Title: Werecat: The Rearing (Werecat #1)
Author: Andrew J Peters
Length: 21k words
Genre: m/m Contemporary Paranormal
Heat: 2 – Tame (mostly not explicit)
Sex Frequency: 2 – Few and Far Between
Keywords/Tags: Series, Short Story, Shifters (Big Cats), Mythology, Homeless, NYC, Montreal, Disappeared/Runaway, Psychological Control, Secrets & Lies, College, Flashbacks, Shifted Sex
Rating: Pretty Good
For Jacks Dowd, a college senior who feels ungrounded from his family and life in general, an alcohol and sex-infused weekend in Montréal sounds like a pretty good escape. His Spring Break binge takes a detour when he meets Benoit, an admiring drifter with startling green eyes. A hook-up turns into a day, two days, and then a full week in Benoit’s hostel, making love and scarfing down take-out food. But at the end of the week, Benoit demands that Jacks make an impossible choice: stay with him forever, or go back to college and never see him again.
There’s something dangerous about Benoit, but Jacks has fallen for him brutally. The night before Jacks is supposed to return to college, he finds Benoit in Mont Royal Park, where they first met, to try to work things out. Benoit springs on Jacks an unfathomable secret: he’s a mythical creature, half man and half jungle panther. He traps Jacks in an abandoned cabin and performs an occult rite so they will be mated forever.
I’ve been sitting on this one a month or two, waiting to read it. I’m glad that I read it, but also more intrigued than satisfied in a good story, though I’ll certainly read the second one, whenever it’s out.
We first meet Jacks on a supply run in the middle of the night in NYC. He stops at a familiar bodega to pick up some protein, saying hello to the familiar (and cute) clerk, then returns to his hiding place with Benoit, an old turned out warehouse. In flashbacks we see how Jack has come to this point, by meeting scruffy and serious Benoit while on spring break in Montreal after a bad night out and their weeklong tryst that never really ends. As we go through each subsequent flashback, introducing us to their relationship, Benoit’s many quirks, and how he came to be in NYC with him, now his boyfriend.
The blurb makes one half of this story quite obvious — Jacks’ time in Montreal with Benoit — but doesn’t go much beyond that point. I’m no real fan of flashbacks and I’m not sure that I could say that they brought anything particularly important to this story, but they’re a stylistic choice that slowly introduces us to the beginning of the relationship between Jacks and Benoit at the same time as everything starts to go wrong with them in NYC. Benoit, because of his age, is much more like a cat in nature than a human, which is definitely part of his growth as a character in the story. He’s possessive to a manic degree, but also seductive and beguiling to Jacks. Jacks is someone, at least to me, who seems to put on a good front of a simple college student but really likes to flirt with the edge. The allure of Benoit in Montreal, of a man in trouble that he can’t help but fall in love with is really about sex and danger than anything else. It didn’t quite endear me to Jacks, to say the least. In fact, I had trouble through a lot of this story about whether I could really feel their relationship. That is because it was moving in a direction that I wasn’t prepared for.
That change in direction is what galvanized my interest, however, and it doesn’t come until quite late the story. It makes reviewing this harder, no matter how much more enjoyment it gave me in the overall story. It makes this somewhat difficult to talk about while still withholding all the information. But it also means I can tell you that I’m even more excited to see what this author has in store for these characters next, and that I have to implore you to keep reading if you find yourself, at first, reading something that you weren’t quite sure you thought you were.
All of this, including the misdirection, makes for an interesting last minute move, but without the next story I’m still not quite sure if I can think of this as a prequel written first or not. Does this story show the direction for the rest? Or, is Andrew Peters waiting to throw us more curveballs?
I know this is a somewhat enigmatic review, so if you’re the type of reader who doesn’t like to be kept waiting, then I think you should probably wait for the next installment in this series to be published before you start reading. What I can tell you is that though I suffered through flashbacks 😉 I liked the writing style and I like that this author is keeping me on my toes. So, for now, this first story gets a Pretty Good, with a curious but tempered excitement about what is next to come.
