Thursday, 29 March 2012

Review: Scar Tissue by GL Roberts

I'm always interested in a book set in the recent past, especially one I may remember a little.  Scar Tissue is set during the 1970s, and although I only have the vaguest remembrance of that time, being quite young, I still liked that it was set in a time when fashion was eye-popping and moustaches were de rigueur.  Actually, there's a disappointing lack of facial hair in this book, which I thought was strange given that many men grew beards and moustaches.

The story begins with Bob, who works for the relatively new DEA. He meets a new CIA recruit, Mike and the sparks fly between them.  These are not easy times for a gay man though and Bob has to struggle to hide his interest.  Mike is obviously attracted to Bob too, but blows hot and cold.  It takes a lot of patience on Bob's part to break down Mike's defenses and discover what's holding him back.

The book is a slow burner at first and the reader is treated to a number of scenes where the heroes meet and through various uneasy methods determine that they are both on the same page, and that things could work between them.  You get a real feel for how nervous both of them are at showing their hand too soon for fear of reprisals, but there's a recklessness about them too.  Their attraction is palpable and it's difficult for them to stop staring and admiring each other.  Bob especially finds it hard to keep his cool around Mike, finding that he's easily flustered and needs to 'cool off' a number of times.  The majority of the book is spent in these first few meetings, painstakingly describing their meetings, every word and gesture is open to scrutiny through Bob's narrative.  I didn't mind the slow pacing because it helped in grounding the book in the setting and I settled easily into the story, enjoying it a great deal.  However, I found myself getting a bit concerned when the book started to reach the last 30-40 pages and very little had yet to be resolved.

I was right to be concerned because there's an abrupt change of pace towards the end.  It goes from being a lengthy drawn out narrative to several events happening in quick succession.  Some of those events are quite disturbing, and yet they are glossed over with none of the indepth detail shown in the earlier part of the book.  We also go from being shown lots of Bob's reactions to Mike and Mike's responses, to being told Mike's actions and how Bob reacts to that. The first part of the story takes place over a couple of weeks or so, but the last part moves swiftly over several weeks and yet has a distinct lack of detail.  This meant that what could have been a very emotional and moving confession from Mike, is instead dealt with in an offhand manner, and the way Bob reacts to Mike and his confession is over before we know it.  I was disappointed to say the least because it made it seem like what happened to Mike wasn't important or that Bob didn't care that much, even whilst Bob tells us that he did care.

So whilst I really liked the start of the book and felt immersed in lots of great detail from the time period, especially things I don't really know much about, like the experiences of men post-Vietnam and the workings of the CIA/DEA, I felt a little cheated out of a satisfying conclusion to the story because everything was so rushed.  This means that I'm going to give Scar Tissue a grade of 'Good' and would recommend it to those readers looking for a 1970's set story and who maybe won't mind the abrupt way the story concludes.

Buy this book HERE.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Review: Scrap Metal by Harper Fox

This is the first longer book I've read by Harper Fox, although I read the two novellas she's written for Carina Press Christmas anthologies. I'm not sure why it's taken me so long to read something by her, other than the usual excuse of too many great authors and not enough time, but after reading this one I think I need to catch up with her back list because this book was just superb.

The story begins with a cold, wet winter on Arran, which to those who don't know is a Scottish island off the west coast of Scotland. Nichol is the grandson and only living relative of Harry, and up until a year ago he was at Edinburgh university doing a phd in linguistics. The death of his mother and brother put an end to that and now he is bitterly struggling with being forced to live on the family farm, eking out a desperate living from the sheep and land, with his grandfather who resents him for living when his brother, who was much better suited to farming, has died. Into this situation comes Cam, on the run from goodness knows what and needing a place to hide out. Nichol doesn't have it in him to turn away a stray and it isn't long before Cam has wormed his way into the hearts of Nichol, Harry and, it seems, even the usually bleak Arran weather. 

I'm not joking about the weather. The author uses rather a splendid form of pathetic fallacy in that the feelings of the character of Nichol is often reflected in the weather. At the beginning the weather is cold and bitter, but when Cam arrives to brighten up Nichol's life, so the weather turns to become one of the most glorious spring and summer in years. Later there's arguments amid storms and tempests and cold rain to signify withdrawal and sadness. Very clever.

