4.5 Stars, Cecilia Tan, Literary Fiction, Reviewed by Lisa, Self-Published

Review: Daron’s Guitar Chronicles: Volume Eight by Cecilia Tan



Title: Daron’s Guitar Chronicles: Volume Eight

Author: Cecilia Tan

Publisher: Self-Published

Pages/Word Count: 258 Pages

At a Glance: And the beat goes on…

Reviewed By: Lisa

Blurb: The latest volume in the award-winning web serial about coming out and coming of age in the music business of the 1980s and 1990s.

As the calendar moves from 1990 to 1991, Daron Marks is trying to stay true to his heart.

But life is tough when you’re a talented musician whose life is controlled by gigantic mega-corporations. Daron is trying hard not to think about that, though, when he invites Ziggy to spend Christmas with Daron’s chosen family: his mentor Remo and the guys from the band Nomad. Ziggy’s career is taking off at rocket speed; meanwhile Daron spends a few months living in New York City working with one of the music industry’s hottest producers and then takes a gig to hit the road with Nomad. Even with the industry pulling them in different directions, Daron and Ziggy’s paths keep crossing. Can they rebuild a relationship without music tying them together? And what is that mysterious song Daron keeps hearing on the radio?

Volume 8 cover chapters 585 through 636 of the online web serial.


Review: Have I mentioned yet how much I love this series. Yeah, I thought so, and that opinion hasn’t changed yet. I do have to say, though, that I’m wondering how much more gah! there can possibly be. It’s gah in a good way, though.

Daron and Ziggy. Well, they’re still dancing around each other—same tune, different beat—and tiptoeing over their issues and feelings, so not much has changed there in spite of the fact I thought, “Oh, here we go! There’s the ‘L’ word…” Then nope. I kind of L-word, in a masochistic sort of way, that Cecilia Tan is keeping things so close to the chest with these guys, though, because knowing that Daron’s telling this story in an autobiographical fashion, we’re seeing decades of his life from a current day perspective, and there are many years to go before we get to the 21st century, let alone to 2015. There’s time. There’s time to find out who Daron ends up with. Assuming he ends up with anyone.

And then there’s Colin… Say what, now?

I grew to feel an immense amount of love for Colin—sometimes guitar tech, sometimes CPA—in Volume Eight, and I have to wonder if it’s been sneaking up on me or if that love for him has been there on a slow simmer all along, and it’s finally just bubbled over because it became more evident how well he sees Daron and is sensitive to his moods and needs. Colin can take one look and know that Daron’s keyed up, and knows what it’ll take to undo him, and if that’s not something worth exploring, I don’t know anything about anything. Which I probably don’t because there’s still the enigma that is Ziggy. Is the real question (at least, my real question) whether either of these guys—Ziggy or Colin—are long-term boyfriend material? Cecilia Tan sure threw me a curveball with Colin here, and while I wasn’t expecting it, I can’t wait to see what, if anything, is going to come from it. Which is the awesomely aggravating thing about serialized fiction: that long slow burn of the payoff. But, if nothing else, Colin has proven to be the best friends-with-benefits guy ever.

Or, maybe I’m just reading too much into it.

One of the things I’ve feared as this series progresses is the “second verse same as the first” potential inherent in Daron and Ziggie’s maybe/maybe not relationship, and yet with each installment, Tan has thus far displayed an impressive ability to balance their storyline with Daron’s journey as a musician and a young man who’s growing into his sexuality and finally owning the fact that sex with men isn’t shameful. This is an author who knows her character intimately, and because she loves writing him, I love reading him, angst-ridden guy that he is and all.

We see Daron as more than the guy who loves Ziggy, and we even see him as more than a guitarist, although music is a massive part of who he is. We see him as a brother, a friend, and a surrogate son to Remo Cutler, and Daron allows us in on his most intimate thoughts and feelings and conflicts, and the bottom line is that he’s one of the most deeply drawn and thoroughly explored characters I’ve ever read. If you love character driven fiction and getting into the headspace of the people telling you stories, not to mention fabulous dialogue, this series pretty much owns that in an intricate and what I would declare a singular way. At least, I’ve never read anything like it yet in the M/M genre.

