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

Tag Archives: Kate McMurray

PlayingBall_tourbannerWhoohooo, today is the release day for the baseball themed anthology Playing Ball. And in honor of this day, Kate McMurray and I thought we’d get together to discuss our lifelong love of two teams in particular, the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox and some of the moments we remember in this ongoing rivalry.

Kate:
So, I am a lifelong Yankee fan who went to college in Massachusetts and, in fact, dated a Sox fan for almost ten years. (He was one of my favorite people to talk baseball with, even after we broke up, although we were dating when the Sox won the ‘04 World Series, and we had plenty to talk about that season. I almost wanted to root for the Sox to break the Curse of the Bambino—grudging respect and all that—though it was hard after they swept the Yankees in the ALCS. NOT THAT I’M BITTER.)

Anyway, I remember one game I watched with friends in college, and the Sox won and must have clinched something, their spot in the play-offs maybe, and all the baseball fans poured out of the dorms and gathered in the courtyard to cheer and talk about it—these are things we did before social networking, I guess—and, as was inevitable, chants of “Yankees suck!” broke out in the crowd. It didn’t matter that the Yankees hadn’t been anywhere near the game we just watched. (It also didn’t matter that this was the late-90s when the Yankees were AWESOME. Statistically, I mean; I’m not just saying that. I mean: http://bleacherreport.com/articles/201305-were-the-1998-yankees-the-best-team-ever) This is the funny thing about being a Yankee fan. Because there are two pools of baseball fans: Yankee fans and fans who hate the Yankees. No baseball fan has ambivalence about the Yankees. I’ve been to a few Mets games, and there is always at least one guy who whips the crowd into a “Yankees suck!” frenzy, even if the Yankees aren’t there.

Marguerite:
And I’m a lifelong Red Sox fan. Hell, it’s in my blood. When my Grandmaman emigrated to the U.S. she became a huge fan of baseball before she even learned English and settled right down in the heart of Red Sox country. She passed that love down to the rest of us, though my mother takes it to a whole different level. I remember when we were transferred to Ohio when I was seven and I teased my mom about becoming a Cincinnati Reds fans since that was the closest team just to watch her explode. See the Cincinnati Reds had beat the Red Sox in the 1975 World Series and my mother never forgot or forgave them even though we lived in Ohio for seven years. Her best friend came from New York and was a diehard Yankees fan and there were many summer nights where the two of them would watch the games, trying to encourage each others’ kids to switch team loyalties, and hooting/hollering the entire time.

And as for BITTER, I will never forget the 7th Game in the ACLS of 2003. We were sure that this was the year. It seemed like we always thought that this could be the year. But in 2003 it was feverish. The entire clan gathered at my mom’s house for Game 7, kids, grandkids, even the family members who weren’t huge baseball fans. (I cannot believe such a creature actually exists.) My son wasn’t even a year yet, trying to sleep on my lap as we followed each pitch, every damn swing. And when Aaron Boone got that damned home run the living room exploded.

Kate:
I have a good friend who lives in the Boston suburbs, and she and her husband are rabid, fanatical Sox fans. Their home office is completely Boston sports themed, with an entire wall taken up by 2004 World Series memorabilia. I am not making this up. I usually sleep in that room when I visit and it is terrifying. They come down to New York once a year or so for a game and usually invite me to tag along, so all of the Sox at Yankee Stadium games I’ve seen in person have been with them. There was a time when you could get bleacher seats at any Yankee game for 5 bucks, so I saw a few rivalry games that way. This is no longer true—I don’t think you can get even a hot dog for $5 at the new Yankee Stadium, no joke—but I saw some great Sox vs. Yankee games from the noisy bleachers, when people would get rowdy (and get tossed out of the stadium) even after the stadium banned the sale of alcohol to the Bleacher Creatures. (Not that one couldn’t get drunk at one of the many sports bars across the street before the game.)

Marguerite:
Sadly, I have never seen a live game between the Red Sox and Yankees. Being a military brat we were rarely stationed anywhere close to a baseball stadium. Except for the year we lived in New York when sadly I think my parents thought I was too young to enjoy a live baseball game. And now that I’m settled in Maryland most of the games we catch are at Camden Yards. (Another beautiful, old stadium.) And home is the Great North Woods of New Hampshire and nowhere close to Fenway. However, I do get a lot of grief for being a Red Sox fan from my Orioles fan buddies. Speaking of memorabilia, my brother-in-law on my husband’s side of the family is from New York and passed his love for the Yankees down to my niece who is one of the sweetest girls you’ve ever known. She came to my sister’s house for a party and hanging in the garage was a sign proclaiming, “Yankees Suck.” The poor child was shocked down to her toes and I took her aside and told her not to let it get to her. Even if this house was Red Sox territory, she was still welcome and she should wear her cap with pride.

