Author: Will Parkinson
Publisher: Dreamspinner (Harmony Ink)
Length: 53,637 words
Genre: m/m Contemporary YA Romance
Heat: 1 – Sweet/None
Sex Frequency: 1 – None
Keywords/Tags: Debut Novel, High School, Unrequited Love, Closeted, Best Friends, Straight/Gay Male Friendships, Coming Out, Coming of Age, Art/Artists, Sports, Baseball, Athletes, Abuse, Machiavellian Bad Guy, Evil Teenaged Girls!, Secrets & Lies
Rating: Not Feelin’ It
The day Jackson Kern walks into Taylor Andrews’s classroom is a momentous day in Taylor’s life. He’s had crushes before, sure, but as time goes on, this is starting to look a whole lot more serious. Still, Jackson doesn’t return Taylor’s feelings.
Taylor has his own admirers, though. Kevin Richards is used to getting what he wants, and what he wants right now is Taylor, so when Taylor rejects him, Kevin retaliates. At first Taylor’s entourage rallies around him, but then Kevin takes his deception one step further and Taylor sees his support dwindle, teaching him the valuable lesson about who he can truly consider a friend.
I’m always eager to pick up a baseball book and even though I’ve been interested in several and still plan to review a few of them, it has been a while since I’ve picked up a book from DSP’s young adult imprint. From what I gather in the acknowledgements, this is Will Parkinson’s debut novel. Sometimes it’s a gamble picking books to read by a new author or an author I’ve never read, but that’s another part of reviewing that I like. Reviewing gives me the opportunity to read new authors and it feels like I get to enjoy more of the perks, like finding a surprise that’s worth it. Often, it’s different though and while I like some of those books I also don’t like some of them. I’m afraid to say that this book fell into the latter camp for me. While it wasn’t a total disappointment, I just didn’t connect with the book.
Taylor is a gay sophomore in a Milwaukee, Wisconsin high school. His best friend Benny is straight and the only person alive who knows his secret. They’re best friends and always have been and Benny is a rather special guy that is wise beyond his years, intelligent and loyal. Pitch opens on the day that a new student starts at Taylor’s school. Jackson walks into Taylor’s homeroom, looking nervous and totally sexy and Taylor immediately wants to draw him. What follows over the next year is an intense unrequited love that just doesn’t seem to go away, no matter how hard Taylor tries and Benny cautions. No matter how much Taylor is told that Jackson is disgusted by his little boy crush from Jackson’s cheerleader girlfriend, Taylor just can’t seem to stay away.
It isn’t until he and Benny gain some perspective on their problems during the next summer, camp counseling for abused kids, that Taylor starts to grow up. He still has feelings for Jackson, but he’s less likely now to follow him around like a lost puppy. So when a kid from a neighboring school asks him out during their Halloween dance, Taylor decides to take him up on it. He really starts to like Kevin, but he is prey unknowingly walking into Kevin’s trap. It takes some extremely tough decisions and way too much heartbreak and drama to realize that much of what he thought before wasn’t true, about most of the people he knew.
There are two aspects of this novella that I had a difficult time with. The first are the characters. This, especially, is subjective. Part of what oftentimes makes a young adult novel good are the bad choices of the characters. More often than not young adult stories have a moral and it can walk a fine line in the hands of the author between preachy and poignant. The style of this story went a bit over the top and that just wasn’t something that I was really looking for. For high school students, who I freely admit can be some of the cruelest humans on Earth, many of the actions of these characters went beyond immature and foolhardy. I would have appreciated the characters and their decisions (even the bad ones) more if their actions had been more subtle and less ascribed to their particular archetype. Kevin’s actions in particular required me to suspend disbelief a few times.
