4 Stars, DSP Publications, Jamie Fessenden, Literary Fiction, Reviewed by Taz

Review: By That Sin Fell the Angels by Jamie Fessenden

Amazon

Amazon

Title: By That Sin Fell the Angels

Author: Jamie Fessenden

Publisher: DSP Publications

Pages/Word Count:  191 Pages

At a Glance: This is the second book I’ve read by Jamie Fessenden, and while the topics are tough and some of the events made me squirm, I applaud this author’s courage and talent.

Reviewed By: Taz

Blurb: It begins with a 3:00 a.m. telephone call. On one end is Terry Bachelder, a closeted teacher. On the other, the suicidal teenage son of the local preacher. When Terry fails to prevent disaster, grief rips the small town of Crystal Falls apart.

At the epicenter of the tragedy, seventeen-year-old Jonah Riverside tries to make sense of it all. Finding Daniel’s body leaves him struggling to balance his sexual identity with his faith, while his church, led by the Reverend Isaac Thompson, mounts a crusade to destroy Terry, whom Isaac believes corrupted his son and caused the boy to take his own life.

Having quietly crushed on his teacher for years, Jonah is determined to clear Terry’s name. That quest leads him to Eric Jacobs, Daniel’s true secret lover, and to get involved in Eric’s plan to shake up their small-minded town. Meanwhile, Rev. Thompson struggles to make peace between his religious convictions and the revelation of his son’s homosexuality. If he can’t, he leaves the door open to eternal damnation—and for a second tragedy to follow.

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Review: I read Violated by Jamie Fessenden and was so impressed by his courage and style that I had to pick up this book as well. I wasn’t disappointed.

In By That Sin Fell the Angels, we face the tragic issue of teen suicide and homophobia in a small town. The book opens with an ominous phone call from a teen who needs someone to talk to before he kills himself. One of the main protagonists, Terry, who received the call, is helpless to do anything to prevent the horrific event.

As the story unfolds, we meet Jonah, the other main protagonist in the story. He is a high school student who is closeted and gay. We see him interacting with the one open gay student, as well as his crew of homophobic friends. Slowly, as the story develops, we see how he comes to terms with his own failings and, ultimately, acceptance of who he truly is.

Add to this a zealous preacher (the father of the child who committed suicide), a flamboyantly gay peer at Jonah’s school, a ridiculously supportive boyfriend to Terry, Jonah’s mother, who is dating a man half her age, and a general town aura of intolerance. The mixture is a recipe for nail biting intensity.

My only complaint about this book was that it went a bit over the top. I only say this from my deep familiarity with school systems and school boards. The manner in which the school board and the principal handled the events was extreme and wouldn’t happen in real life. The feelings might be there of intolerance and hatred, but the words and actions wouldn’t have unfolded the way they did. That said, it made for good drama and added to the depth of the emotions in the story.

What I loved about the book was how the author wove together a rich web of experience, shifting point of view frequently so that we could get inside the heads of a full range of characters. By doing so, we were able to truly look at this town and the topic of homosexuality, and see a highly religious small town through the eyes of an outsider with omniscient knowledge of everyone’s thoughts and feelings. Had the story only been told from one point of view (and I have no idea whose point of view Mr. Fessenden would have chosen), the story would’ve suffered for it.

As I said, this is the second book I’ve read by Jamie Fessenden, and while the topics are tough and some of the events made me squirm, I applaud this author’s courage and talent. I certainly intend to continue reading his work (starting with a backlog of his sizable completed manuscripts).

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You can buy By That Sin Fell the Angels here:

Amazon US

Amazon US

OmniLit/ARe

OmniLit/ARe

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

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

Amazon

Amazon

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.

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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.

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

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5 Stars, Edmond Manning, Literary Fiction, Pickwick Ink Publishing, Reviewed by Sammy

Review: King John by Edmond Manning

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Amazon US

Amazon US

Title: King John (The Lost And Founds: Book Four)

Author: Edmond Manning

Publisher: Pickwick Ink Publishing

Pages/Word Count: 245 Pages

At a Glance: Every second with this story is a second well spent.

Reviewed By: Sammy

Blurb: English attorney Alistair Robertson can’t quite believe an astonishing tale of kingship and transformation he hears at Burning Man, the annual counter-culture art festival in the Black Rock.

Who are the Found Kings? Is “being kinged” as magical as it sounds?

Determined to find the mysterious garage mechanic named Vin who helps men “remember who they were always meant to be,” Alistair catches his quarry amid the extravagant sculptures, fire worshipers, mutant cars, and lavish costumes. After searching for three years, he’ll finally get to ask the question burning inside him: “Will you king me?”

Wandering together through the desert, Vin Vanbly and Alistair explore Burning Man’s gifting culture and exotic traditions, where they meet the best and worst of their fellow burners. Alistair’s overconfidence in Vin’s manipulative power collides with Vin’s obsessive need to save a sixteen-year-old runaway from a nightmarish fate, and the two men spiral into uncontrollable, explosive directions.

In this fourth adventure of The Lost and Founds, beneath the sweltering summer sun and the six billion midnight stars, one truth emerges, searing itself on their hearts: in the desert, everything burns.

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Review: I must admit–I am not very clever, not when it comes to riddles or subtle clues. For some reason, while I can often suss out who the bad guy is in a mystery novel, I really do very poorly at picking up clues in any other form of writing. For this reason, I hesitated to review the latest novel in Edmond Manning’s Lost and Founds series, King John. I was afraid I could not do it justice–not give it the credit it deserved as being a clever and multi-layered work of fiction. With these thoughts in the back of my mind I moved on, knowing full well I would read this lyrically beautiful piece of fiction–whether for the purposes of reviewing it or not. There is a good reason for this. You see, I am a “kingite”, a hardcore fan of this series and this author. And, yes, I just made that title “kingite” up, and I rather like it!

So, here would be the place I attempt to provide a succinct synopsis of this incredible tome that spans a mere few days but feels as though it has exposed more raw emotional material than ever before. Returning to the place where he has truly felt at home for the only time in his life, Vin partakes of the Burning Man festival held in the Black Rock Desert in Nevada, a seven day exploration of self expression that has few boundaries and is geared toward inclusion, self-reliance, and the idea that they will leave no trace of themselves after the end of their time in the desert. Everything that can burns in the end, including the gigantic man who is built to herald in the event and mark its closing.

