Buried Feelings in DARK ECONOMY–A Review

Hi there! Toady I’m sharing a review for an historical M/M mystery with a dash of romance tossed in. DARK ECONOMY by M. Keedwell is a full on 19th century sleuthing expedition, and it was rather interesting.

Dark EconomyAbout the book:

Love can’t stay buried.

Medical student Cadell Meredith has been known to acquire “volunteers” from the occasional pauper’s grave in order to improve his surgical skills. While the legality of this practice is a bit murky, he wouldn’t go so far as to call it out and out robbery.

His latest acquisition, however, is different. The body on his table was obviously healthy, wealthy—and murdered. Cadell feels compelled to seek justice for the dead man, but while dissection comes naturally to him, crime investigation is unfamiliar territory.

Furthermore, he’s caught the attention of one of those new police officers, Blaine Breton. A handsome, sentimental fool who insists Cadell is a criminal. A criminal! Cadell is the first to admit he’s no saint, but he’s no killer.

A marvelous game of cat and mouse ensues as Cadell seeks to expose the truth while hiding his own secrets. A task that grows ever more difficult as his desire for Breton grows…and the danger deepens.

Warning: This story contains mystery, mayhem, and a male romance that starts off in the most delicious way possible—mutual hostility. Enjoy!

My Review:

This is a LONG, but interesting, historical mystery with a DASH of M/M romance.

Cadell Meredith is a medical student in 19th century London. Driven to supplement his income by drawing true-to-life medical diagrams for some of his professors, he stoops to stealing fresh bodies from graves, which is how he comes across the recently murdered Robert Treswick, son of an earl and buried unnamed in a pauper’s grave. It’s also how he falls onto the radar of Constable Blaine Breton–of his majesty’s service. Seems Breton has a particular dislike of graverobbing louts, and lumps Cadell in with this criminal sort.

Cadell is drawn into discovering who murdered Treswick and that puts him into contact with Breton more than feels comfortable. The unnatural urges he’s squelched since he and a childhood friend were caught experimenting and Cadell’s father disowned him eight years ago are all inflamed in the presence of the cold and calculating Breton. In order to turn the tables in his favor, and work toward the mystery’s end, Cadell devises a plan to steal one of Breton’s constable suits and masquerade as an officer. This does move the plot along, and forces Breton to follow his quarry, Cadell, more closely.

I’m not going to belabor the talk of the plot. It’s long, and circuitous. I felt as if I was reading Alistair McLean again, at times, with all the misdirection and partial clues. I will say that I wanted there to be more of a spark between Cadell and Breton. They have a very tentative dance–how does a man approach an officer of the law with his unlawful desires, anyway! That’s one stumbling block. The other is the graverobbing. Both crimes would get Cadell swung from the gallows. That said, there are moments of quiet intimacy where a rapport and grudging regard are built. When Breton needs assistance, be it medical or menial, he calls upon Cadell. There are others involved in the morass, a friend of the late Treswick who becomes an intimate confidante, and a reconnection of Cadell with his teen love.

Throughout, however, there is this excellent discipline of Cadell’s to remain obsessively focused on deciphering the guilty party. By the end he’s uncovered three bastards, foiled a theft ring, and solved three murders–while nearly becoming a fourth. If you’re looking for a spicy romance, this is not your book. If you are looking for a complicated mystery with some M/M elements and excellent historical accuracy, this is your read. I did enjoy it, but would have loved a bunch more lovin’.

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

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

Cover Reveal! CLEAN by Mia Kerick

Clean Banner
Hi there! I’m so excited to reveal the cover for CLEAN, Mia Kerick’s new edgy YA M/M coming out story. So, without further ado…
CLEAN cover
About the book:
High school senior Lanny Keating has it all. A three-sport athlete at Lauserville High School looking at a college football scholarship, with a supportive family, stellar grades, boy band good looks… until the fateful day when it all falls apart.

Seventeen-year-old Trevor Ladd has always been a publicly declared zero and the high school bad-boy. Abandoned by his mother and sexually abused by his legal guardian, Trevor sets his sights on mere survival.

Lanny seeks out Trevor’s companionship to avoid his shattered home life. Unwilling to share their personal experiences of pain, the boys explore ways to escape, leading them into sexual experimentation, and the abuse of illegal drugs and alcohol. Their mutual suffering creates a lasting bond of friendship and love.

When the time finally comes to get clean and sober, or flunk out of high school, only one of the boys will graduate, while the other spirals downward into addiction.

Will Lanny and Trevor find the strength to battle their demons of mind-altering substances as well as emotional vulnerability?

Clean takes the reader on a gritty trip into the real and raw world of teenage substance abuse.

A little taste (from the Prologue):
Lanny

Trevor wouldn’t even look at me when I walked over to the gas station this morning to say hi. And Jimmy’s Fuel Stop is like three miles from my house so it took a major effort to walk there, especially since I’ve been feeling like total crap lately. Another one of my shaky human bonds bites the dust. I need to go out and get myself a cat.

“Can’t you see I’m working, Keating?” That was all he said. But I’ve always been good at reading between the lines. I could tell what he was thinking as he stood beside the gas pumps, totally caught up in not looking at me. “Take a hike before you get me fired, loser. Some of us got goals in life….” So I took off before he had a chance to make me feel like I shouldn’t have ever made an appearance on the planet earth. But I still know it would have been better had I never been born…maybe Joelle would still be okay.

