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Working in your Community to get the Word Out about Queer Romance

Queer Romance Month doesn't officially start until October, but I have a piece up there now about what we've learned from Gay Romance Northwest this year, and how readers and writers can work with community resources (like libraries) to help spread awareness of LGBTQ romance fiction.

So, even borrowing a library book has power!

Working in Your Community to Get the World Out about Queer Romance

GRNW 2014 Secret Stories - Guess the Author!

As we gear up for the Sept. 20 Gay Romance Northwest Meet-Up 2014 at the Seattle Public Library, we thought it would be fun to do another Secret Story Event in our GRNW GoodReads group! (Similar to our 2013 event.)


What is a Secret Story Event?


Popular especially in fanfiction communities, Secret Story Events are about posting a story first but not listing the author.


This is a fun way to go in “cold’ into a story without any preconceived notions of style or previous works. Then later we unveil the authors, and you can see how close your guess was! (And maybe even discover a new author who you hadn’t read before.)


2014 GRNW Secret Stories


We have six awesome secret stories to share this year, all contributed by GRNW 2014 Attending Authors!


Names will be revealed Thursday, Sept. 18! But can you guess before then who has written each story???


Batkyn Brinks by Anonymous


After his arrest for charges of “indecent” behavior, Lord Hindstone is brought before the judge for a ruling. What happens when this judge is an old friend who knows what really happened? (3,700 words, historical, explicit content.)


The Darkling’s Kiss by Anonymous


An unpredictable thief and a wizard on a mission. What will happen when these opposites meet? (4,700 words, fantasy, explicit content)


Floating in Space by Anonymous


“Have you ever been naked in vacuum?” She is naked and I already want her so badly that my breathing hitches. (1,200 words, sci-fi, explicit content)


Sailing the Seas of Stars by Anonymous


Ahoy, there! Is that…? It is! Space pirates! (979 words, sci-fi)


Three Goats by Anonymous


One lonely troll has his hands full watching over two rambunctious young goats. And then there’s the rumor that their older brother is returning home… (2,800 words, fantasy)


Three Wishes by Anonymous


A soldier at war finds a genie who will grant him three wishes. What will he choose for love? (5,900 words, fantasy)


Guess the author!


Can you guess which GRNW 2014 author wrote what? And feel free to share your thoughts, comments, and guesses! All will be revealed on Sept. 18! :D

City of Soldiers - Interesting Read

City of Soldiers - Sam Burke

I started City of Soldiers with some excitement but also a little trepidation. It is the first book that I’ve read that featured an asexual character, and being asexual myself, I was worried about how it would be portrayed, and also interested in seeing something—anything—that had a character like me.


Just as a quick primer, because I know it can be confusing—asexuality is the orientation when a person doesn’t feel sexual attraction. They can feel romantic feelings, and they can fall in love. They can like touching and kissing and cuddling. Some are into kink, some aren’t. Some can like sex and be aroused while others can be repulsed by sex. There are hetero-romantic and homo-romantic and pan-romantic and aromantic asexuals. I’ve come to understand that it’s a really wide spectrum of people, where the real commonality is the lack of feeling sexual attraction towards others. (Also, many share the same feelings of confusion, since there is no education about asexuality, that this is something that exists, so you have a bunch of confused people who don’t understand why they don’t feel the same way as others. You have this group wandering around thinking they’re “broken” because there isn’t a lot of understanding or acceptance that who they are is a real thing.)


For me, I like to categorize it like this. “There’s this cookie. You can find this a very handsome or beautiful cookie. You can eat the cookie. Some will enjoy eating the cookie and some won’t. Some will eat the cookie because they really want their partner who likes cookies to be happy. But you can walk by the cookie without eating it. Because you are not compelled to ever eat the cookie. You can love that cookie, and never eat it, and that feels totally 100% okay with you.


Now with that said, how did City of Soldiers hold up?


Actually very well. It’s a good novel with compelling characters, an interesting story, and is well-written!


City of Soldiers is not a traditional romance, and that’s not because one of the MCs is asexual. It’s because the focus is on four key characters, and how they relate or have feelings for each other. This is not a journey of one couple getting to their HEA, but of a group of men finding their purpose or their true desires or just someone to love and have love them.


Roman is a young veteran who suffered a traumatic brain injury while in service in Afghanistan, and now is back home in Philadelphia, scampering through the tunnels underneath the city with a close-knit group of veterans, all of whom are homeless and carrying various scars and injuries from battle.


Roman is also the soul of the story—a character that draws others to him, because they’re attracted to him, because they’re worried about him (and his habit of losing his memory or wandering off not knowing where he is), or for one, because they want to harm him. He is a sweet, gentle character, who also understands that his asexuality will continue to frustrate those that want more from him.