Kate:
But it’s all in good fun. My Sox fan friends and (and my Mets fan friends) and my Yankees fan friends can talk baseball all day long, and it gets heated sometimes, but we joke around about it, too. But the Yankees are one of the greatest sports franchises of all time, and I will not hear arguments to the contrary.

My dad has a tee-shirt that says, “I’m a fan of two teams: the Yankees and whoever is playing the Red Sox.” I think that about sums it up.

Marguerite:
LOL, my sister has almost the exact same T-shirt, only with the opposite sentiment.

Seriously though, I love the rivalry, I love the history between the two teams, and the grudging respect. I love that Fenway played “New York, New York” after 9/11 and New York played “Sweet Caroline” after the Boston Marathon bombing. How many other teams/rivalries have that same kind of vibe?

PlayingBall_334x500Well, that’s our little take on being fans and rivals, though I think we could’ve gone on forever if given the chance. But we channeled our love for baseball into our anthology. Kate McMurray’s story is “One Man to Remember,” a wonderful historic tale set in 1927 New York. The characters are so memorable and she really captures the time period.

It’s 1927, and in New York City Babe Ruth and the Yankee’s unstoppable batting lineup, Murderers’ Row, is all anyone can talk about. Across town, the Giants’ rookie infielder Skip Littlefield racks up hits, creating a streak to rival the Babe’s. Worried his secrets could get out, he avoids the spotlight, but he catches the attention of lauded sports reporter Walter Selby, a notorious dandy whose sexuality is an open secret. Skip reluctantly agrees to an interview, and mutual attraction is sparked. Skip can only hope the more charismatic stars will draw attention away from his romance with Walt. Otherwise, his career and everything he loves is at stake.

My story “Wild Pitch” is about two retired players and best friends who have gone on to coach rival Little League teams in Vermont.

Ruben Martell fell in love with Alan Hartner during their years playing baseball. They stepped over the foul line once, but the encounter left them struggling with heartache and guilt, turning away from each other to focus on their families. Now retired from the majors, they run a batting cage together and coach rival Little League teams as they juggle fatherhood and being single again. Though Ruben has never given up hope that Alan might look at him as more than a friend, Alan seems determined to keep things the way they’ve always been. But long-buried feelings and desires have a way of resurfacing, and Ruben can’t wait forever.

Print link: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=4198
Ebook link: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=4197

To celebrate the release of PLAYING BALL and our blog tour, Shae, Kate, Kerry, and I have put together a pretty awesome giveaway.

Grand prize: A print copy of PLAYING BALL signed by all four authors, a unisex BBQ apron featuring hot athletes from Originals by Lauren, and swag from all four authors.

Runner-up prize: An ebook copy of PLAYING BALL and swag from all four authors.
The giveaway will run from 12AM Central on September 21, 2013 to 12AM Central on October 11, 2013. To give an opportunity for the authors to get together to sign the book and gather swag, the winners will be picked and the prizes shipped after the end of GayRomLit 2013.

But there are some rules:

You must be a resident of Earth, 18 years or older, who lives in a place where the viewing of adult material is legal. By entering the giveaway, you are indicating your agreement to the rules. Winners must provide a physical mailing address to receive their prizes. If a winner does not respond to the prize notification within 48 hours, the prize will be re-awarded.
Good luck!

CLICK HERE TO WIN


WhatThereIsLGTitle: What There Is
Author: Kate McMurray
Publisher: Dreamspinner
Length: 15,318 words
Genre: m/m Contemporary Romance
Heat: 3 – Sexy & Mild
Sex Frequency: 2 – Few and Far Between
Keywords/Tags: Short Story, Sports, Athletes, Baseball, Brooklyn, NYC, Roommates, Jock/Nerd, Food, Coach, Past Injury
Rating: Pretty Good

BLURB

Former professional baseball player Justin Piersol needs a new life after a career-ending injury, and his job as a high school baseball coach isn’t exactly fulfilling. Still, things are looking up: he finds the perfect room in an apartment in Brooklyn with Mark, who writes a popular column on sports statistics.