Posted by Cole in 16-40k, 4 Pretty Good, Authors P-R, Contemporary, Heat 2 - Romantic & Tame, Paranormal, Sex Freq 2 - Few and Far Between Tags: Andrew J Peters, Big Cats, Cat Shifters, College, Flashbacks, Homeless, Montreal, Mythology, NYC, Psychological Control, Runaway/Disappeared, Secrets & Lies, Series, Shifter Sex, Short Story, Vagabondage Press, Werecat series
Title: Cold Hands (College Fun & Gays #6)
Author: Erica Pike
Publisher: Self Published (Ice Cave)
Length: 13,900 words
Genre: m/m Contemporary Romance
Heat: 4 – Spicy & Smutty
Sex Frequency: 3 – Average Story to Sex
Keywords/Tags: Sequel, Series, Short Story, Enemies to Lovers, Ex-Bullies/Bullying, College, Past Abuse, Hurt/Comfort, Second Chances, Grovel you Bastard!, Public Sex, Carnivals
Rating: Really Liked It
“Hot-Hands” and Casper have been dating for a month, but their relationship is about as smooth as shattered glass. It doesn’t help that Hot-Hands is racked with guilt over his high school bullying of Casper, or that Casper darts away whenever his boyfriend gets a little too frisky.
Desperate to hang onto Casper, Hot-Hands tries to earn back the trust he destroyed years ago, so they can face their disastrous past and have a chance at a happy future.
Note: Cold Hands focuses on high school bullying for being gay. This is the sequel to Hot Hands and contains big spoilers if read first. Hot Hands is free of charge here.
Hot Hands was by far my favorite story in Erica Pike’s College Fun and Gay series, so you can imagine my excitement when she said that she was writing a sequel. Cold Hands is almost as much of an antithesis to that first story as it’s title. Hot Hands introduces us to Casper — a college student who was brutally bullied, more like abused, in high school for being gay — and his ex-bully and middle school crush Jaime. Casper shows up to college and is surprised and devastated to learn that one of the ring leaders of the guys who tormented him is not only there but also in some of his classes. He does everything he can to avoid Jaime, but doesn’t know that a lot of Jaime’s bullying stemmed from his own awakening homosexual feelings towards Cass. His physical and emotional abuse for most of his teen years have really impacted him. He’s shy and doesn’t understand why he’s still attracted to one of the men who abused him, which also messes with his head. His attachments soon turn to another man, however, a man he starts to call “Hot-Hands” because of the way the man’s hands draw him out and make him feel sexy and interesting whenever he’s accosted by this same hard-breathing man in the dark. It’s a serious case of having a secret admirer, but Casper has his suspicions and soon finds them proven wrong. All that time, Casper had inadvertently been giving himself up to the man who caused him so much pain and now he’s more confused than ever.
Cold Hands resumes this story from Jaime’s point of view, which is a serious change in how we understand the story. Cass is a thinker who constantly analyzes his feelings and thoughts, but because of their unique relationship he knows very little about what Jaime really thinks and Jaime’s motives. The change in point of view starts this sequel off on a different foot. We immediately see that Jaime has real regret about the way he treated Cass in the past and that his feelings now are genuine, and also that he’s a different man now. He understands himself and has grow up in the two years they spend apart. Now, he’s out of the closet and over the shame that he grew up with from a conservative family and town. Still, Cass doesn’t know that. He’s still confused about Jaime’s motives and his own. How can he trust himself and his feelings if he’s seriously considering having a relationship with his abuser?
The real difference between the first story and the second isn’t the point of view, but in the focus of their relationship. If you look at these stories together as one, then this story is the payoff. The first was the setup, the background and the premise — the meetings in the dark with Casper’s “secret admirer” and the subsequent reveal of his real identity — but, Cold Hands is the meat and bones of their relationship. This story carries on to peel back the layers and find out if these guys have a solid base to build any relationship upon and how they go about doing that. The change in point of view facilitates that because by nature of their relationship as abuser/victim, Jaime automatically sees the bigger picture than Cass. Casper is still mired in confusion about his feelings and dealing with understanding Jaime and his actions and in evidence of how that abuse affected him, he’s battling his own self-esteem.
