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Tag Archives: Marie Sexton

FearHopeAndBreadPuddingLGTitle: Fear, Hope and Bread Pudding (Strawberries for Dessert #2 / Coda #7)
Author: Marie Sexton
Publisher: Dreamspinner
Length: 40,539 words
Genre: m/m Contemporary Romance
Heat: 3 – Sexy & Mild
Sex Frequency: 2 – Few and Far Between
Keywords/Tags: Series, Established Relationships, Kids, Family, Gay Dads, Gay Marriage, Adoption, On Vacation, Germany, Arizona, Phoenix, Long Awaited!, Favorite Couples!
Rating: Really Liked It

BLURB

Families should grow, not shrink. It’s been on Jon Kechter’s mind since before he tied the knot with his millionaire lover, Cole Fenton. Now hoping to adopt, Jon and Cole search for a mother-to-be willing to let them love her baby, but the interminable wait is wearing on them both.

Jon is close to his father, George, but until Cole, he didn’t have anyone else. Now George is pushing Cole to reconcile with his estranged mother. When the three of them spend Christmas with her in Munich, the results are disastrous. Jon and Cole resolve to stay positive, but no hope exists without a tinge of fear. Jon and Cole can’t help but wonder if their dream of being parents just wasn’t meant to be.

REVIEW

The most awaited book of the year! Well, maybe… probably! And ever since the listing came up on the DSP site I’ve been mourning the fact that I can’t get it in paperback, to complete my set 😦 I guess that means that Marie is going to have to extend the series somehow, because that would be a crime!

Anyway, I was so happy when I got this in my inbox for review. In fact, I knew I was getting it early so I made sure to go back and read Strawberries for Dessert, which would be somewhat fortuitous. For those of you not living under a rock, Fear, Hope and Bread Pudding continues the story of Cole and Jonathan. Let’s do a little recap. We first met Cole in the first book of the Coda series, Promises, as Jared’s past fuck buddy and good friend. He’s fabulously rich and traveling is his career, with a boy in every port shall we say. Jonathan is introduced as Zack’s ex-boyfriend and we meet him on page for the first time in The Letter Z, where the two couples (Matt and Jared, Zack and Angelo) run into Jonathan in Las Vegas while on vacation.

Then, the best book of the series (and it’s definitely not just me that thinks that!) introduced the two men to each other. Jared, playing matchmaker, gave Cole Jonathan’s number which he got in Vegas and Cole called Jonathan to introduce himself and ask him out the next time he was in Phoenix. Strawberries for Dessert shows their very rocky start to a solid relationship as they both deal with the massive changes in their lives: Jonathan’s father and his dead-end job, and Cole’s relationship with his mother and his neuroses about settling down, being enough for one man and being a gypsy spirit tied to one place. In Paris A to Z, all three couples convene in Paris for the wedding of Jonathan and Cole, and we get caught up on each relationship.

Fear, Hope and Bread Pudding starts not too long after their wedding and takes the couple through the next few tumultuous years of their lives. The sequel that we were all waiting for after Cole ended Strawberries… with the secret “I’ve always wanted to be a father”, starts with the two men planning their family. Creating a family is more to the two than just wanting a child to care for. Cole was completely alone in the world before he married Jonathan, estranged from his socialite mother and ungrounded from any real roots. Jonathan always felt immense guilt for taking away his father’s possibility of grandchildren, but mostly he wants to please Cole, who he knows would be an incredible, doting father to any child. With all of Cole’s money at their disposal, they immediately set the adoption process in motion.

Their lawyer lets them know up front that the process can be full of heartbreak and take years to conclude. But Jonathan and Cole don’t really understand what waiting means when they’re perfect applicants and are already decorating their nursery. After months and months the absence of a child and the presence of an empty room start to loom over Cole. His excitement over becoming a father is wrapped up in his need to create stability for himself and in some way make up for the damage in his relationship with his own mother. Jonathan is firmly on Cole’s side. But Jon’s father understands things from a different perspective, and his meddling creates a whole new dynamic in their growing family… if they can finally find someone willing to give them their child.