That includes Sean, nicknamed “prettyboy” by some of the other veterans. Sean is the only one not living on the streets on in shelters, but he is also feeling lost after he was forced out of the military due to an injury. Meeting Roman in one of the underground tunnels suddenly shines a light on his life that he didn’t know he could find again. After that brief encounter, he can’t help but seek more of that light, and he pushes his way into Roman’s world.


Poor Roman. He finds himself drawn to Sean too, but he feels that the truth about himself will never be enough to keep Sean, so when an old friend shows interest in Sean, especially when Sean’s desire for submission and bondage begin to stir, Roman feels compelled to be a good friend and push them together.


“And he’d ask Brackett to be good to Sean. Roman might be destined for a life lived alone, but that didn’t mean other men were too.


Burke described very well Roman’s dilemma—his lack of desire for sex, but his want for love, to have someone to go home to and sleep next to and wake up to and to love him, even if he doesn’t want to be sexual with them. And she conveys also his grim understanding that there may never be someone who will want to stay with him, and so he sees Sean’s puppy attraction to him as just waiting for the inevitable—to once again be rejected and alone and unloved.


Thankfully, although Sean is confused by Roman’s lack of sexual desire, he still is determined, because he can’t help but feel a desire to be closer to him.


Meanwhile, back on the Philly streets, someone is murdering homeless veterans, and the killer is closing in on Roman and Sean and those they care about. This part of the story was very intriguing and was drawn out in a way that I couldn’t guess who it was until the author started dropping hints in the last half.


I can tell that this isn’t Burke’s first time at the rodeo. Her writing is self-assured and smooth, and her characters are very realized, from sincere Roman to persistent Sean to protective Kristian to controlled Bracket to the gruff Colonel that runs the homeless shelter with her iron fist. Each comes off the page, lived in and very believable, each with their own voice. I’m not usually a fan of multiple POV stories, but this one was handled well and each character was very interesting, so it was easy to travel on these different paths through the story.


That writing ease probably comes from the fact that this is the first novel by “Sam Burke” but not by the author. She has written novels under the penname of Sam Cameron, has won a Lambda Literary Award under the name of Sandra McDonald, and writes fanfic under the name of sendal.


I see City of Soldiers as a compelling, character-driven novel that is partly a thriller, and has some romantic elements. There is no cheating, but multiple relationships are explored as these characters try to find a balance that will fit for their mix of desires and needs.

My main issue with the book is that I did have some unanswered questions in the end, and I found the climax a little drawn out as characters were coming together, but overall, it’s a gripping read.


No spoilers, but the ending is good for those who are wondering, and for those who are like me, who asked this question to another reviewer before starting, “Is Roman ‘Fixed’ at the end?” Meaning, is his asexuality nulled or removed to have a more “traditional” romance story?


And the answer is “No.” He is not “fixed” or made “normal”. His trajectory is consistent with who he is, which I was very thankful for. I don’t think I could read a story where an asexual character is dramatically changed to fit a more mainstream-accepted relationship or for a wish-fulfillment fantasy where the wish is for them to not be asexual.


Recommended if you’re looking for a compelling read with complex characters and an interesting story. Also recommended if you want to see how an asexual character can be handled since I think Burke did a good job overall. My one misgiving is about the exploration/underlying need for poly, but for these characters, I can only wish them to grasp and hold on to what happiness they find with each other. Because they all deserve it so much.


My hope is that as more awareness comes out about asexual people, more love stories will also follow. Because everyone should have that chance of a love story, especially those who fear that it will always be out of their reach.

Giveway and Interview about the Gay Romance Northwest Meet-Up 2014!

Interview! The Boys in our Books blog talks with us about the Gay Romance Northwest Meet-Up 2014 in Seattle, how we got started (in a bar!), and why we’re a little…different. :D


Check it out at: http://boysinourbooks.com/2014/08/13/blog-tour-giveaway-gay-romance-northwest-meet-up-2014/

Also, we're doing a giveaway! Stop by for a chance to win The Devil Lancer by Astrid Amara, The Pillar by Kim Fielding and Legally Wed by Rick R. Reed!

Okay Read for me

Hell & High Water (THIRDS Book 1) - Charlie Cochet

3 - 3.5: Not my favorite Cochet. A lot of GR friends though have dug it, and I recommend Ami's review for another, more positive viewpoint.

Briefly, what hadn't worked for me:

- I LOVE action romance. LOVE IT. And I was coasting along well for the first half or so, but I found some of the dialogue, especially anything that was to be funny or show camaraderie, felt forced and leaden.