As well as that rather nify piece of narrative effect, the story is beautifully put together. It's very much a character based tale, with much of the action confined to specific locations on the island. As such, it manages to reflect the rather insular location of island life. Most of the book concentrates on the three main characters of Nichol, Cam and Harry with only a handful of other islanders given much page space. I found that this worked well because the focus of the story is mostly inward, focusing on Nichol's slow recovery from the events of a year before and his prickly relationship with his Grandfather, rather than lots of action scenes - although there are some action scenes scattered through the book. The confining narrative still managed to encompass the sweep of nature on the island, and I loved that the setting was so evocative in its descriptions of various locations. I really felt I was on that island, with the sights and smells, the wildlife and beauty all accurately described through the nostalgic and biased view of Nichol. Even now, a few days after reading I can see some of the locations in my mind, despite never visiting Arran (I only got as far as Mull and Iona on my discovery of the western Isles).

This is essentially a story about recovery, and to some extent all three characters have to go through some sort of recovery. We only get Nichol's viewpoint and so his feelings are the most clearly described. His bitter and resentful feelings over the loss of his academic dreams, his anger over the loss of his family and the hurt and bewilderment at the harsh way his Grandfather treats him comes across strongly at the beginning of the book. It was truly delightful to see what a catalyst Cam became for Nichol and how his presence and gentle nature changed Nichol's perspective, helped him begin to grieve and also provided some much needed practical help. Harry is more of a dark horse, but he changes too as Cameron's brightness affects the dark person he has become. Cam is the bridge between Grandfather and Grandson until their own bridges are mended and they gain their own reconciliation (even if it is a shaky one). I loved how Nichol and Harry were so alike in their stubborness and yet very different too. Cam is recovering from the things that happened to him in Glasgow, and it's through Nichol's persistence and stubborn determination to love Cam no matter what that helps Cam recover too. I was completely drawn into the connections between these three men, absorbed by their drama so much that the pages flew past.

I can honestly say I don't really have anything negative to say about this book. The focus is very inward on character and relationships, and we do spend an awful lot of time in Nichol's head as he at first grumbles, then debates and decides, then grows happier. I love books that have a character based focus, but maybe readers who like more changes in setting, pace, action and characters may not find this book to their taste. It's a slow burner, but I found it utterly enthralling.

One last thing, although I'm well aware this is a lengthy review. I really liked how the author managed to show the Scottish setting through the dialect of the characters. She got the balance just right between imitating the lilt and cadence of the scottish accent, without resorting to obvious 'see you Jimmy' cliche. I could hear the accent very clearly in my head and yet it was also easy on the eye to read. Marvellous.

As you may have already guessed, for me this was a terrific book. I was captured at page one and couldn't bear to put it down. It was m/m romance writing at its best and I can't recommend it highly enough with a grade of 'Excellent'.

Buy this book HERE.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Review: Immortal Valentine by Ellis Carrington

Caleb is a lonely guy who isn't looking forward to Valentine's Day alone. He bumps into a stranger who asks him out for a meal and since Caleb's got nothing better to do, he agrees. Angelo is equally lonely and spends each Valentine's Day picking up a random stranger, wining and dining him before using the cover of a one night stand in order to feed from him. A bout of food poisoning throws Angelo out of his routine and instead of sex and feeding he finds himself talking to Caleb and getting to know him. Before he knows it, Angelo finds that he's developed feelings for Caleb.

This was one of those books which, whilst there wasn't that much wrong with it, still failed to be anything other than a run of the mill paranormal story. Both characters were nice guys, if a little bland and forgettable, being the standard 'lonely guy looking for love' in Caleb, and 'slightly tortured vamp with a traumatic past and now lonely and sad' in Angelo. The way they meet is slightly awkward as I'm not sure how realistic it would be a anyone to agree to dinner with a total stranger they just happened to bump into in the street, not matter how hot, but once the guys actually start their 'date' the story flowed well until a certain amount of awkwardness with the ending, which I shall explain later.

The main trouble I had with the story was that I didn't feel any connection with the characters. Much of their interaction together happens off page and although the reader is told how they talked all night or had fun just being with each other, I didn't get to see much of that happen. Instead the men spend quite a lot of time either apart or having sex, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but did mean that the romance felt flat to me. I understood that they desired each other, and was told plenty of times how they have feelings for each other, but I didn't see it when they were together.