Vin meets all manner of people, but as in the past with this man, there is always an edge of worry—for you see, this is not his first year, and he has a reputation that precedes him—he has made an enemy. A ranger discovered Vin many years before when he broke the law and jumped the barrier that keeps the burning man participants safe from wandering off and getting lost in the desert. The fence is also a way to contain those who attend the festival so that there can be some stability in what appears to be well established chaos. The rangers do not like rule breakers, and poor Vin is a veteran rule breaker

So he moves about the festival, happy in many ways and yet cautious, for this is the Vin we know from previous novels: controlled, careful, self-critical and condemning, lost while still being the near perfect guide for men in need of rediscovering their kingship. While this was not meant to be a king weekend, Vin will be approached by a man desperate to become just that—a found king. Alistair is an enigma, a British lawyer on American soil, who has met one of Vin’s success stories, another Found King, Liam.

Alistair is positive he knows it all—has got a fix on Vin and his many bags of tricks—his “magic”. Alistair pursues Vin, who almost grudgingly gives in and sets the wheels in motion for this Lost King to find his way to cross over and return to his destiny. But Alistair is full of questions and resists Vin’s best attempts to guide him on the right path. In fact, Alistair will be the linchpin to cracking wide open a time in Vin’s past that he has kept hidden for so long. Vin will be forced to share a memory that, to this day, still has the power to gut his soul and remind him of the failure he is so certain he is—a Lost King who will never be found.

King John begins slowly, unwrapping the festival and establishing its background, setting the scene for us. Even when Alistair arrives to make Vin’s final days at Burning Man a frantic scramble for setting up a king weekend, the story almost lazily takes on the challenge set before Vin. Then something happens. I am not sure at what point this story became so intense, but the moment it did, I could not put this book down. So much was at stake, suddenly, lives in peril, a dredged up past threatening to destroy the fragile equilibrium that Vin clings to in order to not see how horribly he does not belong. All of a sudden this is not about Alistair, but rather, about survival…and not only Vin’s.

This was perhaps the most gut wrenching King novel to date. In previous books, we had been privy to Vin’s great moments of self-doubt and frantic worry that he was not going to do right by his Lost King—that he would be the thing to prevent a king from crossing over due to his fumbling, heavy handed acts that were meant to aid his king rather than hinder. This was the Vin we had grown used to—the one that we would shout at again and again to stop berating himself, stop worrying, stop running away from his own destiny. In this novel, author Edmond Manning has done the unthinkable—he has lulled us into this false sense of security. He’s come along side us and, with a nudge and a wink, assured us that Vin was just doing that “Vin stuff” he does and all would work out in the end. Till now. Till King John. Till an ending so shocking that I actually dropped my Kindle. No, say it is not so, Mr. Manning—say it is all just another elaborate clue that will lead to a happy-ever-after for our Vin–our Lost King who surely will get found.

Instead, we got… I am afraid you will have to read this novel to complete that sentence for yourself. Is this long trek into madness and mayhem in the desert worth the emotional wreckage it might leave you with? I must say, dear reader, it is. There are such wonderful moments in this story, and there are such heart breaking times as well. However, it is the journey—as always it is the journey that will make you race through this novel and, once again, recognize a piece of your own humanity within its pages. I bid you calm winds and cooler days as you traverse this desert with Vin. Every second with this story is a second well spent.

TNA_Signature_Sammy

 

 

 

You can buy King John here:

Amazon US

Amazon US

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All Romance eBooks

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Edmond Manning, Giveaways

Guest Post and Giveaway: The King John Blog Tour with Edmond Manning

King John Blog Tour Banner

Please help us welcome author Edmond Manning today, on his tour for the latest book in the Lost and Founds series, King John.

Enjoy Edmond’s guest post, then be sure to click on the Rafflecopter widget below for the chance to win an e-copy of the book.

Good luck!

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What Is Burning Man?

When readers ask about the recently-published fourth book in my series, The Lost and Founds, one of the very first questions anyone ever asks is, “What’s the setting?” Readers who have explored the previous three books know the setting is a significant character. Quite intentionally, the setting is a mirror to the man being kinged. He in turn, represents what is beautiful and unique about that particular location.

“What’s the setting?” is a good question to ask.

When asked about King John, the fourth book, my reply is, “Burning Man.”

The next question I’m asked is, “What’s Burning Man?”

Another good question.

What the hell is Burning Man?

The eye-rolling, New-Age-Hippie bullshit answer is, “It’s anything you want it to be.”

Perhaps the best place to begin answering the question is with logistics.

Burning Man is an annual festival held on public lands in the Nevada desert—specifically, the Black Rock Desert, which is roughly 150 miles outside Reno. Physically, the nearest town is sixteen miles away. No town. No hotels. No drinking fountains. The festival takes place on a playa, which is a desert basin for runoff water during flash floods. It’s essentially a lake bed with no water. There’s no cactuses, no rock formations, no wildlife.

Although the roots of Burning Man stretch back earlier than 1990, that year was pivotal, because that’s the first year the small group sponsoring the festival decided to bring the strange adventure to this Nevada playa. They camped in the desert, wore formal costumes during Happy Hour, sipped cocktails, and constructed a forty-foot effigy of a wooden man. After a long weekend of partying and turning themselves into Living Art, they burned The Man to the ground.

Burning Man is a party in the desert.

Burning Man is an exercise in radical self-reliance.

Burning Man is about pushing artistic limits, and creating a dialog about humanity, the stars, this precious life we waste in cubicles or in front of the television.

Also, it’s an opportunity to get completely wasted and blow shit up.

The first few times Burning Man was explained to me, I didn’t get it. I kept asking, “Yes, but why? Why would anyone go there and do this?”

The answer was a crazy grin and the words, “Why not?”

My narrator, Vin Vanbly, attempted to answer the question “What is Burning Man.” In the passage below, he describes what he sees looking over the vast city that now forms on the playa for one week each year. The action takes place in 2002, when 33,000 people showed up to answer the question, what is Burning Man?

