Title: Left on St. Truth-be-Well
Author: Amy Lane
Length: 37,924 words
Genre: m/m Contemporary Romance
Heat: 4 – Spicy & Smutty
Sex Frequency: 2 – Few and Far Between
Keywords/Tags: Mystery, Funny Guys, Comedians, Chicago, Florida, Surfer Guys, Mob, Light & Sweet, Sexy to the 999999s!!!
Rating: Really Liked It
Carson O’Shaughnessy has one task: track down his boss’s flighty nephew, Stassy, and return the kid to Chicago. Then Carson can go back to waiting tables and being productively bitter about his life. He didn’t count on finding a dead body in Stassy’s bed, and he certainly didn’t count on the guy in the flip-flops and cutoffs at the local café helping him get to the bottom of the crime.
But Dale Arden is no ordinary surfing burnout—he’s actually a pretty sharp guy with a seductive voice and a bossy streak wider than the Florida panhandle. When he decides to boss Carson right into his bed, Carson realizes Stassy’s not the only one who’s been lost. Carson likes to think he’s got his life all figured out, that sex with guys is your basic broom-closet transaction; he may just have to revise his priorities, because nobody plans on taking a left at St. Truth-be-Well and finding love at the Bates Parrot Hotel.
I won’t be the first to rave about how I love Amy Lane (and her books too), but I really, really love when she comes out with a lighter story between all those angsty ones. I’m trying to work my way back into reading all of those (the Johnnies books scare me), but I think that the fluffy and sweet ones will always be my favorites — at the moment that crowning achievement goes to the Knitting series books, which I gleefully reviewed last year.
This novella is a bit along those lines. While not really fluffy, they’re definitely light and sweet compared to some of her other work. Carson fucked up. He hasn’t had sex in months and his boss’ nephew Stassy has been giving him all kinds of come-ons at the restaurant. So when Stassy follows Carson into a pantry closet in the kitchen and then promptly flees, a look of upset confusion on his face after a full body kiss from Carson, Carson feels like a douche. Obviously the kid is gay, but it seems like he isn’t quite sure about it. And Carson thought he was finally going to get some action in his dry spell, even if the small and cute Stassy isn’t quite his type. He might have been able to put the whole incident out of his head if Stassy hadn’t run away to Florida the next day. It’s been two weeks and the boss wants Carson to drive down to Florida and bring the kid back home. He doesn’t have much of a choice — the boss is worried about Stassy — but it isn’t just that the boss of his restaurant is another kind of Boss in Chicago, but that of all things, Carson feels guilty that kid ran away right after he kissed him. Doesn’t seem like a coincidence.
The biggest surprise of all awaits Carson when he reaches the small beach town in Florida where Stassy is holed up. The Bates Parrot Motel turns out to be just like it sounds, which isn’t much comfort. The place is so run down it looks like it’s growing it’s own species of serial killer. Parrots in crusty, shit-lined cages squawk over his hearing of the undead looking lady at the reception desk. Though his boss is paying for the room, not even the prospect of getting to Stassy quickly can quell his fear of staying in this place for the night. A tour of the place shows everything from mold to insects to dried jizz, or whatever that mystery stain is. The Motel 8 across the street looks much comfier.
It isn’t until the next morning that Carson prepares to visit Stassy and load him up to drive back home. A breakfast at the diner across the road turns up a killer plate of fried heart attack and a heaping dose of too-cute waiter. Flip-flops, cutoffs, and a charming smile continually come back to his table to chat him up. An equal opportunity Carson wouldn’t have a problem taking Dale the waiter back to his room for the afternoon, it’s only the women he seems to want to settle down with, but the disarming smile and quick wit soon have Carson spilling way more info than he intended. Before he realizes it, Carson has company on his trek across the road to the Bates Parrot Motel to find their runaway. Unfortunately, what they find in the room isn’t Dimpled Blondie, but dead body covered in lye.
It looks like some major trouble for Stassy. Carson knows his task has changed — now he has to take care of the kid too, and by extension the kid’s new boyfriend — and it looks like it won’t be difficult to surpass the small town police in the intelligence and sleuthing departments. Dale is along for the ride, wanting to help his friend (Stassy’s new boyfriend) and using the time to get to know Carson better. It doesn’t take a whole lot of time to see how good they are together. They’re both men who have small town dreams and are more content to enjoy today than plan tomorrow’s.
Every now and then Amy Lane pulls a page out of Mary Calmes’ book and really gives the language and rhythm of her book a makeover. The beauty of this one is all in the words, thick in Carson’s voice and then shared by Dale in their rapid-fire dialogue. That, and Carson’s humor (though he often fails in comparison to Dale’s), are what originally bring these two characters together. Yes, they’re working together to solve a mystery, but it’s largely on the back burner for most of the book. The time they spend together is mostly them driving around, eating and talking and getting to know each other. And I found their conversations completely charming.
Speaking of the mystery, I thought that it wasn’t really the focus of the book. For the largest part of the book they aren’t actively working on it. Instead, it’s used as a device to bring them together and keep them together while they find out enough about each other to want to stay together. So, in some ways, the mystery failed for me. Or, perhaps I shouldn’t use the word fail, since that would imply that the mystery was the focus of the book. Rather, I found the mystery a bit anticlimactic. It was really funny, in it’s own way 😉 but it wasn’t what held my attention about this book.