The end was another sticking point. Rather predictably, Angelo's past comes back to cause trouble and there's the usual annoying thing of one character jumping to conclusions before running off without letting the other character give an explanation. If it hadn't been for the character of Caleb's friend, who rather stole the book in the one scene he appears in, I would have been more irritated than I was. Fortunately things are resolved quickly, if a little oddly out of character for Angelo. I finished the book thinking that the ending hadn't seemed to fit the book, like it had been added to add some drama at the end and to resolve a loose end, rather than because it fit the smoother flow seen previously in the book. Other readers may disagree, but I would have been happy for Angelo's past not to have been so firmly tied up. It was enough for me to know that he'd found happiness with Caleb.

Overall, Immortal Valentine isn't a bad read. It has a flow to the writing with carried me along nicely and meant that I finished the book quickly. There were some good touches to Angelo's character especially with his lack of sleep and amazement at how much Caleb has got under his skin in such a short time. It just isn't a very exciting book, with characters who were rather bland and a plot which had a few odd moments. If you like paranormal stories, especially vampires, and are looking for a quick read, then this could be the book for you.  Grade: Good.

Buy this book HERE.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Review: Power in the Blood by Angelia Sparrow

This was a very refreshing urban fantasy story of vampires and the Undying who hunt them which, although it has some m/m and m/f sex in it is not at all a romance. There's a large dose of horror in it too and those readers who are a little wary of blood and gore may not find this book to their taste. The main protagonist is Oren, an Undying breather. This means he hasn't gone through the violent death that needs to happen before his Undying status kicks in.  As far as Oren is concerned that's fine by him. He can't think of anything worse than living forever and is hoping to live to an old age before dying naturally.  He's hoping the same for his 6 kids too, all of whom were conceived before Oren realised what he was, and who are also Undying breathers. Oren has a problem though, the Undying Council want him and his kids turned into Undying, and not only that, but vampire numbers have increased dramatically recently in his town of Memphis, due to a Christian vampire cult. The Council are sending members to Memphis to help aid Oren in stamping out these vampires before the whole country is turned, which leaves Oren open to the schemes of the council.

There's lots going on in this story and that is reflected by the large number of points of view. I know some readers don't like it when a story shares the narrative around a lot of characters, but in this case I felt it was necessary for us to understand all the different threads of the story.  It's a very busy story with lots going on and a large number of characters who all interconnect in some way, so the change in narrative helped the reader to see exactly what was happening at any given time. It also allowed us to see the motivations of some of the lesser characters and thus gain an understanding of why they are acting as they do. For example, we spend a little time in the head of leader of the vampire church in Memphis, Micah. Without being privy to his thoughts, he would have come across as a slightly insane evil character, but because we see what drives and motivates him, through the few pages we spend in his head, then he actually comes across as a deeply committed Christian who, whilst very misguided, is only doing what he feels is best.  I found that I liked the variety of being in more than just a couple of people's heads and liked that it added a depth the characterisation that may have been missing otherwise.

Another thing I liked was that, although the story has lots of action sequences, particularly towards the end of the book, the story is firmly grounded in relationship and character.  This was true in particular for Oren and his kids. They work as a team, backing up Oren in his role as a sort of vampire task force.  He trolls the streets looking for rogue vampires who have escaped the control of the local vampire clans and putting an end to them.  In this he is aided by his family. I loved that each person in the family has a distinctive voice and character and that by the end we know so much about each of them and how they feel about their situation and others in the family.  The other Undying all end up gravitating to Oren and his kids and some of the best parts of the book were where the characters were together, sharing knowledge and planning for the attack on the church.

The world building around the vampire and Undying seems at first quite simple - a sort of good against evil.  However, as the story progresses we find out more and more about both vampires and Undying.  The myths surrounding the Undying, the physiology of how they can regenerate, the history of the Undying characters and how they cope (or not cope) with their immortality, were all obviously carefully thought about and fed to the reader through the book in a way that was fluid with no info dumps or 'as you know...' to mar flow of the story. I found it rather fascinating that each Undying who appears in the book has his or her own story to tell and were utterly unique.

