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

Tag Archives: Family

sinnersginTitle: Sinner’s Gin (Sinner’s Gin #1)
Author: Rhys Ford
Publisher: Dreamspinner
Length: 85,843 words
Genre: m/m Contemporary Mystery Romance
Heat: 3 – Sexy & Mild
Sex Frequency: 2 – Few and Far Between
Keywords/Tags: Series, Rockers, Cops, Diverse Pairing, Irish, Past Sexual Abuse, Hurt/Comfort, Injuries, Man’s Best Friend (Dogs!), Big Families, Secrets & Lies
Rating: Pretty Good

BLURB

There’s a dead man in Miki St. John’s vintage Pontiac GTO, and he has no idea how it got there.

After Miki survives the tragic accident that killed his best friend and the other members of their band, Sinner’s Gin, all he wants is to hide from the world in the refurbished warehouse he bought before their last tour. But when the man who sexually abused him as a boy is killed and his remains are dumped in Miki’s car, Miki fears Death isn’t done with him yet.

Kane Morgan, the SFPD inspector renting space in the art co-op next door, initially suspects Miki had a hand in the man’s murder, but Kane soon realizes Miki is as much a victim as the man splattered inside the GTO. As the murderer’s body count rises, the attraction between Miki and Kane heats up. Neither man knows if they can make a relationship work, but despite Miki’s emotional damage, Kane is determined to teach him how to love and be loved — provided, of course, Kane can catch the killer before Miki becomes the murderer’s final victim.

REVIEW

I read this with a friend over Christmas, and while I enjoyed this book, I think that other readers seem to be liking it more than me. I’ve been thinking about it since, and while I’ve avoided looking at how it’s been received since those early few days and from reader and reviewer reviews, at that time it seemed like this was coming off really well. And it deserves it. I’m not really sure what it was about the story that I didn’t quite connect with, but I’ll try to flesh it out in a minute.

The story starts with a stunner of a prologue (which I’ll leave alone, but btw, RF, you are really packing the punches with the prologues and epilogues lately!). As the main story starts, we get to know Miki mostly from Kane’s POV as the man who owns the dog that keeps stealing his art supplies. Soon after he gets to know Miki from terse front door words about the exact ownership of the dog, they become embroiled in a murder mystery. Kane finds a dead body in Miki’s classic restored GTO, and not just any dead body, but the body of the man who used to torture Miki as a street kid, opening up a past of abuse and cruelty that Miki doesn’t want to face.

I suppose it is just personal that parts of this story didn’t connect with me. I loved Kane, and I loved Miki to an extent. I had a difficult time going through all of his horrible upturned life with him. He suffer(s/ed) quite a lot at the hands of various people, as well as fate, and as one thing packed onto a another and the dynamic between the two became, at times, very hurt/comfort. The problem for me was in the structure of the story and the pacing, which seemed to relegate most of the action to the first and last 25% and the bulk of the middle to character growth and relationship growth. But that middle part got bogged down for me because the emotions were pretty heavy. And not exactly the emotions but the type of abuse that Miki suffered and his bleak day to day existence was difficult for me to read in one stretch. I kept braking and wishing for some of the investigation to come back and break up some of the tension.

That said, the rest of the story was a treat. Where the white cop/lithe korean man dynamic might seem familiar, the characters are quite different from Cole and Jae, especially in the differences between Kane and Cole (I found Kane much more immediately accessible but not lacking in depth). This book deals with what might seem to be heavier issues (child sexual abuse), I didn’t find it any darker in tone than her previous books. I compare the start of this new series to that one because I know that almost every reader who reads this, or plans to buy it, will. And while there are surface similarities, I found them satisfyingly different.

