Title: Cleanly Wrong
Author: Mell Eight
Publisher: Less Than Three Press
Length: 18,000 words
Genre: m/m Fantasy Romance
Heat: 1 – Sweet/None
Sex Frequency: 1 – None
Keywords/Tags: Short Story, The Bestiary collection, Unusual Creatures, Abuse, Royalty, Orphans
Rating: Really Liked It!
Reviewed by Sadonna
Rung is a half-breed orphan brownie who can’t do anything right, much to the worry of his cleanliness teachers. When he runs away, Rung decides that he can resist the need to clean. Only, there is that one office that so desperately needs help…
This story was an absolute delight! I wasn’t sure what to expect, but this was a sweet story with very little romance really, but that doesn’t detract at all from the lovely unveiling of this world. Rung is a halfbreed Brownie orphan who at 18 is still at the orphanage is 18 because he can’t seem to pass his exams and win a position out in the world. Brownies are cleaners and they are not to be seen by the humans they help. Ladder Rung who has been dubbed ‘Wrong” by his fellow orphans and his teachers cannot seem to organize the rooms he’s being tested on in the way that is desired. He has been repeatedly humiliated and punished. His hateful classmate, Needle, convinces him that he will never pass and he’ll be in danger if he stays, so he convinces Rung to run away from the orphanage.
The Prince of the land has had his fill of Brownies and has sent six back and issued a decree that NO Brownies will ever be allowed back in the castle. Rung flees the orphanage and when he comes to the first town he is nervous because he can be seen by the humans. He finds his way into a large castle and manages to find a wonderful place to make his home away from the people who live in the castle. He is very handy and makes his own comfortable bed and chair and he works his way around the castle cleaning the areas that aren’t inhabited so that he won’t draw attention to himself. He sets rules for himself so that he doesn’t cause trouble for the humans; however, he breaks his own rule by making a small adjustment to the kitchen after he witnesses an injury that could have been avoided.
Eventually as Rung is making his home in the castle he comes upon a hidden passageway and he observes an office that is in dire need of organization. He cannot help but organize the desk after watching the man who works in the office become very frustrated at not being able to find the papers he is looking for. As Rung continues to observe the office, he thinks of many organizational improvements he could make to help the office’s occupant. He wants to help but he doesn’t want to overstep and cause trouble. In the meantime, two of the staff have realized that there is a Brownie in the castle, but the Brownie is only being helpful and not intrusive. The office occupant also realizes that someone has been helping him with his disorganized office and decides he wants to hire whoever it is to be his personal secretary.
The staff members seek out and find Rung and he is overjoyed to be able to help and do his job. He agrees to take on the job of the personal secretary for the man that he has secretly admired from behind the secret passage. I don’t want to spoil the rest of the story but there are some surprises that bring the return of an old thorn in Rung’s side and support from an unexpected source. In the though, Rung is very happy in his job and he prevails over the obstacles in his way.
Rung is such a lovely character. He’s the underdog that you just can’t help but love and root for. He’s been ridiculed and humiliated and all he’s ever wanted to do it help. He tries to curb his natural desires towards cleaning and organization, but he is able to find a way to help without making a nuisance of himself. There isn’t a traditional romance in this story, but the feelings between the Brownie and the man he ends up helping are completely genuine and sweet and certainly loving and protecting. Also, the villains were appropriately nasty without being caricatures. The setting was well-done and I really couldn’t wait to see what was going to become of Rung. A very very enjoyable experience! This is the second story I’ve read by this author and it couldn’t be more different, but I’ve really enjoyed them both and think this is an author to watch.
Posted by Sadonna in 16-40k, 5 Really Like It, Authors D-F, Fantasy, Heat 1 - Sweet/None, Romance, Sex Freq 1 - None Tags: Abuse/Neglect, Less Than Three Press, Mell Eight, Orphan, Royalty, Short Story, The Bestiary collection, Unusual Creatures
Title: Angel’s Evolution
Author: TA Chase
Length: 54,000 words
Genre: M/M Historical Romance
Heat: 3 – Mild & Sexy
Sex Frequency: 3 – Average Sex to Story
Keywords/Tags: Abuse, Aristocracy, Regency, Insta-love, HEA
Rating: So So
Reviewed by Sadonna
I’m a monster, but with one kiss, he changes everything I believe.
I’m a monster and I’m imprisoned in a world I hate and fear. As heir to my father’s title, I’m expected to marry, but my secret desires may keep me from fulfilling those expectations. One night, a stranger kisses me. In his touch, I see the possibility of a life beyond my prison. My name? Just call me Angel and this is my evolution.
First I really am a fan of this author and this is the eighteenth book of hers that I’ve read. Kissed by God is one of my all time favorites. That said, I think I am one of the few people who are not very enamored of the Regency period. This is a historical set in that period.
Angel, our MC, is of the aristocracy, but he has been kept away from society and we learn repeatedly and horribly abused by his father for over a decade. However apparently at 23, he needs to find a wife and has been forced into the social season. He of course has no interest in women and has no idea how he is going to be able to do this. Then he sees a man he is immediately and passionately attracted to at these balls, but he hides as much as he can since he has never developed any social skills due to the isolation and abuse. His father has told him he is a monster and he has believed it until this point. But then the man seeks him out and kisses him. He begins to think maybe he isn’t so crazy and monstrous. The man, Lord Greyson, turns out to be one of the most powerful members of the ruling class. Greyson feels he has found his soul mate and rescues Angel from his father with the help of Angel’s uncle who has his own demons he is wrestling with. Apparently it’s love at first sight for Greyson because they have no contact before these society balls. Angel is really just so much chattel to his father and his only purpose is to find a wife and marry well, but of course he is not going to let go of his “heir” so easily.