- I found Dex and Sloane fine at first, but as things progressed, found their pairing a bit dull. Dex is the hot-shot rookie that pisses people off (but also wins everyone over--when this latter trait was mentioned a few times by characters, I got some Mary Sue flashes), and Sloane is the alpha-tough lead with a big emo, angst side, especially when remembering his murdered partner from before.

As things moved forward, I had a harder time connecting to them and at around 86% got stuck for a long time, but then just finally pushed through.

So, seeing that Dex and Sloane are the primary couple for the next three books, I definitely felt less enthused.

I like the ideas; I liked the mixed group of agents, and dig the thought of Cochet launching, in a way, her version of Cut&Run (with shifters), but basically an ongoing action romance series with lots of thrills and sexy times and some relationship angst for added will-they-stay-together tension. It's a neat idea, and there's not a lot of Cut&Run-like series, so jump in and enjoy, y'all.

Will I read the next one? ....Ummmm, maybe. Again, a little bored with primary MCs, but I won't lie--I'm a "Cash" fan, or the secondary pairing of Dex's younger brother Cael and Sloane's alpha-tough buddy Ash. So, going forward, it would probably be for those hints, and it's always hard when you're going in for a secondary pairing because then everything else feels less interesting.

So, I think Cochet's historical romps are still my favorite of her work, but it is pretty cool that she's launching this series, and again, buddies have really dug it, so try it for yourself, especially if you're like me, and you dig action romance,

Control by Cordelia Kingsbridge

Control CoverControl is Kingsbridge’s third online novel, offered for free, and written in (mostly) weekly installments. This book, started in September 2013, finished in late July and topping in at 167k words, is a thrilling and sexy sci-fi story set in a world like ours, but more “future-y” (aka more gadgets and tech), and made up of different countries that are dealing with some obvious tensions, where a very strategic assassination could lead to war.


The beginning of this story starts with a bang as MC Joaquin, a government security agent, leads an assault on a crime lord, but his mission’s success leaves him with an unexpected deliverable—a young man who had been the crime lord’s sex slave. Due to the power of a very special “obedience collar,” he has no recollection of who he was before his slavery, only that he lives for his Master, and not just for his Master’s touch and good graces, but also his very life is tied to who his collar is linked to, and when the crime lord is assassinated, his system starts to shut down, and is moments from death. In order to save his life, Joaquin is forced to take on the role as his new master, and from those chaotic first moments, their lives are intricately tied together.


Control is a very interesting and compelling read as the mystery of “Misha” unspools through the story as well as the growing relationship between Misha and Joaquin, although they face a very big difference of motivations. Misha wishes to please his new master in any way possible (and is punished with pain by the collar if he is not regularly fulfilling his master’s sexual needs), and Joaquin detests being in a place of control over Misha, and is striving to find a way to not just help Misha regain his memories, but find a way to full extricate him from the collar’s control without killing him. Along with those challenges, Joaquin’s agency is still tracking the leaders of the syndicate that had enslaved Misha, and through their investigation, find out some deeper, darker forces are at work.


Kingsbridge plays with a very interesting angle on dub-con or dubious consent, as Misha has no way to refuse orders, and is driven to have and want sex by the collar, so cannot truly consent. Joaquin finds being intimate with Misha as akin to rape because Misha cannot refuse, but unless he helps “relieve” Misha during these instances, Misha is racked with terrible pain. They are both hostage to the collar’s control, and Joaquin, even as he has sex with Misha, a man who he finds incredibly beautiful and would be attracted to under normal circumstances, feels intense guilt, and fears that whenever he is successful in freeing him, that Misha will only see him like the rapists who had enslaved him before.


Little does he know that finding out Misha’s true persona will add a whole new layer of mixed feelings.


I’m not a fan of rape and non-con, but I didn’t find Control a hard read in that aspect. I mostly felt bad for both Misha and Joaquin as they were working through these issues, and although there are some references to what happened to Misha before, it’s not graphic.

Overall, this was a very compelling read, and I think fans of Kingsbridge’s other novels Close Protection and Blood Red will enjoy this one a lot. Also recommended for fans of sci-fi/dystopia/future M/M stories, and who won’t mind a little d/s sexual dynamics in their reading.


My main down point is that I felt some of story’s steam drop off a bit in the last quarter or so. The climax is good, as is the ending but I didn’t feel the same kind of intensity as I did earlier in the story. That, and I would have loved more of an epilogue. No spoilers, but more post-climax time would have been great to provide that new, unhindered perspective. (Maybe I’m just greedy though and not ready to leave Joaquin and Misha’s world yet.)