I’m so glad that Erica decided to continue their story because I think that it is only in retrospect that this story feels as if it completed the first. Cold Hands makes the whole story better by giving us a chance to see them work through the consequences of their actions in the first story, and that in turn gives them the HEA they deserve. This also shows in the sex in both stories. So much of the first story takes place while Casper thinks “Hot-Hands” is someone else entirely that a lot of those scenes were exploratory, sexy and hot in a situational way, playing on the mysterious suitor with a dirty and exhibitionist twist. I read that story as a really good piece of erotica with an engaging plot. This story moves their physical relationship into a place of intimacy, so much so that it’s often too difficult for Casper to really handle.
I definitely recommend these stories to all of you, though you absolutely have to read Hot Hands first. Well done Erica and thank you for writing this story so I could spend more time with Cass and Jaime!
Posted by Cole in 5 Really Like It, Authors P-R, Contemporary, Heat 4 - Spicy & Smutty, Romance, Sex Freq 3 - Average Story to Sex, up to 15k Tags: Bullies/Bullying, Carnival, College, Enemies to Lovers, Erica Pike, Ex-Bullies, Grovel you Bastard!, Hurt/Comfort, Past Abuse, Public Sex, Second Chances, Self Published, Sequel, Series, Short Story
Title: Under the Waterfall (Have Body, Will Guard #5)
Author: Neil Plakcy
Publisher: Loose Id
Length: 80,618 words
Genre: m/m Contemporary Mystery Romance
Heat: 2 – Romantic & Tame
Sex Frequency: 2 – Few and Far Between
Keywords/Tags: Series, Action/Adventure, Bodyguards, Existing Relationship, ex-Military, Teachers, Coming Out/Closeted, Abduction/Kidnapping, France, Corsica, Family/Kids, Multiple Romances, Expat
Rating: Pretty Good
As soon as they’re settled in their new home on the French Riviera, bodyguards Aidan and Liam are sent to the island of Corsica to protect a mining executive and his family. Though they’re still in love, and having lots of sex, the disruption, and the discovery that the client’s son is gay and in a touchy relationship, causes both bodyguards to question their skills and their commitment to each other. Can they engineer a happy ending for Michel and his boyfriend, while protecting the family from deadly adversaries?
What a wonderful surprise for me to find another Aidan and Liam book out! For some reason, I thought that after book four, Olives for the Stranger that the series was finished, so getting a new book and the possibility of even more after this (it sure seems like it) makes me so happy! Liam and Aidan are a couple that I’ve kept with since I read their first book Three Wrong Turns in the Desert several years ago. Each book is heavy on action/adventure and a serious dose of hot and heavy macho action. How could I not fall in love? Besides, I’ve always been drawn to Mr. Plakcy’s work. I really enjoy his style.
The fifth installment in this series diverges from the rest right at the start. Though we know Liam and Aiden well in Tunisia where they met and have previously worked as bodyguards, they moved at the end of the fourth book to France and are now living in Nice. Both of them think that they moved to primarily make the other happy, but the truth is that having less freedom is somewhat constricting to them both, because Liam doesn’t always like being told what to do and because Aidan usually does what he can to defer to his more senior partner and lover and because he generally ends up trying to please him anyway. This results in it’s own set of complications and when Liam and Aidan take on a new case in Corsica protecting a mine owner’s family from threats by Corsican nationalists to preserve the island from drilling, they both spend much of their time there working through their own issues about their relationship. Aidan wonders if he’s doomed to play the doormat when once again Liam takes the active role in their operation and Aidan feels that he’s undervalued. Liam is forced to confront his past when they find that the son in the family they’re protecting, Michel, is in the closet and secretly in love with his father’s biggest adversary’s son. It might be a classic star-crossed lovers tale with a bent twist, but the interactions between scared, closeted and teenaged Michel and his blithely criticizing father force him to confront his own feelings about his past and his development into his only real relationship — with Aidan. Liam has never considered himself as any kind of commodity, until recently mostly avoiding his sexuality except in the basest of situations, but their friend Louis makes a comment that shows him he just might be attractive to other men. That leads him to consider his relationship with Aidan and his feelings about sleeping with other men.