I obviously can’t force anyone to read a book, but if there ever was a series that I’d love to have someone to share my love of it with, it’s this one. Reading these books isn’t even akin to reading fiction, really. It’s like reading a man’s diary, and because Daron’s open and honest and human, which means he’s flawed, he’s also completely endearing.






You can buy Daron’s Guitar Chronicles: Volume Eight here:

Amazon US

Amazon US



Cecilia Tan

Guest Post: The Daron’s Guitar Chronicles (Volume Eight) Tour with Cecilia Tan


Today I’m so pleased to welcome Cecilia Tan and the Daron’s Guitar Chronicles blog tour to The Novel Approach. Daron and this series have quickly become an all-time fave of mine, so enjoy Cecilia’s post and the excerpt too!


Not-So-Historical Romance: Writing the 1980s

by Cecilia Tan

My long-running series Daron’s Guitar Chronicles carries the tag line “coming out and coming of age in the 1980s.” We joke that it’s “historical romance,” but actually it’s sometimes as more challenging to get the settings and details right in a 1980s romance as it is in the Regency.

For one thing, it’s challenging because a lot of us are still alive to remember it, so if I get something wrong, someone is bound to call me on it! I use many real venues and locations in the book, from Madison Square Garden to small underground clubs, restaurants, bookstores, in cities like Boston, New York, and San Francisco. The difficulty is upped by the fact that Daron’s Guitar Chronicles, following the life and times of a rock musician, sometimes changes setting every chapter. When Daron is on tour, it’s a new city and new venue every day. A huge number of the arenas and music venues that stood in the 1980s are gone now and sometimes Wikipedia is the only trace online I can find of them.

Another thing that’s tricky to handle is technology. The current book, volume eight, takes place in 1991. Some of the characters have pagers and one or two have “car phones” but no one has a mobile phone like we’re used to today. Most of them don’t have email yet.

And the music industry is quite different. MTV is still playing music videos at that point. There are dozens of music magazines in the US and the UK that are gone now. We still have Spin and Rolling Stone, but gone are Musician, Blender, Standing Ovation, BuZZ, The Face, Melody Maker, and many others. The only path to fame was through the major labels and radio stations were owned and operated locally, instead of being run by giant national conglomerates. Same for concert venues.

It was, in short, a different world. The biggest thing that has changed, though, that is really central to the story, is LGBT rights and the visibility of openly gay celebrities. The environment in which Daron is trying to succeed as a rock musician and come to terms with his own sexuality is drastically different. Hysteria and paranoia over AIDS are peaking during the years the story takes place. Volume Eight, which released this week, takes place in 1991, two years before Tom Hanks starred in the movie Philadelphia, five years before the musical Rent reached Broadway, and six years before Ellen came out.

The other big challenge for me as I write the volumes is that time in the series moves forward. What started in 1986 in Volume One is now in 1991 in Volume Eight and I have to keep track of all kinds of news events and societal changes that will impact Daron. 1991 is a crucial year in which the music industry has hit a particularly stagnant period and US politics are in the 10th consecutive year of Republican presidency (two terms of Reagan, and then Bush the First). Freddie Mercury is still alive (but not for long) and Nirvana and the rest of the grunge scene are still unknown (but not for long). Both those events will be noted in Daron’s world.

I’m sure there are things I missed, too, but I hope when people read the books they feel immersed in Daron’s life, not only the tour buses and backstage green rooms, but the closet and Daron’s struggle to kick open the closet door. Fortunately, nothing can keep love down forever, not in my books, anyway!


Daron's Guitar Chronicles 8Blurb: Sex, drugs, and rock and roll. Coming out and coming of age in the days of AIDS, MTV, Reaganomics, and Just Say No.  Winner of the Rose and Bay Award for Crowdfunded Fiction!