Amy Lane fans will want to snatch this one up, of course, if they haven’t already. It’s short and funny and charming, so you can’t really go wrong. Carson’s voice might be somewhat difficult for some readers to get into, but that probably depends on how you usually feel about strong voices. As for me, I love them. And I continue to love Amy Lane 🙂
Posted by Cole in 16-40k, 5 Really Like It, Authors J-L, Contemporary, Heat 4 - Spicy & Smutty, Romance, Sex Freq 2 - Few and Far Between Tags: Amy Lane, Chicago, Comedy, Dreamspinner Press, Florida, Funny Guys, Light & Sweet, Mystery, Sexy to the 999's, Surfer Dudes, The Mob
Title: Sweet Young Thang (Theta Alpha Gamma #3)
Author: Anne Tenino
Length: 108,400 words
Genre: m/m Contemporary Romance
Heat: 5 – Off the Charts!
Sex Frequency: 4 – Very Often
Keywords/Tags: Series, College, Fraternities/Frat Boys, May/December, Firefighter Paramedic, Family Issues, Closeted, Coming Out, Sexy to the 9999999s!, Past Couples’ Cameo, Mystery, Homophobia
Rating: LOVED It!
When Plan A fails, turn to Man A.
Thanks to Collin Montes, Theta Alpha Gamma now welcomes gay and bisexual students. Persuading his Uncle Monty, president of the TAG Alumni Association, that the open approach won’t adversely affect TAG’s reputation is Collin’s own first step toward coming out. As long as there are no repercussions, he’ll escape the closet by graduation.
Enter repercussions, stage left: someone rigs the TAG House water heater to launch through the ceiling, then plants a bomb—thankfully unsuccessful—in the fraternity’s basement. Now Collin has his hands full not only trying to convince his uncle that this might not be the work of homophobes, but also dealing with a fratful of brothers worried about their kegger fridge.
Paramedic Eric Dixon can’t stop thinking about the kid he met during a call at his former college fraternity house. The age gap between them is trumped by sexy eyes, so when Eric sees Collin again at the bomb scene, he pursues him. Soon, Eric is dreaming of being a househusband, fighting to keep Collin safe from whoever’s trying to destroy the fraternity, and helping his sweet young thang realize that repercussions sometimes have silver linings.
Well, Anne, you’ve made me do it again. Every time I pick up one of your (long-awaited) books I find myself even more in love than before. I think this time around I really fell in love with this book, simply because it had so many different qualities to love and pinged on so many different emotions from so many different characters. And, it was touching. Anne takes us satisfactorily deep into Collin and then allows us to experience the moments of clarity and insight as he feels them and deals with them.
In this third installment of the Theta Alpha Gamma series, we head back once again to the fraternity that first saw an open gay student with Brad in Frat Boy and Toppy. We meet Collin briefly (if I can remember correctly) as Brad’s friend who gives him a pretty big failure of a blowjob, one that acts as somewhat of a catalyst in Brad and Sebastian’s relationship.
In Sweet Young Thang we see that experience from Collin’s perspective. He is…/was? Brad’s best friend but not out himself. He did a pretty good job of pretending to be straight before that, but now he has a good circle of friends at the college that are all gay men. He’s the Alumni Liaison for TAG, a position secured for him by his Uncle Monty, the President of the Alumni Association with a heavy hand in current TAG politics — the biggest of which is the recent change in policy that says that Theta Alpha Gamma now accepts gay students. Of course, it always did, but it was more of a Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell kind of situation. Brad changed all that. Collin convinced his Uncle Monty to support him in his lobbying to change the policy and in return promises him that there will be no repercussions from those who might be unhappy about the change.
All of that is blown out of the water when someone plants a bomb and sets the TAG house on fire. A frat brother is injured and the house is totally a lost cause. And Uncle Monty starts putting on the pressure to change the policy back. But part of Collin’s reasons for lobbying the change so hard were to see his Uncle’s reactions in the first place. His whole life has been planned out by his uncle, his prep school, college, classes and degree, including his position in the family olive oil import business after graduation. It isn’t until he meets sexy paramedic Eric (who has his own secret history with Uncle Monty), an alum of TAG himself in the bomb fiasco that Collin starts to feel like he finally has someone in his corner. But their relationship is picking up quick and heavy and the pressure from all directions in his life is starting to get to Collin.
This is quite a long novel, but it really doesn’t seem like it because it’s really jam packed with action and a super quick pace. The only real downtime in the story are the times alone with Collin and Eric, which thankfully are a fair few. Normally, I would probably prefer the story to be less sex heavy and more plot-centric, but Anne Tenino knows how to write sex and intimacy together, while keeping the relationship moving forward and the sex important to plot. And that’s all while making it some of the hottest sex I’ve read this year! Whew, Eric and Collin have a serious connection from the moment they meet and it really shows throughout the book, slowly translating from lust into something real. Even though it’s made known several times throughout the book how fast their relationship is moving (a week total over the whole book) this NEVER felt like insta-love. It isn’t about the overall time that the couple has in getting to know one another, but about how they spend that time. Eric and Collin go through a lot together and each step along the way they communicate those changes between them, so that you can see them growing together.
All i can really do is urge you to read this book yourself. I know that this book will have a fair few amount of fans excited to read it already, because of the popularity of the series previously. But all I can really say is that I feel like this series gets better and better with each book, and while your preferences for the plot of each will change how you feel about each book (they’re all fairly different), I think that Anne’s writing has grown in leaps and bounds since Frat Boy…. There are so many great things about this book, a kick ass opening chapter which really introduces us to Eric well and some absolutely pure hilarity from the frat boys:
This moment between Collin and Eric pulled it all together for me:
Collin felt as if Eric had just dropped his full weight on his chest, denting in his ribcage and making it harder for his lungs to expand.
