The Romance Reviews

The Romance Reviews

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Holiday Tale Is Better than Most

Unwrapping Hank by Eli Easton
Rating: 5 stars

I absolutely hate holiday romances.  I don't know why, really.  I don't hate the holidays.  For some reason, the fact that these books are built around a holiday--be it Easter, Fourth of July, Veteran's Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving, or Christmas, or even birthdays--seem to resonate with a false sense of cheer to me.

I know, I know.  It shouldn't be that way, but it is.

So going into this search for an acceptable holiday book was painful.  All those jolly people who are slinging gift wrap and ringing bells.  I'm the person who thought Scrooge's story was much more poignant than Bob Cratchit and Tiny Tim's.  Give me a Scrooge I can love every time.

Fortunately, Eli Easton jumped in my path.  Big, growly, in-the-closet Hank Springfield makes a wonderful holiday hero.  Hank's the sore thumb in his brother Micah's fraternity at Pennsylvania State University.  Hank belies his philosophy major by saying he wants bong parties, loud music, and crowded rooms of drunks after midnight.

Hank hates the frat's token gay, Sloane, even though everyone else in the frat loves him.  When frat president Micah orders Hank to work with Sloane in coming up with the best frat holiday party ever, Hank balks.  But Micah is adamant, and Hank and Sloane reluctantly team up.

When the find they both love murder mysteries, they come up with a workable and popular Who-Killed-Santa theme.  In the process, Sloane crushes on Hank, who isn't quite so sure about Sloane.

After Sloane's academic parents extend him an off-hand invitation to join them in Israel for a wedding over the holiday break, Sloane resigns himself to staying either at school or somewhere close by.

Micah, however, won't hear of this, and invites Sloane to his and Hank's rural Pennsylvania home for the holidays.  Sloane accepts.

Author Easton magically melds a Scrooge tale onto a cheerful holiday story here, and also adds a little bit of suspense to what starts out to be a linear romance between A and B.   Turns out Micah has the hots for Sloane as his brother Hank begins to fall for him.  So A (Sloane) has his choice of B or C (Hank or Micah).  This brings a bit of spice to a holiday story that looks fairly predictable at the beginning.

All in all if a reader wants something a little different in a holiday tale, I wholeheartedly recommend Unwrapping Hank.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

One Step Closer to Publication

Today I received the final galley proof of What's in a Name?  So the process is proceeding one step at a time.  (The bookmark graphic for the book is at left--though I'm not quite sure why an e-Novella needs a bookmark.  Hmmmm....)

Sometimes when I read it, I think it's wonderful and am very proud I've written it.  Other times, not so much.  I'm hoping readers will land on the wonderful side of the evaluation and have a few laughs and maybe end with an "ahhhh."

Whichever way it goes, I won't be monitoring it much since I'm trying (after a month of sickness in October) to get the second book in the series finished and submitted to see if Dreamspinner Press wants it or not.  Among other decisions I have to make is what to title the second book.  So far it's either Fredi Goes a Courtin' or it's Redesigning Max.  Whatever I end up with, I still have to write the long summary and get edits back from my husband before I can query DSP.

So it's onward and upward these days.  I might not have finished the November writing challenge, but I did finish two drafts of the sequel to What's in a Name? and completed the proofs and cover processes.  That was good enough for me.

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.