Daron Marks is a young guitar player with a dream, make it big like the guys he grew up idolizing in New Jersey–or at least escape his dysfunctional family. He makes it as far as music school in Rhode Island, and the rock clubs of Boston beckon him. But it’s hard to succeed from the closet.  A story of how finding one’s self is key to finding love, and loving one’s self is key to loving another.

Buy LinksAmazon (Kindle) || B&N || KOBO


ExcerptIn this excerpt, Daron’s in a hotel in New York City. It’s Christmas time, and Daron knows Ziggy’s in New York, too. They had a brief encounter the night before and Ziggy slipped his pager number into Daron’s pocket. It’s almost six in the morning and Daron’s been awake all night when he gives in and pages Ziggy:

The phone rang gratifyingly quickly. “Hey. I guess you’re not sleeping either.”

“I’m on West Coast time,” Ziggy said. “Where it’s only three in the morning.”

“Uh huh,” I said, unconvinced.

We sat there in uncomfortable silence for a few minutes. I was the one who had paged him, so was it on me to say something? But he was the one who put the “call me” message into my pocket, so….

“Maybe we should get together to talk,” I finally said.

“Can you get away from your family?” he asked.

“For a couple of hours, no one’ll miss me,” I said. “But I wanted to ask what you’re doing for the holiday tonight. Tomorrow. No pressure, but you could join us here.”

“Daron, how should I put this…” He breathed, and I imagined him sighing with his eyes closed. “Your group there is kind of overwhelming. I’m not good with crowds.”

“I never thought I’d hear you say that.”

“You know what I mean.”

“Actually, I don’t. Explain it? I’m listening.” I lay back to listen.

“I mean, I’m fine with crowds if I’m the center of attention. But I don’t want to be—and shouldn’t be—the center of attention at your chosen family’s gathering.”

“Why shouldn’t you be? You outshine everyone in any room you walk into.” This room felt like it was spinning slightly. I had definitely drunk more than usual.

“Like there’s a spotlight on me?”

“Like you’re a star that fell out of heaven. Ziggy, you’re the most gorgeous human being I’ve ever laid eyes on, and that’s as true today as it was that day in the park.”

“You’re drunk.”

“I’m telling the truth.”

“Because you’re drunk.”

“Because I’ve been to therapy. And I’ve realized there are a lot of things I could have been saying that I haven’t been.” I thought about what Bart had said, that maybe me being forthright and truthful about my feelings was actually scary to Ziggy. If so, I was probably freaking him out completely right now. “Am I freaking you out? I’m not trying to. I just… have this thing about the truth.”

“Uh huh,” he said cautiously. “And if the truth is… it’s too late?”

“Then tell me to go fuck myself: break my heart and send me on my fucking way.”

“Whoa. Whoa.” There was a kind of long silence while I guess he tried to figure out what to say to that. Or got himself together. I don’t know which. “I didn’t mean it like that.”

“It’s worth asking, isn’t it? Is it too late, Zig?” It felt crazy-good that I could send him spinning by speaking so baldly. Of course, the only reason it didn’t hurt like fuck to say was because alcohol had numbed me so much at that point. “Did I wait too long to tell you I loved you? Is it just fucking tragic when I say it?”

“Okay, you know what? I want to make a rule. No saying ‘I love you’ over the phone.”

“You don’t want me to tell you I love you?”

“On the phone. Seriously. I’m coming over there and then you can say it to my face.”


Cecilia TanAbout the Author: Cecilia Tan is “simply one of the most important writers, editors, and innovators in contemporary American erotic literature,” according to Susie Bright. RT Magazine awarded her Career Achievement in Erotic Romance in 2015 and their prestigious Pioneer Award. Tan’s BDSM romance novel Slow Surrender (Hachette/Forever, 2013) also won the RT Reviewers Choice Award in Erotic Romance and the Maggie Award for Excellence from the Georgia Romance Writers chapter of RWA. She lives in the Boston area with her lifelong partner corwin and three cats.