The rest of the story deals with Greyson doing his best to care for and heal Angel. He is appalled by the abuse and he only wants Angel to feel safe and loved. He also aids in repairing the relationship between Angel and his uncle. The uncle is also horrified by his brother’s behavior and the harsh treatment that Angel has been subjected too. There are a few subplots to the story as well including the circumstances surrounding the death of Angel’s cousin and Greyson’s role as advisor to the crown. I’m not sure how much the intrigue part of the story added to the plot although I guess it did provide a tie to the cousin’s story. One of Angel’s brothers also makes a late appearance and decides to finally do the right thing after Angel is once again the subject of more abuse.
I’m really torn about how to rate this story. There is not a thing wrong with the writing – there are many beautiful passages. I can certainly understand Angel’s need for and willingness to go with Greyson – the boy has been abused horribly and this is really the first kindness shown to him. Greyson for his part seems to truly care about Angel and wants to help him heal from the awful abuse he has been subjected too. There is also good balance of sex in the story that builds given the fragile state Angel is in at the beginning of their relationship. My issue with the story is twofold really – the whole insta-love “locking eyes across a crowded room” and then the lack of repercussions to Greyson for having a male lover while it’s obviously been an issue for others. I know he’s fabulously wealthy and powerful and certainly that gives him some leeway, but it seemed unrealistic to me. Many people really love this story, but unfortunately, it was just not for me.
Title: Saving Skylar Hand
Author: George Seaton
Length: 42,000 words
Genre: m/m Contemporary Western Romance
Heat: 3 – Sexy & Mild
Sex Frequency: 2 – Few and Far Between
Keywords/Tags: Christmas, Friends to Lovers, Closeted, Coming of Age, Cowboys, Cheating, Abuse/Neglect, HEA
Rating: Really Like It
Lifelong love of two boys growing up on the west-central Texas scrub, their lives entangled by the dynamic of families so starkly different.
Skylar Hand and Cody Pinnt share their lives upon the west-central Texas scrub. Both born to a cattle rancher’s life, their view of the world and their place in it, takes one down a path toward heady dreams of a future away from the land. The other sees worth only in trudging his days, as his daddy has, upon the land; his dreams confined to what he has known his entire life. Their love is sorely tested by the choices they make.
Good thing it’s the season for miracles.
First, I should confess that I am a fan of this author which is I why I told Cole I wanted to review this story. His short stories have really moved me and I just really like the way he tells stories so I was interested in reading this longer work. Then I read a couple of fairly depressing and difficult books where the MCs suffered quite a bit before they got to anything even close to a HFN. I started reading this book and I was very worried about the direction it was headed so I took a break to gear myself up for what I feared would be something just awful. Happily I can say that I should not have been worried and that the author takes care of his characters without resorting to outlandish and improbable “coincidences” or tricks to torture them or to resolve their issues. Thank you George!
This story takes place over a number of years in the life of Skylar Hand and Cody Pinnt. Each chapter covers of an important event/milestone in the lives of the characters of this book – from the main characters Skylar and Cody, their parents, Pete Semple (the hired hand at the Iron Hand ranch) and even Zane Black, Cody’s college roommate. While the timeline is not linear, each chapter is vital to our understanding of the lives and character of each player in this novel and provides background and context to the lives of Cody and Skylar.
Skylar and Cody have been friends since they were small children. Cody’s family is fairly well off and his parents love each other and him and only want what’s best for him. Skylar is not so lucky. His parents are not well-suited and “had to get married” because Skylar was on the way. His father is a lazy drunken mess and Pete Semple, the partially disabled retired bull rider and hired hand is most likely the only reason they haven’t already lost the Iron Hand ranch. Cody is the one bright spot in Sklyar’s world along with his dog. Surprisingly, his mother does not resent him even though she has been thoroughly disillusioned by her husband and her marriage.
As Skylar and Cody grown up, their relationship because more than just friendship. Cody knows that he is gay, but Skylar cannot admit this to himself. His life at the ranch continues to deteriorate and he is most unhappy after Cody leaves for college. Luckily for Skylar, Pete Semple and his mother want to save him from what they know will be an unhappy life. They surprised the heck out of me. When Cody and Skylar reunited, they have some work to do on their communication but they are honest with each other and themselves.
I really liked this story very much. Skylar and Cody are characters that change realistically over the course of the novel but never lose sight of the most important thing – their relationship. They truly start as the best of friends and while there are difficulties to overcome in the change to sexual and romantic feelings, they are able to persevere. The strong secondary characters, particularly Pete and Skylar’s mother add a lot to the story as well. The voices in this story felt very authentic and believable. I am now an even bigger fan of this author. Highly recommended.
Posted by Sadonna in 41-75k, 5 Really Like It, Authors S-U, Contemporary, Heat 3 - Sexy & Mild, Romance, Sex Freq 2 - Few and Far Between, Uncategorized, Western Tags: 2012 MLR Holiday Stories, Abuse/Neglect, Cheating, Christmas, Closeted, Coming of Age, Cowboys, Friends to Lovers, George Seaton, HEA, MLR Press