Connected by THE LITTLE LIBRARY–A TBT Review

Hi there! Today I’m excited to share a Throwback Thursday review for a contemporary M/M romance from Kim Fielding. THE LITTLE LIBRARY connects a lonely historian with a cop on the mend. I enjoyed A SECOND HARVEST and LOVE CAN’T CONQUER, and I’m a big fan of Ms. Fielding.

About the book:
Elliott Thompson was once a historian with a promising academic future, but his involvement in a scandal meant a lost job, public shame, and a ruined love life. He took shelter in his rural California hometown, where he teaches online classes, hoards books, and despairs of his future.

Simon Odisho has lost a job as well—to a bullet that sidelined his career in law enforcement. While his shattered knee recovers, he rethinks his job prospects and searches for the courage to come out to his close-knit but conservative extended family.

In an attempt to manage his overflowing book collection, Elliott builds a miniature neighborhood library in his front yard. The project puts him in touch with his neighbors—for better and worse—and introduces him to handsome, charming Simon. While romance blooms quickly between them, Elliott’s not willing to live in the closet, and his best career prospects might take him far away. His books have plenty to tell him about history, but they give him no clues about a future with Simon.

My Review:
History professor Elliott Thompson is licking his wounds following the disastrous end of his most recent relationship. His ex is a criminal, and though Elliott was found innocent of conspiring with him, his university decided it would be best if they made clean break. So, he’s returned to his small California hometown, teaching online courses and masking his hurt feelings with an addiction to purchasing books online–particularly paperbacks. His home, however, has only so much physical space to contain these books, so Elliott’s solution to his book hoarding is to build a little library that he posts in his front yard. Elliott’s home is near a popular footpath, so his neighbors are a bit thrilled with the advent of free books just for their own pleasure. Well, mostly. He does have one homophobic jerk who makes more than a stink over it. Elliott takes great pleasure curating his library selection and seeing what books get taken–and what new ones are replaced by other readers!

Simon Odisho is a first generation American, born to Assyrian immigrants. His family is boisterous and caring, but also conservative, and Simon has kept his sexuality secret from them, and the members of the police force–while he was employed there. Unfortunately, a bullet in the line of duty has ruined Simon’s knee and his prospects in law enforcement. He walks the trail near Elliott’s home for his physical therapy, and he admires Elliott’s running on the trail and his little library.

The attraction between Elliott and Simon is mutual, despite the difficulties of their lives. Simon still wants to remain closeted, and Elliott is considering job offers that could take him away from this small town respite. In consideration of these conflicts, they decide to try something low-key and no strings, but that’s a sure-fire way to find the love you’d been seeking all along. There’s a little bit of steam and a little bit of humor–especially the first date scene which is laugh out loud. Through the growth of these characters we get to see how a community of supporters can change the bleakest of moments and experiences. And how books can change all our lives for the better. When I first read this one, I thought the bigoted neighbor was over-the-top and a bit of a caricature, but seeing this character in light of the way some folks are behaving in real life, regarding the pandemic, and racial injustice and being just uncivil in the highest degree, I could fully envision this character anew and recognize him for the danger he poses in our world today.

That said, it’s a pretty low angst romance with a bit of steam and a believable HEA for Simon and Elliott. It was an enjoyable read back when it came out, and again when I delved back for a TBT.

Interested? You can find THE LITTLE LIBRARY on Goodreads, Amazon, and Apple Books. I received a review copy of this book via NetGalley.

About the Author:
Kim Fielding lives in California and travels as often as she can manage. A professor by day, at night she rushes into a phone booth to change into her author costume (which involves comfy clothes instead of Spandex and is, sadly, lacking a cape). Her superpowers include the ability to write nearly anywhere, often while simultaneously doling out assistance to her family. Her favorite word to describe herself is “eclectic” and she finally got that fourth tattoo.

Catch up to Kim on her website, Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!