Website || Facebook || Twitter


A Sneak Peek At The Coming Week

Here’s a Sneak Peek at the Coming Week

Sneak Peek

Cheers, fellow book-a-holics, and welcome back to a sneak peek at who and what we have in store for you in the next five days. We have a busy week lined up, so I hope you’ll all join us in the fun.

Here’s what’s coming up:


Monday – Kicking off our week this week, we’ll be hosting authors Leta Blake and Alice Griffiths and their tour for Episode Two of Woke Up Married, Meet the Family

Tuesday – We’ll welcome author Bru Baker today on the tour for her new novel King of the Kitchen

And we’ll also have author Cecilia Tan dropping by on the tour for the next installment in her web-serial-turned-novels, Daron’s Guitar Chronicles

WednesdaySandrine Gasq-Dion stops in today on the tour for her newest release, Jinxed

We’ll also be bringing you another installment in DSP Publications Genre Talk with Carole Cummings and T.A. Venedicktov

Thursday – Author Jessie Gin stops by today on the tour for her new novel Strength in Numbers

We’ll also be bringing you a look at the cover art Paul Richmond worked up for author Rebecca Cohen‘s new book, He’s Behind You

Friday – And to close out the week, we have a busy day today. First up is author Charlie Cochet with a cover reveal of her new holiday novella Loving Blitz

We’ll also have author Christine d’Abo joining us on the Rebound Remedy blog tour

Cardeno C. is on tour for the audiobook of her novel Until Forever Comes, which will be stopping by today

And finally, we’ll be bringing you another Flashback Friday. This week’s edition will highlight the Bad Boys of Romance—the rule breakers and risk takers and heartbreakers


And that does it for this week. Until next time, happy reading!

Cecilia Tan, Cover Reveal

Cover Reveal: Daron’s Guitar Chronicles: Volume 8 by Cecilia Tan

DGG 8 cover

Cecilia Tan


Date of publication: 10/13/2015

Cover Reveal: 10/15/2015

Blurb: Pre-order special price: $2.99!

The latest volume in the award-winning web serial about coming out and coming of age in the music business of the 1980s and 1990s. The year is 1991 and Daron Marks is trying to stay true to his heart.

But life is tough when you’re a talented musician whose life is controlled by gigantic mega-corporations. Daron is trying hard not to think about that, though, when he invites Ziggy to spend Christmas with Daron’s chosen family: his mentor Remo and the guys from the band Nomad. Ziggy’s career is taking off at rocket speed; meanwhile Daron spends a few months living in New York City working with one of the music industry’s hottest producers and then takes a gig to hit the road with Nomad. Even with the industry pulling them in different directions, Daron and Ziggy’s paths keep crossing. Can they rebuild a relationship without music tying them together? And what is that mysterious song Daron keeps hearing on the radio?  


Preorder Today: AMAZON || B&N || KOBO  

C Tan __Courtesy of Tom Smarch Photography__About the Author: Cecilia Tan is a writer, editor, and sexuality activist. She is the author of Slow Surrender, The Prince’s Boy, Mind Games, The Hot Streak, White Flames, Edge Plays, Black Feathers, The Velderet, and Telepaths Don’t Need Safewords, as well as the Magic University series of paranormal erotic romances. She has the distinction of being perhaps the only writer to have erotic fiction published in both Penthouse and Ms. magazines, as well as in scores of other magazines and anthologies including Asimov’s, Best American Erotica, and Nerve. She is the founder and editor of Circlet Press, publishers of erotic science fiction and fantasy, the founder and creator of the Fetish Fair Fleamarket ™, and was inducted into the Saints & Sinners Hall of Fame for GLBT writers in 2010.

Website || Facebook || Twitter || Goodreads

A Sneak Peek At The Coming Week

Here’s a Sneak Peek at the Coming Week

Sneak Peek

Hi, fellow book hoarders, and welcome to another sneak peek at what we have in store for you in the week ahead, as I’m feverishly preparing for the trip to San Diego and GayRomLit 2015. I hope to see so many of you there. And I hope you’ll stop me and say hello. We’ll have coffee and chat books. :-D

Here’s what awaits!