Sorry, that was way too long!

This sequel surprised me in a number of ways. First, I was always going to love this, just because it’s a story about Cole and Jonathan and shows us where their lives are going after we saw them last. But how Marie wrote their story surprised me in a few ways, foremost with Jon’s father taking a large part of the POV in the middle section of the book. At first I was quite unsure of what she was doing with that, but I grew to love it and understand the perspective that he could offer, even though it took time away from Cole and Jonathan. It was a real gamble, but I felt like it payed off.

I think that if I had not read Strawberries… right before this book that I may not have liked it as much. Part of the problem is that this story is actually quite short and reading the first book with this couple helped me with feeling like I got to spend enough time with them. Make no mistake, though. I’m not saying that this story needed more. There is quite a large progression of time and a quick pace that made this novella feel really full of plot and time with the characters.

So yes, without a doubt I recommend this one. If you haven’t ever read the Coda series, or Strawberries for Dessert (which you could technically read without the other books), then you should run to pick them up. It’s one of my favorite m/m series out there. And this book is a continuation of a story that I already loved.


**Note: this review contains spoiler tags, which are shown only on the bottom of the review and are not included in the book info at the top. If you don’t want to be spoiled, avoid the bottom of the post please!**

neveraheroTitle: Never a Hero (Tucker Springs #5)
Author: Marie Sexton
Publisher: Riptide
Length: 45k words
Genre: m/m Contemporary Romance
Heat: 3 – Sexy & Mild
Sex Frequency: 2 – Few and Far Between
Keywords/Tags: Series, Tucker Springs series, Neighbors, First Times, Veterinarians, Animals, Physical Injuries/Disabilities, Music (Piano), Behavioral Disorders (Social Anxiety), Horrendous Mothers!, Stutters, Awesome Female Characters!, Halloween
Rating: Really Liked It

BLURB

Everyone deserves a hero.

Owen Meade is desperately in need of a hero. Raised by a mother who made him ashamed of his stutter, his sexual orientation, and his congenitally amputated arm, Owen lives like a hermit in his Tucker Springs apartment. But then hunky veterinarian Nick Reynolds moves in downstairs.

Nick is sexy and confident, and makes Owen comfortable with himself in a way nobody ever has. He also introduces Owen to his firecracker of a little sister, who was born with a similar congenital amputation but never let it stand in her way. When she signs the two of them up for piano lessons—and insists that they play together in a recital—Owen can’t find a way to say no. Especially since it gives him a good excuse to spend more time with Nick.

Owen knows he’s falling hard for his neighbor, but every time he gets close, Nick inexplicably pulls away. Battling his mother’s scorn and Nick’s secrets, Owen soon realizes that instead of waiting for a hero, it’s time to be one—for himself and for Nick.

REVIEW

To be honest, I was a bit daunted when I started thinking of writing this review. Not because of the book itself, but because I read this book about two months ago and then didn’t write the review promptly (not a surprise, honestly!). But, in a twist I didn’t expect, but should have, I find that this book comes back to me in detail that books I read two months previously usually never do. And that just shows how much of this book stuck with me. I remember thinking about it for a couple of weeks afterward, and when I consider that I usually hold books that stay with me for a few days in high esteem, then this was a really special read for me. And without doubt, the best book in the Tucker Springs series by far. Admittedly, my feelings about the books in this series so far have been so so; while I liked them all, none of them really stuck with me (a statement I’ve made in past reviews of those books). Enter Never a Hero to make me eat my words…