Their main issue in Corsica, nonetheless, is keeping their client’s safe, not angsting about the issues in their relationship.
This book (like the last one) was both an enjoyment to read and a bit of a disappointment. The pure adventure and excitement that I’m used to from the earlier plots in this series seem to have gone away. On the other hand, I think that Plakcy, better than most writers in the m/m romance genre anyway, seem to have a real knack for writing about the issues that crop up in long lasting relationships. They’re the everyday issues — communication, self-esteem in relationship to your partner, jealousy — and they’re handled responsibly. Sure they might cause a bit of angst, but I like the format of this series because the external adventure/mystery plot takes some of the focus away. The plot doesn’t need to be built on those internal relationship issues to carry the story, so those real-to-life relationship issues seem to carry the modest weight that is natural. Of course they’re important but they aren’t life or death issues that need to much focus. I’m not saying that I don’t enjoy a classic relationship-centric contemporary romance, but Aidan and Liam feel more real to me because while I might have to occasionally suspend disbelief at their gun-toting, crime-solving antics, the relationship at the center is down to earth and totally believable.
I remain a fan of this series. I probably always will be. But, I think I might need to shift my expectation of the future books. From here on, I’m going to look forward more to the relationship than the external plot. It might bring me some enjoyment, but so far the last few just haven’t been nearly as satisfying as the first ones. I will say that I found Liam and Aidan’s physical relationship in this book somewhat disappointing. I’m not sure why the author didn’t include much sex (hardly any!). One of the draws to this series for me has been the hot and heavy sex between these two men. Maybe the author is trying to shift the overall arc in another direction? Or, perhaps, the plot in this book just didn’t fit with the two getting hot and heavy. But I sure hope that when these two come back for book six that they’ll be getting it on in all kinds of weird places like they used to!
Posted by Cole in 4 Pretty Good, 76-100k, Authors P-R, Contemporary, Heat 2 - Romantic & Tame, Mystery, Romance, Sex Freq 2 - Few and Far Between Tags: Action/Adventure, Bodyguards, Closeted, Coming Out, Corsica, Ex-Military, Existing Relationship, Expat, Family, France, Have Body Will Guard, Kidnapping/Abduction, Kids, Loose Id, Multiple Romances, Neil Plakcy, Series, Teachers
Author: Will Parkinson
Publisher: Dreamspinner (Harmony Ink)
Length: 53,637 words
Genre: m/m Contemporary YA Romance
Heat: 1 – Sweet/None
Sex Frequency: 1 – None
Keywords/Tags: Debut Novel, High School, Unrequited Love, Closeted, Best Friends, Straight/Gay Male Friendships, Coming Out, Coming of Age, Art/Artists, Sports, Baseball, Athletes, Abuse, Machiavellian Bad Guy, Evil Teenaged Girls!, Secrets & Lies
Rating: Not Feelin’ It
The day Jackson Kern walks into Taylor Andrews’s classroom is a momentous day in Taylor’s life. He’s had crushes before, sure, but as time goes on, this is starting to look a whole lot more serious. Still, Jackson doesn’t return Taylor’s feelings.
Taylor has his own admirers, though. Kevin Richards is used to getting what he wants, and what he wants right now is Taylor, so when Taylor rejects him, Kevin retaliates. At first Taylor’s entourage rallies around him, but then Kevin takes his deception one step further and Taylor sees his support dwindle, teaching him the valuable lesson about who he can truly consider a friend.
