on m/m romance, baking, knitting, and occasional smut

Category Archives: Heat 4 – Spicy & Smutty

The Ranch ForemanTitle: The Ranch Foreman
Author: Rob Colton
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Length: 28k words, 120 pages
Genre: m/m Contemporary Erotica
Heat: 4 – Spicy & Smutty
Sex Frequency: 4 – Very Often
Keywords/Tags: Closeted, Cowboys, OFY, Grief, Grovel you Bastard!, Healing, Hostile Work Environment, Hurt/Comfort, May/December, Sexual Abuse/Assault
Rating: So So

Reviewed by Nikyta

BLURB

When Madison “Matty” Ward finds himself out of work and without a place to live, his cousin comes through with a job on the Gates cattle ranch. Despite not knowing anything about herding cattle or taking care of horses, Matty does his best to impress the older hunky foreman, Baxter Hollingsworth. Baxter is drawn to the new young hand, but he’s deeply closeted, and after an openly gay veterinarian shows he’s interested in Matty, Baxter’s repressed feelings lead to an explosive encounter. Baxter then withdraws—leaving Matty feeling angry and used—until an accident forces him to confront his fears.

REVIEW

This is a difficult review to write. I won’t deny that the writing drew me in even though this is essentially just an erotica novella, I still had that desire to continue reading even when I was being overwhelmed by sex.

When Matty puts his aunt in a nursing home, it leaves him homeless until his cousin gets him a job at a ranch. Once there, he’s immediately attracted to Baxter, the older ranch foreman who’s very deep in the closet. Everyone on the ranch pretty much knows that Matty is gay but over the course of the book, Matty and Baxter strike up a purely sexual relationship that has a tinge of bitterness and resentment to it. Matty wants a relationship but Baxter is stuck in his old ways. Now Matty has to decide whether he wants to keep his self-respect or take what little scraps Baxter is willing to give him.

Matty, at first, comes off as a slightly battered character. He’s feeling guilty about his aunt but grateful he’s no longer homeless and without a job. He’s a sweet guy that has a thing for older gentleman like Baxter. Baxter, in my opinion, was a complete douche bag. I sincerely disliked him for most of the book because he would either snap or growl at Matty, completely ignore Matty or push Matty to his knees for some head. He didn’t have a personality beyond that of a bastard and even with all these people saying he’s a good man, I never saw any of that. All I ever saw was Baxter silently demanding Matty to suck him when he was drunk, getting mad at Matty for no reason, ignoring Matty for days after they get together and then getting jealous when Matty decides he wants to move on to other guys. By the end of the book, however, he does lighten up a bit and I did like the way he helped Matty and Brian when things take a turn for the aunt but it was in no way enough to redeem himself for how he acted the whole time.

Aside from my hatred of Baxter, this was a promising read and definitely had a lot of potential but I found I had a lot of issues with the story. Mainly, I severely disliked the way the author handled not only Baxter but his encounters with Matty. I didn’t feel any connection between Matty and Baxter because all their time together consisted mainly of Matty giving Baxter blowjobs and then Baxter ignoring Matty until the next blowjob. I could have gotten past that but then it seemed the only way Baxter would do anything with Matty was when he was drunk. It was frustrating and disappointing to say the least because Baxter had no problems molesting Matty when he was wasted but wouldn’t even LOOK at Matty when he was sober let alone have a friendly conversation. Beyond that, this story had a lot of sex to it and what parts didn’t have sex had Matty pining over Baxter. It was hard for me to understand Matty’s obsession when we never saw any of the qualities in Baxter that Matty was pining over. Then again, he was very obsessed with Baxter’s package so granted that was shown quite often. To be honest, I don’t think Matty and Baxter had a meaningful conversation until the last few pages of the book and even then it wasn’t more than a few paragraphs, if that. One last issue I had was Clyde. I felt like the whole issue with him was pointless and the resolution to it didn’t bring Baxter or Matty closer, if anything it pushed them farther apart. I will say one thing, I’m very grateful that what Clyde does was not shown.

In the end, while this book had a lot of potential, it was overcrowded by sex and Baxter’s bad personality mixed with Matty’s willingness to be walked over by him. If this story had more dialogue between Matty and Baxter that didn’t occur while they were having sex, it would have been better. If the sex had been cut down, that would have been even better, IMO, but as it is, this felt more like an erotica story than a romance considering that there was no lead up to the love these boys apparently have together.