Eric kissed his other palm.
“Shit. Maybe. Why would I feel ashamed?”
“I don’t know. For not being what your — what people wanted you to be.”
Oh God, now he felt nauseous. “That’s so unfair.”
Eric smiled sadly. “It’s unfair that you felt that way?”
Collin swallowed, nodding…
I admit I did wonder a few times if Collin ever went to class! Of course, that doesn’t matter, but it does illustrate the enormous pressure I felt for him. Collin has everything bombarding him at once with enormous pressure on him to hold the weight, to deal with it, to figure it out for everyone else. I really felt for him. And it made his time with Eric and their marathon sex chapters not just an expected byproduct of a romance novel, but needed as de-stressing time for him.
So, yes, I definitely recommend this one. I know a lot of you will be reading it anyway, so I’d love to know what you think. Please leave me comments!
Posted by Cole in 101-125k, 6 LOVE IT!, Authors S-U, Contemporary, Heat 5 - Off the Charts!, Romance, Sex Freq 4 - Very Often Tags: Anne Tenino, Closeted, College, Coming Out, Family Issues, Frat Boys, Homophobia, May/December, Mystery, Paramedics, Past Couples' Cameo, Riptide Publishing, Series, Sexy to the 999's, Theta Alpha Gamma
Title: Blood Bathory: Like the Night
Author: Ari McKay
Length: 123,500 words
Genre: m/m Contemporary Paranormal Romance
Heat: 4 – Spicy & Smutty
Sex Frequency: 2 – Few and Far Between
Keywords/Tags: Series, Co-Authored, Vampires, Shifters, On the Lam, Past Trauma/Abuse, Cops (FBI), Friends to Lovers, Best Friends, NYC, Paris, Artists (Photographer), Grief, Second Chances, Sexy to the 999s, Machiavellian Bad Guy, Villain, Mythology
Rating: Really Liked It
Evan St. John, a young fashion photographer running from the pain caused by the death of his younger sister, is thrilled when he is offered a job with House of Nadasdy, a leading fashion house in Paris. What he doesn’t know is that Elizabeth Nadasdy, the elegant and powerful owner, is a centuries-old vampire with a penchant for collecting beautiful people. To Evan’s horror, he is turned into one of her “children”.
Unable to bear what he has become, Evan flees to New York and to his best friend, police officer Will Trask. For years, Evan has nursed an unrequited love for Will, but he also knows Will is the one person who might be able to help him. As Evan and Will try to deal with Evan’s condition, they are drawn into the world of the theriomorphs: shape-shifters who are guardians of life and the sworn enemies of vampires. Caught in an ancient war between two powerful supernatural forces, Evan and Will find they must choose sides — because if they are to have any chance of a future together, they must destroy Elizabeth Nadasdy before she destroys them.
These two authors have been one of my favorite writing teams for a while now, and I knew that I wanted to review this book before I’d even heard of it or read the blurb. So when I finally did read the blurb I was even more exited, especially for such a long book. And finishing it took me a couple of days, mostly just because I wanted to enjoy it, so I spent my time reading it totally for pleasure and enjoying every twist and turn.
Evan St. John and Will Trask have a tumultuous past. Roommates their Freshman year of college at Columbia, they soon grow to be friends. Evan is openly gay and an art photography student, always carrying around his camera, while Will is a manly jock through and through. For reasons that Evan never understands, Will sticks by him and the bullying he was experiencing dwindles when people start to realize that Will will aways have his back. As they grow closer Evan starts to understand Will better, including Will’s White Knight Complex, his need to protect and care for those he loves, to an almost fanatical, save-the-day to-the-rescue level.
Their dynamic changes when Evan’s sister is dying of cancer and their relationship grows during the emotional period — Evan is distraught and barely keeping himself afloat while trying to understand and come to terms with her turn for the worse. And Will picks up the slack, in more ways than expected. But the grief sends Evan running to Paris and three years go by, where Evan becomes a famous fashion photographer taken on by The House of Nadasdy, run by famous and infamous Elizabeth Nadasdy, and Will becomes an agent with the FBI.
We’re first introduced to Evan in Like the Night as he escapes Paris during the day to fly to New York City and seek help from Will. He’s a newly made vampire under the gruesome and tyrannical rule of Elizabeth Nadasdy, a modern day remnant of her famous human days as Elizabeth of Bathory. Above all (except herself), she loves beauty and hoards a collection of “children” all turned by her for their extraordinary beauty, which she believes deserves to be preserved for eternity. Evan was a prize for her, and his rejection of her extraordinary “gift” is tantamount to the ultimate betrayal, something she relishes punishing him for. But Elizabeth doesn’t expect the trouble it will take to find and deal with Evan. With him, someone whose beauty hides his intelligence and cunning, are a group of allies who seek one common goal: the eradication of Elizabeth Nadasdy. And of course Evan has Will, his White Knight, ready to stand in front of any threat to his best friend.
I really just loved this book. I took a while to read it because it is long, but it is also totally packed with plot and, just about everything under the sun, making the book seem even longer than it is. There’s an economy to the writing which gives you SO much story for just the first book of a series that it gave me the time and the opportunity to really sink into the story. What came through in this story most strongly for me was the pervasive mood of fear and impending doom. This is all because of the fact that Elizabeth is built up to such supervillain status that she’s made to be almost omniscient, with unlimited power. Add to this a connection between vampires and their sire, or maker, and the fact that Elizabeth could peek in on Evan at any moment and even make him do things or spy on his relationship with Will, or their planned resistance of her make the story suffused with tension.
