Title: Agamemnon Frost and the House of Death (Agamemnon Frost #1)
Author: Kim Knox
Length: 26k words
Genre: m/m Steampunk Romance
Heat: 2 – Tame
Sex Frequency: 1 – None
Keywords/Tags: Series, Netgalley, Alternate World Historical, Aliens, 1890s, Victorian, England, ex-Military, Class Differences
Rating: So So
Decorated artilleryman Edgar Mason was forced to find new work when the British Empire replaced its foot soldiers with monstrous machines. Now he waits on the Liverpool elite as a personal servant. He has just one rule: he won’t work for fashion-addled dandies.
Agamemnon Frost, however, is far from the foppish man-about-town he appears to be. He’s working to protect the Earth from an alien invasion being planned by a face-changing creature known as Pandarus. And on the night he plans to confront the aliens, he enlists Mason to assist him.
For a man to love a man is a serious crime in Victorian England. But when Mason meets Frost, his heart thunders and his blood catches fire. And when Pandarus drags the two men into the torture cellars beneath his house of death to brainwash them, Mason’s new passion may be all that stands between him and insanity.
This is certainly of a different pace than what I’ve been reading lately, and if you consider the steampunk nature of the story, then certainly different from what I usually read. In a way, I found that refreshing. On the other hand, this is such a short first part of a trilogy, that if it holds to a similar word count pattern as the first two, will only (in all) add up to around 75k words. I had a bit of a difficult time getting into the rhythm of the prose and piecing together the confusing details. And once I did, the story ended just as it was coming together.
Mason has given ten years to the army, marching through Afghanistan and India, only to return to England with so many of his other comrades that it is difficult to find a job. Sent to an estate to be the valet for one of the home’s guests for the night is work — so he’ll take it — even though it isn’t permanent and he’s warned right away that Agamemnon Frost is a bit, er.. peculiar.
In Agamemnon Frost, Mason finds a clear candidate for a mental hospital, yet at the same time a curious intelligence and the spark of a different personality under his foppish exterior. What at first seems to be a typical dandy, Mason soon sees a man underneath using that exterior in a game of sorts, though Frost’s make believe players don’t offer him much trust. But if it is a game that Mr. Frost wants to play, it is only his job for one night — though the undercurrents may promise he serve the magnanimous personality in another way.
That still may come to pass when Mason quite quickly realizes that the stakes in the game are real and that the world has he knew it has been ripped away from him completely. Suddenly he doesn’t understand anything of what is happening save that he’s on the run from aliens. And later, that he’s being pulled in both directions, with only Agamemnon Frost as his anchor to reality.
The official blurb gives you quite a bit more information that my summary did, but I like to think that my summary gives a bit more of the confusion that I felt. The thing is, it’s not terribly confusing, it’s just that when the story does finally start to come together and you finally put more of the pieces together about who is what and the myriad of different creatures there really are, the story ends. I was finally ready to settle into the story only to be ripped out again. So my rating of So So really has to do with the way this story is separated into a trilogy. If I had been able to read the second one right after the first, I might have been more into the story. The writing itself is fresh and inventive pulling humor through the social mores of Victorian England, as if Mason and Frost are at once playing their game of same sex attraction amid an outdated structure, but at the same time poking fun at the grander scheme, the aliens in their midst. The writing showcases that fun through lots of little detail like their body chemistry amid something as simple and yet sexually charged as bathing or shaving.
So, for the most part, I’ll save my feelings about this story until I read the next and can get a better picture of the story as a whole. I’m certainly intrigued to find out what is next for Achilles and Patrocles 😉
Posted by Cole in 16-40k, 3 So So, Authors J-L, Heat 2 - Romantic & Tame, Romance, Sex Freq 1 - None, Steampunk Tags: 1890s, Agamemnon Frost, Aliens, Alternate World Historical, Carina, Class Distinctions, England, Ex-Military, Kim Knox, Netgalley, Series, Victorian England
Author: Eden Winters
Publisher: Amber Allure
Length: 70,000 words
Genre: m/m Contemporary Romance
Heat: 3 – Sexy & Mild
Sex Frequency: 3 – Average Sex to Story
Keywords/Tags: Series, Sequel, Pharmacy, Hospitals, Kids with Cancer, Partners, Drug shortages, Grey Markets, Profiteering, PTSD, ex-Military, Drugs, Addiction, Undercover, Cops/Crime, Mystery
Rating: Really Like It!
Reviewed by Sadonna
Note: This is the second in a series. As such, there are spoilers for the first story in this book. It is not recommended that these books be read out of sequence.
Dead men can’t love.
