The Romance Reviews

The Romance Reviews

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

Thursday, August 28, 2014

A Romance about Getting a Heart

J. P. Barnaby writes gay romances that tug at the heart and the tear ducts.  Her latest A Heart for Robbie is more subtle than her previous books like Aaron and Spencer, but no less affecting.  My review of Robbie went live today at All About Romance, and here's a preview of it:

In this poignant story of love and determination, Barnaby details the anguish and hope a new father goes through when his son is born with a heart defect.
When young adult novelist Julian Holmes learns that his newborn son has a life-threatening heart defect, he is immediately plunged into the confusing world of donor lists, medications, and possibilities.

While Robbie waits for an available heart, Julian meets hospital insurance administrator Simon Phelps, who unlike Julian, is obsessively closeted. Although the men feel an immediate attraction, their current lives seem to preclude any kind of relationship. Julian is too worried about Robbie and his chances of survival while Simon is on the edge of conflict of interest by going out with the author. But despite the obstacles to their getting together, they reach out, finding solace that helps them stay sane in a stressful situation.

As she did in her previous books, author Barnaby presents a compelling and sympathetic character in Julian, whose loneliness manifests itself by his talking to his fictional characters and seeing them as his best friends. Fortunately, Julian's family and his college best friends provide the needed support even though they realize what he really needs is love in his life.

Simon grows believably in this book, from a man so closeted that he's afraid to befriend a man to someone who steps up and out when he's most needed. He, like Julian, is an adult who knows he needs to make big decisions and while fearful, takes necessary action, thinking more about Julian and Robbie than himself.

Read the rest of the review at All About Romance.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Get the Reading Challenge Book You Need

August 20 - Luscious Love Scenes (erotic romance, erotica, a "sensual" read - leave those "just kisses" books alone this month!)

If there's one thing that's a nearly common denominator in gay romance, it's sex and lots of it.  Selecting a gay romance that borders on or is firmly standing in erotica is almost a slam dunk.  A larger challenge would be to find a gay romance with no sex in it.  It's possible (Steve Kluger's Almost Like Being in Love comes quickly to mind), but it's not typical.

So with a vast sea of choices, what to chose, what to chose for this month?

What's more sexy than two studly college students who decide to have sex in order to alleviate a little pressure in their lives, but end up finding love instead?  That's what I thought after passing up SJD Peterson's BAMF and a slew of other books I've enjoyed reading this month.  In fact, I had so many choices that I'm late writing this review--which I've started a number of times with different books.

But Get What You Need by Jeanette Grey is the perfect mix of sex and sincerity.  PhD candidate Greg London is shocked when hunky senior baseball player Marshall Sulkowski suggests they watch a movie together.  Greg has been drooling over Marsh, the newbie in Greg's off-campus house, and never thought the popular jock had even noticed him.

The movie turns into sex and a loose agreement between the two for casual sex during the rest of the semester.  Because both guys are so likeable and so well-meaning, the sex scenes are more than mere meaningless couplings, which makes erotica even more erotic.

Under a lot of stress to do well and get his PhD, Greg can't wait to shake off his blue-collar background and help his wonderful parents live an easier life. 

Marsh, on the other hand, has just been kicked out of the family by his homophobic father who saw Marsh kissing a guy during the summer.  Now March, who's been told so many times that he's only a dumb jock by his dad, believes it and is floundering in his classes and in his life in general. 

Sex takes the edge off the pressure of both guys' hectic days, but ultimately it doesn't solve their problems.  Only they can help each other balance their lives.

This is a book to read for the sex scenes, but also for the love story that builds because of them.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Older Men Rock

After reading as many gay romances about young, randy men who have no inhibitions about their sexuality and acting on their sexual impulses, I find it refreshing to get a review book with two mature men who share their attraction in a somewhat restrained way.  This doesn't mean they don't have sex.  It's just that they aren't hopping from hookup to hookup like bunnies.

K. C. Burns' Rainbow Blues is a particularly wonderful example of this.  Here's a bit of my review which went live today at The Romance Reviews:

Love between two mature men who are ready and willing to settle down isn't all fireworks and grand displays, but rather gentle like the purr of a cat. Or so implies K.C. Burn in this thoughtful romance that explores the attraction of two dissimilar, but intriguing men.

 At 43, construction foreman Luke Jordan has been divorced two years, having been a faithful, hard-working, but closeted husband since his wife got pregnant in high school and he felt obligated to marry her. While he's had a few gay flings during his married years, Luke is a pretty laid-back homebody who doesn't make friends easily and doesn't know how to find a companion now that he's free.

 For Christmas, his 24-year-old college senior son Zack gives Luke a membership to Rainbow Blues, a very loose organization of gay blue-collar workers, and urges his dad to go to their events. Luke agrees and goes to a play where he spies romantic lead Jimmy Alexander and is immediately attracted to him. When he shyly meets the 38-year-old amateur actor after the production and takes him out, he learns that Jimmy's day job is high school science teacher.

 Through a series of dates, the even-keeled Luke and high-strung Jimmy realize they love each other and are perfect for one another. Sure, they have bumps in the road--Zack originally fears Jimmy's a gold-digger looking for a sugar daddy and warns his father, for example. But the primary ingredient in this enjoyable romance is the wisdom of maturity.

Read the rest of my review at The Romance Reviews:

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Police Procedural Meets the Otherworld in Compelling Romance

I don't often run into the spiritual in either gay romances or police procedurals, but Lloyd Meeker has successfully melded the two to create an interesting and thought-provoking m/m romance in The Companion.  Here's a snippet from my review that went live today at All About Romance:

Spiritual healing and a brutal murder intersect in this look at two men's journey to love. If this sounds very touchy-feely, it should because the story is partly a police procedural and partly an elegant journey into the world of the unexplainable.

Daka Shepherd Bucknam is not only rich and handsome - except for three red circular growths on his neck - but he's also perfectly content helping men reach their full sexual potential - and thereby happiness - in his practice. He's particularly pleased with his protege Stef, an Oklahoma farm boy, who's showing great progress.

When Stef's brutally murdered and Shepherd becomes a prime suspect, however, his world crashes around him, particularly since he's attracted to LAPD Detective Marco Fidanza who views Shepherd's profession through skeptical eyes.

Because he doesn't think that Marco is doing enough to solve Stef's murder and he is convinced Marco is looking in all the wrong places, Shepherd sets out to find the killer despite having no police training and suffering from nightmares predicting his own death.

Meeker skillfully intertwines an interesting love story between two totally different kinds of men and the sordid crime investigation while delving into the murky waters of past lives and reincarnation as well as fortune telling and auras. The spiritual as personified by Shepherd and the material in Marco can only be whole when they come together.

Read the rest of the review at All About Romance.

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.