I observe a thousand dusty campsites and two thousand more behind them, all impacted by the same swirling singular wind, sweeping in from the barren playa far behind me. I watch it crash against the nearest tents, unstoppable as it curls into open nylon flaps and RV doors. Dust settles on food and drinks, shoulders and shoes. From this vantage point, I inspect Black Rock City, the temporary metropolis rising from the dead earth each year—a city erected with engineering precision for a festival idealizing chaos.

That’s Burning Man for you, the unlikely attraction of polar opposites. Abundance amidst the scarcest, deadliest landscape known to man. Chaos brings life. Burning equals renewal. And naked, joyful hope arises every year from people who have almost given up on the outside world.

These are my people, those who live on the fringe. Those who don’t always have a home, a job, a place in the world. Of course these days, the Burning Man tribe includes wealthy trust-fund partiers, middle-class adventurers, and bored tech guys trying to get laid. Everything changed mid-90s, when the Silicon Valley dot-commer adopted Burning Man as a networking opportunity. But, shalom, they must be made to feel welcome. Radical acceptance. This makeshift city—its rich kids, freaks and paupers—is still the closest thing I know to a home.

After spending months researching Burning Man in books, first-hand accounts, pictures, and documentaries, I think the best answer to the question—what is Burning Man?—is, it depends. For some, the torture of a week in the desert makes Burning Man a hell-on-earth to which they’d never return. For others, it’s a break from all things civilized, an exploration of art and meaning, a temporary city of like-minded thinkers. For others, it’s drug and party central.

Again, Vin tries to capture the rawness of the experience, the duality of powerful light and darkness. He describes one of the last nights at Burning Man, witnessing the forty-foot effigy about to burn and the fire dancers who worship at its base.

The firebugs rush into the center, a furious mob, occupying the giant semi-circle before The Man. Fifty of them I’d guess, maybe sixty, all swinging poles with fire dancing on both ends. These spinners move in synchronicity, shoving their poles out, then spinning them over their heads, and for the few seconds their hands are out of contact with the circles of fire, I remember how dangerous all of this is, the fire, the desert, the thousands gathered here, singing, howling, dancing, and grinding.

Looking around, I am surrounded by thousands, in glitter, feathers, and transparent silks, people in various stages of nudity and neon, costumes and non-costumes, and what they all share—what we all share—is the dust. We’ve slept, eaten, and played here for a week, and we are all acutely layered in dust, in grit, in grunginess. We sweat together. We wear the planet’s dust together. This is what binds us, not our uniqueness, or our giftedness. No one can escape our commonality—dust. It’s who we are. Where we’re going. If we’re lucky, we get enough dust on us to feel as though we’ve truly lived.

I am always grateful no one gives speeches or offers explanation for what Burning Man means, or what it should mean, or what it means to the organizers, and so forth. So much better to apply our own meaning, our own experience. To stop filtering through someone else’s reality and find our own.

This is Burning Man’s gift, really. This geographic space outside reality, this moment in time, where raw ideas get birthed into existence. With radical self-reliance and radical acceptance, anything we imagine can be true. Some fashion the world through metal sculpture. Some create a pirate ship on the back of a school bus. The serpent men imagined a hell where people are used, use each other, and the only victor is the least manipulated. They created that reality.

Who are the serpent men referenced in the final paragraph? Well…you’ll just have to find out, won’t you? Not everyone at Burning Man is full of the milk of human kindness. In fact, during King John, a small cabal of unsavory characters are determined to make trouble. They succeed.

Which is why Burning Man—with its hint of real danger, and the promise of radical acceptance and radical authenticity—is like no other place on earth.

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Cover - King John - Medium 300 x 450 JPGBlurb: English attorney Alistair Robertson can’t quite believe an astonishing tale of kingship and transformation he hears at Burning Man, the annual counter-culture art festival in the Black Rock desert. Who are the Found Kings? Is “being kinged” as magical as it sounds?

Determined to find the mysterious garage mechanic named Vin who helps men “remember who they were always meant to be,” Alistair catches his quarry amid the extravagant sculptures, fire worshipers, mutant cars, and lavish costumes. After searching for three years, he’ll finally get to ask the question burning inside him: “Will you king me?”

Wandering together through the desert, Vin Vanbly and Alistair explore Burning Man’s gifting culture and exotic traditions, where they meet the best and worst of their fellow burners. Alistair’s overconfidence in Vin’s manipulative power collides with Vin’s obsessive need to save a sixteen-year-old runaway from a nightmarish fate, and the two men spiral in uncontrollable, explosive directions.
In this fourth adventure of The Lost and Founds, beneath the sweltering summer sun and the six billion midnight stars, one truth emerges, searing itself on their hearts: in the desert, everything burns.

Where to Get Your Copy of King John: King John Kindle edition || King John paperback || King John on Goodreads

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Edmond ManningAbout the Author: Edmond Manning is the author of the romance series, The Lost and Founds. The books in this series include King Perry, King Mai (a 2014 Lambda Literary finalist), The Butterfly King, and King John. King John takes place at Burning Man.

Find Edmond At: Facebook || Website || Email

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THE GIVEAWAY

Rafflecopter Giveaway

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King John Blog Tour:

Mon, Sept 7 My Fiction Nook

Mon, Sept 7 AJ Rose Books

Tues, Sept 8 Thorny, Not Prickly

Wed, Sept 9 Love Out Loud

Thurs, Sept 10 Facebook Release Party, 7p-9p Central, hosted by Bike Book Reviews

Fri, Sept 11 Reviews by Amos Lassen

Sat, Sept 12 Vanessa North.com

Tues, Sept 15 MM Good Book Reviews

Wed, Sept 16 The Novel Approach

Thurs, Sept 17 Purple Rose Tea House

Fri, Sept 18 Posy Roberts.com

Sat, Sept 19 Zipper Rippers

Tues, Sept 22 Joyfully Jay

Wed, Sept 23 Boys In Our Books

Thurs, Sept 24 It’s About the Book

Fri, Sept 25 Lou Harper.com

Sat, Sept 26 Love Bytes Reviews

Sun, Sept 27 Sinfully Addicted to Male Romance

Mon, Sept 28 Josephine Myles.com

Tues, Sept 29 Molly Lolly

Wed, Sept 30 Coffee and Porn in the Morning

Wed, Sept 30 Stumbling Over Chaos

Thurs, Oct 1 The Blogger Girls Reviews

Sat, Oct 3 Because Two Men Are Better Than One

Sun, Oct 4 The Hat Party!