But overall, a great read, especially for being a free novel. Kingsbridge’s focus now will be reworking her online novels for publication, which is a stellar idea. I think she’s a really interesting voice to add to the published m/m genre, and she does a bang-up job of mixing plot, character growth, and sex in one saucy, incredibly readable package. You can read all her work now for free, so if you’re interested, I recommend checking her out. (All her novels are long, so if you want to read them on an e-reader, I recommend Story Master as a resource to make the e-files.)

Dead Man and the Army of Frogs

Dead Man and the Army of Frogs - Lou Harper

With Dead Man and the Army of Frogs, we return to Harper’s paranormal Chicago, home of vampire Harvey and slayer Gabe from Spirit Sanguine and its follow-ups. In this second book in her off-shoot Dead Man series, sequel to Dead Man and the Restless Spirits, we find young necromancer “Dead Man” Denton stretching out his powers more, as well as dealing with the day-to-day trials of being a freelance web-designer, finding the best socks to go with his new hobby of wearing kilts, and trying to figure out his taciturn half-demon boyfriend who seems to be clinging to the past.

Like in book 1, Denton is a laid-back, easygoing narrator, and a good foil for his introverted herbalist lover Bran, who is a bit bemused by Denton’s new habit of going commando under his new kilt. (Fans wondering if there will be some sexy kilt time, my Magic 8 Ball says “Aye, Laddie!”)

Also, like in book 1, this volume is broken up into three connecting stories that follow Denton on a few mysteries as he and Bran continue to work together to help clean up some of the peskier ghouls haunting hapless Chicagoans.

For fans of book 1, I think you’ll definitely enjoy being back in Denton’s head, and there are a few nice twists along the way. (My favorite? Meeting Bran’s demon dad! My second favorite? Denton’s surprise minions.) Bran is still his enigmatic self, still a little perplexed by Denton’s go-with-the-flow nature, and still shy about his half-demon-side, but this time, you get to see a little bit more spark as Bran tries (and fails) to stay so-not-jealous around Denton’s friendship with vampire slayer Gabe of Spirit Sanguine.

Can you dive into this one cold? I wouldn’t recommend that. To really enjoy the characters and their growth, I would strongly recommend reading book 1 and also, the freebie short story Dead Man and the Lustful Spirit, since there are some threads picked up from there as well.

Do you need to read Spirit Sanguine first? That’s probably less necessary, but I personally would recommend both series. They’re enjoyable and not “same-old-same-old” paranormals. Both are marked by Harper’s style, which I tend to think of as realistically creative, fun, sexy, and low-key.

Related to “low-key,” my one down point is that this visit to Dead Man’s world felt a little low on tension, even with some darker forces at work. I didn’t feel too fearful for our young necromancer, so although I very much hope for a return to Denton and Bran’s apartment, crowded with plants and one clever black cat, I wouldn’t mind an extra shot of adrenalin to shake things up a little.

But for now, if you’re looking for a nice change of pace with your supernaural m/m romances, this series, along with the related Sanguine books, are a great way to go.

Reviewed originally for Boys in our Books.

GRNW 2014 Programming, Pitch Sessions and more!

This weekend we announced GRNW's afternoon programming for Sept. 20 in Seattle at the Seattle Public Library, including panels on writing, publishing, and diversity within LGBTQ romance.

Participants include GRNW 2014 authors Jordan Castillo Price, Ginn Hale, Anne Tenino, Rick R. Reed, E.E. Ottoman, and Rose Christo, as well as publishing leads for Bold Strokes Books, Less Than Three Press, MLR Press, Dreamspinner Press, and more.

And for the first year, we'll be hosting pitch sessions with seven publishers, so authors can meet with them directly about their work. :-)

And we have a great crew of authors attending who write from across the LGBTQ romance spectrum. This year's writers include:

  • Lynda Aicher
  • Astrid Amara
  • Talya Andor
  • Eric Andrews-Katz
  • Cate Ashwood
  • David-Matthew Barnes
  • Laura Baumbach
  • Jove Belle
  • Heidi Belleau
  • Angela Benedetti
  • Kade Boehme
  • L.C. Chase
  • Rose Christo
  • Diana Copland
  • Adrianna Dane
  • DP Denman
  • Megan Derr
  • Charley Descoteaux
  • Kim Fielding
  • LE Franks
  • Stormy Glenn
  • Amelia C. Gormley
  • Cat Grant
  • Ginn Hale
  • Dena Hankins
  • Daisy Harris
  • J. Tullos Hennig
  • David Holly
  • Laylah Hunter
  • Amber Kell
  • Nicole Kimberling
  • Morticia Knight
  • Lori L. Lake
  • Emma Lanner
  • Pearl Love
  • Belinda McBride
  • Kate McLachlan
  • Sasha L. Miller
  • M.J. O’Shea
  • E.E. Ottoman
  • Samuel Jarius Pettit
  • Alex Powell
  • Jordan Castillo Price
  • Radclyffe
  • Blak Rayne
  • Rick R. Reed
  • Devon Rhodes
  • Charlie Richards
  • Jeffrey Ricker
  • EJ Russell
  • Tara Spears
  • Andrea Speed
  • Draven St. James
  • Ethan Stone
  • Lou Sylvre
  • Anne Tenino
  • Jay Vaughn
  • Karis Walsh
  • Sheri Lewis Wohl