What I can’t really figure out from my own feelings is how much my liking of this book is wrapped up in how much I look forward to the next coming book in the series. Because while this book has a lot to recommend it, I didn’t ever get excited about it while reading until the surprise epilogue, which immediately made me upset I couldn’t read further 😉 And while it did feel good to leave on a note that excited me about reading more, I’m not sure I’d be happy if RF ended up relying on this device (not saying she will, just my feelings). Still, I have a feeling that this book is worth reading to get to that second book, and I hope the exploration of that secret will inject some more forward momentum into the story that I wanted here.

So, I’m very much looking forward to the rest of this series, and as always remain an avid fan of this author’s work.


prizmpinch185Title: The Secret to a Perfect Latke
Author: Foxglove Lee
Publisher: Prizm
Length: 5,300 words
Genre: m/m Contemporary Young Adult
Heat: 1 –Sweet/None
Sex Frequency: 1- None
Keywords/Tags: Short Story, Jewish, Hanukkah, Food, Family, Coming Out
Rating: Really Like It!

Reviewed by Sadonna

BLURB

Noah has never been on TV before, but he dreams of having his own cooking show one day. When he’s asked to help a gourmet chef prepare latkes for a Hanukkah segment on the Sunny and The Bear show, his family is proud but suspicious. Sunny and The Bear is a “lifestyle” show that’s popular among straight women, but it’s hosted by gay men. What’s more, the guests on this show have an uncanny tendency to come out of the closet live on national television…

REVIEW

This is a new author to me and when I saw the title and blurb, I really wanted to read this little gem. It’s definitely a short story, but the characters are well drawn in the short number of pages. This is a new author for me, but I look forward to reading more from him or her.

Noah is a young man who is a senior in high school and can’t wait to get out into the world. It’s Hanukkah and his family is gathered for their traditional celebration. Noah has lost his father when he was young and has been raised by his mother Judith. His cousin and the rest of his family are having the usual boisterous time at the holiday celebration. Also in attendance is Noah’s girlfriend, Megan. Judith is so excited that Noah has been chosen to be on the Sunny and The Bear show for a segment on holiday cooking for Hanukkah. Both Noah’s girlfriend and his cousin Sam want to know how in the world he was selected. Judith also wants him to take her family recipes. Noah feels like the proverbial bug in a trap.

When he gets to the show, with his mother and Megan in tow, he meets the producer and he begins to get very nervous. He meets the Chef Troyand feels a bit more at ease, but he is still nervous because of the reputation of the show. Many many people have come out on this show and Noah just doesn’t want to do something foolish. He asks if he will get to meet Sunny and The Bear before they go on the air and gets a pretty non-committal response. As Chef Troy and Noah are getting ready, Judith butts in with the story of Hanukkah. Noah is getting more and more nervous.

He finally meets Sunny and the Bear right before air time and he feels a bit more at ease, but when the show starts and the cameras go on, he drops his recipe cards and freezes like a dear in the headlights. He retrieves his cards and reads a beautiful note from his grandmother on the Latke recipe and then things go off topic!

This is such a cute story! I loved Noah’s voice – he is the proper blend of snark and insecurity. I found him to be a believable character – just a young guy trying to figure out his place in the world as he is growing up. His family is wonderfully drawn in a loving way. His girlfriend is also the perfect girl for him. Perhaps some will find the ending a bit unrealistic, but I found it to be perfectly plausible. If you’re looking for a funny sweet short read this holiday season, I highly recommend this one.


SP_Something_To_Believe_InTitle: Something to Believe In
Author: Sloan Parker
Publisher: MLR Press
Length: 18k words
Genre: m/m Contemporary Romance
Heat: 3 – Mild & Sexy
Sex Frequency: 2 – Few and Far Between
Keywords/Tags: Short Story, Rentboy, Homeless, Throwaways, Christmas, Acceptance, Family
Rating: Really Liked It!

Reviewed by Sadonna

BLURB

Two young, homeless men fall in love and search for a way to stay off the streets and build a life together.

