All posts by Jayne Lockwood

17Feb/17

Review of Man & Beast (The Savage Land Book One) by Michael Jensen

The not-so-beastly Michael Jensen joined us earlier in January 2017. To find out more about Michael and get links to his work, check out Episode 093: Plans for the Blue Hoodie!

This is a first for me, a gay historical novel which left any preconceived perceptions I might have had, standing at the door. Sometimes, reading a historical novel can be like carrying your hefty mother through a swamp. It’s your duty. You know it’s the right thing to do, but all you really want to do is drop the bitch and make her walk.

Not in this case. Michael Jensen has meticulously researched his subject, yet has woven a story that wears it’s history as lightly as a cashmere cloak. The sense of place and time, is expertly captured, never getting in the way of the story, never bogging down the pace with so much detail in order to prove he had done his homework (the biggest reason I get turned off historical novels.) Instantly, I had the impression he knew what he was talking about, so therefore, I could move on and enjoy what was about to unfold.

The novel’s dark heart becomes even blacker

And what a story, as greenhorn John Chapman is brutally shown life lessons by the rugged and somewhat odious Daniel (I kept thinking of a young Jack Nicholson.) Their relationship is fraught with mounting sexual tension as well as gruesome detail. There are some bloody scenes worthy of 1970’s horror movies. A North American winter takes no prisoners. It’s every man for himself. The novel’s dark heart becomes even blacker after John finally breaks away from Daniel’s grasp and sets up home for himself, supposedly far, far away. He meets Palmer, and they strike up a “romantic friendship.” The way they have to deal with their sexuality in the midsts of a deeply religious community, is again deftly handled. No stereotypes here. No thinly disguised Kim Davis boo-hiss characters. The language feels authentic with no 21st century idioms sneaking in, but still feels fresh and easy to read.

John Chapman’s character is deceptively mild, but he has a core of steel. Also, I didn’t pick up on any gay angst. Rather, his concern is the prejudices and misconceptions of others. He is intelligent and likeable, somewhat gullible at the start, but in desperate circumstances, sometimes trust is the only way to survive. The story goes to places that are totally unexpected, and that unpredictability keeps the reader alert and braced for some truly harrowing scenes at times.

In short, the book was thoroughly enjoyable, an intelligent, entertaining as well as informative read, and I couldn’t put it down. So much so, I began reading Man & Monster straight away. If you like your fiction hard and your horror gristly, it’s a worthy sequel.

Print Length: 307 pages

Publisher: BK Books (November 29, 2016)

Publication Date: November 29, 2016

Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC

Language: English

ASIN: B01LYVEJ0T

 

BLURB

What is the line that separates man from beast?

The year is 1797, and 24-year-old John Chapman is lost on the American frontier with winter falling fast. Near death, he stumbles upon a lone cabin, and the owner, a rugged but sexy frontiersman named Daniel McQuay, agrees to let John winter over.

John and Daniel quickly find themselves drawn to each other, the sex between them unlike anything John has ever known. But as the weeks turn into snowbound months, Daniel begins to change into someone brutish, and the line between man and beast disappears.

With the arrival of spring, John flees, eventually finding refuge in the company of a group of frontier outcasts, including a brash young settler named Palmer. But in the wilds of this savage land, love is not so easily tamed, and John soon finds himself calling upon the raging animal within him to save the man he loves.

16Feb/17

Book Review: The Road Home by Brad Vance & Elsa Winters

The Road Home is the newest release from Brad Vance, this time collaborating with fellow writer, Elsa Winters.

To be truthful, I didn’t know what to expect. I love Vance’s work, having read several of his novels, but wasn’t sure how someone with such a strong voice would be able to merge successfully with someone else.

Turns out, I needn’t have worried. This is a terrific story, told in inimitable Brad Vance style, with a distinctive narration by Nick, the story’s main character.