As I said before, those decisions and your own feelings about them are more subjective than usual. My other problem with this story was in the writing. I applaud this author for writing and writing and sharing their work. But like many new authors I think that there were some fundamental writing problems that this author needs to work on. Mostly it will just take continued writing, so even though this book wasn’t for me, I sincerely hope that this author keeps up with it. Part of the novice prose problems were dialogue and restraint. In a way, the second has quite a bit to do with the first. This book didn’t fall into too bad of a habit of telling rather than showing, but there is importance in letting the characters express themselves in their own ways instead of being a vehicle to express the author’s view. I’m not talking about preaching about issues or anything like that here. I simply mean the difference between the characters’ observations and personality and the author’s. Almost continually there were times while reading this that I stopped and thought that a character wouldn’t say or think that. The dialogue, in a similar way, oftentimes sounded familiar for all the characters and didn’t seem to represent the individual characters. Restraint is important because readers don’t need all the information. It’s a partnership, you know? The readers picks up on the clues the author leaves and pieces them together and in that way one small action tells you more about the character than a whole page of narration.
Ultimately, this book just wasn’t for me because of the more dramatic plot twists. I have seen a couple of 5-star reviews around so I’ll be interested to see if any other readers/reviewers feel the way I do, or if this turns out to be a reader favorite. I’ve been a part of the more unpopular opinion before!
Posted by Cole in 2 Not Feelin' It, 41-75k, Authors P-R, Contemporary, Heat 1 - Sweet/None, Romance, Sex Freq 1 - None, YA Tags: Abuse, Art, Artists, Athletes, Baseball, Best Friends, Closeted, Coming of Age, Coming Out, Debut Novel, Evil Teenaged Girls!, Harmony Ink Press, High School, Machiavellian Bad Guy, Secrets & Lies, Sports, Straight/Gay Male Friendships, Unrequited Love, Will Parkinson
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: Blood Bathory: Like the Night
Author: Ari McKay
Length: 123,500 words
Genre: m/m Contemporary Paranormal Romance
Heat: 4 – Spicy & Smutty
Sex Frequency: 2 – Few and Far Between
Keywords/Tags: Series, Co-Authored, Vampires, Shifters, On the Lam, Past Trauma/Abuse, Cops (FBI), Friends to Lovers, Best Friends, NYC, Paris, Artists (Photographer), Grief, Second Chances, Sexy to the 999s, Machiavellian Bad Guy, Villain, Mythology
Rating: Really Liked It
Evan St. John, a young fashion photographer running from the pain caused by the death of his younger sister, is thrilled when he is offered a job with House of Nadasdy, a leading fashion house in Paris. What he doesn’t know is that Elizabeth Nadasdy, the elegant and powerful owner, is a centuries-old vampire with a penchant for collecting beautiful people. To Evan’s horror, he is turned into one of her “children”.
Unable to bear what he has become, Evan flees to New York and to his best friend, police officer Will Trask. For years, Evan has nursed an unrequited love for Will, but he also knows Will is the one person who might be able to help him. As Evan and Will try to deal with Evan’s condition, they are drawn into the world of the theriomorphs: shape-shifters who are guardians of life and the sworn enemies of vampires. Caught in an ancient war between two powerful supernatural forces, Evan and Will find they must choose sides — because if they are to have any chance of a future together, they must destroy Elizabeth Nadasdy before she destroys them.
These two authors have been one of my favorite writing teams for a while now, and I knew that I wanted to review this book before I’d even heard of it or read the blurb. So when I finally did read the blurb I was even more exited, especially for such a long book. And finishing it took me a couple of days, mostly just because I wanted to enjoy it, so I spent my time reading it totally for pleasure and enjoying every twist and turn.
Evan St. John and Will Trask have a tumultuous past. Roommates their Freshman year of college at Columbia, they soon grow to be friends. Evan is openly gay and an art photography student, always carrying around his camera, while Will is a manly jock through and through. For reasons that Evan never understands, Will sticks by him and the bullying he was experiencing dwindles when people start to realize that Will will aways have his back. As they grow closer Evan starts to understand Will better, including Will’s White Knight Complex, his need to protect and care for those he loves, to an almost fanatical, save-the-day to-the-rescue level.
Their dynamic changes when Evan’s sister is dying of cancer and their relationship grows during the emotional period — Evan is distraught and barely keeping himself afloat while trying to understand and come to terms with her turn for the worse. And Will picks up the slack, in more ways than expected. But the grief sends Evan running to Paris and three years go by, where Evan becomes a famous fashion photographer taken on by The House of Nadasdy, run by famous and infamous Elizabeth Nadasdy, and Will becomes an agent with the FBI.