Fri, Oct 2 Jessewave

Mon, Oct 5 Prism Book Alliance

Tues, Oct 6 Jaycee Edward.com

Wed, Oct 7 Hearts on Fire Book Reviews

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Carole Cummings, Giveaways

Guest Post and Backlist Giveaway With Carole Cummings

Author's Spotlight

Hi, everyone, and thanks to Lisa and the crew at The Novel Approach Reviews for letting me come and do this. I’m not wearing my Genre Talk hat today, but I’ve got some plans to make the semiregular feature even more exciting in 2016, with new authors, more interviews, and lots of giveaways of DSP Publications releases. The backlists are growing and we’re all looking forward to sharing them with all you Awesome Readers.

I am, however, a bit of a Luddite, alas. And in order to bring you all the things I want to bring you, I need to know how to do the giveaways properly, which means I need to learn how to use Rafflecopter. (Shut up, I’m tech-useless and it’s scary!) So today I’m breaking my Rafflecopter cherry, and you’re all my guinea p—er, I mean my awesomely patient helpers.

The prize is a book of your choice from my backlist. All you have to do to enter is use the widget to comment below. In keeping with TNA’s upcoming Flashback Friday theme, recommend your favorite M/M Speculative Fiction novel in the comments. Please include your email address, CC backlist title choice, and preferred file format, and that’s it! Shares and referrals are like hugs but are not required. This time. Mwa ha ha ha ha ha! (<—-evil laughter) A recommendation, though, is required, so c’mon, everyone—give us all some good things to read!

Okay, that should do it. (I hope!) A winner will be chosen on Sunday and notified shortly thereafter. Thanks for your patience, and good luck!

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A Rafflecopter Giveaway

Rafflecopter Giveaway

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5 Stars, Reviewed by Jennifer, Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Urban Fantasy, Wayward Ink Publishing

Review: Of Heaven and Hell – An Anthology From Wayward Ink Publishing

Title: Of Heaven and Hell

Authors: Anthology

Publisher: Wayward Ink Publishing

Pages/Word Count: 253 Pages

At a Glance: An anthology that offers a delightful mix of good, evil, and everything in between.

Reviewed By: Jennifer

Blurb: Whether you like your angels and demons naughty or nice…
Whether you like them angelic or demonic, we have a story for you.
Our authors have tuned up their harp strings, and let loose their inner demons.
We have demons with inner angels itching to be let loose.
And angels teetering on the brink.
We have dark. We have light.
We have angst. And forbidden love.
We have happy endings and not so happy endings…
We have the stories OF HEAVEN AND HELL.

CORRUPTION by Kim Fielding
Tenrael was once a proud demon who carried nightmares to humans. Now he exists in miserable servitude to men who plunk down ten dollars to fulfill their dark desires. Agent Charles Grimes figures a captive demon is just another assignment… That is until he meets Tenrael.

PURGATORY by M.C. Rayne
Bailey discovered that losing the person you love can do more than break your heart. It can shatter it into a million different pieces. And have you stepping into darkness. All he wanted was to be reunited with Greyson. He didn’t know his actions would lead him to his nightmare.

SIN TO GET SAVED by Michael P. Thomas
Earnest anti-gay evangelical Hubert dies in a freak accident. When a handsome angel named Bartholomew makes brazen overtures in the Afterlife, humble Hubert realizes his soul may have taken a wrong turn. But turning back to the straight and narrow isn’t quite as easy as he hopes it will be.

CARDINAL SINS by Mann Ramblings
Black magic, angels, and decadence bind Jacob and Ozzie together in a twisted web of fascination with each other. Now a new element has risen to test them: Danger.

A TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY DEMON by Asta Idonea
It should have been an easy job: a contract signed and a new soul earmarked for Hell. But when suave demon deal-maker Saul chooses nerdy Thomas Ives as his next target, little does he know what lies in store.

PURGATORY PINK: A FABULOUS FABLE by Eric Gober
A fable with no morals . . . About an angel with desires . . . For the demon who torments him. Will they both burn in hell?

FADE TO LIGHT by Nephy Hart
One of them has no past. One has no future. Loss is inevitable, but when demons come calling, a soul is too high a price to pay.

GUARDIAN by Eddy LeFey
A Guardian Angel’s whole being is controlled directly by God. Callum trusts in that. So when he meets his new human charge—a special college student named Rory—he doesn’t count on feeling attraction. And he certainly doesn’t expect Rory to change his life… forever.

DRAWING DEAD by S.Zanne
Devin is a demon. James is merely human. But who holds the winning hand is still in question…

A WOLF IN THE FOLD by Jana Denardo
For centuries Carduus followed his incubus nature. Joyfully seducing and draining the life force of his lovers. That is, until the day he met Mark, a lover Carduus didn’t want to kill. Before he knew it, Carduus found himself helping the detective by taking out criminals. But can a demon really work for the side of the angels?

DRIPPING IN SIN by Kassandra Lea
Finding an appropriate outfit to wear for an important date is never easy. Not even for a demon Flynn is trying but it’s a hard task… Especially when encounters with his angel usually involve no clothing at all…

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Review: It’s very rare for me to like every single story in an anthology, but that has happened in Of Heaven and Hell. I was a bit wary, to be honest, going into it because Wayward Ink is a fairly new-to-me press, and anthologies are so difficult, even with presses I’m familiar with. But, the premise behind it intrigued me. I’m so glad I gave it a chance because every story is unique and offers a different perspective on the themes of Heaven and Hell.

Part of me wants to review every story in this anthology, but I can’t. There are eleven and this review would easily pass twelve pages. Instead, I’ll pick out some of my favorites, which isn’t easy to do. I will say this: the blurbs given for each story don’t do them justice. They are so rich and complex, and the book blurb shortened them to barely recognizable.

