Sweetwater – Lisa Henry

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“You and me – men like you and me – we don’t always fit with other people. So we make our own lives.”

 

In a word: Maybe read the thing. Looks like I’ve finally come across a Lisa Henry book that I’m not completely in love with. I know a lot of people gave this good reviews, but I thought it was a bit too bleak for me. The story kept me fully engaged and I basically couldn’t put it down, the writing is great (as usual), but after I finished reading I couldn’t really say that I liked it much. The story isn’t necessarily dark, but Elijah’s story from beginning to end is kind of a downer. His partial deafness gives the townspeople an excuse to look down on him and mistreat him, and his attraction to men is something he feels that he needs to keep secret (this story takes place in 1870 Wyoming, so he really does) and causes him to alienate himself from his adoptive father. He thinks some of those issues may be solved when he catches the eye of saloon owner Harlan Crane, but all that really brings him is a different set of problems. He also gets the attention of cattle rustler Grady Mullins, who gives him affection Elijah doesn’t really know what to do with. I think my biggest problem with this book is that I went into it looking for a story where Elijah gets in over his head with Crane and then Grady saves him and they ride off together into the sunset happily in love. That wasn’t what this story was ever going to be, so I ended up disappointed. Though if you are interested in a bit of a downer story about tortured souls, love, murder, revenge, and morally ambiguous characters in the old west, you’re probably gonna have a good time with this one.

 

The Summary: (from Goodreads) Wyoming Territory, 1870.

Elijah Carter is afflicted. Most of the townsfolk of South Pass City treat him as a simpleton because he’s deaf, but that’s not his only problem. Something in Elijah runs contrary to nature and to God. Something that Elijah desperately tries to keep hidden.

Harlan Crane, owner of the Empire saloon, knows Elijah for what he is—and for all the ungodly things he wants. But Crane isn’t the only one. Grady Mullins desires Elijah too, but unlike Crane, he refuses to push the kid.

When violence shatters Elijah’s world, he is caught between two very different men and two devastating urges: revenge, and despair. In a boomtown teetering on the edge of a bust, Elijah must face what it means to be a man in control of his own destiny, and choose a course that might end his life . . . or truly begin it for the very first time.

 

[available for purchase at Riptide Publishing, Amazon.ca, Book Depository, Chapters, and Barnes & Noble]

 

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The Rules – Jamie Fessenden

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“Sexually, both men pushed all his buttons, much more than any of the guys he’d dated. So, yes, he wanted to have sex with them. But it was more than that.”

 

In a word: Read the thing! So much emotion in this book, I love it. This is the story of two men opening up their marriage to include a third man they’ve both fallen in love with, written totally in the third man’s point of view, and how they all come together to form a strong romantic three-way relationship. Hans is a college student who has been hired as a housekeeper for Thomas and Boris. It’s clear from the start that Hans has an attraction to both men, especially Boris who is constantly naked. There isn’t much time wasted in all three men deciding that they’re all very open to the idea of being together in some capacity, but even coming to that decision doesn’t make things easy. Thomas and Boris have been married and exclusive for around ten years, suddenly adding another person into their dynamic will take time. And that’s not even accounting for all the other issues. What I really liked about this book is that not everything fell into place right away with no problems. The story is as much about reworking and developing relationships as it is about three men getting it on. Hans, Thomas, and Boris are three different men who all have different needs; coming together in one functional relationship is going to take work. It’s something that they all have to want and it isn’t something they can jump into lightly. I really liked the emotions in this story, and the characters, and the humour, and the dark themes that appear throughout. At first I thought it was maybe a bit odd that Thomas and Boris all of a sudden decided to include someone else into their marriage, but it soon became clear that all these men shared a bond that deserved to be explored. I definitely recommend this one.