    We hope you can join us in September in Seattle! ;D

    GRNW 2014 Programming, Pitch Session and News

Size Matters with Jordan Castillo Price + Meatworks Giveaway!

Jordan Castillo Price stops by the GRNW blog to talk about why she ponders between going the stand-alone route and going with a series, and why her work is the former. (Plus a giveaway of her new novel Meatworks!)

Drawing to be done this Sunday, July 20!

Size Matters: Novels vs. Novellas, Standalones vs. Series

GRNW News!

We're excited to announce that Rose Christo, author of the awesome YA series Gives Light, will be one of the Attending Authors for the 2014 Gay Romance Northwest Meet-Up in Seattle on Sept. 20, 2014! :D

Rose will be joining over 50 LGBTQ romance authors at the Seattle Public Library that day, including Jordan Castillo Price, Anne Tenino, Rick R. Reed, Ginn Hale, Radclyffe, Megan Derr, Andrea Speed, Nicole Kimberling, and more!

Check out the full list of authors here, or to learn more about the conference, visit here.

We hope you can come join us! (Early-bird ticket rate of $17.50 ends August 1!)

Blood Red by Cordelia Kingsbridge

I feel like Kingsbridge, author of the mammoth bodyguard free fiction Close Protection, the currently ongoing work-in-progress sci-fi story Control, and this free fantasy novel Blood Red, epitomizes what it is to write erotic romance.


It’s not just that each story has in-detail sexual encounters, (and for Blood Red, a lot of them), but sex and sexuality are key parts of the story and of the characters, and how they interact and grow. And through these novels, whether it’s set at a modern day high school where a stalked teenage uses his body to control others, or if it’s in the future, where a young man has had the control over who uses his body stolen from him, the author inserts plot and sex together like tab A into slot B, and so thoroughly entwines them, you cannot separate the two and have a story. (Blood Red with fade-to-black sex would be a much different reading experience, almost nulling the main character’s struggle by removing the way that he copes, survives, and eventually, how he learns to live fully and freely. It would also probably be about 150 pages shorter.)


Blood Red is set in a fantasy world where things like magic and “beastman” shifters exist, although not where Aedan is. At least, he’s not supposed to have magic there since it’s feared by humans, so the fact that he can perform it is a secret he keeps from his masters as they force him to sexually service the gladiators in the fighting arena where he lives. Beastmen are also a fearful myth, until he meets one, a captured man who can sense his secret magic, and has the feeling of something much more powerful beneath his skin. Aedan’s life of survival by any means necessary, including compartmentalizing his many daily encounters servicing the fighters (as well as not always successfully avoiding the molesting guards) is about to change in a way he never imagined. But it’s that new idea, of life beyond bondage, a reality he has never experienced, that has him reeling and questioning who he is.


Kingsbridge is a very good writer—lots of imagination, and can write plot and sex and more plot and more sex like a champ. (Someone give her a really phallic trophy.) Blood Red is long, at over 120,000 words, but is very readable, interesting, and engaging as Aedan struggles to understand his new life, a new language, and his complicated feelings for Demitrios, the beastman from the arena. Kingsbridge here does a great job of drawing out Aedan’s internal struggle to feel safe and secure, which for him is to be “owned”, and how that feeling is in direct conflict with Demitrios’ desire for Aedan to fully accept his free life.


Does all that philosophy sound dull? Well, don’t worry—the author breaks up all that internal turmoil with a lot of sex, since that’s something Aedan understands so it’s how he operates. And unfortunately, not all the times are willing, especially in the beginning.


I hate non-con, and even though there is dub-con and non-con in this story, I was able to read it and not feel as traumatized as I was with, say, Flesh Cartel 1, which I couldn’t make past the free excerpt. For those who have a hard time with dub-con or non-con, the feel is somewhat “softened” because Aedan has, by this time in his life, shifted into a survival mode where often his body is used by others, so he checks out and endures though. The problem here also is a lot of his worth is tied to being a sex slave, so that becomes one more thing he has to work though, including realizing his body is his own, and he has the right to refuse access to it.


