Tag Archives: featured guest

19May/17

Review of Sugar & Spice by Garett Groves

The spicy Garett Groves recently delighted us on our show! To hear more about Garett, listen to his interview and find links to his work, follow this link…. Episode 110:  Bad Pantser: Be A Plotter!

REVIEW

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Although part of a series (Spice of Life), it was a standalone, straightforward read, with zingy dialogue and two engaging main characters.

When I first started reading, I thought Max, the young, hot, clueless wannabe model, was a bit of a knob, to be honest (US readers, that isn’t a good thing.) He certainly didn’t endear himself to me when we were first introduced. Yes, he has the body, but he also has a self-destructive streak that I wanted to slap out of him. It was hardly surprising that Lucas, the older man who had been around the block a few times, was wary when Max made play for him in a gay bar. Encounters like that seem rarely destined to last.

But Lucas was a sweetie. I had the feeling that the author was trying for David Gandy, but I read Lucas as Henry from Cucumber. The image was thankfully shaken off when he and Max first hook up for their first pearl-clutching sexual encounter, after which, Lucas has the presence of mind to leave, rather than fall headlong into an improbable “mind-blowing sex all night” scenario.

And it is this restraint which makes the book work. Max does all the running. Lucas is the one holding back. At 45, he has doubts about his viability both as a lover and and photographer, so when Max has eyes for no-one else, he is understandably wary.

Max is also learning a sharp lesson in humility, after being fired from his job and dumped as favoured model for his photographer ex-boyfriend, but he is also wary of Lucas’s motives for wanting to hire him for his own photography purposes.

When they begin to work together, the awkwardness is almost painful, and Lucas’s attempts to make things right between Max and his former crush are excruciating, but in a good, “read it behind my fingers” way. You’re never really sure whether these two will make a successful couple. The odds seem stacked against them, for all Lucas’s wealth and Max’s worldliness, but the pay-off is worth the slow burn. (No spoilers – the author guarantees an HEA on Amazon. Also, no cheating or cliffhangers – good to know for people who hate both, like me.)

The author has paced this book very skilfully, creating an enjoyable, fun read with depth, and characters that feel real and well-rounded. And Lance, Max’s frenemy, is hilarious. I spent most of the book not trusting him, expecting him to stab Max in the back. Will he? Won’t he? Read it and find out.

BLURB

 After getting rejected by the only guy that he’s ever allowed himself to feel something more than lust for, Max Williams has convinced himself that the bachelor’s life is the only way for him to live. At 28, Max has everything he needs for it: a smoking body, just enough money to keep the drinks coming, and an endless supply of guys that are more than happy to keep his bed warm at night. Still, he can’t shake the feeling that something is missing.
When he loses his day job thanks to his partying and the modeling career he’d been trying to build collapses, Max isn’t sure of so sure of himself anymore, but there’s one thing he knows without a doubt: something’s got to give.

Lucas White has a reputation of his own–and he’s tired of it. The security provided by his cushy job as editor-in-chief of a legendary local photography magazine has kept him stagnant for too long both professionally and personally. He never dreamed he’d be able to retire by the age of 45 and start his own passion project, but that’s exactly where he’s found himself and it hasn’t been an easy transition.

While celebrating his last day at the office, Lucas and Max get up close and personal at a new bar and Lucas’s entire world turns into a photo negative. Max is the perfect model that he’s been looking for to bring fresh eyes to his new venture, but he looks so much like someone who once broke his heart–and Lucas isn’t sure that he can look at Max’s beautiful body every day for work without continuing to touch it.

Against his better judgment, Lucas hires Max. As they start working together, the line between employer and employee quickly blurs, and not even the pact they made to remain strictly professional seems to keep things in focus. Though they know better, neither man can resist their desire for something more–but Max is afraid of commitment, and Lucas can’t stomach the idea of being taken advantage of by another pretty face.

Will their differences bring them down, or will they come together like sugar and spice?

09May/17

Review of The Truth About Goodbye by Russell Ricard

The charming Russell Ricard was recently a guest on our show! To listen to his episode, get links and find out more about his work, click on Episode 109: Russell Ricard – Just Keep Showing Up! After you’ve read this review, of course….

REVIEW

The Truth About Goodbye is the self-assured debut novel from Russell Ricard, handling a tough subject with humour and grace. How does one move on from the grief of losing one’s husband? Of course, everyone is different, but it is Sebastian’s story which is told here. On the face of it, an ageing chorus boy, is dealing with two significant life events. The one year anniversary of the death of his husband, and turning 40 in the midst of an unforgiving and cruel environment; the New York show scene.