 

The Summary: (from Goodreads) WHEN HANS BAUER, a college student in New Hampshire, accepts a job as a housekeeper for an older gay couple, he soon learns the reason they’ve hired someone with no experience is that professional agencies won’t work there. Thomas is a successful businessman whose biggest goal in life appears to be giving his husband anything he wants. Boris is a writer who immigrated to this country from Russia, and suffers from depression and PTSD because of the things he endured in his native country.

He also refuses to wear clothes—ever.

While Hans is working alone in the house with Naked Boris all day, things start getting a little weird. Boris gets flirtatious and Hans backs away, not wanting to come between him and his husband. So Boris calls Thomas at work and asks permission.

At that moment, The Rules are born—rules about touching and kissing and pet names that the three men use to keep jealousies at bay, as they explore the possibilities in a new type of relationship….

WARNING: This story deals with themes of sexual assault and past abuse.

 

[available for purchase at Amazon.ca]

 

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His Right Choice (Men of Falcon Pointe #4) – Thianna Durston

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“His plan had been to meet some gay guys and realize that wasn’t who he was. Instead Nick had found more life in the last few weeks than he had in his total twenty-one years.”

 

In a word: Read the thing. This one I liked a lot better than the previous two books. This was the sequel I’d been waiting for (though I did like Books 2 and 3, don’t get me wrong). I liked everything about this book (even the really ridiculous parts). Anyone who’s been reading the whole series knows the score by now (gay Mormon boy goes to university and meets a group of men who make him realize that he’s a person that deserves love and respect, and then he gets a hot older boyfriend and spanking is involved), and this book follows the same pattern while still managing to be a bit of a different story. Nick is struggling with his sexuality worse than the others ever did. He’s convinced himself that what he needs to do is work past his attraction to men and then settle down with his long-time girlfriend and start a family. It’s a sure recipe for disaster, but it’s all Nick knows to do. Luckily, he catches the attention of the gang from the other books, and they’re able to help him work through some things. He also catches the attention of Ethan, an older man and an old friend of Cory and Levlin’s, who would definitely like to get to know Nick better. There’s a lot of angst in this book because Nick has to come to terms with both the fact that he’s gay and nothing’s going to change that, and that everything he believed in up until this point might be built on lies. He’s in a very different place than the others were, and he has a lot more to work through. One thing I really liked about this book (and my favourite aspect of this whole series) is how everyone really came together to support Nick and help him on his journey. All the characters from past books are back and just as great as ever, and the new characters in this one make the story that much richer (I will forever love Nick’s friend Deke). This book was also very emotional and I had a hard time putting it down (a lot like my feelings for the first book in the series, actually). This is currently the last book in the series, but I really hope there are more coming, I’d really like to see what all these guys will get up to in the future.

 

The Summary: (from Goodreads) Nicholas Layton, fresh off his mission for the Mormon church, attends Falcon Pointe University with plans to enjoy his final year of freedom before he gives in and marries his long-term girlfriend. But when he meets a group of gay men, some of whom are ex-Mormons and some who practice loving physical discipline, he finds he is more comfortable with them than anywhere else. Suddenly, he’s straddling the line between good Mormon and gay man.

As an added bonus—or problem, depending—he meets Ethan Kierk, who is good-looking, fun to be around, and who wants to be with him. Nick tries not to think about dating a man, but he can’t help it. He wants Ethan, and that terrifies him.

To avoid his feelings, Nick steels himself to propose to his girlfriend but breaks things off at the last moment. Instead, he jumps headlong into a relationship with Ethan, and it feels so right—until he has to tell his family. When they reject him, he shares his darkest secret with Ethan, hoping Ethan won’t reject him too.

Hoping he made the right choice.

 

[available for purchase at Dreamspinner Press, Amazon.ca, Book Depository, Chapters, and Barnes & Noble]

 

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Becoming Rafe (Men of Falcon Pointe #3) – Thianna Durston

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“As long as you are proud of yourself and have a support team, you can face anything and anyone. So let’s build up Rafe Norton and let the rest find its place.”