What makes this so unique is the duality of the book. Some stories focus on Heaven, some on Hell, and some on both. Some of the stories are explicitly Heaven and Hell, while others just have terms that make it seems as if it fits those categories (“Purgatory Pink”). Some have angels, some demons, and again, some both. Some have explicit sex, others have none. It’s such a broad range of ideas that, really, every facet of the subjects are covered. Well done!

First up, “Drawing Dead” by S. Zanne: I think this was my favorite in the volume because immediately after reading it, I took to Twitter and asked the author of there was more. I didn’t want the story to end, but it did. This story focuses on a demon, Devin, who returns to earth to look for a new victim to play with. His victims always follow the same pattern, though, and it’s hinted at that it is because when he was human, his husband looked like them. When Devin runs into James, he thinks he’s found a fun, easy target to pull the screams from.

This story isn’t for everyone because it’s dark. I would say the top two in terms of darkness in the anthology for themes of pure evil. Devin is a demon and he thrives on pain. It’s very apparent in this story. However, James is not the easy target he appears to be at first. In fact, there’s a lot going on with him, and readers see glimpses of his childhood scattered throughout the story, while his and Devin’s history is slowly revealed.

Honestly, it was brilliant and by the last page, I was dying to know what came next. The author painted a vivid world set in the near future.

Next is “Corruption” by Kim Fielding. This is another dark one that deals with demons, however Tenrael is not that evil. He’s been taken captive and put in a circus, where men can view him and, for the right price, abuse him. All he wants is to be free to bring nightmares to sleeping humans. When a human agent is sent to kill the demon, he quickly realize Tenrael is not the evil creature he’s supposed to be, and the human is drawn towards him.

I felt for Tenrael in this story. It heavily features abuse, so trigger warning for some people, but of all the characters, the demon Tenrael seemed the most human.

Finally, I’ll review a story with angels: “Guardian” by Eddy LeFey. While some of the story seemed a little too perfect, I enjoyed the idea of guardian angels popping in during a trying time in our life to help us make the best decisions. Of course, it goes a little past that in this story, when Callum is assigned to Rory and reveals his true name and nature to the enigmatic college student. What follows is a change for both of them, and they must trust in each other and God in order to overcome the trials they face.

I would have liked to read more to see what’s in store for Rory and his angel, but the story is a great length and perfect for the anthology, and it introduced me to a new author I would like to read more from.

I highly recommend this anthology. Whether you love angels or demons, there is something for everyone in here.

TNA_Signature_Jennifer

 

 

 

You can buy Of Heaven and Hell here:

All Romance eBooks

All Romance eBooks

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5 Stars, Historical Romance, Reviewed by Lisa, S. Joy P., Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Urban Fantasy, Self-Published

Review: Dragon’s Bounty by S. Joy P.

Title: Dragon’s Bounty (Dracula’s Love: Book One)

Author: S. Joy P.

Publisher: Self-Published

Pages/Word Count: 299 Pages

At a Glance: This author’s imagination and delivery of the unique and unexpected continues to impress.

Reviewed By: Lisa

Blurb: In the fifteenth century Wallachia, the self-serving boyars will do anything to advance their own positions while the interests of the Hungarian king and the Ottoman sultan tear their country apart. One interest is shared by all. A weak prince on the Wallachian throne. A prince who bends easily.

But a fierce and spirited man rules the land – Vlad Dracula, and he would rather break than bend. Murderers robbed him of his closest family. Pretenders lay claim on his titles. A noose of intrigues reaching beyond the borders of his realm tightens around him. Undaunted, he fights for his ancestral rights and for the defense of the whole Christendom. In all struggles, Love known as The Englishman stands true and faithful by his side.

Only… Love is not an English mercenary as he says he is, but the god of love who accidentally used his magic on himself, and fell for the only one who claims not to have use for love – Vlad Dracula.

Turbulent events drag them both into a brutal clash of honor and duty against treachery and ambitions. Into a sword dance in which a single wrong step can bring death.

And only one of them is… immortal.

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Review: Sometimes the difference between a good book and a not so good book is the difference between the unexpected being made believable, and the expected being made unbelievable. Any author who succeeds at the first, something S. Joy P. has proven for the second time she can do with excellence, is an author whose books will make it onto my Must Read list every time.

Once again, the author has culled the annals of history and come up with our unexpected hero in Dragon’s Bounty. Vlad Dracula, the Prince of Wallachia, whose legacy earned him the epithet Vlad the Impaler, and who it is said was the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s own Dracula, is (in what may seem impossible odds, given the chronicling of his deeds) a convincing and sympathetic hero, as the author does an excellent job of weaving hints of Stoker’s canonical themes into her novel of the real man’s legend.

A blend of mythology and history, this novel belongs in the category of an epic saga more so than a romance; though, if you broaden the definition of romance to include S. Joy P.’s obvious love of her subject and the setting, then a romantic saga Dragon’s Bounty is. It is also, at least thus far, a story of unrequited love that in all its metaphorical beauty brings Love personified directly into the life of Vlad Dracula, the man who has no use for the emotion but does have use for the god who has disguised himself in the mortal role of an English mercenary. We watch as a love spell backfires on Love, and we follow his journey as he is sentenced to torture and slavery and survives only with the help of his brother Death, and through his willingness to adapt to the most horrific of trials.

Written in a language that not only invokes the imagination as we picture the landscape but also gives this novel its texture, the author deftly weaves into the narrative what feels like a wholly organic tone within the 15th Century setting. S. Joy P. holds nothing back in her developing of the characters, the depiction of the brutality or, to our modern senses, showing what is nothing less than barbaric customs and practices which were native to Wallachia at the time.

Dragon’s Bounty is a story of sacrifice in the name of Love and love, both the man and the emotion. It’s the story of what happens to a god when he’s flung into the mortal coil and gains his humanity while, at the same time, we see him commit inhumane acts in the name of love and loyalty. It’s an allegorical tale of love, the emotion, and Love, the man, which builds a sense of sensual intimacy without being intimate in a sexual way. When love states, “Make no mistake, love can be brutal,” we see two sides to the declaration, that he himself is becoming as brutal as the emotion of which he speaks, and in another lovely contrast, we watch as the man who does not want or need love, call Love to him time and time again, keeping Love close by as the god acts as both narrator and author of his story.

