Title: The Adorned
Author: John Tristan
Length: 101k words
Genre: m/m Fantasy Romance
Heat: 2 – Romantic & Tame
Sex Frequency: 2 – Few and Far Between
Keywords/Tags: Indentured Slavery, Sexual Slavery, Tattoos, Art/Artists, Magic, Major Class Distinctions, Alternate World Historical, Slow Burn, Revolution, Netgalley
Rating: LOVED it!!!!
My name is Etan, and I am Adorned.
A living piece of art, I exist to please the divine rulers of Kered. With nowhere to turn after my father died, I tried my luck in the capital city. Little did I know how quickly I would be robbed, beaten and forced to sell myself into servitude. But I was lucky enough to gain the attention of Roberd Tallisk, an irascible but intriguing tattoo artist who offered to mark me with enchanted ink for the enjoyment of the nobles. I was given a chance to better my station in life, and I could not refuse.
But the divine rulers want not only the art but the body that bears it. In their company I can rise above the dregs of society and experience a life most only dream of, at the cost of suffering their every desire as a pawn in games of lavish intrigue. Their attention is flattering, but I find I’d rather have Tallisk’s.
Caught between factions, I learn that a revolution is brewing, one that could ruin Kered–and Roberd and myself along with it…
I got this book for review on a whim, and I am so happy that I did because it completely took over my life yesterday. I started reading it in the early morning and I couldn’t put it down — I read all day. And to be honest I was a little worried after I requested it because I had previously read a book by John Tristan that I DNF’ed and I think it might have been his first book. I just couldn’t get into the writing and I kinda liked it but also didn’t. So I couldn’t believe that I had none of the same issues with this book that I did with that earlier book. And if this author keeps writing books like this then I’ll definitely stick around and keep reading!
When his father dies with a multitude of debts, Etan is forced to sell his home and all his belongings and travel to the capital city of Kered to look for work. His only skills are his ability to read and write, and while those are rare abilities for a country boy, with no money to garner an apprenticeship, his only choice is manual labor, something he’s unable to do because of a sickness as a child that stunted his growth. He’s pale and petite, and saved by a man in a rickshaw when beaten in the street. The man offers to send him to a place to stay, where he learns after a few days is a home for indentured servants. His only option thereafter is to sign away his rights and work for this man in trade for a place to stay and food to eat.
When the man sees Etan without bruises and washes he almost doesn’t recognize him, but he has an even better idea of work for him. Etan is introduced to Roberd Tallisk, a tattoo artist whose patron is the head of the Council, run by the Blooded, the ruling class of Kered society who possess magic believed descended from the gods themselves. There, Etan’s slave bond is bartered between the two men when Tallisk agrees to take Etan on as his new work of art, an Adorned. The Adorned have always mystified those of the lower classes. They’re those of beauty who are tattooed by master tattoo artists with enchanted ink to become living works of art for the pleasure of the Blooded. Their art is not allowed to be seen by those who aren’t Blooded or the artist. And no one else but the tattoo artists are allowed to wear ink.
Etan’s new life seems wonderful and exciting. He’s protected now for life with gifts of riches from patrons and by the ink he wears on his skin. But there is also an aspect of being Adorned that he never expected. He soon learns the hard price to pay when he starts to mingle with the elite of Keren society and exactly what they expect from him. And he finds himself a pawn, a sort of Mata Hari in the political play between two warring factions for the future of the Keren society.
There are two things that I love most about this story and they go behind the tattoo art (which is super cool) and a lot of the other little details that made this story come alive for me. First is the epic quality of the story. We really get to see Etan’s life played out over a lot of major changes in his life that also herald major changes for the whole world. We meet Etan when he’s young, still living at home with his father and before he’s had to completely depend on himself and we get to see how he changes over time. I typically prefer characters who are alive, present and very decisive about their lives in fiction, especially in fantasy worlds. Etan is alive and present, certainly, but he’s also like a piece of detritus in a massive current once he makes it to the city. He’s buffered on all sides by those making choices for him. I can’t see him acting any other way certainly, as someone who has very little choices, but he’s also very internal and cautious. I didn’t see those parts of his personality changing until much later because it was such a slow change, but Etan grows as the world changes around him and as he needs to take more of his own care for himself.
