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

Tag Archives: Chicago

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

BLURB

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

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

REVIEW

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Here’s a Repost of my review of Spirit Sanguine
Orignally posted on May 6, 2013

All New Review for Late Night Snack below!

SpiritSanguine72lgTitle: Spirit Sanguine
Author: Lou Harper
Publisher: Samhain
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!

BLURB

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.

Product Warnings
Fangalicious man-on-man action, a troublesome twink, cross-dressing vampiress, and role-playing involving a fedora.

REVIEW

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!

latenightsnackcoverTitle: 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

BLURB

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.

REVIEW

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!


deadmanrestlessspiritsTitle: Dead Man and the Restless Spirits Dead Man Vol. 1
Author: Lou Harper
Publisher: Self Published (Harper Books)
Length: 37k words
Genre: m/m Contemporary Paranormal Romance
Heat: 3 – Sexy & Mild
Sex Frequency: 2 – Few and Far Between
Keywords/Tags: Lou Harper Week!, Spinoff, Tails!, Demons, Ghosts/Spirits, Psychics, Hauntings, Magic, Witches/Mages, Piercings, Animals, Neighbors, Nerds/Geeks, Awesome Female Characters!, Awesome Moms!, Funny Guys, Mystery, Episodic
Rating: Really Liked It

BLURB

Dying sucks hairy monkey balls, even when you’re not the stiff.

Denton Mills has a secret: he can see dead people. Or rather, how they died. It’s quite a drag in a city like Chicago, teeming with the echoes of the no-longer living. Rather than whine about it, Denton has learned to live with his troublesome talent. His adaptability comes in handy when he meets his enigmatic new neighbor.

Bran Maurell catches Denton’s eye right away, but unfortunately Mr. Tall, Dark, and Mysterious is as standoffish as he is alluring. However, after an unexpected introduction from Bran’s cat brings the two men together, Denton discovers they have a mutual interest in the spirit world. Herbalist by day, Bran moonlights as a witch, performing house cleansings for a fee.

From Bran, Denton learns that his knack for interacting with the dead qualifies him as a necromancer. It makes good business sense for them to team up and rid Chicago of its pesky spirits one grateful client at a time. Amongst ghostly adventures the attraction between the men is impossible to ignore. They seem like perfect partners—unless Bran’s not-so-little secret comes between them.

Warning: men loving men, ghosts with attitudes, and a portly feline with hidden talents.

REVIEW

I was super excited to read this spinoff of Spirit Sanguine, which I really loved, because I really felt like I liked Denton a lot in that book. He’s really funny and he’s a natural to have his own book, with the fact that he can see ghosts and all, or at least, the remnants of death. And I really did enjoy it. I think that I ended up feeling quite different about it than Spirit Sanguine, no matter how much I enjoyed it and not relating to the fact that it is essentially different than that book. I’ll get to why in a bit, but most if it has to deal with the way that the story is told.

We first met Denton Mills in Spirit Sanguine, a book that was all about a different type of vampires. In a way, I feel like the viewpoint of vampires from that book (as Lou Harper has called “the Byronic portrayal of vampires—you know, dark and brooding, woe is me…”) is somewhat related to how Denton feels about them. He’s another type of paranormal entity in a city filled with them (Chicago), but where he sees them as other, he’s just like a regular guy with a gift, or a curse. They try to stay away from one another for the most part, probably as it is thought of in Spirit Sanguine because of the death that surrounds vampires. Our picture of him in that book is separate from and quite lonely, though with a quick wit and acerbically funny facade.

Dead Man… shows Denton’s world, and while they’re mostly the same the focus is different. The vampires are quite separate from his daily life (except when he thinks about Gabe and the crush he had). But he’s still quite lonely. He has a hard time relating to people, especially those who don’t know his secret. But when staying in his best friend Joy’s apartment, he finally starts to learn about his gift and the wider world of witches and necromancy — all because of the hot guy next door (who might also be a serial killer) and the man’s cat, Murry.

This book is enjoyable for itself, even if you haven’t read Spirit Sanguine. But if you have read that book, then I think you’ll enjoy this one as well because in writing style they’re similar in many ways. Denton is really funny and just in the first chapter or so and especially with his interactions with the cat, I was totally hooked. I think that is what made the book enjoyable for me, mostly Denton’s interaction with his surroundings and with Bran. They make a really great pair, but the real joy of reading the book comes from Denton’s voice. That said, I think that you really have to enjoy that for the book to be a total winner for you. Because while I enjoyed their paranormal investigative efforts together I also felt like they were quiet small mysteries that didn’t go nearly as in depth as I would have wished. And that’s fine, because I know that their story isn’t finished and Lou has plans for more for this couple. But it does mean that I ended this book feeling less of a connection between the two than in many of Lou’s other books. On the other hand, that makes me even more excited for the sequel, because I’m interested in where this couple will go. And, of course, I love Denton 🙂

So I wholeheartedly recommend this one, just for the joy of reading it. It’s a fun book, and not long, so you can enjoy it in a day or one sitting when you need a little pick-me-up, a little humor and some really good writing. Now that I’ve read almost all of her backlist, I can see that Lou has written some of the best characters in the m/m romance genre. Perhaps its that I find my reading preferences and her writing style mesh really well, but I think that Denton highlights what I really love about Lou’s characters, which is that they’re smart, funny and perceptive. And that they always have a different and unique way of looking at the world. I can’t say more than that.