I’m always eager to pick up a baseball book and even though I’ve been interested in several and still plan to review a few of them, it has been a while since I’ve picked up a book from DSP’s young adult imprint. From what I gather in the acknowledgements, this is Will Parkinson’s debut novel. Sometimes it’s a gamble picking books to read by a new author or an author I’ve never read, but that’s another part of reviewing that I like. Reviewing gives me the opportunity to read new authors and it feels like I get to enjoy more of the perks, like finding a surprise that’s worth it. Often, it’s different though and while I like some of those books I also don’t like some of them. I’m afraid to say that this book fell into the latter camp for me. While it wasn’t a total disappointment, I just didn’t connect with the book.
Taylor is a gay sophomore in a Milwaukee, Wisconsin high school. His best friend Benny is straight and the only person alive who knows his secret. They’re best friends and always have been and Benny is a rather special guy that is wise beyond his years, intelligent and loyal. Pitch opens on the day that a new student starts at Taylor’s school. Jackson walks into Taylor’s homeroom, looking nervous and totally sexy and Taylor immediately wants to draw him. What follows over the next year is an intense unrequited love that just doesn’t seem to go away, no matter how hard Taylor tries and Benny cautions. No matter how much Taylor is told that Jackson is disgusted by his little boy crush from Jackson’s cheerleader girlfriend, Taylor just can’t seem to stay away.
It isn’t until he and Benny gain some perspective on their problems during the next summer, camp counseling for abused kids, that Taylor starts to grow up. He still has feelings for Jackson, but he’s less likely now to follow him around like a lost puppy. So when a kid from a neighboring school asks him out during their Halloween dance, Taylor decides to take him up on it. He really starts to like Kevin, but he is prey unknowingly walking into Kevin’s trap. It takes some extremely tough decisions and way too much heartbreak and drama to realize that much of what he thought before wasn’t true, about most of the people he knew.
There are two aspects of this novella that I had a difficult time with. The first are the characters. This, especially, is subjective. Part of what oftentimes makes a young adult novel good are the bad choices of the characters. More often than not young adult stories have a moral and it can walk a fine line in the hands of the author between preachy and poignant. The style of this story went a bit over the top and that just wasn’t something that I was really looking for. For high school students, who I freely admit can be some of the cruelest humans on Earth, many of the actions of these characters went beyond immature and foolhardy. I would have appreciated the characters and their decisions (even the bad ones) more if their actions had been more subtle and less ascribed to their particular archetype. Kevin’s actions in particular required me to suspend disbelief a few times.
As I said before, those decisions and your own feelings about them are more subjective than usual. My other problem with this story was in the writing. I applaud this author for writing and writing and sharing their work. But like many new authors I think that there were some fundamental writing problems that this author needs to work on. Mostly it will just take continued writing, so even though this book wasn’t for me, I sincerely hope that this author keeps up with it. Part of the novice prose problems were dialogue and restraint. In a way, the second has quite a bit to do with the first. This book didn’t fall into too bad of a habit of telling rather than showing, but there is importance in letting the characters express themselves in their own ways instead of being a vehicle to express the author’s view. I’m not talking about preaching about issues or anything like that here. I simply mean the difference between the characters’ observations and personality and the author’s. Almost continually there were times while reading this that I stopped and thought that a character wouldn’t say or think that. The dialogue, in a similar way, oftentimes sounded familiar for all the characters and didn’t seem to represent the individual characters. Restraint is important because readers don’t need all the information. It’s a partnership, you know? The readers picks up on the clues the author leaves and pieces them together and in that way one small action tells you more about the character than a whole page of narration.
Ultimately, this book just wasn’t for me because of the more dramatic plot twists. I have seen a couple of 5-star reviews around so I’ll be interested to see if any other readers/reviewers feel the way I do, or if this turns out to be a reader favorite. I’ve been a part of the more unpopular opinion before!