Former drug trafficker Richmond “Lucky” Lucklighter “died” in the line of duty while working off a ten-year sentence in service to the Southeastern Narcotics Bureau, only to be reborn as Simon “Lucky” Harrison. The newbie he trained, former Marine Bo Schollenberger, is now his partner on (and maybe off) the job. It’s hard to tell when Lucky doesn’t understand relationships or have a clue what any sane human is doing in his bed. Bo’s nice to have around, sure, but there’s none of that picking-out-china-together crap for Lucky.
While fighting PTSD, memories of a horrid childhood, and a prescription drug addiction, Bo is paying for his mistakes. Using his pharmacy license for the good guys provides the sort of education he never got in school. Undercover with his hard-headed partner, Bo learns that not everything is as it seems in the world of pharmaceuticals.
When a prescription drug shortage jeopardizes the patients at Rosario Children’s Cancer Center, it not only pits Bo and Lucky against predatory opportunists, but also each other. How can they tell who the villains are? The bad guys don’t wear black hats, but they might wear white coats.
This is definitely a sequel that lives up to the first book. If you haven’t read Diversion yet, go and get it right away. These are really good books!
Lucky is “reincarnated” in this story after his untimely demise in the first story. He and Bo, his partner, have both been on assignment separately and are finally back in town together. Lucky is trying to figure out what the deal is between the two of them – he’s never been in a “relationship” before and he has no idea what he’s doing but he does know that his thoughts are scaring him a little bit. Their time together at home is short-lived however and they are once again partnered on a new assignment at a children’s cancer hospital. Lucky is assigned to shipping and receiving and Bo is assigned to Procurement as an assistant buyer. They are trying to find out what is happening with the drug shortages and where the drugs are coming from and how they are being funneled to the hospital in the “grey market” – not quite illegal but pretty unethical with gouging of prices. Critical drugs are in short supply and so hospitals and doctors are having to decide on less effective courses of treatment or rationing of the available drugs.
As soon as they get to the hospital, Bo is involved in some heart-wrenching meetings. Kids are not getting the treatment they need because of the drug shortages. Bo is killing himself trying to help and trying to locate drugs. He’s even working to try to make the drugs since he still has his pharmacist license. It’s a bloody mess and things are only getting worse. Lucky tries to keep him from getting too emotionally involved which makes Bo very angry with him. Little does he know just how emotionally involved Lucky has gotten as well.
When the head buyer is fired, Bo becomes the target of disgruntled parents and the press. Lucky calls in the cavalry and it turns out that Lucky’s distrust and his instincts are right on again. The drug shortage has led to all sorts of characters acting in unforeseen ways that leads to catastrophic results. As they get closer and closer to finding out who is responsible for tainted drugs being administered, Lucky once again finds himself in danger and in only true Lucky fashion.
After sources are uncovered and a number of the culprits escape the long arm of the law, Lucky can’t live with waiting around to see if they will surface. Acting on his own he’s willing to take risks to finish his job. I don’t want to be too spoilery but there is a lot of action in this story and a lot of different twists and turns. Lucky does a lot of soul searching in this one and he also realizes something about his feeling and Bo 🙂
I really really liked this story! Once again, I learned a lot reading from Eden about the grey markets and what happens when drugs are in short supply. Fascinating and scary details are woven into this narrative that should give patients and health care professionals pause. I had no idea this was going on! Besides learning a lot about something I was surprised was happening, I really loved spending time with Bo and Lucky again. I find Lucky to be a lovable curmudgeonly character and I always look forward to seeing what he’ll do next. Predictable is NOT in his vocabulary. I really liked seeing him crack open the clam shell of his heart in this one. He and Bo have both been through a lot and while Bo doesn’t necessarily always agree with Lucky he does try to understand him. Even when he’s mad at Lucky, he know that when the chips are down Lucky will be there for him. They make a great couple and I cannot wait for the next book to see where their new adventures will take us.
Posted by Sadonna in 41-75k, 5 Really Like It, Authors V-Z, Contemporary, Heat 3 - Sexy & Mild, Romance, Sex Freq 3 - Average Story to Sex Tags: Addictions, Amber Allure, Cancer, Cops/Crime, Drugs, Eden Winters, Ex-Military, Kids, Mystery, Partners, Pharmacy, PTSD, Sequel, Series, Undercover
Title: Under the Waterfall (Have Body, Will Guard #5)
Author: Neil Plakcy
Publisher: Loose Id
Length: 80,618 words
Genre: m/m Contemporary Mystery Romance
Heat: 2 – Romantic & Tame
Sex Frequency: 2 – Few and Far Between
Keywords/Tags: Series, Action/Adventure, Bodyguards, Existing Relationship, ex-Military, Teachers, Coming Out/Closeted, Abduction/Kidnapping, France, Corsica, Family/Kids, Multiple Romances, Expat
Rating: Pretty Good
As soon as they’re settled in their new home on the French Riviera, bodyguards Aidan and Liam are sent to the island of Corsica to protect a mining executive and his family. Though they’re still in love, and having lots of sex, the disruption, and the discovery that the client’s son is gay and in a touchy relationship, causes both bodyguards to question their skills and their commitment to each other. Can they engineer a happy ending for Michel and his boyfriend, while protecting the family from deadly adversaries?