I found the villainous characters in this novel to be quite interesting. We have Elizabeth who is the typical diabolical character. She relishes in the pain of others and not only causes death and despair because it gets her something (money, fame, power, etc.) but also because she enjoys the suffering of others. She firmly believes that she’s more worthy than anyone else to have the status that she does because of her beauty and the vision she has for the future. But, sometimes diabolical is boring. No matter how outrageously cruel Elizabeth can be, she’s still a character that doesn’t take too much effort to understand. My favorite villainous character is her daughter Anna, who I suspect will become a crucial and central character to the future books. Anna is raised in the shadow of her diabolical mother. She’s always second best, but raised to revel in the same cruelties as her mother. She’s made a vampire both because of her beauty which is similar to her mother’s, but also as a gift from her. But hundreds of years of oppression make Anna rather different from her mother. Though I suspect that they both have similar depth of cruel possibility inherently in them, Anna’s choices are governed by her hate of her mother and her acceptance that her only meaning to her mother is what she can do for her. That makes her cruel, but much more interesting than her mother. And of course, it’s going to be great when the two really turn on one another 😉
Anyway, I’m super excited for the second book. I hope it isn’t too far away. But honestly, I can’t really be sad because this is the first book in a while (that is the first book of a series) that actually gives us enough story to satisfy us for the first installment. 123k words is pretty long, yes, but it allows the book to give full and adequate world-building while also giving us a real story that will be carried on in the second part. We have a full and self-standing plot with only a few loose ends to pick up in the next book. If this is the case for the next books as well, then I can only imagine where this story will go before it ends!
Please leave a comment below to win an ebook copy of Blood Bathory: Like the Night by Ari McKay. The giveaway will last until Midnight CDT on Tuesday, July 16. I will choose the winner using Random.org and email the winner who will then have 48 hours from the time of the drawing to reply to my email. I will then forward the winner’s information to the author so the winner can receive their book.
Please enter the email you’d wish me to contact you at in the comment form, or if you prefer, leave it in the message.
Thank you and good luck!
Posted by Cole in 101-125k, 5 Really Like It, Authors M-O, Contemporary, Giveaways, Heat 4 - Spicy & Smutty, Paranormal, Romance, Sex Freq 2 - Few and Far Between Tags: Ari McKay, Artists, Best Friends, Blood Bathory, Co-Authored, Cops, Friends to Lovers, Grief, Machiavellian Bad Guy, Mythology, NYC, On the Lam, Paris, Past Abuse, Past Trauma, Second Chances, Series, Sexy to the 999's, Shifters, Torquere, Vampire, Villain
Title: Cairo Curse (Vampire’s Lair #2)
Author: Geoffrey Knight
Publisher: Wilde City Press
Length: 14k words
Genre: m/m/m Fantasy/Paranormal Horror Erotica
Heat: 5 – Off the Charts!
Sex Frequency: 4 – Very Often (including the sexual tension)
Keywords/Tags: Series, Short Story, Charlie Harding Presents, Mythology, Egypt, Suspense, Models, Vampires, Cats, Orgy, Public Sex, Rent Boys, Sexy to the 999s
Rating: Pretty Good
Love is dangerous. Life is fleeting. And the choices we make can last an Eternity.
On a photo shoot in Cairo, lovelorn American model Nash Sommers harbors a secret lust for his handsome and confident colleague Ryan Thomas. When a drunken evening leads them to Cairo’s coolest nightclub, the two young men decide to explore the undiscovered pleasures of their relationship with the inclusion of a third party-a handsome, mysterious young Egyptian who lures them away from the nightclub…
…and into the dark realms of the City of the Dead. There, deep within a secret tomb, Nash’s languishing lust for Ryan will be put to the ultimate test in the presence of a dark and ancient Egyptian vampire, the evil Ramseth.
Will the young Americans be seduced by sin? Will passion and pride lead to eternal punishment? Will the one thing Nash desires most be his doom?
I wasn’t quite sure what to expect with this story, especially when after I reviewed the first book in this series, Miami Moon, Geoff told me that the second story in the series was quite different. Well, in the sense of hot hot hot sex, it wasn’t at all! But, I found this story to be much more mysterious and with tinges of horror, where the first story seemed more exciting than suspenseful. This story was actually better, in my opinion, though I think they can definitely be read as standalone stories and if I’m not mistaken, don’t have a whole lot to do with one another besides theme and style of writing.
In Cairo Curse we’re taken to a more exotic locale, where our two main characters are excited about the somewhat dangerous possibilities of the city. Nash is an ex- rent boy turned model who is in love with co-model Ryan. The two are often photographed together because of their chemistry and beauty as a pair. But Nash is in love with Ryan, and Ryan just seems to be a playboy — hot, single and ready to fuck the next guy — and the life of the party. Nash, on the other hand, is somewhat of a shy guy. His singular beauty makes him stand out, but away from the camera Nash always seems to be in Ryan’s shadow, allowing himself to follow Ryan just for the chance to be near him.
After their shoot in Cairo, where Ryan seems to be much more sexually forward with Nash than usual, he decides that tonight might be the night. Ryan drags Nash to a club and convinces him to have fun with an exotic Egyptian beauty who has caught their eye. It’s a chance to be with the man he’s wanted for so long. And… the other guy is pretty hot. Nash decides to go for it.
