Online Fiction Re-read Worthy: Montana by MJ Roberts

Montana

by M.J. Roberts

Noah lost his parents in his early teens. His brother, Clay, steps up to take care of the family ranch and Noah. Never quite fitting in with the kids at school anyway, Noah retreats even further into homeschooling in the few hours he has leftover from working the ranch. It’s a hard, lonely existence, and the years pass and little changes.

Then the brothers strike on a new plan. They have the ranch, but they need someone who knows more than they do to help them turn a profit. So they advertise for an intern. Kevin rocks Noah’s world when he shows up. For a year or more, he’s been wondering about his sexuality, and the sexy, six-foot-plus college guy confirms his desires.

But how can Noah reveal his desires? Clay certainly isn’t gay, and he has no idea about Kevin’s sexuality. MJ Roberts shows Noah’s coming of age story so well. The story spans years and readers get to see Noah go from young teen to questioning teenager to a maturing young man. If this kind of tale is one of your favorite themes, then you really can’t pass up Montana, or the follow-up story, Montana Winter.

Four Dazzling Stars for Danced Close by Annabeth Albert

reviewed by: timncalifornia

Annabeth Albert gets romance right in Danced Close, the sixth book in her Portland Heat series.  This is the first book I’ve read from this author and the story and writing impressed on several levels.  Firstly, Danced Close features a genderqueer main character and secondly, that character is realistically portrayed without undue angst or drama.  Kendall (preferred pronouns “he/him”) fully embraces his gender fluid identity and does so with major style and panache.

Style and panache are exactly what catches the interest of Todd who works at a bakery Kendall, an in-demand wedding planner, frequents with his clients.  Todd is living sober and working on building a stable life for himself after a downward spiral into addiction in his teens and early twenties.  Both Todd and Kendall profess they are not looking for a serious relationship but neither of them can help flirting with one another.  Flirting leads to dating and before they know it they are in a relationship that neither of them knows quite how to define.  Together they need to figure out what they want for their futures and what that means for them as a couple.

Albert does justice to both Kendall and Todd in this book; they each are complex in their own way and are working through what they want (and deserve) in life and in relationships.   One of the strongest points in the book was Albert’s seamless weaving of the lived genderqueer experience, from pronouns, to being treated as “a caricature” instead of “a person”, to navigating corporate – not queer – environs, Albert shows the challenges and celebrations someone like Kendall experiences.

The story is written in alternating first person with each chapter swapping Todd’s and Kendall’s point of view.  While not necessarily a bad way to tell their story, the voice of each character was too similar for this to be fully effective.  It hardly felt like the person speaking changed at all between some of the chapters and because of that, it was sometimes hard to get immersed in the plot. The author’s voice didn’t fully disappear.

Nonetheless, Danced Close really impressed.  If you are looking for a romance with a little sizzle and characters who charm, delve into the sweet Portland Heat series by Annabeth Albert.  Four Dazzling Stars!

Thanks to Netgalley for the free copy in exchange for an honest review. The ebook will be available on March 14.

4 Stars for Falling Down by Eli Easton

Review by Cia

Family isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be for many people, and sometimes the world isn’t all that kind. Homeless, just eighteen, Josh has reached the end of his ability to withstand the knocks life keeps throwing at him. Losing his mom was traumatic, but he has a way to be close to her again. First he has to get to New England to see the leaves change for her.

Then he’ll just let go.

Mark’s alone, not because he has to be, but because he needs to be. He’s scarred, mentally far more than physically, by his experiences as a soldier. He’s not the man his family thinks he is, and he needs some space. An isolated cabin just big enough for him, a business using his hands… and he’s satisfied with his life, if not happy.

But the dead look he sees in a man’s eyes strikes him hard, and when that same man appears under a bridge across the lake, he can’t help but reach out. Falling Down is a story about the challenges these men face and how they cope. Each with their own strengths and weaknesses, the story Mark and Josh take a reader on is one that tugs at the heart and makes the book impossible to put down. Eli Easton is a master at crafting characters who feel so real you ache for their pain and cheer for their joy, and Falling Down is no different. Five stars all the way.

