Tag Archives: romance

29Sep/17

The One Thing I Know by Keelan Ellis

WROTE Podcast alumni, Keelan Ellis, has recently been with us to talk about her new novel, and what happens when media events force an author to change their story. To catch up with Keelan and get links to her work, listen to Episode 131: I Have A Playlist For That!

This first book in the B-Sides series is a change of mood for Keelan Ellis, whose paranormal romances I am familiar with. Set in the 1970’s music scene, it concentrates on the relationship between two men, one a studio musician, Henry, who has been offered his dream job, and Terry, the band’s front man, who is still reeling from the death of Dell Miller, the band’s creative life force.

I wasn’t really sure about this book at first. The lightness of touch which makes this author’s previous books so easy to read is absent, and in its place is something much grittier. It is a romance, but there are dark elements; drug use, addiction, inter-band squabbling, soulless sex just because its available, as well as painful stints in rehab speak true of the rock n’ roll lifestyle, which really isn’t as fabulous as people like to think it is.

I had to read back a few times to remind myself that this book was set in the 1970’s. The sense of period was lost in places, with only mentions of Rolling Stone magazine and the Beatles to pull it back. As both are still relevant today, it wasn’t entirely successful. Also, Henry seemed genuinely sweet and honourable, and I found it incomprehensible that he would just drop his knees the first time Terry demanded it. For me, it was a jarring moment that made it difficult for me to believe they would find their HEA, and it took a while for the romance element to find its equilibrium again.

But despite those elements which pulled my focus away from the central story, it was a very enjoyable read, well-written and researched. It’s so refreshing to read a romance novel that doesn’t make paper cut-outs of its characters. The reader actually sees Henry and the Vulgar Details working, doing their thing, practicing their craft, not just looking great in tight jeans and sweaty hair. It definitely isn’t all about limousines and mountains of coke (although there’s plenty) but about cleaning up vomit, paying for trashed hotel rooms, having to get on stage with crashing hangovers and fighting a grief that cannot be expressed.

And it’s important to note the book also attempted to highlight the attitudes towards gay relationships in 1970’s USA. The general assumption is that the era was free love and peace for all, but in reality, that only applied to men and women. Gay men were tolerated, but there was still a massive stigma that meant Terry had to hide his grief for Dell behind outrageous outbursts, eventually ending up in rehab, and Henry lived in constant fear of his sexuality being found out, therefore jeopardising his career.

So yes, this is a rock star romance, but scratch the surface and it is so much more. I read this book a couple of weeks back but it has stayed with me, which is always a good thing. A meaty, satisfying read for those who want their characters with grit and depth, and a realistic romantic premise. A strong start to the B-Sides series.

BLURB

Talented studio musician, Henry Cole, is offered the dream job of touring with popular rock band, the Vulgar Details. Things aren’t all rosy, though, as he is hired to replace Dell Miller, creative force behind the band, who recently flamed-out in a car accident.

Henry is all too aware that he’s no replacement for someone like Dell. He’s not the only one who feels that way, either. Terry Blackwood, band front man, has been giving him a hard time even before the tour start. He seems to resent Henry’s presence beyond all reason. What Henry doesn’t know is that Terry and Dell’s relationship was both intensely close and fraught with conflict.

Terry’s grief over Dell’s death is overwhelming and threatens to destroy not only the band but his life. It doesn’t help that the new member of the band makes him feel things he doesn’t want to. Worse, when he sings, Henry sounds just like the man Terry cared so deeply for.

With so much at stake, everything could come crashing down around them and mean the end for the Vulgar Details. Or, just maybe, Henry and Terry will find the one thing they need most.

Sometimes redemption comes from the last place you expect to find it.

07Sep/17

When Heaven Strikes by F.E. Feeley Jr.

I was scared to read this one at first. The striking image on the front cover hinted at a plot concerning wild weather, but I could have been wrong. It could have been an allegory for the chaos that religious fervour can wreak on innocent lives. What if I was disappointed?

Turns out, it is both, and I wasn’t disappointed. First off, it is books like this one that make me love my job. After an easy-going start, the author draws the reader into the lives of Ted and Anderson, before focussing on the aftermath of a homophobic attack that has totally unexpected results. Both parts of the book are cleverly interwoven, yet easing towards an inevitable and dramatic climax.

