2.5 Stars, BDSM/Kink/Erotica, Dreamspinner Press, Genre Romance, Michael Murphy, Reviewed by Sammy

Review: Evac by Michael Murphy

Title: Evac

Author: Michael Murphy

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 200 Pages

At a Glance: Evac had such promise. However, a need to twist certain realities to produce a happy ever after really derailed this story from its initial trajectory.

Reviewed By: Sammy

Blurb: While on a mission in northern Afghanistan, Benji’s helicopter is shot down. Benji went in with a band of brothers but comes out with a stack of body bags, including one for his partner, Blade.

After recovering physically in Germany, Benji is sent home to San Diego. He’s been a soldier so long he doesn’t know how to live as a civilian. The loss of his brothers and his partner weighs heavily on him. Benji’s body might be healed, but he is still a very broken man. Unable to find work, Benji turns to drinking, bar fights, risky sex with anonymous men, and striking out at everything. As he spirals out of control, he even tries volunteering in a BDSM club as a sub for demonstrations and private scenes.

Despair drives Benji to action, and he meets Nick, a young man in desperate need of hope. With his options and his money running out, the only question is if Benji will find his way in time.

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Review: Benji is a war-hardened soldier. Used to being sent on missions that are risky at best, his final mission was almost routine for him and his crew. Among his band of brothers is his secret lover, Blade, the man Benji is set on spending the rest of his life with once they are discharged a few months hence. But this mission is different from the get-go, and before it is over, Benji will be the last man standing, and the guilt of that truth will haunt him for the rest of his life.

Sent to recover in an army hospital in Germany, Benji must now begin to pick up the fragmented pieces of his life, and somehow deal with the horrific nightmares and flashbacks that plague him and leave him unable to function in society. Summarily discharged and sent home to San Diego, Benji must now make his way and survive the downward spiral that communicates into destructive behavior. But each risk he takes is necessary, for it becomes the only thing that makes him feel alive.

This novel, Evac by Michael Murphy, began with such incredible promise. The feel of the desert, the men being pinned down, the fear and panic at being ambushed, all played out with incredible truth. Roughly the first third of this story is so visceral and raw that you feel as though you are living the horror that became Benji’s life. Then, a series of questionable moves on the author’s part threw the story into a bit of chaos and gradually made it hard to believe. So many questions about how Benji was released from service began to plague this story. Having had two brothers who are ex-military, I knew immediately that this was an area Mr. Murphy had twisted the plot to satisfy his story’s needs.

Unfortunately, such things as why Benji’s family was never contacted when he was in hospital; the reality that he was released with only the clothes on his back and nothing more; the fact that he was never made to check in and file reports on exactly what happened that horrible day his group was pinned down and systematically slaughtered; all these things made the story seem just so disjointed and unbelievable. This is the military we are talking about, and for a lone surviving soldier to be shuttled off without any proper discharge was just too much to believe.

As the story progressed, the dialogue became more stilted and Benji’s actions more erratic. While it was more than plausible for us to watch this man fall apart, the repetitive retelling of the exact same scene where the chopper was shot down grew thin. More importantly, we never got a real glimpse into Benji and Blade’s clandestine affair in Afghanistan. Given the idea that he was going to live with Blade post military career, I expected the constant flashbacks to include some of their intimate moments on base. I needed to understand more of Benji’s backstory so that his soul wrenching loss made sense. But the novel sped forward, telling us the story rather than showing us. Like a third party observer, the reader was expected to accept the inconsistencies in the plot and not worry that the result made one feel less and less emotionally engaged in Benji’s life.

Evac had such promise. However, a need to twist certain realities to produce a happy ever after really derailed this story from its initial trajectory. In the end, we were left with a questionable plot, less than convincing dialogue, and a real disappointment over a story that never seemed to find its way.

TNA_Signature_Sammy







 

You can buy Evac here:

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Devon Rhodes, Giveaways, GRL 2015 Featured Blogger Tour, Totally Bound

Guest Post, Excerpt, and Giveaway: The GayRomLit Blog Tour Kickoff With Devon Rhodes

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I’m so happy to be here kicking off the GRL Blog Tour with The Novel Approach! October is going to be here before we know it. Can’t wait! Thanks to Lisa for having me on, and letting me talk about a topic near and dear to my heart.

