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Tag Archives: Neil Plakcy

neilplacky_underthewaterfallTitle: 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

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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?

REVIEW

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!


NP_OlivesForTheStranger_coverlgTitle: Olives for the Strangers (Have Body, Will Guard #4)
Author: Neil Plakcy
Publisher: Loose Id
Length: 69,622 words
Genre: m/m Contemporary Mystery Romance
Heat: 4 – Spicy & Smutty
Sex Frequency: 2 – Few and Far Between
Keywords/Tags: Series, Action/Adventure, Established Couple, Bodyguards, Ex-Military, Africa, Middle East
Rating: Pretty Good

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As demonstrators and police spar in the streets of Tunis, bodyguards Aidan and Liam must protect Leila, a young girl whose mother has been taken into police custody. While the threats against her and her activist parents grow, hunky ex-SEAL Liam is stuck in the Tunisian countryside while teacher and novice bodyguard Aidan travels to France on his own with Leila.

Liam must deal with his emotions once separated from his partner, while Aidan struggles to protect Leila and her father from a deadly villian as Liam has taught him. Both men must examine the depths of their love for each other and satisfy themselves that more than just sexual desire keeps them together.

REVIEW

This series was the series that introduced me to Neil Plakcy. I read them two years ago with the release of the third book, Dance with Me Tonight. I was really excited about having another book in this series to read, but I somehow missed it and only remembered it recently.

Liam and Aidan have been together for a while now. After they met in the first book, when Liam mistook Aidan for a client and they set off on an adventure through the Libyan desert, they fell in love and Aidan became Liam’s partner. Since, they’ve guarded many people where they live in Tunis. Olives for the Stranger picks up where those left off, the two living and loving in Tunis and looking for more jobs. The political climate is changing with the protests sweeping across the Middle East, and they’ve come to Tunis. Aidan is nervous that they might have to leave, but Liam never believes that the Tunisian government could fall and them put in a dangerous place.

Things change when the two are asked to investigate a mystery. It isn’t what they do, but providing protection to an olive grove outside the city is what the couple who hires them really wants. They’re a gay couple who are revolutionizing the olive oil exporting from Tunisia, and someone seems to be sabotaging their grove of trees and their whole operation. Liam and Aidan set off to investigate and find that the men have a family connection to a group that is currently protesting the government in Tunis. When a woman in a prominent leadership position in the Muslim organization is killed in Tunis, it all becomes wrapped up into what they’re doing in the grove. They’re taking care of the woman’s daughter, and dealing with their clients at the same time. All the time, the pressure rises as the political climate drastically changes, plunging their safe new life into danger.

I’m not sure if this is the last book in the series or not. By the ending, it could be. There’s more finality in the end of this book than in the previous ones. Of course, I wouldn’t object to another book with Liam and Aidan, this one just wasn’t nearly as exciting as the previous ones. In fact, they’ve sortof felt watered down as each subsequent one came out. That doesn’t mean that I didn’t like them, or that they weren’t good, but it’s just a classic sequel syndrome. It’s possible that if Neil Plakcy decided to inject some life into this series he could with another book. It would be a big change, taking into consideration the ending of this book, but I’d like that. If they carried on as they were, it’s just a little tired.

I think the main reason I felt this way is because there wasn’t much forward growth in their relationship in this book. In previous books I felt as if they were making their way to normal, working on their relationship and making it something long-term and stable. But by this point, they’ve mostly done that. Of course, there are a lot of little bits and pieces they need to work on, every day problems, like hurt feelings, different ideas for the course of their future together, and injecting some new romance into what sometimes has become a too stable relationship.

I needed a bit more romance in this one because I just couldn’t get as excited about the mystery in this book. It’s engaging. I can’t quite pin anything I found wrong with it. But I just wasn’t as excited about it. So I think that fans of these characters will want to read this book, if you haven’t already, simply because you want to know what happens with them. But, it’s probably time, as sad as I am about it, to put this series to rest. Because of my feelings about this book, I went back and re-read (again!) the first book, Three Wrong Turns in the Desert. I still love that one 😉


NP_The_Buchanan_LettersTitle: The Buchanan Letters
Author: Neil Plakcy
Publisher: MLR Press
Length: 75k words
Genre: m/m Contemporary Romance
Heat: 3 – Sexy & Mild
Sex Frequency: 2 – Few and Far Between
Keywords/Tags: College, Coming Out, History, Characters That Should Grovel, Research, Presidents, Awesome Female Sidekicks
Rating: Pretty Good

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Secret letters exposing James Buchanan as our first gay president lead college history professor Jeff Berman to fall in love with disgraced reporter Pascal Montrouge, who can make all his dreams come true—or destroy everything Jeff has worked for.

