Monthly Archives: December 2016

Prickly by Nature by Piper Vaughn & Kenzie Cade

Prickly by Nature

Prickly by Nature by Piper Vaughn & Kenzie Cade

Series: Portland Pack Chronicles, Book 2
Published by: Dreamspinner Press on November 16, 2015
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

It’s been four months since hedgehog shifter Avery Babineaux started his investigation into the disappearance of Lacey, a young woman from the Portland Pack. Despite finding himself in danger more than once, he’s continuing to investigate, committed to bringing Lacey home. Now that he’s started working with a licensed private investigator, Corbin Reid, he’s hoping to learn more and be able to track down every possible lead.

There are days when Dylan Green would prefer that his mate not get himself tangled up in his private detective work. He admires and appreciates Avery’s dedication; he just doesn’t care for the fact that Avery’s investigations put him in danger. And Dylan’s wolf is very much the protective type, so he can’t just stand back and let Avery walk into situations where he might get hurt. But he knows that Avery’s just as unlikely to back down as he is, and the two of them will need to find a way to live with the current state of things.

But as Avery gets closer to finding out the truth about Lacey, the danger is likely to only grow–for both of them.

Of course I had to read the follow up to the first ever hedgehog shifter novel I’ve read. And I love that the authors carried over the same spirit, that excellent balance between humor and seriousness, that I enjoyed so much in the first book. And he same sort of unexpected twists and turns exist to keep readers guessing and on the edges of their seats…

The Dickens with Love by Josh Lanyon

The Dickens with Love

The Dickens with Love by Josh Lanyon

Published by: Samhain Publishing on December 1, 2009
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

James Winter specializes in antiquarian books. Or, well, he used to until a scandal a few years earlier cast doubts on his reputation. So when a rich buyer, Mr. Stephanopoulos, shows up with a lead for James, he’s interested in using it to get back in the game. Mr. S has learned of a previously unpublished Dickens Christmas story, and he’s willing to pay top dollar to get it into his possession. The only rule is that James cannot tell its owner, Sedgwick Crisparkle, that Mr. S is the one who wants to buy the book. Seems easy enough.

Professor Crisparkle is more of a character than James could have imagined. He’s also rather dashing, and he quickly makes his own interest in James known. Despite possibly knowing better, James returns Sedgwick’s affections and they soon find themselves entangled in more than just a business arrangement. But there’s still the matter of closing the sale. And the question of why Mr. S is so insistent that Sedgwick not be made aware of his identity. How can James navigate his growing affection for one client and his business obligations to the other?

If you’re looking for a short(ish), sweet Christmas romance with a few minor hiccups on the path from meeting to falling in love, this is a story for you. It’s entertaining, well-written, and a quick and easy read. A good choice just in time for the holidays.

Chase in Shadow by Amy Lane

Chase in Shadow

Chase in Shadow by Amy Lane

Series: Johnnies, Book 2
Published by: Dreamspinner Press on February 23, 2012
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

Chase Summers has put together the perfect life. His girlfriend, Mercy, is perfect. Their relationship is perfect. And yet, Chase isn’t happy. And his construction job isn’t paying what he needs to give Mercy the life she deserves. So when he learns of a gay-for-pay porn website that is hiring–and pays well–he actually decides to give it a shot. After all, it’s just for money, right?

When Chase meets Tommy Halloran, however, he has to admit that maybe he’s not quite as straight as his “gay-for-pay” resume indicates. Tommy is a fellow performer, and while they never perform together on camera, they fall quickly into a romantic and sexual relationship that seems like it might provide them both exactly what they need. But Chase and Tommy both have demons to face. And Chase doesn’t seem very willing to face his. He’ll have to, though, if he wants to make it out of both of his relationships alive…

This is heavy. Heavier than you might expect from reading the blurb. It’s not really angsty, but Chase is carrying some massive baggage with him that comes to a head in some pretty dramatic ways. But what’s really inspiring in this story is the way that friends come together for each other and support each other when they need it–even if they’ve made some not-so-intelligent decisions to get into the situation in the first place.