The second thing I really loved was the cast of characters. We meet a multitude of secondary characters, most of whom are a good sort, and a faction of those who are good people who make some bad choices. As the world in the story changes, it reveals the best and worst of the characters and each of them are made to understand their regrets, in particular Isadel and Lord Haqan Loren. All of them, however, are well rounded characters that we get to know rather well. And this was done sometimes in a rather subtle fashion. The writing requires the reader to be present and active in piecing the world together and in drawing connections, and I can’t tell you how often I find myself wishing for writing like that.
You might not find this story to be perfect, or it might not impact you as much as it did me. Part of how you feel about it, in the end, will depend on what you like most in your romance books. The relationship between Etan and Tallisk is very slow to build and it takes almost the full length of the novel for the two to really come together. The bulk of the story is rather Etan’s journey and finding himself, someone who still feels like a country boy, realizing that he’s a good person with heart amid vultures who would pick at him until there’s nothing left. He has to realize what he really wants out of life, if it is security or love and if those things are separate.
I finished the book wanting more, sad that the story ended and hoping there was a way a sequel could be written, lol. I don’t think that’s really possible. But I know now that I’ll definitely keep my eye on book by John Tristan and I hope that it isn’t too long from now that I find another book that I get so lost in.
Posted by Cole in 101-125k, 6 LOVE IT!, Authors S-U, Fantasy, Heat 2 - Romantic & Tame, Romance, Sex Freq 2 - Few and Far Between Tags: Alternate World Historical, Art, Artists, Carina, Class Distinctions, Indentured Slavery, John Tristan, Magic, Netgalley, Revolution, Sexual Slavery, Slow Burn, Tattoos
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: Running up that Hill
Author: Barry Brennessel
Length: 13,000 words
Genre: m/m Contemporary Romance
Heat: 2 – Romantic & Tame
Sex Frequency: 2 – Few and Far Between
Keywords/Tags: Short Story, MLR Mixtapes, Recent Historical, Coming of Age, Kate Bush, Closeted, NYC, Fear, Best Friends, Technology, 1980s, 80s Music, AIDS, HFN
Rating: LOVED it!
Reviewed by Sadonna
For Jeremy Saura, a song by Kate Bush holds all the answers. Pushes him onward. Sends him running up that road. Up that hill. Up that building.
Jeremy gets chills as he listens to the lyrics. The song, a beautiful powerhouse of determination over despair, only gains in impact as he replays it. Seven times.
”I adore you Kate Bush,” he whispers to her photograph. For Jeremy, “Running Up That Hill” gives him the momentum he needs to navigate the trials and tribulations of a new job, a complex friendship, and a budding workplace romance.
I’ve been waiting for this story to come out with the summer Mix Tapes series from MLR. When I first read Tinseltown, I knew this was a writer to watch and I’ve never been disappointed.
It’s 1986 and Jeremy is a young man just starting out in NYC with his first real job after college. He works at a law book publishing company. They are just adopting Wang word processors and his coworkers are freaking out about the change. Jeremy is thankful to have the job, especially after he meets Adam, the editor on the project he’s working on J Adam is very cute and as Jeremy leaves his office after their first meeting, he catches Adam watching him.
Jeremy’s best friend Scott is his confidant and Jeremy tells him all about meeting Adam. While they have a lot in common, their taste in men is quite different. Jeremy also has a passion for music. He buys 45s at the Vinyl Attic, the local record store and in fact the store owner has nicknamed him Mr. 45. I loved the description of the store, the owner and the transition of the media of music. Jeremy’s conversation with Scott after his record purchases is like a comfortable walk down memory lane with references to the only 80s nighttime soap I ever watched and even a mention of my favorite grocery store chain – even though I didn’t know about it until 1999 – and I like Jeremy’s record choices.
