The Romance Reviews

The Romance Reviews

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.

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.