What a wonderful surprise for me to find another Aidan and Liam book out! For some reason, I thought that after book four, Olives for the Stranger that the series was finished, so getting a new book and the possibility of even more after this (it sure seems like it) makes me so happy! Liam and Aidan are a couple that I’ve kept with since I read their first book Three Wrong Turns in the Desert several years ago. Each book is heavy on action/adventure and a serious dose of hot and heavy macho action. How could I not fall in love? Besides, I’ve always been drawn to Mr. Plakcy’s work. I really enjoy his style.
The fifth installment in this series diverges from the rest right at the start. Though we know Liam and Aiden well in Tunisia where they met and have previously worked as bodyguards, they moved at the end of the fourth book to France and are now living in Nice. Both of them think that they moved to primarily make the other happy, but the truth is that having less freedom is somewhat constricting to them both, because Liam doesn’t always like being told what to do and because Aidan usually does what he can to defer to his more senior partner and lover and because he generally ends up trying to please him anyway. This results in it’s own set of complications and when Liam and Aidan take on a new case in Corsica protecting a mine owner’s family from threats by Corsican nationalists to preserve the island from drilling, they both spend much of their time there working through their own issues about their relationship. Aidan wonders if he’s doomed to play the doormat when once again Liam takes the active role in their operation and Aidan feels that he’s undervalued. Liam is forced to confront his past when they find that the son in the family they’re protecting, Michel, is in the closet and secretly in love with his father’s biggest adversary’s son. It might be a classic star-crossed lovers tale with a bent twist, but the interactions between scared, closeted and teenaged Michel and his blithely criticizing father force him to confront his own feelings about his past and his development into his only real relationship — with Aidan. Liam has never considered himself as any kind of commodity, until recently mostly avoiding his sexuality except in the basest of situations, but their friend Louis makes a comment that shows him he just might be attractive to other men. That leads him to consider his relationship with Aidan and his feelings about sleeping with other men.
Their main issue in Corsica, nonetheless, is keeping their client’s safe, not angsting about the issues in their relationship.
This book (like the last one) was both an enjoyment to read and a bit of a disappointment. The pure adventure and excitement that I’m used to from the earlier plots in this series seem to have gone away. On the other hand, I think that Plakcy, better than most writers in the m/m romance genre anyway, seem to have a real knack for writing about the issues that crop up in long lasting relationships. They’re the everyday issues — communication, self-esteem in relationship to your partner, jealousy — and they’re handled responsibly. Sure they might cause a bit of angst, but I like the format of this series because the external adventure/mystery plot takes some of the focus away. The plot doesn’t need to be built on those internal relationship issues to carry the story, so those real-to-life relationship issues seem to carry the modest weight that is natural. Of course they’re important but they aren’t life or death issues that need to much focus. I’m not saying that I don’t enjoy a classic relationship-centric contemporary romance, but Aidan and Liam feel more real to me because while I might have to occasionally suspend disbelief at their gun-toting, crime-solving antics, the relationship at the center is down to earth and totally believable.
I remain a fan of this series. I probably always will be. But, I think I might need to shift my expectation of the future books. From here on, I’m going to look forward more to the relationship than the external plot. It might bring me some enjoyment, but so far the last few just haven’t been nearly as satisfying as the first ones. I will say that I found Liam and Aidan’s physical relationship in this book somewhat disappointing. I’m not sure why the author didn’t include much sex (hardly any!). One of the draws to this series for me has been the hot and heavy sex between these two men. Maybe the author is trying to shift the overall arc in another direction? Or, perhaps, the plot in this book just didn’t fit with the two getting hot and heavy. But I sure hope that when these two come back for book six that they’ll be getting it on in all kinds of weird places like they used to!
Posted by Cole in 4 Pretty Good, 76-100k, Authors P-R, Contemporary, Heat 2 - Romantic & Tame, Mystery, Romance, Sex Freq 2 - Few and Far Between Tags: Action/Adventure, Bodyguards, Closeted, Coming Out, Corsica, Ex-Military, Existing Relationship, Expat, Family, France, Have Body Will Guard, Kidnapping/Abduction, Kids, Loose Id, Multiple Romances, Neil Plakcy, Series, Teachers