Sebastian’s well-meaning friend, Chloe, tries to make him feel better by setting him up with a date, failing miserably as Sebastian is still trying to accept and move on from his husband’s death. (Not surprisingly. A year is not that long when it comes to the loss of a true love.) Sebastian has tried a variety of distractions, including throwing himself into his choreographing work, with limited success. In the end, he has to face his grief alone, with all the requisite elements it throws at him. Anger, both at himself and his husband for leaving him, guilt at what was said or not said on the night he died, and fright at the thought of losing what they had forever, and erasing it with someone new. Through techniques taught by his lifestyle guru and grief counsellor, Sebastian gradually learns to accept his aloneness, and not be afraid of it. It is this journey of acceptance and dealing with loss, on which the novel is founded.

A very self-assured book, yet not an over-confident one.

Sebastian has lost a lot, as we discover through the book. Abandoned at birth, then losing his eccentric but much-loved adoptive parents, followed by the death of his husband, it seems inevitable that Sebastian expects to lose everything he loves. As he gradually learns to accept that loss, and realises that life is for living, not waiting to die, we see him blossom from a fragile, vulnerable man to one who regains his confidence and vitality. The emotional way he finally looks back on the night his husband dies, and eventually accepts it, is accomplished. Like I said at the beginning, this is a very self-assured book, yet not an over-confident one.

I didn’t get the strong feeling this was a “New York” novel, or even one set in the show business arena. There are elements of dance, as Sebastian is shown tutoring a group who are already stealing his thunder as younger, fitter versions of himself, but the main story is about how he deals with a painful event in a life that has been defined by loss. The author has a talent for letting the reader into the lives of his characters from the beginning. Sebastian is flawed but you feel his pain, as he doubts his own sanity and viability as a man alone. Middle-aged wild child, Chloe, is frustrating but ultimately endearing. Greg, Sabastian’s nemesis and rival, could easily be a caricature but somehow manages not to be. And Reid, Sebastian’s potential love interest, is cute as a button and kind with it, but is it too soon for Sebastian to find love?

Due to the central premise of the book, there is a fair amount of navel-gazing, but Sebastian’s friends provide light relief, notably ex-Rockette Chloe. The dialogue between them felt real and convincing. Sebastian comes across as fragile, needy, a little bit tetchy, but ultimately I liked him and wished him well. You get to know about his family, why he is the way he is. It’s a balanced story that pulls you with it, like a seemingly calm river hiding rip currents beneath the surface. I found it to be that rare thing, a fairly light read that leaves an echo long after it has been completed.

BLURB

Sebastian Hart has dealt with a lifetime of goodbyes. And now, a year after his husband Frank’s death, the forty-year-old Broadway chorus boy still blames himself. After all, Sebastian started the argument that night over one of Frank’s former date items, someone younger than Sebastian who still wanted Frank.

Challenged by his best friend, the quirky ex-Rockettes dancer Chloe, Sebastian struggles toward his dream of becoming a choreographer and grapples with romantic feelings for Reid, a new student in his tap class.

Ultimately, Sebastian begins to wonder whether it’s his imagination, or not, that Frank’s ghost is here, warning him that he daren’t move on with another love. He questions the truth: Is death really the final goodbye?

17Apr/17

Review of Sacred Band by Joseph D. Carriker Jr.

I have been gifted an Advanced Reading Copy of Sacred Band in exchange for an honest review. Sacred Band is to be published by Lethe Press in April 2017.

The author is an experienced gamer, which definitely comes through in the book. There’s quite a lot to take in. For starters, at least four of the main characters had two different names. For a non-gamer, this has the potential for confusion, but for any hardened D&D, ComicCon or Marvel fans, this is familiar territory.

Once I had figured out who was who, and had learned their superhero names, it was much easier. And it made total sense. After all, when your superpower is being able to create lethal metal ballbearings and use them as bullets, then “Rusty” probably isn’t the first name you’d choose.

The author has brought the “supers trying to save the world’ theme bang up-to-date, starting with the disappearance of one of Rusty’s gay friends from the internet. Rusty suspects he has been kidnapped, along with others. There were obvious nods to the horrific problems LGBT people are suffering in Russia and other closeted countries, and he soon realises that the problem is far deeper, and far more world-threatening than he could have imagined. It’s a problem that needs extraordinary people to tackle it, and the government just aren’t up-to-scratch. He then has to pull together a super-team, and deal with all the issues those characters bring to the table. There are politics at play, some with familiar overtones, and complex diplomatic delicacies worthy of The West Wing. It gives the superhero genre a grown-up, satirical edge that makes it stand out.