It’s Saturday afternoon and nobody’s home. Mom and Dad are probably off at the park with Joelle, sloshing through the wet snow together so she gets her daily exercise. Or maybe they took her to the make- your-own-sundae-place to improve her fine motor skills by sprinkling sweet toppings on big scoops of ice cream. I’m in Mom and Dad’s bathroom, bent in half with my head stuck in the closet, searching the cluttered shelves for anything that will get me high enough to escape. And I mean anything.

That’s when I see the cough syrup. The bottle in front is almost new, and there’s an older bottle of a different brand right behind it, little more than halfway full. Seeing these medicine bottles reminds me of something Chad suggested about a week or two ago— that we should try robo-tripping. He told me that if we drink enough cough syrup, the DXM in it would get us high in a “super blissful, tingling-body-parts way,” which sounded pretty decent to me then and still does now. Not completely surprised I remembered Chad’s exact description of a DXM high, I thank God for this dextromethorphan stuff that suppresses nasty coughs, because it looks like I’m going to find my much-needed buzz after all.

Pleased that I don’t have to resort to sniffing glue from the tube on my father’s basement workbench or huffing my mother’s hairspray—and believe me I came close—I snatch the bottles with a shaky hand. They’re both sticky with the syrup that dripped down the side last time one of the Keating’s had a major head cold accompanied by a hacking cough. Licking my fingers provides me with a hint of the cherry flavor I’m probably going to be barfing up later tonight. But I don’t care. I can’t get through a single day without some help, and by that I don’t mean help from my human friends, seeing as I have none left.

The walk to the shed seems longer than ever. It’s an effort to so much as put one foot in front of the other. I haven’t eaten anything for a full day; I’m sure that’s why I feel like such crap. And it’s not like I want to think about this stuff, but I can’t stop myself. The “stuff” I don’t want to think about is really people. The people I have hurt so much lately because of my bad habits.

This list starts with my little sister Joelle, who I told to “stuff a sock in it” when she asked me to read that goddamned book about a kid going to school—for the zillionth time! “School’s not all it’s cracked up to be, Jo. Stop being so damned excited about it! Those kids are gonna tear you to pieces and won’t even wait until you turn your back to do it!” It hurts too much to remember the expression on her face right after I told her that, so instead I stare beyond the leafless trees into the gray sky and think about my parents.

I’ve hurt Mom and Dad a lot too, because they know I’m sick, they just don’t know exactly what’s wrong with me. And I’m not sure how much they care. Their plates are too full already with Joelle’s problems, I guess.

I glance down at the two bottles of cough medicine dangling from between my fingers and remember Chrissy and Robyn, who I use like toilet paper. They can do way better than me in the study-buddy department.

I trip over a root that crosses my path and fall to my knees, but just as quickly drag myself back to my feet. A stray root isn’t enough to stop me from getting to where I’m going.

I’m almost at the shed now, and I can’t avoid thinking about him any longer. Trevor hates me. He never calls anymore, never asks me to go to the shed to drink some beer and fool around. He just looks at me in the hallway at school with angry disgusted eyes, and tells me every chance he gets “you’re fucking up your life and I’m not gonna let you fuck up mine.”

Trevor Ladd…the ultimate untouchable. If I could’ve made somebody like him want to be with me, I would’ve surely been able to win my parents back. Well, no such luck. I’m more of a zero to Trevor than I ever was…and Mom and Dad still don’t care.

Blew my entire life sky high. Which is where I’ll be soon, if all goes according to plan. I lift each bottle of sticky sweet cough medicine to my lips and kiss them, one by one.

Just the sight of the tiny, beat-up brown shed fills me with an indescribable sense of relief, probably like the feeling of coming home after years at sea. As soon as I push open the door, I see that Trevor isn’t here and I’m illogically disappointed. But Trevor can’t save me from myself. He did his duty; he tried to get me clean, and he got clean in the process.

Way to go, Trevor.

Alone in a frigid shed in the middle of the woods, I’m more than eager to suck down a couple bottles of cough medicine so I can be somewhere else…someone else. A vision of Landon Keating forms in my mind—not Lanny, the student, or Lanny, the athlete, or Lanny, the son and brother—but the near-future version of me when I’m “simultaneously mellow and stimulated,” if the online experiences I’ve read about taking DXM are accurate. Sad truth is, I’ll take just plain disoriented. Any effect will be fine if it whisks me away.

I drop down to the cold floor and without ceremony open one of the small bottles. The cough medicine goes down more easily than I thought.

Cherry-berry-sweet-thick-burning-soothing- pleasure-pain. It doesn’t take too long.

Itchy as hell…belly’s on fire….

“Read to me, Lanny…read it again!

”Can’t feel my legs at all….

“Wishes don’t wash dishes, son.”

Can’t stop barfing…. So sick….

“Take a hike, Keating—you filthy, no-good, loser boozer-druggie!”

Blew it with Trevor…blew it with everybody.

Can’t breathe…need a breath….

Gonna die here alone.

This one looks intense. As a mother to teen sons, I’m excited (and scared!) to read it.

Interested? You can find CLEAN on Goodreads, and Amazon (US, UK, CA and AU).

****GIVEAWAY****

Click the Rafflecopter link below for your chance to win a $10 Amazon gift card.
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Good luck and keep reading my friends!