Nick has braced himself for working with his new paramedic boss, Andrew, who is notorious for his rough treatment of EMT’s. But Nick is no pushover. Having been brought up in the care system, and with an innate ability to survive, Nick has prepared himself, and gradually wins Andrew’s trust. They become a good partnership, then friends, but all the while, Nick is fighting growing feelings for Andrew, knowing that he has a girlfriend. Nick is also unwilling to jeopardise their friendship by making his feelings known. When Andrew reveals his plans to go to the UCLA Medical school, Nick has to face up to his own ambitions and feelings, and act accordingly before it is too late.

A deep understanding of his characters

There is a lot going on here. As well as great insights into the lives of paramedics and EMT’s, there is a story of two men, one born to great privilege and the other dragged up through the care system, having known loss and pain.

It is a buddy story, of two dudes doing dude things; hiking, climbing, shooting the the shit whilst backwater camping and flipping burgers.

It is the careful crafting of their relationship, and the gradual revealing of their stories. No family is perfect, no matter how much money or care is thrown into it.

It is the love between them, and what they decide to do about it before they end up in bed. In short, it is a terrific tale with two very likeable characters, and a cast of family members who have their own interesting stories to tell. If this is the first Brad Vance book anyone picks up, then it’s a great introduction. The storytelling style is easy, drawing the reader in almost as if having a conversation face to face, yet the detailing which I always love in a Brad Vance novel is there. He has a deep understanding of his characters, their chosen careers, their flaws and vulnerabilities, I felt that with a couple of his recent books, he floundered a bit, but now he’s back, with a romance that feels solid and masculine as rough-hewn oak. A great introduction for Brad Vance newbies.

Format: Kindle Edition

Print Length: 183 pages

Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited

Publisher: Pub Yourself Press (25 Dec. 2016)

Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.Language: English

ASIN: B01MT2PX43

 

BLURB

Nick Carpenter grew up in the foster system after watching his parents die in a car crash. Now, he’s finally found a place for himself as an EMT. Partnered with a gruff but very competent paramedic as his first assignment in Seattle, he figures that it’s best to keep this working relationship strictly professional, even if Andrew is hot as hell.

“You let the patient talk, Nick, because sooner or later they’ll probably tell you what you need to know.”

Andrew Hazard loves his job, even if he gets paired with a different EMT every couple weeks. Once an EMT proves himself incompetent, Andrew makes no effort to be friends with them. That’s why it’s such a relief when Nick comes along. He keeps the ambulance stocked, he can drive well, and he knows how to start an IV. He’s great at saving lives, and also a great person to hang out with. From hiking to movies, they find themselves spending a lot of time with each other. Nick’s homosexuality definitely isn’t a problem, even though Andrew’s girlfriend jokes that he wants to spend more time with Nick than with her.

“You wanna go on an adventure?”

When Andrew gets the chance of a lifetime – going to the prestigious UCLA Medical School – his girlfriend doesn’t share his enthusiasm. And so, freshly broken up, Andrew asks Nick to go with him on a road trip down south to check out the area. Nick wants to keep him as his best friend, even though his romantic feelings have reached a fever pitch. But he also realizes that this could be his last chance to let Andrew know how he feels. Will Andrew let Nick into his heart, or will this road trip be their last hurrah?

03Feb/17

Book review: ZENITH The Interscission Project: Book 1 by Arshad Ahsanuddin

REVIEW

Here is a man who knows and loves his sci-fi. I’m guessing (and this is a pure guess) that the author has ingested Star Trek and Deep Space Nine and Stargate and any other space-related series on both telly box and the big screen by osmosis since he was out of diapers. Which is why, when I came across phrases like “it became obvious the mobile device was designed to lock out navigation control and retarget the foldspace drive to jump the ship to a specific set of coordinates – that’s if it survived the gravitic torsion of opening a foldspace gateway inside a planetary well,” I could nod my head and say, ‘yeah, that makes total sense.’

Of course, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me, but the point is that the author knows his subject so well, that it came across in a way that didn’t make me feel like a dumb schmuck for not totally getting it. There were a lot of instances like this. A lot of wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey stuff barely concealing a boiling undercurrent of emotions. And this book has a whole lot of it. Corporate intrigue, revenge, complicated love stories. This is as much a drama of human conflictions as well as a rip-roaring, time-warping adventure.

