Book Review – Unrequited by Abigail Roux

•September 13, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Genre: Contemporary Gay Romance
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press (September 10, 2009)

About the book:

“Vic Bronsen has a problem. He’s stuck in a rut, uninspired by his job, and in love with a man who has no clue.

Thinking a change of scenery and company will do his aching heart some good, he goes off on a road trip with his best friend, only to find that the answers to his problems may have been right there in front of him all along.”

MY REVIEW:

Abigail Roux writes a sweet and romantic love story about how sometimes, people can be so blind that they can’t see what’s right in front of them.

Prosecutor Vic Bronsen has been stuck in a frustratingly ‘unrequited’ five-year relationship with the ‘love of his life’ Owen Montgomery. Five years indeed is a long time to be in love with someone who is otherwise a nice guy, except for the part about treating you as his semi-regular ‘booty-call’ or ‘fuck-buddy’.

In a last-ditch effort to metaphorically wash Owen out of his hair, Vic joins his best friend Shane Simpson on a 4-week sight-seeing trip along the Outer Banks in North Carolina, finally ending up at Shane’s beach house on the coast. We get to tag along as the two men see the sights, enjoy each other’s company, and here’s the romance part – we get to watch as Vic slowly opens his eyes, smells the roses and realizes that Shane isn’t just his bestfriend. Maybe he’s more than that.

Vic is a sympathetic character, and any woman or man who’s ever carried the torch for someone can totally understand where he’s coming from. And I wanted him to just be happy and find the special connection he’d been looking for. And so much the better if he finds it in his best friend, right? But is Shane ‘Mr second best’ or ‘the One’?

I actually enjoyed the sightseeing trips that Vic and Shane took – I’ve never been to North Carolina myself so I enjoyed seeing the tourist spots via Vic and Shane’s eyes. The problem is that, given how short the novel is (it’s really a novella), even though I enjoyed the scenic detour, it also made the story drag and took time out from more important things – like telling me just who Shane is for example. Unfortunately, Ms Roux didn’t quite succeed in fully fleshing him out as a character to me. I blame the shortness of the novel for that – Ms Roux could have extended the book maybe, spent more time in character development since she already spent so much time on just explaining the scenery. How about the people? We know next to nothing about the men personally, aside from their jobs and basic details. And when Ms Roux brings in another complication to the story, ie. Owen back to mix, the whole resolution just becomes too rushed for me to fully enjoy. Honestly, this book needed an extra 100-200 pages that it was missing to tell the whole story.

Don’t get me wrong though, Ms Roux has an easy reading writing style, and she does get the romance part down pat. The hot scenes are hot indeed, and overall, I was left pretty satisfied in the romantic resolution. Even if you’re already a fan of Ms Roux’ collaborations with Madeleine Urban, don’t hesitate in checking this book out. She’s pretty good on her own, maybe she just needs more confidence in producing a longer product?

Check out Unrequited and help support Abigail Roux.

Other reviews for Unrequited is on Rainbow Reviews and DearAuthor.

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Book Review – Touch Me Gently by J.R. Loveless

•September 9, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Genre: Contemporary Gay Romance
Publisher: DreamSpinner Press (September 2010)

About the book:

“Always hiding his tormented past along with his scarred body, Kaden James finds it difficult to keep a job. Luck finally turns his way when he finds work as a cook on a Montana ranch, where he meets terrifyingly handsome Logan Michaels. Logan is different from any man Kaden’s ever met, and before long, he finds himself falling in love with the big cowboy.

But Kaden’s nightmares won’t let go of him so easily, and he’s not just jumping at shadows. He has nearly a lifetime of abuse, horrifying memories, and pain addiction to overcome. Can Logan’s gentle touch help Kaden heal inside?”

MY REVIEW:

I guess that people can’t come more psychically damaged than young New Yorker Kaden James. We don’t really get the nitty-gritty details on his past until much later, but it’s pretty clear from the start that Kaden has been physically, emotionally and sexually abused, and that he’s suffering from post-traumatic disorder. Kaden lives in fear, and can hardly keep down a steady job. Worse, he doesn’t seem to have any support system other than a sympathetic manager of a labor agency, who finally in desperation, sends Kaden to serve as a temporary cook at his cousin Logan Michaels’ ranch.