Their Experience Was STAGED–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m really excited to share a review for a new alternate universe M/M romance from Kim Fielding. You already know I enjoyed A SECOND HARVEST and LOVE CAN’T CONQUER, but STAGED is something altogether different. It’s a new episode in the Belonging ‘Verse series offered by Riptide Publishing, and it’s a really unique story setting. All the stories take place in a world very much like ours, except slavery was never outlawed…

Staged (Belonging, #3)About the book:
Once the second-prize winner on My Slave’s Got Talent, Sky Blue has spent the past few years singing at a failing New York nightclub. While Sky has never had control over his fate, his life seems to take a turn for the worse when he’s torn from the familiar comfort of performing and sold to a rich and enigmatic man.

Morgan Wallace takes his newly purchased slave to San Francisco, his intentions unclear. On the one hand, he treats Sky with more kindness than Sky has ever known—treats him like a real person. On the other hand, he shares Sky at parties hosted by his sadistic new friends.

A confused slave is an endangered slave, and Sky isn’t even sure of his master’s real name. Is he Morgan Wallace, wealthy and cruel, or Mackenzie Webster, caring and compassionate? Caught between hope, fear, and an undeniably growing attachment, Sky struggles to untangle which parts are real and which are merely a performance. His future, his heart, and even his life may depend on it.

Reader discretion advised. This title contains the following sensitive themes: dubious consent, explicit violence and non-consent.

My Review:
This book is the third set in the “Belonging ‘Verse” series that explores an alternate world where slavery was never abolished, and is set in current times. It is a stand alone read.

The book has these warnings: dubious consent, explicit violence, and non-consent. You need to understand that this is a fictional slave society. Slaves are not allowed to refuse any task or action desired by any master, even ones not their own. This book contains rapes and horrific beatings of slaves, including the MC, Sky Blue.

Sky Blue is a slave, born from a slave in a whorehouse, though his father was a well-known freeman singer. He was sold at age 8 to a music producer. He later took second in a slave singing competition, and toured the world with the all-slave band 2Nyte. These days he sings in a rundown club, and he knows his days are numbered there. He’s not surprised when he’s sold to a slave trader, and he’s fretful, awaiting purchase in a filthy warehouse where he’s caged all day and night. Then he’s bought.

Morgan Wallace seems wealthy and kind, at first, but he’s never handled a slave before. Sky is anxious for direction, and has no idea what to do with himself. He travels from NYC to San Francisco and there he learns the worst of his new experience. He and Morgan make the rounds at all-male, private, BDSM parties. Which are horrifying. Truly. Not only are the slaves there mistreated, they are disfigured and raped for the dubious enjoyment of their masters. These are freemen who take great pleasure in breaking the toys of their fellows.

Morgan seems genuinely apologetic and torn regarding his employment of Sky at these parties. He seemingly takes no pleasure in it, and spends days tending Sky’s wounds in the aftermath. He buys Sky all sorts of gifts, and it’s utterly confusing to Sky. Why? Why torture? Why make amends? Can none of these people see him as human? The answer to that is: NO. Sky challenges Morgan’s beliefs regarding the intellect of slaves, but Morgan’s in a position where he can’t stop his association with the horrible cretins, and manumission (freeing of a slave) is not allowable–unlawful–in any case. That said, he has a genuine affection for Sky. Sky’s also perversely attracted to Morgan–and often takes the upper hand in their private, intimate activities. Sky’s never had a home, only a place to stay where he was communally housed with other slaves. The apartment that he and Morgan share is the first place that feels uniquely home to him.

I don’t want to give away the big twist, but I will acknowledge that I expected it. Morgan’s activity is too shady, and his remorse too sincere. He’s clearly playing a dangerous game with Sky and his new BDSM associates, and he’s unable to pull out, even if it means hurting Sky more and more. Still, Morgan recognizes that Sky is as much a man as he is, and just as intelligent, debunking the indoctrinated fiction that slaves are somehow lesser beings, and unable to feel any sense of their position. This makes Morgan realize that his actions are all the more heinous.

