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Currently Browsing: m/m romance
Apr
17

Review: A Gentleman Revealed by Cooper Davis

Review: A Gentleman Revealed by Cooper Davis A Gentleman Revealed Author: Cooper Davis Reviewer: B. Rating: C+ What I’m Talking About: While A Gentleman Revealed is the beginning of a series, I believe that the narrative would have benefitted greatly if I’d read the original stories that prefaced it. There are private jokes and intricacies which are crucial to the various relationships that define the characters, but left me confused, and sometimes very irritated, without an understanding of these previously defined behaviors. After carefully perusing several synopses and lengthy reviews of the first series, things made more sense. As such, it might be helpful to new readers to do some research into the earlier novels if reading them in their entirety isn’t an option.  With that in mind, and in a unique and promising twist, A Gentleman Revealed is set in a universe where same-sex unions are not only accepted, but encouraged. At least, that seems to be true most of the time. Alistair’s foster brother, the current king, was apparently forced to marry a woman in order to produce an heir before her death opened the way to his pursuit of a male concubine (who he is now married to). Marcus’ father, however, is fine with the idea of Marcus and Alistair adopting, which is wonderful. Other particulars of the story regarding scandals and the tarnishing of reputations led me to believe that these relationships were actually more “tolerated” than truly celebrated.  Another thing that made it easier to distance myself from the narrative were some of the modifiers used to describe Alistair’s form—especially when thought or implied by Marcus. Phrases like “generous proportions” and “heavyset,” etc. are moderate, yet forthright enough, but I was a little horrified that Marcus considered him as “big as a barn” in his own head. There were a few similar incidents, as well. I expected that kind of phrasing from other characters, but not Alistair’s lover. Despite the above, however, Marcus was a favorite of mine in the story, and I wanted him to find happiness with Alistair a great deal.  On a far more serious note, A Gentleman Revealed takes a unvarnished and oftentimes brutal look at Alistair’s constant battle with negative body image and alcoholism. While Alistair’s struggles are specific to him, they illustrate a universal and very real need for patience, acceptance, and support on both sides of the situation. The vast majority of the novel concerns Alistair’s self-loathing and the downward spiral he’s in, and...
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Apr
10

Review + Blog Tour: Once Burned by L.A. Witt

Review + Blog Tour: Once Burned by L.A. Witt Once Burned Author: L.A. Witt Reviewer: B. Rating: B What I’m Talking About: On the surface, Once Burned has all the elements this series has been built on: undeniable physical temptation that evolves into real affection, the Navy’s unyielding and destructive rules, and an eventual path to happiness for the two heroes. Unlike its predecessors, however, this story not only concerns Naval policy, but also delves into the even more infuriating topics of immigration and veterans’ rights. While there’s no denying the physical—and later emotional—connection Diego and Mark share, the familiar feeling of time running out was much more palpable here than in previous Anchor Point titles. Though it is certainly a romance, complete with a HEA, the real purpose of Once Burned is to highlight the predicament faced by too many U.S. veterans. Without knowing the specifics of the author’s research, Diego’s situation reads as a conglomerate of other potentially true stories that absolutely engaged both my heart and my anger. At one point, Diego remembers his employer stating that it’s not “right for a man who’s been shot at for his country to be screwed by it—” a sentiment I found easy to agree with. There were a few details in Once Burned that seemed somewhat implausible, but which still highlight the desperation and unfairness of Diego’s situation. One that I had trouble with was Mark’s invitation to Diego to attend a “Hail and Farewell” party, disregarding that it would be fairly callous given Diego’s experience, as well as being overly risky with the other personnel likely to be in attendance. So much importance is placed on the threat of deportation throughout the narrative—Diego can’t even go to the VA for medical assistance—that moments like these stood out. While it has a few uncomfortable scenes (i.e. Mark’s role as savior, even though he tries to minimize the fact), Once Burned served as a launch pad into a problem that I’m eager to learn more about. While researching the topic for this review on my own, I quickly realized that one evening (which turned into two) wasn’t remotely enough time to scratch the surface of the issue. Fortunately, a bill was introduced in the House last year—H.R.3429, or the “Repatriate Our Patriots Act”—that shows promise, but who knows when, or if, it might ever become law. On the plus side, the author has pledged half of her royalties from the sale of Once Burned “to charities supporting U.S....
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Apr
4