As an inveterate storm-watcher, I was waiting for the tornado to hove into view, and it does, but I’m not saying when. Everything I was expecting to happen, didn’t happen. I really hoped the author wouldn’t succumb to the normal romantic tropes, and he doesn’t. I was expecting a book full of rage against the religious machine, but the outcome is more one of forgiveness.

This is such an elegant book. The sex scenes are beautifully choreographed, the progress of Ted and Anderson’s relationship feels totally real. Yes, love does happen at first sight. Then the reader gets sucked in by the secondary characters, the most surprising of which was the fire and brimstone preacher and his son. Again, expectations confounded at every turn.

In fact, this book IS like a tornado, throwing the reader into a spin. I loved that the ending made me cry. That is what books are supposed to do. Entertain you, anger you, make you feel. This book has all the feels, and much, much more. A masterclass in how to craft an MM romance, and support it with a plot that is so much more. A strong contender for my Book Of The Year.

BLURB

Artist Ted Armstrong lives a solitary and eccentric life. The survivor of child abuse disguised as religion, Ted has cut himself off from the world.

Then Ted meets Anderson Taylor, and it’s like being struck by lightning.

Anderson is a cardiac surgeon whose passion for his work has consumed him. He fears he’ll never find a partner—until he sets eyes on Ted. It’s happening fast, but both men know what they feel is right.

Confronted with an angry preacher, a scandal, and an act of God that threatens to destroy everything, their relationship will face its first true test.

24Aug/17

Welcome To Crash by Lina Langley

REVIEW

The magical Lina Langley was recently a guest on our show! To find out more about Lina and get links to her work, check out Episode 123: Why Is There Magic In it?

No doubt the M/M romance fascists will get their panties in a knot over this one, featuring as it does a man caught between two lovers, a scenario in which the ending will always be bittersweet.

Yes, hunties, the main character CHEATS on his boyfriend. Get over it and move on, because this is a wondrous treat, an effortless read that I couldn’t wait to get back to. I read it over the course of three evenings, and was immediately in love with the characters. Damien and Levi’s relationship feels so incredibly real. Levi wants to keep their affair discreet because of their tutor/student relationship. His character felt familiar, a dreadlocked, groomed and decent man who has been chased and seduced by the Pan-like Damien, only to see the boy/man begin to crumble.

Damien is of age but eyebrows would still be raised if people found out. He accepts Levi’s insistence on secrecy but grudgingly. At times he seemed fairly young in attitude and speech, and then I realised that was because he hadn’t quite shed the arrogance of youth, and was unable to see the effect his actions would have on others. I liked him, though, because he was willing to accept that he had faults, and grow with them. His vulnerability and sense of guilt made him human, and who are we to throw the first stone?

Photographer John, wavering between gay and straight, is blown away by 21st Century Damien, although he does not know that Damien is out of time. John is suitably grungy, a tortured, grubby artiste fighting for recognition under the dominating wing of his mentor, a man who should be dead, but somehow isn’t.

This book wasn’t all about the love triangle, but about the circumstances around it. And what circumstances! The way the reader finds out what is happening to Damien, via his attempt to tell Levi about John, the time-bending twist; the horrible realisation that everyone around you thinks you are going insane; it was all wonderfully simple to understand but elegantly told. I really wanted all these characters to succeed in getting what they wanted. In less capable hands, a plot like this would be a hot mess, but without giving spoilers, I can safely say I enjoyed it right to the very last word. Definitely an author for those who are looking for romance with a piquant flavour of realist fantasy.

BLURB

At first, Damien feels lucky to land a job at an influential art studio, but it soon becomes obvious that something’s not right. His gorgeous boss, John, is interested, and he’d be the perfect man for Damien—if Damien wasn’t already in a relationship. It isn’t long before Damien is at the center of a love triangle, forced to choose between hot, punk John and his secret affair with his professor, Levi. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg, because something impossible is happening to Damien—and it’s having a drastic effect on his health as well as his perception of reality. 

Each time Damien goes to work, things grow more bizarre, starting with Sam—an artist who has been dead for years and now somehow… isn’t. Damien’s unusual circumstances also free him from the restrictions of monogamy—or so he thinks. Levi, who cannot believe Damien’s claims, fears for his sanity. John also has strong doubts when Damien reveals knowledge of a catastrophic event looming in John’s future. Whether the men he loves believe his wild claims or not, neither can deny Damien is languishing, and if they cannot save him, he’ll be lost. More importantly, they must convince Damien to save himself.