I loved how Sky was so in touch with his humanity, and the limitations and injustice of his station. While there is absolutely a thriller/horrifying aspect to the book, the ending is truly tender and spectacular. Sky never imagined what his fate might be, but he made actual decisions–generally forbidden–that directed the course of his new life and happiness. When he had the opportunities to escape, he demonstrated, without any shadow of doubt, his humanity and commitment to Morgan. It was really so sweet, and I was happily rewarded by bearing witness to Sky’s HEA.

Writing a book from a slave’s perspective is never easy, I imagine. This whole alternate universe is a statement about control, and the lack of it. It allows deep investigation of the darker side of humanity, perspectives that linger malevolently on the side of our current experience, but have never really faded: entitlement, prejudice, absolute power, exploitation, and the like. It’s not a pretty picture–and surely exists on the fringe of society today. By internalizing these stories, readers are able to gain a new empathy for those who don’t have any real power over their destiny or livelihood. I enjoyed the previous two books in this series for that same reason. That said, none of the books are upbeat or happy, though they do end with an HEA, as well. There are no actual repercussions for owners who abuse their slaves, while there are many torments to which a slave can be subject, not the least of which is being sold off to work in dangerous mines. There is a small movement to abolish slavery, but it is still in its infancy.

You are warned in the blurbs–non-consent, violence and dark themes within. Let the reader be wary.

Interested? You can find STAGED on Goodreads, Riptide Publishing, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and AllRomance. I received a review copy of this book via NetGalley.

About the Author:
venicebigKim Fielding is the bestselling, award-winning author of numerous m/m romance novels, novellas, and short stories. Like Kim herself, her work is eclectic, spanning genres such as contemporary, fantasy, paranormal, and historical. Her stories are set in alternate worlds, in 15th century Bosnia, in modern-day Oregon. Her heroes are hipster architect werewolves, housekeepers, maimed giants, and conflicted graduate students. They’re usually flawed, they often encounter terrible obstacles, but they always find love.

After having migrated back and forth across the western two-thirds of the United States, Kim calls the boring part of California home. She lives there with her husband, her two daughters, and her day job as a university professor, but escapes as often as possible via car, train, plane, or boat. This may explain why her characters often seem to be in transit as well. She dreams of traveling and writing full-time.

Catch up to Kim on her website, Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!

Finding Out if LOVE CAN’T CONQUER–Review and Giveaway!

Love Can't Conquer Blog Tour BannerHi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a fantastic contemporary M/M romance from Kim Fielding. LOVE CAN’T CONQUER kept me turning pages long into the night. It features two mature men finding a forever connection…perhaps.

Check out the excerpt, my review and get in on the big giveaway, below!

LoveCantConquerFSAbout the book:
Bullied as a child in small-town Kansas, Jeremy Cox ultimately escaped to Portland, Oregon. Now in his forties, he’s an urban park ranger who does his best to rescue runaways and other street people. His ex-boyfriend, Donny—lost to drinking and drugs six years earlier—appears on his doorstep and inadvertently drags Jeremy into danger. As if dealing with Donny’s issues doesn’t cause enough turmoil, Jeremy meets a fascinating but enigmatic man who carries more than his fair share of problems.

Qayin Hill has almost nothing but skeletons in his closet and demons in his head. A former addict who struggles with anxiety and depression, Qay doesn’t know which of his secrets to reveal to Jeremy—or how to react when Jeremy wants to save him from himself.

Despite the pasts that continue to haunt them, Jeremy and Qay find passion, friendship, and a tentative hope for the future. Now they need to decide whether love is truly a powerful thing or if, despite the old adage, love can’t conquer all.

How about a little taste?

Night had fallen some time ago, and the black sky spit cold, stinging raindrops, making Qay shiver as he descended from the loading bay onto the street. He had to walk a couple of blocks to his first bus; he’d be soaked and miserable by then. Wouldn’t it be nice if someday he could afford a car? Although he’d always lusted after muscle cars, he’d be happy with even the most basic little econobox as long as it ran and kept him dry. He certainly didn’t need anything as burly as the dark SUV parked a few yards away.