 

In a word: Read the thing. There were some things I really liked about this book, and some things I kinda didn’t. This was a bit of a mixed bag, I feel. The story about Rafe (formerly known as Nephi) going away to university and trying to find himself was a good one. It was similar enough to the others to fit the pattern, but still different enough so as to not be repetitive. There was also a lot of focus on Rafe hanging out with his friends, which was good because I found a lot of the things about his boyfriend Levlin a bit lacking. I liked Levlin, don’t get me wrong, but I mostly just didn’t get him. Through all of his and Rafe’s interactions, I kept finding myself wondering what a (assumed) successful psychologist in his mid-thirties would want with an 18-year-old college freshman struggling to find himself? I never had this problem with the other relationships (maybe because Rafe was younger than Trent and Bastien? I dunno), but it kept picking at me here. Outside of that, though, Rafe and Levlin’s relationship was stable and loving and engaging. Though, having said that, I thought that it moved a bit too fast for my liking. There were a lot of throwbacks to past books, with past characters showing up and interacting with the new characters. David and Bastien even got married, which managed to both be sentimental for the reader and a poignant moment for Rafe. There’s still discipline in this story, but this is the first time that Cory is not the one doling it out, Levlin is. Also Rafe’s family was a lot more involved in the story than any other character’s ever was, which made for great scenes and great angst (his siblings are awesome and I love them).

 

The Summary: (from Goodreads) Eighteen-year-old Nephi Rafe Norton goes to Falcon Pointe University to find himself. Away from his conservative family, he hopes to discover if his attraction to men is the real deal. Encouraged to be someone a little different, he starts using his middle name. “Rafe” quickly makes friends, some of whom practice loving physical discipline, and lives it up—until midterms hit and he realizes he’s flunking statistics class.

When Scotland native Éigneachán Jackson Levlin offers to help, Rafe is eager to accept—not only because Levlin is a psychologist, but also because he’s out and proud and hot as hell.

As their relationship heats up, Rafe decides to spend one last Christmas with his family before he tells them. When his little sister outs him to his siblings, they turn out to be fully supportive, and he takes heart—until he introduces Levlin to his father, who brutally dismisses both of them. Now Rafe must come to peace with his father’s rejection or risk losing Levlin—and all that he has become at Falcon Pointe—forever.

 

[available for purchase at Dreamspinner Press, Amazon.ca, Book Depository, Chapters, and Barnes & Noble]

 

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Finding His Home (Men of Falcon Pointe #2) – Thianna Durston

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“It was sweet, and Bastien couldn’t tear his eyes away. Sure, he’d hoped gay men could be loving, but that was the first time he’d ever seen it.”

 

In a word: Read the thing. I will admit, I didn’t like this one as much as I did the first book (this one was a bit slow in places), but I did really enjoy reading it. It’s similar to the first book in some ways, but it’s still a different story. Like Trent from Book 1, Sebastien Cather is trying to break away from Mormonism because he knows that he’ll never be able to be happy in that lifestyle. Also like Trent, Sebastien makes his way to 959 Brenton Street and finds a new home, a new family, and a new love. Sebastien is in a different part of his journey than Trent was, though. He’d come to terms with the fact that he’s gay back when he was 14, and by the time he makes it to Falcon Pointe he’s already decided that he’s going to leave the Mormon church. His dilemmas are less about his religion and more about his relationships. David, from Book 1, is back in a main role, so we get a bit more insight into him. Trent, Cory, and Alan are also back, and it was great to see them again. Also Trent’s father tries to make some more trouble and is put back in his place, which is always fun. This is a good sequel to a book I enjoyed, and I’m looking forward to the next one.

 

The Summary: (from Goodreads) A Men of Falcon Pointe Novel

Sebastien Cather moves to Falcon Pointe with a dream to live life his way. Offered a room at 959 Brenton Street, he discovers how liberating it can feel to live among accepting people, especially in a household where they practice loving physical discipline. And he quickly gains a boyfriend in Avery, a fellow student. Unfortunately Avery isn’t his first choice. His roommate David is fascinating and good-looking, and Bastien would do anything to have him—but he doesn’t think the attraction is returned.