After running away from the hatred and abuse of their teen years, Sean and Gavin have been hustling to survive for too long now. When some extra cash lands them alone in a hotel room until Christmas, they can no longer deny their feelings for each other. Now neither one can imagine watching the other walk off with one more trick. Even with no money and no job prospects, Sean is determined to not just show Gavin what a real home and holiday is like, but to keep them off the streets for good and build a life together.

REVIEW

The opening of this story is unfortunately something that far too many young LGBT youth have to deal with – the rejection of their parents and being on their own. Sean has been on his own for three years at the beginning of this book and he has recently lost his job and become homeless. He’s had to resort to what he never wanted to do – sell himself for money just to be able to eat. It’s Christmas Eve and he ends up at shelter that has no beds for the night, but he at least gets a dinner and eats for the first time in a few days. While there he sees another young guy about his age and while they don’t speak, they definitely have a conversation.

As Sean is about to succumb to numbing himself to both the physical and emotional pain he is in, he is warned off by the guy from the homeless shelter. This young man warns him off another possible disaster and takes him to an abandoned warehouse for the night. The warehouse is full of other homeless and is not by an stretch a safe place, but it’s out of the snow and the other guy, Gavin, suggests that they take turns sleeping and keeping watch. For some reason, Sean trusts him and gets some sleep in a relatively warm place.

The next year at Christmas time, Gavin and Sean are still together protecting each other. Sean realizes that his feelings for Gavin are more than friendship, but he’s very afraid of doing something that will push him away. Gavin has been gone on a trick for a week and Sean is petrified that he won’t come back. He’s also just gotten some very good news and he’s been working with a social worker who is helping him prepare to get off the streets. When Gavin does return with a pocketful of money, they decide to get a hotel room for a few days and just enjoy themselves for a bit. Sean gives in even though he thinks they should save the money so they have something to build on. But he also wants to give Gavin a nice Christmas and Gavin tells Sean he just wants to make a good memory.

Sloan Parker is an amazing writer. Her work is beautiful and touching and emotional. If you haven’t read any of her books, I suggest you run out and do so! This is not an easy story to read. My heart just breaks for the many young people who are rejected by their families and have no safe place to land. The statistics are all too cruel. But while some of this story is harsh and scary, it is ultimately a beautiful story of a couple of these kids who find love. Sean and Gavin risk much to stay together and try to make a real life. They are not willing to give each other up and they just hope that they will be able to make it out of the life they are in someday. I fervently hope that everyone who reads this story will consider making a donation to a worthwhile organization that provides help to these kids in need.


Title: The Flesh Cartel #2: Auction
Author: Heidi Belleau & Rachel Haimowitz
Publisher: Riptide
Length: 17,600 words, 63 pages
Genre: m/m, Contemporary, BDSM/Kink, Erotica, Poly, Horror
Heat: 4 – Spicy & Smutty
Sex Frequency: 4 – Very Often
Keywords/Tags: Dark, Kidnapping/Abduction, Physical & Sexual Abuse, Family, Captive/Slave, Serial, Short Story, Angst, Non-Romance, Humiliation, (Semi) Incest, Dub/Non-con, Cliffhanger, Double Penetration, Exhibition
Rating: Really Liked It

Reviewed by Nikyta

**Some may consider this a tad spoilerish, so beware!**

BLURB

Sublime service, made to order.

In episode two of The Flesh Cartel, the dark purpose behind Mat and Dougie Carmichael’s abduction is revealed. Though Dougie is protected from the worst of the guards’ brutality, he’s disgusted to find himself halfway to broken—despairing of escape and terrified of pain. Mat holds onto hope despite repeated rapes and beatings, but threats toward his brother teach him well to lay aside his pride and pick his battles carefully.

Worn down by days of unrelenting fear and abuse, Mat and Dougie are packaged and marketed with the same ruthless efficiency as any consumer product: Dougie the prettyboy twink, Mat the rabid pit bull. They are led to the auction block as the showpiece of the house’s collection.