But when the unknown man takes them through a dark labyrinth of the city, where their journey seems to take them back through time in the amazing secret history of the city, Nash starts to have doubts. Ryan keeps him going, blinded by the thought of what will happen when they reach their destination, they have no idea that they’re being led into a trap.
I actually specifically marked Horror in the genre and tagged this book with Suspense, because I found the story to be really done well in this regard. I wouldn’t say specifically that this was scary, so those of you who don’t like Horror at all can be comforted. But, the intention of the story is what I would call Horror, the darker side of vampires as prey instead of emo teenagers 😉 In some ways this story reminded me of many of Rick Reed’s paranormal horror stories. They have ambiguous endings that lend to the suspense in the story. I quite like this style of story and I always really like when we see vampires and such as ruthless hunters because the vampire genre is lately so tipped in the other direction towards tame creatures. Seeing a more historical understanding of a demonic creature of the night is satisfying to me. And Ramseth was definitely a horrific creature of the night.
In that regard, I really loved the sex in this story! Storm Moon Press recently published an anthology of horror sex, called Queer Fear, about the heightening of sex through fear, and this story would have gone perfectly in that collection, where many of the stories focus on the paranormal. I mention this because the suspense in the story starts right from the beginning. The strange and beautiful Egyptian man hovers over them throughout the story as the sexual tension builds between them. Fear and Heat go hand in hand and it works really, really well to heighten the sexual satisfaction from the story. I mean… if you’re into that kind of thing 😉
So I’m quite satisfied from this sequel to Miami Moon, which I also really enjoyed. I just didn’t quite expect the difference in the stories and I didn’t expect that there seemed to be little cohesion between the stories. That was the only thing that I wasn’t quite sure of. I don’t know the direction this series is going in; or, even if there is a next book or if it’s coming soon. Both stories Recommended.
Posted by Cole in 4 Pretty Good, Authors J-L, Erotica, Fantasy, Heat 5 - Off the Charts!, Horror, m/m/m Polyamorous, Paranormal, Sex Freq 4 - Very Often, up to 15k Tags: Cats, Charlie Harding Presents, Egyptian, Geoffrey Knight, Models, Mythology, Orgy, Public Sex, Rent Boy, Series, Sexy to the 999's, Short Story, Suspense, Vampire, Vampire's Lair, Wilde City Press
Title: Private Dicks: Undercovers
Editors: Samantha M Derr
Authors: Siobhan Crosslin, K-Lee Klein, Holly Rinna-White, Alison Bailey, Megan Derr, EE Ottoman, Isabella Carter & Sasha L Miller
Publisher: Less Than Three Press
Length: 135k words
Genre: m/m + m/m/m Mystery Romance
Keywords/Tags: Anthology, Short Stories, Private Investigators, Undercover
Rating: Pretty Good
Temper by Siobhan Crosslin—Reese hates deception, but that’s all his life has been since he was sent to investigate a wolf pack on clashing sets of orders. Keeping his lies separated is all that’s keeping him alive, and it’s a job that grows harder by the day—especially with the unexpected complications of the alpha he’s investigating.
The PI and the Rockstar by K-lee Klein—Mason is a detective. He’s not flashy or hip and he doesn’t have an office conducive to entertaining wealthy clients. But when made-of-money Durango and his gum-snapping daughter hire him to do surveillance on a popular rockstar named Jade Jonathan Lee, Mason’s business world collides with his personal life, and the result is a mystery that must be solved.
Glamour by Holly Rinna-White—When his little brother is kidnapped, Jason hires Eric, PI and long-time crush, to find him, terrified of what will happen if people learn his brother is unregistered psychic. But when Jason is kidnapped as well, he learns he and his brother are not the only ones keeping secrets.
The Virginia Gentleman by Alison Bailey—When the Virginia Gentleman rides into town, it’s a sure bet that trouble ain’t far behind. He’s quick on the draw, feared by all, and one sad little group of train robbers is about to find out why it’s never wise to bet on trouble.
The Royal Inquisitor by Megan Derr—Esmour is one the best Inquisitors in the kingdom, but the penance bracelets on his wrists serve as constant reminder that once he was not a master of deception, but a victim. To solve his latest case, he must work alongside the liar who changed his life, and the love he learned too late was never real.
Regarding the Detective’s Companion by E.E. Ottoman—Jamie is desperate: he has no money, rent is coming due, and if he doesn’t do something soon he’ll be forced back into a life of charity and pity. So when he is brought a case, Jamie takes it—even if it will mean lying to his client, manipulating the suspect and propelling himself into the middle of a plot involving murder and political intrigue.
The Demon Bride by Isabella Carter—One dead body left at the door is more than enough, but after three are left on the stoop of his father’s agency and no one else is willing to investigate, Quinton decides he’ll just have to solve the mystery himself.
Too Dangerous by Sasha L. Miller—Shi is good at what he does, no matter what his stupid ex thought. Danger comes with the territory, especially when that territory includes a special license to do select work for the government. But when the government needs him to fix something that defeated even their most elite, Shi learns that some situations are too much even for him.
I’ve been sitting on this anthology for a while, but if there’s anything that I know about anthologies from Less Than Three Press, it’s that they’re usually some of my favorites, it not my overall favorites from a specific publisher. So I was excited to read it and I found several stories within that I really liked.