Mark is nerdy and socially awkward and intensely shy, and he immediately develops a terrible crush on Justin, who barely seems to notice him. As they get to know each other, Justin admits he misses playing baseball, that coaching doesn’t scratch the itch. Mark confesses he thought he’d be married by now, that he wants a serious relationship. So they make a pact: Justin will help Mark find a man, and Mark will help Justin find something he loves more than baseball.

They put their plan into action… and then life gets complicated. Mark meets a nice guy named Dave, and Justin is suddenly crazy with jealousy. Justin realizes he wants to let go of the past and focus on the present, but as Mark and Dave become an item, Justin fears he’s too late.

REVIEW

I’ve been excited about this new story from Kate McMurray ever since she visited the blog in June for Kate McMurray Week. It’s another baseball story and though I first thought that it might be a spinoff/sequel, or in some way related to Out in the Field because the main character Mark works at Sports Net, it seems to have no connection.

The premise is a roommates-to-lovers story, when Justin visits Mark about a listing looking for a roommate to share his Brooklyn apartment. They find that though they’re different in a lot of ways — Mark is painfully shy in front of an outgoing and hunky Justin — they also have some things in common. Justin was once a baseball player, a pitcher for the Brooklyn Cyclones, before an injury forced him off of the field and into a coaching job. Mark works for Sports Net, writing about baseball statistics, but he’s never been an athlete himself no matter how much he enjoys the game. But most of all, Mark is just glad that a normal and sane person came in reply to his listing and actually wants to rent the room, no matter the fact that Justin is so hot it might be impossible for Mark to actually have a conversation with him.

After a little while, when the awkwardness of sharing a home with a stranger starts to abate and the two start to get to know one another, they both start to see that they’re unhappy in their lives. Justin is having a hard time coaching those who he knows will go on to have the career that he always wanted and coaching isn’t giving him the same thrill that playing did. Mark really wants to have a relationship and he confesses to Justin that he doesn’t know if he could ever meet someone because he’s so shy. So, the two decide to help the other out — Justin tells Mark that he’ll help him find a guy and Mark tells Justin that he’ll help him find something he’s passionate about, just as he was playing baseball.

Even though this had less baseball in it than I expected, I really quite enjoyed this story. It probably isn’t going to get rave reviews because it’s a short story and I have a feeling that a lot of readers are going to want more from this couple and feel like this story is too short. I don’t really think that’s true. We aren’t presented with a couple here that has issues they have to work through, together and individually, that will take them a long time to process in order to get their HEA. They’re more of a simple couple that takes a small amount of time and a little nudge to see that they could be good together. And that was fine with me, I finished the story enjoying it for what it was and feeling satisfied.

Fans of Kate McMurray will definitely want to read this story. All of the things that I like about her writing were presented here, like her love of Brooklyn and baseball, and I really liked how the food and cooking classes brought them together (food can definitely do that!). It was a nice story, sweet and light, and enough to tide me over for more of her work to come.


Sorry this post is so long guys! There was just so much I had to tell you! Please, feel free to skip around. I’d be so happy and surprised if anyone actually made it through everything LOL. Even though I can’t link these to send you right to the spot you want in the post (damn WordPress.com), for the sake of laziness, here’s a List of Contents:

Hello to another week!
Last Week’s Reviews
What’s Up This Week
Dominique Frost Visits!
Giveaways
My Birthday Post — Baking Cakes!
Love Has No Boundaries reviews
This Week’s Reviews
Announcements
Laura’s New Blog!
Blog Updates
Coming Soon!
This Week’s Releases I Like
Lou Harper Week! (June 22-28)
Announcement! Next Author Week Profile

Look at all that GORGEOUS hair! -- Found at and Linked To Tam's Tumblr

Look at all that GORGEOUS hair! — Found at and Linked To Tam’s Tumblr

Well, how has everyone been this week? TAR is in a bit of a flux — besides this being a busy month as TAR’s one year anniversary, we’re in the downtime between two big events. Kate McMurray Week went off really well. I really loved reading all of Kate’s books that I hadn’t before and the interview was fun for both of us. She’s a really great lady! Next up is Lou Harper Week, starting on June 22. I’ve read about 75% of her backlist now (much more prepared than I was for Kate’s!) and I’m really enjoying sharing my reviews with you. Lou is a rather new author for me, or at least one of those authors I’ve always known of but still hadn’t read anything by. So many of her books have made me laugh!

