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
Author: Emily Gould
Publisher: Less Than Three Press
Length: 7,500 words
Genre: m/m Historical Romance
Heat: 3 – Mild & Sexy
Sex Frequency: 2 – Few and Far Between
Keywords/Tags: Short Story, Kiss Me at Midnight collection, X-Dress, New Year’s, Rent Boys, France, 1890s, HFN
Rating: So So
Reviewed by Sadonna
Thomas meant to stay in Montmartre for three months. Somehow three months turned into three long years in a city of sin and vice, a city that has begun to feel more like a trap from which there is no escape—until a man arrives who reminds Thomas of home and the things he meant to do before Montmartre.
Thomas is an Englishman who was on his tour of the continent at the end of the 19th century and got as far as Montmartre. And there he has stayed for three years. His father keeps sending people to try to lure him home periodically, but he is now afraid to leave the place he has become comfortable. He has a Swedish dancing boy who performs at one of the cabarets where Thomas does janitorial work. Most of that money goes to pay for necessities and it seems the rest goes to pay for Eric, the dancing boy. In his rooming house, there also resides Giselle, born John Bailey, who is his connection with being English. She still feels like home to Thomas and he tries in his own way to look out for her.
It’s New Year’s Eve 1899, on the cusp of the new century and Thomas is feeling a bit out of sorts. He visits Eric and asks him to come to a party that evening – well… pays him to come really. Then he runs into an English friend and decides he really needs to clear his head and think about what he wants for the future. When he returns – late – to the party, he meets Rawley, the younger cousin of an acquaintance who has been one of the many messengers from Thomas’s father over the years trying to lure him home. But this time, the messenger doesn’t suggest going back to England and Thomas latches onto this new possibility – a way to move forward and away from Montmartre without sacrificing himself to his father’s wishes.
There were parts of this story I enjoyed – the scene in Montmartre, Giselle and Rawley come to mind. There were also parts I didn’t enjoy – mostly Thomas and his paralysis and Eric, the rentboy. I really think the biggest issue with this story is length. I just needed more to be able to connect with the characters and get a sense of their lives. I would really like to read a story about Rawley and Thomas’s adventures.
Posted by Sadonna in 3 So So, Authors G-I, Heat 3 - Sexy & Mild, Historical, Romance, Sex Freq 2 - Few and Far Between, up to 15k Tags: 1890s, Emily Gould, France, HFN, Kiss Me at Midnight collection, Less Than Three Press, New Years, Rent Boy, Short Story, X-Dress
Title: The Bridge
Author: Hayden Thorne
Publisher: JMS Books
Length: 5,062 words
Genre: gay YA Historical
Heat: 1 – Sweet/None
Sex Frequency: 1 – None
Keywords/Tags: France, rich/poor, Matchmaking, Superstitions
Rating: LOVED IT!
Remy Pépin’s been dealt too many harsh blows in his young life. Orphaned, miserably poor, and subjected to occasional bullying from his employer, Remy’s only source of joy and hope is in a superstition shared by a dear friend, Mathilde Jolicoeur. It’s a superstition involving a lit candle sitting by a window, which Mathilde claims attracts luck. Day after day, Remy lights his candle and waits, convincing himself not to hope for good fortune to come his way — until one snowy evening, when another boy appears at his doorstep, seeking shelter.
Well, this is the story I’ve been waiting for! Since I’ve been reading Hayden’s series of stories published at JMS/Queerteen, I’ve found a reason to enjoy them all. They’ve all had a singular medium to employ the message at it’s heart, whether well-known fantasy devices like a haunted forest (The Haunted Glade) or the playful rendering of a Goethe poem (Erl-King). This story is delivered in a familiar vein, but in a way that I was sure to love — the literary historical. I’m not very well-known with the French Novel, besides studying a big of Proust. I am, however, very familiar with the Russian Novel, which are similar in many ways.