Dead Man and the Restless Spirits is available today at Amazon and ARe!


FourCornersLGTitle: Four Corners
Author: Kate McMurray
Publisher: Dreamspinner
Length: 72,033 words
Genre: m/m Contemporary Romance
Heat: 3 – Sexy & Mild
Sex Frequency: 3 – Average Story to Sex
Keywords/Tags: Kate McMurray Week!, Friends to Lovers, Straight/Gay Male Friendships, Best Friends, Childhood Friends, Baseball, Sports, Flashbacks, High School, Second Chances, Chicago
Rating: Really Liked It

BLURB

Since childhood, Jake, Adam, Kyle, and Brendan have been teammates, best friends, brothers. Then one day, when they were twenty-five, Adam disappeared without a word, devastating his friends—none more so than Jake, who had secretly loved Adam since they were teenagers.

Now, five years later, Adam is back, and he has his mind set on Jake. But those years of anger, hurt, and confusion are a lot to overcome, and Jake doesn’t find it easy to forgive. He isn’t sure they’ll ever fit together the way they did. Jake, Kyle, and Brendan have moved on with their lives, but Adam’s high-profile career keeps him in the closet—the same place he’s been for years. Still, his apologies seem sincere, and the attraction is still there. Jake desperately wants to give him a chance. But first he has to find out why Adam left and if he’s really back for good.

REVIEW

Whew, this was a doozy for me — an intensely personal read and one that’s particularly difficult for me to review. The basis of the story is a bit of a Big Chill setup. Four childhood friends (the Four Corners because of the bases they all played on their high school baseball team) are split up when one of then, Adam, disappears for 5 years. Jake has been in love with Adam since they were in their early teens. Actually, probably before that but he didn’t know what his feelings meant. Though he knows that Adam is gay as well, it’s something they don’t speak of. When they all leave to go their separate ways for college, Jake is free to move on from his feelings for Adam and explore his sexuality.

But when Adam leaves, it destroys their close family. A new dynamic emerges over Adam’s five year absence. Brendan and Kyle become the ones Jake is closest to, and though they’re both straight (well, Kyle is a question mark!), they’re fiercely protective of him. It’s obvious that in all these years no one has claimed the feelings that Jake still harbors for Adam. But now those feelings are tainted with anger at Adams absence and confusion over what Jake did to make him leave.

When Adam turns up, almost as if nothing ever happened, their new dynamic as three best friends are thrown out of whack. But Jake can’t stay away from Adam. And when Adam starts doing whatever he can to make up his absence to Jake, it throws all of their relationships in turmoil. Why did Adam leave, refusing contact all those years? And can he ever really come to terms with being gay and out?

As I said, this was an intensely personal read for me. I have a feeling that some readers might have a hard time understanding Adam and why he did what he did. Make no mistake — despite my feelings, I felt like Kate McMurray did a remarkable job explaining his emotional turmoil and what he was going through to make him take such drastic action as to leave everyone behind. But, without going into too many details… I’ve been in that position before and so I could really understand what makes someone want to flee and the intense betrayal that causes.

I admired the writing in this story. I can’t say that it’s my favorite of Kate’s novels, but that’s only because I love Out in the Field so much that this book would have to be absolutely extraordinary to top that. But, this is really a grown up romance novel. Not to say that any kind of book with sex in it is childish! But… I think that this story is given care to represent a situation and real emotion in a way that isn’t sugarcoated. The characters aren’t written to be liked, but to simply play out their emotions, through which they make you like them. In fact, my feelings about both Adam and Jake were ambiguous until over halfway through the story when I felt like they both, at the same time, were starting to be accountable for their actions.

I rarely say this, but my favorite part of this book were the flashbacks. They aren’t classic flashbacks, more Jake’s memories depending on where he is in the story and what he’s thinking. But they tie the past and present perfectly together, framing the similarities and differences between the past Adam and Jake and the present Adam and Jake and showing the drastic dynamic change between the group of friends. It’s this atmosphere and mood of joy and solidarity created by the flashbacks that just how Adam’s disappearance messed up their group.

This is definitely a recommended read. And no matter how personal of a read it was for me, it wasn’t particularly angst-filled. Kate seems to have a knack, now that I realize I’ve said something similar in most of my reviews of her books this week, for allowing the characters their emotional turmoil but not taking things too far. The epilogue is sweet and gives this story a firm HEA. There’s also a free short sequel called “Shortstop” that was posted recently on the Dreamspinner Facebook page. I can’t find the link and I can’t find it on the Dreamspinner FB page (thought I didn’t have long to look), but I know it’s there from a google search. So, if you can find it, it’s really cute and shows Jake and Adam as a couple two years after the end of the novel.

Edit: Here’s the link to the free sequel short, “Shortstop”: http://dreamspinnerpress.com/blog/2013/05/24/sexy-anniversary-short-shortstop-by-kate-mcmurray/

Make sure to read my interview with Kate McMurray today!


SpiritSanguine72lgTitle: Spirit Sanguine
Author: Lou Harper
Publisher: Samhain
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!

BLURB

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.

Product Warnings
Fangalicious man-on-man action, a troublesome twink, cross-dressing vampiress, and role-playing involving a fedora.

REVIEW

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!