The ranch in Montana turns out to be this haven of peace & healing for Kaden James’ body and spirit. I liked how the author paralleled Kaden’s self-rebuilding with the friendship that he develops with a wild horse on the ranch who is very much like him, with a history of abuse & maltreatment.

Unexpectedly, a tentative romantic relationship develops between this hurting young man and his caring & concerned boss Logan. J.R. Loveless spends a lot of time developing Kaden’s and Logan’s characters, and their love story is developed slowly and with sensitivity to Kaden’s psychological torments and also Logan’s mixed feelings when he first realizes his feelings for Kaden. Logan’s character appears to be too good to be true really, very selfless and constant in his love for Kaden, but I guess it’s balanced off with Kaden’s insecurity and trust issues. When Kaden and Logan take the next step in their relationship, I think it’s handled beautifully by J.R. Loveless, especially with all the trigger factors that brings up. It is a story of gay romance after all, not erotica, thank goodness. My only problem with the ‘love scene’ is that Logan was supposedly completely straight before Kaden came along, so I was wondering where he got all that ‘experience’ from (considering how sexually comfortable Logan is with Kaden).

The first 3/4’s of the book I thought was so much better than the last 1/4. It was simply a romance book with special characters and a love story that would touch your heart. But then, J.R. Loveless seemed to suddenly lose control of the story. A tragic event is inserted out of the blue, and Kaden is out of the ranch, interacting with new characters who we’re supposed to care about too, with a ton of new and almost insurmountable challenges & heartbreak thrown at him. The whole thing becomes ridiculously rushed and confused, and I have no idea what entered J.R. Loveless’ mind to spoil her heretofore gentle romance with all sorts of under-developed nonsense other than to create needless drama. Apparently, Kaden was not tragic enough to begin with, that he couldn’t just find his prince and live happily ever after – he had to face even more tragedies before his happy ending? A good editior should have caught that and ended the story much earlier.

Check out Touch Me Gently and help support J.R. Loveless.

Book Review – Amuse Bouche (Russell Quant Series, Book #1) by Anthony Bidulka

•February 13, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Genre: Contemporary Gay Mystery
Mass Market Paperback: 272 pages
Publisher: Insomniac Press (April 1, 2005)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1894663918
ISBN-13: 978-1894663915

About the book:

“A gay wedding gone bad. A missing groom. An unsullied reputation at risk. Enter Russell Quant, cute, gay and rookie private detective.”

MY REVIEW:

With Amuse Bouche, Anthony Bidulka really started out his Russell Quant detective series with a bang!

Russell Quant, newly minted private detective, is just happy to be hired for another simple job where it seems only his discretion is required – when he is asked to investigate a run-away groom’s case. Harold Chavell, a well-respected businessman, hires him to find out what happened to his fiance Tom Osborne who disappeared to France on the day of their wedding, and has apparently decided to embark on his honeymoon by himself. All straightforward and simple…

Fortunately for us (And Russell), the case turns out to be more complicated than Russell figures it would be, and he ends up on a trans-continental chase after a man who might as well be a shadow. And when it comes out that the missing person’s case might be a murder case, things come to a head when Russell’s client Chavell is arrested as the main suspect. Russell does not know if his client is innocent, but it is up to him to find out the truth.

What I really loved about this first book in the Russell Quant Series was how matter-of-fact the presence of the gay characters are. It’s a true blue detective series where the investigator just happens to be gay, and in this case, the clients are too. I’m not sure if this will be the trend in future books in the series, but for now, I can appreciate how not-big-a-deal it is in the book. I also really like how erotica plays NO PART in the novel! We all need a break from all that every once in a while in this genre.

The writing is crisp and smart throughout the book, and Anthony Bidulka even pulls a couple of surprises (although not all were). Russell Quant is a sweet and witty character, who goes about his job without much drama. I really enjoyed the little glimpses into his private life and close group of friends. I’m guessing that we’ll be meeting more of them in future books in the series. All I can say is, this one is a very fine read, and I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to enjoy a nice satisfying (gay) detective mystery. It was also great to meet a new place I’ve never been to – Saskatoon sounds like a great place to visit 🙂

Other reviews of Amuse Bouche (Russell Quant Series, Book #1) are found at Good Reads.

Check out Amuse Bouche (Russell Quant Series, Book #1) and help support Anthony Bidulka.