04Aug/17

Lina Langley

August 4, 2017


It gives us great pleasure to announce Lina Langley as the guest on Episode 123: Why Is There Magic in It?

This week Lina Langley joins us to discuss her upcoming novel, Welcome to Crash, blending genres, ghost writing for a living, and her work developing the upcoming game Talk to Me, a western visual novel.

Follow Lina and support her work:

Bio:

Lina Langley is a first-generation immigrant. She currently lives in sunny Florida and spends her time slashing hot strangers while getting coffee.

Her past is haunted by spies, thieves, tyrants, and murderers. A resident of the world, she’s lived on three different continents. She first saw a radiator when she was twenty-two years old, and one time she followed a cat instead of going to a house party.

She likes to read, watch TV, and play video games when she’s not developing them. The rest of her free time is spent recreating her own characters in The Sims and hoping that people don’t look at the back end of her games.

This Podcast Episode is
AVAILABLE NOW!
itunes-logo-300x112GooglePlay-logo-300x112stitcher-logo-300x112

Or right here:

24May/17

Review of Their Plane From Nowhere by Princess. S. O.

I wasn’t sure what to expect with this one. The author is a memorable presence on social media, with outspoken views and unafraid to stand up for strongly-held values, but can they actually write?

The short answer is …. hell yes! This is a massively entertaining, angsty yet tender, hot in places, story of two guys in their fifties (how refreshing…) who ain’t pretty to anyone apart from each other (their own words,) who have already found true, lasting love after a lifetime of tragedy, regrets and missed opportunities. There’s no “will they/won’t they” moments, as these guys have already found a happiness of sorts, even though their family lives and friendships are complicated to say the least, especially when the truth comes out about their relationship.

This novella is the whole package for me, an extremely professional self-published novella which shows how self-publishing should be done, from the two adorable bears on the front cover to the neat blurb telling you what you get in this story, to the crisp editing. This book packs a whole lotta punch for its weight. We have the story of widower Hank and unhappily married Earl, told in their distinctive Poconos Mountain drawl, and their love for each other whilst dealing with family bigotry, a poisonous wife and what happens when they accidentally out themselves in their small community. The answer: Not what you’d expect, including the arrival of a mysterious plane on the lake outside Hank’s home. It comes, it goes, and no-one knows why. This is the paranormal element of the story, with two normal humans trying to figure out why it is there.

I read this story honestly not knowing what to expect. Sometimes you can see the ending a mile off, with an HEA glowing in the distance. With this book, you’re never quite sure what is going to happen next. I loved the way the book was told, with a backwaters Pennsylvanian rhythm that felt completely unaffected, and the love between Hank and Earl, culminating in several tender yet scorching sex scenes. The way that Earl treated his kids, and Hank dealing with the grief of losing his was sublime. I really invested in these characters, even though the book was fairly short, and felt as if I was gaining a privileged insight into their personal lives.

Okay, possibly the denouement felt a little too neat, but that didn’t diminish my enjoyment of the book, and the mystery of the plane was heartbreaking. I’m not insulting it by saying it felt like a particularly bittersweet episode of Little House On The Prairie, only set in the 21st century, and with beefy guys having hot, honest sex as a bonus. And a neat addition is their favourite recipe for cheesy popcorn included at the back!

A great, standalone mystery romance for those who don’t necessarily want to read about pretty boys. And there are more in the Teddy Bear collection. I’ll definitely read more by this author.

BLURB

In their small town in the Pocono Mountains, Earl Knox and Hank Grisset have never been considered among the pretty ones to anyone but each other. As lucky as Hank and Earl consider themselves to have found each other, that’s about as far as luck has gone. All those Could’ah— Should’ah— Would’ah— moments a man never sees comin’, but that don’t stop him from regrettin’ them later in life.

When Earl makes a critical decision that ultimately outs him and Hank, a mysterious plane shows up at their lake house. Coming out in a small town can erase friendships in a heartbeat. But when a rift in the family leads to a life-threatening accident, only their love for each other is gonna get them through this—that, and their plane from nowhere.

 

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?

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.

