The Forgotten Man – Ryan Loveless

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“As he wrapped his arm around Will’s chest, that sense of connection came back, the one that made him feel like his emptiness was filled.”

 

In a word: Read the thing. This one is a pretty interesting story about two men finding love during the Great Depression, while also dealing with a homophobic society. Joshua is an ex-army Captain; escalating money problems have seen him move back into his childhood-home-cum-boarding-house with his mother, brother, and various tenants. Will is a widowed, homeless, single father, playing his guitar on a street corner for small change to survive. It’s not love at first sight when they meet, but there is a connection of some sort between them by the time Joshua rescues a sick Will and brings him and his infant daughter home. Their romance is not destined to be in any way easy. They both live and love in a time where being gay is a crime and just generally unsafe. It’s clear that Joshua and Will are very much into each other, but they’re terrified (and rightfully so) about what could happen to them and their families if they decide to act on their feelings. It’s not exactly a downer, but the fact that Joshua and Will have to live with these secrets that might have their loved ones turn on them at a moment’s notice doesn’t exactly make for a fluff fest. The story isn’t as dark as it could’ve been but at the same time it doesn’t really sugar-coat anything.

 

[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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The Ongoing Reformation of Micah Johnson (Get Out #1) – Sean Kennedy

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“Yes, because I have a raging boner for all the guys in the school. Soon it will explode and shower them all and they will catch The Gay and life will never be the same.”

 

In a word: Maybe read the thing? I started out liking this book, but I was completely ready to be done with it by the time I got to the end. A lot of other people seem to like it so I’m assuming it’s just a personal problem I have with it. This is a book about teenager Micah Johnson and his ongoing struggle to not be an arsehole. I think. The reason I started off really enjoying this was that I found Micah pretty funny. He’s really sarcastic and snarky and a bit of a dick, but I found him a likeable enough character. I liked Micah, which was probably part of the problem of why I didn’t end up liking the book. Judging by the behaviour of the other characters, I don’t think I was supposed to like Micah as much as I did. Micah first appeared in a previous book in a different series by the same author (Tigers and Devils) and a lot of things happened in that book that are only vaguely summarized in this one, so anyone who hasn’t read the previous book is missing a large chunk of the backstory. As it is, Micah comes off with an attitude problem, but I didn’t feel it was so bad that it warranted the other characters to get on his case every time he opened his mouth (there were times where he crossed a line, but most of his behaviour is average teenage dickishness). This book also has no real plot; though I suppose Micah’s reformation is supposed to be the main one, though I never got into it. There are few other subplots about starting a GSA, Micah’s school environment, a vague romance, and his future career in the AFL. I usually enjoy reading slice of life stories, but not really ones that only seemed to shit on the main character for reasons not adequately portrayed.

 

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

 

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Here & Now – Lisa Marie Davis

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“He silently cursed Cyrus Carson for that – for walking in and creating waves where Jaxon simply didn’t want them.”

 

In a word: Read the thing. I was initially interested in reading this one because it was the first romance I’d ever come across where one of the leads was living with HIV (and it wasn’t a tragedy). I will say that I don’t think this story lived up to my expectations, but it still wasn’t a bad story. We don’t really get much detail of Jaxon’s struggles with HIV (outside of his fear of potentially passing it on to a partner), but it’s not glossed over and it’s a definite real part of Jaxon’s life. It was nice to read a romance involving an HIV-positive lead where no one died. There was a nice, if a bit predictable, little plot and the writing was okay. One of my biggest problems was with Cyrus, Jaxon’s love interest. His behavior when he first showed up made me dislike him and when he suddenly changed his tune it never really felt genuine to me and I never warmed up to him. I liked Jaxon and Cyrus’ relationship after Cyrus’ personality change, but it almost felt as if Cyrus became a different person after he finally got close to Jaxon. I mostly put that down to poor transitioning. Cyrus annoyed me less when he wasn’t acting like a smug prick and insisting on running the show, and I did get invested in his and Jaxon’s relationship eventually.

 

[available for purchase at Dreamspinner Press, Amazon.ca, Chapters, and Barnes & Noble. Also available in the Lisa Marie Davis’s Greatest Hits bundle x x x]

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Big Love – Rick R. Reed

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“How freeing it would be, he thought, when he had no one to answer to save for himself, to just be who you were, to not have a choice in the matter, as he had believed he did.”