Friday night comes and even though Scott is still a bit banged up from a fall while jogging, he and Jeremy decide to go out to the Liberty – a local gay bar. As he’s getting ready, he listens to Kate Bush’s single Running up that Hill. He loves the song and plays it again – 6 more times. Amazingly, Jeremy runs into Adam at Liberty. Their night continues after the club however 😉
Monday at work they see each other again when Jeremy completes his project, but things get weird when a female coworker interrupts their conversation and Adam clams up. t lunch with Scott, Jeremy tell him about his time with Jeremy. Things get back on track and Jeremy decides to celebrate by getting more new music. He is now obsessing on Kate Bush.
Things seems to be going well with work and with Adam, but then a scare with Scott and a nasty prank and the damn Wang word processors all try to get in the way of Jeremy’s happiness. But our Jeremy, inspired by the words and music of the lovely Kate Bush perseveres.
Where do I start about all the things I loved about this story? A little context – 1986 was without a doubt one of the worst years of my life. I was Jeremy’s age in 1986. My dad died in 1986 a couple weeks after his 46th birthday after a long illness. I had to have my mother committed in 1986. I was putting myself through college working as a secretary commuting 120 miles round trip every day, going to school at night and on Saturdays. I got hired for my job because I had worked with one of the other big word processing systems just coming on in the mid-80s, the late lamented NBI, and I was really good at it. I spent long hours on the train listening to my Walkman and in the car listening to my cassettes. Music has always been a big part of my life and I think particularly at that shit storm stage of my life it was a huge comfort to me. I heard Kate Bush for the first time in 1979 when I was an exchange student in Europe. I thought she was amazing – particularly Wuthering Heights (for you Anglophiles, search YouTube for Kate Bush and Noel Fielding – Wuthering Heights – it’s amazing).
For me, reading this story was like punch in the gut, followed by a comforting hug. Barry so eloquently captured the rhythms of the mid-80s – the big changes that were beginning in the role of technology and media in our lives in new ways, the tentative steps being taken by many towards living an authentic life and the horror and fear surrounding the AIDS epidemic. Listening to Jeremy’s inner dialogue and slightly sarcastic nature literally felt like I was stepping back in time. I loved his voice in this story. Once again, I am in awe of Barry’s talent in bringing to life characters in what I can only describe as movie-like story. Read this story. You won’t be disappointed.
Posted by Sadonna in 6 LOVE IT!, Authors A-C, Contemporary, Heat 2 - Romantic & Tame, Romance, Sex Freq 2 - Few and Far Between, up to 15k Tags: 1980s, 80s music, Barry Brennessel, Best Friends, Closeted, Coming of Age, Fear, HFN, HIV, Kate Bush, MLR Mixtapes, MLR Press, NYC, Short Story, Technology
Title: Sweet Young Thang (Theta Alpha Gamma #3)
Author: Anne Tenino
Length: 108,400 words
Genre: m/m Contemporary Romance
Heat: 5 – Off the Charts!
Sex Frequency: 4 – Very Often
Keywords/Tags: Series, College, Fraternities/Frat Boys, May/December, Firefighter Paramedic, Family Issues, Closeted, Coming Out, Sexy to the 9999999s!, Past Couples’ Cameo, Mystery, Homophobia
Rating: LOVED It!
When Plan A fails, turn to Man A.
Thanks to Collin Montes, Theta Alpha Gamma now welcomes gay and bisexual students. Persuading his Uncle Monty, president of the TAG Alumni Association, that the open approach won’t adversely affect TAG’s reputation is Collin’s own first step toward coming out. As long as there are no repercussions, he’ll escape the closet by graduation.
Enter repercussions, stage left: someone rigs the TAG House water heater to launch through the ceiling, then plants a bomb—thankfully unsuccessful—in the fraternity’s basement. Now Collin has his hands full not only trying to convince his uncle that this might not be the work of homophobes, but also dealing with a fratful of brothers worried about their kegger fridge.