We’re first introduced to Evan in Like the Night as he escapes Paris during the day to fly to New York City and seek help from Will. He’s a newly made vampire under the gruesome and tyrannical rule of Elizabeth Nadasdy, a modern day remnant of her famous human days as Elizabeth of Bathory. Above all (except herself), she loves beauty and hoards a collection of “children” all turned by her for their extraordinary beauty, which she believes deserves to be preserved for eternity. Evan was a prize for her, and his rejection of her extraordinary “gift” is tantamount to the ultimate betrayal, something she relishes punishing him for. But Elizabeth doesn’t expect the trouble it will take to find and deal with Evan. With him, someone whose beauty hides his intelligence and cunning, are a group of allies who seek one common goal: the eradication of Elizabeth Nadasdy. And of course Evan has Will, his White Knight, ready to stand in front of any threat to his best friend.
I really just loved this book. I took a while to read it because it is long, but it is also totally packed with plot and, just about everything under the sun, making the book seem even longer than it is. There’s an economy to the writing which gives you SO much story for just the first book of a series that it gave me the time and the opportunity to really sink into the story. What came through in this story most strongly for me was the pervasive mood of fear and impending doom. This is all because of the fact that Elizabeth is built up to such supervillain status that she’s made to be almost omniscient, with unlimited power. Add to this a connection between vampires and their sire, or maker, and the fact that Elizabeth could peek in on Evan at any moment and even make him do things or spy on his relationship with Will, or their planned resistance of her make the story suffused with tension.
I found the villainous characters in this novel to be quite interesting. We have Elizabeth who is the typical diabolical character. She relishes in the pain of others and not only causes death and despair because it gets her something (money, fame, power, etc.) but also because she enjoys the suffering of others. She firmly believes that she’s more worthy than anyone else to have the status that she does because of her beauty and the vision she has for the future. But, sometimes diabolical is boring. No matter how outrageously cruel Elizabeth can be, she’s still a character that doesn’t take too much effort to understand. My favorite villainous character is her daughter Anna, who I suspect will become a crucial and central character to the future books. Anna is raised in the shadow of her diabolical mother. She’s always second best, but raised to revel in the same cruelties as her mother. She’s made a vampire both because of her beauty which is similar to her mother’s, but also as a gift from her. But hundreds of years of oppression make Anna rather different from her mother. Though I suspect that they both have similar depth of cruel possibility inherently in them, Anna’s choices are governed by her hate of her mother and her acceptance that her only meaning to her mother is what she can do for her. That makes her cruel, but much more interesting than her mother. And of course, it’s going to be great when the two really turn on one another 😉
Anyway, I’m super excited for the second book. I hope it isn’t too far away. But honestly, I can’t really be sad because this is the first book in a while (that is the first book of a series) that actually gives us enough story to satisfy us for the first installment. 123k words is pretty long, yes, but it allows the book to give full and adequate world-building while also giving us a real story that will be carried on in the second part. We have a full and self-standing plot with only a few loose ends to pick up in the next book. If this is the case for the next books as well, then I can only imagine where this story will go before it ends!
Please leave a comment below to win an ebook copy of Blood Bathory: Like the Night by Ari McKay. The giveaway will last until Midnight CDT on Tuesday, July 16. I will choose the winner using Random.org and email the winner who will then have 48 hours from the time of the drawing to reply to my email. I will then forward the winner’s information to the author so the winner can receive their book.
Please enter the email you’d wish me to contact you at in the comment form, or if you prefer, leave it in the message.
Thank you and good luck!