About the Author:
Mia Kerick is the mother of four exceptional children—all named after saints—and five nonpedigreed cats—all named after the next best thing to saints, Boston Red Sox players. Her husband of twenty-two years has been told by many that he has the patience of Job, but don’t ask Mia about that, as it is a sensitive subject.

Mia focuses her stories on the emotional growth of troubled young people and their relationships, and she believes that physical intimacy has a place in a love story, but not until it is firmly established as a love story. As a teen, Mia filled spiral-bound notebooks with romantic tales of tortured heroes (most of whom happened to strongly resemble lead vocalists of 1980s big-hair bands) and stuffed them under her mattress for safekeeping. She is thankful to Dreamspinner Press, Harmony Ink Press, and CreateSpace for providing her with alternate places to stash her stories.

Mia is a social liberal and cheers for each and every victory made in the name of human rights, especially marital equality. Her only major regret: never having taken typing or computer class in school, destining her to a life consumed with two-fingered pecking and constant prayer to the Gods of Technology.

Where to find Mia online: Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

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Compromises Between THE MISTRESS AND HER MEN–Excerpt, Review and Giveaway

Mistress-BannerTemplate
Hi there! Today’ I’m sharing a review for a sexy menage historical romance from Minerva Howe (aka Julia Talbot) that releases today. THE MISTRESS AND HER MEN is so yummy and sexy, I’m hoping for a sequel.

Make sure to check out the excerpt, my review and enter the giveaway for an ebook of your own.

MistressAbout the book:
The path to love isn’t always a straight line. Sometimes it’s a triangle.
When Simon realizes his dearest friend is in real trouble with gambling, whoring and daredeviling, he hits on the perfect solution: provide Matthias with an outlet for his self-destructive urges. While Simon would be more than willing to take on the task himself, Matthias has always fought their “unnatural” attraction.

As London’s Mistress of Discipline, Felice Grey wears her independent and scandalous reputation with confidence. She’ll take on Matthias for one night as a favor to Simon—even break her own rules to let Simon watch. She never expected that Matthias’s struggle against his feelings for Simon would touch her heart, or that she’d feel drawn to both men. Especially since Simon’s dominant nature makes it unlikely he’ll bend to her will.

Simon, barely surviving the night’s session, withdraws to his country estate in hopes that his two favorite people will find each other. Felice and Matthias must make a decision—let happiness fall by the wayside, or pursue it—and damn the risk.

How about a little taste?
London 1779

Simon sat in the depths of a smoky gambling hell, his cravat undone, his coat tossed carelessly across a stool near his feet. He knew he presented the very portrait of a debauched noble gambling his night away. That was precisely what he wanted, because he was in the gaming hell as a spy tonight, rather than a full participant.

Tonight he was watching his dear friend Matthias wager away every bit of good fortune the man had ever possessed. Indeed, Simon saw a note that no doubt represented every bit of Matthias’s remaining land in the pile of loot at the center of his table. What Simon really wished to do was to go over to that table and wipe it clean with his arm, dramatically saving Matthias from himself. He knew, however, that his friend would not thank him for it, so instead he would wait until a destitute Matthias left to drown his sorrows in whatever drink he might yet afford. Then he would buy all of those notes back from the winners, whether they wished to sell or not. A roar from Matthias brought Simon’s attention back from his thoughts. Matthias’s gaming table spilled over, notes and coins flying.

“You’re a damned cheat,” Matthias shouted, and in finally seeing Matthias’s opponent’s face, Simon could not but agree. Lord Chalmsley was, indeed, a terrible cheat. He was also armed with a dagger in his sleeve, which snicked into place against Matthias’s breastbone in less than a heartbeat.

“How dare you, sir?” Chalmsley said calmly. “I have beaten you over and over this evening because of your lack of skill, not chicanery.”

“That’s a load of shite.” Matthias pressed against the blade until a red spot appeared on his lawn shirt. “Had you nothing to hide you would not conceal a weapon and use it so readily.”

Chalmsley backed away slowly. “I only protect myself, you insolent bastard.”

“Ah, but I am no more a bastard than you are,” Matthias stated. “Fight me fairly.”

“I did. With the cards.” With a flourish of his blade, Chalmsley bent to pick up the notes before stuffing them into his coat. “Good night, all.” Matthias lunged, only to be held back by a few acquaintances. Not an easy task, considering his stature, his heavy muscles. Simon watched him thusly restrained, and the kernel of an idea took hold in his mind. The image of that bright spot of blood crystalized in Simon’s thoughts.

Good God, his friend had a death wish. Yes, Matthias had a need to castigate himself. To punish himself for his perceived failures in life. How many times had Simon seen Matthias throw the first punch or toss a note in someone’s face? How many times had the man courted danger to his person simply because he didn’t think he was worthy of his life? He wondered why it had taken him so long to realize that he knew of a solution. Oh, God help him, he might just be able to save Matthias from another night such as this, from giving away his land and his life to fulfill some sort of fatalistic desire.

Matthias needed to explore this need for violence, for self-punishment, in a safe place. Would that Simon could become that place, but he knew Matthias would never accept such games from a man, let alone one he considered a close friend. There was someone, though, someone who would give Matthias what he needed.

Simon stood, assuming his jacket before he left the room so that Matthias never saw him. He dropped his own blade into his hand when he approached Chalmsley from behind, then pressed the dagger to the man’s ribs. “I’ll take those notes, my lord,” he said, smiling when Chalmsley stiffened. “I would have bought them, but I do abhor a cheat.”