Just as he realized that he recognized the SUV, the driver’s door opened and a big man in a green uniform slid out. Qay froze in place. The man walked over until he was just out of arm’s reach, and then he stopped.

“You worked late,” Jeremy said.

“What… what are you doing here?”

“Waiting for you.”

“But…. Why…. How did you…?” As usual, Qay was eloquent when flustered.

Jeremy’s grin was small and tight, but it was there. “We’re getting soaked. Can we have this conversation in my car? I’ll crank the heat.”

Not trusting himself with words, Qay simply nodded. When Jeremy held the passenger door open, something lively fluttered in Qay’s chest.

They sat silently in the SUV for a long time, fogging the inside of the windshield. The radio was off, but the fan blew full blast. Qay watched rain droplets fall from his hair onto his lap. They left little circles of darker blue on the denim.

“Stuart is an asshole,” Qay finally said.

“Your supervisor?”

“Yeah. That’s why I worked late.” He snuck a peek at Jeremy from the corner of his eye. “Have you been here since five?”

“Four thirty, actually. And I’ve had to pee for at least half an hour.”

“I could probably talk the security guard into letting you into the factory. The bathroom’s pristine. I just cleaned it.”

“I guess I can hold it a little longer.”

Qay nodded. He glanced at Jeremy’s right hand, which lay on the console between them, and saw that the knuckles were scabbed and slightly swollen. “What happened?” Qay asked.

“Stupidity.”

They were quiet again, the pause dragging on long past awkward. Then Jeremy cleared his throat. “How did the exam go?”

Qay couldn’t stop a wide smile. “I aced it. The prof even kept me after class to tell me I’m brilliant.”

Jeremy looked as happy about this news as Qay felt. “Hell yeah, you’re sharp as broken glass.”

“Appropriate comparison.”

“I tried.”

A little of the tension between them eased. Qay picked at a thread on his slightly frayed jeans, then stopped himself and drummed on the armrest instead. “Why are you here?” he asked, looking through his window into blankness. “And how?”

“I used to be a cop, remember? You told me you work at a window factory in Northwest, which narrowed it down. I made some phone calls.” He snorted a laugh. “Didn’t want to get you in trouble or let you know what I was up to, but I remembered Stuart’s name and asked for him. I found him yesterday. Pretended I was a bill collector when he came to the phone. He was just about in tears—kept insisting he’d paid what was due on his credit card.”

The thought of Stuart nearly crying over an imaginary unpaid debt cheered Qay more than it should have. “So that’s the how. What’s the why?”

“I have… questions. And an apology, if I can man up enough to spit it out.”

“Apology? For what?”

Jeremy gave him a long look. “Let’s go somewhere, okay? I can piss and we can eat and… and we can talk.”

Maybe he was courting disaster, but Qay nodded. “All right.”

My Review:

Jeremy is a 43 year old single out-gay park ranger in Portland, Oregon, who’s tired of being single. He’s had two serious relationships in his life, one in college and one that ended six years ago, when he kicked out his longtime lover, Donny. Donny was a fellow officer when they both served on the police force, but Donny was a self-destructive alcoholic and Jeremy needed to save himself, after a while. Jeremy is a widely respected ranger, known for rescuing many of the homeless in the parks he patrols.

Donny turns up on Jeremy’s doorstep one night, bleeding from superficial stab wounds. While Jeremy won’t let himself get pulled into Donny’s drama, he does help him out. His discussion of the crazy night to his good friend, Rhoda, is overheard by Qayin Hill, a patron in Rhoda’s coffeehouse.