We first meet Owen sequestered in his dark apartment, the main floor of a split level home in Tucker Springs. He rarely leaves, working at home on his computer and getting his groceries delivered. His life is a pretty depressing one. Raised to be ashamed of his missing arm, the result of a congenital amputation (that’s where the blood supply to a limb is cut off by the amniotic cord in the womb and the fetus is born without a limb or with a partial limb), Owen was further humiliated by his mother’s negativity and verbal abuse as a child to the point where he has extreme social anxiety that goes even beyond his embarrassment over his missing arm and his stutter. Even worse, his mother’s campaign of abuse frequently centered on his obvious homosexuality and her relative displeasure at such a prospect of a gay son. Naturally, as an adult Owen’s life is rather tormented and lonely, and even though his courage stretched far enough to move away from her influence, his mother’s work was done. Owen takes hardly any pleasures in life, and the one he cherishes is soon to end. Owen has fallen in love with his downstair neighbor’s daily piano playing and by proxy, Owen fancies himself in love with the woman himself.

Even worse than the prospect of the absence of his unrequited hetero love, Owen’s new neighbor is a beautiful gay man. Owen could easily resent Nick’s presence — he’s confident, sexy and doesn’t deal with the same sort of social anxieties as Owen (proved by the loads of gay male friends who come to help him move in) — but Nick’s charm and easy going nature seem to deflate Owen’s bubble of derision and longing. As the two get to know each other, Owen starts to find it difficult to pretend that he still wants his old neighbor, the woman, especially when Nick cooks for him (nasty healthy food) and little by little starts to draw Owen out of his shell and out of his apartment. But the best thing about Nick is his reaction to Owen’s missing arm. He doesn’t stare, but he doesn’t ignore it either. He’s comfortable talking about it.

Of course, Nick isn’t perfect. As his self-confidence grows with Nick’s patient encouragement, Owen finds that as much as he needs a hero (and found one), Nick needs one too. He’s full of secrets that he’s extremely persistent to keep and each subsequent intimate step forward in their relationship leads to Nick taking two steps away.

Take one look at the tags for this book, even without knowing what the book is about or having read the blurb, and you’ll be able to tell that the characters in this story deal with a shitload of adversity. It’s enough to pound on the angst button and send me clamoring for the hills! But, once again, Marie Sexton won me over by the charm of her writing. Some writers just have a way of connecting to the reader through their words. Sometimes I like to think of it as if I’m reading the book out loud. Would it sound and feel like I’m telling a story? It doesn’t necessarily require a strong or unique character voice, but the narration immediately takes a spark in you and you’re hooked. I shouldn’t have been surprised… Marie’s words have done this to me before in other books of hers. Nevertheless, I felt as if the charm and honesty in the writing cut through whatever natural angst exists from dealing with characters who have such enormous difficulties.

While the growing relationship between Owen and Nick is central to the story, the real star of the story is Owen and the ongoing catalyst to keep the story moving is really Owen’s personal growth. Like the blurb says, Owen soon realizes that instead of waiting for a hero, it’s time to be one—for himself…. It is important that Owen take the steps to take control of his life himself. I think it’s also important that Owen has a goal other than his own self-worth. I think that having both characters dealing with really heavy issues isn’t only to show that the two much rely on one another in any kind of relationship, but it’s important to motivate Owen, to show that he can help not only himself but Nick as well.

There’s something I found unique to this book in the series that I was really happy to see. You can see in the book that Marie made a decision to incorporate all of the past characters from the books into the story, and not just the ones that are affiliated with her books. I really appreciated this, because the opposite has been true for some of the other books and showing the other characters really helped build a feeling of community in the story. It refreshed all of the connections between the men in a way that wasn’t as apparent before. When I first heard that there was going to be a multi-author series based on interconnected stories set in the same town, I think I got a (perhaps) misconstrued notion of a series that was going to be much more interconnected that it has been thus far, which has been somewhat disappointing to me. This book went quite a way appease that disappointment and I hope that in the future the characters from other books start to pop up here and there, or even better that characters would have a more important part to play in books that aren’t their own. Maybe authors have an unspoken rule not to fuck up other authors pet characters 😉 Maybe not. Maybe this isn’t even in the cards for this series, but I would love to see these authors having a more hands on approach to the other authors’ characters, perhaps even working together to plan character trajectories over each other’s books so that the stories are more integrated. Just my own wish 🙂

The fact that the stories are by and large separate means that though this is a series, you can feel free to enter at any stage and read whichever books take your particular fancy. If that’s the case with you and you haven’t read any of the Tucker Springs books, or even if you’ve read the others, this remains my favorite and as good of a place as any to start reading. You can always go back and read the others if you find yourself interested in the secondary characters in Never a Hero. Definitely Recommended!


