersonators they’d had entertaining the troops. Some of these had been so convincing they’d ended up being ogled by their own commanding officers! That’s exactly the sort of snippet which gets the plot bunnies breeding. Soon I had a character – Sam Hines – who’s beautiful and glamorous when he’s in drag, but butch and heroic when he’s back in uniform. That element of playing a part, taking up a role which wasn’t really you, gave me the idea for a storyline which would delve into the real dangers gay men faced in their everyday lives back in the early twentieth century. They’d always have “keep a face in a jar by the door” to wear for the world.

So that just leaves “brand champion” and maybe that’s what I’m doing now, talking about my book and trying to get people to read it, especially people who would normally give historical romances a miss. Although I think there’s more to it than just selling. I want to encourage people to find out more about WWI and the real soldiers who fought then. I’m researching the soldiers listed on the memorials at our two parish churches, as part of a Diocese project to mark the centenary of hostilities breaking out. I’d like to persuade people to explore the poems of Wilfred Owen, and read his biography, to become as besotted with the era as I am.

As I write this, I look out of a sash window that must have been opened and shut during that time (our house is Edwardian). The past is just a hairsbreadth away. Come and explore it with me.

Bio and links: As Charlie Cochrane couldn’t be trusted to do any of her jobs of choice—like managing a rugby team—she writes. Her favourite genre is gay fiction, predominantly historical romances/mysteries.

Charlie’s Cambridge Fellows Series, set in Edwardian England, was instrumental in her being named Author of the Year 2009 by the review site Speak Its Name. She’s a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, Mystery People and International Thriller Writers Inc, with titles published by Carina, Samhain, BSB, MLR and Cheyenne.

You can reach Charlie at cochrane.charlie2@googlemail.com (maybe to sign up for her newsletter?) or catch her on Facebook, twitter, goodreads, her website or her blog.

Awfully Glad:

WWI hero Sam Hines is used to wearing a face that isn’t his own. When he’s not in the trenches, he’s the most popular female impersonator on the front, but a mysterious note from an anonymous admirer leaves him worried. Everyone realizes—eventually—that Sam’s not a woman, but has somebody also worked out that he also prefers his lovers to be male?

When Sam meets—and falls for—fellow officer Johnny Browne after the war, he wonders whether he could be the man who wrote the note. If so, is he the answer to Sam’s dreams or just another predatory blackmailer, ready to profit from a love that dare not speak its name?

THIS CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED

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Bold Strokes Books, Jess Faraday

Jess Faraday’s “Turnbull House” Is The Perfect Sequel To An Imperfect Affair


“The antagonism between life and conscience may be removed in two ways: by a change of life or by a change of conscience.” ― Leo Tolstoy


Title: Turnbull House

Author: Jess Faraday

Publisher: Bold Strokes Books

Pages/Word Count: 288 Pages

Rating: 5 Stars

Blurb: London 1891. Former criminal Ira Adler has built a respectable, if dull, life for himself as a confidential secretary. He even sits on the board of a youth shelter. When the shelter’s landlord threatens to sell the building out from under them, Ira turns to his ex-lover, crime lord Cain Goddard, for a loan. But the loan comes with strings, and before he knows it, Ira is tangled up in them and tumbling back into the life of crime he worked so hard to escape. Two old flames come back into Ira’s life, along with a new young man who reminds Ira of his former self. Will Ira hold fast to his principles, or will he succumb to the temptations of easy riches and lost pleasures?
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Bold Strokes Books, Jennifer Lavoie

Why Not Take A Chance On “Meeting Chance”?



“Pets have more love and compassion in them than most humans”– Robert Wagner


Wow, I needed this book. I have had several disappointing YA LGBT reads lately. Books where abusers got away with their crimes and date rape was treated as just another mistake. I told myself I was finished with YA novels. But I had already committed to read and review this one. I don’t put much stock in God or Fate or whatever, but this book was the right one for me at the right time. It made me feel hopeful. There are authors writing age-appropriate LGBT fiction! Jennifer Lavoie is one of them. It is not only age appropriate, it is good! I read this in half a day. Made frozen pizza for dinner because I wanted to keep reading.
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Bold Strokes Books, Sam Cameron

Kings of Ruin by Sam Cameron

And then the car was beside him, not idling but panting like a deadly animal which may or may not be tamed. – Stephen King

Coming March 18, 2013

It’s hard not to automatically think of Stephen King when you read a book about possessed cars, isn’t it? No? Maybe it’s just me, and maybe I’ve just read too much SK in my day.

At any rate, Sam Cameron’s Young Adult novel King of Ruins is a pretty fast-paced and promising beginning to what appears is going to be a series (???), even though I can’t find mention of a sequel to the book anywhere. Honestly, though, I can’t imagine there won’t be a continuation to the story, based upon the way this book ended. There’s too much left hanging in the balance for it to be otherwise, beginning with the origin of the Ruins, and notwithstanding the non-relationship that had really only just been hinted at between Danny Kelly and Kevin Clark before the book came to a conclusion.