Once again, as with the LT3 anthology I reviewed earlier this week (Something Happened on the Way to Heaven — reviewed here), I was delighted with the diversity in the stories presented. Each story deals with a Private Investigator and a mystery, but the stories cross all genres, from Paranormal to Steampunk to Science Fiction, Contemporary and Western. I really enjoyed the steampunk story, “Regarding the Detective’s Companion” by EE Ottoman. Even though it isn’t the best story in the anthology, I really liked the characters, the mystery and the world. Having a steampunk world was also nice because there are so few m/m steampunk stories. The first story is one of my favorites. With a very distinctive style, Siobhan Crosslin takes us into an extreme werewolf society with some really fine writing.
So, look below and I’ll give you a bit about each story. The reviews will be shorter than usual, because this was a longer anthology, but the tags and info about each story will give you quite a bit about what each one has to offer 🙂
Temper by Siobhan Crosslin (Pretty Good)
Genre: m/m Paranormal Mystery Romance
Heat: 1 – Sweet/None
Sex Frequency: 1 – None
Keywords/Tags: Shifters (Wolves & Dragons), Mate Bonding, Enforcer/Thug, Violence, Undercover
Siobhan Crosslin takes us into a highly segregated world of the different paranormal races. Werewolves form highly structured packs, and Reese has been sent by his alpha to investigate an alpha of a different pack. He infiltrates them easily. Reese was raised and groomed into a killing machine and his loyalties are clouded by his feelings for each alpha — his fear of the old one and his shifting loyalty to the new one, the one he’s lying to, and the one he’s falling in love with.
This one ended up being on the high end of Pretty Good for me, almost Really Liked It. In fact, for most of the story I really, really liked it. Most of all, I loved the writing style. The story thrusts you into the lies and deception from a point of view that is compromised, confused and unable to accurately bring the reader up to speed about what is actually going on and who is who. I admired that and fell into the story, excited by the challenging point of view. It soon grew to be tedious, however, and I ended the story upset that I never really learned much about the world or the people. I had hoped that the writing I loved so much was just being choosy about how to impart information to the reader, but what was held back never came to light.
I’ve since read the sequel to this story (Weld), or rather another story by this author, not a direct serial but also in this world. I ended up liking that one even less, because it carried on with this same writing style, but at an even higher degree, which made for an unpleasant read, unfortunately.
The PI and the Rockstar by K-Lee Klein (So So)
Genre: m/m Contemporary Mystery Romance
Heat: 4 – Spicy & Smutty
Sex Frequency: 3 – Average Story to Sex
Keywords/Tags: Rockers, Private Investigators, Piercings!, Sexy to the 999s, Closeted
Mason is a private investigator with a rather famous boyfriend. Though that’s all on the hush hush. Of course, that secret means that when a teenage client and her father come into his office asking him to find a musician that got the girl pregnant and then ditched her, he can’t tell them that the man they’re trying to frame is, in fact his boyfriend, the lead singer of a popular rock group. So what is the girl really up to? And how will the added level of duplicity affect Mason’s relationship with Jade?
This was an okay story for me. I was a bit sad that there weren’t any surprises for me — as soon as the girl came in with her father and explained “what happened” with the rockstar, I had a feeling I knew what was going to happen. Sadly, I was right. Add to that the fact that I never really felt like I got to know the characters well, made this story just a So So read for me.
Glamour by Holly Rinna-White (Pretty Good)
Genre: m/m Science Fiction, Paranormal, Mystery Romance
Heat: 1 – Sweet/None
Sex Frequency: 1 – None
Keywords/Tags: Brothers, Undercover, Private Investigator, Psychic, Aliens, Kidnapping
Most of my enjoyment of this story came from the world, which I found rather interesting. Jason and his brother are both unregistered psychics, in a world where those with abilities have to come forward to be assessed by the government. While Jason has mild precognition, his little brother is a different case, with a powerful precognitive sight that puts them all in danger. When Jason’s little brother is psychic, he must go to the man he’s had a crush on for months. Eric is a private investigator with secrets of his own, the least of which is that he’s as interested in Jason as Jason is in him. Searching for the men who kidnapped Jason’s brother, and then trying to rescue Jason himself when the fool rushes in to save his brother, brings both of them closer together.
The Virginia Gentleman by Alison Bailey (So So)
Genre: m/m Western Historical Romance
Heat: 1 – Sweet/None
Sex Frequency: 1 – None
Keywords/Tags: Undercover, Cowboys, Thieves, Kidnapping, Private Investigator
I admit, I had a little trouble with this one. I read half of it, finished the anthology then came back and re-read this story. I enjoy westerns, but most westerns in m/m romance are simply contemporary cowboy stories, and this story harkens to a much more authentic historical Old West. The story moved a little too slow for me, but that is all personal preference — the pace suits the plot and sub-genre.
While a man is searching for a boy that was taken years ago as a child, the Virginia Gentleman is looking for some helping hands for a train robbery. Finding the boy and his ogre of a keeper, as well as a man looking to score money to settle with his fiancee, the Virginia Gentlemen leads them across the west to a planned heist of a princess’ carriage. Along the way the VG gets to know the young boy, now a young man but shy and quiet and scared, all while holding some rather big secrets of his own.