There was so much more that I enjoyed about this book: The mix of action and quiet, with a grandiose bloodbath of gigantic proportions towards the end which managed to retain a number of moments of pathos to offset the gore; the humour mixed in with the serious themes and sadness; the way that it took the Christian religion and subverted it slightly whilst retaining a respectful tone which, as a Christian myself, I found both amusing and thoughtful, without feeling offended in the slightest.  The sheer breadth of the story which spans the whole of history whilst keeping the action mainly in close confines. I was charmed by this story, engrossed, slightly revolted a couple of times and thoroughly enjoyed myself.  At no point was I bored or wanted to put the book down. What an antidote to some of the books I've been reading recently!

As you may image from reading the above, I liked this book a great deal.  For those who like their Urban Fantasy to be gritty and gory, then this is a story for you.  I highly recommend it with a grade of 'Excellent' and I really hope the author decides to dip back into this sandbox and write a few more adventures of Oren and his kids.

Buy this book HERE.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Review: A Spell of Passion or Fear by TC Mill

I really like this cover!
I read a great short story from this author a while ago now and was hoping that she would produce a longer piece.  This novella is a short of steampunkish story set in a fantasy world with links to ancient Greece. The names of the cities have a Greek feel to them - the main setting here called Kalliopolis - and there are references made to Greek myths and Alexander.  On the other hand there are machines and automatum which gives it the steampunk feel.  One of those types of machines are the Guardians who are used as law enforcement in the city.  Before these machines were built, the Guardians were human men, who were cast off as too flawed and replaced by machines.  Our hero, Ariston, was one of those Guardians, now exiled from the citadel and forced to eek out an existence as a private bodyguard.  Our other hero is Phaleas, or Fal, who is a squire, or mechanic, to the mechanised guardians, charged with tending to their upkeep.  The two men meet when both try to escape the city. Fal is recaptured and Ariston makes his way back to the city where he contrives to get to know Fal.  Despite the limitations Fal has on his time and little opportunity to meet in secret, the men form a friendship and more.  Fal wants to escape together and try for a new life in a city where they can be open about their relationship, but he fears that Ariston has too many emotional ties to the city to want to leave.

In the UK Ariston is the name of a brand of white goods, especially washing machines, so I have to admit I found Ariston's name a little distracting at first! Once I got past that, I rather enjoyed this story. The first part concentrates on setting the scene and the developing relationship between the characters. At first I found the setting a little difficult to place, with some familiar and some unfamiliar aspects. It took me a while to understand the role of the guardians and how the society was structured, but as the story continued and we are fed more information, it became clearer to me.  There's a lot of focus on the way the machine Guardians replaced the human ones who were seen to be impure with their very human flaws and desires. I liked the way this was developed later in the story with the Guardian Eudaimon and Fal's relationship to that Guardian. It provided some of the more poignant moments in the story, and was almost cinematic in its execution.

Whilst I liked the pairing of Ariston and Fal which on the page was at first hesitant and then sweet and romantic, I personally felt a little emotionally distant towards them.  I didn't feel the zing of attraction, and whilst I could see that they felt something for each other, the chemistry wasn't there for me. Ariston especially seems rather cold and unfeeling, spending too much time wallowing in past hurts.  This may just be my feelings though and other readers may warm more to their relationship.

The last half of the book is the part which most caught my attention. I liked the journey that Fal makes, which again added to the cinematic feel to the book, and the creatures he encounters. It gave Fal more of a strength of character than that seen earlier in the book and made him a little less wet around the ears.  However, this part was marred slightly by a dream sex scene which was wholly superfluous to the plot. I'm never a great fan of dream sex scenes anyway but I'm not sure why it was included here because it added nothing to the story.  The ending was a little abrupt, and I would have liked to have seen more of Far and Ariston together at the end, but having said that, the ending did work as long as you are willing to use your imagination as to their reconcilliation. Maybe there's going to be a sequel where we see how they get on in their new life.

So overall, there were good and bad things about this story but I think that the good over-rode the bad and I'm glad I read it.  I'm giving this a grade of 'Very Good' and I recommend it to those who like fantasy and are looking for a different type of steampunk story than the usual Victoriana.

Buy this book HERE.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Review: A Brush With Darkness by Erastes

How exciting! A new Erastes release (or will be on Monday, but you can preorder now). I always look forward to a new book from Erastes because there's something so intelligent about her writing that calls to me as a reader, and this book was no exception.

The story begins with a grizzly murder on the streets of Florence. Michel is an artist, newly arrived in Florence and at the mercy of his scheming benefactor, Signor Bettano. He stumbles upon the murder but is cleared of all blame. Signor Bettano has great plans for Michel, one of which involves ingratiating himself with a rich and influential woman, whose son would like his portrait painting.