Mat would rather be beaten to death than play the role of obedient slave for sale, but Dougie, desperate not to be separated from his brother, strikes a deal with the pitiless Madame who runs the auction house and controls both their fates. It might just be enough to keep them together—slaves, but together—assuming Mat even wants to be after Dougie fulfills his end of his deal with the devil.

REVIEW

Auction, episode two of The Flesh Cartel and the end of season one, picks up right where episode one, Capture, leaves off. Where Mat and Dougie just finished being processed into the slave facility, they are now being held there. Beaten, raped and tortured, both Mat and Dougie are struggling with their new lives with nothing to wear and nothing to sleep on and the constant threat of more abuse. While Mat is still a fighter, he’s losing the strength and energy to fight but every time something happens to Dougie, he gains back that heated anguish and rage he possesses at what’s happening to them. In turn, Dougie is complacent and obedient being a “hole” because he knows it’s less painful to accept things. While Dougie is ashamed of not being brave enough to stick up for his brother, Mat is ashamed and humiliated into giving in to his abusers. After undergoing days of beatings and rapes, things change when they are outfitted for the Auction. With the threat of being separated, the Madame gives Dougie the option of being sold together or losing his brother forever. Dougie knows this is his time to save Mat, in the only way he can, even if it means torturing Mat himself to keep them together.

As with the first one, this book is intense, powerful and well-written. Where there were left over questions before, we get some answers this time. We know why the brothers are there and we get a hint into how they were selected to become prime stock for the Madame’s collection. We also get a more inside look into Nikolai, the mysterious man from the first story. This time, we know he’s looking into the brothers and why he wants them, and ultimately buys them. It’s interesting to see the dynamics of the process, how the brothers were brought in, how they’re treated and how they’re eventually manipulated into what the Madame wants them to do so their price becomes higher. Dougie is the pretty twink while Mat is the dangerous thug. They are polar opposites but together they are beautiful and the Madame realizes that and utilizes that to her satisfaction.

I was once again sucked into this world. While in Capture the violence was often experienced second-hand by Mat, this one we get the full details of a lot of what happens first-hand. We experience, in those moments, what the brothers are thinking and how they’re coping and when they break. Granted, there are some scenes that are experienced second-hand still but it’s no less powerful because, while one brother is being tortured or raped, the other brother has to physically see it so it’s just as intense. The first half of the book takes place over a few days and focuses being held in their cells. The second half went by very quickly because there’s anticipation and anxiety of what will come next. I knew something far beyond just the cruelty would occur and I was right but waiting for that to happen was torture in itself. It left me hanging on the edge of my seat, wondering if there would be a little happiness at some point and for one sweet moment there is… and then it becomes extreme and brutal and almost made me want to cry because of who does it and how it’s played out.

It’s a gripping tale that doesn’t let up, you’re thrust right back in to the cruel and harsh world Mat and Dougie were forced into. They’re still treated like dogs, humiliated and inserted with different types of objects but now they’re also treated like real slaves, at the mercy of anyone that wants them. Mat gets more abuse than Dougie but only because Dougie has been granted some protection to keep his price up. Everything these boys go through is heartbreaking but my sympathy will always go to Mat first because he’s so strong but reduced to such a lowly thing whereas Dougie can easily adapt to being a slave, it’s harder for Mat because of who is.

This was a captivating and fascinating story, one I couldn’t put down once I started. It leaves off right after Dougie had to make his sacrifice, so to speak, but that’s to be expected. Everything felt charged and heated. My heart clenched all over again for these boys but as with the first episode, I’m still left with a lot of questions about why they were selected and what will happen next. I’ll be eagerly looking forward to the next one but the wait might possibly kill me! For those that liked episode one, you’ll definitely like episode two. It’s just as dark, gritty and harsh as the first.