Posted by Cole in 2 Not Feelin' It, 41-75k, Authors P-R, Contemporary, Heat 1 - Sweet/None, Romance, Sex Freq 1 - None, YA Tags: Abuse, Art, Artists, Athletes, Baseball, Best Friends, Closeted, Coming of Age, Coming Out, Debut Novel, Evil Teenaged Girls!, Harmony Ink Press, High School, Machiavellian Bad Guy, Secrets & Lies, Sports, Straight/Gay Male Friendships, Unrequited Love, Will Parkinson
Author: AJ Rose
Publisher: Voodoo Lilly Press
Length: 110,000 words
Genre: m/m Contemporary BDSM Mystery Romance
Heat: 3 – Sexy & Mild
Sex Frequency: 3 – Average Sexy to Story
Keywords/Tags: Series, Sequel, Cops, Psychologists, PTSD, Serial Killer, Family, Child Abduction & Abuse, Obsession, Paparazzi!, HEA
Rating: Loved It!
Reviewed by Sadonna
This is a sequel to Power Exchange and as such contains quite a few spoilers for that book. It is NOT recommended to read these books out of sequence.
Everywhere Detective Gavin DeGrassi looks he’s reminded of his attack by the Breath Play Killer. It’s in the house he lives in with his partner and Dom, Ben Haverson. It’s in the sympathetic yet pitying looks he receives from his fellow detectives when he returns to the force after a year-long hiatus. It’s in the suffocating coddling of his entire family, and the relentless reporter demanding an exclusive of his ordeal.
Most of all, it’s in his lack of submission to Ben, who isn’t convinced Gavin’s recovered enough to trust the power exchange between them.
The miraculous recovery of two teen boys from a twisted kidnapper gives him heart, and Gavin’s determined to prove he can handle anything despite increasing strain between him and Ben, painful nightmares, and panic when anyone touches him.
But his next case is too close for comfort: a friend and colleague found raped and murdered in a fate chillingly similar to what could have been his own, and this killer isn’t stopping with one cop. As the body count rises and taunting souvenirs are being hand-delivered to Gavin, he faces a frustrating lack of leads, a crushing need to prove himself, and a sinking suspicion the imprisoned kidnapper’s reach is further than originally thought. A miasma of uncertainty and fear threaten to suffocate him when he asks a question with which he’s overwhelmingly familiar: what happens when a victim is pushed too far?
Safeword begins about a year after the events of Power Exchange. Gavin and Ben are still together and Gavin has just returned to work after a year’s disability leave. He’s been through intensive therapy with Ben’s partner Laura and he and Ben are also seeing her as a couple. Things seem to be going OK with his return to work and his partner, Myah, who is now engaged to his brother Cole. While Gavin is still dealing with some residual anxiety, he is able to work effectively even when his first case back turns out to be the murder of a fellow police officer. And it’s not just any officer, but a colleague of Gavin and Myah’s who broke a big case involving two abducted teens and the man who was holding them hostage – one for a number of years. This case may or may not be related to his murder.
As Gavin and Myah are investigating the case, there doesn’t seem to be any real motive or potential suspects but Gavin can’t help feeling there is some connection between the murder and the victim’s last big case. While there are no real leads in the case, another cop is murdered and there are some potentially disturbing similarities between the murders and some coincidences that can’t be ignored. This of course brings more stress to Myah and particularly Gavin who is still dealing with his own recovery and anxiety. The other annoying issue is the reappearance of Gavin’s former partner Trent, who it turns out is still with Gavin’s ex-wife. Trent has done nothing but bad-mouth Gavin since he was run out of their precinct after being caught in bed with Victoria, Gavin’s ex. He’s a complete pain in the ass, but it turns out that he has a really disgusting skeleton in his closet that he doesn’t want public, so he tows the line – at least being civil. And only for a little while.
Things have not gotten back to normal between Ben and Gavin in their sex life and while they haven’t given up getting back to their Dom/Sub relationship, things are moving much more slowly than Gavin would like. However, Ben is unwilling to risk Gavin’s psyche any more than it already has been compromised. They are continuing to work on their relationship and Gavin’s limits, but he has to push Ben to get any forward movement. This is further complicated by a third cop murder and the murderer’s fixation on Gavin. Regardless of what precautions Gavin and Ben and the force take to protect him, there continue to be breaches in Gavin’s security. Needless to say, Gavin once again being in the crosshairs of a killer takes a toll on him and Ben.