Monday – Kicking off our week, we’re hosting author Rebecca Cohen on her Summer Season blog tour

We’ll also have author Hayden Thorne with us today to chat about the final book in the Masks series, The Porcelain Carnival

Tuesday – Today begins with Rick R. Reed when he stops by to talk a bit about the re-release of his book Tricks

We’ll also have author Charlie Cochrane with us on the tour for the latest book in the Cambridge Mysteries series, Lessons for Sleeping Dogs

Wednesday – Author Rachel Sparks joins us today on the tour for her new novel Giving Love a Chance

We’ll also be joined by J Tullos Hennig and Carole Cummings in another installment of DSPP’s Genre Talk

Thursday – Today we’ll be hosting author Jo Ramsey to chat about Work Boots and Tees, the latest installment in the Harmony Ink Young Adult series Deep Secrets and Hope

We’ll also be featuring a cover reveal today for Volume 8 of Daron’s Guitar Chronicles by author Cecilia Tan

Friday – Finally, to close out the week, we’ll have author Silvia Violet joining us on the tour for her newest novel Unexpected Engagement

And Perie Wolford will be joining us as well, on the tour for his new book Lights


And that does it for another week. Until next time, happy reading!

5 Stars, Cecilia Tan, Literary Fiction, Reviewed by Lisa, Self-Published

Review: Daron’s Guitar Chronicles: Vol. Seven by Cecilia Tan

TNA Page Turner Resized

Title: Daron’s Guitar Chronicles: Vol. Seven

Author: Cecilia Tan

Publisher: Self-Published

Pages/Word Count: 421 Pages

At a Glance: “Love is a friendship set to music.” – Unknown

Reviewed By: Lisa

Blurb: Ziggy went to India. Daron traveled the world. Is the music business ready for what happens when they meet again?

When last we saw guitar prodigy Daron Marks, he was on a beach in Australia on the very last day of 1989. A new decade has dawned and Daron has little choice but to embrace change in the face of Ziggy going AWOL and poor record sales. Daron embarks on a journey of artistic growth, studying more styles of guitar and music, a journey that takes him from Virginia to Spain to New York City.

But while he prepares for whatever may come next in his career, is Daron prepared for his inevitable reunion with Ziggy? Ziggy is back and he’s got a plan.


Review: Five-hundred and eighty-four chapters. That’s how far Cecilia Tan has taken her readers into the life of Daron Marks—so far—in Daron’s Guitar Chronicles, a grand feat of altogether consummate storytelling.

From the moment Daron was introduced as a teenager in the 80s in Chapter One, not only afraid of anyone finding out he’s gay but so afraid of simply being gay, Tan has taken readers on a journey deep into the life of her young guitar prodigy. We’ve followed Daron through creative highs and lows; through family drama; through falling in love with the one boy who would turn his life upside down and inside out (not once but a multitude of times…and still is), and the author has done so with an ease so seemingly effortless that we ourselves are notched directly into the world of music and the lives of the characters who people it. This series truly is realistic fiction at some of its finest, consistently blowing me away, chapter after chapter, with attention to detail and a protagonist I’m invested in to the extreme. Daron’s narrative voice is so utterly sincere, sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes frustrating, but always engaging. This is one of those series where I want so badly to see whether or not he gets his happy ending (read: the happy ending I want for him), yet…the thought of there being an end is too much to consider.

For seventy-nine chapters in this installment of the serial, we head into the 1990s as we follow Daron from the US to Spain, where he spends a brief interlude with Orlando, a guy who can’t seem to admit out loud that he’s probably gay, or at least bi. And, we get a glimpse of a Daron who is becoming more comfortable in his own identity as a gay man, something his time with Jonathan helped him to do, even though the relationship didn’t end up being what either man needed. Daron’s love for his lead singer Ziggy is always there, always at the forefront of everything for Daron—sometimes even in his music—and we’re teased by an almost-mending of their relationship in these chapters. Now, if only Ziggy were singing the same tune. One of the most frustrating and compelling aspects of this epic masterwork is the push me/pull you of the relationship between these two characters, and how invested I’ve become in their future. It’s an addiction of the sweetest kind.