Dragon’s Bounty is not a quick read. It’s a story rich in history and detail, one to be savored as S. Joy P. slowly and with an impressive skill draws her readers into the time and place and treachery of revenge and political affairs, and then leaves Love and Dracula’s story unfinished, much more of this saga left to be told, and I can’t wait for the rest.

TNA_Signature_Lisa







 

You can buy Dragon’s Bounty exclusively at Amazon.com:

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Giveaways, Inkslingers Publishing, J. James

Guest Post and Giveaway: The Denial, Deceit, Discovery Blog Tour With J. James

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The Novel Approach is pleased to welcome author J. James on the Denial, Deceit, Discovery blog tour. J has answered a couple of my questions about the book, and is also offering the chance for one lucky reader to win one of five e-copies of Denial, Deceit, Discovery. To enter, just click on the Rafflecopter widget below.

Good luck!

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TNA: Hi, J, I’m so glad to be hosting you on your Denial, Deceit, Discovery blog tour.

I’d love to have you discuss with us what it was like for you to write this book. Are there any (or all) parts of it that are autobiographical? Was the writing of it at all cathartic for you personally? If so, in what ways?

JJ: Thank you so much for hosting me – really grateful to you for that.

The book is totally autobiographical – it is based on true events in my life. The reason why I did not call it a ‘true story’ was because sometimes the chronology has been altered to make it easier to read or the characters have been changed to protect the feelings of others. But the struggles, torture and heart break that Jack faced were my own challenges. The reason why I created the character of Jack to tell the story through was to enable me to detach myself a little and encourage myself to see things in different ways – it is hard to explain but it was too painful to sometimes write it as if myself so I tried to tell myself I was writing about someone else. Despite that it was incredibly cathartic and healing for me to write this book and that is why the success of the book in terms of sales is an added bonus. Writing the book forced me into thinking carefully about past events, experiences and feelings. It encouraged me to face up to my own mistakes but also empowered me to accept me for who I really was. Even though the book was finished two years after coming out I feel like in some ways I was still not accepting my homosexuality because I had not really faced up to it. Yes I had told people I was gay but that was all to do with other people. I had not actually given myself any ‘me’ time to heal and reflect and look forward. Having to relive many of the more difficult times in my life enabled me to forgive myself for the mistakes I had made – mostly unknowingly and also to forgive others for their mistakes in not recognising my struggles during the most difficult times. But I also recognised through writing the book that our memory is a flawed at times and memories are very inaccurate and often changed to suit our current needs so I also accepted that the most important outcome would be to use the experience to look to the future and not focus on the past. The completion of the book led to total acceptance of myself, which is a wonderful result.

TNA: Finally, what is some of the most memorable feedback you’ve received from readers who’ve reached out to you after reading the book?

JJ: Every time I find the publishing industry a little frustrating I have a read through the reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, and it reminds me why it was so important that I shared my story. So many men talk about how the story resonates so strongly with their own lives and that gives them such piece of mind – knowing you are not the only one to have experienced such feelings or have gone through such challenges provides support and acceptance. Reading reviews that from across the world – Russia, India, America, Australia, Indonesia etc. is so incredibly rewarding. To know that something you have written is impacting on the lives of others.

The most memorable feedback was from a teenager in America, whom I am still in contact with now. He was one of the first to read the book and provide feedback. He was struggling with his own homosexuality and at the time had a girlfriend. He told me that as he read the book he saw his own life in front of him, He knew that if he did not say something now he would end up following a similar path to myself, and knowing the pain that had led to, he did not want this. On finishing the book he went straight downstairs and told his parents he was gay, and told his girlfriend. He was surprised by how supportive they were and two years on, he is now living with his boyfriend and extremely happy. To know that I prevented just one guy from some of the agony I faced, and that I brought to others, makes the whole experience worthwhile.

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Book coverBlurb: Denial, Deceit, Discovery is the heart-rending story based on true events in the life of Jack Ellis; a young Catholic man deep in denial of his own homosexuality. It tells the story of how his own denial and the denial of his loved ones forced him to conform to the straight world, resulting in his marriage to his high school sweetheart. After years of cruising gay porn sites, chatting online with endless guys and intimate encounters with close friends, Jack was pulled into a life of deceit with a string of sexual partners.

The story explains the pain and suffering of those around him as his secrets unfold and honesty rises up. The torture endured as Jack struggles to piece together the complex story of his own sexuality is truly moving. Escaping the shame, Jack flees to Bangkok with his gay lover where a much greater world of deceit and discovery awaits them both.

Denial, Deceit, Discovery will make you laugh, cry, cringe and blush as Jack’s story unfolds from a life of shame to one of hope and acceptance for homosexual men.

Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK | Barnes & Noble

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Author BioAbout the Author: Denial, Deceit, Discovery is a new work of fiction by J. James. Written in the style of a personal memoir, James tells the complex, engaging and moving coming out story of the book’s main character, Jack Ellis. Jack is a young Catholic man living in the UK who struggles mightily on the road to self-awareness. Jack’s life is inspired by many events experienced by the author, but the universal themes of honesty, personal growth and acceptance transcend one person’s story. Denial, Deceit, Discovery will make you laugh, cry, cringe and blush as Jack’s life evolves from shame and embarrassment, to hope and acceptance. It’s a wholly relatable tale that will speak to anyone who has struggled to understand an aspect of his or her identity.

After over a decade of teaching, educational management and administration, James needed to find an outlet to share his personal story. As a lifelong lover of literature and writing, James has dedicated his career to educating students, helping them develop the tools they’ll need to share their stories in the future.

His first manuscript was inspired by the response James received from the Catholic priest who officiated his marriage annulment. As part of the process, James was asked to submit a small document outlining his feelings about the events that culminated in the failure of his marriage. The priest commented that the piece was the most moving and impactful account he had ever read. He called it an “inspiration” to other men and women struggling with similar situations. After exploring many options, James realized that his story could help people to understand the complex issues facing gay men in denial – hopefully, helping to spare others from the heartache he and his loved ones experienced.

James currently lives and works in Southeast Asia. He enjoys the tropical climate, and the relaxed pace, which has provided him with the opportunity to continue developing ideas for his second novel.

