3 Stars, Breathless Press, Paranormal Romance, Pelaam, Reviewed by Rena

Review: Haunted by the Past by Pelaam

Title: Haunted by the Past

Author: Pelaam

Publisher: Breathless Press

Pages/Word Count: 44 Pages

At a Glance: Haunted by the Past is a nice, quick read overall, though, if you want something not too involved but still quite romantic.

Reviewed By: Rena

Blurb: Jared didn’t believe in ghosts or love, until he moved into his new house and found both.

Finding a house that suits him, Jared makes the move to reclaim his independence. However, he doesn’t expect to find himself both attracted to and concerned for the almost-reclusive gardener, Evander.

Jared believes Evander is hiding an eating disorder. But the appearance of old photographs and love letters in the house cause him to wonder about the stoic man. As their friendship becomes more, he wants to help and uncover the secrets he knows Evander is hiding. Each of them are haunted by something, and it’s not the house.

When a ghost from Jared’s past appears, they must fight for their own happiness, even if it means exposing themselves and the truth.

Dividers

Review: I’m a huge, huge fan of haunted house stories and am always dying to read a gay romance that takes place in an old house with dark secrets. Pelaam’s Haunted By the Past delivers some of that but ultimately falls short of developing a number of things highlighted in the blurb. It’s a novelette, clocking in at around 12,000 words, and the short length means some shortcuts were made in some way or other regarding the plot. In this instance, I’d loved to have seen a heavier emphasis on the haunted house, its backstory, as well as Evander’s, and how all of those work together to affect the budding romance between Evander and Jared. In the end, however, much of the attention was placed on the sex scenes instead.

It’s not to say that Pelaam ignores the house and all the unexplained experiences Jared has as a renter. Far from it – faces in windows, cold spots, flitting shadows – they’re all there, providing us with a great foundation for some really spooky supernatural moments. The letters, especially, and the creepy manner with which Jared discovers them, are a fantastic touch that adds a human element to the house’s history. It’s just too bad those are relegated to the background, by and large, and are mostly skimmed over.

While the book’s a romance, ergo, the focus should be on the developing relationship of the main characters, the house, its past, and everything (and everyone) connected to it are relevant to the romance. The letters are surprisingly brushed aside after their discovery, and while Jared acknowledges their significance, they’re forgotten till the end of the story, when their link to everything is revealed.

The romance itself is really sweet, and we get to see everything unfold through Jared’s POV. He’s the quintessential artist-dreamer who falls madly in love with the quintessential silent, brooding mystery on two legs that’s Evander. His efforts at reaching out to Evander and moving their relationship forward despite what appear to be barriers are heartfelt and sincere, and there’s not much of a leap for the reader to make when empathizing with him. In a longer story, I think the process of getting to know each other more would’ve been much more compelling, but by and large, given the length of this book, what we get works pretty well.

That said, both men’s back stories come out of the blue at the last minute, which threw me off. Of the two, Evander’s history – and the reason behind his odd behavior – has already been hinted at from the beginning. Or at least we already know something’s up with him, so for his history to come out after the climactic moment is less jarring than Jared’s. Mind you, it’s a great backstory to read about, which gave me even more reason to wish this were a longer book, considering the implications. Without getting into spoilers, let me just say that his revelation means a much larger picture involving supernatural elements. It’s not just limited to the house and its weird past. And we don’t get that from the story leading up to the climax – no mention of anything remotely otherworldly happening elsewhere, beyond Evander and his connection to the house.

As for Jared’s backstory, it was the one that made me blink in confusion because I didn’t see that coming, and nowhere in the book, at any point, was anything hinted at. We only get an idea from the blurb. So to have certain complications ensue with no preparation beforehand threw me off somewhat, and I ended up feeling as though Jared’s backstory was tacked on as a means of placing the lovers in danger and forcing Evander’s history out into the open. If I were to step back and look at all of the different subplots objectively, I can see how they all work together to form a great, compelling story. However, the novelette’s length cuts down quite a bit on any opportunities at developing all of them for a more fleshed-out book, and whatever chances are there are largely devoted to the sex scenes.

Haunted by the Past is a nice, quick read overall, though, if you want something not too involved but still quite romantic.






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3 Stars, Breathless Press, Fairy Tale/Mythology/Folk Lore, Holiday Romance, Pelaam, Reviewed by Rena

Review: Horse of Bells by Pelaam

Title: Horse of Bells

Author: Pelaam

Publisher: Breathless Press

Pages/Word Count: 29000 Words

At a Glance: While the novella’s a quick, fun read, I still can’t help but think of missed opportunities

Blurb: A legendary horse, magic, and a man shrouded in mystery. Who can he trust? Caolan risks both his heart and his life to uncover the truth.

When his life is saved by a stranger, Prince Caolan feels an immediate connection to the man, and promises to meet him again. Forced to break that promise to protect his brother Donal, Caolan waits for the day he can return to the forest.

On their trip home, almost a year later, he and Donal are tricked by their step-mother into attempting to steal the legendary Horse of Bells from the infamous Dark Prince Tuathal. Honor-bound to accept the geis she set them, the brothers leave their castle to complete the quest.

During their journey, they meet the enigmatic Traveler. Caolan is confused and troubled by his reaction to the man. Is he a friend, or are his intentions darker and more deadly?

Dividers

Review: Horse of Bells is a novella in which things go – pretty fast – with not much by way of character or plot development. As a light fairy tale romance, it certainly works, and for fans of insta-love plots with light conflict, this fits the bill.