Book Review – Oleander House by Ally Blue (Bay City Paranormal Investigations, Book #1)

•January 23, 2010 • 1 Comment

Genre: Contemporary Gay Romance / Paranormal
Paperback: 228 pages
Publisher: Samhain Publishing (April 17, 2007)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1599983559
ISBN-13: 978-1599983554

About the book:

“Sam Raintree has never been normal. All his life, he’s experienced things he can’t explain. Things that have colored his view of the world and of himself. So taking a job as a paranormal investigator seems like a perfect fit. His new co-workers, he figures, don’t have to know he’s gay.

When Sam arrives at Oleander House, the site of his first assignment with Bay City Paranormal Investigations, nothing is what he expected. The repetitive yet exciting work, the unusual and violent history of the house, the intensely erotic and terrifying dreams which plague his sleep. But the most unexpected thing is Dr. Bo Broussard, the group’s leader.

From the moment they meet, Sam is strongly attracted to his intelligent, alluring boss. It doesn’t take Sam long to figure out that although Bo has led a heterosexual life, he is very much in the closet, and wants Sam as badly as Sam wants him.

As the investigation of Oleander House progresses and paranormal events in the house escalate, Sam and Bo circle warily around their mutual attraction, until a single night of bloodshed and revelation changes their lives forever.”

MY REVIEW:

I’m adding this to the ‘I wish the author will rewrite a version without all the erotica’ so other people not into the GBLT books might give it a try. I think it’s a total waste of the author’s imagination to have its readership limited to a small group of readers when it could strike a chord with the general reading public.

I really like that Ally Blue went completely out of the box of the gay erotica genre when writing her Bay City Paranormal Investigations series. In this case, the romance between newcomer Sam Raintree and the closeted head of Bay City Paranormal Investigations Dr. Bo Broussard is almost a subplot – the main plot being the mystery of how terrible monster creatures from another dimension end up in our world. This is on top of the more conventional ghost apparitions that also occur during the group’s investigation of the titular Oleander House. In other words, it reads almost like a mainstream good scifi/ fantasy/ paranormal novel!

Why do I mention this? I was just comparing how Ally Blue’s Oleander House comes across with say, Ariel Tachna’s Alliance in Blood where the sexual encounters actually detracted from the overall story. I still say this – when the plot or story itself is unusual enough or interesting enough, I really hate it when the author falls back on pages and pages of erotica that does nothing to move the story along. Maybe things will be different in future books from Ally Blue’s series, and maybe it’s because this is a new budding romance limited due to Dr. Bo being so far inside the closet, but I did like how the romance was mostly in the background and only served to move the story forward. An example would be how it was revealed that Sam’s frustrations with Bo was instrumental in unleashing his full mental / paranormal powers and opened the ‘door’ to other-dimensional worlds and monsters.

I don’t know much about paranormal activities and such, but I appreciated how Ms Blue tried to portray the group not as some crackpots, but who are trying to investigate the paranormal as scientific as possible with the use of modern technological tools like electromagnetic sensors and the like. I mean, okay, they were all probably talking out of their asses, but I liked how Ms Blue did do research and showed there is a kind of science to this.

As far as the genre goes, I think Oleander House shows that Ally Blue could be a superstar within it. I just wish that with some judicious editing, closing of plot holes and a more mainstream approach, this could also be a big hit for those outside the GBLT bubble.

Other reviews of Oleander House are found at Good Reads and I Read What.

Check out Oleander House and help support Ally Blue.

Book Review – Calico by Dorien Grey

•January 4, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Genre: Historical Gay Romance / Western
Paperback: 184 pages
Publisher: Zumaya Publications, LLC (October 2, 2006)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 193413533X
ISBN-13: 978-1934135334

About the book:

“It seemed like a simple job — guide Josh and Sarah to Bow Ridge to live with their aunt until they reached their 18th birthday. It was what their aunt Rebecca wanted, and with their uncle Dan murdered in cold blood for no reason anyone can fathom, the best choice Calico Ramsey thought he could make.

But someone wants them dead, which makes no sense to Calico. Neither do the feelings aroused by the nearness of the handsome young man from Chicago–feelings that seem to be returned, and nothing in his past has prepared him for either.”

MY REVIEW:

Hey, how’s this for a novel idea? A gay book that actually focuses on the story AND there’s nary a sex scene in sight! Maybe this is geared for the Young Adult market? Whatever the reason for the PG rating, I appreciated it. This turned out to be a really sweet and romantic story that’s set in the wild wild west with a heroic cowboy at its heart.