Posted by Cole in 101-125k, 5 Really Like It, Authors M-O, Contemporary, Giveaways, Heat 4 - Spicy & Smutty, Paranormal, Romance, Sex Freq 2 - Few and Far Between Tags: Ari McKay, Artists, Best Friends, Blood Bathory, Co-Authored, Cops, Friends to Lovers, Grief, Machiavellian Bad Guy, Mythology, NYC, On the Lam, Paris, Past Abuse, Past Trauma, Second Chances, Series, Sexy to the 999's, Shifters, Torquere, Vampire, Villain
Title: Tats of Honor
Author: Vona Logan
Length: 26,966 words
Genre: m/m Contemporary Romance
Heat: 3 – Sexy & Mild
Sex Frequency: 2 – Few and Far Between
Keywords/Tags: Grieving Partner, Grief, Best Friends, Suicide, On Vacation, GFY/OFY, Bisexual, New Zealand, Tattoos, Insta-Love
Rating: Not Feelin’ It
Kegan Andrews wears his heart on his sleeve, or rather his skin—his tattoo is a testimony to those he’s loved and lost. The losses are piling up—like his young cousin’s suicide and his fiancée’s betrayal. He needs perspective, and the New Zealand trip he planned months ago seems to promise him that. Then Kegan meets Dominic, a man wrapped in so much grief and guilt it’s as if his own heart died two years ago with his long-time partner.
Dominic can’t move on—can’t even imagine it until Kegan jumpstarts his frozen heart. Dominic knows Kegan isn’t gay, so he fights his growing feelings, but Kegan embraces his new self-knowledge about whom he might love. Will Dominic stay mired in the safety of past heartbreak and become a distant memory etched into Kegan’s skin, or will he risk himself for the promise of a new beginning?
Kegan lands in New Zealand alone and lost. He’d been looking forward to getting away with his fiancee after his cousin and best friend committed suicide. His grief is wrapped up in his love for his fiancee, especially when she ditches him at the gate for the restroom only to leave the airport, and Kegan to realize that he’s been left while flying over the Pacific. The loss is compounded by the fact that Kegan knows that his fiancee was the main reason he removed himself from his cousin’s life. He doesn’t understand how he could let himself choose a cheating and selfish woman over his best friend, and the thought that his actions might have contributed to his cousin’s loneliness at the time he needed him most… it’s almost more than he can bear. Kegan decides to take his vacation traveling around New Zealand alone and figure out his life and what he really wants.
Dominic is a Kiwi. We meet him first as he moves into a new house, finally leaving the home of he and his late partner. It’s been two years, but Dominic is a shadow of the man he used to be. He has no problem admitting that he wish he’d died as well. Moving on without him is too hard. His best friend Lisa surprises him by coming to stay with him for a week, and it is during that week — while Lisa drags him out of the house day after day — that the two stop at a restaurant and end up sharing a table with a lonely American traveler, named Kegan.
The two guys have an immediate chemistry, but it takes both of them willing to move on and embrace a new time in their lives to have any chance at a relationship.
Of course, my biggest problem here was the insta-love. I mean, I would say that this ends in an HFN, but some might say an HEA. I just had a problem believing that after spending so little time together they could fall in love enough to propagate an around the world move to be together and also in that time have been able to move on with their pasts. I get that Kegan could maybe do it. I liked that the author made his move to New Zealand not only to be with Dominic, but also as a fresh start in his life and career. I could see him making the decision that he needed a fresh injection into his life and he might make that leap because he needed a chance anyway. But I didn’t understand Dominic at the end of the story. There’s a part right at the end, where Dominic… I guess he sees the ghost of his dead partner. It was a strange paranormal twist that I only partly grasped. But, I understood the message which was that he wanted Dominic to move on. It seemed like an easy way to make it okay for Dominic to let go and be okay for him to fall in love, when in reality it just seemed to rushed for me to accept and without a lot of the work he’d need to undertake. He was just so messed up in the beginning.
I’m sorry to say that I can’t really recommend this. I’ve read one other story by this author which I enjoyed — Return to Destiny — but this story felt a bit unfinished to me. I think that I actually would have enjoyed learning more about Dominic’s partner. In books like this that explore a new relationship after one person’s (or two) previous partner died, I usually feel like it’s important for the new love interest to learn about the previous one. And certainly, I think it might have helped this relationship between Dominic and Kegan to develop at a faster pace (since the time line was so short) because Dominic could let go of some fears and memories and share them with Kegan. I don’t know, just a thought. But I definitely would have liked to know more about him. It would have shown us even more about Dominic.