My Military Guys—When News Creates Inspiration

110527-N-OA833-014 ANNAPOLIS, Md. (May 27, 2011) Newly commissioned Navy and Marine Corps officers toss their hats during the U.S. Naval Academy Class of 2011 graduation and commissioning ceremony. The Class of 2011 graduated 728 ensigns and 260 Marine Corps 2nd lieutenants at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, Md. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Chad Runge/Released)

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ANNAPOLIS, Md. (May 27, 2011) Newly commissioned Navy and Marine Corps officers toss their hats during the U.S. Naval Academy Class of 2011 graduation and commissioning ceremony. The Class of 2011 graduated 728 ensigns and 260 Marine Corps 2nd lieutenants at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, Md. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Chad Runge/Released)

One of the questions authors get most often is, where do you find inspiration for your books? The answer is usually a nebulous “Everywhere.” As well as having a brain that never turns off, I’m also very visual, so many times photos or people I see lead to a runaway imagination as I begin creating a story for that character.

Many years ago (before DADT was repealed in 2010), I had been scrolling through news (ie, wasting time surfing social media) and saw a photo that brought a smile to my face…and an idea into my head.

It was the white uniform that originally caught my attention, and not just because of the obvious reasons (hello—man in uniform). I grew up as a Navy brat—my dad was a Naval aviator and spent over 30 years in the Navy. So anything to do with dress whites or flybys always catches my eye.

The photo was similar to this one from the Wikipedia page, and was followed by another photo of a Marine and Naval graduate embracing. Immediately I thought, “What if…?” What if they were secretly more than friends? What would happen if they did care for each other…and were about to be posted in completely different places that they had no control over? I moved on from that photo and created my own two graduates and started writing the hat toss scene that begins A Ring and A Promise right away.

By the time I finished their story and had turned it in to my editor, the repeal of DADT was becoming a reality, and during the last few weeks before ARAAP was published, I asked to change a few things in the story to make it current with the new military stance. Their story still had plenty of conflict without risk of dishonorable expulsion as well.

That was a while ago, and I had left Cary and Owen in a firm HFN, since anything else would have been impossible in that timeline. But I never forgot about them—nor did my readers lol—so this year I decided to pick up their story toward the end of their initial five years of service, and wrote A Ring and A Vow. When it begins, Owen is in the Middle East, while Cary is stationed Stateside in Virginia. Cary had been the one moving their relationship forward in the last book, so I decided to have Owen be the one to come up with an idea to take their relationship to the next level…and hopefully get on the same continent!

Here is the blurb and an exclusive excerpt for A Ring and A Vow:

aringandavow_800Every promise must someday be fulfilled, and the best way Owen knows how to reward Cary’s faith is with a vow.

It’s been nearly five years since Owen went down on one knee with his Academy ring and promised Cary he’d someday do it for real. With Cary being a Naval aviator and Owen a Marine officer serving in Iraq, they’re rarely on the same continent, let alone together.

About time for them to fill out paperwork to re-up, Owen realizes that if they were married, they’d have a much better chance of being stationed nearby. But time is not on their side, so he’s forced to compromise on his proposal in order to make it work.

Cary has been waiting for Owen for years—there was no chance he’d ever say anything but yes. Owen is coming home at last, and wants to make a home with him. However, between the chronic nightmares he’s been fighting and the ever more complicated wedding plans, the next month could be anything but a dream.

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Excerpt: It wasn’t very often they could do a face-to-face, between their duty schedules and the time difference of eight and a half hours, but sometimes breaking up a night’s sleep was worth it. Some shifting around on both their parts and he could finally see Owen’s grainy image. “Are you in bed?”

Owen smirked. “Is this one of those kind of calls?” he teased. They both knew that it wasn’t feasible to do any sort of phone sex—there just wasn’t enough privacy for Owen in the desert base camp.

“I wish.” The thought was tempting. Cary had the benefit of being alone behind a locked door, and he palmed his semi-hard cock. The nightmare had taken its effect, but Owen’s voice—combined with how long it had been since he’d seen his man—had him hardening as the last vestiges of his dream faded.

“Are you okay?”

The video was a bit choppy, but the concern in Owen’s voice was clear.

