Title: Left on St. Truth-be-Well
Author: Amy Lane
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
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.
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 🙂
Posted by Cole in 16-40k, 5 Really Like It, Authors J-L, Contemporary, Heat 4 - Spicy & Smutty, Romance, Sex Freq 2 - Few and Far Between Tags: Amy Lane, Chicago, Comedy, Dreamspinner Press, Florida, Funny Guys, Light & Sweet, Mystery, Sexy to the 999's, Surfer Dudes, The Mob
Title: In Hot Pursuit
Author: Kate McMurray
Publisher: Loose Id
Length: 59,095 words
Genre: m/m Contemporary Mystery Romance
Heat: 3 – Sexy & Mild
Sex Frequency: 3 – Average Sex to Story
Keywords/Tags: Kate McMurray Week!, Cops, Closeted, Action/Adventure, On Vacation, Crime/Mob, Kidnapping, Drugs, Grieving Partner, Florida, NYC, Awesome Female Characters!
Rating: Pretty Good
Hard-working NYPD cop Noah Tobin didn’t even want to go on vacation. But it’s been a tough eighteen months since the death of his lover, so he’s determined to make the most of it. On his first night in sunny Florida, a chance encounter with a handsome man in a bar bathroom jumpstarts something in Noah that’s been dormant for all those months. Then the man disappears.
Noah’s vacation is thrown into upheaval because he can’t just let it go when he learns that the mysterious man who turned his life upside down went missing. He volunteers to help with the manhunt for his mystery man, a wealthy restaurateur named Harrison Knowles. But finding Harry is only the beginning of Noah’s hot pursuit.
If I’m correct, this book is Kate McMurray’s first published novel. At least, from her Goodreads info and a quick look. It does list her short “In December My Heart’s Full of Spring” as being released first but, as it is available now for free, I’m not sure if it was ever published or not. Anyway, the whole reason for that is that I always find it rather interesting to go back and read an author’s first published book when they’re more well established. Sometimes you find that you hate it and you don’t really understand how an author ever turned their writing around, and sometimes you find that the quality was always there. I think I found this somewhere in between, which is the best place for it now in retrospect, if you ask me. It means that at least in my opinion, Kate’s writing has gotten better and her stories more interesting and dynamic with practice, showing growth and not a plateau in talent.
So, naturally, that means that while I liked this book and found it an engaging read it didn’t really wow me. But, in knowing that I was going back to read an author’s first book, an author I find myself quite fond of, an interesting thing happened. I biased my own expectations and ended up liking the book more than I thought I would. It’s a bit like when I finally ended up watching the Sixth Sense and thought, huh? I had heard too many praises. Only the opposite was what happened here. And that’s a good thing to happen for me, as the reader 🙂
In part, this is a mystery and a contemporary romance, those two things here being somewhat different. The framework of the story is wrapped up in the mystery, how just after NYPD cop Noah meets a cute guy named Harry in a bar while on vacation in Florida, he sees on the news that Harry has gone missing and is pulled into the investigation as the last man who saw him. But the filling in between that framework is much like a contemporary romance. When Harry comes stumbling out of the forest beat up and running from his captors, the two are reintroduced and Noah is set to bodyguard duty until they can figure out just who was wanting to kill Harry and why. That’s the real meat of the story.
And honestly, I found myself wishing that there were a bit more synergy between those two elements. The story easily moves between action, with the two dodging a hail of bullets to quiet downtime in their safe room at a resort getting to know each other and Noah slowly opening up about his past traumas. The problem for me was that at times these two things seemed to get a bit out of proportion, with those moments together taking precedent and leaving the mystery behind to pick up later. And the problem there is that the story, at times, seemed to lose momentum.
In all, this was a really fun book to read. It’s mostly light and easy to read, but the action kicks it up a notch to make it more exciting. And it’s easily satisfying, ending in a solid, feel-good HEA. It’s not a bad book to take with you on vacation, which I suppose is apropos 😉 And at the very least, if you find yourself a fan of Kate McMurray and having not yet read this book, then it’s always interesting to go back and see where an author started.
Kate’s new book, Save the Date, is out tomorrow along with my review!
Posted by Cole in 4 Pretty Good, 41-75k, Authors M-O, Contemporary, Heat 3 - Sexy & Mild, Mystery, Romance, Sex Freq 3 - Average Story to Sex Tags: Action/Adventure, Awesome Female Characters, Closeted, Cops, Cops/Crime, Drugs, Florida, Grieving Partner, Kate McMurray, Kate McMurray Week!, Kidnapping/Abduction, Loose Id, NYC, On Vacation, The Mob