Content warning: discussions of suicide and attempted suicide

Aria by Shira Anthony

Aria

Aria by Shira Anthony

Series: Blue Notes, Book 3
Published by: Dreamspinner Press on December 24, 2012
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

Five years ago, Aiden Lind accepted a prestigious scholarship which took him to Europe and launched his opera career. Along the way, he also became involved with Lord Cameron Sherrington, a man he might go so far as to describe as the man of his dreams. But when Aiden catches Cam being intimate with another man, he decides it’s time to move on. And he suddenly reconnects with Sam Ryan, a man with whom he shared a short-lived relationship that ended when he received his scholarship.

Sam feels bad about dropping Aiden when he did. But the truth is that he was still getting over the death of his previous partner, Nick, and Aiden was the first guy he’d been with since Nick passed. He wasn’t as ready for a new relationship as he originally thought he was. But now that they’ve reconnected, he thinks he may be. But has he really put Nick in the past? And has Aiden really moved on from Cam and how their relationship ended? Their relationship will certainly be put to the test–and they’ll just have to hope it’s a test they can pass.

I have been enjoying this series since I picked up the first book. Part of it is likely that I am a musician myself, studied music in college, and those aspects of these stores just really resonate with me. But I know it also has to do with the fact that Shira Anthony always presents a compelling story with characters that draw you in and have you engrossed from the very first chapter. I’ve got three more books to read in this series, and I am definitely looking forward to them.

Choices by Jamie Mayfield

Choices

Choices by Jamie Mayfield

Series: Waiting for Forever, Book 1
Published by: Harmony Ink Press on June 6, 2013
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

Brian McAllister knows that he’s unlikely to find acceptance for his sexuality living in a small community in Alabama. He’s heard the comments people make at school. He’s sat through the sermons in church. So he’s never told anyone–the last thing he would need would be to lose his best friend or to have his foster parents send him away. So when his best friend, Jamie Mayfield, confronts him when he’s acting strange and said confrontation ends in a kiss, Brian thinks it’s all over. To his surprise, however, Jamie lets Brian know he feels the same way. The two embark on a clandestine relationship, but in a small town secrets can only stay hidden for so long. And once they’re found out, it’s hard to make them ever go away.

For being one of those “growing up gay in a conservative town of bigot stories,” this one was actually on the easy end of the reading scale. The angst level isn’t through the roof, and the supportive characters are written in a believable and understanding way. I tackled this one fairly quickly because it kept my attention and I never ended up putting it down until I was done.

The Painting of Porcupine City by Ben Monopoli

The Painting of Porcupine City

The Painting of Porcupine City by Ben Monopoli

Published by: Ben Monopoli on August 29, 2011
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

Fletcher Bradford is what one might call a free spirit. Aside from his best friend for years, Cara, and her boyfriend, Jamar, most of his relationships are shallow or short-lived. But when a mysterious new IT starts working at the company where Fletcher works, he is more than intrigued. And Mateo turns out to be freewheeling in some similar ways. It may well be that Fletcher has found his soulmate. But do they want the same things in life? When one is free spirited, can it ever work to be “tied down” to a single person? And does one’s soulmate need to share in one’s dream in order to keep the deep connection going?

On its surface, this reads quite strangely. At times, it almost seems just as aimless as the characters. The plot feels a bit like meandering down a winding path without always having an end in sight. And there are a few moments where things seem to transcend reality. But after finishing it and thinking about it some more, it hit me just how deep the messages of this book really are. It’s very much about finding yourself, achieving your dreams, navigating relationships, and understanding what people leave behind in our lives after they move on.