The Royal Inquisitor by Megan Derr (Pretty Good)
Genre: m/m Alternate World Historical Romance
Heat: 2 – Romantic & Tame
Sex Frequency: 2 – Few & Far Between
Keywords/Tags: Royalty, Thieves, Second Chances, Undercover, The Big Mis
I really, really enjoyed this story. You all know how much I love Megan Derr’s writing, and I really got into this story. Sadly, I felt like the tension was created by a misunderstanding, and while it isn’t classic Big Mis type situation, having to do with some duplicity from other nefarious characters, it was still a little disappointing to me that the hurt Esmour feels in this story is because of pride and miscommunication. Still, that was only a shadow on the ending for me, and for the most part I really liked this one.
Esmour wears bracelets that show his penance toward the crown. Unknowingly involved in a sting operation in the past, he came down on the wrong side of the axe when all was said and done, only spared from the noose by his connection and faux-relationship with the undercover prince. Now, the prince has need of him to solve a mystery slave trade in a city in the kingdom, and Esmour, despite his bracelets, is still the best investigator working for the crown. The case will force the two back together into a situation that for all the hurt it may cause might ultimately lead to a reconciliation that Esmour could never have envisioned.
Regarding the Detective’s Companion by EE Ottoman (Really Liked It)
Genre: m/m Historical, Steampunk Romance
Heat: 1 – Sweet/None
Sex Frequency: 1 – None
Keywords/Tags: Disability, Injured Character, Nerds/Geeks, Politics, Science, Awesome Female Characters, Present Tense
**Spoiler Alert! The review of this story in the anthology has some spoilers**
Jamie was rescued from certain death by a priest. With no working legs, he hobbles on crutches, but manages to get around a steampunk Victorian England trying to solve enough cases to make a name for himself as a private investigator. If he does, he might finally be able to make rent, but as it is he’s facing another week of near starvation and one step closer to being back on the streets… or worse, falling up on the Father’s mercy. In his desperation, Jamie takes a case from a man who he’s certain is aiming to frame an innocent man for murder. So what if he didn’t explicitly agree to finding the man guilty? If he investigates, he can find the real murderer and bring real justice. The case could make his career. Plus, they’re paying him up front.
I really liked this story, mostly because of the characters. Jamie is great, but the really great characters are the friends he makes during his time undercover, as well as the sweet romance that develops with his employer and the man he’s meant to frame. I think what I really liked was that this story diverted from the norm. What I expect when I read a story with the lie/undercover plot device is that the deception will go on until the characters are in love and then the secret coming out destroys the trust and is the climax of the story. Instead, when the truth of Jamie’s deception is revealed, the characters band together, almost making their relationship stronger with the real truth. It brings down the barriers that previously existed as boss/assistant and teacher/student and put the characters on an equal footing. Plus, that allows the two to continue the investigation, but now together. And I really liked that, because the best parts of this story are the interactions between these two characters. It’s sweet, awkward, funny, and totally nerdy. And I loved it 🙂
The Demon Bride by Isabella Carter (Not Feelin’ It)
Genre: m/m Fantasy Romance
Heat: 3 – Sexy & Mild
Sex Frequency: 2 – Few & Far Between
Keywords/Tags: Serial Killer, Demons
For some reason, I really just could not get into this story. I think it was the fact that both the romance and the mystery felt a bit incomplete to me. And even more, I didn’t really understand any of the characters, and to a smaller extent, what was really going on in the end. This could obviously be in my own mis-reading of the story, but I still never really latched on to this story like the others, no matter how little I understood about the end. Plus, I didn’t ever feel like this was really an m/m/m story.
Quinton has now found several bodies lying at the door of his father’s detective agency. No matter how many times he brings the subject of what to do about it up to his father, his father refuses to give him any information about it, despite the fact that Quinton feels he deserves to know, not only because he’s now older and wants to investigate the mystery himself, but also because he’s found the bodies, and he knew them. But when the third body is left of the stoop and Quinton finds a letter addressed to him, he decides he must investigate.
Too Dangerous by Sasha L Miller (Really Liked It)
Genre: m/m Science Fiction Romance
Heat: 1 – Sweet/None
Sex Frequency: 1 – None
Keywords/Tags: Action/Adventure, Second Chances, Military, Futuristic, Secrets & Lies, Kidnapping/Hostage
Ending this anthology with a Science Fiction story was a nice change of pace from the previous ones. And I really like Sasha MIller’s work, so this story, which was more of an action/adventure story was very nice to end the book with.
Shi is a successful private investigator, but he’s thinking about letting his military consultant status (at the highest clearance) lapse. Working a case for the military was how he met his ex-boyfriend in the first place and Shi is still trying to get over their breakup several months previously. So when he arrives at his office to find an unmarked hovercraft, he knows that the military has come to call once again. He fully expects to turn the offer down. After all, he made sure that provision was put into his contract. But when he finds out that he’s the only man for the job — to infiltrate the operate of a space crime syndicate to rescue the remaining member of the special ops team being held captive on the man’s ship — he knows he has to consider. Especially when he finds out that the man held captive is… his ex-boyfriend. No matter the hard feelings, he can’t leave him there. So despite the fact that he’s in way over his head, he’ll do what he has to to get the man out of there, and hopefully get some answers in the process.