And it is an adventure on the high and stormy seas of deep space, elevating my heart rate when the tension is ratcheted up. Will they make the jump successfully? Will they ever see their loved-ones again? Who is the saboteur who seems determined to destroy the teleport project in its infancy? I found I was speed-reading just to see what was going to happen next – not because I’d had it with the geeky stuff, but because the book was so gripping. There were a few cornpone phrases (“no-one dies tonight” or something like that…) but I love all that gung-ho stuff. It made the characters human and familiar, in deeply unfamiliar surroundings.

And damn it all, if the author didn’t make his characters so likeable, and cunningly gave them great back stories. The brilliant and mysterious twins, Stella and Edward, Marty, the all-American pilot hero, Charles, his equally capable best friend, the slippery CEO, Henry and taut-jawed Trevor. I loved them all because of their vulnerabilities. And the author cleverly built relationship between them with actions was well as words. It wasn’t so much what they said, as what they didn’t say. There wasn’t a wasted word between them.

And finally, the love element, so heartbreaking, so subtly done. The characters’ sexual identity was dealt with then that was it. I didn’t notice the words, “gay” or “queer” or any of those other adjectives throughout the whole book. There was no feeling of “look, LGBT characters and everyones’ okay with it! Isn’t that great! Love is love!” There was no angst about being gay. No issues that I picked up at all. Everyone just got on with it. People were professional, and more concerned about inter-company relationships affecting their job performance rather than who they wanted to sleep with. I only noticed it because most books do seem to be about the issues surrounding being LGBT, or at least touch on them, because to ignore them isn’t right either. I didn’t feel the book was ignoring the issues, but that in this instance, they really didn’t matter. People are being murdered whilst they try to jump through space and time, for God’s sake! Let’s concentrate on that!

This book is the first part of The Interscission Project trilogy, so there are some unanswered questions, hopefully addressed in the next two books. If you want something science-y and genuinely moving, about humans wrestling with the convoluted mysteries of space and time, as well as those of head and heart, I really recommend this.

Please, Harvey Weinstein, pick this up and make it a movie. Put LGBT characters in the major roles, distribute it all over the world and watch your bank balance go interstellar.

It’s a sure thing.

Arshad Ahsanuddin, March 2014
ISBN:
9781927528402
Language:
English
Pages/Words:
245 pages/71k words

BLURB

Grounded after a rescue attempt in Earth orbit goes bad, Commander Martin Atkins of the Confederation Navy is approached by the Interscission Project, a consortium of civilian corporations on the verge of perfecting the technology to travel to another star. Despite his misgivings, the chance to get back in the pilot’s seat is too much to pass up, and he convinces his best friend and crewmate, Charles Davenport, to leave the military temporarily and join him as part of the crew of the Zenith, humanity’s first starship.

Edward Harlen is a brilliant young engineer, and a key player in the construction of the Zenith to take advantage of the untested technology of foldspace drive. But Edward has his own agenda in joining the project, and a bitterly personal score to settle with his boss, Trevor Sutton, a vendetta of which Trevor is entirely ignorant. But when Edward’s sister Stella enters the picture and manages to secure a position on the project, all of Edward’s careful plotting is upset, and she might spell the downfall not only of his plans for revenge, but of the entire Zenith mission.

The spark of attraction between Edward and Martin is a complication that Edward can’t afford, but of which he can’t let go. For Edward knows the secret at the heart of the Interscission Project, the hidden potential of the technology that in the wrong hands could become the ultimate assassin’s weapon: the ability to rewrite history, not just once, but many times. As an unseen enemy moves to destroy them, and the body count multiplies in their wake, Martin and Edward must choose whether they will allow the possibility of love to challenge their destinies, or will they instead take up arms in a war to control the most ancient and terrible power in the universe.

Time, itself.