The story is taken from the first person viewpoint of Michel, who is rather wordy, poetic even, in the way he describes the things that happen to him. For me, that fitted perfectly with the idea of an impassioned artist. He sees things from a different angle to others, focusing on light and shadow, to the extent that he sometimes loses focus with the narrative, drifting off into fancy and recollection:

Light had always been my guide and salvation, for what is art but the fall of light on objects unseen? Light falling on the edges of my world had mapped it out for me as a child. Light drew my eye from my earliest memory, that of my mother leaning over the kitchen table, her body in shade, but her golden hair lit with the ray of sun that poured through a high window. The shine of dust motes in daylight.

It takes rather a long time for Michel to get to the actual point of the story, but I found I didn't mind that because his words had a hypnotic effect which drew me into his narrative and kept me reading. However, it did also make the story quite a slow starter and I can see how some readers may grow impatient with Michel, instead of being enchanted by him as I was.

Michel is also very passionate and painfully naive. His painting is all consuming, and as a result he either chooses not to see what is obvious to the reader, or is blind to what is happening. His infatuation with Yuri begins at their first meeting and I felt all of his desire, his impatience and his fascination with the man in the way he explains his feelings to the reader. This meant the ending to the book felt realistic because the reader has been primed about Michel's passion for Yuri.

The story has a paranormal bent to it, and I have to admit, I'd pretty much guessed the twist at the end. To be fair the author had given us lots of clues during the book. Clues that Michel fails to see but which a discerning reader would be able to find. I found the end satisfying, but it also shows us another side to Michel which made me believe he would fit right in with Yuri.

The setting is 18th Century Italy and I can't say I'm too familiar with that time period. The historical setting feels very accurate to me without being intrusive. There is description of place where necessary, but more of the focus is on Michel's art and I found it very interesting to read his descriptions of the way he prepares his paintings and begins the creative process. Knowing what a stickler the author is for historical detail, I can only assume that lots of research has gone into this side of things, but again it's there to show us the attention to detail that Michel demonstrates in his painting, thus showing us something of his character, and not to pile extraneous detail onto the reader.

My only concern about the story is stylistic. As I said earlier, Michel is wordy in his narration. This wordiness extends to a complex vocabulary which fits very well with his character but may be off putting to some readers. I always love it when an author has me reaching for the dictionary, but I also know that some readers find that annoyingly distracting. So, whilst this part of the writing was a bonus for me, I can see how it may mean this story will not be to some reader's taste.

Overall, this is another fascinating and complex story from Erastes. The fact that all this detail and story is fitted into less than 20,000 words shows that she's a master of both short and longer fiction. If you like historicals and are looking for something authentic with a paranormal feel, then I highly recommend this book with a grade of 'Excellent'.

Buy this book HERE.

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Saturday Shorts

I'm trying to make up for the fact that I've had two or three 'meh' weeks when I've had zero enthusiasm for reading or blogging.  So here's a Saturday Shorts post for you all, my dear readers.

The Amethyst Cat Caper by Charlie Cochet
I read a fabbo short story by this author a few weeks ago and so when I saw this novella I snapped it up.  The story is set in 1930's New York and tells of Remi, an ex-aristocratic Brit who moved to New York to escape a tyrannical father. He now owns a very successful tea shop with a garish purple theme (fancy pants ladies like lavender, apparently). A friend of his comes into possession of a cat statue made of fake amethyst and sells it to Remi. However, unbeknown to him or his friend, the cat statue is the real deal, stolen from an Egyptian museum. Before long Remi is embroiled in a mystery, along with rough around the edges 'Pinkerton man' Hawk, on the trail of the elusive 'gentleman thief' who wants his stolen statue back.

I really enjoyed this caper type story which pairs up a mix-matched couple in Remi and Hawk. Remi is very posh and upper-class but with a fierce independent personality and a temper. Hawk is a native New Yorker with a strong protective streak. Sparks fly when the pair are together and much of my enjoyment of this book was as a result of the banter between the characters. They get on so well that I could believe how quickly they find themselves falling for each other.  The sexual tension is high too and led to some very satisfying sex scenes.