Those looking for something smutty and easy to read will like this story IF you like May/December, as well.


From the Ashes (Fire and Rain #1) - Daisy HarrisTitle: From the Ashes (Fire and Rain #1)
Author: Daisy Harris
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Length: ≈67k words, 216 pages
Genre: m/m Contemporary Romance
Heat: 4 – Spicy & Smutty
Sex Frequency: 4 – Very Often
Keywords/Tags: Closeted, Family Issues, Firefighters, First Times, OFY, Homeless, Pets, Series
Rating: Pretty Good

Reviewed by Nikyta

BLURB

He wanted a boyfriend. What he got was a hero.

When an accident burns down Jesse’s apartment, he’s left broke and homeless, with a giant dog and a college schedule he can’t afford to maintain. And no family who’s willing to take him in.

Lucky for him, a sexy fireman offers him a place to stay. The drawback? The fireman’s big Latino family lives next door, and they don’t know their son is gay.

Tomas’s parents made their way in America with hard work and by accepting help when it was offered, so he won’t let Jesse drop out of school just so he can afford a place to live. Besides, Jesse’s the perfect roommate—funny, sweet and breathtakingly cute. He climbs into Tomas’s bed and tugs at his heart. Until Jesse starts pushing for more.

Their passion enflames their bodies but threatens to crush Tomas’s family. Tomas is willing to fight for Jesse, but after losing everything, Jesse isn’t sure he can bear to risk his one remaining possession—his heart.

REVIEW

I really liked this story. It’s a bit predictable but the characters and the overall writing make up for that.

This is about Jesse who has his apartment burned down, leaving him homeless and with his ex-landlords’ dog. Tomas was one of the responding firefighters and helped Jesse through his shock. Unable to leave Jesse homeless, he takes him home and cares for him and his big dog, Chardonnay. What starts there is a sweet but awkward relationship where Tomas is still in the closet, living next door to his family and Jesse is trying to get his life back together while they both fight the feelings they’re starting to develop.

The highlight of this book is probably the characters. Tomas is this big, strong guy with the sweetest heart that can’t seem to let Jesse go even if it means making his life somewhat difficult. I adored the way he tried to help Jesse and his struggle to keep things as friends between them. Jesse, at first, seems like a weak character but he’s actually strong, willing to stand up for himself and put an end to things that make things worse, even if it kills him to do it. Thankfully, while he attempts to do this, Tomas is not willing to let Jesse go and, even if he does say differently, he’s going to fight for what he has with Jesse, which I also loved!

The novel, in my eyes, was about coming out and being true to yourself and your family; to find that home that is yours and no one can take away. It’s not very angsty, even with all the situations Jesse and Tomas go through. Mostly, it is about Jesse and Tomas trying to make things work. Tomas wants a partner but doesn’t want to tell his family he’s gay. Jesse no longer has a family but just wants a partner that isn’t afraid to be with him. They’re completely different but together they’re hot and sweet. They have to go through issues such as Tomas coming out but more importantly dealing with Tomas’ older brother, Diego, who is very vocal of his opinion when it comes to Jesse and being gay.

While I enjoyed the story, I had a few issues with it. Mainly, how much sex there was. I felt like whenever Jesse and Tomas needed to talk, they’d have sex instead and put off talking for later. Also, Tomas’ reasoning for why he won’t have anal or why he won’t let Jesse go down on him were completely baffling, IMO, and didn’t make much sense to me considering what else he would do. Beyond that, I felt like Tomas’ family was a big problem between Tomas and Jesse but we don’t actually get to see them or get a resolution on ALL of their opinions of Tomas being gay and in a relationship. It was such a huge issue but that segment felt unresolved and left me slightly disappointed.

In the end, I really enjoyed the story. While it might have conflicts that felt clichéd, the characters were still likeable and made me want to keep reading. I liked that this story didn’t have much angst but still dealt with both Tomas and Jesse’s problems. I won’t lie that Jesse and Tomas together were very hot and had a good connection so readers will definitely enjoy that part of the story!