25Feb/17

Book Review: The Hunt For Magic (Yuletide Knights Book 3) by Johnny Miles

I have to start this review with a caveat. I was given this book for honest review without having read the first two books in the series, so there may be some plot points I have noticed which have already been addressed.

I have mixed feelings about this book. First off, the Prologue did not seem to have any relevance at all until much later, which is always something that makes me nervous. It took a while for me to feel confident in the author, because at first, it felt as there were a lot of elements that had been thrown haphazardly together (see above paragraph.)

This ain’t for kids…

When the story settled into its stride, it was clear that Kris Kringle and his Elf, Bucket, had a mission to accomplish; to find out who was kidnapping Magicals and why, as well as finding a worthy successor to his own role as Santa Claus. But, as the luscious front cover suggests, this ain’t for kids. Lusty Santa has a thing for Bucket (named because the elf is *delicate cough* roomy.  This was obvious right from the beginning, and for me it was too much, too soon. I hadn’t had enough time to get to know the characters before discovering that Santa comes more than once a year. And when he does, he fills a ….. you can guess the rest.

Anyway, so they head off, and in the grand tradition of buddy/road trip adventures, they pick up strangers with their own problems along the way. Griffin has (rather carelessly, I thought) lost his boyfriend, Jackson Frost, as well as dealing other issues of death and abandonment, and Woden, Jackson’s father, is breathing down his neck. Nothing like an irate Winter God with an army of Wild Hunt harpies to ruin your day. It is their journey to the Ninth Realm, to face the entity suspected of holding the Magicals, and the epic battle that commences therein, on which the book is themed.

A great story

It reads a little unevenly. There is hot sex, but IMO it isn’t actually needed. The author has a great story on his hands and the rumpy pumpy feels a little shoehorned in. There is also more “tell,” where I would have appreciated a bit more “show.” For example, Santa is black. I know this because I was told at the beginning, and it is mentioned again halfway through (which was good because by then, I had forgotten.) Whilst I didn’t expect, or want, him sounding like Samuel L. Jackson, there were no clues apart from an obligatory mention of the Civil Rights Movement. I wanted a bit more of how he, a black man, felt about holding the position of Santa Claus, the embodiment of white peoples’ hopes and dreams. And he’s gay! A gay black man is Santa Claus! That’s epic in itself and I felt he had more of a story to tell.

There are other issues that are handled pretty well, considering this is paranormal romance. Dementia, bereavement, rape, brutality are all issues that need careful handling and overall, the author succeeded. I did wince a bit at some of the verbal violence, and I’m no shrinking violet. Like the sex, it seemed a little over the top in places.

A convincing and complex world

There were also a few places were I thought the editing could be sharper. Long curling horns was mentioned twice in a paragraph, and notable use of the word “throbbing,” but what the author has done has built a convincing and complex world, with repellent villains, exciting scenarios and a boo-hiss Krampus who obviously has mommy issues. Not everyone survives. Not everyone is beautiful. And I loved that.

Overall, this is a flawed but storming book, with great chemistry between the characters and colourful scenarios that jump off the page. The author knows how to spin a good yarn, that’s for sure.

Format: Kindle Edition

File Size: 1027 KB

Print Length: 263 pages

Publisher: Loose Id LLC (19 Dec. 2016)

Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.

Language: English

ASIN: B01N6IZR5Y

BLURB
 

Someone is kidnapping Magicals. Kris Kringle and his soulmate, Bucket the Elf, are determined to find out why. Only then can they spend the rest of their lives together. But first they must find a suitable candidate to take over the mantle of Santa Claus. They find Griffin Kloss in the backwoods of North Carolina and realize they must get to him quickly. Someone else is after Griffin and it’s not his former boyfriend, Jackson Frost. Whomever is after Griffin doesn’t want him for his good looks.

Putting themselves at risk, Kris and Bucket, together with Griffin, Old Man Winter, and members of The Wild Hunt, travel to the Ninth Realm. There, in a dark and dismal place, Griffin and Jackson are reunited, the missing Magicals are found, and Krampus, an ancient evil once thought dead, is found alive. Together they must all join forces to battle demons and the menace that threatens their existence, if they are to return to Earth Realm for their happily ever after.

Publisher’s Note: Readers with a history of rape or sexual abuse may find elements of this story disturbing.

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.