Paramedic Eric Dixon can’t stop thinking about the kid he met during a call at his former college fraternity house. The age gap between them is trumped by sexy eyes, so when Eric sees Collin again at the bomb scene, he pursues him. Soon, Eric is dreaming of being a househusband, fighting to keep Collin safe from whoever’s trying to destroy the fraternity, and helping his sweet young thang realize that repercussions sometimes have silver linings.
Well, Anne, you’ve made me do it again. Every time I pick up one of your (long-awaited) books I find myself even more in love than before. I think this time around I really fell in love with this book, simply because it had so many different qualities to love and pinged on so many different emotions from so many different characters. And, it was touching. Anne takes us satisfactorily deep into Collin and then allows us to experience the moments of clarity and insight as he feels them and deals with them.
In this third installment of the Theta Alpha Gamma series, we head back once again to the fraternity that first saw an open gay student with Brad in Frat Boy and Toppy. We meet Collin briefly (if I can remember correctly) as Brad’s friend who gives him a pretty big failure of a blowjob, one that acts as somewhat of a catalyst in Brad and Sebastian’s relationship.
In Sweet Young Thang we see that experience from Collin’s perspective. He is…/was? Brad’s best friend but not out himself. He did a pretty good job of pretending to be straight before that, but now he has a good circle of friends at the college that are all gay men. He’s the Alumni Liaison for TAG, a position secured for him by his Uncle Monty, the President of the Alumni Association with a heavy hand in current TAG politics — the biggest of which is the recent change in policy that says that Theta Alpha Gamma now accepts gay students. Of course, it always did, but it was more of a Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell kind of situation. Brad changed all that. Collin convinced his Uncle Monty to support him in his lobbying to change the policy and in return promises him that there will be no repercussions from those who might be unhappy about the change.
All of that is blown out of the water when someone plants a bomb and sets the TAG house on fire. A frat brother is injured and the house is totally a lost cause. And Uncle Monty starts putting on the pressure to change the policy back. But part of Collin’s reasons for lobbying the change so hard were to see his Uncle’s reactions in the first place. His whole life has been planned out by his uncle, his prep school, college, classes and degree, including his position in the family olive oil import business after graduation. It isn’t until he meets sexy paramedic Eric (who has his own secret history with Uncle Monty), an alum of TAG himself in the bomb fiasco that Collin starts to feel like he finally has someone in his corner. But their relationship is picking up quick and heavy and the pressure from all directions in his life is starting to get to Collin.
This is quite a long novel, but it really doesn’t seem like it because it’s really jam packed with action and a super quick pace. The only real downtime in the story are the times alone with Collin and Eric, which thankfully are a fair few. Normally, I would probably prefer the story to be less sex heavy and more plot-centric, but Anne Tenino knows how to write sex and intimacy together, while keeping the relationship moving forward and the sex important to plot. And that’s all while making it some of the hottest sex I’ve read this year! Whew, Eric and Collin have a serious connection from the moment they meet and it really shows throughout the book, slowly translating from lust into something real. Even though it’s made known several times throughout the book how fast their relationship is moving (a week total over the whole book) this NEVER felt like insta-love. It isn’t about the overall time that the couple has in getting to know one another, but about how they spend that time. Eric and Collin go through a lot together and each step along the way they communicate those changes between them, so that you can see them growing together.
All i can really do is urge you to read this book yourself. I know that this book will have a fair few amount of fans excited to read it already, because of the popularity of the series previously. But all I can really say is that I feel like this series gets better and better with each book, and while your preferences for the plot of each will change how you feel about each book (they’re all fairly different), I think that Anne’s writing has grown in leaps and bounds since Frat Boy…. There are so many great things about this book, a kick ass opening chapter which really introduces us to Eric well and some absolutely pure hilarity from the frat boys:
This moment between Collin and Eric pulled it all together for me:
Collin felt as if Eric had just dropped his full weight on his chest, denting in his ribcage and making it harder for his lungs to expand.
Eric kissed his other palm.
“Shit. Maybe. Why would I feel ashamed?”