Stealing the Wind (Mermen of Ea #1) - Shira AnthonyTitle: Stealing the Wind (Mermen of Ea #1)
Author: Shira Anthony
Publisher: Dreamspinner
Length: 69,784 words
Genre: m/m Fantasy Romance
Heat: 4 – Spicy & Smutty**
Sex Frequency: 2 – Few and Far Between**
Keywords/Tags: Series, Shifters (Merfolk), Sea/Rivers/Sail, Under the Sea, Slaves/Prisoner, Indentured (Sexual) Slavery, m/m/m scenes, Multiple/Other Partners, Spies, Civil War, Resistance, Dreams, Superpowers, Reincarnation, Sex in Shifted Form (underwater mermen sex, which is much more interesting than underwater basket weaving)
Rating: Pretty Good

BLURB

Taren Laxley has never known anything but life as a slave. When a lusty pirate kidnaps him and holds him prisoner on his ship, Taren embraces the chance to realize his dream of a seagoing life. Not only does the pirate captain offer him freedom in exchange for three years of labor and sexual servitude, but the pleasures Taren finds when he joins the captain and first mate in bed far surpass his greatest fantasies.

Then, during a storm, Taren dives overboard to save another sailor and is lost at sea. He’s rescued by Ian Dunaidh, the enigmatic and seemingly ageless captain of a rival ship, the Phantom, and Taren feels an overwhelming attraction to Ian that Ian appears to share. Soon Taren learns a secret that will change his life forever: Ian and his people are Ea, shape-shifting merfolk… and Taren is one of them too. Bound to each other by a fierce passion neither can explain or deny, Taren and Ian are soon embroiled in a war and forced to fight for a future—not only for themselves but for all their kind.

REVIEW

Believe it or not (and I can’t), this is the first book I’ve read by Shira Anthony. I have several and there are many of her books that I’ve really wanted to read, but somehow never found the time to. So when I saw this on the Dreamspinner Coming Soon page I made sure that I made room for it in my schedule. It wouldn’t only be a chance to try out this author, but also a book about mermen! Just like unicorns, I’m really an 8 year old little girl who loves the cute and cuddly fantastical creatures. Except, you know, when they have gay sex and aren’t as cuddly anymore, except maybe in a post-coital fashion.

I’m glad that I made room for this book, it was quite fun to read. The whole book takes place over a somewhat short amount of time — about 8 weeks — but the book starts with Taren at a young age and the first few chapters traverse his teenaged years as he’s sold and stolen as a slave and passed through several masters’ hands. The journey that Taren takes in this first book of the series is pretty big. He learns quite a bit about his life and goes through many transitions of change before the end.

Taren doesn’t know anything about his parents, save that his master told him they gave him away. He longs for the open sea and though he’s just a rigger for his master’s shipyard, he hopes that one day he’ll be able to travel the seas and be a proper sailor. When he’s sold to pay off his master’s debts, Taren becomes a slave to a man who runs an inn. He’s not sure how old he is, though he thinks around 18 or 19. He’s been mostly sheltered in his life, so when a handsome captain introduces him to his sexuality in a room full of watching sailors at the inn, he finds himself excited rather than scared and violated. He’s submissive and clings to the safety he feels in a man like the captain, whom he later knows as Rider, because of the man’s kind, yet firm dominance.

Stolen by the sailors of the ship that night, he wakes to find himself the captain’s prisoner and introduced to indentured slavery of the sexual kind. But, for a young man like Taren who has always been a slave, sexual slavery aboard a ship on the open ocean is a kind of freedom that he’s never known. Taren revels in it, especially when he comes to be a loving presence in Rider and his lover’s bed and allowed to put his knowledge of sailing to use aboard the ship.

But there is so much that Taren doesn’t know or understand — why he has such vivid dreams and the extra-sensory feelings that he has in reading the water and weather at sea. When he’s knocked unconscious and lost at sea, he washes up to their rival vessel, captained by Ian Dunaidh. Ian is enamored of Taren immediately and their connection, once he wakes, pushes and pulls between them as they sail to Ian’s home island where a shadowy presence called The Council awaits to judge Taren as a spy in their war against a resistance group of their own people who live on the mainland. Living through the hell of their torture, the betrayal between Taren and Ian and the possibility that he might never be free takes everything in him. All he knows to get him through is that he is destined for a higher purpose than this, if it is true that any higher power is guiding them.