Review: Blow Down by JL Merrow

Review: Blow Down by JL Merrow Blow Down Author: JL Merrow Reviewer: B. Rating: B What I’m Talking About: Several months have passed since Tom Paretski got engaged, saw his best friend married, found out his “Dad” wasn’t really his biological father, and became the resident hero by saving a barmaid from dying in a fire. Now something of a minor celebrity thanks to news coverage exposing his psychic “gift,” he’s in demand for more than his plumbing skills—this time finding himself obligated to unearth a stolen necklace for a recently-wed, high-ranking member of the local diocese (who nobody seems to like very much). At least his life’s not boring. As was the case with the previous titles in the series, Blow Down begins with the discovery of a corpse. Poor Tom’s knack for finding dead bodies hasn’t subsided at all, and has once again placed him in the crosshairs of a murderer. With multiple suspects all capable of rampant greed, hatred of the deceased, or both, this was an interesting crime for Tom and Phil to crack. Although, in truth, I had more fun waiting to see what they, and the other returning characters would do than I did trying to puzzle out the mystery itself. One aspect of the earlier stories I wasn’t sure about, but which I thought was among the most enjoyable parts of Blow Down was Tom and Phil’s relationship. While they’re still learning about each other outside of their shared past, I found the teasing, protectiveness, and fondness that’s so evident between them to be endearing. In fact, the entire narrative is more affectionate than its predecessors, yet it maintains the familiar and comforting level of snark that has so strongly contributed to the personality of the series as a whole so far. Though I wasn’t able to get quite as wrapped up in the mystery of Blow Down as I was in the previous stories, it moved things along just fine. Despite the entirely new group of characters introduced for the purpose, there were somewhat limited options when it came to the sinister narcissism that seemed most indicative of the killer. While there’d be no story without the whodunit, it felt more like a vehicle for everything else that’s going on with Tom, rather than the objective of the narrative. Having missed the original publication of The Plumber’s Mate Mysteries, I admit that it has been nice to read them so closely together. As someone who is unfamiliar...
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Mar
7

Review: Heat Trap by JL Merrow

Review: Heat Trap by JL Merrow Heat Trap Author: JL Merrow Reviewer: B. Rating: B What I’m Talking About: Having enjoyed the first two Plumber’s Mate Mysteries a great deal, I was happy to jump into Heat Trap fairly soon after finishing the second story. And while the half-year interim in the timeline is plenty long in some ways, certain aspects of Tom’s life appear not to have progressed much at all. Granted, Tom was dealt a tremendous shock at the end of Relief Valve, but I was left feeling uncertain at times as this narrative unfolded. Tom continues to be a likable character, even though I was disappointed by some of his reactions, especially towards Phil. The two have been together for more than six months at this point, during which time they’ve exchanged both house keys and “I love you’s,” and are making plans for the near future. Rather than appearing more solid, however, it felt as if Tom’s faith in him was too easily shaken when tensions began to escalate, resulting in him keeping Phil at a distance in the process. Phil, on the other hand, I liked more than ever. While I was initially skeptical of his interest in Tom—his seeming lack of regret over his earlier treatment of Tom being a sore spot—his affections in Heat Trap are indisputable. He has the anxious, yet hopeful demeanor of someone who has already put his heart on the line unreservedly, and I couldn’t help but be firmly in Phil’s camp for most of the story. Happily, some of my other favorites are back, and better than I remembered. Darren and Gary, in particular, are delightful in their pre-wedding bliss, and I honestly would have been glad to see them turn up in even more scenes. Tom’s sister, Cherry, is also a more constant presence in his life now, and was a lot of fun when she popped up. The mystery in Heat Trap involves some noteworthy characters from Tom’s preferred pub, “The Devil’s Dyke,” and it was nice to gain more insight into their roles, as well. Overall, I had mixed feelings about Heat Trap. While I don’t think it shows Tom in an especially favorable light at times, I was thrilled with the way things seemed to be going for him and Phil by the end of the story. The mystery itself was likewise interesting, although it felt secondary to the relationship struggles Tom is trying to come to terms with....
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Feb
22