Tensions rise as his roommates’ wedding is threatened and his present and past lives clash. Outed by the national media, Bastien knows he will never be able to return home again. Just as he’s sure he can’t handle any more stress, David shows his interest. Bastien slowly makes his way forward, trying to find firm footing in the minefield that is his life. But when his landlord makes an announcement about the future of the house, it may change all of his dreams.

 

[available for purchase from Dreamspinner Press, Amazon.ca, Book Depository, Chapters, and Barnes & Noble]

 

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Buchanan House (Buchanan House #1) – Charley Descoteaux

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“Was he trapped in a tiny prison of his own making, or had his life been saved by the happy accident of finding Buchanan House?”

 

In a word: Maybe read the thing? The main feeling I had while reading this book was frustration, which doesn’t strike me as a good thing when one is reading a romance novel. I had a really hard time getting into this book and caring about the main relationship. I never did really come to like Eric, who is essentially our narrator. I found him annoying and aggravating, and sometimes inconsistent. The man he falls in love with, Tim Tate (not to be confused with Eric’s ex, also named Tim), is a bit bland and confusing. Also them falling in love kinda skirts the edge of insta-love territory, which I don’t think was done well here because I was definitely not invested, especially since I didn’t think they had any chemistry with each other. Though having said that, the passage of time in the story was never really made clear and I’m not entirely sure of the time frame. The story either takes place over the course of a few months or a few weeks, I was never entirely sure about that. There were too many side characters wandering around with nothing to do. Even Nathan, who is Eric’s best friend and easily the main side character, didn’t seem to have anything relevant to do half the time once Eric and Tim’s ‘relationship’ really kicked off. There’s also the issue of Eric’s family, which eventually became a non-issue at some point since the story mostly seemed to forget about them most of the time. The writing was also something I wasn’t fond of, mostly because I felt, bland characters and tepid romance aside, that we really weren’t getting enough information about the important things. We got bits and pieces of things, but never really enough to put major plot points together. Honestly I felt as if I was trying to read this through a brain-fog, which wasn’t fun.

 

[available for purchase at Dreamspinner Press, Amazon.ca, Chapters, and Barnes & Noble]

 

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Blue Steel Chain (Trowchester Blues #3) – Alex Beecroft

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“After all, this was supposed to be about learning to be his own person, yes? And what if his own person was the kind of person who wanted to be with James?”

 

In a word: Maybe read the thing. I read through this pretty quickly, but I’m not sure I liked it much. Aidan, one half of the main couple, starts out the story in an extremely abusive relationship, and the narrative doesn’t shy away from that one bit. On the one hand, it certainly doesn’t sugarcoat anything; on the other hand, it wasn’t exactly entertaining to read about Aidan being controlled and getting the shit kicked out of him by a man who’s supposed to love him. Also I don’t feel as if the hurt/comfort payoff was worth it in the end, especially since it seemed to get interrupted with everything else going on. There’s a lot going on in this story, and I’d rather it focused more on Aidan’s healing and his budding relationship with James. James, by the way, was going through his own tough time with his own ex-partner (though nothing like what was hinted at in the book’s summary), which would’ve been better if it’d had the room to be properly fleshed out instead of just popping up now and again. The first half of the book, even with how heavy and dark it was, was the part I liked best because it seemed like it was more focused on setting up Aidan’s terrible lot in life so that James could come in and rescue him and then their relationship could develop (the hurt and then the comfort). But then after the hurt was over, we got a lot of confusion and all the comfort was mixed up with James struggling with his sexual desire for Aidan while Aidan was discovering his asexuality in the background. And then the situation with James’ ex-partner kept butting in and ruining the flow. I’ll say that this is a compelling read, but I feel like the second half doesn’t really make up for all that went on in the first half.

 

[available for purchase at Ripdtide Publishing, Amazon.ca, Book Depository, Chapters, and Barnes & Noble]

 

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