This is Danny’s coming-out story, set against a backdrop of real-life issues (the loss of his father and brother, his mother’s new marriage, Danny’s arrest for underage driving—in a stolen car, no less—not to mention now living in a city where he doesn’t want to be), but that’s really not the central focus of the story; that belongs to the alien sources of energy dubbed Ruins that feed on love, drugs, and rock & roll, and have taken to possessing all manner of automobiles, wreaking havoc and leaving a host of dead bodies in their rearview mirrors. There is one particularly deadly Ruin, King #5, that’s causing chaos in the city of Nashville, and it’s that entity that brings Danny and Kevin, who works with his father for a secret arm of the government in league with the Department of Transportation, together to mount a dangerous chase to try and eliminate the King before it can gather enough strength to infect something much more powerful and dangerous than a mere car.

This is a story that’s creative and filled with plenty of cut-to-the chase action when not focusing on Danny’s journey of self-discovery. It’s a story that has a lot of potential to go places if it is indeed only the beginning of something that will eventually dig a little deeper into the origins of the Ruins, how and why they connect with people of a particular background, and how Danny is eventually going to fit into the scheme of the agency to which he’s currently been given only a short-term hall pass due to his age.

There were enough questions left dangling at the end of this book that, right or wrong, it left me wanting in a rather frustrated way, sort of like trying to satisfy a chocolate craving with carob. Ack. I really liked the Urban Fantasy/Sci-Fi elements of the story, though, and found myself rooting for good things to happen for Danny and Kevin, hopefully sooner rather than later.

Kings of Ruin is definitely not a book you ought to read if you’re looking for teen romance, but if it’s action and adventure you’re after, and you don’t mind a cliffhanger, give this one a go.

Coming from Bold Strokes Books: March 2013

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3 Stars, Bold Strokes Books, Greg Herren

Murder in the Rue Dauphine (Chanse MacLeod #1) by Greg Herren

The stage is the Crescent City; the script, blackmail and murder; the director of the action, Chanse MacLeod, ex-cop and private investigator who is embroiled in a case where prostitution and extortion crawl into bed together and end up with his client, Mike Hansen, taking a nap of the eternal variety.

Mike was a hustler who managed to leave more than a few enemies behind him, providing for a healthy list of reasonable suspects in the wake of his murder. Having retained Chanse’s services to investigate and discover who’s blackmailing his latest sugar daddy, a very married and very closeted and very prominent man, Mike ends up with a bullet in his chest for the trouble, along with an epitaph written in his own blood that has many in the gay community believing his death was the result of a hate crime.
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5 Stars, Bold Strokes Books, Joshua Martino

Fontana by Joshua Martino

Fontana is a brilliant book. And I don’t mean that solely in the intellectually brilliant sense of the word; I mean that it is also luminous and powerful, and it made me angry and it made me cry, and it’s been some time since I’ve read a book that engendered such a strong emotional reaction in me.

First, let me caution you that this book is not a romance, though it is the love story, of a sort, between a young man and the sport at which he excels, and a journalist and an extraordinary athlete, and the sport that that journalist, Jeremy Rusch, reveres. No, Fontana is literary fiction and is told in the first person from Jeremy’s POV as he covers the New York Mets for his small and struggling NYC paper, and the career of Ricky Fontana during one epic season when the twenty-year-old wunderkind held America’s pastime and, indeed, the world in the pocket of his mitt and the sweet spot of his bat.

During one memorable summer, when nearly every baseball fan’s (and many non-fan’s) attention was trained on the Mets and a young man from Rhode Island who was set to break the long standing records of two of the sport’s greatest—Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio—and doing so in a single, monumental season, Jeremy was struggling with the failure of his marriage, alcoholism, and the near anonymity of a career that would change dramatically with just one scoop, a single byline that would set him apart from his colleagues and propel him from the dregs of mediocrity. Jeremy accidentally finds that scoop in his pursuit of Ricky, and in a moment of avarice, trades his personal integrity for career gain, opening a Pandora’s Box and releasing a storm of bigotry and intolerance upon Ricky, a gay athlete. “On a warm, wet June night, I said yes.” And at that moment, the moment Jeremy Rusch traded his soul for a story, my heart broke just a little for a fictional athlete named Ricky Fontana.

In the aftermath of Jeremy’s article that thrust Ricky from the closet in which he’d so adamantly guarded his personal life, many of his once adoring fans turned viciously on the player they’d so recently worshiped. What was once the fervor of veneration becomes vilification as a national debate rages over whether homosexual athletes should be allowed to play in professional sports. Touching upon religion, politics, and the way in which the campaign to support Ricky turns every bit as ugly as the crusade to crucify him, Fontana is a glowing and glaring example of the media’s (and the public’s) twisted infatuation with the private lives of public people.