First, did no one in Dorien Grey’s camp have eyes? Whoever thought that cover was great should be fired! If there ever was a turn-off cover, this gets top prize! Even just a photo of a rearing horse or something generic would be better.

Calico Ramsay is not the stereotypical macho cowboy guy who we grew up watching on teevee – he is gay for one, and his social awkwardness, quiet kindness, calmness in the face of danger and wonderful resourcefulness actually made me think of that old tv series McGyver that I see on reruns and my mom loves so much – lol.

Calico is a young orphan cowboy who was taken in by an old cowboy by the name of Dan Overholt. The novel starts with the unexpected news that Dan will be taking in his orphaned grand-nephew and grand-niece. However, events quickly progress, Dan is murdered for an unknown reason, and Calico takes on the job of escorting the seventeen-year-old twins Josh and Sarah to their only surviving family Aunt Rebecca’s home.

This job turns out to be more exciting than Calico had planned for, with the three of them embarking on different adventures (they get shot at, caught at a stampede, get caught in a fire etc…) since someone is actively trying to kill the twins for reasons unknown. Calico tries to figure out this mystery while handling bodyguard duties, and gets more attached to the twins than he’d planned for, with romantic feelings developing between Calico and his male charge Josh. I thought it was pretty funny how Calico had to keep being the responsible one and saying ‘hands off’ to Josh who definitely knew what or who he wanted. There was a creeper element of course since Josh is only seventeen, but nothing ever inappropriate ever happens between the two of them (even when Josh turns legal!) – I think it was a pretty good call for the author to keep the rest of the romance off camera.

I really liked the author’s portrayal of the wild west, and I thought the dialogue sounded pretty authentic and not trying hard. All in all, I was pretty pleased with Calico, and would recommend it for those who like a good old-fashioned and innocent western romance, and are open-minded to read one where the cowboy just happens to be gay.

Other reviews of Calico are found at The Gen Review and Speak Its Name.

Check out Calico and help support Dorien Grey.

Book Review – Sex, Lies & Wedding Bells by EM Lynley

•December 21, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Genre: Contemporary Gay Erotica / Humor
Paperback: 248 pages
Publisher: Ravenous Romance; 1st edition (April 22, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1607777851
ISBN-13: 978-1607777854

About the book:

“Kieran Quinn is a Texas native transplanted to Manhattan who is working as a columnist for a national magazine. He’s famous for his snarky, sardonic columns, but deep down he’s more interested in what makes people tick than his editor would like. He keeps his desire to find his own Mr. Right hidden under a sexy, carefree persona that favors champagne and underwear models of the male variety.

Jaxon Lang is the handsome, confident high school principal in a tiny Texas town, where he relocated from Dallas to pursue his relationship with Danetta Harris. Despite her reputation for leaving grooms at the altar, Jaxon believes that they belong together and wants only to marry her and settle down to wedded bliss.

While covering the latest wedding of real-life “runaway bride” Danetta Harris, Kieran falls hard for the gorgeous-and straight-groom, Jaxon Lang. At the same time, Kieran’s charm and unique attitudes about sex and attraction soon challenge Jaxon’s concept of what-and who-he wants. Will anything change when Kieran discovers the bride’s shocking secret?”

MY REVIEW:

Sex, Lies & Wedding Bells reads to me like it was the GBLT counterpart of a good chick-lit novel – it’s just got that vibe – really smart, sardonic sense of humor with a lot of frothy fun thrown in, and with trendy charming characters. Just a little more sex than the usual chick-lit 😉 I think that EM Lynley has a lot of promise in this genre.

Kieran Quinn, minor celebrity columnist best known for his catty writing for Gloss Magazine, is tasked to cover the latest wedding of “runaway bride” Danetta Harris to the good principal Jaxon Lang. Kieran (and his editor) is betting for Danetta to continue her runaway streak – and has already sharpened his pen for ridiculing all the main characters of this little drama, especially the hapless groom-to-be.

Except that deep down, Kieran isn’t just the jaded slutty playboy he’s portrayed himself to be – he also happens to be a good guy, searching for all the same things the rest of us are looking for (see why it reads like chick-lit to me?) – and he not only falls in love with the people of Buckwheat Springs, Texas – but horror-of-horrors including the very confused young groom Jaxon!