My Review:
This is a delicious sexy read that includes BDSM scenes and multi-partner M/M, M/F and M/M/F play.

Viscount Thatcher, Simon Manchester has a serious affection for his good friend Baron Matthias Kingsley. Matthias has an unnatural desire for men that he refuses to indulge. It’s a hanging offense after all. This attraction does his head in, a bit, and causes him to behave in other risky manners, like gambling and brawling He’s lost his fortune many a time, only to have Simon step in and rescue him. This time, however, Simon has a stipulation. He will return Matthias’ markers if Matthias will submit himself to the notorious Mistress of Discipline, Felice Grey.

This night is a battle of wills for Simon, who plays voyeur, Felice, who is a rare hand with a switch, and Matthias, who is finally at peace after some serious punishment. Felice and Simon are each Dominant partners, but each recognizes their desire of the other. They have an increasing affection for Matthias, and a mutual desire to dominate him…together.

The road is not easy. Matthias is very resistant. He is invited back to Mistress’ parlor, but he denies himself release because he’s too afraid that Simon will engage him. Felice’s punishment is severe, and shatters Matthias’ resolve to refuse Simon. Their reunion is bliss, for a time. Shame country folk are so suspicious and uncivil. The end is happy, but I’d have read on and on. I really liked the BDSM elements, and I love me a Domme who holds her own. Felice is an unapologetic feminist in a society that barely tolerates her. Brava! And Simon is so sexy, really. His love for Matthias is illegal, and rare. He’d rather sacrifice himself than put Felice and Matthias in danger, and a realistic threat exists here.

I liked this one bunches.

Interested? You can find THE MISTRESS AND HER MEN on Goodreads, Samhain Publishing, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Google Play, and AllRomance.

****GIVEAWAY****

Click the Rafflecopter link below for your chance to win an ebook of THE MISTRESS AND HER MEN.
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Good luck and keep reading my friends!

About the author:
Julia Talbot lives in the great Southwest, where there is hot and cold running rodeo, cowboys, and everything from meat and potatoes to the best Tex-Mex. A full time author, Julia has been published by Samhain Publishing, Dreamspinner Press, and Changeling Press to name just a few. She believes that everyone deserves a happy ending, so she writes about love without limits, where boys love boys, girls love girls, and boys and girls get together to get wild, especially when her crazy paranormal characters are involved. Find Julia at @juliatalbot on Twitter, or at http://www.juliatalbot.com. Find all my books from my publishers Samhain, Dreamspinner, All Romance Ebooks, Torquere Press, and Changeling Press at my website. http://www.juliatalbot.com

You can find Julia/Minerva on Facebook, twitter, Goodreads and her blog. Join her newsletter! Get news for Julia and her wife BA Tortuga.

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Reaching the BREAKING UP POINT–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing my review for BREAKING UP POINT, a contemporary M/M romance out today from Brian McNamara. I reviewed the previous book in the series, BOTTLED UP SECRET, and liked it, so I jumped into the sequel when it came on offer.

Breaking Up PointAbout the book:
Brendan Madden is starting his freshman year of college and, although excited, he is sad to say good-bye to his high school boyfriend, Mark. After a rough transition, Brendan carves out a place for himself at school, where he has new friends and newfound independence. With the added strain of distance, however, he now finds it hard to maintain his relationship with Mark, especially due to the fact that Mark still must hide the relationship from most of his friends.

Brendan’s college life allows him to be open and honest about who he is. He debates whether he is willing to compromise this for Mark, especially since staying in the relationship means forgoing the possibility of finding new romance at college.

My Review:
This book is the sequel to BOTTLED UP SECRET, and better enjoyed if the books are read in order.

To sum up from the previous book:  Brendan came out to his mother, one of his five sisters and his cadre of friends seven months ago. He has a closeted boyfriend, Mark, who is a senior in high school–though Brendan is just entering his freshman year at the Ohio State University. Mark and Brendan had shared some intimate experiences in the previous book, and Brendan is not eager to move things farther as he’s rather set on saving his virginity for marriage, but he’s not happy keeping the secret of Mark from their mutual friends, or in general.

As Mark begins his new life away from home he is open about his sexuality–to everyone, with positive results. He joins a musical theater group and slowly makes friends. At times I felt the prose dragged. For teens, this may seem like a roadmap regarding the initial college experience, but it was too telling, with little advancement. I struggled to emotionally connect with Brendan until the second half of the book.

Brendan does come out the rest of his family in this book–with mixed results. Three of his sisters are cool with it, two are NOT cool, bordering on homophobic, and his mom is on the fence. She still thinks his “situation” is a phase. I really began to engage with the book when all this started happening. Brendan’s interactions with Mark show advancement in terms of physicality, but not emotion. They are separated by distance, and different objectives. Brendan gets the (accurate) sense that Mark will never “come out” and he fully acknowledges that Mark had only dated girls before him.

As Brendan flails in his relationships, his new friendships thrive. In particular, Andres–a project partner from his business class–becomes a close confidante. It turns out that Andres provides very good counsel, and helps Brendan through the rocky issues with both Mark and his family. I liked Andres quite a bit. He’s a little older, and more mature than Brendan, but very compassionate and fun.

