The Romance Reviews

The Romance Reviews

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Bear, Otter, and the Kid Redux

Bear and Otter's story was intriguing, especially with their worst mother ever and Bear's struggle to keep his brother, nicknamed The Kid, with him.  The addition of Dominic as The Kid's loyal companion and shadow was brilliant.

Klune suffers from overwriting, but a little of that can be almost charming.  Unfortunately, too much of it can grate.  Not to mention the nearly unforgivable--having Dominic change character in order to give him an autistic son.

Hopefully, Klune's writing will tighten up and his characters will stay true in the next installment of the Bear, Otter, and The Kid story.

In the meantime, here's a snippet of my review of the latest part of the saga, The Art of Breathing by TJ Klune:

The saga of Bear, Otter, and the Kid continues with laughter and tears, this time from the Kid's viewpoint as he grows into manhood and the people around him change.

The Kid, Tyson Thompson, who lives with his brother Bear and Bear's husband Otter in Seafare, Oregon, is ready to graduate from high school at age 15 and is dithering about going off to Dartmouth in New Hampshire for college.

At his graduation party, Tyson, after coming out as gay in his valedictorian speech, spies his best friend Dominic, the love of his life, kissing a woman in a secluded corner. Heartbroken, Tyson goes off to college and refuses to see or speak with Dom during that time.

When he returns from Dartmouth, having been suspended from school and having been diagnosed with panic disorder and having broken free of the addictive drugs he was taking for it, Tyson is stunned to find Dominic divorced and the father of an autistic son.

But Tyson can't dwell on Dom's life for the past four years because he's still trying to get himself together and figure out who he really is. He needs to reconcile his panic disorder, his relationship with his family--including his neglectful mother and younger sister--and his homosexuality.

He's had a short near-relationship with his best friend, bisexual Kori/Corey, with whom he goes to Tucson to meet Kori/Corey's friends. But for the most part, this book is the Kid's coming of age and finding himself in the weird, wacky world of TJ Klune's Seafare.
Read the rest of the review at The Romance Reviews.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Inman's Latest Only So-So

From The Romance Reviews today, my review of Head-On by John Inman:

One night of reckless behavior not only changes two men's lives but paves the way for them to remold themselves through love in this story based on unbelievable coincidences.

San Diego television weatherman Gordon Stafford is full of himself after winning a local TV award, and in a fit of incredible stupidity, not only is he driving drunk, but he's texting his triumph to all his friends. What results is a car crash killing one of the two people he hits.

Serving his minimal jail time, Gordon gets out on probation a broken man. He's working at a soup kitchen as part of his sentence, and there spies a beautiful short man whom people call Squirt. As broken and dispirited as Gordon is, Squirt trumps him, having forgotten his past including his name. One night as they duck below a bridge abutment, Gordon and Squirt watch as a group of ruffians set a homeless person on fire for sport.

This horrific act unites Gordon and Squirt because they realize together they are safer than alone. On this slim basis, they solidify a friendship and then a loving relationship, growing and prospering because of it. But trouble lurks around the corner when they discover a more troubling connection between them.
Read the rest of my review at The Romance Reviews.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Quick, Fun Summer Read

Having once toured Europe with a college-age group, I enjoyed the glimpse of my former life in Ellis Carrington's Total Immersion.  Here's a hint of my review that was posted at All About Romance today:

A couple of college seniors on a two-week summer tour of Europe discover that not only do opposites attract, but human kindness and loyalty go a long way to making an immersive romance into a solid base for a potential lasting relationship.

Although Evan Stanton isn't one hundred percent cured after he slipped on steps going to class (which forced him into physical therapy), he still agrees to go abroad because his boyfriend wants to.  When Evan gets to the airport with his backpack, he's stunned to receive an email dumping him.

Rather than give up on the trip, the goth Evan guts up and gets on the transatlantic flight where he meets preppy Chris Bale whose cheerful disposition hacks away at Evan's tendency to brood.

This is a cute novella with one very glaring flaw. It's apparent why Evan might be attracted to Chris. Chris is the ray of sunshine Evan needs to keep him going on the trip. When Evan's back is killing him and they have a ways to walk, Chris plies him with questions and silly Jeopardy!-like quizzes to divert his attention.

Read the rest of the review at All About Romance.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Expect Radical Change When Coming Home

Z. A. Maxfield has been a favorite writer of mine for quite a while, so I was eager to see her newest which I'm happy to report incorporates much of what I've come to love about her writing as well as new flourishes.

My review of Maxfield's Home the Hard Way was posted at The Romance Reviews today, and here's a peek at what it says:

Old secrets turn to murder as a disgraced police detective returns home to find old friends aren't quite as he remembered them and that love is lurking in the shadows for him.

Former Seattle detective Dare Buckley comes back to his hometown with his tail between his legs after a grave misstep in judgment which nearly let a killer go free. On the surface, the town looks the same as when he left it after his father killed himself. Shy, retiring Finn Fowler is still being bullied by Bill Fraser, who is now one of Dare's fellow cops.

Once again, Dare is attracted to Finn and wants to protect him as he did before Dare's mother moved the family away to start a new life. But Finn has his hands full taking care of his dying aunt who was more mother to him than his slut of a mother was. As if that weren't enough, Finn is working two jobs, one at the local big box store and managing his aunt's beauty salon. Although he'd like to, Finn doesn't have time for Dare.

When a woman drops dead in the beauty salon, no one thinks it's murder until other mysterious deaths occur. As Dare begins to tear the rose-colored glasses from his eyes, he realizes that not only isn't Finn the man he once knew, neither are many of his other neighbors in town.