Title: Home Work (Life Lessons #3)
Author: Kaje Harper
Publisher: MLR Press
Length: 108k words
Genre: m/m Contemporary Mystery Romance
Heat: 4 – Spicy & Smutty
Sex Frequency: 2 – Few and Far Between
Keywords/Tags: Series, Cops, Family, Kids
Rating: Really Liked It

**This review has spoilers if you haven’t read the first two books in the series**

BLURB

Coming together as a family was supposed to make life happy-ever-after for Mac and Tony, but their two uprooted kids, demanding jobs, and a less than gay-friendly world don’t seem to have gotten the message.

Mac and Tony thought the hard part was over. They’re together openly as a couple, sharing a home and building a life with their two children. It’s what they dreamed of. But daughter Anna struggles with the changes, Ben is haunted by old secrets, Mac’s job in Homicide still demands too much of his time, and Tony is caught in the middle. It’s going to take everything these men can give to create a viable balance between home and work. Especially when the outside world seems determined to throw obstacles in their way.

REVIEW

It is such a pleasure to step back into this series. It has been a while since the release of a book as part of a series has gotten me so excited and eager to read right away. I can say that this third book in the series definitely didn’t let me down, and more importantly gave me a little more of what I was hoping for as the series progresses.

Mac and Tony have been through a lot from the start of their clandestine relationship to the moment when Mac had to step out to protect him and the growing family they made. Mac still has to put up with some shit from the other guys on the force and his relationship with his partner Oliver is still shaky at best. The recognition of their relationship is a swift commitment into the light of day, a quick permanence to their family — but they’re making it work as best as they can. Mac is still Mac though, working a lot when a case picks up and rarely home in time for dinner. Tony finds himself relegated to the “home work” — taking care of the kids, cooking, cleaning, reading bed time stories and soothing the nightmares, and reassuring the kids that their family is permanent and that Mac isn’t just Anna’s father and Tony’s not just Ben’s new dad, but vice versa. There’s a little bit of resentment on Tony’s part that Mac doesn’t have the time for them, but that isn’t really anything new — what’s new is that Mac is better at admitting his faults. They’ve each tempered the other in some ways now that they have the semi-permanence that was so hard-won, though there are vast areas of improvement to be made.

A new case picks up with the discovery of a body frozen near the Mississippi in the November chill. It looks like a meth head who was murdered, but some of the clues don’t add up, including the fact that the young man seems to have rather severe whip marks that allude to the underbelly of the Minneapolis BDSM scene and that he wasn’t always a street kid, but an incredibly smart young man working his way up in his career, running in the circles of the wealthy and powerful of the city.

I can’t really recommend this series more. There are a lot of you already out there that love these guys and will undoubtedly be reading (or already have read) this book. I think that the best part of this story though, is that so much of it is really the payout from the first two books. Mac and Tony went through so much while Mac was in the closet. Their relationship was such a rollercoaster, from the secret relationship, to the frequent trips to the hospital after another case gone wrong in some way, to dealing with the curveballs that life has thrown at them and having to absorb the impact and keep running. Now that they’re a couple in the light of day and even though Mac in particular still has to deal with that in some ways, they’re solid in their relationship and we get to celebrate their relationship without worrying so much that the next hurdle might break them for good. In particular, this book shows that in a really specific way that was wonderful to see.

The mystery here is done very nicely as well. It has been a while since I read the first two books, but much of it seemed to follow a different pattern than those, at least with how it affects the principle characters. Some of the outcome was very difficult to read, but it is in keeping with the series and also showed the progression of the series and the relationship in the way that it was handled, so there seemed a be a notable lack of angst, at least in my estimation.

Mostly, though I really felt good when I finished the story. I found myself looking forward to the next book in a way that I didn’t after finishing the second book. Sure, I wanted to read more after that one, but I was wary and probably wouldn’t have read them back to back if this book had been available then. I would now because of that progression I talked about the way that they have matured. This is a great time, if you haven’t read the series, to start. I definitely recommend them!