There are two sexy scenes in the book that are a little more graphic than fade-to-black, but they are not hot-and-heavy. Mark is exploring himself, and his boundaries. He talks a bit about the physical features of guys he likes (most specifically penis features), but this seemed in keeping with the character’s age and did not feel inappropriate for the audience. (Straight teen guys get graphic about the female body features they enjoy after all…)

I think I did enjoy this book more that the first, but it ends on a more bittersweet note. It explores the morass of coming out, and dealing with disapproving friends or family. It felt very honest, if a little naive. Brendan certainly owns his feelings regarding his family’s response to his news–and this was very engaging. The writing, at times, seems a little clunky, with stilted dialogue and too much description of stuff that was not central to the plot. That said, I do like Brendan, and I am intrigued about his future.

Interested? You can find BREAKING UP POINT on Goodreads, Amazon and Barnes & Noble.  I received a review copy via NetGalley.

McNamara, BrianAbout the Author:

The youngest of six kids (and the only boy!), Brian McNamara was born and raised in the suburbs of Cleveland, Ohio. His favorite hobbies growing up were tennis and musical theater. He obtained a degree in finance in 2009 and moved to New York City shortly after to work for a management consulting firm. While pursuing his true passions of writing and acting on the side, he decided to quit his corporate job to focus all his energy on what he loved.

Brian can be contacted at BrianMcNamara.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

The World Between INK AND SHADOWS–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m featuring a new urban fantasy–which I’m sure will become a series–from Rhys Ford. INK AND SHADOWS is my first book from Rhys Ford, and I’m glad to saw it was a stellar read. This is a M/M book, but there is little romance and no sex. It really only has gay characters, some of whom want relationships and others who do not…but the STORY is about the Veil and what lies in wait behind it.

Ink and Shadows (Ink and Shadows, #1)About the book:

Kismet Andreas lives in fear of the shadows.

For the young tattoo artist, the shadows hold more than darkness. He is certain of his insanity because the dark holds creatures and crawling things only he can see—monsters who hunt out the weak to eat their minds and souls, leaving behind only empty husks and despair.

And if there’s one thing Kismet fears more than being hunted—it’s the madness left in its wake.

The shadowy Veil is Mal’s home. As Pestilence, he is the youngest—and most inexperienced—of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, immortal manifestations resurrected to serve—and cull—mankind. Invisible to all but the dead and insane, the Four exist between the Veil and the mortal world, bound to their nearly eternal fate. Feared by other immortals, the Horsemen live in near solitude but Mal longs to know more than Death, War and Famine.

Mal longs to be… more human. To interact with someone other than lunatics or the deceased.

When Kismet rescues Mal from a shadowy attack, Pestilence is suddenly thrust into a vicious war—where mankind is the prize, and the only one who has faith in Mal is the human the other Horsemen believe is destined to die.

My Review:

The Four Horsemen, Death, War, Pestilence and Famine are immortals who live on earth, hidden behind the Veil which shrouds the Fae, Darkfae and other immortals, like the Vitues: Faith Charity, Peace and Hope (among others like Gluttony, Lust and Luck…) from the sight of mortals. Except crazies and seers can sometimes see them. Kismet is likely crazy, but he’s had the “gift” of sight since childhood. He is terrorized by his constant observations of wraiths and ghosts, including that of his younger brother who was inadvertently poisoned by their addict mother. Kismet is crippled by his visions, and self-medicates with heroin to keep the wraiths from attacking his mind.

Kismet sits at the center of an intricate plot to remove some immortals from their Calling. See, if people need help crossing planes, Death can be summoned. If someone is in need of Hope, she must appear–and this is a tiring existence for an immortal. Some want to settle down, have a “normal” life, perhaps even fall in love, and Kismet’s ability to see through the Veil may hint at deeper abilities. Spiking his heroin dose with an agent of magical origin kicks off the action.

Pestilence, known as Mal to his Horsemen, is lonely. He wants a partner outside of his group, and he’s too inexperienced as a Horseman to properly wield the Veil. War (Ari) yearns for more than kinship with Death, the eldest and most powerful of the Horseman. Ari is indefatigable in his pursuit, and Death welcomes his closeness, but keeps it platonic, fearing the loss of his soul if he should lose Ari, his best friend and confidante, for any reason.

Ari and Mal encounter Kismet while on patrol, and he’s in serious trouble–a powerful wraith has been summoned and is nearly finished killing him…except, Kismet survives the attack in the same fashion that an immortal might. It freaks both Mal and Ari out, and Mal insists on bringing him to Death for advice. Pretty much things get bad right after that.

As I mentioned, this isn’t a romance, though the background is set for advancement of romance in a later book. Also, this book fully resolves, while still leaving plot arcs available for a sequel, or series. Through it all we have good guys acting badly, “bad” guys behaving with honor, new friendships (Kismet and Mal) and deepening ties (Ari and Death). I really enjoyed the back-and-forth banter between the Horsemen, and also how committed they are to holding each other up. This book is almost exclusively told from behind the Veil, with the immortals carrying most of the POV. I did have some issue with the rapid POV shifts–this is a particular peeve of mine. I like to stay in one character’s head for a scene, but the POV jumped constantly. It was less jarring than other books I’ve read, but still detracted from my enjoyment.

On the plus side, the prose is stellar, really wrapping the reader in this world within a world. The emotional landscape is rich and I had a great experience feeling Death’s pain, Ari’s deep love, Mal’s isolation and Kismet’s fear. The action is fast and fierce, with copious attacks, rescues and near-death experiences for far too many immortals. Looking forward to the next installment! (Fingers crossed for a some love scenes!!!!)