“Yeah. Fine.” Owen’s eyebrow rose and Cary confessed, “Just woke up…from a nightmare,” he added reluctantly. “And don’t ask.” He wasn’t going to tell him about it—no way—but he knew Owen wouldn’t leave it alone until he admitted what had him off-center.

“You sure you don’t want to talk about it?”

“Definitely. I’d rather hear what you’ve been up to.”

Owen shrugged and sat back in the chair. “Same old. Really looking forward to heading back stateside end of the month. Everyone is. You can just feel it—short-timer’s. You know.”

“Yeah.” And that was the crux of it, really. Cary’s worst fear was that so close to being reunited—or at least on the same continent again—that something bad would happen…

No! Stop it.

“You seem distracted. You sure you’re okay?”

“I’m fine.” His voice sounded curt to his own ears and he twisted the Academy ring on his finger while he tried to enjoy the rare chance to talk to Owen face-to-face. “So, it’s about time to make some decisions,” he changed the subject. They were both nearing the end of their first five years of service, and though the decision to re-up wasn’t a difficult one—neither one of them had gone into this to do a five-and-dive—figuring out what duty stations to put in for and trying to end up close to one another was the real challenge.

Owen nodded and a little smile teased at the corners of his eyes.

“What? Did you come up with a plan?” That would be the best news ever. Cary’s deadline to fill out his paperwork was the following month and he was nowhere near knowing what to do. The options for a Naval aviator were somewhat limited—and so were Marine officer stations—and unfortunately there weren’t that many that coincided. Owen was a seasoned combat veteran, and Cary had been on and off carriers with his squadron. In the past four plus years, they’d spent a scant number of days together. He would miss the guys if he left for a different posting, but being close to Owen was a greater priority for him. “Tell me you’ve worked something out.”

Owen nodded—one quick tip of the head.

Cary frowned at the screen and scooted closer. “Well?”

“Um, hold on a second.” Owen rose and the view rocked and rolled a little bit as he moved the computer on his end. “Fuck.”

Cary snickered at the curse. “What’s wrong? Not one of those camel spiders again.”

“Oh fuck off. I’d like to see your reaction if one crawled into bed with you.” More vertigo inducing motion. “When I was planning this, I forgot how short the damn headset cord is. I don’t have much time left, and it doesn’t reach.” A huge, frustrated sigh.

“Reach? What are you trying to do?”

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A Ring and a Vow was originally released in the Semper Fidelis anthology, but also released this week as a single, and is currently only $2.10 on Amazon

Also at: Totally Bound | B&N | ARe

When I’m not lost in my imagination, you can find me in beautiful Oregon and at: My Website | My Blog | Facebook | Twitter

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THE GIVEAWAY:

aringandapromise_800THIS CONTEST IS CLOSED

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Anna Lee, Genre Romance, Totally Bound

Guest Post and Giveaway: The His Soldier Blog Tour With Anna Lee

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The Novel Approach welcomes author Anna Lee today on the His Soldier blog tour. Anna was kind enough to answer a couple of questions for her visit, and she’s also offering the chance to win an e-copy of the book, so be sure to click on the Rafflecopter widget below to enter.

Good luck!

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Q: Anna, what inspired you to put your own personal stamp on the military romance genre?

Anna: I think there’s something sexy about men in uniform. A few years ago I wrote a historical military romance, As Time Goes By, it was my first book published. This time I wanted it to be contemporary, as I’ve been interested in writing another military romance for a while.There are so many amazing books in the genre, so I started thinking about ways to put my own personal stamp on it as you said. I first got some inspiration from a song to write His Solider. I had the idea that Dean would lose his brother, Dax who was a soldier, and that loss would be felt throughout the story. At the same time, I wanted it to be a story of hope and finding love. So I thought of how Dean and Ryder would meet, an army sergeant and a school teacher. Which led to the idea of army pen pals, another source of inspiration. I found out that you could write to a soldier and say thanks, provide encouragement and give support to those who might not have anyone back home. So Dean and Ryder connect through letters.  I also knew that the story would just be beginning when they finally met, because Ryder would come home a changed man, physically and emotionally.It’s all about love, finding someone who accepts and loves you for who you are, flaws and all, and never giving up hope in a happy ending.

Q: Did you find parts of the novel particularly emotional or difficult to write because of what Dean and Ryder had gone through?  What was the most challenging scene in the book for you to write?