I went pretty far in summarizing the story for you, but that is because there is such a long and twisting plot in this story. Taren goes through so many changes, homes, and relationships with other people for only 70k words. It makes me curious how many books this author has planned for this series because I didn’t feel as if I started to understand the larger picture until the very end of the book. I have no doubt that that was intended for the reader, that we should pull the pieces together at the very end, but it also meant that I had to wait through the whole book to really understand what was happening. Which, ultimately, meant that I really had to enjoy the story for the present, for what was happening to Taren in the moment without understanding where the story was headed to really enjoy the book. Sometimes I felt as if I was right there with him and Ian and I was really sucked into the present of the story. But, sometimes I wasn’t and I felt as if the story lulled, perhaps because the relationship between Taren and Ian is so freaking complicated. For much of the book they’re separated, though not for any very long pieces of time. It takes the whole book for them to really reach the same page, relationship-wise, because they each needed this book to progress themselves. Taren is searching for his destiny, a shadowy purpose that we and he knows is there, somewhere, for him to understand one day, and for him to understand his race and his history. Ian is battling his own demons — regret and guilt — that stand in the way of his happiness.

So once again I say that while I really enjoyed this book, it’s as a first book of a series. I still feel as if I don’t know much about where this series is headed. In a way, I like that because it means that this author is doing a fine job of withholding information until the correct (and perhaps most artful) time to release it. On the other hand, I fear not knowing enough to keep me interested in the big picture, and that it makes my reading experience different. So, I’m excited to read the next book and hoping that the ending of this one — seeing the formation of a more solid relationship between Taren and Ian — will carry forward through the rest of the series.

**There is a pretty big imbalance in the heat level and sex frequency in this book, as far as trying to rate it goes. The first several chapters are hot and heavy, with m/m/m scenes (spitroasting, exhibitionism) that really raise the heat, and frequent sex in those chapters. The rest of the novel has little to almost no sex at all and what intimacy there is is very romantic and tame (the underwater mermen sex).


Cold Hands (College Fun and Gays #6) - Erica PikeTitle: 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

BLURB

“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.

REVIEW

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!


Provoked (Enlightenment #1) - Joanna ChambersTitle: Provoked (Enlightenment #1)
Author: Joanna Chambers
Publisher: Samhain
Length: 54,571 words
Genre: m/m Historical Romance
Heat: 4 – Spicy & Smutty
Sex Frequency: 2 – Few and Far Between
Keywords/Tags: Series, Scotland, 1820s, Closeted, Homophobia, Rich/Poor, Lawyers, Secrets & Lies, Mystery, Aristocracy, HFN (this was just the first part of a longer romance arc)
Rating: Really Like It

BLURB

When a man loses his heart, he has no choice but to follow…

Enlightenment, Book 1

Lowborn David Lauriston lacks the family connections needed to rise in Edinburgh’s privileged legal world. Worse, his latest case—defending weavers accused of treason—has brought him under suspicion of harbouring radical sympathies.

Troubled by his sexuality, tormented by memories of a man he once platonically loved, David lives a largely celibate life—until a rare sexual encounter with a compelling stranger turns his world on its head.

Cynical and worldly, Lord Murdo Balfour is more at home in hedonistic London than dingy, repressed Edinburgh. Unlike David, he intends to eventually marry while continuing to enjoy the company of men whenever he pleases. Yet sex with David is different. It’s personal, intimate, and instead of extinguishing his desire, it only leaves him hungry for more.

As David’s search for the man who betrayed the weavers deepens, he begins to suspect that his mysterious lover has more sinister reasons for his presence in Edinburgh. The truth could leave his heart broken…and more necks stretching on the gallows.

Product Warnings
Contains mystery and danger set in 1822 Scotland, and a forbidden love between two men that will leave you on the edge of your seat—until the next book.

REVIEW

I don’t know why exactly, but I was really, really excited to read this book. It makes no sense really, because I rarely read historical novels and Joanna Chambers is a new author to me. Perhaps it was a latent psychic power because once I started this book I never wanted to stop. I was forced to stop to get some other reviews done, but if I hadn’t been forced to I don’t think I would have. I was immediately drawn into the lush prose and the strange love/hate dynamic between David and Balfour.

David’s actions in the first chapter of Provoked introduce him to us so perfectly. Jostled in an excited crowd to see the death of two men charged with treason for their part in an uprising against the government, David watches on helplessly. He worked on their case as part of their legal defense, but he’s still a junior in his field and there wasn’t much he could do. But, what he could do was work tirelessly, and in the end it didn’t make a lot of difference. David throws himself into everything and this was no different. To put the families of the condemned at ease he shares with them his own childhood. He was raised by a farmer in a country village in Scotland but worked and did everything he could to further his education. Now, he’s gone up in the world and is working among the higher classes in Edinburgh. Still, he isn’t far from his roots. Being a witness to the deaths of these two men is something that he owes them.