Posted by Cole in 126k+, 2 Not Feelin' It, 3 So So, 4 Pretty Good, 5 Really Like It, Alternate World, Authors A-C, Authors D-F, Authors J-L, Authors M-O, Authors P-R, Contemporary, Fantasy, Heat 1 - Sweet/None, Heat 2 - Romantic & Tame, Heat 3 - Sexy & Mild, Heat 4 - Spicy & Smutty, Historical, m/m/m Polyamorous, Mystery, Paranormal, Romance, SciFi, Sex Freq 1 - None, Sex Freq 2 - Few and Far Between, Sex Freq 3 - Average Story to Sex, Steampunk, Western Tags: Action/Adventure, Aliens, Alison Bailey, Anthology, Awesome Female Characters, Brothers, Closeted, Cowboys, Demons, Dragon Shifters, EE Ottoman, Enforcer, Futuristic, Holly Rinna-White, Injured Character, Isabella Carter, K-Lee Klein, Kidnapping/Abduction, Less Than Three Press, Mate Bonding, Megan Derr, Military, Musicians, Nerds/Geeks, Physical Disabilities/Trauma, Piercings, Politics, Present Tense, Private Investigators, Psychic, Royalty, Samantha Derr, Sasha L Miller, Science, Second Chances, Secrets & Lies, Serial Killer, Sexy to the 999's, Short Story, Siobhan Crosslin, The Big Mis, Thieves, Undercover, Violence, Wolf Shifters
Title: A Meeting of Fate (Immortal Symphony: Overture #1)
Author: SL Armstrong & K Piet
Publisher: Storm Moon Press
Length: 16,660 words
Genre: m/m Paranormal Erotica
Heat: 5 – Off the Charts!
Sex Frequency: 5 – Over and Over
Keywords/Tags: Serial, m/m/f scenes, England, Scotland, Drug Use, Sexy to the 999s, Ghosts/Spirits, Rich/Poor, Secrets & Lies
Rating: Pretty Good
You think you know the story of Dorian Gray, but you’re wrong. The real story didn’t end the way Oscar Wilde penned; in fact, it hasn’t ended at all. The ageless beauty of Dorian Gray walks now in our world of cellphones and lattes and internet porn. His latest conquest is Gabriel Lawrence, a paranormal investigator with a secret or two of his own. But the trouble with a life as long as Dorian’s is that the skeletons are threatening to overrun the closet… and not all of them want to stay dead.
Season 1: Overture introduces Gabriel to the truth of a world he had only suspected, where ghost hunting is the least of his worries. And at the heart of it all is the mysterious and fascinating Dorian Gray, as though he’d stepped out of the pages of the book bearing his name. But if he has, he hasn’t come through alone. And this figure from a past Dorian had though long behind him bears a grudge nurtured for a hundred years and intends to tear down everything Dorian has built, a piece at a time.
I’ve been eagerly awaiting this first “episode” in the Dorian Gray serial K Piet and SL Armstrong have written. I’m iffy about serials — sometimes they work for me and sometimes not so much (I’d rather wait and read them all at once — but episodic releases are different than a pure serial in the way that they’re released. They’re less of a chapter release and each one tends to be a little more self-contained. That’s how I felt with this first episode. I’m even more excited to read the second episode, not only because I liked this one a lot and look forward to what happens next, but because the first release of a longer work like this will undoubtedly be a setup to the main story, which is this:
We meet many characters here and I’m not quite sure which ones will be important later, with the exception of three: Dorian, Gabriel and Michael. Dorian is now over two hundred years old and firmly ensconced in the modern age, yet still holding an old-world flair. He’s a captivating sex god, firmly holding the strings of the puppets around him in an elaborate, hedonistic dance. He meets Gabriel when the man walks in front of his limo and interrupts his blow job. Gabriel is an American, new to the UK and on his way to a new job in his paranormal investigation business. And Michael… Michael is Gabriel’s twin, dead and reappeared as a ghost in Gabriel’s mind. They share one body and work together in their paranormal job. Dorian and Gabriel meet once again and share an afternoon of sex that goes beyond what both are accustomed to. Surprising Dorian is almost impossible, but Dorian can’t seem to forget Gabriel, and his insistence that Gabriel come with him to his home in Scotland is an opportunity that will set the stage for a relationship over the series of episodes.
The first scene of this whole serial really sets the stage for is to come and especially this modern Dorian. The first scene is from the POV of a young college woman who is having sex with two men she just met, a man named Oliver and Dorian. The scene shows the level of sex and debauchery that surrounds Dorian, as well as his lack of discrimination in the gender of his partners. While I don’t usually read anything with girly parts, this didn’t bother me so much (even when there’s another scene later in the story with a different woman), because I know that it’s a small part of the real story. Nevertheless, the sex in this story pretty much blew me away. Even with that first scene I wasn’t expecting quite the level of sex in this story, but I was happy with it anyway. I’ll be interested to see in the future stories, once Gabriel and Dorian become more important to one another, how Dorian’s sexual appetites with multiple partners will affect Gabriel. I can honestly say that I have no idea what to expect of the coming stories, and that is exciting.
So, getting in on reading this new serial at this point is all up to how you feel about serials or episodic releases. If they’re not for you, then by all means wait a while and I’ll be sure to update you every month how they’re progressing. Otherwise, jump in and join me 🙂
Also, just a note about how I classified the genre in this review. Since the romance hasn’t really started yet, I’m marking this first story as erotica. It sure has enough sex for it! 😉
Posted by Cole in 16-40k, 4 Pretty Good, Authors A-C, Authors P-R, Erotica, Heat 5 - Off the Charts!, Paranormal, Sex Freq 5 - Over and Over Again! Tags: Drug Use, England, Ghosts/Spirits, Immortal Symphony, K Piet, m/m/f scenes, Rich/Poor, Scotland, Secrets & Lies, Serial, Sexy to the 999's, SL Armstrong, Storm Moon Press