Title: Venetian Masks
Author: Kim Fielding
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Length: 216 pages
Genre: m/m Contemporary Romance
Heat: 3 – Sexy & Mild
Sex Frequency: 2 – Few and Far Between
Keywords/Tags: Betrayal, HEA, Italy, Mobsters, Vacation
Rating: Really Liked It
Guest Review by Heather C
Jeff Dawkins’s last partner left him with a mortgage he can’t afford and nonrefundable tickets for a month’s vacation in Europe. Despite a reluctance to travel, Jeff decides to go on the trip anyway. After all, he’s already paid for it. He packs a Kindle loaded with gay romance novels and arrives in Venice full of trepidation. There he meets the handsome and charming expat Cleve Prieto, who offers to serve as his tour guide. Jeff has serious misgivings—he wasn’t born yesterday, and something about Cleve doesn’t sit right—but anything is better than wandering the canals alone. With Cleve’s help, Jeff falls in love with Venice and begins to reconcile with his past. For the first time, Jeff finds himself developing strong feelings for someone else. But he can’t be sure who that person is because Cleve’s background remains a mystery embroidered with lies.
Then a dark figure from Cleve’s past appears, and Jeff must choose whether to let Cleve flee alone or to join him on a desperate run through central Europe. Maybe Jeff will finally be able to see behind Cleve’s masks—if he survives the journey.
Nikyta totally tricked me into reading this!
I went into this book completely blind and had no idea what it was about, although I did gather from the title that it might be set in Venice…
Poor plain ol’, boring Jeff. He’s been cheated on and dumped by his boyfriend, forced to sell his house, and now he’s on a plane traveling to Venice to begin his 4 week European vacation…alone. Shortly after arriving in Venice, he catches the eye of “Cleve”, a gorgeous, tattooed, American drifter who offers to play Jeff’s tour guide…for payment. Hmm, that doesn’t sound like a trusty, safe plan to me!
I immediately connected with Jeff. He is pretty much me (if I were a gay man), as we share many of the same neuroses. Plus, we both:
Work in IT
Live an unexciting existence
Have to plan for everything
Have never traveled anywhere alone
Carry our Kindles everywhere we go, although I haven’t maimed anyone with mine…yet
Then Jeff throws his brain out the window and agrees to give Cleve’s offer a try, while I’m screaming “NOOOOOOOOO, he can’t be trusted!!!!!” But Jeff sees Cleve’s sad eyes and decides to overlook all of his lies and half-truths, and squeezes Cleve into his travel budget…there’s just something about the gorgeous man… It truly was about the companionship, although it wasn’t long before it led to some sexy time…Cleve was never paid for sex!
Cleve…no way did I trust him in the beginning! And I don’t think I even liked him at first because of how much I didn’t trust him. Ooooh, but it wasn’t long before he stole my heart…I think I loved him before Jeff even loved him. And even though it was a bit insta-love-ish, I still loved Jeff and Cleve together and was cheering for them the entire time.
Sooooooo, I’m not going to tell anymore about Cleve or give away any spoilers about what happens next, but the lazy vacation romance suddenly turns into a twisted thriller. Huh? Didn’t see that coming. It did get a little outrageous…but who cares? It was fun and sweet and I couldn’t put it down…and that’s all that matters.
Posted by Nikyta in 41-75k, 5 Really Like It, Authors D-F, Contemporary, Heat 3 - Sexy & Mild, Romance, Sex Freq 2 - Few and Far Between Tags: betrayal, Dreamspinner Press, HEA, Italy, Kim Fielding, mobsters, vacation
Title: Italian Ice (Precious Gems #2)
Author: EM Lynley
Length: 92,563 words
Genre: m/m Contemporary Mystery Romance
Heat: 3 – Sexy & Mild
Sex Frequency: 2 – Few and Far Between
Keywords/Tags: Series, Action/Adventure, Italy, Established Relationship, FBI, Undercover, Secrets & Lies, Nasty Exes, HEA
Rating: Pretty Good
**This review contains a few spoilers, Beware!**
In this exciting sequel to Rarer Than Rubies, gay romance author Trent Copeland and former FBI agent Reed Action head to Italy for a Roman holiday. What should be a relaxing and romantic vacation is interrupted when Reed’s not-so-former boss asks for his help with a case. Trent’s shocked to discover in the six months they’ve been living together in LA, Reed hasn’t been completely honest about his “retirement.”