“I don’t know. For not being what your — what people wanted you to be.”
Oh God, now he felt nauseous. “That’s so unfair.”
Eric smiled sadly. “It’s unfair that you felt that way?”
Collin swallowed, nodding…
I admit I did wonder a few times if Collin ever went to class! Of course, that doesn’t matter, but it does illustrate the enormous pressure I felt for him. Collin has everything bombarding him at once with enormous pressure on him to hold the weight, to deal with it, to figure it out for everyone else. I really felt for him. And it made his time with Eric and their marathon sex chapters not just an expected byproduct of a romance novel, but needed as de-stressing time for him.
So, yes, I definitely recommend this one. I know a lot of you will be reading it anyway, so I’d love to know what you think. Please leave me comments!
Posted by Cole in 101-125k, 6 LOVE IT!, Authors S-U, Contemporary, Heat 5 - Off the Charts!, Romance, Sex Freq 4 - Very Often Tags: Anne Tenino, Closeted, College, Coming Out, Family Issues, Frat Boys, Homophobia, May/December, Mystery, Paramedics, Past Couples' Cameo, Riptide Publishing, Series, Sexy to the 999's, Theta Alpha Gamma
Title: Hanging Loose
Author: Lou Harper
Publisher: Self Published (Harper Books)
Length: 37,026 words
Genre: m/m Contemporary Romance
Heat: 3 – Sexy & Mild
Sex Frequency: 2 – Few and Far Between
Keywords/Tags: GFY/OFY, Drug Use, California, Old Hollywood, Surfer Dudes, Secrets & Lies, LA, Roommates
Rating: LOVED It!
When you fall in love, it can’t all just be hanging loose…
After graduating from art school Nate left the Midwest for sunny Southern California, not quite sure what he hoped to find. It was almost certainly not falling in love with another man. His whole world and assumptions about himself begin to slowly turn upside down on one hot summer day. Seeking respite from the heat and his loneliness at Venice Beach he has a chance encounter with a handsome blond surfer.
Jez is friendly, easygoing, and just a little bit mysterious. Openly gay, Jez offers Nate a place to stay, and the two men become fast friends. Nate makes new friends, adjusts to his new life, but his unbidden attraction to Jez keeps growing. In their moments of closeness Nate realizes that he wants Jez more than just a friend, but it might be too late. To make Jez his, Nate has to face not only his own fears and insecurities, but his mysterious mate has secrets of his own.
Warning: Al fresco man-love, a scene-stealing old coot, and a relentless California sun.
Though this was Lou Harper’s first published book and the first one I ever bought of hers, it lingered in my vast online library for just under two years before I decided to start reading her backlist. You could say I caught the bug to read all of her books after reading and falling in love with Harvey and Gabe (and Denton too) in Spirit Sanguine, and that unexpected review of such a wonderful book is what made me decide to go back and read this one. It didn’t hurt, of course, that I’d only heard good things about it.
What I found when I read it (and this was the first one I went back and read), was not only that Lou had started out with some pretty good characterization under her belt but that I really liked her style. I get really upset when I so often read books that end preemptively, just when things are getting good. The best ones are where the couple plods along and you don’t just get to see the honeymoon phase but what their lives are like as an actual couple and how they deal with that. That’s what makes a real romance in my opinion, and I’ve found that the more romance I read over the years that I really need that in a contemporary romance where the central plot is the romance. That’s what I really liked about this book — it didn’t seem to follow a typical romance plot structure, which meant that it kept me on my toes.
Hanging Loose starts with Nate, a new transplant to LA. He’s unfamiliar with the way the city runs, the weather, navigating public transit, which leaves him on Venice Beach and night without a jacket and miserable. He’s approached by Jez, and while initially wary, agrees to his invitation to stay at his home. The two get to know each other and eventually come to a roommate agreement. What follows is is a pretty standard GFY, or maybe more accurately OFY story (more on that in a bit). Nate is straight and Jez is openly gay. They become pretty good friends as Nate settles in and they come up with a routine. Nate starts to make friends, one of which is the old man Jez bakes for and spends time watching over. But Jez is mysterious in a few ways. One is the attraction between the two, which Nate takes a while to understand and Jez is of course, wary of, being that Nate has until now apparently not been attracted to men. The rest is Jez’s romantic history and his family history and the tales of Old Hollywood passed down from his grandmother Adelle.
