The Romance Reviews

The Romance Reviews

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

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: