The Romance Reviews

The Romance Reviews

Friday, November 14, 2014

Reviving the Dead while Initiating Romance

Reading Challenge 2014
November - Historical romance

Widdershins by Jordan L. Hawk, part of the Whyborne & Griffin series
Rating: 5 stars

I used to read only historical romances and was a hardcore Mary Balogh fan, transferring her older books to my Kindle as they were released in the newer format.  But gradually as all the books became clones of each other and the characters and plots became nearly indistinguishable in my mind, I moved to contemporary, then Western romances and beyond.

Since I started reading gay romance, I've pretty much stayed with contemporary settings although I've been intrigued with Jordan Hawk's Whyborne & Griffin series from the first book appeared last year.  I didn't read Widdershins until this challenge, however.

Hawk's self-published book doesn't disappoint.  For those looking for an occult historical gay mystery--or any gay romance actually--Widdershins is a delight.

In this installment of their partnership, introverted scholar and dead languages translator Percival "Ival" Whyborne and former Pinkerton detective Griffin Flahery join forces to investigate a group of men raising the dead using an incantation found on an Egyptian scroll.  While the main plot revolves around these troubling acts, the real story rests on how two totally diverse men not only develop a friendship but also a love affair.

Therein lies Hawk's mastery.  She makes this odd duo understandable and believable.  Ival needs Griffin as much as the detective needs the scholar.  In an era when their liaison was considered a crime, their discretely told tale becomes an even deeper love story than those of Regency misses who flirted at balls and were at the mercy of their families' matrimonial wishes.

Yet because of the occult twist to the case, I'd recommend Widdershins to readers of Meljean Brooks rather than Balogh even though the steampunk trappings of a Brooks story aren't involved.

For atmosphere and the building of a wonderfully fusty library and museum, Widdershins is at the top of the heap.  Add in the sparks between Ival and Griffin, and it's a delightful read for anyone looking for something unique in historical romance.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Nano, Nano Time

Yup, it's that time of year again.  I've said for years that the second Shawn book is on its way.  But then other projects have taken over.  In fact, during my illness in October, I edited my forthcoming Dreamspinner Press novella, "What's in a Name?" and worked with a cover artist to come up with a cover.  No original writing was done--which is really frustrating.

However, in November, I plan to finish Devil's Food, the sequel to The Vampire's Food Chain.  If nothing else, Nano will be the pinch on the butt to get me moving for another 70,000 words or so.  Maybe this time I'll query Tor, something else I promised myself I'd do--and never did.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Murder on the Mountain, a Cure for a Cold?

2014 Reading Challenge:

October 15 - Paranormal or romantic suspense
Murder on the Mountain by Jamie Fessenden
Rating: 5 star

October has been a heck of a month.  I caught a cold while in Arizona at the end of September.  By the first of October, I was really ill, coughing and gasping and generally feeling awful.  By October 15, I was ready to give up since the cold seemed only to get worse, not better.

I went to the doctor, the first time I'd been out of the house since October 1.  She prescribed meds.  I took and am taking the meds.  What?  I'm not over the "cold"?  Nope.  And I still haven't been out or wanted to go out for nearly a month now.

So what have I been doing?

Reading, reading, reading.

When I finally realized I hadn't written my Reading Challenge review for October, I looked at the dozens of titles I've read since getting sick.

Jamie Fessenden's Murder on the Mountain is the perfect choice since it's equal parts romance and murder mystery.  In a nutshell, the story revolves around the death of a tourist on Mt. Washington in New Hampshire, author Fessenden's state of residence and the setting of most of his books.

Aspiring mystery writer Jesse Morales finds the body of Stuart Warren, his head bashed in, and wheedles his way into helping solve the case when Kyle Dubois and his partner Wesley Roberts show up to investigate.  Widowed Kyle is attracted to Stuart, but doesn't act on the sparks flying between them because he's surprised at his attraction to another man.

Fessenden, who writes with a down-to-Earth style, captures readers' attention not only from his loving descriptions of Mt. Washington but also from his deft handling of Jesse, Kyle and Wesley's initial surprise and then acceptance of Kyle's homosexuality.  In addition, Fessenden adds his signature droll sense of humor, particularly in the seasoned cops' response to Jesse's eagerness to help solve the case.