The mystery isn't too much of a mystery really because we know who took the statue and I guessed pretty easily who the identity of the 'gentleman thief' was.  Still it was pretty fun to watch these guys figure it out and I also enjoyed the sly way the thief attempts to get back his stolen statue.  As a historical story, there are a few interesting details about the way the detective agencies worked in the 1930's and I learned a few things I hadn't known before - always a bonus for me.  However, there was a slip in the British side of historical accuracy when Remi tells Hawk that he wanted to go to "Eaton" (it's spelled Eton, BTW) and his Father sent him to Cambridge. Eton is a school for up to 18 year olds and Cambridge is a university for 18+ so that didn't fit. It jarred me out of the story slightly and annoyed me because the rest seemed so accurate.

That slip wasn''t enough to ruin my enjoyment of this story though. The characters sparkled on the page and the story was very amusing and I would recommend it with a grade of 'Excellent'.

Buy this book HERE.

Bonus by Liam Grey
I read this after reading a very positive review by Ruby at Brief Encounters Reviews - who wrote a wonderful review so do go and read it. The story begins with an outraged Mark punching a co-worker in front of his boss. The co-worker had just received a bonus for work he had stolen from Mark.  Mark is put on suspension whilst the matter is investigated and taken home by a guy from the marketing department, Jacob.  Jacob's care and concern for Mark, coupled with a lot of pent up aggression and frustration from Mark, leads to an explosive and rough bout of sex between them.

At just less that 7,000 words, there's a lot packed into this short. The sexual tension begins quite low with Mark noticing little details like how pleasant Jacob's voice is, and his smile, before things get ramped up to a sex scene which is very rough and ready. The guys delight in being forceful with each other and I found it all rather deliciously masculine.  Added to this is a story about workplace politics which sets the scene for the characters and an ending which provides a note of hope for the relationship.  I thoroughly enjoyed it and would highly recommend with a grade of 'Excellent'.

Buy this book HERE.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Not Quite a Review: Lovegames by M Jules Aedin

I've been putting off writing this review for about two weeks now. Not because this book is bad, or that I'm going to say lots of horrid things about it, because it isn't bad.  I put it off because I had somethings I needed to think about the book and work out how much these things actually bothered me and how that affected the grade I want to give. I supposed it can only be a good thing if a book leaves you thinking and this one certainly did.

Anyway, I've decided that instead of doing one of my conventional reviews I'm going to throw out a few thoughts about the book instead, both the good and bad, and leave you to decide whether you agree with me.  A word of warning: I'm going to be spoilerish in this review.

Summary of book:
Lovegames is a very loose follow on from Paper Planes which is a book I really, really liked. It takes three rather minor characters from that book: a couple, Keith and Adam who are a famous singer and actor respectively and who asked Stuart (one of the MCs from Paper Planes) if he wanted to join them for a threesome; and Sebastian (or Baz), who we meet at the Charlotte Gay Pride event at the end of Paper Planes.  The story begins at that pride event where Baz is wondering round nursing a whole load of anger over discovering his date already had a boyfriend. He accidentally runs into Keith who tips his beer on Baz. Baz doesn't recognise Keith and is furious. Keith is charmed by the fact that Baz hasn't recognised him, and offers to make amends.  Shortly after he mentions to his lover Adam that Baz might be the perfect choice for a third in their bed later and when Adam meets Baz he agrees wholeheartedly.  What should have been a throwaway night of passion leaves all three men wishing for more.

What I liked:
I loved, loved, loved Baz.  He's cute and twinky (he wears eyeliner and sparkly glitter, how much twinkier can you get!) but he's also very intelligent and hard working.  He's not afraid of standing up for himself but he's also sensible enough to know when to back down.  During the book there are times when Baz becomes a victim of circumstance and I felt that he carried himself with dignity each time.  Even when life gets tough he doesn't try to find someone to blame but learns from the experience and moves on as much as he can.

The sex was hot, hot, hot!  During the first half of the book especially which pretty much blew my socks off. Sex scenes between three men can be quite tricky to pull off because it's hard not to leave a character out of the action, but the author did a good job of showing how inventive these guys could be and including all three in the sex.

The relationship between Adam and Keith was another plus point, especially in the way that Adam knows Keith inside out, and shows time and time again how much he loves Keith.  Keith too showed his dependency on Adam and some of my favourite scenes involved these guys loving and supporting each other.