Anna: Yeah, I did. There were times while writing that I had to take a break and step away for a bit because of the emotion, Dean and Ryder are close to my heart and I was really passionate about telling their story. The most challenging scene to write had to be when they first met. I wanted to get the emotions right. They’d written letters for a year, talked over the phone, and made plans to meet but then Ryder gets injured. It’s definitely not the homecoming they expected. Ryder thinking he’ll be nothing but a burden tries to push Dean awaywhen Dean comes to see him in the hospital. That was difficult to write, Ryder was so hurt, depressed, and need in comfort yet he was scared of rejection and feared he’d lost Dean before they had a chance.  It was just as emotional a moment for Dean as well. The man he’d come to love is hurt and the only thing he can do is be there for him. There’s no way to fix it. Yet this tragedy is also like a miracle to Dean, he’s already lost Dax, but Ryder is still there and he’s so relieved he didn’t lose him too. So it was a really pivotal scene and it was important to not only give Ryder hope but show there was still a chance for them to be together if he just trusted Dean.

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unnamedBlurb: Sometimes you find love where you least expect it, for Sergeant Ryder Brooks that’s writing letters home to Dean Anders, his army pen pal…

After a tragedy, in a way to honor his brother and try to cope, Dean becomes a army pen pal to Sergeant Ryder Brooks. The two connect through letters and phone calls for a year, falling in love and making plans to meet when Ryder finishes his tour. However, in an effort to save one of his men who steps on a mine, Ryder loses his leg. Broken and depressed, he doesn’t think Dean will want him. But once Dean learns what happens, he immediately goes to Ryder, determined to help him heal and show him that he loves him no matter what. Ryder has a long road of recovery ahead of him, but with Dean’s support, he realizes his life isn’t over, it’s just beginning if he’ll only give them a chance.

Pre-Order Link: Totally Bound

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Author BioAuthor Bio: Anna Lee graduated from the University of California Riverside with a Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing. Living with a disability, she has overcome many challenges and puts her passion for life and love into her writing. She lives with her family and dogs and enjoys writing late into the night. When she isn’t writing, Anna enjoys spending time with her nieces and nephew or chatting with her friends about her favorite books and TV shows.

Find Anna at: Facebook | Facebook Author Page | Twitter| Website

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THE GIVEAWAY:

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4 Stars, Annabeth Albert, Genre Romance, Reviewed by Lisa, Self-Published

Review: Resilient Heart by Annabeth Albert

Title: Resilient Heart

Author: Annabeth Albert

Publisher: Self-Published

Pages/Word Count: 118 Pages

At a Glance: Resilient Heart asks its readers to bring our empathy to the reading of this story

Blurb: NOTE: This is a previously published work. The title, author, and/or publisher may have changed. Originally released as part of the Unconditional Surrender bundle, now available as a stand-alone novella complete with BRAND-NEW 10,000 word short story/epilogue.

When a wounded soldier is forced to accept help from his former best friend, both men discover the true strength of their entwined hearts.

Army IT specialist Xander keeps his emotions wired as tight as his NETCOM gear, but when he’s seriously injured by an IED, his whole life unravels. Running out of options, Xander must accept help from his ex-friend-with-benefits, Mackey. However, Xander’s had feelings for Mackey for years, and close quarters only complicates his emotions. Further, Xander doesn’t know which is worse: combating his inner demons or dealing with Mackey’s guilty kindnesses.

Mackey’s always kept his emotions close to his chest, but now he’s got a secret that could destroy his one chance with the man he cares far too much for. Both men will have to heal their wounded hearts to ensure a future together.

Entwined Future (Bonus Epilogue): In this new short story, Mackey has news that could change everything for him and Xander, but a visit from Xander’s family jeopardizes Mackey’s plans–and forces Xander to confront some harsh truths.

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Review: Annabeth Albert digs deep and comes up with a healthy dose of emotion in Resilient Heart, a story that portrays the physical, psychological, and all too human impact of war.