Fontana is the story of a young hero whose meteoric rise and subsequent crash back to earth, puts him in the center of a Salem-Witch-Hunt that overshadows his incredible accomplishments in the sport that means everything to him. Ricky only ever wanted to play ball, but instead becomes the poster child in the raging debate over gay athletes. In spite of his best efforts to pay for his privacy, the public ends up taking its pound of flesh in their “right to know” everything about him, and in that violation, Ricky, a man of integrity and loyalty and incredible courage, remains strong and focused and succeeds in doing what many thought was the impossible.

And then, at the age of twenty, his legend both tarnished and secure in the annals of baseball, Ricky fades into history.

Fontana is a book within a book, a story that Jeremy has written chronicling his own personal losses and triumphs, as well as those of Ricky Fontana. It is both Jeremy’s personal account of that summer, as well as a series of interviews with Ricky’s ex-lover Peter Morgenstern, that comes together in an outstanding novel that should make everyone examine the need to label and the fascination with what goes on in the privacy of a person’s bedroom.

I cannot recommend this book highly enough. It will be a long while before I can think about Ricky and his struggles and triumphs without a lump coming to my throat and a tear coming to my eye.

**This title will be released July 16, 2012, and can be purchased HERE.

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Bold Strokes Books, Ken O'Neill

The Marrying Kind by Ken O’Neill

There are universally accepted themes in drama that are guaranteed to, if not draw tears, at a minimum will tug a bit at the heartstrings of every well-adjusted human being. Charming a reader into loving a character and then killing that character at the end of a book—sad. Tragic romance, star-crossed lovers destined never to have their happily-ever-after—sad. War, pestilence, famine—sad, sad, sad. Everyone can relate on some emotional level to those things.

Comedy, however—comedy can be a hit-or-miss proposition. Comedy is entirely subjective. It’s cultural; what a person finds funny may be influenced by race, religion, sex, or current state of mind. How else do you explain the Three Stooges? Or France’s obsession with Jerry Lewis? Carrot Top, anyone?

So when Ken O’Neill approached me about reading his debut novel The Marrying Kind, I have to admit I was intrigued. I feel like I have a pretty broad sense of humor, though I do have my limits. I think Joan Rivers is that limit for me. But I digress. If you don’t believe a topic as politically and socially relevant as the fight for marriage equality can be funny, you need to give this book a try, because Mr. O’Neill has managed to inject humor and heart into what many take for granted as an inalienable right.

The Marrying Kind is an Adam and Steve story. Literally. Well, technically it’s Adam and Steven. (Stavri, if his Romanian mother is really trying to get his attention.) But you get the point.

Set in New York City in 2007, before the state of New York boldly leapt from the dark ages and legalized same-sex marriage, the story follows Adam More and Steven Worth, who are six years into their relationship. Steven is a writer for The Gay New York Times, a small press, free publication owned and operated by his ex-boyfriend Brad, and Adam is in the business of catering to the institution of marriage. He’s a hugely successful wedding planner whose considerable talents are in high demand, but Adam’s career satisfaction begins to wane when thoughts of his own relationship and his commitment to Steven and his inability to make it legal juxtaposes how he makes his living.

When the hypocrisy of it all becomes too overwhelming, Adam decides to quit the wedding planning business, as well as to boycott anything that even marginally supports the heterosexual marriage agenda, and he and Steven embark upon a plan to rally the troops and make a statement about the injustice of it all. Caterers, florists, bakers—anyone who has a stake in the wedding industry is in some way influenced or affected by the Worth-More cause, but their cause also has a trickle-down effect when it creates drama within their own families.

This is the story of the moral dilemma between being true to oneself and doing what’s expected of you to keep peace within the family. Adam’s sister and Steven’s brother (who is a baker himself, whose business is directly affected by Adam and Steven’s cause) have finally decided to tie the knot, and they want Adam to plan the wedding, but not only does Adam refuse the plan it, he and Steven refuse to even attend it, (or any wedding, for that matter) which is a conflict that pits siblings against each other, and draws the family matriarchs into a guilt inducing, bribery making trip down the aisle of angst.

The conflict causes friction in Adam and Steven’s own relationship, as well, as they weigh conscience against loyalty, love against politics. Both sides have a point but neither wants to concede their point, until the guilt begins to consume Steven and his concession ultimately takes its toll on his relationship with Adam.

Told from Steven’s point-of-view, this book addresses an incredibly weighty topic, in an entirely charming way. It’s populated by a host of winning characters who help to tell Steven’s story. There is a particularly climactic moment at the end of the book that effectively drives home the point about the legal rights of partners that people like me, someone who’s been married for twenty-one years, take for granted until my eyes are opened to the inequity of the smallest technicalities that make a world of difference.

Not everyone wants or needs a piece of paper to seal their spiritual bond, but for those who do, for those who want and need it, they should have that right. It’s not a question of politics. It’s a question of compassion.

If you’re interested in learning a bit more about Adam and Steven’s movement, visit TheMarryingKind.Org

Pre-order The Marrying Kind HERE.

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