Jeff Berman, a Pennsylvania history professor, discovers correspondence between President James Buchanan and his male aide, which depicts their sexual and emotional relationship. With the help of handsome Pascal Montrouge, a disgraced reporter hungry to return to the big time, Jeff is swept away by publicity for what he has seen as an academic book, and his dreams of tenure and true love seem to be coming true. But when his life falls apart and his academic life is threatened, Jeff questions whether Pascal has only been using him—and how he can build a new life from the debris of his old one.

REVIEW

I’m a bit fan of Mr. Plakcy, though I really only know his most recent romance work instead of his earlier gay mystery series. His Have Body, Will Guard series is one of my all time favorites and I love to re-read it — it’s a classic gay adventure story. And thought I’ve not read all the shorts, I’ve liked quite a few of his South Beach novels. This novel diverges in some ways from those recent works, but in many ways remains similar. Fans of those books might find this somewhat not to their taste simply because of the romance within, but I found that what I most liked about the novel was Jeff’s own story, which takes the forefront in the plot.

While antiquing with his best friend and co-professor Naomi, 19th Century History professor Jeff Berman stumbles upon a forgotten and secret piece of history — a long lost box of correspondence between President James Buchanan and his aide, Roland Petitjohn. At first, the letters seem benign and frankly boring, concerning matters of state, but with further observation reveal a startling relationship that lasted over twenty years. Though there’s no proof of a homosexual affair, the extremely personal correspondence leads Jeff to make that connection, especially with corroborating evidence that the aide’s Quaker beliefs might have affected Buchanan’s outlook on slavery.

Finding the letters is a historian’s dream, though not only for the historical importance. Jeff hasn’t yet made tenure and is over halfway there until he’s up for review, and his University leans heavily on faculty to research and publish. The long-lost love affair could be his ticket to cushy professorship and the life he’s always wanted to lead. But, researching, writing, and publishing the book don’t mean much — he needs some kind of publicity.

That’s where Pascal Montrouge comes in. Jeff doesn’t know Pascal’s history or disgraced reputation when he first interviews him for the Times-Courier, he only knows that Pascal is sexy, confident and he hasn’t had sex in a very long time. Could Pascal be the man to sweep him off his feet? Pascal is like a thunderstorm that comes in and carries him away into publicity stardom, but is it all glitz and glamour with nothing underneath? And is Jeff just a meal-ticket for Pascal to resurrect his dying career?

If I hadn’t really liked Jeff and his own solitary plotline of research into Buchanan, the politicking of the History department, and his own progression in life, then I would have rated this book even lower. Sadly, the romance in this novel felt lackluster to me. It’s a much more real-to-life romance (in tone and plot) than most, and it isn’t the center of the story, though neither is it shunted to the side very much. Still, I have a very hard time forgiving characters who I’ve felt have made grievous errors and I never really warmed up again to Pascal after he [early on in the story] wrongs Jeff in a bad way. The way the story was handled in response to that choice the author made for Pascal was done in all the right ways. It would have been out of character for Pascal to really grovel as much as would have secretly pleased me, and Plakcy didn’t try to push an overly sweet HEA on us in the end. I have nothing to really criticize about the romantic plot here, with the exception that I just couldn’t see happiness for these guys. The real work on their relationship is left for after the story ends, when they’ll have to slog through and work on Pascal’s problems that made him a dick in the first place, and it’s just one of those things that I won’t believe until I see.

While those problems made this a book that won’t ever be a favorite from Mr. Plakcy’s catalogue for me, I still enjoyed much of the rest of the story. There is actually quite a bit of detail about the story between Buchanan and his aide, even the “original” letters written and interspersed throughout the story. I quite liked seeing Jeff’s historical research and the writing of his book, and even some of the politicking in his department later in the book. Once Jeff’s book takes hold in the media he starts to see the life he’s planned for himself in a new light. His co-workers are somewhat different, the teaching is different. He’s being made into a “gay historian” and he wavers about how he really feels about being pigeonholed that way. I really like character growth stories and though they’re more rare among romance, where the partnership instead tends to be the focus of the growth, I found Jeff’s life quest satisfying. Pascal’s place in his life goes in and out as the story progresses. There are times where he’s not present for large chunks of time, and because of how I never warmed up to them as a couple, I admit I enjoyed those times a bit more. Whenever Jeff would be with Pascal, I could never quite decide that he wasn’t lowering his standards because he wanted to fall in love more than he wanted Pascal.

So, while I enjoyed it, I can’t quite recommend it to all contemporary romance fans. I think most of you would probably dislike Pascal as much as I did and it depends upon you as a reader if you really mind this type of romance, that is less perfect and more suited to real-life relationships. My feelings, however, did nothing to dissuade me from liking this author and I look forward to all of his future work.