Lou mentioned in her interview with me earlier this week about the reason she first wanted to write and publish this story:
I started writing Hanging Loose after reading a GFY story I didn’t find convincing. To me, the core of the story is that sexuality is complex and there are many shades between straight and gay. Following the character’s journey coming to terms with his own nature and desires was what I wanted to explore.
That’s always been a problem for me as well, that a GFY story done right needs a depth of character study to keep the realism instead of knocking me out of the story. But I didn’t know her feelings yet when I started reading Hanging Loose, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. What I found was a really interesting dynamic between Jez and Nate as they first get to know one another. Right away, just in the first few pages when Nate meets Jez, he feels a little tingle of connection between them:
“I’m straight,” I blurted out at last. There was a tiny voice deep down telling me I was full of shit. I gagged it. I felt myself blushing in embarrassment as soon as the words left my lips. I didn’t even know why I just assumed he was gay…
“I won’t hold it against you,” he said, smiling…
That dynamic made it more plausible later for Nate’s sexuality to be more fluid than originally expected and I liked how Lou made that issue ultimately intersect with Jez and his history and his own secrets that he’s keeping from Nate, who in a way becomes the aggressor the future into the book you read.
This is really a “Loved It” book for me — I was with it and totally engaged through the whole read — so I don’t have any criticism at all. For a novice writer this book was simply wonderful. There’s a lot more that I really loved about this book, but in effort not to spoiler you about some pretty significant pieces of the book, I’ll mostly leave those alone to say that I thought the last 35% or so of the book was where the characters really shined… when everything is finally out in the open. One of the relationships I love the most in the book is Nate’s friendship with Arthur, which was ultimately what tipped this book up in the 5 star rating for me. I thought it was portrayed beautifully and aligned well with Nate’s development.
So, by all means do I recommend this one. Going back and reading this book wasn’t just something that I had always wanted to do but really it cemented Lou’s talent in my mind and made her forever an author that I’ll cheer on and get excited about.
Posted by Cole in 16-40k, 6 LOVE IT!, Authors G-I, Contemporary, Heat 3 - Sexy & Mild, Romance, Sex Freq 2 - Few and Far Between Tags: California, Drug Use, Drugs, GFY/OFY, LA, Lou Harper, Lou Harper Week!, Old Hollywood, Roommates, Secrets & Lies, Self Published, Surfer Dudes
Here’s a Repost of my review of Spirit Sanguine
Orignally posted on May 6, 2013
All New Review for Late Night Snack below!
Title: Spirit Sanguine
Author: Lou Harper
Length: 74,562 words
Genre: m/m Paranormal Romance
Heat: 4 – Spicy & Smutty
Sex Frequency: 3 – Average Story to Sex
Keywords/Tags: Vampires, Vampire Hunters, Veg/Vegan Vamps, Mystery, Action/Adventure, X-Dressing!, Chicago, Diverse Couple, Funny Guys, Las Vegas, Private Investigators, Roleplay
Rating: LOVED It!
Is that a wooden stake in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?
After five years in eastern Europe using his unique, inborn skills to slay bloodsuckers, Gabe is back in his hometown Chicago and feeling adrift. Until he’s kidnapped by a young, sexy vampire who seems more interested in getting into his pants than biting into his neck.
Harvey Feng is one-half Chinese, one-hundred-percent vampire. He warns Gabe to stay out of the Windy City, but somehow he isn’t surprised when the young slayer winds up on his doorstep. And why shouldn’t Gabe be curious? A vegetarian vampire isn’t something one sees every day.
Against their better judgment, slayer and vampire succumb to temptation. But their affair attracts unexpected attention.