Over a thoughtful and depressing meal later that evening another man sits to dine with him. He’s handsome and confident with an interesting face. He introduces himself as Mr. Balfour and after a considerable amount of shared whisky, David finds himself on his knees in a wet alley. He can’t stand that he always falls prey to his demons and tells himself that this time will be the last time. Or at least, that’s what he always says. Balfour seems surprised by his behavior after their tryst and has a rather more hedonistic outlook on life. Where David is bound tightly to his morality and refuses to move into a life of dishonesty by marrying a woman and starting a family, Balfour seems to have no problem with that. He’s looking for happiness, he says, and the only version for him is the one of his own making. Ideals have no place over them.

It is a surprise to David some months later when he again runs into Balfour while dining at the home of his boss. In the meantime, the case that brought about their first meeting, that of the weavers, barges back into David’s life. Euan, the younger brother of one of the men brought down in the case needs his help. His brother Peter wasn’t hanged but is en route on a ship in chains for his part in the conspiracy. Euan needs David’s help to find Lees, the government man who infiltrated their group, incited them from a small idealistic group into an active anti-government rebellion and then turned them in. David wants to help Euan but is afraid for him. He’s just a kid who, like him, has also worked himself up to a higher education and David doesn’t want him to throw all of that away by searching for vengeance, and he knows that his brother wouldn’t want him to either. But Euan won’t be swayed, so David agrees to help him find Lees, knowing that it will most likely be a lost cause.

When Balfour comes up as a possible identity for Lees, David doesn’t want to believe it. He also doesn’t want to continue forming an attachment to the man. It’s gone past the physical with them and David can’t allow himself to sin in such a way, nor allow his heart to be handled by a man often so callous, and so fundamentally different from him.

I want to have the sequel now! I say that, not just as someone who really liked this first book and wants more, but also as a reader who wants more of the story. There are two arcs — the romance and the quasi-mystery plot — the first of which definitely spans the series. I’m not sure about the second, though. Was the external plot just a part of this book and the next one will see these two guys in a different situation dealing with different issues? I don’t know. But, as far as the romance arc, this story was really just the setup for what is to come, which leaves me really wanting to see where their relationship will go. That, after all, is what really brought this story forward for me and what drew me in. David and Balfour are two such interesting characters and together they have such interesting conversations. The writing of these two guys and their evolving dynamic hit a sweet spot. The language is beautiful and I really felt like I was getting to know both of them well. David, of course, isn’t difficult to read. Balfour offers a delicious treat because what he says and obviously thinks/believes are often different and puzzling those things out (along with David) filled their interactions with meaning.

I definitely recommend this one to all readers of m/m romance, not just those that like historicals. And I’m definitely going to be looking out for more books by Joanna Chambers 🙂


LeftonStTruthbeWellLGTitle: Left on St. Truth-be-Well
Author: Amy Lane
Publisher: Dreamspinner
Length: 37,924 words
Genre: m/m Contemporary Romance
Heat: 4 – Spicy & Smutty
Sex Frequency: 2 – Few and Far Between
Keywords/Tags: Mystery, Funny Guys, Comedians, Chicago, Florida, Surfer Guys, Mob, Light & Sweet, Sexy to the 999999s!!!
Rating: Really Liked It

BLURB

Carson O’Shaughnessy has one task: track down his boss’s flighty nephew, Stassy, and return the kid to Chicago. Then Carson can go back to waiting tables and being productively bitter about his life. He didn’t count on finding a dead body in Stassy’s bed, and he certainly didn’t count on the guy in the flip-flops and cutoffs at the local café helping him get to the bottom of the crime.

But Dale Arden is no ordinary surfing burnout—he’s actually a pretty sharp guy with a seductive voice and a bossy streak wider than the Florida panhandle. When he decides to boss Carson right into his bed, Carson realizes Stassy’s not the only one who’s been lost. Carson likes to think he’s got his life all figured out, that sex with guys is your basic broom-closet transaction; he may just have to revise his priorities, because nobody plans on taking a left at St. Truth-be-Well and finding love at the Bates Parrot Hotel.