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Sightlines by Santino Hassell

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Sightlines by Santino Hassell Welcome to our feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook Review: Sightlines Author:  Santino Hassell Narrator: Greg Boudreaux Audio Speed: 1.0x Series: The Community #3 Genre: Paranormal suspense, LBGTQ, m/m romance Source: Tantor Audio 3/10/2018 Edited to Add: Please note, this review was written and posted prior to the occurrences brought to light in recent days (https://thesaltminers.tumblr.com/post/171680546960/the-santino-hassell-debacle). The book was read and reviewed in good faith and as presented at the time. The posting of this review in no way condones the actions of author. ======== In this third, and final, addition to The Community series, author Santino Hassell brings all the conflict and suspense that has been building since the beginning to a compelling and satisfying end. As both prize and project, Chase has been the realization of the darkest machinations of the Community itself his entire life, as well as the common thread between all the other characters we’ve gotten to know so far. Additionally, Chase and Elijah have been favorites, if captivating unknowns, throughout the many twists and turns of the series, so I thought it especially fitting that this part of the arc is theirs. While I had a little difficulty keeping track of how much time passes in the very beginning of Sightlines (which is fitting, since time is a means of control on the farm), the speed with which the plot starts unfolding takes effect fairly early in the narrative. What’s been done to Chase all his life is completely abhorrent, and I found that hearing his perspective in the audiobook version was as devastating as it was during my initial reading of the story. Elijah, too, has unhealed wounds, inflicted by people who should have loved him, making his hidden strengths the inverse—yet perfectly matched—answer to Chase’s necessarily unacknowledged need for support. Narrator Greg Boudreaux likewise sees the series through with just as solid a performance as when he began. With all the characters reuniting for much of the story, eventually leading to an emotionally fraught and fast-paced conclusion, his ability to maintain each distinctive voice was more impressive than ever. His unflinching portrayal of the sometimes wildly shifting emotions of the characters was equally noteworthy, and he remains one of my favorite performers. Although The Community series has been a departure from most of Mr. Hassell’s other stories I’ve read, I believe it is an indisputably successful one. Common themes such as greed and fear are explored in an entirely different way in...
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Feb
13

Review: Going Overboard by L.A. Witt

Review: Going Overboard by L.A. Witt Going Overboard Author: L.A. Witt Reviewer: B. Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: Having been born into a Navy family, MA2 Chris Ingram always knew that following in his parents’ footsteps was what he wanted to do. Even though being a coxswain in charge of a ship and progressing through the different rates has made up the last fifteen years of his life, the high-year tenure rules in place mean that he’s running out of time to advance. At least he’s not alone, his best friend (and long-time crush), Dalton, being in exactly the same situation. But, coming out just isn’t in the cards right now—that is, until Chris almost loses Dalton for good. While he may have joined the Navy to get away from his life in Nebraska, Dalton Taylor knew that becoming a Sailor was his calling. Being out and proud hasn’t always been easy, but with the repeal of DADT he doesn’t have to hide, at least. Serving with his friend Chris makes his assignment to NAS Adams just about as perfect as he could have hoped for. Still, nearly dying in a boating accident upends all of Dalton’s best-laid plans, and wanting Chris may not be a secret he can keep for much longe—except that losing his heart to “straight guy” Chris will hurt far more than anything else Dalton’s ever known. Having read all but one of the Anchor Point stories with somewhat mixed opinions, I have to say that Going Overboard is probably my favorite so far. While I had a little trouble accepting that Dalton had no idea at all about Chris’s sexuality after so many years of being best friends, I wanted them to be happy very much. Additionally, the fight that they both have to make under the circumstances surrounding the accident that nearly killed Dalton was highly engaging, and made the bad guys involved extremely easy to hate. I liked Chris and Dalton as a couple very much. A lot is made later on about how both men feel like they’ve been together longer than the calendar suggests, and, in this case, that rings true in the narrative. From the beginning their friendship seemed to be not only solid, but positively drenched in “if I could I would” longing. The author makes it clear that this isn’t insta-love, but something far stronger which culminates in a sexual chemistry that seems to be more of a relief that they’re both...
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Feb
8

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Down by Contact by Santino Hassell