Otherwise, not a whole hell of a lot has been going on. Summer has firmly settled in here and we’ve been riding daily highs around the 100 degree mark. It had to come sometime, but the heat is almost unbearable to me. I even get sick when it gets around 100-105 (though we’ve been known to have days up to 115-120!). I get dizzy and sick to my stomach and I start feeling shivery. All are symptoms of heat sickness, if not worse going further into heat stroke.

One of these days I’ll never have to spend a summer in Oklahoma again…

Well, I’ll get to the updates, announcements, and info about this week. I hope everyone has a good one!

This Week’s Wrapup

Here are last week’s reviews:

My Reviews

Fear, Hope and Bread Pudding (Coda #7) by Marie Sexton – Really Liked It
Cairo Curse (Vampire’s Lair #2) by Geoffrey Knight – Pretty Good
Bully for You (2013 DSP Daily Dose) by Catt Ford – Really Liked It
Herbal Remedy by Megan Derr – Pretty Good
Beach Remedy by Sasha L Miller – Pretty Good
Tats of Honor by Vona Logan – Not Feelin’ It
Finding Master Right by LA Witt – Pretty Good

Nikyta’s Reviews

A Shot at Forgiveness (2013 DSP Daily Dose) by Cardeno C – Pretty Good
Running Away from Sunshine (2013 DSP Daily Dose) by Gwynn Marssen – So So
Riding the Board (2013 DSP Daily Dose) by Cate Ashwood – Really Liked It
Outcast by Alex Douglas – Pretty Good

Coming Up This Week – June 16-22

theartoftouchDominique Frost is stopping by on Tuesday the 18th as part of the Big Gay Wedding Tour to talk about her new release (on that day) from Loose Id, The Bitter Rednesses of Love. That is such a great title! **The cover on the left is from a previous novel by this author. Loose Id hasn’t release the cover pic for Bitter… yet.






GR_Say_EverythingGiveaways!

Gina A Rogers was really sweet to offer us an ebook to give away tomorrow with Sadonna’s review of Say Everything. Part of MLR’s Mixtape releases, these stories will take you back in time 🙂 The 80s! Be sure to visit tomorrow to comment for a win of this short story. The offer closes on Friday, June 21, so get in there early so you don’t miss your chance!

Open Giveaways! The giveaway of the two Paranormal Days stories by Megan Derr and Sasha L Miller, Beach Remedy and Herbal Remedy, is open until Tuesday, June 18. And be sure to check out Sasha’s guest post if you missed it — her interesting take on writing vampires 🙂 Comment there to win.


cakebluebdayThursday, June 20th is my birthday 🙂 I have a special post for you that day, which is my recipe for a perfect white cake and it’s what I make for birthdays (including my own!) every year. While I love it just as it is, it is rather a plain cake (though no cake of mine is plain!). Let’s just say that it’s a really good base recipe. It’s my Perfect Cake and you can customize it in a million ways. Trust me, you need this recipe. Because not only is it different from every other white cake I’ve made (in taste, texture, and technique), but you can make it into any cake you want with just a little improvisation and your favorite flavors.


LHNB-ImageAnd last, Saturday is going to be my first “Best of Love Has No Boundaries” review post, where I review a few of my favorites of the stories already posted in the Goodread’s M/M Romance Group’s Love Has No Boundaries event. I’m really looking forward to this, but choosing just a few from the tons of really good stories that have been posted so far is going to be difficult! But.. it’s a challenge I’m totally ready for 😉


Here is what we’re planning to review this week:

deepinthecountparkerGSW_Crocodile_Kevs_Merry-Go-RoundskyrunnersGR_Say_EverythingOutlasttheNightLGSJF_To_The_Other_SideKingsMateLGBornThisWayLGwerecattherearingContactSportLGblackdogbluesDamnedIfYouDo_500x750_0SLAM!72webPlayMeImYoursLGHeartoftheRaceLG

Announcements

The Tipsy Bibliophile pic:screenshotEveryone, please follow The Tipsy Bibliophile! My good friend, Laura (at Goodreads: Lauraadriana), one of the ladies (with Laddie) at The LL’s Word has opened her own/solo WordPress blog. Her reviews are wonderful and her first (of Harper Fox’s new Brothers of the Wild North Sea) as The Tipsy Reader is up 🙂 I guarantee you’ll enjoy her reviews!