Interested? You can find INK AND SHADOWS on Goodreads, DSP Publications, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble. I received a review copy of this book via NetGalley.

About the Author:

Rhys Ford was born and raised in Hawai’i then wandered off to see the world. After chewing through a pile of books, a lot of odd food, and a stray boyfriend or two, Rhys eventually landed in San Diego, which is a very nice place but seriously needs more rain.

Rhys admits to sharing the house with three cats of varying degrees of black fur and a ginger cairn terrorist. Rhys is also enslaved to the upkeep a 1979 Pontiac Firebird, a Toshiba laptop, and an overworked red coffee maker.

Find Rhys online here:  website, Goodreads, twitter, and Facebook.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

 

 

Happy Book Birthday to LESSONS FOR IDLE TONGUES–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing my review for a book just out! Hot from the ebook press is LESSONS FOR IDLE TONGUES, Charlie Cochrane’s 11th book in the Cambridge Fellows Mysteries series. It is historical fiction set in 1910 England and features a pair of amateur sleuths Profs Jonty Stewart and Orlando Coppersmith. I read and enjoyed LESSONS FOR SUSPICIOUS MINDS and jumped at the chance to read the next installment.

Lessons for Idle Tongues (Cambridge Fellows, #11)About the book:
Cambridge, 1910

Amateur detectives Jonty Stewart and Orlando Coppersmith seem to have nothing more taxing on their plate than locating a missing wooden cat and solving the dilemma of seating thirteen for dinner. But one of the guests brings a conundrum: a young woman has been found dead, and her boyfriend is convinced she was murdered. The trouble is, nobody else agrees.

Investigation reveals that several young people in the local area have died in strange circumstances, and rumours abound of poisonings at the hands of Lord Toothill, a local mysterious recluse. Toothill’s angry, gun-toting gamekeeper isn’t doing anything to quell suspicions, either.

But even with a gun to his head, Jonty can tell there’s more going on in this surprisingly treacherous village than meets the eye. And even Orlando’s vaunted logic is stymied by the baffling inconsistencies they uncover. Together, the Cambridge Fellows must pick their way through gossip and misdirection to discover the truth.

My Review:
This book is the 11th in a series of historical mysteries solved by amateur sleuths, Dr. Jonty Stewart and Dr. Orlando Coppersmith. While they all have recurring characters, each can be read as a standalone.

Jonty and Orlando are lovers, on the down-low because there are no openly gay men in 1910 London. They are professors at Cambridge and have excellent relations with Jonty’s parents–who know and accept their relationship. Often Jonty’s parents get involved in the solving of the mysteries, either by societal connections or interviewing witnesses/suspects. They have a minimal,role in this book, which centers on the mysterious death of a young woman.

Jonty and Orlando are asked by an acquaintance to investigate his friend’s love’s suspicious death. Lucy was meant to meet Mr. Joyce, for a clandestine stroll, as her family did not accept him as a suitor, but instead, she was found dead of a presumed brain hemorrhage. And, Mr. Joyce was made unwelcome at her funeral. He has other secrets, however, which include the suspicious circumstances of Lucy’s brother’s death–who was Joyce’s close acquaintance in school.

The more that Jonty and Orlando scratch at this issue, the more connections seem to be drawn to other mysterious deaths in the locale, with serious gossip being bandied regarding Lucy’s neighbor, the reclusive Lord Toothill. The level of scurrilous gossip seems to stymie the investigation, until they begin to realize, it is the gossip which is the biggest part of the case. As with previous cases, the answer always lay close to home.

I do enjoy these cozy-type mysteries. They are always well-written and have interesting insight, plus I adore the realistic historical settings and details. I wish there was a bit more loving on the page, but I am satisfied that Jonty and Orlando are loving, supportive partners who do the best they can within their societal constraint.

Interested? You can find LESSONS FOR IDLE TONGUES on Goodreads, Amazon, Riptide Books, AllRomance and Barnes & Noble. I received a review copy of this book via NetGalley.

About the Author:
As Charlie Cochrane couldn’t be trusted to do any of her jobs of choice – like managing a rugby team – she writes. Her favourite genre is gay fiction, predominantly historical romances/mysteries, but she’s making an increasing number of forays into the modern day. She’s even been known to write about gay werewolves – albeit highly respectable ones.

Her Cambridge Fellows series of Edwardian romantic mysteries were instrumental in seeing her named Speak Its Name Author of the Year 2009. She’s a member of both the Romantic Novelists’ Association and International Thriller Writers Inc.

Happily married, with a house full of daughters, Charlie tries to juggle writing with the rest of a busy life. She loves reading, theatre, good food and watching sport. Her ideal day would be a morning walking along a beach, an afternoon spent watching rugby and a church service in the evening.

You can catch up with Charlie on her website, Goodreads and twitter.

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!

Slavery, Sex and Society–Two Belonging ‘Verse Books

Hi there! Today I’m featuring two M/M novels that deal with some pretty intense topics–notably slavery. The Belonging ‘Verse, as it is called, is an alternate reality where slavery has never been illegal. It is a worldwide experience with millions of slaves held, traded and bred annually.