30Dec/16

Review of Uncommonly Tidy Poltergeists by Angel Martinez

The heavenly Angel Martinez is a regular visitor to the WROTE Podcast, and a prolific writer of sci-fi fiction. To find out more about Angel and get links to her work, check out her latest interview with us. Episode 079: Flash Fiction Takes Flight!

REVIEW

Taro has recently won the lottery, and with his winnings has invested in several properties around the world. As he travels, familiarising himself with his new circumstances, he becomes aware of strange happenings in the night. Every morning, the mess he has made during the day is conveniently tidied away. When these events follow him from property to property, he is driven to enlist a ghost hunter to help him either solve the mystery, or prove that he needs psychiatric help.

When Jack Montrose appears, he isn’t the hero Taro hopes for, but a gangly eccentric who is just as strange as the turn Taro’s life has taken. Their awkward friendship is hilariously realised as Jack becomes Taro’s travelling companion, and attempts to understand why these strange events keep happening.

This book was a treat from start to finish. I instantly liked Taro, whose unexpected good fortune leads him way out of his comfort zone. And Jack, the eccentric genius, was a memorable character; sweet, awkward and brilliant, bruised from an abruptly ended relationship and wary of being hurt again.

Everything was unpredictable, including the story taking me to some very unexpected places. The author has obviously researched each destination, but has not fallen into the trap of sounding like a travel blog. The answer, when it is discovered, is delightful. I can’t say any more than that without massive spoilers.

This was a highly entertaining and intelligent read, with enough science to satisfy geeks and a sparkle of magic and a dash of folklore. Chemistry fizzed between the two MC’s, but it wasn’t laboured at all, and Taro’s sexuality was dealt with, subtly and sensitively. The whole thing just worked from start to finish. It wasn’t a long read (36,000 words) but for me it was just the right length. A fun-packed read that punches way above its weight. 

22Dec/16

Review of Strawberries and other Erotic Fruits, by Jerry. L. Wheeler

Recently, we had the fruity Jerry L. Wheeler on the show, revealing all. Find out more about Jerry and get links to his work on Episode 082: Work For It!

REVIEW

Well, this is a mixed bag, I must say. An anthology of fine short stories from an exceptional author, and worthy finalist for the Lambda Literary Award for Best Gay Erotica. This is a juicy collection, not only for the sex, of which there is plenty. There are plenty of other strange delights to chomp into but beware. Some of these stories have bite, and will stay with you for a long time; tragedy, horror, the lure of sensual pleasure that can only lead to destruction. And then, a dash of comedy to lighten things up here and there. This book gets inside your head, mucks around in there and refuses to leave, like a hardcore version of Roald Dahl’s Tales of the Unexpected. This is thinking person’s gay erotica, where the writing is so good, you’re not waiting for the action to begin, yet when it does, it doesn’t get in the way.

There are too many to list individually, but my standouts are;

Strawberries – The first tale, deceptively hot, even as events become more sinister by the minute. This sets the tone for the whole book. Be wary. Things are not what they seem.

Snapshots – One of the most disturbing tales. What goes around, comes around. Revenge tastes sweet unless you have too much.

Love, Sex and Death on the Daily Commute – A lonely, mild-mannered man fantasises about the fellow traveller he sees every morning, until the opportunity comes to make his fantasy a reality. When it all goes horribly wrong, his choices open the door to a dark future.

Templeton’s In Love – Different in tone, more melancholy and bittersweet. A lonely man witnesses the swansong of a legend as his own past catches up with him.

It’s hard to pick favourites, to be honest. The writing was outstanding in all cases. I’ve recently fallen back in love with short stories. With so many “wham, bam, thank you, man” erotic collections available, this one is a literary and weird delight from start to finish.

22Dec/16

Review of The Naked Prince and Other Tales from Fairyland by Joe Cosentino

Way back when we were small, we had a wonderful time with Joe Cosentino, who regaled us with unforgettable tales from his theatrical past. To find out more about Joe and get links to his work, check out Episode 014: I Saw Bruce Willis Naked!

REVIEW

A great big dollop fairy dust has been thrown over four traditional tales of Far Far Away and made them totally fabulous. Add a dash of ribald humour, gentle digs at the straight community, and you have a what Joe Cosentino does best. Jaunty, humorous tales with a bittersweet edge.