Title: The Flesh Cartel #1: Capture
Author: Rachel Haimowitz & Heidi Belleau
Publisher: Riptide
Length: 18,100 words, 75 pages
Genre: m/m, Contemporary, BDSM/Kink, Erotica, Poly, Horror
Heat: 4 – Spicy & Smutty
Sex Frequency: 4 – Very Often
Keywords/Tags: Dark, Kidnapping/Abduction, Physical & Sexual Abuse, Family, First Time, Captive/Slave, Serial, Short Story, Angst, Non-Romance, Humiliation, (Semi) Incest, Dub/Non-con
Rating: Really Liked It

Reviewed by Nikyta

BLURB

Sublime service, made to order.

In this first installment of the exciting new psychosexual thriller, The Flesh Cartel, orphaned brothers Mat and Dougie Carmichael are stolen in the night from their own home. Taken to a horrifying processing facility, they are assessed, microchipped, and subjected to unspeakable brutality—all in preparation for sale to the highest bidder.

In a world where every person has a price, the beautiful and subduable PhD student Dougie is highly prized. His brother, a rough-edged MMA fighter, is less desirable—and potentially too dangerous—but he still has his own appeal.

Abused and locked up under round-the-clock surveillance, with no idea where they are or even why they’ve been taken, escape seems impossible, which leaves staying together their only hope. And after being separated once by the foster system, they’ll do anything to keep it from happening again. Anything at all.

REVIEW

This book tells the tale of Mat, an MMA fighter, trying to support him and his brother and Dougie, an inspiring Ph. D student, being taken in the middle of the night and required to withstand numerous brutal and horrifying actions to stay alive. They’re taken by multiple men, raped, abused and then forced to cooperate in being processed to become slaves. Mat is dangerous but Dougie is his weakness and his kidnappers know it. If he doesn’t cooperate, Dougie’s dead but Dougie’s too scared to do anything but endure their torture. This is the story of two brothers taken and forced into a new brutal world with no answers as to why they were targeted.

This was a great book. It’s powerful, intense and well written. It’s wonderfully brutal and captivating. I was sucked into the story from the beginning and fascinated with the play of events. It’s a great start to a new serial that’s sure to keep me on the edge of my seat. We get almost immediately thrown into violence, rape and kidnapping but we also get to know Mat and Dougie a bit, too. I winced a few times over what was happening and my heart clenched at what these boys went through.

Some of their abuse is told instead of shown so it’s not as brutal it could have been but then some of it is told in excruciating detail that lets you know just how much pain these boys are in. They’re treated like dogs, microchipped, chained and, in Mat’s case, caged. They’re forced to perform sexually, humiliated into orgasms, inserted with all types of objects and tested how much they want to live by requiring Mat to rim Dougie to stay alive. It’s intense and dark but not as much as I was expecting. The fact that Mat is gay while Dougie is straight is heartbreaking because Dougie gets most of the abuse and assault. I felt horrible for these guys, it’s shocking what they go through but I couldn’t stop reading once I started.

My main problem, though, is that I had a ton of questions from the start that weren’t answered which is understandable considering it’s a serial but also kind of frustrating. Still, I was plagued with these questions! It kept bugging me why Dougie was targeted, why would they stalk him, put so much effort into learning about him and Mat’s schedule. It seems like a lot of work for just one guy when there are numerous street kids out there that seem easier to obtain. Beyond that, I felt like, at times, the blurb gave more information than the actual story did. I also had trouble with the POV changes. In my converted copy, there was no indication that it switched from Mat to Dougie, or vice versa, which got me confused and pulled me slightly out of the story several times because then I had to go back and reread a few passages.

This book gives a hint of the workings of an underground slave auction. I’m curious where it heads and I really can’t wait to see how it all plays out and what Nikolai (who’s only mentioned in the beginning) has to do with it. There’s also no romance but I’m curious if one will develop (oh man, I hope one develops!).

In the end, this was a wonderful start to a new serial. Definitely recommended to those brave enough to read or those looking for something dark and gritty to pass the time.