In some ways, I found the perspective extremely refreshing. As a woman, I’m quite used to the expectations of subservience in my sex. The double standard of demanding competence and, in the same turn, acquiescence. It’s not the easiest dance to master, and certainly fosters hostility which must be masked–less a woman be called out for her assertiveness (Read: bitchiness).

In both of these books men are the protagonists. They are ones being held against their will, subservient, with little-to-no autonomy, no ability to refuse a direct order. For me, the parallels to dysfunctional relationships were numerous, and chilling. Further, the larger social context of slavery (which still exists today even if not openly) was dealt with in a manner that was completely rendered and harrowing. These are not romantic books. They are political statements. And they were phenomenal.

Anchored (Belonging, #1)About ANCHORED:
Network news anchor Daniel Halstrom is at the top of his field, but being at the bottom of the social ladder—being a slave—makes that hard to enjoy. Especially when NewWorld Media, the company that’s owned him since childhood, decides to lease him privately on evenings and weekends to boost their flagging profits.

Daniel’s not stupid; he knows there’s only one reason someone would pay so much for what little free time he has. But dark memories of past sexual service leave him certain he won’t survive it again with his sanity intact.

He finds himself in the home of Carl Whitman, a talk show host whose words fail him when it comes to ordering Daniel into his bed. Carl can’t seem to take what he must want, and Daniel’s not willing to give it freely. His recalcitrance costs him dearly, but with patience and some hard-won understanding, affection just might flourish over fear and pain. Carl holds the power to be an anchor in Daniel’s turbulent life, but if he isn’t careful, he’ll end up the weight that sinks his slave for good.

My Review:
ANCHORED is not a love story. It’s not even a like story, really.

What it is is a GREAT story.

This book is set in an alternate universe where slavery is legal worldwide. It is otherwise set in contemporary NYC. This review is for the 2nd edition book which was re-released Sept 2014.

Daniel is a slave. He’s also a celebrity news anchor. His network bought him at age 11 and he’s been a faithful slave, reporting the news for NewWorld Media for years now. Unfortunately NewWorld is struggling financially and they’ve decided to lease out some of their commerical properties–like Daniel–to buyers overnight and on weekends. Daniel’s being prostituted out for an annual rental to one buyer, at 6 million dollars. And, he’s terrified.

See, slaves like Daniel are communally housed, but not allowed any physical relationships. His only experience with sex was being raped by men as a child. He had a clandestine “lover” with whom he shared a few trysts, but no penetrative sex. And, Daniel’s worst fears are realized when he enters his new master’s home–he’s been leased to a man. Okay, it gets worse: the man who is now his master, Carl, is a talk show host on a competitor network. Yikes.

Carl has longed for Daniel for years. Aroused by Daniel’s physical beauty, and his intellectual persona on TV, Carl expected a partner to share his empty nights with witty repartee and mutual passion. Daniel isn’t sure what to do–he’s essentially a virgin, and can’t read Carl’s mixed signals.

If Carl ordered Daniel to have sex with him, Daniel would have submitted, but Carl never does that. No, he treats Daniel like a Freeman, which only confuses Daniel more. Carl wants a willing partner, and Daniel is unwilling. It, honestly, is a complete failure to communicate, but the end result is Daniel receiving “training” in his new role as a pleasure slave that is unconscionable to Carl, Daniel and the reader.

Okay, so I’m gonna say, this is the only time I’ve read a rape and felt so incredibly visceral about it. The absolute clinical and violent manner in which Daniel was coerced into sex was so distressing and so riveting. I kept hoping against hope that someone would step in, that Daniel would not be harmed. It was frightening, and yet I could only see the story unfolding in this way.

Daniel’s plight called to the fore the political injustice of this fictional world–and gave context in the inequality of our actual world. So many millions of people are either legally (fictional) or financially (real world) subservient that the choice to engage–or not to engage–in sexual relations is not always within one’s power. It was a harrowing, honest, and enlightening experience for me. Other reviews highlight this as well.

Carl is a terrible master, not because he is violent or coercive–because he is weak. He has no interest in ordering around a slave; he really doesn’t like being a slave owner. His two other slaves are virtually autonomous, with Carl having no desire to reprimand them–not that they act out. In fact, Daniel doesn’t act out–he just isn’t sexually interested and refuses to please if he isn’t ordered. Well, at least until he’s “trained”. After surviving that experience he’s ready to serve Carl as often as possible, in whatever way necessary, to prevent any further training.

Carl learns the consequences for his folly in renting Daniel, and makes amends in the best way that he can. He is a truly good man, and didn’t understand how his dissatisfaction with Daniel would manifest as torture.

I was particularly touched when Daniel reflects on the difference in emotional attitudes between slaves and Freemen. A Freeman, like Carl, can have/give love to Daniel–because he has autonomy.

On the other hand, Daniel could have respect, or even affection, for Carl, but he didn’t feel free to love him. The power imbalance was too great to have equal footing in something so visceral as love. Daniel appreciates that he always faces the risk of being sold to someone else, so he guards his love carefully to ensure he’s not emotionally damaged by what amounts to a commercial transaction.

It was a very powerful commentary, and one I probably didn’t even fully appreciate–regardless of how moved I felt by it. There are some tender moments in this book, but it isn’t a tender tale. As I said, it’s not a love story. I was glad to see that Daniel was satisfied in the end. That he was safe and protected. This book will stay with me long after I expect. I received a review copy via NetGalley.