NP_Third_NightTitle: Third Night
Author: Neil Plakcy
Publisher: MLR Press
Length: 7k words
Genre: m/m Contemporary Romance
Heat: 2 – Romantic & Tame
Sex Frequency: 2 – Few & Far Between
Keywords/Tags: Short Story, Religion, Hanukkah, Closeted
Rating: So So

Reviewed by Sadonna

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Will Joe’s Hanukkah wish come true—a way to reconcile his belief in the tenets of Orthodox Judaism with his attraction to his friend Yehuda?

Can Joe reconcile his belief in the tenets of Orthodox Judaism with the religion’s disapproval of his sexual orientation? Or will his crush on his friend Yehuda ruin their friendship and leave him ostracized by his community? What will happen on the third night of Hanukkah?

REVIEW

The opening of this story is a Hanukkah party for some young people that are part of an Orthodox congregation in Miami. Yosef (or Joe in the rest of his life) has joined this congregation after moving away from his family and conservative upbringing. He has made a friend, Yehuda, in this congregation that he is very attracted to. He has never told anyone in the congregation about his orientation but he does not lead on the young women of the congregation either. After the party, he becomes Joe again, going home to change and then out to a gay bar. He likes the anonymity of the bar where he can be whoever he wants to be for a night. But he has to be at temple early the next morning, so he ends up going home alone.

Joe has been invited to play basketball with Yehuda and some other guys on Sunday afternoon. After the game, they go back to his apartment to shower and change and have something to eat. There Yehuda does something completely unexpected that both surprises and pleases Joe. Afterwards Joe and Yehuda get into a fairly philosophical discussion about being gay, being orthodox and what behavior is acceptable in a sexual relationship.

I really wanted to like this story more than I did. The premise is so interesting but I felt like the length of the story did not allow for the full development of the characters or the conflict. I liked both of these characters and I would definitely read a longer story about them and their acceptance and expression of their sexuality and lives within the context of their religious beliefs. I really enjoy this writer’s style and I hope that maybe he’ll give us a longer story about these two men.


Title: Waves of Gold and Smoke
Author: Neil Plakcy
Publisher: MLR Press
Length: 31 pages, 8k words
Genre: m/m Contemporary Romance
Heat: 3 – Sexy & Mild
Sex Frequency: 3 – Average Romance to Sex Ratio
Keywords/Tags: Short Story, Kids, Miami/South Beach, HFN
Rating: So So

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Richie and Gabe meet by accident—when one of Richie’s two adopted sons beans Gabe in the head with a soccer ball. There’s an immediate attraction—but Gabe, who’s still a boy at heart, though nearing thirty, is reluctant to take on a ready-made family. That is, until he runs into Richie again and their mutual attraction takes over…

REVIEW

I’m a bit fan of Neil Plakcy’s writing. I first loved his writing when I read the Have Body, Will Guard series and then the South Beach novels and some of the stories set in South Beach. Though not a proper series, this is another story set in South Beach and a lot of the same themes came through — pretty muscular boys, a fair bit of vanity, lots of outdoor time and sun at the beach. Though I did find Gabe a bit shallow at first, I would say that he definitely isn’t the beach muscle boy stereotype that this author has purposely written in the past. In fact, he’s pretty reminiscent of a guy that has still yet to really grow up, but finding he might be on the cusp of that change.

The story is really pretty simple. Gabe meets Richie and his two boys at the beach when one of the kids kicks a soccer ball to his head. Richie apologizes by taking him out for a drink with the boys, then later they get to know each other over a new date. I suppose the biggest problem I had was that I didn’t feel much connection between Gabe and Richie. This might be purposeful, actually, because I feel as if Gabe operates in tunnel vision with a bit of a selfish POV other than typical first date questions and then trying to get in Richie’s pants afterward. Maybe purposeful, because the feel of the narration felt a bit like a vain and selfish young guy, not purposefully, but naturally because of age. So whether that was intentional or not, it still meant that when the story ended I felt like they were hanging onto an HFN by the skin of their fingers. As an encounter-type story, it worked very well, but wondering if they’d be together in a few month’s time? I’m not sure… maybe, but then again, maybe not.

The kids don’t show up much, though they are quite a big part of the story — both in a very big statement about who Richie really is in relation to his asshole ex-boyfriend, and also to show the differences between Richie and Gabe, who has never really pictured himself as a father. So, even though I really like the kids part of these stories and would have loved to have more time with them, I thought their amount of involvement in the story worked well.

In this case I honestly do believe that the story should have been longer and that I would have preferred more. I think that Gabe really became interesting to me once he got to know Richie a little bit and decided that it might be possible that he could envision being a father someday. He’s still quite a long way away from becoming a father himself, but that change from a childlike existence where he has very little responsibilities to becoming a real adult is, I think the most important part of his character, and we never really get to see that.

So, in all, I’d say that this story is just okay for me. Though, I’ll continue to read Mr. Plakcy’s books and stories!