Hello again everyone! First of all, sorry I missed a day (due to lack of sleep). I hope you all had a Happy Halloween and furthermore, that those of you in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast are safe tonight. This is the last GRL related post. If you missed any of the recaps earlier this week, here they are: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

This post is completely dedicated to the books I listened to on the way home and the books I read immediately after I got home from Albuquerque. Why, you ask? Well, even though I have gotten way behind on my review schedule due to the preparations before the trip and the trip itself, I really needed some downtime once I got home. I was sick, extremely tired, and you know that I love reviewing new releases. I mean, I wouldn’t do so many of them if I didn’t. But the one thing that I love about GRL is how it infuses me with excitement about our genre again. And talking to authors and being reminded of some of their books you missed and had always meant to read… well that is some of the best reading. I can’t tell you how many gems I still haven’t read and I know they’re there. I have a list of about 150 really popular books that I still haven’t read and I’m lucky if I usually get through 10 of them a year.

So I returned home excited to read a whole plethora of past books that I still hadn’t gotten around to reading and I decided to just take the rest of that week to regroup and read purely for fun. So this is some of what I read last week before I started getting back to the review books. As it stands, two of them were the audio books that were available to take home from GRL, one was one of those books I’d always intended to read, and the last was a purely random self-published book that came to my attention from the author over Twitter. I liked them all, but can you guess which one ends up being the one that blew me away?

Probably, it’s not that difficult!

Now, on to my Mini Reviews of these four books!


Title: Grand Jete (Audiobook)
Author: Diana Copland
Audiobook: read by Jim Bowie, Produced by Audiominx Audiobooks
Publisher: Silver (click here for Blurb and Buy Link)
Length: 34,751 words, 3:38:41 time
Genre: m/m Contemporary Romance
Heat: 3 – Sexy & Mild
Sex Frequency: 3 – Average Story to Sex
Keywords/Tags: Christmas, Ballet, Dancers, Nurses
Rating: So So

This was the first time that I’d ever listened to an audiobook. So, I don’t have any comparison, but I had been worried initially about a few things. First, the narrators’s voice; and second, my ability to pay attention, especially while driving. On the second count, I have a history of zoning out while people are talking. I’m a visual person, and ask any lecture professor I had about me and they’d confirm this while gnashing their teeth. I shouldn’t have been worried, though. If you’ve never heard Jim Bowie speak, the man has a very high, cultured voice with a subtle British lilt that is very smooth. At first, it was a little jarring, but most of that was my getting used to listening to the words in the first place when my own in-my-head narration sound so different. Later, I realized that his accent and particular diction is quite suited to some stories, but maybe not others (more on that in the next review). It worked for me in this story, though some of the voices he did were a little strange, particularly for the women and children.

The story is set just before Christmas in a small Midwestern town, where the narrator Jordan who is an ER nurse, has been dragged to see The Nutcracker, where his little niece is playing a mouse. He’s enthralled by a gorgeous man who dances beautifully, even though he knows nothing about ballet. When he sees him later in the ER and the man doesn’t have anyone to take care of him, his nurturing nature (as well as his sexual one) comes out to make sure the man has the care he needs.