Are you afraid of mpreg? Well, if you are, you don’t need to worry for this novel. This world HAS mpreg, but Aedan is just as thrown by it as some readers are, so, just to alleviate those that won’t go near this if the “m” word is mentioned, you’re safe. (For now—the author is exploring mpreg more in her free side stories, but it’s not in this one.)


Did I mention the sex? Seriously, there is a lot in this one, and heads-up, Demitrios is a beastman so some of the encounters are when he is partially shifted. It didn’t deter me, but for those who have a hard time with fantasy or shifters, this one may not be for you.


Story-wise, I enjoyed Blood Red. The story’s pacing dips in the middle as our MCs shift into a new environment. I partly understand this pacing change because Aedan needed the space to face these new realities and truths, but it did slow things down a little. Aedan’s fear of revealing some of his secrets also meant it was easy to forecast certain conflicts, but then again, this fear felt akin to his character, and how he would react, even if I wasn’t a fan of it.


But if you like fantasy and are okay with lots of sex with your shifters and thrilling escapes, this free novel may be up your alley.


Out of the three stories, I think Close Protection is still my favorite, followed by the current WIP Control, but Blood Red is a satisfying and engaging read, and pretty stellar for being a freely given novel. Kingsbridge has mentioned that after Control wraps up, she’s going to focus on reworking her novels, starting with Close Protection, for publication, and I think that’s a keen idea. She’s an interesting, thoughtful voice who writes very sexy stories, and as much as I like reading them for free, I think she should definitely give herself the time to shape them for publication and earn some much needed rewards.


But for now, you can enjoy all of it for free. For those wondering how to get these long works on an ereader, I like Storymaster. Feel free to share in the comments your own fave ways to make epubs from free online fiction.

Think of England - Loved it!

Think of England - K.J. Charles

4.5 stars – A wonderful, delightful, and delicious historical romance/suspense that follows stiff and proper Archie Curtis, still reeling from his debilitating injury that forced him out of his military service (one that he thought would be his life career) as he travels to a secluded country estate for a two-week sojourn. Although his intentions are less about relaxing and more about uncovering some mysteries that may be hidden behind all the gilded wealth.

To Archie’s chagrin, among the other visiting guests is a haughty (and very gay) poet who’s sharp tongue and lackadaisical demeanor grates on his nerves, except when he realizes they share something in common. And then things get REALLY interesting.

Although it had a slow start for me, once I got into this book, I was IN, and LOVING it. Charles is just as witty and engaging here as she is with her Magpie series, and Archie and Daniel are truly a dream team, once they iron out some of the bumps between them.

I loved Archie’s slow build to wanting Daniel (and his realization about what that means) and I loved Daniel in general, both for his facade of not-caring, for his quick thinking, and for how he carried himself, so strongly, even though he was battered with an almost constant stream of anti-Semitism and homophobia. I loved that Archie wanted to his be Viking (even though he’ll have to be subtle about it—not overtly there to protect him.)

And a special shout-out to the side-characters, especially a lovely duo of ladies that keep many important skills beneath their hats. They could have their own series!

A fantastic and thrilling read. I almost want to reread it right now, and I finished it this morning. I’m pleased as punch that the author has already announced there will be a sequel. I’m already mentally lining up to pre-order it.

Men of Smithfield 5 - Sam and Aaron

Men of Smithfield: Sam and Aaron - L.B. Gregg

Out of the five Smithfield stories that Gregg has penned, I’ve read now three, including this one, and I think this newest installment is probably my favorite.


This time, Gregg takes us back to the small idyllic New England town of Smithfield, and we follow burly blond bed & breakfast owner Sam, who is likened to a Viking due to his towering height and light hair, and who is struggling, along with his sister, to keep their family business going. While he suffers through his sister’s money-raising schemes, the latest of which is to entice local lonely-hearts to meet cute while cooking at the inn, Sam himself is a little bit lonesome since it seems like all the other available gay men in town got coupled off already (in books 1-4.)


Of course, this means Sam also has his own “meet cute” story, but it’s not over the dinner table at the inn, but at the library, when he gets his hand stuck in the book drop, and only a shadowy figure sneaking in the stacks is there to help him out.


Little does Sam know that his sneaky savior is the newest B&B guest, a cute out-of-towner named Aaron who is quick with picking a lock, looks hot in Henleys, and keeps his secrets close to his toned little chest. (Height difference fans can rejoice at the inches between Aaron, who is around 5’5, and looming Sam.)