Chock-full of superhero shenanigans

As I said before, I’m a non-gamer, so I thought that at times, all the mini-conflicts got in the way of central story. I had to pick through them to find the core of the book. Sometimes, it read a little busy and IMO the editing could have been tightened up in places, yet I liked the characters immensely, my favourite being Deosil (I just want that girl in my life right now!) I did get the sense that they were family, rather than friends, and Sentinel, the super who was exiled after the scandal that outed him, was more of a father figure than a love interest for Rusty. The sexual tension between them wasn’t convincing at first, but I kind of got it as the story went on. Personally, I would have matched Sentinel and Optic, but there you go.

I felt that the author was far more comfortable when choreographing the fight scenes, as they were fantastically drawn, and the political power play, than with the personal relationships, which seemed awkward in places. Despite that, I thoroughly enjoyed the book and it grew on me as it went on. At a generous 400 or so pages, Sacred Band is chock-full of superhero shenanigans to delight the most hardened of fantasy readers.

BLURB

The golden age of heroes is decades past. The government could not condone vigilantism and now metahumans are just citizens, albeit citizens with incredible talent, who are assisted in achieving normal lives (including finding good fits for their talents employment-wise) by a federal agency.

Rusty may have been a kid during that glorious age but he remembers his idol, Sentinel, saving lives and righting wrongs — until he was outed in an incredible scandal that forced him into isolation. When a gay friend of Rusty living in the Czech Republic goes missing, Rusty is forced to acknowledge that while the world’s governments claim that super teams are outdated and replaced by legal law enforcement, there are simply some places where the law doesn’t protect everyone — so he manages to find and recruit Sentinel to help him find his friend. But the disappearance of the friend is merely one move in a terrible plot against queer youth. A team of supers may be old-fashioned, but this may be a battle requiring some incredible reinforcements.

06Mar/17

Review of Angels Fall by N.S. Beranek

We recently had the gal from Chicago, Nancy Beranek, join us for a vibrant chat on our show! To find out more about Nancy and get links to her work, check out Episode 101: Look At The Fridge Magnets!

REVIEW

This book is like walking through a Mardi Gras festival; colourful, confusing and fantastical, laced with horror and throbbing with erotic promise.

It is worth noting that the book is written in the present tense, which puts the reader right in the heart of Beranek’s world from the get go.

The blurb assumes a lot when it says “when a member of the created family he’s focused on instead comes under threat from a mysterious illness, Ehrichto strikes a deal with his own sire, to return to the sire’s bed in exchange for his help.” I get that this is vampire-speak, but I was left thinking “huh?”

If it puts some people off, that would be a shame, because although the book isn’t that long, it is packed so full of beautiful details and lavish descriptions, it feels like an all-round sensory experience. The smell of blood and sun-tan oil, fresh bodies and sexual promise, all drip from the page. The author has built this incredible, colourful, savage world, filled with family drama, vampire politics, and sexual undertones. There isn’t a lot of actual sex, but despite that, it is a very erotically-charged book. Very clever and not easily accomplished.

An all-round sensory experience

There are a lot of characters, and a lot of different dynamics at play, so much so it seemed confusing at times. I’m still not sure what the relevance of Dorjan’s character is. I feel I have to read the book again to fully grasp all the delicate nuances. Again, this would delight some readers, but I wasn’t wholly gripped enough to do so. As a book reviewer, I don’t have time to read the same book twice. This is a shame, but it’s the author’s job to explain it through the story, not my job to rummage through the book until I finally get it.

Having said that, I believe there is scope for a series. There are some great personalities here, all of which are colourfully described and given their own distinctive voice. I loved Michael’s family, and the way the author dealt with his coming out, the confusion of his parents, his horrendous social-climbing mother. The setting of scenes is first class, and consistent throughout the book. I really wish I loved it more than I did, but the chaotic story-line was a little too distracting for my taste.

No doubt about it though. This is a clever and literary addition to the vampire genre.

 

Print Length: 265 pages

Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited

Publisher: Lethe Press

Publication Date: November 13, 2016

Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC

Language: English

ASIN: B01N407YT5

 

BLURB

Tired of being told—by straight and gay alike—that he loves “incorrectly,” vampire Ehrichto Salvatolle gave up on the idea of having romantic love long ago. When a member of the created family he’s focused on instead comes under threat from a mysterious illness, Ehrichto strikes a deal with his own sire, to return to the sire’s bed in exchange for his help. But when he meets the great-grandson of the first man to break his heart, Ehrichto spies a chance to have the one thing he’s always wanted: true love.

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?

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 – 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.