I’m not new to Diana Copland’s writing, but I might have enjoyed this a little more if I had read this before her most recent book, A Reason to Believe, which was better all around. Still, this was the perfect kind of book to listen to on a long drive — it is sweet with no angst and the Christmas setting and the ballet interest were refreshing and light. The book does have a bit of a middle complex, where the beginning skips to the end and unfortunately that made the romance take a giant leap of faith. I wouldn’t call it insta-love, but it’s also a matter of opinion. The plot doesn’t allow for there to be an ending without read, serious and lasting feelings, so the lack of a middle where those things grow bothered me quite a bit.


Title: One More Soldier (Audiobook)
Author: Marie Sexton
Audiobook: read by Jim Bowie, Produced by Audiominx Audiobooks
Publisher: Silver (click here for Blurb and Buy Link)
Length: 14,320 words, 1:27:40 time
Genre: m/m Historical Romance
Heat: 3 – Sexy & Mild
Sex Frequency: 3 – Average Story to Sex
Keywords/Tags: Short Story, Recent Historical, 1960s, 1970s, Coming Out, Vietnam War, May/December, Bittersweet
Rating: Really Like It

This is a story that I’ve been meaning to read for a long time now. It might be one of the first m/m romances to end unhappily, before the whole Bittersweet subgenre came into the community. But for all that the ending is glaringly at me, so obviously, from the moment the story started didn’t mean that I enjoyed it any less. In fact, the lessening of some of the surprise worked to show that the story still had impact but without unduly caused angst.

Told from Will’s point of view, the 28 year old mechanic in a small town in Texas, the short story spans almost a decade while Will watches Bran, the new kid in their apartment complex who just won’t leave him alone, grow up before his eyes. Bran is everything that Will wasn’t at his age, smart with opportunities. When Bran leaves to work the Texas ranches out of town, he changes. The man that returns is completely new and totally enthralling to Will, who has kept his day to day life completely separate from his gay lifestyle. Their relationship has to change with the feelings between them and there might not be much time for that to happen.

The beauty of this story is that it shows, without pomp and grandiose romance, how loving and being loved in return can change another person. The line, “one more soldier” refers to the street soldiers fighting at home in the US for gay equality, mirrored by the very real battles across the world that have lost the respect of the masses propagating the changing cultural climate. I was most impressed by the small details that snuck into the story that evoked the time period so well.

I had a difficult time driving while listening to this one — I should have known! I knew it would be sad, and in a way listening to it helped me instead of reading it. It’s like, I’m so used to avoiding angst or unhappiness in my romances now that to listen to it made it easier to deal with. Plus, it was only really one part of the story. Here is where I did have some problems with Jim Bowie’s voice. Where it worked well with the past book, not so much here. The voice of Will as he recounts this story seemed so different from Jim’s voice that it clashed for me. While I think he does a pretty good job on his own, and his voice is certainly dreamy, sometimes that isn’t what I have in mind for the character, you know? So I wish there were more diversity in readers, but then I’m sure it could have been a lot worse too! I’ll try not to be too picky.**

The time period, the length of the story, and the fact that it is told in past tense, lend the story to a certain recollection type narrative, heavy on style and voice that immediate sets the mood for melodrama. And I mean that in the best sense of that word.

**My Thoughts on Audiobooks: I’m intrigued by them now, and I liked my experience listening to these two. I’m considering getting a couple other books (that I’ve already read) to keep and read when I want to knit or just relax and spend a slow….. time getting through a book. I’m thinking of getting ZAM’s book Notturno in audiobook because I know Jim also read for that one and I think his voice might go well with vampire stories 🙂


Title: Tinseltown
Author: Barry Brennessel
Publisher: MLR (click here for Blurb and Buy Link)
Length: 70k words
Genre: m/m Contemporary Romance, Gay Fiction
Heat: 2 – Romantic & Tame
Sex Frequency: 2 – Few and Far Between
Keywords/Tags: College, Film, Coming of Age
Rating: LOVED it!