Where to find the author: Facebook | Facebook Author Page | Twitter | Website

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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

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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:

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BJ Sheppard, Giveaways, Videos, Wilde City Press

Video Excerpt and Giveaway: Always Have, Always Will by BJ Sheppard

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The Novel Approach is so honored to be kicking off BJ Sheppard’s Always Have, Always Will Blog Tour today, and to be bringing you some very exclusive content to celebrate the book’s release at Wilde City Press.

Not only did this very dapper man do a video reading from the book for us, but he has also revealed that his well of talent runs deep. The song he’s shared with us today? Yes, he not only composed it, but that’s him performing it as well.

THIS CONTEST IS CLOSED

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Title: Always Have, Always Will

Author: BJ Sheppard

Publisher: Wilde City Press

Length: 64 Pages

Genre: Gay Fiction, Contemporary 

Blurb: Imagine losing everything you ever loved in the blink of an eye. For Clayton Palmer, that terrible fate has just become a reality as he buries his lover, Gregg, after a brief and futile battle with cancer. Now, in the house in which they shared their love for all those years, Clay’s own life is slowly fading. In a war with his ailing body, Clay reminisces over the life they shared. Knowing time is running out, memories of their joy and sadness come to him; vignettes forming a road map back to the man he always loved; always has and always will.

Buy Links: Wilde City Press, Amazon, ARe

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Bj SheppardAuthor Bio: My name is BJ Sheppard and all at once I found myself an author. Such a strange sensation to actually feel you deserve the thing you had aspired to for many years. After all, all it took was computer access and an inner world that reads like a Sheryl Crow song to pound the keys and translate my crazy ideas onto the page. I feel like I could have business cards printed. Maybe wear a black roll neck and perch my glasses on the tip of my nose. I could drink whisky and smoke a cigar and do all those really stereotypical things I imagine all writers do. Perhaps I could get laid a little more? This is not the end. Nor the beginning. Hell, it isn’t even about me. My boys write themselves; I really don’t have that much say in the matter. As long as my characters need a voice, I have two chubby typing fingers and a need to please— watch this space: there is more to come.

Social Media Links: Website | Facebook | Facebook Author Page | Twitter

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Follow BJ’s Tour For More Exclusive Content And More Chances To Win An E-copy Of Always Have, Always Will:

January 5The Novel Approach

January 6Rhys Ford

January 7GGR-Review

January 8Joyfully Jay

January 9Love Bytes

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5 Stars, Brad Boney, Dreamspinner Press, Genre Romance, Literary Fiction, Reviewed by Tina

Review: The Eskimo Slugger by Brad Boney

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Title: The Eskimo Slugger

Author: Brad Boney

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 230 Pages

Rating: 5 Stars

Blurb: It’s the summer of 1983, and Trent Days is Major League Baseball’s rookie sensation. Born in Alaska to an Inupiat mother, the press have dubbed him the Eskimo Slugger, but a midseason collision at home plate temporarily halts his meteoric rise to the top. Continue reading

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5 Stars, BJ Sheppard, Literary Fiction, Reviewed by Sammy, Wilde City Press

Review: Always Have, Always Will by BJ Sheppard

Title: Always Have, Always Will

Author: BJ Sheppard

Publisher: Wilde City Press

Pages/Word Count: 64 Pages

Rating: 5 Stars

Blurb: Imagine losing everything you ever loved in the blink of an eye. For Clayton Palmer, that terrible fate has just become a reality as he buries his lover, Gregg, after a brief and futile battle with cancer. Now, in the house in which they shared their love for all those years, Clay’s own life is slowly fading. In a war with his ailing body, Clay reminisces over the life they shared. Knowing time is running out, memories of their joy and sadness come to him; vignettes forming a road map back to the man he always loved; always has and always will. Continue reading

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3 Stars, Historical Romance, Literary Fiction, Owen Keehnen, Reviewed by Rena, Wilde City Press

Review: Springtime 1962, The Lawson YMCA by Owen Keehnen

Title: Springtime 1962, The Lawson YMCA

Author: Owen Keehnen

Publisher: Wilde City Press

Pages/Word Count: 72 Pages

Rating: 3 Stars

Blurb: A diary is found in a secondhand bookstore. The narrator opens the dusty cover and discovers that the book is the intimate diary of a man named Joseph. Reading the entries, the narrator is quickly drawn into a passionate gay intergenerational love story of two retail workers in Chicago during the spring of 1962. In his mid 40s, Joseph has worked at a large downtown department store for years. One day a young muscled man in his early 20s named Clint is hired. Later, Joseph sees him again at the Lawson YMCA and realizes that they both live there. Soon the two began spending a great deal of time together, going to movies, working out in the weight room, taking work lunches together in the park, and so on. Soon they fall in love despite the closeted nature of their work and lives. Both men thought the feelings that they have for one another and love they share were impossibilities. In time Joseph learns that Clint harbors a grave secret that threatens their relationship and both of their futures. Will outside forces destroy the magic they have discovered? Continue reading

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3 Stars, Literary Fiction, Missouri Dalton, Mystery/Suspense/Action Thriller, Reviewed by Taz, Torquere Press

Review: Sleeping on the Job by Missouri Dalton

Title: Sleeping on the Job

Author: Missouri Dalton

Publisher: Torquere Press

Pages/Word Count: 118 pages

Rating: 3 Stars

Blurb: At sixteen, Simon Murphy was an accomplished jewel thief, at eighteen he was released from a boy’s reform school and these days, he’s a detective with Chicago’s Night Shift. When a familiar killer strikes again, Simon is forced to confront his past, his mob boss father, and the brother he hasn’t seen in years. Of course, on the Night Shift, Simon also contends with ghosts, vampires and other things that go bump in the night. Add angry boyfriends in the mix, and Simon’s going to need all the help he can get. Continue reading

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4 Stars, Literary Fiction, Noah Willoughby, Reviewed by Sammy, Self-Published

Review: Dilemma by Noah Willoughby

Title: Dilemma

Author: Noah Willoughby

Publisher: Self-Published

Pages/Word Count: 195 Pages

Rating: 4 Stars

Blurb: Though surrounded by people on a daily basis, Chuck is a miserably lonely man, desperately seeking companionship and affection. Not only does his shy personality make him reluctant to approach others, but he also harbors a secret side of himself that he’s tried to suppress and forget for many years. This secret side fills him with a kind of self-loathing, and he unknowingly makes himself unapproachable to others around him. Continue reading