Posted by Cole in 16-40k, 2 Not Feelin' It, Authors J-L, Contemporary, Heat 3 - Sexy & Mild, Romance, Sex Freq 2 - Few and Far Between Tags: Best Friends, Bisexual, Dreamspinner Press, GFY/OFY, Grief, Grieving Partner, Insta-Love, New Zealand, On Vacation, Suicide, Tattoos, Vona Logan
Title: Bully for You
Author: Catt Ford
Length: 22,732 words
Genre: m/m Contemporary Western Rom Com Romance
Heat: 4 – Spicy & Smutty
Sex Frequency: 3 – Average Sex to Story
Keywords/Tags: 2013 Daily Dose – Make a Play, Bullriding, Femme Men, Twinks, Opposites Attract, Washington DC, Funny Guys, Best Friends
Rating: Really Liked It
What could be hunkier than a cowboy? Not much, according to Martin Du Bois. He convinces two friends that a visit to the rodeo is every gay man’s wet dream, and so the three of them gaily (and I do mean gaily) set off to watch cowboy asses in action.
A visit to a bar after the event gets Martin closer to the action than he ever thought possible, and he meets Jesse Cumberland, the man who caught his eye in the ring and made his rhinestones sparkle. Instant attraction leads to a one-night stand that gets under Martin’s insouciant skin and causes him to rethink his determination not to get involved emotionally. When Jesse invites Martin to his ranch, the visit is almost derailed by Martin’s realization that they lead very different lives. As a flaming city queer, he sees no way to fit with the solid, athletic Jesse. It’s up to Jesse to see if he can change Martin’s mind.
You know… I’ve read probably 1/3 of the Dreamspinner 2013 Daily Dose stories so far and this is by far my favorite of them. It’s the longest story of the bunch, but that really doesn’t have much to do with it, other than the fact that it followed the story to it’s natural end, which was satisfying. No, the characters and their dialogue are what makes this story so great. It’s not perfect, but this story has a lot of personality and charm, and that carries it a long way!
“Marti” (Martin Du Bois, LOL, I love that pun — sounds like a gay stripper name), is the the ringleader of an incredibly fabulous trio of guys. He’s getting close to the BIG 3-0, which is devastating, of course, to his twinkdom. Who is he really? What will happen to him as he makes the transition to a real grown up, now wanting more than the dick hunting that he and his two best friends are famous for.
Marti is thinking on those issues as he carries on with his friends. Marti finally convinces his friends that the tight asses in the rodeo are worth it to come with him to a bull riding event in their city of D.C. He’s never seen anything like it in his life, but the men down there riding those bulls are swoon-worthy. It doesn’t matter to him and Curt and Dale that they don’t understand the sport at all, they’re making a scene just like they always do, loudly arguing the assets of the riders.
Marti is the only one brave enough to enter the cowboy bar after the event where all the riders congregated to drink and celebrate their wins. Refusing Curt and Dale’s emphatic statements that he was an idiot going in there with all those straight guys, Martin wants to take his chances that at least one of those guys have to be gay. And he’s looking for that diamond in the rough. And he finds him — a star of the rodeo circuit named Jesse — when the man comes to his defense (though he can mostly take care of himself) from a really drunk rider making derogatory comments and lewd suggestions.
Their meeting leads to a fabulous whirlwind affair, but when real feelings start to evolve, can Marti reconcile his city life with a man who lives on a Virginia ranch? Even if he has to ride a horse?!?!