First, we have The Naked Prince, who appears in front of poor, downtrodden Cinder (guess which tale this is…) He’s stark bollock naked and helpless, due to being robbed. He’s also a bit of a jackass, which was a refreshing twist, and the Stepmother eventually gets off with the Queen….

In The Golden Rule, Gideon Golden has been thrown out of his home by his homophobic parents (sadly, an all-too-common theme in reality.) The tale takes on a happier note when he takes shelter in an empty cottage on Bear Mountain. The three burly bears all take a shine to young Gideon, and the theme is love and acceptance.

Next, Whatever Happened To…? A size queen reporter (Jack, who has a thing for giants!) is sent to interview Pinnochio about his childhood, and discovers that Pinnochio’s nose isn’t the only appendage that grows when he tells porkies. Could this be true love and the beginning of a Happy Ever After?

And finally, Ice Cold gains its inspiration from Grimm’s The Snow Queen (or if you’re a millennial, Frozen.) Two boys, childhood friends, are orphaned and grow up together, eventually realising they are in love before one seeks adventure and falls into the clutches of Isadore, the Ice Prince. This story sets a different tone to the others and I enjoyed it most of all, as the jokey dialogue is replaced with real drama and tension.

So expect the unexpected. The bones of each traditional tale are there, but Cosentino has made mischief with just about every one of them. This is a gay new world, where all the tropes are turned on their heads, introducing other well-known characters as cameos or giving them walk-on parts. The author has a theatrical background and it shows in the dialogue. What fun this would be if it was set on the stage! (STRICTLY for adults only, of course!)

If I had a niggle, it would be that in places, the writing seemed a little clumsy when the secondary characters began squabbling. Yes, it was funny, but it took away from the major plot-lines. Not that this mattered too much. The book was an easy read, a bit of a giggle, and not too taxing on the brain cells. Is it his best book? No, but it is huge fun and has been written with so much affection, it’s very hard not to like it.

08Dec/16

Review of Coming Home Again by Scott Roche

We were delighted to have Scott Roche on the podcast very recently. To listen to his out-of-this-world interview and find out more about his work, check out Episode 078: Scott Roche – Weird On Purpose

REVIEWcominghomeagain

Doctor Max Blair is stationed at a secure government research facility when he is told to evaluate a visitor from outer space. But this is no alien. He is Captain Michael Rogers, a US Airforce pilot who was abducted in 1948. Behind the growing attraction between the two men, the government officials consider any method necessary to unlock the Captain’s secrets, thus endangering the whole planet…..

This is a well-balanced mix of science fiction and romance. First off, don’t be put off by the romance bit. Roche neatly sets up the scene in the secretive government facility and doesn’t over-simplify the science or the language. It all sounds very plausible, and he’s obviously thought of everything, from the decontamination of the visitor, some background about his captors, and explaining why he looks like he does now, without the expected accelerated atrophy of the body. I was initially reminded of the film Forever Young, but this is, dare I say it, a lot more intelligent. The growing relationship between the two leads is subtle but constant, with an undercurrent of dread for the reader that their story may not end well (no spoilers!)

The author packs a lot in 51 pages. So much so that I sense a bigger story waiting in the wings. The writing is terrific, the dialogue believable and the relationships between all the characters enjoyable to watch as they develop. Because he packs such a lot in a short space, the climax kind of hit me before I was ready for it, and it felt a little speeded up, like a 33 vinyl on 45. Also, it left a LOT of questions. What happens next? How does the Captain react to modern-day living? He falls in love with the first man he meets but what happens when he hits the streets? How is their relationship going to survive the inevitable scrutiny of government and the world media? How will the world react to the story? So many questions and I would say enough for a sequel. I really hope the author reads this and thinks about it, because this story has the potential to run and run.