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Down by Contact by Santino Hassell Welcome to my weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook Review: Down by Contact Author:  Santino Hassell Narrators: Alexander Cendese + Eric London Audio Speed: 1.25x Series: Barons #2 Genre: Contemporary Sports Romance, LBGTQ, m/m romance Source: Tantor Audio 3/10/2018 Edited to Add: Please note, this review was written and posted prior to the occurrences brought to light in recent days (https://goo.gl/Y7WB7F). The book was read and reviewed in good faith and as presented at the time. The posting of this review in no way condones the actions of author. ======== Simeon and Adrián have been rivals for four years, ever since Simeon was traded from the Predators to the Barons. When the pair match up in a preseason game, the summer after Simeon came out of the closet, Adrián can’t stop himself from making jokes at the expense of Simeon’s sexual preferences. This leads to an all-out brawl, leaving both suspended for six games and forced into joint community service. Can the pair back away from their rivalry long enough to become friends? or more? I have to admit, I struggled a quiet a bit when I first started Down by Contact. I was disappointed the story once again relied on an NFL suspension to make it work (which is what happened in the first book of the series). Additionally, both main characters come off juvenile and immature mostly because of their speech. The characters weren’t clicking for me, and I didn’t feel any sexual tension or connections between the pair like I did in the first book. But mostly, the narration didn’t work for me. I did not care for Mr. London’s voice for Adrián, nor his interpretation of Simeon, and at times couldn’t tell the difference between who was speaking. After taking a short break away from the story and then coming back to it, I found things turning around. As the story progresses, the characters develop and their interactions become more meaningful. I liked the play between Adrián and Simeon when they’re just being themselves. And although everything starts off as a dare and a game, real emotions surface, and I liked that the pair is accepting of what is happening. What shines in the story is Adrián’s self-reflection and analysis of his actions and ideals. And not just about being queer. But on being a better person. About thinking before speaking. About caring for others. His constant contemplation is thought-provoking. I enjoyed seeing him change...
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Feb
6

Review: Relief Valve by JL Merrow

Review: Relief Valve by JL Merrow Relief Valve Author: JL Merrow Reviewer: B. Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: Still recovering from the last case he helped solve, as well as trying to settle into his new relationship with Phil Morrison (a private investigator and former bully), psychically-gifted plumber Tom Paretski could really go for some quiet time and a pint or two at his favorite pub. But, between his best friend’s engagement, the death of a family friend, and his sister’s poisoning (at her own engagement party, no less), he’s not likely to find peace anytime soon. Good thing the pints are a viable option, at least. As much as I liked Pressure Head, the first in the series, I had a truly excellent time reading this story. Despite the grim circumstances surrounding the darker aspects of the narrative, I thought Relief Valve was downright hilarious. Tom’s at his best when he finds himself trapped within the failings of etiquette in the face of death, literary duplicity, and romance, and I couldn’t help snickering and cackling all the way through at his expense. I even guiltily found his discomfort with regards to his own affections nearly priceless. Not just a funny bit of storytelling, Relief Valve is also a gratifying suspense. With questions surrounding the target of the crimes in addition to the identity of the perpetrator, there’s plenty to here to keep readers guessing for quite a while. Although I wasn’t really shocked by the ending of the story, getting there was definitely entertaining. One of my favorite things about this story was the developing romance between Tom and Phil. With their backstory a little less glaring, it was easier for me to more readily support them both, even though I could still appreciate the apprehension expressed by Tom’s family and friends. Tom is an endearing character, making their protectiveness seem more understandable. Speaking of wonderful characters—Darren and Gary continue to be two of my favorites, transforming every scene they appear in into a delight. There’s no way to do them justice here, but I absolutely adore them both. Tom’s sister, Cherry, won me over early, as well, and I even developed a reluctant fondness for the “Worryingly,” “Helplessly,” and “Terrifyingly Reverend Greg” (there are twelve of these constructions in my copy—each more amusing than the last). One of the best sequels I’ve read in a long time, Relief Valve is a strong addition to what has so far been an intriguing series....
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Feb
1

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Oversight by Santino Hassell