If you read my review of the previous book, Power Exchange, you know that I was somewhat disappointed in the mystery and particularly with the resolution of the case and the identification of the murderer. No such complaints with this book. The murder mystery is really well done with some surprising twists and turns and some good police work by Gavin and Myah along with another nail biter of a climax. There are plenty of villains to hate in this one and some pretty good payback as well, which really did give me some perverse satisfaction unlike the end of the first book 😉
The other central story of this book is the ongoing love story of Gavin and Ben. I though the first book was incredible in describing the progression of their relationship. It was incredibly intimate and intense and hot and so well written. This part of the story in this book does not have that same level of intensity, but it is still really well written and very intimate. Ben and Gavin are still trying to find their way back to themselves and each other in the aftermath of their ordeal in Power Exchange. They are working through all of the issues together and they are incredibly committed to making things better and getting back to where they were before. There are some really hard moments for them in this story but the one fundamental factor that prevails over everything else is their love for each other and what they are willing to do to fight for that love.
I really loved this book – so much so that I went back and reread Power Exchange again because I couldn’t get enough of Gavin and Ben. I don’t know if A.J. Rose is planning to write more about these two, but I’d definitely read it!
Posted by Sadonna in 101-125k, 6 LOVE IT!, Authors P-R, BDSM / Kink, Contemporary, Heat 3 - Sexy & Mild, Mystery, Romance, Sex Freq 3 - Average Story to Sex Tags: AJ Rose, Child Abuse, Cops, Family, HEA, Kidnapping/Abduction, Paparazzi!, Power Exchange, Psychologist, PTSD, Sequel, Serial Killer, Series, Voodoo Lily Press
Title: Blessed Curses
Author: Madeleine Ribbon
Length: 42,533 words
Genre: m/m Fantasy Romance
Heat: 2 – Romantic & Tame
Sex Frequency: 2 – Few and Far Between
Keywords/Tags: Magic, Weddings, First Times, HEA, Hurt/Comfort, Nerds/Geeks, Light and Sweet
Rating: So So
Though he’s a sorcerer with a talent for creating blessings, David can do very little with any other magic. He works the night shift for his cousin’s magical supply shop because he’s cursed—his brother did it when they were kids—and now people can’t stand to be near David since he inspires irrational fear. Many experts have tried to remove it, but the curse has proven completely binding. Then David meets Vaughn at his brother’s wedding.
Vaughn works for the magical enforcers, picking apart complex curses and making sure sorcerers stay within the law. He has the ability to dampen magical effects around him and loves solving supposedly irreversible curses like David’s. He quickly develops a more personal interest in David. Despite the distance David attempts to keep between them, he finally realizes when Vaughn is injured on the job that he doesn’t want to stay away anymore. But what about the curse?
I believe this is the first book by Madeleine Ribbon that I’ve read. I was excited about this book because it has a great premise — a man cursed by his brother at a young age who repulses everyone and everything around him until a man who excels at breaking curses and has his own natural resistance to others’ magic is the first man who can get close enough to him to try to remove it. And indeed, that is what immediately drew me into the story when I picked it up. We first see David as a young boy. He’s completely jealous of his older brother Todd (by one year). Todd has more magic than David; David can only do Blessings, not Curses and Charms like Todd and just about everyone else in the magical world. And Todd has friends. When Todd goes away to a magical camp one summer where David cannot follow, David finds that despite what his brother told him, Todd’s friends are happy to play with him. But when Todd comes home to see David with his friends he get’s jealous, and in a typical move towards his younger brother, he curses him. Only this time David tries to protect himself with a blessing and the combination of the magic creates what will become known among the magical world as the impossible curse, and David as The Impossible Kid.