I have meant to read this story since its release in the summer of 2011. In fact, I had told Barry in New Orleans that I’d read it and review it for it and I just never got around to it. Well, it must have been the universe telling me to get on with it, because I won the book in paperback along with some other books and prizes at the Comedy Hour event at GRL. And I knew that now that I had it in paperback, I really wanted to read it as soon as possible. So as I went through my massive bag of paperbacks I brought home, I picked it out first and started to read it. I was enthralled, immediately, into the story and voice of Micah, who things just never seem to go right for.

This is a difficult story to summarize. At it’s heart, it is the story of Micah Malone — in many ways typical gay young man, but also with a (somewhat/at times) atypical storyline. Micah tends to be quite melodramatic and campy, but that’s what you gotta love about him. He has a very original voice and his film and TV obsession is shown through obscure references throughout the story. The book is very voice and narrative focused, which in Micah’s life is all screenplay based, so we’re first introduced to him and his circle of friends with a Dramatis Personae. The story follows Micah has he trudges through life at a young age — college, friendships, sex and relationships. The focus isn’t romance, though some does come into the story in the last half, but instead Micah himself, that that is what made the novel so successful for me. Not only does the format of the writing echo his personality so perfectly (untraditional, and often like a screenplay), but it isn’t tied to the typical romance “rules”. It threw me a curveball or two, and I loved that.

This book made me a fan of Barry Brennessel for life, even though I’ve read a few of this other things. No matter if the next three things I read of his I don’t like, I’ll always take a chance and read something he’s written, because he proved to me with Tinseltown that he is a phenomenal author. Also, quite a funny one. This book had me doubled over laughing. I’d recommend this to anyone, as long as you know not to expect romance right away.


Title: How to Repair a Mechanical Heart
Author: JC Lillis
Publisher: Self Published (click here for Blurb and Buy Link)
Length: 255 pages, approx. 72k words
Genre: m/m Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Heat: 2 – Romantic & Tame
Sex Frequency: 1 – Sweet/None (Fade to Black)
Keywords/Tags: All Time Favorites!, Nerds/Geeks, Closeted/Coming Out, Fandom (Shipping, Cons), Friends to Lovers, Road Trip
Rating: LOVED it!

From all that I can find, JC Lillis is a brand new author, and if this book is any idea of the quality of work that she’ll produce in the future, I’m a fan for life. Rarely have I ever picked up a book I knew nothing about and loved it quite so much, even waiting almost two whole weeks to write a review of it. I first heard about this book when I saw it on JC Lillis’ twitter page and enjoyed the artwork on the cover — that’s what drew me in. The blurb only made me more intrigued.

And you should be — this young adult novel follows Brandon (along with his friends Abel and Bec during the whole summer after high school) across the US as they visit the series of five Castie-Cons for their favorite show, Starship Planet. Bran and Abel are super-fans (like SUPER.FANS) who first met online and bonded over their obsession, and later became co-vloggers, devoted to the show. Abel loves Captain Cadmus and Bran loves Sim, something which they argue about endlessly! But the one thing they can agree on is their mutual hatred of the “Cadsim” shippers and their rival blog that is devoted to the fanfiction written about the relationship between the show’s two stars, Cadmus and Sim. Why, WHY? does everyone assume that they’re secretly gay and together — Bran and Abel are convinced that some people just can’t accept that not everyone is really gay and they’re fed up with the shippers who think they are.

So, as their road trip summer approaches, they make a bet. At each con they’ll ask the question: Do you think Cadmus and Sim are secretly getting it on? to each visiting star of the cast during Q&A, and if any of them answer in the affirmative, Bran and Abel will act out one of their fanfic scenes and post it online. If they’re right, and the cast obviously thinks nothing happens between the characters, then the creators of the rival blog will have to sign a document bowing to the awesomeness of Bran and Abel and admit that the two characters would never work together. It’s a fool’s bet, or so they think. But surprises on the road change the game for both of them.