This story was really a delight to read. It’s funny from page one, where we get to know Martin, Curt and Dale so well just by their dialogue. They’re super flamboyant and their energy builds and builds between the three of them until they’re almost trying to out-camp the others. They’re like so many friends that I know and the dialogue is dirty and soo real life. It’s also pretty brave of Catt Ford to write such a trio of so obviously femme characters because it’s a touchy subject with some readers, who want to see more flamboyant, feminine characters… but not too feminine. Of course, that would be politically incorrect… But honestly, I like when fictional characters seem so real and lets face it, it may be perfectly stereotypical to have such a campy gay male character, but that doesn’t mean that Martin and his friends aren’t genuine and totally life-like. The story, in no way, suggests that all gay men are camping it up around the world, LOL. And really, this is one of the main parts of this story — the dichotomy between the über-flaming gay guy and the horribly termed “straight acting” dudes, who are super macho because they ride bulls for a living 🙂 We’re presented with two gay archetypes that over the course of the story shed their skins to show that who they are is different from the image they might present to the world. In Jesse’s case, this is natural because of his job. In reality, he’s quite forward about his gay sexuality and doesn’t have any hangups about his sexuality. Martin, on the other hand, very purposefully wears that skin. He hides behind it because it’s much easier to not be taken seriously when he’s not sure he can live up to having a real life. Part of that is his mid-life transition. He may only be turning thirty, but to him that’s old age. For so long Martin has identified as a twink, which made it easier to find men. Not being taken seriously means that he doesn’t have to commit. Seeing the mask come off of Martin behind closed doors made him so real. Watching Jesse slowly obliterate his distorted self-image and help him build it back up through a solid relationship was touching. They shown to us as opposites, which make their initial interactions interesting and funny. But really, their opposing qualities go much deeper. Seeing them work around those issues made my interest in the characters change to a love for them as a couple.
My only complaint was the ending. It is a satisfying ending in the sense that I felt as if the story needed to end where it did. Still, that didn’t completely change my wish that I knew more about the direction these two were heading, especially with Marti. They’re on shaky HEA ground and a little past a solid HFN.
Honestly, I wasn’t really that interested in this story. I didn’t request it for review until a few days after I’d gotten all the other stories from the Daily Doses that TAR had requested. But I’m so glad that I finally did. It’s turned out to be my favorite and once again shown me what a great author Catt Ford is.
Posted by Cole in 16-40k, 5 Really Like It, Authors D-F, Contemporary, Heat 4 - Spicy & Smutty, Rom Com, Romance, Sex Freq 3 - Average Story to Sex, Western Tags: 2013 Daily Dose - Make a Play, Best Friends, Bullriding, Catt Ford, Dreamspinner Press, Feminine MC, Funny Guys, Opposites Attract, Twinks, Washington DC
*Click the covers to be taken to the story/purchase info. Further info at the bottom of the post.
**”On the Stoop”, the DSP Halloween Howl story, is currently unavailable.
When I decided to review Kate McMurray’s backlist, I wanted to make sure that I didn’t forget any shorts. And while there aren’t many, when I did start making my list of the books I needed to read and to re-read, I decided that I’d go ahead and just do all of them. There are a very short list of short stories, most of them free. So, at the very least this is a good place for someone unfamiliar with this author to decide if they like her style and writing.
Also, I find it interesting to read short stories written by this author, who is definitely more well known for her novels. Both Kindling Fire for Snow and her newest, Save the Date, are shorter than most (the first at around 20k and the latter at around 33k words), but they aren’t really short stories either, which is a completely different style of writing in some ways. Some authors are terrible at writing shorts but write completely incredible novels, and vice versa. Of course, that’s mostly in the literary genre because short stories are much more valued there, but I always find it interesting to see how an m/m author I like transitions to writing shorts. And even though I’d read quite a few of Kate’s books, I had surprisingly read none of her short stories.
I started with the two that I already had: A Walk in the Dark (part of the 2011 Dreamspinner Advent Calendar) and Lead Us Not (one of the M/M Romance Group’s 2012 Love is Always Write stories). And… I can’t believe it but I loved them both. In fact, I think that this might be where Kate’s background in literature and literary fiction (mostly as a reader, as she said in her interview with me two days ago).
A Walk in the Dark tells the story of Jared’s unrequited love for his best friend and roommate’s boyfriend Brandon. Rex, Jared’s roommate, is a bit of a player, but in the way only best friends can still loves him and sees his good qualities no matter how much he hates seeing the guy he loves being dicked around and very possibly cheated on. I thought that the story did what it really needed to without giving us too much more, which is one of my biggest problems with short stories — when they try to be novels in disguise. The characters came through for me in a real way because of the awkward position they’re in and the story is good for the season, a sweet HEA for Christmas. I give it a Pretty Good.