This is a typical Z.A. Maxfield story in that neither the plot nor the characters are what they seem on the surface and the complicated ties between the various relationships can easily be misinterpreted by someone who doesn't look below the surface.

Read the rest of the review at The Romance Reviews.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

British-isms abound in Charlie Cochrane's Second Helpings, in which family and a stiff upper lip limn the limits of public discourse.  Here's a snippet of my review that was posted on All About Romance today:

A father and son move on with their lives after the deaths of their spouses when a former classmate of the father reappears with her grown son in this very British gay romance.
   
Stuart Collins is pleased but a little stunned when his father Roddy starts dating Isabel Franklin, a widow he'd known years ago in school. When Roddy suggests Stuart start dating again, Stuart isn't quite sure he's ready to move on after his partner Mark died in a car accident the year before.

But when Stuart meets Isabel's son Paul, who's concerned his wealthy mother might be hooking up with a gold-digger, he's attracted to the man but put off by the suspicions his salt-of-the-earth father might be conniving for Isabel's money. As they hash out their parents' attraction and its possible outcomes, Stuart and Paul form a bond and then relationship that slowly melds into a love affair.

Of the two, the heart-broken Stuart is the more sympathetic at first, but as Paul gradually sheds his over-protectiveness for his mother, he too becomes a delightful young man. In fact, they share a passion for science, Stuart being a forensics expert whose cases often depress him, while Paul is a research scientist for a petrol company.

During a major part of the book, Paul is pining for Ben, a man he met and thought was going to be his life partner in the United States. Ben was supposed to find a job in Britain and join Paul there to start their new life. But Ben seems to have disappeared from view. So while Stuart is trying to come to terms with Mark's death, Paul is struggling with whether he should act on his attraction to Stuart or try to reconcile Ben's phone and computer silence as just a misunderstanding that can be explained.

Both men attack their problems in a mature, very subdued British manner; neither is given to over-emotional outbursts.

Read the rest of my review at All About Romance.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Quirky Tale of Two Law Enforcement Officers

Author A. J. Thomas doesn't write the standard gay romance which is one of the things I enjoy most about her writing.  In this book she follows two men last seen in her A Casual Weekend Thing

If you're following her, as I am, then you too might be having trouble deciding which of her three well-written and highly interesting books is the best. 

At this point, even though their star ratings are nearly the same, I'm going with Sex & Sourdough just because of the difference between the two men and the descriptions of the Appalachian Trail, descriptions that actually made me want to go hiking!

At any rate, here's an excerpt from my review of her latest book that was posted on The Romance Review this morning:

A.J. Thomas carefully explores the unlikely relationship between two law enforcement officers--one with family ties to an organized crime group that the other's agency is trying to shut down--in this riveting police procedural.

When drug lord Alejandro Munoz visits his gay cousin Ray Delgado, asking him to look into the disappearance of Alejandro's sister Sophie, Ray knows something bigger is up. A police detective, Ray discovers that college computer science major Sophie has stolen a big chunk of Alejandro's ill-gotten gains, money he needs to pay an even bigger drug lord.

As he's trying to figure out where Sophie is and with whom she's staying, Ray runs into federal agent Elliot Belkamp, with whom he had a fling in the previous book, A Casual Weekend Thing. The sparks between them are still flying, and even though they try to resist, they cross paths so often that they end up together much of the time.

While Elliot is out to anyone who asks, Ray, because of his Hispanic background and his family ties to organized crime, is still deeply in the closet and declaring he's straight, not gay. But as he and Elliot often end up having sex, Ray is forced to admit to himself he's bisexual and hope that if his sister, his closest sibling, finds out, she won't abandon him.
Read the rest of the review at The Romance Reviews.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Emotionally Satisfying and Incredibly Thought-Provoking

I haven't been completely blown away by a romance novel in a while, so reading The River Leith by Leta Blake was a joy.

My review of it was posted today, and here's a sneak peek at my All About Romance Desert Isle Keeper review:

Get out your tissues for this incredibly moving and superbly poignant gay romance that explores the lost and found qualities of memory loss on two men in New York City.

When Leith Wenz is dealt an illegal blow to the head during a boxing match and goes into a coma, his lover, friends, and family are devastated. They rejoice, especially lover Zach, when Leith awakes.

The good news is that he'll live. The bad news is that he's can't remember the last three years of his life - three years in which he got out of prison, his father died, and he met and fell in love with Zach.

In fact, he doesn't remember Zach at all.

Told with interludes of Zach's on-going vlog posts, the story is one of grieving. Leith is horrified that so much of who he is has been stripped away. He's lost and terrified that he'll never find his way back to being a whole person again. Fortunately, he has a loyal brother and a good psychologist to help him along the way.

His lover Zach also wants to be supportive, but Leith's memory loss is akin to Leith's death as far as
Zach is concerned. Every time Zach sees him, Zach is hit by how much he's lost, how much they've lost. So in a sense Zach is also grieving, just as Leith is.

For those like me who don't know, the River Lethe in Greek myth is the place in the underworld where the dead drank the water in order to purge the memories of their lives before they crossed the River Styx into the afterlife. The name Zachariah, on the other hand, translates to mean "memory of the Lord.” But before Leith's doctor tells him of the myth and the definition, Leith must rediscover that he's gay and his friend Zach is in fact his lover since all of these revelations came to Leith in the three-year period he's lost.

Read the rest of my review at All About Romance.