She might just poach all of you loyal readers from me 😦

Ha! … loyal readers… :-\


blog_updateIn blog update news: I’m still planning on moving the blog… eventually… if I can ever figure out how to do it and have some time. But, while I’m waiting and figuring all of that out, I’m trying to make TAR’s current home a bit more hospitable.

First up, I’m finishing creating the tabs and drop-down menu at the top of the screen. In particular, I’m first organizing the reviews so that you can browse instead of having to use the search bar to find a past review. Right now, I’ve finished the Author Name page, which you can find through this link, or by hovering over the Reviews link at the top of your page and then clicking on Author Name (the drop down menu if you hover on Author Name gives you a list to search by last names in groups, i.e. “Authors A-C”). The Author Name page gives you a list of all the authors that have been reviewed or guest posted on The Armchair Reader since it’s inception a year ago and links to every post they’re tagged in. It is also alphabetized by their last name first, which I always find is easier, because last names of authors tend to stick in my mind better 🙂

Next up, I’ll be updating the browsing options by publisher, major genres and events.

Coming Soon!

This week’s releases I’m excited about:

BornThisWayLGMountainPreyLGChildrenoftheKnightLGPurposeLGAuPairAffair-The72lgcover6PaintingRainac_the_plain_of_bitter_honey__52261

deadmanrestlessspiritsLou Harper Week is next week (June 22-28)! I’ll be interviewing Lou and reviewing her whole backlist, which has been fun, I tell you. I love her writing. I’m also reviewing her new book, coming out next week (June 25), called Dead Man and the Restless Spirits, about Denton, the secondary character from Spirit Sanguine that has a thing for Gabe and can see ghosts. It’s a good read, so make sure to check it out, regardless whether you have read Spirit Sanguine or not — it stands on it’s own very well.




nor_iron_bars_final

Click the Cover to read this AMAZING book!

And, I’m ready to announce the next author I’ve chosen to profile — Kaje Harper!! Kaje has agreed and offered to participate in an interview. No firm dates have been chosen, but it will most likely be around the turn of August to September, around the time of the projected release of the eagerly awaited fourth Life Lessons book, Learning Curve.


savethedate

Congrats to

Gigi

for winning the copy of the Save the Date by Kate McMurray. I’ve already emailed Gigi, so she should already have received my email, but if not, please email me at armchairreader[dot]coleriann[at]gmail[dot]com so you can get your book. Thanks for playing everyone and thank you all for stopping by and commenting on my interview with Kate McMurray! and all of my posts during Kate McMurray Week!

Buy Link: http://www.loose-id.com/save-the-date.html


walkinthedarkmcmurrayleadusnotindecemberhalloweenhowl

*Click the covers to be taken to the story/purchase info. Further info at the bottom of the post.
**”On the Stoop”, the DSP Halloween Howl story, is currently unavailable.

When I decided to review Kate McMurray’s backlist, I wanted to make sure that I didn’t forget any shorts. And while there aren’t many, when I did start making my list of the books I needed to read and to re-read, I decided that I’d go ahead and just do all of them. There are a very short list of short stories, most of them free. So, at the very least this is a good place for someone unfamiliar with this author to decide if they like her style and writing.

Also, I find it interesting to read short stories written by this author, who is definitely more well known for her novels. Both Kindling Fire for Snow and her newest, Save the Date, are shorter than most (the first at around 20k and the latter at around 33k words), but they aren’t really short stories either, which is a completely different style of writing in some ways. Some authors are terrible at writing shorts but write completely incredible novels, and vice versa. Of course, that’s mostly in the literary genre because short stories are much more valued there, but I always find it interesting to see how an m/m author I like transitions to writing shorts. And even though I’d read quite a few of Kate’s books, I had surprisingly read none of her short stories.

I started with the two that I already had: A Walk in the Dark (part of the 2011 Dreamspinner Advent Calendar) and Lead Us Not (one of the M/M Romance Group’s 2012 Love is Always Write stories). And… I can’t believe it but I loved them both. In fact, I think that this might be where Kate’s background in literature and literary fiction (mostly as a reader, as she said in her interview with me two days ago).