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Oversight by Santino Hassell Welcome to my weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook Review: Oversight Author:  Santino Hassell Narrator: Greg Boudreaux Audio Speed: 1.0x Series: The Community #2 Genre: Paranormal suspense, LBGTQ, m/m romance Source: Tantor Audio 3/10/2018 Edited to Add: Please note, this review was written and posted prior to the occurrences brought to light in recent days (https://goo.gl/Y7WB7F). The book was read and reviewed in good faith and as presented at the time. The posting of this review in no way condones the actions of author. ======== Entitled, gorgeous, and, (somewhat) oblivious, Holden Payne has been an outspoken champion of The Community all his life. Despite his contentious relationship with his father (who happens to be the most powerful of the founders), his devotion to The Community’s ostensible mission to help “lost” psys who flock to his nightclub in NYC is his greatest source of pride. Or, at least it was, until a series of disappearances and murders occurred on his watch, exposing a more sinister agenda at work. Now, inexplicably the focus of an investigation by the very group that raised him, Holden has been given a babysitter in the form of a socially inept, emotionally vacant—and gorgeous—lumbersexual named Sixtus Rossi. Immune to Holden’s usual charms and psychic abilities, Sixtus presents a serious problem—especially since Holden’s attraction to the man becomes more undeniable by the day. With the discovery of another faction working against The Community straining his loyalties, getting closer to Sixtus could either lead to Holden’s downfall or finally allow him to experience the only real love he’s ever known. Once again, Mr. Boudreaux seems to have put a lot of thought and effort into his performance of Oversight, making both Holden’s cultured purr and Sixtus’ deadpan Bronx accent believable and persuasive. One of the most unique things about Six is his inability to process—or express—emotions based on typical cues. As such, he doesn’t have much of a filter, and I found this narrator’s take on the fact particularly amusing as well as more touching than I might have otherwise. Additionally, the accents reintroduced with return of other characters—Nate’s Texas twang, in particular—could have been tempered in deference to those of the main characters, but that’s not the case here. Each remains distinct and vibrant throughout, providing additional strength to the already solid reading. While I enjoyed this version of Oversight tremendously, I think that reading the book first made me fonder of the overall production than if...
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Jan
30

Review: Scratch Track by Eli Lang

Review: Scratch Track by Eli Lang Scratch Track Author: Eli Lang Reviewer: B. Rating: B+ What I’m Talking About: Though it wasn’t a path he’d actively chosen, Quinn has been taking care of others for most of his life. First by looking after his mother and younger brother, then as a roadie/semi-parental unit for the members of Escaping Indigo, he’s always tried to be the dependable one, the son/brother/friend that had everyone’s back. Even after experiencing an earth-shattering loss, he couldn’t allow himself to rely on someone else for a change—even if it cost him the only man he’d dared to want for himself. But, an unexpected reunion convinces Quinn that he can’t pretend forever, and that he’s loved far more than he ever realized. In Scratch Track, the third in the Escaping Indigo series by Eli Lang, we finally get to know more about Quinn, who, in a sense, started everything off by bringing Micah into the band’s company. Though he was a significant presence in the first story, and an absent sort of anchor in the second, I was very much interested in learning more about him. To say that Quinn is “complicated” is an understatement. As Escaping Indigo’s roadie and manager, Quinn’s role has always the one of the caretaker. It’s such an ingrained part of his personality that he has no sense of purpose without it, even when his younger brother died unexpectedly of an overdose. But, that loss causes him question his ability to care for everyone, which, in turn, makes him feel like an outsider to the “family” he’s nurtured within the band. While grief is absolutely a serious matter, most of Scratch Track circles around Quinn’s doubts with little progress sometimes, although I was glad to see him take steps to try and work through his own. The remainder of Scratch Track involves the interrupted relationship Quinn has with Nicky, the drummer for another band (delightfully named Rest in Peach) who are sharing the recording studio with Escaping Indigo. Despite the somewhat implausible idea that Nicky has successfully kept his two-year-old son a secret from Quinn when the two bands are all friends and former tour-mates, I liked Nicky very much. Within the parameters of their reconnection, however, his passion, honesty, patience, and even justifiable hesitancy about starting over with Quinn made him one of the most relatable characters in the story. As was the case with both previous stories in the Escaping Indigo series, Scratch Track leaves...
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