Reed heads for Sicily on the trail of a suspected antiquities-smuggling ring and to find Peter Isett—a former FBI partner he also hasn’t been completely truthful about. Stung by Reed’s dishonesty, Trent questions what else Reed might be hiding. But when he overhears something that tells him Reed’s life is in danger, Trent follows Reed to a remote chain of ancient volcanic islands off Sicily’s northern coast. Soon Trent is caught up in the smugglers’ web, and Reed must decide between his heart and his mission—a decision complicated by his past with Peter. Reed’s position is perilous: unless he can learn to put the past behind him, he risks destroying everything he’s built with Trent.
Italian Ice has been out for a while now, but I had always intended to review it, sadly it just took me a lot longer than I had hoped to get to it with all of my other reviews last year. I reviewed the first book in this series back when I was reviewing at Jessewave, and I really liked that first book. At that time, it was called Thief of Hearts: Tempted in Thailand before it was pulled from Ravenous Romance, re-edited and released from Dreamspinner as Rarer Than Rubies. Still, I remembered it fondly, especially whenever I got in the mood for a classic action/adventure romance. This sequel carries on in that vein in some very similar ways, with only a different setting and a different mystery and adventure, this time in Italy.
Italian Ice begins six months after the end of Rarer Than Rubies. Reed has quit his job with the FBI and moved home with Trent into domestic bliss. Except, things aren’t entirely blissful. Though Trent seems to think things are going well, he doesn’t know how much Reed has kept from him — not only his feelings, but also his involvement with various government agencies. On a trip to Italy, where Trent hopes they’ll spend weeks looking at art and making love, Reed is called in to search for an agent who has gone missing while dealing with a case of mysterious counterfeit artifacts passing through Rome’s auction houses. Reed hastens to do his duty to find his missing comrade, but is he too quick to step back into the life of an undercover agent? Trent isn’t sure, and when he finds out that the missing agent is Peter, Reed’s former partner and lover, his insecurities are multiplied as he’s left alone to tour the country on a lonely vacation he had meant to spend with the man he loves.
But Reed should know that Trent isn’t one to follow orders. He’s headstrong and has a dramatic flair for adventure, and just like in their first adventure in Thailand Trent soon becomes embroiled in the case to an extent that Reed can’t pull him out without causing attention. No matter how much Reed tries to limit Trent’s involvement in the case, as soon as he turns his back he finds Trent surging forward into the breach. But Trent has good reason to become involved — not only does the adventure excite him, but he needs to find out what Reed’s feelings are for Peter once and for all.
Much of the focus of this story is on the mystery, which definitely kept my attention. A few times I wanted to slap Trent for racing into a situation without thinking it through, or any backup or plan, but then that’s sort of the basis of the story and definitely something about Trent that is fundamental to his character and the story, so I can let that slide 🙂 The romance here is really in line with the position of this book (as the second) in the series, even though I’m not sure how long this series will end up being. In the first book, of course, the two get together and fall in love over their adventure. But, the second book is where the relationship is really tested, so quite a bit of this story had Trent and Reed at odds and often separated and working on the mystery with their own devices. Much of that comes from the very beginning of the story when their relationship blows up in an epic fight when Trent learns that Reed is basically choosing his job (and Peter) over him. A lot of that hurt that Trent feels drives him throughout this book. Conversely, Reed is on his own solo mission in this book, trying to figure out what he really wants from life, professionally and romantically, putting much of his old demons to rest. To do that, he’ll have to learn to communicate, which is like learning a whole new language for him. He’s made his life into a web of secrets and lies for so long that it takes him some serious soul searching to figure out what he really wants. All of this could have been rather angsty, but it really wasn’t because any tension that comes from their relationship is offset by the mystery and their need to work together for common purpose.
In all, I found this to be a good read and a very successful sequel. It certainly made me interested to see what will come next for Trent and Reed and I’ve grown fond of them by now. Hopefully, with this uncertain part of their relationship now behind them (this ends with a solid HEA), we can expect somewhat happier stories in the future. And I hope there are several 🙂
Posted by Cole in 4 Pretty Good, 76-100k, Authors J-L, Contemporary, Heat 3 - Sexy & Mild, Mystery, Romance, Sex Freq 2 - Few and Far Between Tags: Action/Adventure, Dreamspinner Press, EM Lynley, Existing Relationship, FBI, HEA, Italy, Nasty Exes, Precious Gems series, Secrets & Lies, Series, Undercover