When Chicago’s Vampire Boss makes Gabe an offer he can’t refuse, the unlikely lovers are thrust into peril and mystery in the dark heart of the Windy City. Together they hunt for kidnappers, a killer preying on young humans, and vicious vampire junkies.
However, dealing with murderous humans and vampires alike is easy compared to figuring out if there’s more to their relationship than hot, kinky sex.
Fangalicious man-on-man action, a troublesome twink, cross-dressing vampiress, and role-playing involving a fedora.
I hadn’t planned on giving this book a proper review, but when Sunday rolled around and I was still thinking about this book, so I decided that it really needed one. For some reason, and I sincerely hope that this is just my 2D, rather limited view of the m/m romance reading community, this book hasn’t seemed to have had a real splash yet. And that’s a damn shame. Here’s what I said on Goodreads immediately after I finished the book Satuday:
This has the most eclectic mix of tags I’ve ever given a book. Surprisingly, they all went together! And even more, it kinda represents this book, which is a bit of a hodge-podge of different quirks and ideas, even plotting and pacing which I found rather refreshing. Definitely not typical vampire fare!
Now, the tags here are pretty much similar to the ones on Goodreads, but since I can more easily edit and add tags here at the blog, they of course have a bit more flair 😉 I have to admit that I’ve fallen into a bit of a pattern in my mismanagement of my m/m reading, where many of the most exciting releases seem to slip through the net (there are many factors, though it still makes me a dolt) mostly because of reviewing duties, but Lou Harper is perhaps one on the top of the list of those stellar authors that I haven’t given their due. Perhaps I should do a backlist read. Anyway, this book wasn’t just well written, but it was a thoroughly enjoyable read, for many reasons I’ll talk about later. But that brings me to another point. Another byproduct of my reviewing duties is that I tend to analyze first rather than enjoy the book first, and having not originally slated Spirit Sanguine as a review book and (imagine this!) actually making myself sit down and read a book for pleasure instead of work on reviews I should be getting up to date, meant that this one just slipped right through and knocked me flat. I didn’t really have to think about an analysis of the book, of styles and pacing and plot and characterizations, but… I just enjoyed it. It was a refreshing read, and not something I was expecting from the vampire angle.
Lou has an interesting take on her book up on her review on Goodreads, which you can read here. In it, she says:
Bloodsuckers are everywhere; you can’t walk down a dark alley without a couple of them jumping out and accosting you with their dark and broody eyes. They do that a lot–mope and sulk. That’s what got to me, all the melodrama. I mean, they are practically immortal, don’t get sick, grow old, don’t need to watch their weight or work out. What the hell do they have to bellyache about?
(That’s the truth.)
And that’s the point. In a sub-genre where melodrama rules and/or kinky vampire sex clubs are the forte, humor takes precedent here, brought forth by the vivacious and quirky Harvey (I love the name, and not just the Feng/Fang part, the fact that her vampire is named Harvey), who isn’t really like any other of his kind. In actuality, I’d rather not go into characterization here, because I’d rather not cut him into pieces to analyze him. He’s best enjoyed as it’s written… plus, you’ll find plenty in other reviews, I’m sure. The same goes for Gabe, who is perhaps the undervalued of the pair, though it’s important that he’s the lens we see the world through, and even more in which we see Harvey through. His understanding of and feelings for Harvey are how we understand him best, in reflection.
What was really refreshing about this book for me was also in a second part — the style, which is reflected in pacing but also the plot. Both were atypical in that they don’t follow the usual structure. Broken into three parts, each concentrates on a different aspect of the story while they, in succession, follow a continual arc. Some readers might find this off-putting. I’m not really sure. I quite enjoyed it. Because while the first is a typical setup to the story and introduces the relationship between Gabe and Harvey, the second and third both have a somewhat separate plot, though they’re tied together. But you do get the feeling, between the transition between Parts 2 and 3, that there’s a bit of a jog. And consequently, you’ll find two climaxes (one at the end of each part) around the 55% mark and the end of the book.