David feels the curse himself. He’s uncomfortable, full of fear and feels the creepy crawly feeling across his whole body. But that doesn’t compare to how other people feel in his proximity. The closer they get the more they want to run away, the more they’re afraid of him. And because of that impossibility of touch and interaction with all except for his brother Todd who is immune (as the curse caster, and subsequently has devote his life to his care because of his guilt), David has lived a life devoid of physical affection, even from his own parents. Those who take the time to brave their discomfort and get to know David fall in love with him. He’s shy and awkward around people because of his curse and his lack of experience relating to others.
David still has his magic and though he feels it’s rather lackluster in relation to so many other people’s gifts, he admits that he has a real talent for Blessings. It is when he’s fulfilling his promise to be in attendance of his brother Todd’s wedding (and to bless the cake for the couple) that he meets Vaughn. He’s confident, sexy, intelligent and talented and David has no idea what Vaughn sees in him — other than the challenge of breaking his curse. Nevertheless, Vaughn can’t seem to stay away from David. While it started out as a professional interest, Vaughn finds that the man himself is more intriguing than the horrible curse he bears. Getting David, a man who has never received any kind of positive attention from another handsome gay man, to realize that David is worth more than his curse looks to be almost as challenging as finding a counter to the curse itself. But the more time that Vaughn spends getting to know David — wooing him in baby steps the whole way — the more important it is to him to find a way to keep David for good.
I liked this novella but I think that it mostly only kept my interest because of it’s length. It’s short enough that when my initial interest, which covered the first few chapters and maybe the first 25% of the book, started to wane there wasn’t a whole lot left to read. I won’t say that it turned me off in any way, but I did feel like the book stalled a bit and it never really regained the magic even until the end. The premise of the book is really interesting, but once the initial meeting between David and Vaughn at the wedding finished they went into a long and slow courtship, because of David’s fear of forging a connection with someone who he believed would ultimately be turned away by the curse. It made sense for the characters, but it slowed down the pace somewhat. That bulk of the story was really only driven by the internal conflict. And I hate to say it, but for me that really slow courtship which was much more like friendship killed the passion. I’m not sure why I reacted this way because I usually am a big fan of the slow burn. I think that’s why I slowly lost some interest in their relationship — I didn’t feel the “burn” in the slow burn.
There is a side plot throughout the story. Over the months of their courtship is a small mystery keeping the two on their toes. Someone, what seems to be a scrawny kid, is trying to break in and steal a blessed plant from magical shops around town and is quite good at escaping capture. The plant in question is only used for suppressing magic, which leads David to believe that someone might be cursed similarly to him and hoping to stop it’s effects. Vaughn, who works for the Magical Enforcement department of Arcana, the magical government, is involved with the case. This side plot could have remedied the problems that I had, diverting the focus to something else to drive the plot forward. But, ultimately while the conclusion was interesting in it’s own way I didn’t feel like it carried the story through those parts.
On the whole I just didn’t find many surprises with this story. It is good for what it is despite the few problems that I had with it — the premise is wonderful and I liked the characters quite a lot. David is cute in his geeky, online gaming and need-to-be-rescued kind of way, while Vaughn is charming and dashing, popular and sexy and loyal and caring. But after the initial introduction to the story and between the characters, I pretty much had the story already figured out.
This would be a good book for those of you looking for something not too involved, that won’t take up a whole lot of your day and is a relaxing and light book to read. It’s heartwarming in a knight-in-shining-armor kind of way. But if you’re looking for something more intense or more exploration of the magical world and a deeper study of the characters, this might not be for you. Though I enjoyed the experience, I fell into the latter camp.
Posted by Cole in 3 So So, 41-75k, Authors P-R, Fantasy, Heat 2 - Romantic & Tame, Romance, Sex Freq 2 - Few and Far Between Tags: Dreamspinner Press, First Times, HEA, Hurt/Comfort, Light & Sweet, Madeleine Ribbon, Magic, Nerds/Geeks, Weddings