Okay, so, that sounds super awesome, right? First of all, they’re total geeks, which I love. Also, the blurb is written so well and it is so witty, that I was hoping it would bode well for the novel itself. And I honestly had no complains — none — about the story at all. In fact, I’m making myself wait a whole month before reading it again. The beauty of the story is the relationship between Bran and Able. Able is the gregarious and sometimes flamboyant of the pair, with lots of sexual misadventures and a style all his own (I loved seeing what he wore from each truck stop they made!). Bran is different, in many ways because of the internet (I’m getting there…). Raised in a devout family, Bran’s recent years have been difficult in a family built on secrets and repression. His family loves him, but they also believe he’s made a bad choice, not by coming out, but by being gay in the first place. He’s continually harassed by their pastor, who always seems to want to have a chat with him. The internet and his heavy presence there, is like a shining beacon for him to represent the best of himself. And.. you can see where this is going… that is how lies are started. At the start of this trip, Bran has found himself in a place where everyone who knows him (save Bec, who he knows from childhood) thinks he’s someone completely different than he really is. And of all these people, the ones he’s afraid of finding out the truth the most is Abel. Keeping the secrets and using convenient lies like a horrible ex to say why he isn’t dating, are easy online and seeing Abel once or twice a month, but together 24/7? It’s going to be hard.

Add in a new, ultra-secret group intent on exposing their lives online makes Bran even more paranoid as they stop in each city, putting Bran and Abel at odds and their friendship is put to a severe test when almost nothing turns out to be what they expected.

That might be the LONGEST summary I’ve ever written! But, there’s just so much about this book, and so many different threads weaved throughout. It is really masterfully written with a real flare for voice and style and a huge dose of vulnerability and appropriate teenaged angst. There’s nothing I hate more than a whiny teenager, and I was so happy that this author didn’t fall into that trap. Bran’s issues are extremely real and sometimes quite heavy. The writing is so centered in who he is that it’s like a part of him with no separation, like his real feelings come across without filter. So, it affected me, quite a lot. He’s really pretty messed up, and in an identifiable way to most people who will probably read this.

Another thing that made this novel a pure pleasure to read was the humor. It is so freaking hilarious that I almost couldn’t take it at times. I had so many different quotes and notes on this book in my Kindle, probably more than any book previously, because some of the lines are so funny that I couldn’t bear not to mark them and then chat with my reading buddies (Laura and Tina, also in love with this book!). I wish I could share some of them, but I lost them all with my brand new Kindle a few days ago. Anyway, I’ll just have to read this again and make another post with quotes or something, because the amount of one-liners you could take from this book astounds me 🙂

I left this book till last in my reviews because it is the best. And that is saying a lot up against a book like Tinseltown. But, even though I loved both and they both were similar in some ways, like the TV trivia-spouting characters and the unique voice and style, for me this book won out simply because it was such a pure pleasure to read. At times it was emotionally wrenching, something I have a particularly hard time reading if I’m expecting it, but I’ve still thought about this book at least once a day even so long after finishing it.

And it is only $2.99. Seriously! I kid you not. It’s a steal — and I would have paid three times the price for it and still felt it was worth every penny. I have a feeling that this will be my #1 most pimped out book this year, something I might have been comfortable with if I had read it in March instead of October. So please, do yourself a favor and go buy it. Then, spend this weekend getting to know the two cutest, funniest, and most lovable geeks in print. You’ll be happy you did — I promise!


Title: Second Hand
Author: Heidi Cullinan & Marie Sexton
Publisher: Riptide
Length: 50k words
Genre: m/m Contemporary Romance
Heat: 3 – Sexy & Mild
Sex Frequency: 3 – Average Story to Sex Ration (all towards the end)
Keywords/Tags: HEA, Animals, GFY (technically OFY), Coming Out, Diverse Pairing, Latino, Nasty Exes, Adorable!
Rating: Really Liked It

BLURB

Paul Hannon moved to Tucker Springs for his girlfriend, but she’s left him with a house he can’t afford and a pantry full of useless gadgets. All Paul wants is to get back to normal, even if he’s not sure what that is anymore. When he wanders into Tucker Pawn for a gift to win her back, he meets El Rozal, pawn shop owner and all-around cynic.