Interested? You can find ANCHORED on Goodreads, Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

About the author:

Rachel Hainowitz is a “M/M erotic romance author, freelance writer and editor, sadist with a pesky conscience, shamelessly silly, and proudly pervish. I’m a twitter addict (@rachelhaimowitz), and I blog every M/W/F at Fantasy Unbound. To learn all about my current and upcoming projects, please stop by my website. I love to hear from folks, so feel free to drop me a line anytime at metarachel (at) gmail (dot) com.”

Counterpunch (Belonging, #2)About COUNTERPUNCH:
Fight like a man, or die like a slave.

Brooklyn Marshall used to be a policeman in London, with a wife and a promising future ahead of him. Then he accidentally killed a rioter whose father was a Member of Parliament and had him convicted of murder. To ease the burden on the overcrowded prison system, Brooklyn was sold into slavery rather than incarcerated. Now, he’s the “Mean Machine”, a boxer on the slave prizefighting circuit, pummelling other slaves for the entertainment of freemen and being rented out for the sexual service of his wealthier fans.

When Nathaniel Bishop purchases Brooklyn’s services for a night, it seems like any other assignation. But the pair form an unexpected bond that grows into something more. Brooklyn hesitates to call it “love”—such things do not exist between freemen and slaves—but when Nathaniel reveals that he wants to help get Brooklyn’s conviction overturned, he dares to hope. Then, an accident in the ring sends Brooklyn on the run, jeopardizing everything he has worked so hard to achieve and sending him into the most important fight of all—the fight for freedom.

My Review:
This story is fantastic. It is set in an alternate universe where slavery still exists, in contemporary London. Brooklyn is a 27 y/o slave sold to a boxing consortium, and he’s burning up the heavyweight division. Brooklyn hasn’t always been a slave. He was born a freeman, and was sold into slavery following a conviction. In his free days he was a married man, a policeman in fact. A chance encounter resulted in a murder conviction, when manslaughter (or no charge) would have been the ordinary course. Brooklyn is haunted by the memory of the riot where he was dispatched and a girl died. He suffers real guilt, but as a slave his feelings do not matter.

He is housed in a communal living space where all his actions are controlled by armed guards, and rented out as a boy toy when he is not training or fighting. Some of his “johns” have been female, many male. He’s not adjusting well to slave life, but channels his rage into his fighting, which helps.

Nathaniel rents Brooklyn one night, and learns that his experience as a slave is not always about what is taken from you. In Nathaniel’s sphere, Brooklyn is cherished. Allowed what little freedom a slave can be afforded.

Nathaniel becomes a regular renter, and Brooklyn is able to claim a small bit of his humanity back through their encounters. Soon, Nathaniel reveals that he is interested in re-opening Brooklyn’s conviction; he felt he was scapegoat–wrongfully accused and convicted due to an abuse of power by the victim’s father. Brooklyn almost can’t bear to hope to escape his lot as a slave, but he does. He trains harder and harder, trying to compartmentalize his fear and mortification of slave life, and he gains even greater acclaim in his boxing.

Then, there’s a big problem in one of Brooklyn’s fights, and he freaks out. His breakdown results in a loss of his connection with Nathaniel and abuse he had never before endured in his slavery. The climax comes fast and furious, with a chance for redemption and “freedom” offered if he throws his big title fight. Brooklyn is a steadfast man, and his HEA is just around the bend.

I really enjoyed this alternate universe, legal slavery, because it served as a greater context to discuss racial relations (most Blacks in this world are slaves) and the inequality of wealth and power, and how it corrupts. Brooklyn is a good man. He is in a bad spot, and makes the absolute best of it. He does not let his situation defeat him. He does not take the “easy” way. He strives, and perseveres. He fights for his dignity, even when it is continually ripped from him. He endures unspeakable cruelty, and achieves his ultimate reward on his terms.

I am a sports fan, so the boxing milieu was amenable to me, but I don’t think it was too much for an average reader to absorb. It was all very well described and the context always felt appropriate. I also enjoyed the boxing history vignettes, as I grew up in the 80’s watching Sugar Ray and Mike Tyson and others find their titles, so this was a little piece of home. And the writing/language was superlative. The author notes how readers will likely balk at his “British” English, but for me, an Anglophile, this story could not be authentically told any other way. It kept me up way too late because I absolutely could not stop reading once I opened it.

The smexytimes aren’t overdone, and pack a good balance of sensuality and heat. They take a while to develop, which was unexpected, and pleasant. It allowed me to really enjoy Nathaniel and not see him as another exploiter in a vile system. And, later, when he worked behind the scenes to help Brooklyn, I really grew to love him. I think Brooklyn did, too. I received a copy of this book via NetGalley.

Interested? You can find COUNTERPUNCH on Goodreads, Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

About the Author:

“Aleksandr Voinov is an emigrant German author living near London, where he works as a writing coach, complementary therapist and freelance corporate editor. At 39 years of age, Voinov has written more than a dozen novels and commercially published five print books with German publishers. After many years working in the horror, science fiction, cyberpunk and fantasy genres, Voinov is now primarily writing contemporary and historical erotic gay fiction. A recurring theme in his fiction is “the triumph of the human spirit” or an individual rising to challenge the status quo in a world gone bad.”

You can connect with Aleksandr on his website, on Facebook and/or join his Facebook group here. He has an author forum at Goodreads and is active on twitter.

Thanks for popping in my friends, and keep reading!