One of the things Cecilia Tan has done so brilliantly in the first person storytelling is to not only disappear behind this character but to allow us to see Daron through Daron’s eyes. Rather than his voice telling us how we should think and feel at any given moment, I love that there are times when his frustration makes me sad; his sadness makes me frustrated; his anger makes me glad that he’s angry, while at other times I wish he’d step a bit more carefully. And his happiness… well, his happiness only comes in fits and starts, so that makes me sad too. But therein lies the beauty of this series—Tan builds upon the story and characters layer by layer—there are no cookie-cutter caricatures or cardboard stereotypes (even when the music business might demand it)—until you feel a degree of certainty that the author has known these people at some point in her life because they’re so authentic, the investment in them so complete. There isn’t a lot of action in these chapters, nor is there a lot of sex—this is, simply put, literary fiction at its finest: character driven and filled with all the flaws and challenges and perfect imperfections of the human condition, set against the backdrop of Daron’s near-obsessive need to play his guitars.

I know the word count in this series is intimidating. I can’t even begin to fathom how many words into Daron’s life we are now, nor do I know how many more words Cecilia Tan has left to offer her readers, but if there’s ever been a work of storytelling I’d beg someone to dig into, it’s this one. It’s pretty amazing, in my most humble opinion, and deserves all the recognition it’s received so far.





You can buy Daron’s Guitar Chronicles: Vol. Seven here:



5 Stars, Cecilia Tan, Literary Fiction, Reviewed by Lisa, Self-Published

Review: Daron’s Guitar Chronicles: Volume Six by Cecilia Tan

Title: Daron’s Guitar Chronicles: Volume Six

Author: Cecilia Tan

Publisher: Self-Published

Pages/Word Count: 547 Pages

At a Glance: Cecilia Tan continues to deliver

Blurb: The latest installment of the award-winning web serial about coming out and coming of age in the 1980s.

After the tumultuous events at the end of the tour in 1989 leave Daron and the band reeling, it’s time to get off the road for a while. When an opportunity to stay in Los Angeles comes up, Daron takes it. There’s session work and music industry schmoozing galore to be done in LA, but Daron’s true reason for wanting to be on the West Coast temporarily is simple: Ziggy is in isolation drug rehab in Cailfornia. Daron wants to be nearby, even if Ziggy can’t communicate with the outside world. Is Daron prepared to deal with Digger, record company politics, and creative challenges alone?

Bonus Content: Ziggy’s Diary


Review: The first person narrative has rarely been used to greater effect than in Cecilia Tan’s online serial Daron’s Guitar Chronicles. The relationship between Daron and the reader is something I’ve never experienced before, and I don’t believe could have been achieved in the third person, limited or omniscient, as brilliantly as it’s been done here. Daron’s narrative is intimate, personal, and it’s, of all the oddest things, interactive. Or maybe it’s reactive. Whatever one wishes to call it, there are times during the reading of this, and the previous books, that I wanted to hug him, shake him by the shoulders, give him an earful, and then go right back to hugging him through his pain and torment. I’ve rarely ever connected to a character this way, maybe never on this level, and it’s a testament to Cecilia Tan’s storytelling that Daron exists as something more than merely a character on the page but as a person who feels real and alive, if only somewhere in the realms of pure imagination.

Daron’s Guitar Chronicles is a fictional autobiography, which is an oxymoron, true, but fits, as Daron himself is chronicling his life from a point in the future that’s unknown to readers. We can assume he’s settled but with whom we can only guess, nor do we know yet what it’s taken to get him to the point of sharing his memories with us, but these are variables with which the author can, and I’m sure will, still mine a wealth of storyline from this man’s life.