 

05Dec/16

Review of Forbidden by Jason Collins

forbidden

REVIEW

For months, Matt has been daydreaming about Tyler, who works in the office opposite him. He doesn’t know if he’s gay or straight. He just knows that Tyler is the one for him. If only he could pluck up the courage and start talking to him….

This is the story of sweet, innocent Matt, and wealthy, married Tyler, heading for a nasty divorce and needing to find some kind of release to alleviate his (ahem) tension. So he and Matt start talking, then fumbling, then experimenting and possibly falling in love.

But then, duh-duh-duuuuh! Tyler’s almost-ex wife is determined to screw things up, claiming most of Tyler’s fortune if she can prove he has been unfaithful to her. Apparently, she has the world media on her side, though I had already instantly filed her under Nut Job.  As the central plot device to add tension, it’s tenuous at best. Sooo close, but not close enough for me.

But what the hell. This is a wish-fulfilment fantasy. The handsome businessman, fabulously wealthy, is curious about his good-looking, cute neighbour, who is willing to drop to his knees and satisfy his forbidden desires…

See where I’m going with this? Well, you’re wrong because this is actually pretty unpredictable. I loved the way the plot zigged and zagged, throwing in a murder and a hot steam room scene and a dash around New York. Yes, there are a few issues with it, namely in the editing. It feels a bit rushed as well. Collins could have made this a novel, rather than a novella, and I don’t say that very often. I would have liked to have seen more in the way of character development, because I liked Tyler and Matt but felt they had a lot more to give. The sex was sexy and real. I did feel Tyler’s curiosity and indecision, but felt he was WAY too trusting with someone he had just met, however cute Matt was.

Having said all that, the plot thickened in surprising ways. Again, more could have been made of it, but there are no corny romance tropes here apart from (yawn) the bitchy ex. I’ve written three reviews today and all the villains are women and they all look the goddamned same. The neighbour tops the lot though, a truly nasty piece of work. I really hope this isn’t based on reality but I have a sad feeling it might be. The boys (Matt and Tyler) dealt with her with class and grace, which was very satisfying.

So not perfect and a little unpolished, but a fun, quick read with engaging characters that deserve another story.

05Dec/16

Review – Grind (The Riley Brothers Vo 6) by E. Davies

grindREVIEW

A sweet, sexy tale from E. Davies, and sixth book in the Riley Brothers series although this can be read on a standalone basis. Don’t be put off by the title, which suggests Grindr-related shenanigans (or at least, it did to me…) Nothing is further from the truth.

Ryan is the carpenter wanting to set up his own business. He is good with his hands but the accountancy and marketing side leaves him floundering. Enter trans man James, in debt due to putting his top surgery on his credit card, and in desperate need of a job. Fortunately, he has all the knowledge Ryan needs in order to make the business a success. Sparks fly between them, but both are wary of mixing business with pleasure.

A sugar-sweet love story, with enough spice and angst to save it from giving the reader tooth-ache. I had to check to see whether this was written by a man or a woman. Not that it should matter, but for such a lush romance, I was intrigued. This is written by a male author (something I only found out after reading it) who pours his heart and romantic soul into this book.

Shy and cute Ryan doesn’t have any misgivings about his attraction to James. He is eager not to screw up when talking to him, ensuring he does just that, and makes sure he does his homework, using the right terminology and pronouns, etc. A cynic would say he was too good to be true but what the hell, the world needs genuinely nice people. The the awkwardness when he gets it wrong made me squirm with embarrassment for him.

And slender, twinky James is totally bowled over by Ryan’s musculature. (That chest! Those thighs!) I would have liked to have known a little more about him. It felt as if an opportunity to explore his new-found masculinity was lost. After all, being on T isn’t just about growing more hair. Emotions are on a rollercoaster and that didn’t really come across. He is described as flamboyant but I wasn’t feeling it. Possibly, these issues have been addressed in the previous books.

So there was lots of insta-love going on, if not insta-action. When the action does happen, it delivers. I liked that they didn’t go at it straight away, but engaged in a great deal of teasing and what we English quaintly call “heavy petting,” the first few times they got it on. Cute and far more realistic.