I've enjoyed reading Fessenden's previous books, and this one was no exception.  While my favorite is still Screwups, I'd put this book as a very close second.


Friday, October 10, 2014

Good going, Kirkus and All About Romance!

This article posted on Kirkus today is a real sign of the times.  Publishers Weekly posted a article about gay romance by author Damon Suede in 2013, and then I wrote a short blog piece for Booklist about the enthusiastic response to gay romances at the recent RT convention in May.

Also, All About Romance is running a weekly column about gay romance through the month of October.  Today's column is about gay historicals.

All of this is wonderful to see. 

Monday, September 15, 2014

Fat Ladies and Swans Sing

My life as a book reviewer at All About Romance, Booklist, and The Romance Reviews has come to an end. 

I pulled the plug a couple of weeks ago when it suddenly occurred to me that if I was going to fulfill my lifelong dream of becoming a published author, I needed to stop reading so much and start writing.

I'm sure to most people this sounds like common sense, but obviously I had to come to this astounding conclusion the long, painful way.

Truth be known, Dreamspinner Press can take a little credit for my decision.  I signed a contract with them for my novella, "What's in a Name?," to be published right after the first of the year.  It seemed like a conflict of interest that I was reviewing some of their books after signing the contract.

So after kicking the review habit and vowing to work on my fiction writing career, I also contacted my former colleague and friend Shawn Hansen and will be getting together with her in the near future to see what she has to offer as far as promotion is concerned, not only for the novella, but also for the first book in the Vampire's Food Chain series.

But what about the Swan Song, you ask.

A core collection list of gay and lesbian romance novels has gone public in the September 15, 2014, issue of Booklist.  I suggested running a list of "must have" books to editor Donna Seaman earlier this year, and she took my list of 15 proposed titles, whittled it down, added lesbian romances, and voila! a list was born.

Laugh Out Loud Fun--Merrow Hits My Funny Bone

Reading Challenge 2014
September 17 - Recommended read (a book recommended to you by someone)

Caught! by J. L. Merrow, part of the Shamwell Tales
Rating: 5 stars and a number of hearty laughs

I'm not sure who recommended this book or why, but if I find the person, I owe him/her a kiss.  This often laugh-out-loud funny book is both poignant and awwww-inspiring.

Robert teaches at a small British primary school in a tiny village, a come-down from his previous job at a posh school in the big city.  Although he privately grumps and groans about his young students and their energetic joie de vivre, he's actually the perfect match for them since he has a wonderful sense of silliness and whimsy.

He's particularly taken by the uncle of a pair of mischievous twins and he's been covertly eyeing the ginger-haired man since he's known the two boys, since the uncle often picks them up after school.

Motorcycle-riding, rogue Sean is tickled by Robert and his collection of classic bow ties and his persnickety ways.  As a pest control worker, Sean isn't above making Robert a little uneasy about the rodents that might be lurking in his house as a chance to get to put his arms around the smaller man.

My two favorite lines from the book, lines that definitely struck a chord with me:

·         at one point the major character calls almond croissants the "crack cocaine of baked goods"
·         "Fordy’s always rather exuberant brows had now entirely met in the middle, like a couple of very small, coy ferrets exchanging a kiss."

Rest assured the quote about the ferrets isn't the last you've heard about them because Merrow goes on to expound about the kiss and its culmination.

Since I can't find any other references to The Shamwell Tales, I'm assuming this is the first of them.  I can't wait until the next one hits my Kindle.  I'm prepared to laugh and enjoy it too.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

This Game Is Much Better Than Fair

Fair GameFair Game by Josh Lanyon
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Not only a good romance but also a good mystery. Having taught in a junior college, I found many of his observations about academics engaged in high learning to be too true as well as funny. His descriptions of the Seattle area definitely make him an avid ambassador for the region. One of the best decisions of this summer was to read through his backlist!

And so, on to Dickens...a la Lanyon.

View all my reviews