REVIEW

I won’t be the first to rave about how I love Amy Lane (and her books too), but I really, really love when she comes out with a lighter story between all those angsty ones. I’m trying to work my way back into reading all of those (the Johnnies books scare me), but I think that the fluffy and sweet ones will always be my favorites — at the moment that crowning achievement goes to the Knitting series books, which I gleefully reviewed last year.

This novella is a bit along those lines. While not really fluffy, they’re definitely light and sweet compared to some of her other work. Carson fucked up. He hasn’t had sex in months and his boss’ nephew Stassy has been giving him all kinds of come-ons at the restaurant. So when Stassy follows Carson into a pantry closet in the kitchen and then promptly flees, a look of upset confusion on his face after a full body kiss from Carson, Carson feels like a douche. Obviously the kid is gay, but it seems like he isn’t quite sure about it. And Carson thought he was finally going to get some action in his dry spell, even if the small and cute Stassy isn’t quite his type. He might have been able to put the whole incident out of his head if Stassy hadn’t run away to Florida the next day. It’s been two weeks and the boss wants Carson to drive down to Florida and bring the kid back home. He doesn’t have much of a choice — the boss is worried about Stassy — but it isn’t just that the boss of his restaurant is another kind of Boss in Chicago, but that of all things, Carson feels guilty that kid ran away right after he kissed him. Doesn’t seem like a coincidence.

The biggest surprise of all awaits Carson when he reaches the small beach town in Florida where Stassy is holed up. The Bates Parrot Motel turns out to be just like it sounds, which isn’t much comfort. The place is so run down it looks like it’s growing it’s own species of serial killer. Parrots in crusty, shit-lined cages squawk over his hearing of the undead looking lady at the reception desk. Though his boss is paying for the room, not even the prospect of getting to Stassy quickly can quell his fear of staying in this place for the night. A tour of the place shows everything from mold to insects to dried jizz, or whatever that mystery stain is. The Motel 8 across the street looks much comfier.

It isn’t until the next morning that Carson prepares to visit Stassy and load him up to drive back home. A breakfast at the diner across the road turns up a killer plate of fried heart attack and a heaping dose of too-cute waiter. Flip-flops, cutoffs, and a charming smile continually come back to his table to chat him up. An equal opportunity Carson wouldn’t have a problem taking Dale the waiter back to his room for the afternoon, it’s only the women he seems to want to settle down with, but the disarming smile and quick wit soon have Carson spilling way more info than he intended. Before he realizes it, Carson has company on his trek across the road to the Bates Parrot Motel to find their runaway. Unfortunately, what they find in the room isn’t Dimpled Blondie, but dead body covered in lye.

It looks like some major trouble for Stassy. Carson knows his task has changed — now he has to take care of the kid too, and by extension the kid’s new boyfriend — and it looks like it won’t be difficult to surpass the small town police in the intelligence and sleuthing departments. Dale is along for the ride, wanting to help his friend (Stassy’s new boyfriend) and using the time to get to know Carson better. It doesn’t take a whole lot of time to see how good they are together. They’re both men who have small town dreams and are more content to enjoy today than plan tomorrow’s.

Every now and then Amy Lane pulls a page out of Mary Calmes’ book and really gives the language and rhythm of her book a makeover. The beauty of this one is all in the words, thick in Carson’s voice and then shared by Dale in their rapid-fire dialogue. That, and Carson’s humor (though he often fails in comparison to Dale’s), are what originally bring these two characters together. Yes, they’re working together to solve a mystery, but it’s largely on the back burner for most of the book. The time they spend together is mostly them driving around, eating and talking and getting to know each other. And I found their conversations completely charming.

Speaking of the mystery, I thought that it wasn’t really the focus of the book. For the largest part of the book they aren’t actively working on it. Instead, it’s used as a device to bring them together and keep them together while they find out enough about each other to want to stay together. So, in some ways, the mystery failed for me. Or, perhaps I shouldn’t use the word fail, since that would imply that the mystery was the focus of the book. Rather, I found the mystery a bit anticlimactic. It was really funny, in it’s own way 😉 but it wasn’t what held my attention about this book.

Amy Lane fans will want to snatch this one up, of course, if they haven’t already. It’s short and funny and charming, so you can’t really go wrong. Carson’s voice might be somewhat difficult for some readers to get into, but that probably depends on how you usually feel about strong voices. As for me, I love them. And I continue to love Amy Lane 🙂