And kudos to the author for not throwing in a boy meets boy/boy loses boy/boy makes up with boy trope. Ryan has great friends. Both characters have complicated family situations. James’ mother is … I’m not sure but I wanted to slap her. I’ve seen her type before in a lot of M/M fiction, so there was an element of “here we go again.” But maybe that’s the point. It is a depressingly common problem. Ryan’s nemesis was a work colleague, Roger, a would-be rival to his fledgling home crafts business, but in the end, the worst thing he did was stomp away. The people who weren’t bigoted and disgusting were terribly nice and very supportive, providing a warm, happy glow. And why not?

Look, I’m straight, so I can’t say for sure whether the conversations and situations for trans people are true to life in this book or not. For me, it was a cosy read with characters that were slightly different from other M/M romance books. The homophobia rang depressingly true and the author wasn’t afraid to tackle it, which was another plus point.  Grind is well-written, as enjoyable as a slice of chocolate cake on a cold winter’s day. It was such a feel-good read, I am tempted to check out the other books in the series, and I don’t say that very often.

05Dec/16

Review – Unexpected Circumstances (Isthmus Alliance Vol. 3) by Sloan Johnson

sloan

Earlier in the Fall we had the pleasure of talking to Sloan Johnson, a prolific author who is not afraid to tackle challenging themes in her books. To find out more about Sloan and her work, listen to her fascinating episode, and hear her giving our hosts a run for their money! Episode 075: Sloan Johnson – How Far Can We Deviate?

REVIEW

Zeke, Jeff and Mary have enjoyed a casual three-way relationship until fate steps in and makes them evaluate whether what they are doing is just a bit of fun, or whether they are ready to settle down into a more serious relationship. Whilst they are trying to figure that out, the outside world seems determined to pull apart their unusual arrangement.

The plot is fairly straightforward. After Mary is attacked by the ex-boyfriend of her best friend, her dreadful mother arrives to look after her, and finds her daughter embroiled in what she sees as a very unsavoury situation. Meanwhile, Zeke is torn between wanting to settle with Mary and Jeff and doing his own thing. And Jeff, the steadying influence, is busy trying to keep everything together.

Recently I read a comment that most books concerning polyamorous relationships, especially those that are M/M/F,  are basically erotica and have no story-line, but this is not the case at all for Unexpected Circumstances. Yes, the sex is hot, but it isn’t over-stated. Each main character is fully realised, with their own personalities and foibles, so they don’t merge into one being. The secondary characters are also convincingly drawn, apart from Mary’s mother, an obvious boo-hiss character so horrendous she verged on caricature. Somewhat oddly, she was dismissed in an off-hand fashion half-way through the book. I say oddly because after such a strong start, she was tucked away in Florida, conveniently out of the way. One of my favourite minor characters was Holly, a complex girl with an abusive ex and a supportive boyfriend. The author nailed her character with pin-point accuracy and for me, she was the most memorable in a large cast of satellite characters, all with their own problems.

In the end, what seems to be a huge drama is a misunderstanding. There’s a lot of angst, redeemed by the serious look at the relationship of the three protagonists, and the issues and prejudices that their situation throws out. And there are a lot of issues. The two men have the same love for each other as they do for the woman in their life. One of them isn’t fully out yet, and there are implications to their careers, their friendships and family members. I would have liked to have known more about how Mary felt, what her insecurities were. We learned Zeke’s and Jeff’s, but felt a little short-changed by Mary’s experiences, other than learning that she was incredibly satisfied in bed.

This is a long book, and it could have been tightened up a bit without losing any of its impact. I found I was skimming in places, then going back to see if I had missed anything. I hate doing this as it takes me out of the story. The dialogue could have been sharper as well, and the emotions less over-wrought in places, but the characters were likeable and I enjoyed reading about their dilemma and how they were going to deal with it.

This is part of a series, and I haven’t read the other books, but fans of Sloan’s writing will lap up this chunky read. For newbies, it might be a little hard to digest in places, but there is no denying the love that the author has for her characters, even as she’s throwing the proverbial kitchen sink at them.