There is a Ziggy shaped hole in this installment of the Chronicles, and never has the presence of a character been felt so keenly than in his absence. For those who are unfamiliar, Ziggy is (or was) the lead singer of Moondog Three. The band was on the cusp of superstardom when Ziggy had a meltdown for the ages that landed him in the Betty Ford clinic and left Daron in the arms of Jonathan, the man Daron tries, almost desperately at times, to allow to fill the Ziggy shaped hole in his heart.

Volume Six reads like an interlude of sorts. Where Volumes One through Five are a sumptuous overture, this installment offers the chance for readers to pause and reflect along with Daron on everything that has happened to this point in his short life: the successes, the failures, the joy and the heartbreak. Moondog Three appears to be crashing just as quickly as they rose, and Daron Moondog, under threat of lawsuit, is no longer permitted to exist, forcing Daron to reclaim his surname, if not his identity, as his estranged father Digger Marks’ son. One of the loveliest juxtapositions in this book, from the view of the first person, is the role reversal–Daron is at loose ends without Ziggy, while Ziggy, who has always been the loose cannon and free spirit, is pulling his life together after rehab, jetting off to India, where he’s gone for a little spiritual reflection. It’s not until the bonus chapters at the end of the book that the reader gets a glimpse into Ziggy’s world, which is saddening and maddening at the same time, but sets up what will be the inevitable reunion with Daron. Daron and Ziggy have both learned some things about themselves in their time apart. What remains to be seen, though, is if what they’ve learned will help or further damage their relationship (at least for those of us who don’t follow the serial online).

With everything in limbo for Daron, including Ziggy’s exact whereabouts once he leaves rehab, we watch Daron take a crack at domesticity with Jonathan, an experiment that on the surface may seem a failure but did, in truth, serve a purpose other than to cause me to shout at my e-reader that Daron is with the wrong man. And then, eventually, didn’t I tell you so, Daron?, when the inevitable happens. But, as difficult and frustrating as it was to watch Daron going through the motions of playing house, this act is a necessary part of Daron’s evolution, and it allows the reader to get to know and love Jonathan a bit better. It would have been an insult to Daron, Ziggy, Jonathan, and to readers if Cecilia Tan hadn’t given thorough examination to this time in Daron’s life. No deus ex machinas, no pat answers and simple resolutions could have happened at this juncture. Everything that happens in this book, Daron’s growing and growing up, his cutting off ties with his father while strengthening his bond with Remo Cutler—Daron’s best friend and surrogate father figure—as well as his friendship with Jonathan and separation from Ziggy, is necessary to the whole of this saga.

As always, the author’s attention to detail is meticulous, not to mention impressive, never once weighing down the pace of the narrative. Reading this serial has been like getting an insider’s view of the music business, told to us by a young man who is charming, vulnerable, tenacious, and so easy to love. Daron’s relationship with his guitars and music transcends and informs his relationships with people, and serves as the foundation for his coming to terms with being gay, finding the courage to come out to his closest friends, and learning how to say what he feels and ask for what he wants. How this will play out in Volume Seven, when Daron and Ziggy reunite, promises to be epic.

The first five books in this serial made it onto my Best Books of 2014 list. There is no question Volume Six, and if I’m lucky this year, maybe even Volume Seven too, will make it onto the list for 2015.

You can buy Daron’s Guitar Chronicles: Volume Six here:



Giveaways, The Year In Reviews

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


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.



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.”



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.”

5 Stars, Cecilia Tan, Drama, Literary Fiction, Reviewed by Lisa, Self-Published

Series Review: Daron’s Guitar Chronicles by Cecilia Tan

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Title: Daron’s Guitar Chronicles: Volumes One-Five

Author: Cecilia Tan

Publisher: Self-Published

Pages/Word Count: 1000+ Pages

Rating: 5 Stars

Blurb: Sex, drugs, and rock and roll. Coming out and coming of age in the days of AIDS, MTV, Reaganomics, and Just Say No.

Daron Marks is a young guitar player with a dream, make it big like the guys he grew up idolizing in New Jersey–or at least escape his dysfunctional family. He makes it as far as music school in Rhode Island, and the stages of Boston beckon. But it’s hard to succeed from the closet. Continue reading