When I say things move quickly, it’s exactly that. Caolan meets a stranger in the forest while hunting wild boars. They make eye contact, and within seconds, they’re kissing. There’s a great deal made about gut feelings telling each man that the person he’s looking at is the one, as in the one and only true love of his life, with whom he’ll be sharing the rest of his years. But there’s not much else done about it besides the brief ten-month separation that Caolan reluctantly agrees to. And even then, the time apart isn’t really explored by way of how it affects the lovers. When they do reunite, the tension is there, sure, but again, the problem is sorted out easily, and they consummate their love.

The same goes with Donal and Tuathal, who meet under near-catastrophic circumstances but within hours are in bed, declaring undying love to each other. The rest of the book’s conflict, which is Doireann’s ambitions to take over the kingdom, is dealt with also pretty quickly. The book could’ve used a little more development both in terms of characterization and also setting. It’s a fantasy story, and the setting – what little we’re given, anyway – sounds absolutely wonderful, but there are barely any descriptions of time and place. References to drawbridges and forests and cottages are few and far between, and they also tend to be pretty generic, so whatever mental picture you might have of a Medieval castle, for instance, would fit the bill.

Much of the focus of the book is on Caolan, the younger brother who suffers from unjust expectations (or lack thereof) from the king. And his story follows a pretty standard plot for gay romances, especially those that hew very closely to yaoi conventions as I saw it. The characters are all archetypes, which is fine to begin with, but they never really go beyond that. Caolan is young, beautiful, emotional, and is always in danger and is always rescued by his lover (who’s older and stronger). It isn’t till the end of the book where Caolan asserts himself, which made me wish there’d been more to him (as well as the other characters) from the start.

There are only two female characters in the book, and one’s killed off, while the other is the main villain. Doireann sounds like a great nemesis, but she’s also not as fully developed as I’d expected, which is a shame.

What does stand out for me – and I loved it – was the backstory serving as a thread that connects Tuathal, Berach, and Doireann. It’s a great little backstory that’s rich in folklore elements, with a generous helping of mysticism. The horse itself is a strange, magical creature, and its existence adds that extra layer of mystery and magic that go beyond human understanding.

On a more technical level, there are odd errors peppered throughout the book involving the use of periods where commas should be in dialogue. For instance (not taken from the book, obviously, but it’s here to illustrate my point):

“Jack and Jill fell down a hill.” Mary said.

On the whole, while the novella’s a quick, fun read, I still can’t help but think of missed opportunities for a fully developed fairy tale romance. The book clocks in at over 29K words, so it certainly could’ve been expanded into a category length romance, if not a long novella, that provides us with a richer, more layered cast of characters and a setting that we can really sink our teeth into.






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4 Stars, Breathless Press, L.M. Brown, Paranormal Romance, Reviewed by Angel

Review: Touch of a Ghost by L.M. Brown

Title: Touch of a Ghost

Author: L.M. Brown

Publisher: Breathless Press

Pages/Word Count: 74 Pages

At a Glance: Overall, a bit angsty as well as bittersweet

Blurb: What if you could only touch your lover one night of the year? Halloween night is all you have when in a relationship with a ghost.

Drew Jessop wants a life without ghosts. He doesn’t want to see, hear, or talk to them. Ignoring them should be relatively simple. But Drew soon finds that Benji Richards, an eternally gorgeous ghost from the fifties, is not so easy to ignore.

Halloween night is approaching and both Drew and Benji know what it could mean for them. From sunset to sunrise, it is the one night of the year when a mortal can feel the touch of a ghost.

Dividers

Review: The blurb from this book had me a bit worried, but intrigued as well. I don’t really like to read serials or find unhappy endings in my stories, but that wasn’t the case here. I really enjoyed the concept behind this piece because I hadn’t ever read anything like it before. Being able to see ghosts has long been a topic of interest, and the concept has been used for several books and television shows, so there are some rules you see used over and over in the genre, and I am always surprised when someone comes up with something new. It keeps clichés new and exciting in my opinion.

I liked that while Drew could see and hear the ghosts, he couldn’t really touch them. Nor could they physically return touch. The ghosts could, however, interact with other objects and reality, and that was interesting for me. On Halloween, though, our couple’s dreams came true, and it appeared to have side benefits for the lovers as well. The reasons why were sort of hand-waved away, but it was nothing that tore me out of the story.

Overall, a bit angsty as well as bittersweet, with the lovers only being able to physically connect on one day a year, but the fact that they could talk and somewhat interact made up for it. I really liked the bit of reality that was injected when Drew’s parents stepped in to weigh their opinions on his relationship. Object lesson here is that there is more than sex to a relationship, especially between the human and the ghost. And it is a lesson they both learn after Drew almost dies. The result of his near death experience gives the couple a happy side benefit that really sweetened this little story.

Like all the other authors I’ve chosen to review, and just like some of the others I’ve read, I think I’ll look for more works by L.M. Brown in the future.






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Breathless Press, Cover Reveal, Iyana Jenna, Uncategorized

Cover Reveal: Not Mistaken Identity by Iyana Jenna

NotMistakenIdentity

Title: Not Mistaken Identity
Author: Iyana Jenna
Release date: January 2, 2015
Publisher: Breathless Press
Length: 13K Words
Sub-genres: M/M Contemporary Romance
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Breathless Press, Kay Fraser

Kay Fraser’s “Coming Home” Is A Story Of Healing At The Holidays



“The past cannot be changed, and we carry our choices with us, forward, into the unknown. We can only move on.” ― Libba Bray


Kay Fraser combines history and the holidays, in Coming Home, the story of two boys who meet in decidedly touchy circumstances, and through the kindness and persuasive skills of young Alexander Harrington, the orphaned Christopher “Kit” Whyte and his sister Lottie, find a place of service amongst Lord Langholm’s staff.
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