All and all, this is a nicely light contemporary romance novella—not too deep, but a quick and fun read. The other Smithfield books I’ve read, Mark & Tony and Max & Finn, had a mystery amongst the romance shenanigans, and this one shares that trait, although the mystery here is very light on suspense in comparison. (And also a little confusing.)


Even though I’m a big mystery-romance fan, I did prefer this book of the three, mostly because I liked Sam better than earlier MCs Mark, Max, and Finn, and he had cute chemistry with Aaron, as well as with the rest of the cast of wacky characters. (I had a hard time warming up to the other two books, but this one was pretty easy to swim into, like a warm bath started by a grousing, over-burdened inn owner.)


Do you need to read the other Smithfield books to enjoy this? Probably not—you’ll see some references to Mark and Finn, and both Tony from book 1 and Adam from book 4 pop up, but I think you can go into this expecting a light contemporary romance and enjoy it as it is.


I think my favorite Gregg works are still her Romano and Albright series, but this one would be a good de-stresser for a long day, or a nice read if you’re sitting by the beach. You might get a little hungry though—those dating dinner classes that Sam and Aaron are forced to take, although full of mishaps, do sound quite tasty. Maybe you can commiserate with them by having a glass of wine to share while you read.

Pride and Modern Prejudice - Fun Read

Pride and Modern Prejudice - AJ Michaels

Confessions time! Pride and Prejudice is one of my all-time favorite romances and I think I have the glory that is the 1990’s BBC miniseries memorized, so when I saw the description for a modern update of P&P, but this time with a m/m romance twist, I was quite intrigued. (And happy to say that this P&P fan came away pleased.)


This time, the story is set in a college town outside of Philadelphia (but don’t worry, anglophiles! There is a trip to England and a visit to the gorgeous Pemberly estate.) Here, we have young Liam entering college, a little snarky and very much wanting to get away from his family and live on his own (with best buddy Charlotte), but he finds his life getting a little more complicated as he is dragged to a high-end party with favorite brother (and all-around sweetie) Jamie. There he comes face to face with the rich, handsome, awkward, and standoffish William Darcy. First impressions leave their mark, and Liam can’t wait to never see Darcy again, but when Jamie starts dating Darcy’s best friend Charlie Bingley, the two of them find they can’t stop meeting up, and even as Darcy irritates him to no end, Liam starts to have the first stirrings of feelings for someone else, and he doesn’t quite know what to do with this realization and what this means.


Toss in a rascal of a musician, a skeezy cousin bent on marriage, financial woes and some broken hearts, and you have a fun romp that stays very true to its origins while adding in a few twists and surprises. (If you’ve read or seen Pride and Prejudice, you’ll follow along the trajectory of the story very easily, but for me, who is very familiar with P&P, it was still very fun to read and see how the author would take things.)


And props for the author even getting in the scene of Liam stumbling upon the vision of a dripping wet Darcy! I whole-heartedly agree that a dripping wet Darcy needed inclusion! It’s even needed for this review! Hello, Colin!





One note for ye olde Sexy Romance fans—this is a very sweetly romantic read, and although there is a little more action this round with Liam and Darcy than in the very “respectable” original novel, any intimate relations is fade to black and not described, so you’ll have to make up the hotness in your heads.


I think the author did a really nice job—in some ways because it did stay very true to P&P’s overall plotline, there wasn’t too many surprises, and I wouldn’t have minded a little more Liam/Darcy time (‘cause I’m greedy), but this was very enjoyable, and would be a great read for someone looking for something light, fun, and romantic.


I also wouldn’t mind a return to this modern P&P universe—it would be interesting to see how you take Austin’s set-up and then take it further. (What’s next for them??)

Recommended, especially if you need something breezy and fun for the beach. (Not a bad place to be reading about a dripping Darcy!)

The Case of the Insufferable Slave (Love's Landscapes free story)

This was a very fun novella to read, with the extra bonus for being free!

This is a noir-ish historical mystery set in an alternative world where owning slaves is allowed and expected. New private detective Flint, a freed slave himself, finds that he's unhappily saddled with taking on a slave of his own, and he's somewhat lost on how poor, low-rent him is supposed to handle the beautiful young man that's knocking on his door.

Flint can read people, and he reads gorgeous Friday, who is a mix of high-class service experience, sharp wit, and the lurking remains of bare-knuckled fear, the likes of which make Flint's stomach turn.

Along with figuring out how to fit Friday into his life (and apartment), there's also a case of a missing woman, along with some looming toughs wanting to make Flint's new life as a PI difficult.