Nikyta noticed this as well and made a remark to me about it (in our many back and forth book gabbing emails) and probably described it better than I did, asking if I had noticed authors using this style more lately, the (in her words) “multiple mini stories in one book of the same couple” style. We both automatically thought of Megan Derr, who sometimes writes in a similar though pretty different style from what I’m describing in Spirit Sanguine. Perhaps it’s that Gabe and Harvey really only have two distinct adventures and Megan Derr often writes books that are split between the many adventures one couple has, a sort of extended vignette style. Nik thought that maybe it was a style that was becoming more popular. I’m not sure, but suffice to say that it is something that we’ve both enjoyed. And definitely something that I found made Lou Harper’s book infinitely more original — though, of course, anything with a vampire named Harvey Feng could hardly be called conventional.
Read the book. And please enjoy it!
Title: Late Night Snack (Sanguine #1.5)
Author: Lou Harper
Publisher: Self Published (Harper Books)
Length: 5k words
Genre: m/m Paranormal Romance
Heat: 3 – Sexy & Mild
Sex Frequency: 3 – Average Story to Sex
Keywords/Tags: Lou Harper Week!, Sequel, Short Story, Free Reads, Vampires, Vampire Hunters, Vegan/Vegetarian Vamps, Chicago, Mystery, X-Dressing, Roleplay, Playful Sex, Funny Men, Established Couple, Private Detective
Rating: Pretty Good
Sometimes life takes strange turns. Gabe is a slayer but his lover is a vampire. And so is his boss. When Gabe is tasked with capturing a delinquent blood sucker, he’s determined to succeed, even if it means posing as bait. There is only one problem: Harvey, his possessive boyfriend, might ruin everything.
Warning: hot fang-on-man action, role-playing, and one pissed off vampire.
This is really a good story to read either before or after reading Spirit Sanguine. For the most part things are explained about their relationship and the story stands alone enough for this to be a good intro for those interested in reading that book and about Gabe and Harvey. Of course, I think it’s great to read after reading Spirit Sanguine, especially as I have — a few months later. It’s a really nice reminder of the couple and the fun I had reading that book and getting to know Harvey and Gabe. There is a short little mystery case that Gabe takes on from his boss, but mostly this works well as a reunion-type story, where you just want to spend a little more time with the main couple. Nothing really progresses in their story, but you get to re-familiarize yourself with the two.
The story is centered around a rogue vampire and Gabe’s job (down from on high, Augustine the head vampire of Chicago and Gabe’s boss) to find the guy, or girl of course. Two humans have turned up as newly-minted vampires, turned against their will. And conveniently for Gabe, or mostly Augustine, both were vegetarians. As Harvey always says, ‘Vegetarians really do taste better,’ and Gabe, who has recently stopped eating meat because of Harvey’s vegan vampire propensities, is neatly lined up as bait.
Of course, Harvey doesn’t want to go along with this. And no matter what Harvey tells Gabe and how much Gabe tries to pretend that Harvey will actually do what anyone else tells him, Harvey shows up to the club in full regalia to assist as only he can, so the two can take the rogue down together. They do work better as a couple, after all.
As I said before, anyone who really liked Spirit Sanguine will naturally want to read this. It’s free, so why not? But, I think that it would be fine for those who might not be sure if they want to read the novel to read this first and see if they like the couple. I don’t see how you couldn’t, they’re one of my favorites!
Posted by Cole in 4 Pretty Good, 41-75k, 6 LOVE IT!, Authors G-I, Heat 3 - Sexy & Mild, Heat 4 - Spicy & Smutty, Paranormal, Romance, Sex Freq 3 - Average Story to Sex, up to 15k Tags: Action/Adventure, Chicago, Diverse Pairing, Episodic, Existing Relationship, Favorite Couples!, Free Reads, Funny Guys, Lou Harper, Lou Harper Week!, Mystery, Playful Sex, Private Investigators, Roleplay, Samhain Publishing, Sanguine, Sequel, Short Story, Vampire, Vampire Hunter, Veg/Vegan Vamps, Vegas, X-Dress