El Rozal doesn’t do relationships, especially not with clueless straight boys still pining for their ex. El may make his living dealing in castoffs, but that doesn’t apply to men. Still, when Paul starts clearing out his old life, pawning kitchen equipment he never wanted in the first place, El is drawn to Paul in spite of himself.

Paul and El have nothing in common except a past full of disappointments. There’s no reason to believe the two of them could fit, but in El’s line of work, one man’s junk is another man’s treasure. When it comes to love, El and Paul may learn that secondhand doesn’t mean second best.

REVIEW

This is the second book in the Tucker Springs series, all set in the same town but with different, barely related, characters and written with different authors. The first book, Where Nerves End by LA Witt, was only okay for me. This one really excels and a lot of you will really love it, I know that without a doubt.

Paul is a mess. His girlfriend of seven years and fiancee has left him for another man and he’ll do anything to get her back. He’s looking for a gift for her in the only place he can afford one (a pawnshop) when he meets El, the owner and all around cool guy with his feet propped up and smoking a cigarette. When Paul is forced to return Stacey’s gift the next day, El takes him out for drinks.

Their connection is immediate. While El is certain to deny the possibility of happiness, both in the world and his own life, Paul is finding old feelings for men returning. What was the real reason he was with Stacey? Because it was right, or easy?

Paul and El are the absolute winners with this story. It wouldn’t be a story at all without them — there isn’t really anything more here than their friendship and later relationship. Their personalities are so different, yet harmonious right from their first meeting. They each have a lot of issues to work through and though some of them are quiet heavy I never felt as if they were overwhelming. Paul, of course, has never really had to face his own fundamental character head on. He’s clueless about everything in his life, and he’s clueless that he’s clueless. Meeting Stacey so young and breezing through life comfortably meant that he never had to consider whether he was truly happy or only content. Never having to make choices combined with a deep seated self esteem issue (because no one could really want him) makes it safer to leave his curiosity smothered. When Stacey takes away the comfort, Paul flounders, unable to see any other way of living if it isn’t to constantly curry Stacey’s favor.

El is a different puzzle. He’s convinced that there’s no such thing as real happiness for anyone, so why try to look for it himself. He isn’t maudlin about it, he simply accepts it as a fact of life, telling himself that he’s a realist and is happier for never searching for an elusive prize that only ends in heartbreak. This is highlighted very well by his family troubles. He’s portrayed as having a typical loud and obnoxious Latin family, but the focus is shifted to his mother’s hoarding problem. This allowed his family to be real instead of stereotypical, and by showing the role that El plays (stern mediator) that while he loves his family he’s constantly seeking to separate himself from them. After all, his sister is constantly dating a new man who screws her over and his mother seems to care for her possessions as living things. They are attachments to disappointment and superficiality, and even while El rants against them, his lonely life and his later actions to court Paul’s favor (a straight man), betray those feelings as falsehoods — a smokescreen for fear of disappointment. I wondered where this came from. We never hear of a failed relationship in his past that might have made El so jaded, so I could only assume that his feelings have grown in response to his family.

There is so much to recommend about this story and like I said earlier, this short novel is going to be a hit with most readers. I sometimes have a hard time getting into contemporary unless I’m not in the mood for any other genre. I didn’t have that problem here because the writing was so superb and kept me interested from the beginning. I can only hope that Heidi and Marie continue to write together. Both of these authors are wonderful, to which their numerous fans will attest, but together their strengths compensated for the other’s weaknesses.

I’m still not entirely sure what draws this series together. Obviously, the town of Tucker Springs which is the name of the series. Aside from that, I haven’t noticed any overall thematic connections — though perhaps I will have to wait for further installments. Definitely Recommended!