I loved Flint's narration and it's mix of old-timey speech, I loved Friday's mix of sass and vulnerability, and very much enjoyed how these two worked together, both on the case and in in the few sexy times that dot the story.

Very enjoyable read, and at almost 40,000 words, it felt nicely long! I wouldn't say no if another client came walking through Flint and Friday's door to solve another mystery. :-)

The whole thing can be downloaded here. (For free!)

Fun historical, bad new cover, awesome old cover

Discreet Young Gentleman - M. J. Pearson

This is Covers Week at BIOB, so let’s first get to the cover of the m/m regency romance Discreet Young Gentleman—a cover that I think is pretty awful, especially since it’s using a photo of a model who I can now and forever only think of as Tony from Kaje Harper’s Life Lessons. (Here he is on the cover of book #3, Home Work.)


I do like the pastoral road background behind naked thoughtful Tony though, especially since that represents well the long journey upper-class Dean takes with “hired man” Rob as they travel from Dean’s country estate to Bath to try to regain the favor of the woman Dean was betrothed to (and then hopefully rebuild Dean’s finances so he can keep his family home.)


The REAL crime with this cover though is that it is NOT the earlier, original cover–a painted, chest-heaving dream that should be hung in a museum somewhere, preferably in an exhibit titled “Pulp Pleasures and Pants Missiles: The Wonderful World of Gay Romance Covers.”






(Although I love that the front, fondled guy has the coppery hair of Dean, dark-haired fondling guy looks more like a regency Wolverine to me rather than the handsome, lithe Rob.)


(Regency Wolverine…there’s an idea…)


My guess for the cover update to “Naked Tony and the Pastoral Road” is probably something to do with ebook and reprint rights, etc, which is too bad since that earlier pants-poking tryst under the fireglow glory should not be lost in history. There should be a monument somewhere so that Regency Wolverine and his breathless companion can be forever caught in mid-heave, stared at by curious (and quietly aroused) tourists who will then throw pennies at it with the unspoken wish that the Gods of Grasping Lust will bestow on them good fortune and drawn-out glorious orgasms.


Also, the title font is awesome—it’s like someone stole a title card from an 80’s cartoon geared towards girls—like My Little Pony or Jem, and was all, “THIS! This brings the right amount of *DAZZLE* for our story of a stick-in-the-mud Earl and his journey of torment as he tries REALLY REALLY HARD to not fall for the harlot hotness that is his traveling companion.

Okay-okay. What about the story?


I’ve read a few “regency rentboy” stories, and I have to say, this one is nicely different. Dean is still the somewhat tortured high-class character, and Rob is a prostitute trapped with a mindset that he’s good for little else than sex, but beyond that, the story takes a much different turn and tone than others that I’ve read.


It is mostly the journey here that is the focus, as Dean coerces Rob to help him regain his lost honor and his ex-fiancé’s favor, but they find their trip prolonged by mishaps, and then Dean finds himself prolonging it further to provide history-loving Rob a chance to explore some of the sites along the way, including a plethora of haunted inns and abbeys. This time forces Dean to ponder things he really didn’t want to ponder, like how much he enjoys Rob’s company, how he desperately doesn’t want to think of Rob with his “patrons”, and how his life could have been different if he wasn’t in this financial pickle.


Dean was a hard character to like at first—he’s moody and restrained and kind of a pill, but very slowly he thaws under Rob’s sunny, inquisitive demeanor, and just as Rob learns more about the layers underneath Dean’s cool façade, so does the reader, and I warmed more up to him in the last third as he became more fumblingly aware of his mistakes and what he wants.


I was gearing for a lower rating, since the story is drawn-out, mostly UST, and I can only read about Dean’s self-denial for so long, but the ending was nice, and really picked things up for me.


(There is also an interlude story that Rob tells to Dean at one point as he explains why he often sleeps with older men—a story of one of his past lovers, and I won’t lie, it was one of the most romantic things I’ve read in a while.)


If you enjoy m/m historicals, especially the regency variety, then it’s easy for me to recommend this one. It is nicely different, and oddly, it felt more “equal”, even with the characters’ different stations, and Dean’s unhappy judgment of Rob’s profession.


Also, if you like dolls in peril, you may enjoy this trailer for the book!


Pearson is also a very good writer, and it was easy to sink into her world here and follow along. I’ve only read one other book by her, the regency melodrama The Price of Temptation (also with an awesome original cover), but I felt this one was a stronger story. She’s only written three books (under this name at least), with the last one out in 2010, which is too bad. She’s quite good, and I hope she returns to writing. (Her website has a 2014 status update of working on a new book, so I think that sounds very promising and am looking forward to it.)