Kieran is one of the most charming roguish (and ultimately endearing) characters I’ve met in this genre, and he carries the novel from start to finish with a lot of panache. Even the struggling-with-his-sexuality Jaxon and the troubled young bride-to-be Danetta comes through well here – so good on EM Lynley for being able to form likeable, flawed and real characters for us who actually change and grow throughout the course of the story. The plot itself is one we’ve all read before (straight-guy-is-only-gay-for-you), but EM Lynley’s writing style elevates it all, and gives us one very enjoyable and hot (and steamy) ride!

I have to say, I wished they’d change the cover – it practically shouts out this is just an erotic novel – when yes, while there is erotica (it’s front and center on the first chapter when Kieran wakes up with one of his one-night-stands), but there’s also a lot of smart, humorous writing that’s missing from a lot of novels in this genre (where a lot of authors apparently think that sex in 80-90% of the pages makes up for having little to no plot). I think changing the cover to something more sweet (maybe a groom with his shirt on?) would go a long way to better representing the spirit of the novel.

Other reviews of Sex, Lies & Wedding Bells are found at Good Reads and Two lips Reviews.

Check out Sex, Lies & Wedding Bells and help support EM Lynley.

Book Review – Alliance in Blood by Ariel Tachna (Partnership in Blood Series #1)

•November 28, 2009 • 1 Comment

Genre: Fantasy Gay Erotica / Paranormal
Paperback: 236 pages
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press (May 1, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0981508499
ISBN-13: 978-0981508498

About the book:

“Can a desperate wizard and a bitter, disillusioned vampire find a way to build the partnership that could save their world?

In a world rocked by magical war, vampires are seen by many as less than human, as the stereotypical creatures of the night who prey on others. But as the war intensifies, the wizards know they need an advantage to turn the tide in their favor: the strength and edge the vampires can give them in the battle against the dark wizards who seek to destroy life as they know it.

In a dangerous move and show of good will, the wizards ask the leader of the vampires to meet with them, so that they might plead their cause. One desperate man, Alain Magnier, and one bitter, disillusioned vampire, Orlando St. Clair, meet in Paris, and the fate of the world hangs in the balance of their decision: Will the vampires join the cause and form a partnership with the wizards to win the war?”

MY REVIEW:

This is one series that I wish the author would rewrite minus all the explicit scenes, and try to publish it for the mainstream crowd. I do think that the world building that Ariel Tachna did for her own brand of vampires and wizards would appeal to a more general audience. And in my opinion, minus all the erotica, the fantasy elements from Alliance in Blood on their own would be strong enough to stand alone. I think it’s a pity that only those who enjoy the GBLT genre would even be aware of this series.

Alliance in Blood is set in a Paris where a magical civil war is currently being fought between good wizards led by General Marcel Chavinier and his Lts Alain Magnier and Thierry Dumont versus the dark wizards led by Pascal Serrier. Hoping to turn the war into their favor, the good wizards try to strike up an alliance with the feared vampires who are led by Jean Bellaiche and his protegé Orlando St. Clair.

It was really interesting to see how the good wizard group and the vampires start to form their fledgling alliance, especially with so much distrust and misinformation between the two groups. Tachna does a great job of characterization of the various wizards and vampires – each has their own distinct personalities and are pretty unique characters. The power couple in the series book #1 is Alain and Orlando (with other couples touched on in future books) and most of the trial-and-error regarding wizard-vampire interaction happens with them.

I was relieved to find that Tachna’s vampires are the traditional ones who do need to feed on human blood and who would combust under the sun – no sparkly vegetarian vampires here! But she did give a pretty good twist in her story wherein a special partnership can form between a specific vampire and wizard, and the wizard’s blood offers a protection against the sun for the vampire. The side effect is that these partnerships have a sexual element to them. Pretty cool huh?

And I know I shouldn’t be complaining about the focus on erotica since this book is in the genre – but for me, the story itself was so promising and I was so looking forward to a good wizard/vampire battle that having to wade through page after page of sex really spoiled it for me. Like I said, while I was reading this, I was really hoping for a more mainstream version so I could just enjoy the magical war and all its drama in peace. The plot was good enough to stand alone, and without the erotica over-kill, would have been fleshed out even better. Pity really.

Other reviews of Alliance in Blood (Partnership in Blood Series #1) are found at Erotic Fiction and Good Reads.

Check out Alliance in Blood (Partnership in Blood Series #1) and help support Ariel Tachna.