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4 Stars, Jim Provenzano, Literary Fiction, Reviewed by Lisa, Self-Published

Review: Every Time I Think of You & Message of Love by Jim Provenzano

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Title: Every Time I Think of You & Message of Love

Author: Jim Provenzano

Publisher: Self-Published

Pages/Word Count: 264 Pages/374 Pages

Rating: 4 Stars Overall

Blurbs: 2012 Lambda Literary Award Winner for Best Gay Romance

After an abrupt encounter in a small woods of Greensburg, Pennsylvania, Reid Conniff, a shy and studious high school distance runner, becomes swept up in the adventurous world of Everett Forrester, a privileged and capricious charmer. Overcoming the distance of their separate schools, parental interference, and a nearly fatal accident, the two young men find a way to be together in spite of their own doubts and fears.

Set in 1979-1980, Every Time I Think of You recalls a halcyon era in America’s past with a personal voice. Continue reading

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5 Stars, Audio Book, Dreamspinner Press, Literary Fiction, Nick Wilgus, Reviewed by Kim

Audio Review: Shaking the Sugar Tree by Nick Wilgus – Narrated by Wayne Messmer

Title: Shaking the Sugar Tree

Author: Nick Wilgus

Narrator:: Wayne Messmer

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Run Time: 8 hours, 52 minutes

Rating: 5 Stars

Blurb: Wise-cracking Wiley Cantrell is loud and roaringly outrageous—and he needs to be to keep his deeply religious neighbors and family in the Deep South at bay. A failed writer on food stamps, Wiley works a minimum wage job and barely manages to keep himself and his deaf son, Noah, more than a stone’s throw away from Dumpster-diving. Continue reading

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4 Stars, Elin Gregory, Historical Romance, Literary Fiction, Love Lane Books, Reviewed by Rena

Review: A Taste of Copper by Elin Gregory

Title: A Taste of Copper

Author: Elin Gregory

Publisher: Love Lane Books

Pages/Word Count: 71 Pages

Rating: 4 Stars

Blurb: Your master has the field for today, but his name, whatever it might be, is without honour.

Olivier the squire worships the Black Knight and takes a fierce joy in his prowess as he defends a bridge against all comers. Olivier only wishes that his master loved him as much in return instead of treating him as a servant and occasional plaything. 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 Stars, Gordon Merrick, Historical Romance, Literary Fiction, Open Road Media, Reviewed by Lisa

Review: The Lord Won’t Mind by Gordon Merrick

Title: The Lord Won’t Mind

Author: Gordon Merrick

Publisher: Open Road Media

Pages/Word Count: 256 Pages

Rating: 4 Stars

Blurb: Charlie Mills always played the role of the good grandson, and his grandmother rewarded him for it handsomely in the form of all the gifts, money, and attention a boy could want. Entering college in the late 1930s, Charlie just has to keep doing what his grandmother expects of him in order to continue to receive her gifts. He has to find a nice girl, get married, and have a few kids. Then one summer, he meets Peter Martin. Continue reading

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4 Stars, Genre Romance, Literary Fiction, Open Road Media, Reviewed by Lisa, William J. Mann

Review: The Men From the Boys by William J. Mann

Title: The Men From the Boys

Author: William J. Mann

Publisher: Open Road Media

Pages/Word Count: 352 Pages

Rating: 4 Stars

Blurb: This stunning slice of gay life at the turn of the millennium introduces thirtysomething Jeff O’Brien. After six years, his lover, Lloyd, has just announced that the passion between them has died. Terrified of ending up alone, Jeff turns his eye toward other men. But the anonymous, impersonal encounters leave him feeling sordid and used. In search of love during this “last summer in which I am to be young,” he finds romance with a beautiful houseboy named Eduardo. At twenty-two, Eduardo is the same age Jeff was when he began a relationship with the older David Javitz, a leading activist now gravely ill with AIDS. But David became more than a lover to Jeff, who wasn’t yet out of the closet. He was his mentor and cherished friend. Continue reading

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5 Stars, Drama, Eric Arvin, Literary Fiction, Reviewed by Lisa, Wilde City Press

Review: Wave Goodbye to Charlie by Eric Arvin

Title: Wave Goodbye to Charlie

Author: Eric Arvin

Publisher: Wilde City Press

Pages/Word Count: 196 Pages (.pdf)

Rating: 5 Stars

Blurb: My name’s Charlie. I’m many things, though none of them having to do with any real talent. I’m a runaway, a hustler when I need to be, a ghost when I have to scare hoodlums away from my home, and a loner who maybe reads too much. But most of all, I’m the keeper of the carnival. That’s how I see myself. I look after the place ’cause even dying things need to be cared for. Maybe it’s illegal. Maybe that rusty metal fence around the carnival is supposed to keep me out too. Or maybe me and this place were meant to find each other. Truth is, I never felt at home anywhere but here, not even in all the foster families and orphanages I was placed in as a young shit. They don’t look for me no more, those places. I suspect I ran away so much they finally just said, “Fuck! Let him go.” I am a hangnail on society’s manicured middle finger. I’m older. One year past the age anyone gives a shit.

And this is my adventure…
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5 Stars, Edmond Manning, Literary Fiction, Pickwick Ink Publishing, Reviewed by Lisa

Review: The Butterfly King by Edmond Manning

“Whereof what’s past is prologue.” — William Shakespeare


Title: The Butterfly King (The Lost and Founds: Book Three

Author: Edmond Manning

Publisher: Pickwick Ink Publishing

Pages/Word Count: 301 Pages

Rating: 5 Stars

Blurb: Terrance Altham doesn’t know why he’s been arrested. He’s committed no crime and the cops aren’t talking. Sadly, the man sharing his holding cell talks too much. Known only as Ghost, he is a young grifter, apparently familiar enough with this police station to convince Terrance a break out is possible, and pushy enough to leave Terrance no choice but to follow Ghost into the underbelly of New York City. Continue reading

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