Lead Us Not was really the surprise for me. I remember seeing the prompt that Kate chose and looking forward to reading the story, but somewhere in there I missed it and haven’t thought much about it since then. The prompt asks for a story about two actors and boyfriends who’ve moved to NYC to pursue their dreams and the temptations they face in order to get to their HEA. The story Kate gave us was simply beautiful, in emotion and in craft. Written in alternating first person between Sam and Jess, they each tell us about their own lives in NYC and how they’ve grown and moved from the naive boyfriends who moved there several years ago, two of them against the world. They recount how their lives have started to diverge and how no matter how much each still loves the other, how much doubt can harm a relationship. The temptations offered are in the form of two other guys, catalysts who seem to be a sounding board for all of their doubts about themselves, each other and their careers, which for both are going in directions they never really expected. The beauty of the story is how Kate shows us such a sweet love story without pulling punches. It’s a much more true to real life story than many sugarcoated fantasies in the romance genre and that gave it a real ring of authenticity that makes their hard-won HEA really worth it. I’ve only given Kate one 5-star review in the past, for Out in the Field, but this is my second. I Loved It. And it’s free!
The remaining two stories are both free stories. “In December My Heart’s Full of Spring” is currently available for download and read here, on Kate’s website. “On the Stoop”, the story that was released in October as part of the Dreamspinner Halloween Howls, is currently unavailable from their website, but is also up for download at Kate’s website.
Both stories are much shorter than the previous two. “On the Stoop” is the story of a recent transplant to NYC from St. Louis, a man who seeing the differences between Halloween celebrations in New York are different from his childhood in the suburbs in the midwest feels that they only reflect how out of place he feels. When he meets a cute guy sitting on his stoop in his neighborhood handing out candy to passing kids, he sits and talks and finally feels like he’s made a friend, or something more that could give him hope that he could call the city home. This was a cute, no-sex story. It’s quite short and doesn’t have a whole lot going on, but I still felt like Adrian was developed well for a story of this length. Because there isn’t a whole lot going on, I couldn’t really love it, though it was a nice read. So this one gets a cute So So 😉
And lastly, “In December My Heart’s Full of Spring” is the story of two men who meet at the top of the Empire State building on a lonely Christmas Eve. Both are at low points in their lives and seeing an old friend who they hadn’t seen in years gives them the energy to get through the night together when they thought they’d have to spend it alone and depressed. That night leads to a bonding between the two of them and eventually, more… I felt similarly about this story as I felt about “On the Stoop”, though where that story had less actual plot, I felt like this story actually had quite a bit going on. If Goodreads is right and this was made available (in whatever form) in 2009, that makes this one of Kate’s first public stories. I could see some of that in the writing. Perhaps the meeting atop the Empire State Building is a bit cliché, but the story quickly moves on and developed two really good characters, which showed me that Kate has a natural talent for writing realistic characters, even if her writing might have improved some over the intervening years. This one gets a So So as well.
For anyone interested, Dreamspinner recently published a free sequel short about Four Corner characters Jake and Adam’s anniversary on the DSP Blog, called “Shortstop.” I talked a bit about it (it’s cute!) in my review of Four Corners the other day. Here’s the link for anyone interested in read it.
Well, sadly that ends Kate McMurray Week 😦 I hope all of you enjoyed taking a tour through her books with me and also enjoyed our interview on Thursday. Remember, comment on the interview before Midnight, Tuesday June 11th for a chance to win a copy of her book, Save the Date!
Next Up: I do the same with Lou Harper the last week of June. I’ll be reviewing her entire backlist and interviewing her as well as talking about her upcoming book, Dead Man and the Restless Spirits, about Denton from Spirit Sanguine, available on June 25th. I hope you’ll join me for that!
Posted by Cole in 3 So So, 4 Pretty Good, 6 LOVE IT!, Authors M-O, Contemporary, Heat 1 - Sweet/None, Heat 2 - Romantic & Tame, Romance, Sex Freq 1 - None, Sex Freq 2 - Few and Far Between, up to 15k Tags: 2012 - Love is Always Write, Actor, Best Friends, Christmas, Dreamspinner Press, DSP Halloween Howl, Existing Relationship, Free Reads, Grief, Halloween, Kate McMurray, Kate McMurray Week!, M/M GoodReads Group, Models, NYC, Previously Online Fic, Self Published, Short Story, Unrequited Love