 

In a word: Read the thing. This one is more than just a romance story, though it is also that. This book actually has three protagonists: two teachers, Dane and Seth, and one of their students, Truman (this is not a teacher-student relationship book, that’s not where I’m going with this). The main romance happens between Dane and Seth, and that’s a good-sized part of the plot, but the bigger part of the story is about Dane and Truman learning to accept themselves as they are as gay men. It’s an interesting read because these are two very different people at two difference places in their lives, but they’re still going on the same journey. There are different reasons as to why this is difficult for both of them, but they do eventually get there in the end. Seth himself is already out and proud (and has been since his teens) and it’s mostly with his encouragement that Dane and Truman learn to come into their own. The story is an emotional roller coaster, starting with Truman’s introduction and the death of Dane’s wife, a happily ever after, and then a whole lot happening in between. I was pretty invested in all the emotional twists and turns and the writing was good enough that it all flowed well. I did think that the writing was a bit to flowery for my tastes in some parts, but overall it was a well-written story and I definitely recommend it.

 

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

 

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A Wounded Promise (Sam’s Café Romances #2) – Ashavan Doyon

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Will Russ be mad at me? Which wasn’t nearly as bad as the other thought. Am I allowed to be mad at Russ?

 

In a word: Maybe read the thing? I had a few problems with this one, and I’m not sure which problems are down to bad writing and which are due to the fact that I didn’t read the book that came before this one. Russ and Justin got together in the previous book (The King’s Mate) and this book continues their story. While I was reading this book it felt a lot like the author was banking on me already having read the first book. It kinda felt like being dumped into a story already in progress, with minimal character introductions and people making references to events in ways that make it seem like I should already know about them. Sam and Russ in particular are always talking about past events and the text doesn’t explain anything about them, but I don’t know if that’s bad writing and we will be learning about those events eventually, or if it was already explained in the first book and I’m missing out because I didn’t read it. Although I also had problems with the writing in other ways, mostly with the dialogue and the (many) sex scenes. Also I never felt that I connected with any of the characters, I felt for them and their problems, but I didn’t really care about them. Speaking of problems, this story is also really bleak. The main focus of it is about Russ and Justin confiding in each other about issues they have about their past and how they are trying to work through them and learning to work through them together. It’s mostly a downer and pretty heavy. Also I don’t think I was ever really sold on Russ and Justin as a couple; I never really got invested in them.

 

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

 

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When All the World Sleeps – Lisa Henry & J. A. Rock

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“Bel didn’t even know what the hell he meant by trying to help Whitlock, what he planned to do, or whether it would work. He just knew he had to try.”

 

In a word: Read the thing! But oh holy hell be careful because this one is dark (still totally loved it though). This is definitely a romance story, but there is so much more going on here. The whole situation, and a lot of the characters, are really screwed up. It makes for some intense reading. I got sucked into the story and just could not bring myself to put this book down for anything. It’s close to 400 pages long and I got through it in one day, I just had to keep reading to see what would happen next. Daniel and Bel’s relationship is the farthest thing from easy considering all the shit they have to deal with, both from the people around them and each other. Daniel is hated by pretty much everyone in town, including his family, for things he doesn’t have any control over. He appears to be close to reaching the end of his rope at the beginning of the story; and he probably would have had it not been for Bel. The great part about Bel’s effect on Daniel is that Bel doesn’t technically ‘save’ him. Daniel at the end of the book is leagues better than Daniel at the beginning, but his problems are still very present and very real. Bel’s love doesn’t cure anything, but it does help Daniel to realize that he’s worth something as a person and that he doesn’t deserve to be constantly drowning in guilt. Bel also goes through his own development, because he can’t love Daniel and be the same person he was before he really got to know him. Their relationship is sometimes beautiful and sometimes heartbreaking (and sometimes cheesy), and it’s quite the read to see them from point A to point B. This might be a difficult book for some people to get through, because the dark stuff is pretty dark and all of Daniel and Bel’s successes are hard won, but I like to think that the ending is all worth it.

 

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

 

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