Xander and Mackey are two soldiers who served their country post-DADT but still toed a cautious line, keeping their stolen trysts a secret and guarding their feelings for each other behind the pretense of a best-friends-with-benefits label, all while they were both beginning to feel so much more than a simple physical need for each other. These details are offered in retrospect through the narrative, as the story begins well after their affair had started. Xander and Mackey have a longer history than is fleshed out in Resilient Heart, but we get enough back-story to know that somewhere between sex and friendship, love took root and grew in a fertile soil of silence and lies of omission.

This story takes place following Xander’s discharge from the Army, after an IED exploded and changed the course of his life. The author explores the fallout not only of Xander’s physical and emotional injuries but the effects and psychological impact of those injuries on Xander and on his relationship with Mackey. PTSD, physical impairment, and depression inform Xander’s life now and have a direct effect upon Mackey as well. Nearly losing Xander, not to mention the unspoken guilt he harbors for the unforeseeable role he played in all of it, has caused Mackey to do what he didn’t have the courage to do before—admit he needs Xander in his life as something more than a convenient means of scratching a sexual itch. Once Mackey steps up to help Xander through his recovery, Albert lays the groundwork for the conflict: every interaction between the two men becomes a trek through an emotional minefield, Mackey never knowing when the next sentence will set Xander off.

Being a novella, we get just a small glimpse of the greater part of Xander’s recovery, focusing on the bitter reality of his having survived only to come out alive but altered. It took time for Xander to appreciate the fact he lived after the explosion that changed him in tangible and intangible ways, going through the motions while fighting his demons. It took a confession from Mackey and bringing all his secrets and lies out into the open to push Xander to the brink, forcing him to make a decision about his future.

Resilient Heart asks its readers to bring our empathy to the reading of this story, to invest ourselves in the cost of serving in the military and imagine the sacrifices both Mackey and Xander made in order to hide their relationship, then to feel our way through the conflict and the impact Mackey’s confession made. Both of these men made mistakes but, in the end, resolved to correct them together, and the bonus epilogue, which wasn’t available in the Unconditional Surrender bundle, gives us a sweet and satisfying resolution to their romance.






You can buy Resilient Heart here:

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Love Lane Books, RJ Scott

Guest Post and Giveaway: Last Marine Standing by RJ Scott

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As is usual with blog posts I get stuck about what to write. I want to post about things that readers want to know and so I asked my FB group what they wanted to know about my new release, Last Marine Standing

Jambrea Gaff asked how does the Heroes series tie into the Sanctuary series?

When I wrote Worlds Collide, book 7 in the Sanctuary series, I created a team of SEALs that backed up Joseph. One of those marines was a guy called Viktor, an explosives expert who literally fell out of the closet as Bi half way through Worlds Collide. I painted him as a guy who was all SEAL and who basically sought sex wherever he could. He was irreverent, a bit scary, but he was loyal. He helped the Sanctuary team, and his part in my books was done. Continue reading

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4.5 Stars, Kendall McKenna, MLR Press, Paranormal Romance, Reviewed by Chris, Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Urban Fantasy

Survival Depends Upon The Strength Of A Bond In Kendall McKenna’s “Strength of the Mate”

Title: Strength of the Mate (The Tameness of the Wolf #3)

Author: Kendall McKenna

Publisher: MLR Press

Pages/Word Count: 356 Pages

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Blurb: Rampaging werewolves cause the True Alpha to send his Omega, Dawson Rivers, to bring them under control. Can Adam Madison help or hinder Dawson’s mission?

Adam Madison is in Iraq, driving supply trucks for the Marines, but he still can’t outrun his personal ghosts. Outside the wire, insurgents are a relentless threat. Inside, renegade werewolves are a constant danger. Continue reading

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4 Stars, Genre Romance, L.A. Witt, Reviewed by Jackie, Samhain Publishing

Two Men Find Love In The Military In L.A. Witt’s “General Misconduct”

Title: General Misconduct (Conduct Unbecoming: Book Two)

Author: L.A. Witt

Publisher: Samhain Publishing

Pages/Word Count: 219 Pages

Rating: 4 Stars

Blurb: A chance encounter, a chance at love…and one heartbreaking choice.

Ensign Aiden Lange is taking a hike—and it’s not for the pleasure of seeing Okinawa’s Hiji Falls. It’s in the hope that claiming he took a fall on the rocks will cover up the fact he was beaten up in a gay bar. Not a place a Naval Academy grad wants to get caught if he’s serious about his career. Continue reading

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