A Walk in the Dark tells the story of Jared’s unrequited love for his best friend and roommate’s boyfriend Brandon. Rex, Jared’s roommate, is a bit of a player, but in the way only best friends can still loves him and sees his good qualities no matter how much he hates seeing the guy he loves being dicked around and very possibly cheated on. I thought that the story did what it really needed to without giving us too much more, which is one of my biggest problems with short stories — when they try to be novels in disguise. The characters came through for me in a real way because of the awkward position they’re in and the story is good for the season, a sweet HEA for Christmas. I give it a Pretty Good.

Lead Us Not was really the surprise for me. I remember seeing the prompt that Kate chose and looking forward to reading the story, but somewhere in there I missed it and haven’t thought much about it since then. The prompt asks for a story about two actors and boyfriends who’ve moved to NYC to pursue their dreams and the temptations they face in order to get to their HEA. The story Kate gave us was simply beautiful, in emotion and in craft. Written in alternating first person between Sam and Jess, they each tell us about their own lives in NYC and how they’ve grown and moved from the naive boyfriends who moved there several years ago, two of them against the world. They recount how their lives have started to diverge and how no matter how much each still loves the other, how much doubt can harm a relationship. The temptations offered are in the form of two other guys, catalysts who seem to be a sounding board for all of their doubts about themselves, each other and their careers, which for both are going in directions they never really expected. The beauty of the story is how Kate shows us such a sweet love story without pulling punches. It’s a much more true to real life story than many sugarcoated fantasies in the romance genre and that gave it a real ring of authenticity that makes their hard-won HEA really worth it. I’ve only given Kate one 5-star review in the past, for Out in the Field, but this is my second. I Loved It. And it’s free!

The remaining two stories are both free stories. “In December My Heart’s Full of Spring” is currently available for download and read here, on Kate’s website. “On the Stoop”, the story that was released in October as part of the Dreamspinner Halloween Howls, is currently unavailable from their website, but is also up for download at Kate’s website.

Both stories are much shorter than the previous two. “On the Stoop” is the story of a recent transplant to NYC from St. Louis, a man who seeing the differences between Halloween celebrations in New York are different from his childhood in the suburbs in the midwest feels that they only reflect how out of place he feels. When he meets a cute guy sitting on his stoop in his neighborhood handing out candy to passing kids, he sits and talks and finally feels like he’s made a friend, or something more that could give him hope that he could call the city home. This was a cute, no-sex story. It’s quite short and doesn’t have a whole lot going on, but I still felt like Adrian was developed well for a story of this length. Because there isn’t a whole lot going on, I couldn’t really love it, though it was a nice read. So this one gets a cute So So 😉

And lastly, “In December My Heart’s Full of Spring” is the story of two men who meet at the top of the Empire State building on a lonely Christmas Eve. Both are at low points in their lives and seeing an old friend who they hadn’t seen in years gives them the energy to get through the night together when they thought they’d have to spend it alone and depressed. That night leads to a bonding between the two of them and eventually, more… I felt similarly about this story as I felt about “On the Stoop”, though where that story had less actual plot, I felt like this story actually had quite a bit going on. If Goodreads is right and this was made available (in whatever form) in 2009, that makes this one of Kate’s first public stories. I could see some of that in the writing. Perhaps the meeting atop the Empire State Building is a bit cliché, but the story quickly moves on and developed two really good characters, which showed me that Kate has a natural talent for writing realistic characters, even if her writing might have improved some over the intervening years. This one gets a So So as well.

For anyone interested, Dreamspinner recently published a free sequel short about Four Corner characters Jake and Adam’s anniversary on the DSP Blog, called “Shortstop.” I talked a bit about it (it’s cute!) in my review of Four Corners the other day. Here’s the link for anyone interested in read it.

Well, sadly that ends Kate McMurray Week 😦 I hope all of you enjoyed taking a tour through her books with me and also enjoyed our interview on Thursday. Remember, comment on the interview before Midnight, Tuesday June 11th for a chance to win a copy of her book, Save the Date!

Next Up: I do the same with Lou Harper the last week of June. I’ll be reviewing her entire backlist and interviewing her as well as talking about her upcoming book, Dead Man and the Restless Spirits, about Denton from Spirit Sanguine, available on June 25th. I hope you’ll join me for that!