Foxe Tail by Haley Walsh

Foxe Tail

Foxe Tail by Haley Walsh

Series: Skyler Foxe Mysteries, Book 1
Published by: MLR Press on September 30, 2010
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

Skyler Foxe is glad to have scored a job teaching English at his old high school. He enjoys teaching, loves literature, and cares for his students. But he feels he needs to keep the fact that he’s gay under wraps. There could be backlash in his conservative community, and it’s really not the school’s business at all, is it? But Skyler’s world turns upside down when he discovers a dead body in an alley behind a night club when he’s out on what should be a typical Friday night. And the victim has an unexpected connection to Skyler’s school. What follows is a series of events that leave him questioning what exactly is going on at James Polk High. Could a student be involved? Or is it the domineering football coach? Or what about the mysterious new biology teacher and assistant football coach who makes Skyler melt just by walking into the room? Despite warnings from his detective friend, Sidney, Skyler is determined to do what he can to solve the case and find out who’s responsible–even if he puts himself in danger in the process.

This is definitely an entertaining read. There are some interesting twists and turns for sure. And it’s not something that’s going to take you deep into any sort of philosophical or emotional issue. If you like a mystery with some light humor and a cast of interesting side characters, this will be a book for you.

My only real complaint is the ending. This is part of a series, so I know the story continues, but it was building up–in my opinion–to a reveal on another important incident that happened but then ends before giving it to readers. I’m guessing it’s the subject of the next book, and I’ll be picking that up to read it. I just felt a bit let down because it wasn’t addressed though it felt like it should be…

Not As Easy As It Looks by Jaime Samms

Not As Easy As It Looks

Not As Easy As It Looks by Jaime Samms

Published by: Dreamspinner Press on November 1, 2013
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

Don Jenkins has been in what most people would see as an unconventional relationship since his early teens. In fact, it’s so unconventional that those around him seemed to identify it even before Don did. Don’s best friend, Griffith McAllister, has been there for him since they first met. And Howard Campbell provided Don with his first sexual experience. But can a relationship really work with three people? It’s one or the other, right? People have to choose, don’t they? Or, when the heart wants what the heart wants, is there a way to make it all work?

Oh. My. Angst. Seriously, this is one of the most angst-filled books I’ve read in a long time. But it’s that good kind of angst that gently rumbles in the pit of your stomach just to make sure you don’t forget it is there. And there’s a lot here about trust. Not just trusting another person, but trusting yourself and trusting your heart. Basically don’t get in your own way when love presents itself, even if it doesn’t look like love in the way society has told you love should be…

A Wedding to Die For by Xavier Mayne

A Wedding to Die For

A Wedding to Die For by Xavier Mayne

Series: Brandt & Donnelly Capers, Book 3
Published by: Dreamspinner Press on December 15, 2014
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

When a local baker and florist turn away a prominent gay couple and refuse to work their wedding, the couple strikes back. State law has recently been affirmed to prohibit discrimination, and the issue just might end up in court. But the governor and the attorney general would like to avoid that, which is why state police officers Brandt and Donnelly are called in to assist. And they resolve the issue with only a single meeting with each vendor.

The owners still aren’t keen on being associated with the wedding, however, leading them to each assign their sons to take on the task. It turns out that Justin and Roman are old friends who haven’t seen each other in years. And it also turns out they might just both have an interest in being more than friends.

Despite everyone’s best efforts, disaster strikes at the wedding. And the case that Brandt and Donnelly thought was over in a day becomes much larger…and more sinister than they could have imagined.

There are a few different plot lines here that are masterfully woven together to create an excellent story. There’s Brandt and Donnelly and their efforts to plan their own wedding. There’s the wedding that’s the centerpiece of the story. There’s the Justin and Roman relationship. And then the crime solving piece that comes into play for the second half of the book. It sounds like a lot going on, but it never really feels like it while reading it.

I will warn that there is a very brief moment of dub con here. It goes by quickly, but it’s an intense blip so I feel like it needs to be mentioned to anyone considering reading the story.

Although this is “Caper #3,” I will say that it’s the first book in this series that I’ve read. It’s not necessary to have read the previous books to follow what is going on, though there is the occasional reference that might make just a bit more sense with the full backstory of the previous books.