Qayin (Hebrew for Cain) is a drifter, ex-junkie who’s been clean seven years and is trying–at 45 years of age–to rebuild his life. He wasn’t always that way. Once he was an abused kid who sought refuge in a suicide attempt–and hails from Jeremy’s home town. In fact, they knew each other way back when. Qayin’s ashamed of his past, but he’s attracted to Jeremy, who really grew up from the short, pudgy boy that was teased mercilessly in school. Qayin hides his true identity from Jeremy, but only for a short while.

This proves a small setback in the courtship. Bigger issues press, like when the guys who messed up Donny decide to toss Jeremy’s apartment, and bodies begin to turn up. While Jeremy isn’t a cop any longer, this does have elements of a police romance. Bad guys on the distant edges are a constant threat, but the real danger is the emotional investment of Jeremy and Qay. They have a lot of scars that they wouldn’t generally share, but they do, creating an intimacy that is more valuable than sex–which they decide to postpone for several dates–despite a significant attraction.

I really liked how these guys made themselves vulnerable. Qay has so much shame over his past, and still owns it. He’s a depressive, who’s had more than one suicide attempt, and admits his recovering addictions (to prescription and illegal drugs) on their first meeting; Jeremy is only ever supportive. Jeremy has a bit of a hero complex, and he knows it can be overwhelming. His life really has been in the service of others, which is why it’s so crappy that Donny brought huge problems to his doorstep. No matter what, Qay won’t add more burdens to Jeremy’s back. Even if it means walking away from the only man he ever loved, and who loved him in return.

The book spans several tumultuous weeks, which seems a little fast for a true love to develop, but these guys have a history of attraction. Once Jeremy gets over his initial shock, he remembers that Kevin (Qayin’s birth name) was his first crush. For all the guilt and terror that Qay still carries of his childhood, he recognizes that young Jeremy Cox was a bright spot. Their intense attraction and deep confessions lead to a strong emotional bond. Plus, these guys are in their mid-forties. They have learned a lot of the world, and are open-minded about past mistakes.

Trouble comes, as it is wont to do, and Qay is as rock-solid as he can manage to be. Especially as Jeremy is in very bad shape. That said, it is the growth of their relationship that most distresses Qay. He’s never had a stable relationship, and he feels unworthy to Jeremy’s goodness. I think I knew where, specifically, this book would take Jeremy, Qay, and me, but I wasn’t a bit put off by the journey. There are some ghosts that can only be laid to rest by confrontation. It was a fairly spectacular reunion, and a sweet epilogue. I’m quite sure that readers will disagree with the title. While romantic love may not conquer all, in this story it was pretty close. In the end self-love, for Qay, won the day.

There are some great secondary characters here, most notably Rhoda, Patron Saint of Caffeinated Beverages, but also Nevin Ng, another close friend of Jeremy’s who has the mouth of a drunken trucker, despite being an awesome cop. Trigger warning, there are lots of discussions of depression, suicide and abuse. Also, a brief scene of graphic violence and torture.

Interested? You can find LOVE CAN’T CONQUER on Goodreads, Dreamspinner Press (ebook or paperback), Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Kobo, and AllRomance.

****GIVEAWAY****

Click on this Rafflecopter giveaway link for your chance to win an E-copy of Rattlesnake, Audiobook of Good Bones, and $30 Dreamspinner gift card.
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

About the Author:
venicebigKim Fielding is the bestselling, award-winning author of numerous m/m romance novels, novellas, and short stories. Like Kim herself, her work is eclectic, spanning genres such as contemporary, fantasy, paranormal, and historical. Her stories are set in alternate worlds, in 15th century Bosnia, in modern-day Oregon. Her heroes are hipster architect werewolves, housekeepers, maimed giants, and conflicted graduate students. They’re usually flawed, they often encounter terrible obstacles, but they always find love.

After having migrated back and forth across the western two-thirds of the United States, Kim calls the boring part of California home. She lives there with her husband, her two daughters, and her day job as a university professor, but escapes as often as possible via car, train, plane, or boat. This may explain why her characters often seem to be in transit as well. She dreams of traveling and writing full-time.

Catch up to Kim on her website, Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

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