KM_TheBoyNextDoor_coverlgTitle: The Boy Next Door
Author: Kate McMurray
Publisher: Loose Id
Length: 61,221 words
Genre: m/m Contemporary Romance
Heat: 3 – Sexy & Mild
Sex Frequency: 3 – Average Sex to Story
Keywords/Tags: Kate McMurray Week!, Re-Reads, Closeted, Coming Out, Second Chances, Childhood Friends, Baseball, Kids, Divorce, Nasty Exes, Small Town America, Neighbors, Caregiver
Rating: So So

BLURB

When Lowell moves back to his hometown to take care of his ailing mother, the last person he expects to see living in the house next door is his childhood friend Jase, grown up now and more attractive than ever. Jase had starred in many of Lowell’s teenage fantasies, but Lowell is convinced Jase is straight. And yet, as they rekindle their friendship, it begins to look like Jase might not be so straight after all.

Jase has problems of his own: his troubled ex-wife has allowed him full custody of their daughter on one condition: he never exposes her to his affairs with other men. The arrangement works just fine until he starts falling for Lowell and a whole new world of possibilities opens up for him. But how can he have a relationship with a man and still keep his daughter?

REVIEW

I tried to read this book once before. It wasn’t too long after I first read Kindling Fire with Snow, which I really liked. And… I couldn’t make it through the book. Ultimately, I DNFed it and went on. I think, though I remember little of the reason now, I didn’t have any real hangups with the book, I just couldn’t get into it. And now that I’ve read all of Kate’s backlist, I was eager to try it again. Chances are I was just not in the mood the first time around. In fact, that’s how it seemed as I started reading this again. By the midway point, though (which is where I stopped the first time), I started to remember the reasons I had a hard time reading it. This time around, it bothered me less. Still, I’d probably say that this is my least favorite book from Kate McMurray.

Lowell moves back to his hometown after the death of his abusive alcoholic father to care for his mother and unknowingly moves into the house next door from his childhood best friend and crush, Jase. They’ve both grown up quite a lot in the intervening years. Lowell, the first out gay student at their high school, flew the nest at the first opportunity for the city, where he created a life for himself at NYU and then as a graphic designer. Jase, the popular baseball jock in high school, followed his sport to college where he met his ex-wife and ultimately fathered a little girl. But Layla was the only kind thing during those years. Jase, calling himself a coward, married Karen even though he knew he was gay and went on to try to live the perfect suburban life. It didn’t work out. They divorced when he came out to her just two years ago from the start of the book. Again, his six year old daughter Layla is the best thing that ever happened to him, but her mother is an absentee parent leaving him with sole custody but a mother who drops into town every few months giving her daughter false hope of a real relationship. And besides her own problems with alcohol, her bouts of outspoken homophobia to Jase are mostly a plea for a return to how things used to be an an unwillingness to move on without blaming everything on Jase.

My real frustration with this book are Jase and Karen. For the most part, I feel like their actions and choices are based in solid history in the story, so I at least understand why they make the choices they do. Still, I have a hard time watching them play out when it seemed to create a bit of extra angst that I had a hard time with. I think mostly, though, I wished there were a better balance in this story between the despair that Jase feels toward just about every area of his life with the hope that I needed to make the story feel not to angsty. I recognize that this is a matter of personal taste, so I have no qualms saying outright that it was just me that had a hard time here. I just couldn’t get close to Jase. Even though I understood that he was willing to sacrifice his happiness for his daughter, there are time where he seems hell bent on sacrificing his own happiness just because of his own guilt (not divorce/broken-family guilt, but like, childhood Catholic guilt) and I didn’t feel like I understood how he was raised enough to make that picture clear for me. This is what made Four Corners work better for me. In that book, the flashbacks give a really accurate portrayal of their childhoods, and I felt like that was missing here. I just couldn’t always justify Jase’s choices and I’d find myself getting angry with him. On the other hand, I felt a love/hate relationship with the character of Karen. Partly I feel like I understood the way she was but then she’d say some things that took it a little over the top for me and I’d realize that I just wasn’t sure if I didn’t know enough about her or if she was still a bit of an archetypical villain. I couldn’t make up my mind.

It’s pretty different reading this, though, on the other side of having read and enjoyed all of Kate’s other work. I can see, especially from this book, where she’s really grown as an author. So, please, take this review as one of the many out there because I know there are readers who really liked this book and where the things that bothered me weren’t even an issue for them.