Finally, I thought the depiction of Keith's bipolar depression, through a kind of synesthesia, was very sensitively shown. The ups and downs he experiences in the book and the way he fixates on Baz as a way to dispel some of the down times was realistic.  Keith was my least favourite out of the three but I still had lots of sympathy for him  Even at the end, when his actions should have been abhorrent, I understood why he acted as he did and it was only by being shown through the entire book how the depression affects him that I could forgive at the end.

What I didn't like:
The first half of the book is very lighthearted, almost fluffy in its portrayal of the three characters and their situation, and then about at the mid point things shift so the book becomes much darker in tone. I found this shift jarred a little with the first half of the book, and most of the things that I didn't like about the story comes from the second half of the book.

There's a crisis point in the book where the three men realise they have done something rather stupid. I thought that not only was it stupid it was also out of character for a couple of men who are used to living in the limelight.  It seemed unlikely that they were all so wrapped up in lust that they wouldn't have thought about the dangers of being seen out with Baz in public.  The fact that it's Baz who suffers most from this lack of forethought made me quite cross.

The stalker subplot was weak and could have been easily removed from the book. It added nothing to the overall story arc and instead weakened the narrative by taking the focus away from the main characters.

The book ends very suddenly.  After the mid way point in the book, we have crisis after crisis and then some (far too sudden in my opinion) I Love Yous, and the book ends.  The story was in no way finished at this point and left a lot of loose ends.  In particular I needed to know how their unconventional three way relationship would work in the long term, especially as two of the characters are famous and constantly in the public eye.  Having the characters tell each other that they will work it out somehow because they love each other didn't cut it for me.

So you see there were a number of good and bad points about this book for me. It was a book I enjoyed but it left me frustrated about a few of the things that happened. This makes it rather difficult to grade because I feel it's right on that border between a 'Good' and 'Very Good' grade.  Therefore I'm going to leave it at that, teetering between the two grades (yes it's quite comfy up on this fence, thank you :)).  I'd like to know whether you agree with me about the book. Did you like it? Or did some of the things which bothered me, bother you too?

Buy this book HERE.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Review: Accidental Love by Shae Connor

Greg has been sharing a room with Keith at College for a while now. They move in different circles and all Greg really knows about his room-mate is that he's a hard worker who loves old films and spends his weekends out partying hard. When Greg arrives home slightly later than usual, it jolts the pair out of their routine and they begin to become friends. However, when it looks like Keith wants to deepen that friendship, Greg is unhappy. He's put a lot of energy into cleaning up his act and he doesn't want a relationship with a guy who's only after a good time.

I found this to quite a lovely little story. It takes two guys who, as is normal for guys their age, are a little self absorbed and running a path parallel to each other. They are blinkered to the needs of each other because they are so focused on their own goals. Greg has made some mistakes in the past, clawed himself back from that and is now almost obsessive in his clean living. Keith is focused on keeping his life in separate boxes where he works hard in the week and then lets off steam at weekends. They are both what I would consider 'nice guys'. Polite, mindful of the other, but also switched off and remote. When things start to change, I found it rather delightful to watch the lust build between them and also the way they discover how well they get on as a pair. The scenes where they sit and chat about their lives, or watch a film or show little kindnesses to each other were pivotal in showing us just how right they are for each other. These scenes left me feeling warm inside.

It's not all sweetness and light for them though. Both men have problems, although perhaps Greg's proves the biggest hurdle. I liked that, despite a few hiccups, the men talked through their problems and came out stronger as a result. These are College age guys though and I did find myself grimacing a little over the drama of it all whilst also recognising that people that age do have a tendency to over-react, over-think and take extreme actions. However, don't think that this is an overly angsty story because it isn't. There's lots of emotion, yes, but the tone of the story, thanks the breezy writing and lighthearted feel, remains easy to read and not at all overwhelming.

If I have any niggles about the story it's that the story is very focused on the couple, to the extent that they seem to exist in a bubble. We get told that the guys have separate friendship groups but we don't get to meet any of them. In some ways the focus is a positive thing because it makes the romance seem intense, but I still would have liked to see how the characters act when they are away from each other and with different people.

That niggle wasn't enough to spoil the story for me though and I found Accidental Love to be a well written and swift read. It's high on the emotional content with lots of simmering lust in the background. Great stuff and a recommended read with a grade of 'Excellent'.

But this book HERE.