There is something that is almost provincial with this story, in the way that second-hand characters are used as a catalyst for the main characters, thereby becoming the focus of the story themselves. The focus of such a character in this story, yet tempered with the narration of Remy, the object of her meddling, uses this sort of antiquated way of writing to bring what feels like a real setting in past and place to the modern times. Then, adding in the particular bits of stylistic choices (like the abbreviation of a first name), bring the story together, making the attention to the style of writing the most important aspect here, and one that brings a special kind of authenticity to place and time.
For me, who love Russian Literature, this was special even though it is only loosely related in style. But I can see that with this story in particular how much Hayden Thorne cares about what she writes. That is isn’t just the message she has to impart, but the vehicle to depart it. Very well done.
Title: The Water-Irises
Author: Hayden Thorne
Publisher: JMS Books
Length: 7,338 words
Genre: gay YA, Fantasy, Historical
Heat: 1 – Sweet/None
Sex Frequency: 1 – None
Keywords/Tags: Fae, allegory
Rating: Me Like
Hugh LaCaille’s quiet, scholarly life is interrupted one day by a wealthy but obnoxious businessman who hires Hugh as a tutor to his young son. Ignace Fournier is incensed Aubin’s passion for nature and poetry is a threat to his dream of seeing the boy grow up to be just as successful as his father in commerce. When Hugh finally meets Aubin, he realizes there’s a great deal more than what meets the eye as far as the boy’s concerned … particularly his curious and outlandish stories involving a strange kingdom found at the bottom of a pond filled with water-irises. The most alarming claim Aubin makes touches on a special friendship he’s nurtured with the young ruler of that mysterious kingdom. Forced under time pressure to instill discipline into the boy, Hugh grapples with questions he’s never before faced, and he finds himself looking deeper into his heart for difficult answers … and even more difficult choices.
This story, like many others of Hayden Thorne’s, is about the meeting of magic and reality, which come together as a metaphor for the crushing expectations “adult” life can have on youth. Seen from his tutor LaCaille’s point of view, Aubin is a dangerously romantic boy whose flights of fancy of the magical world outside his cottage grow day by day. LaCaille himself is a scientific man — almost devoutly theoretical in the face of the empirical evidence that often surrounds him. He’s fascinated in the world, but in such a way that is severe in it’s restriction. Aubin’s father is a man of commerce, and in both LaCaille and Aubin’s eyes the very nature of all that wrong with the world — baseness and greed. The meeting of these three worlds is the setting, and the lens through with each sees the world is their nature — one romantic, one scientific, and one long past given to basic animal impulse.
What is really the focus, though, is how this setting and microcosm of the world at large is shown to crush Aubin, who day by day under LaCaille’s tutelage and his father’s harsh demands seeks the place that sustains him, the fae-like forest around him. Where it is his haven, the austere cottage lined with a merchant’s tools is the representation of all in the world that is crushing his spirit.
The way this is shown in the story is interesting because even while the subject matter (the magic all around him) is unbelievable to LaCaille, our narrator, the way in which he see’s the relationship between Aubin and his father is uniquely his own and in the end, what helps him to understand Aubin and see the world around him in a new light.
Once again this is also a metaphor for a young gay man, which is barely touched directly in the story, of a world’s expectations that can crush one’s spirit. The fact that LaCaille is an almost completely objective witness to this in the beginning, though surprisingly accepting to change, spins the story into a hopeful tale of triumph over societal expectation.
This was a beautifully told story, just like all of Hayden’s and this one didn’t disappoint. As always, very well done.
Posted by Cole in 5 Really Like It, 6 LOVE IT!, Authors S-U, Fantasy, Heat 1 - Sweet/None, Historical, Romance, Sex Freq 1 - None, up to 15k, YA Tags: allegory, Fae/Elves, France, Hayden Thorne, JMS Books, Matchmaking, Rich/Poor, Short Story, Superstitions