Highly recommended: Beatitude by Larry Closs!

Length: 276 pages

Reviewed by: Timncalifornia

Harry Charity is a lover – a lover of words, books, and reading.  The prose, poems, and lives of Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and the early beat writers are the guides and signposts for Harry’s own approach to life.  They are the idyll to which he aspires and while he’s not trying to re-create the early beat generation in mid ‘90s Manhattan, he certainly embraces the beatnik philosophy as a way- the way- to live.

When Jay Bishop joins the staff at the pop-culture magazine where Harry works, he discovers  a fellow fan of the beats, a prolific (though unpublished) poet, and a fast friend. In other words, Harry’s ideal man is now working down the hall from him.  The problem for Harry?  Jay has a girlfriend.  Harry is a year out from a hard break-up from a guy who didn’t love Harry as deeply as Harry had loved him.  He has spent a year in solitude, nursing his self-esteem back to health, and he’s determined not repeat history with Jay.

I found myself strongly drawn to the character of Harry Charity and his gentle, meaningful, thoughtful engagement with life.  It shows in all his interactions – with his boss, his co-workers, Jay’s girlfriend, even one-off encounters with merchants.  Harry has an innocence that is inviolable and has nothing to do with naiveté or unworldliness.  Jay is a decent, likeable person – entirely worthy of Harry – and sympathetic to our hero.  Jay’s girlfriend is likewise kind and thoughtful.  There’s no evil character to cast as an enemy in Beatitude.

In Harry Charity, Larry Closs has written a character who yearns not just for love but to understand love and the place it has in his life.  This story is a romance and not a romance.  Love, true and forever love, can take forms other than romantic.  As the story progresses, the reader will be able to see Harry more clearly than Harry sees himself, will recognize his strengths sooner and will want to shake some sense into him for his blind spots.

The story is interlaced with references to the beatnik oeuvre but it’s not necessary to like or even be familiar with that literary school.  I only have a passing familiarity with the beats and had a neutral reaction to that which I have read.  However, I could relate to Harry’s and Jay’s passion for the beats because I’ve had my own fanboy experiences.  I’ve envied and wondered at the tightknit, tumultuous friendships of bandmates and musicians, have thrilled to the lyrics of a song that put words to what I thought I, alone, felt.  While I didn’t come away from Beatitude wanting to delve into beatnik literature, I did come away with a deeper appreciation for why others are drawn to it.

Five stars for this excellent, well-written story.  Let’s all hope Closs has another book in the works.

Buy it now: Rebel Satori Press or at Amazon 

Free GA Fiction: About Carl by Diogenes

About Carl

by Diogenes

Reviewer: Timothy M.
Length: 52,147

One day, being a gay man in the closet will hopefully be a thing of the past, and love will be accepted as a gift to be cherished no matter who you’re attracted to. In the same way, being gay won’t be detrimental to your career, or mar your relationship with family and friends. That day, stories like About Carl will become historical fiction; there to remind us of the anguish and struggle in store for the main character Mark when he falls for Carl, a man not only in the closet but also in denial – most of the time. The story takes you on the sad, but also beautiful and believable journey through Mark’s life to a future where we hope he’ll finally find happiness, with or without Carl.

Story Quote:

We hugged each other in the dark, tossed the empty wine bottle into the lake, and wandered back to my place in silence through the darkened streets.

I made up the bed on the foldout sofa for him, and said goodnight. Before I left him, he took my hand in his, and said, “I know this is going to change our relationship, but I need you, and I don’t want us to drift apart.”

Free Online Fiction: Husband for the Holidays by Project_Amy

Husband for the Holidays by Project_Amy

The ice and cold locking up most of the United States, including my home, had me in the mood for a holiday story even though Christmas and New Years have passed. Considering this is a re-read story I’ve enjoyed online several times, regardless of the actual time of year, I thought it’d be a great story to share. Project_Amy’s has five original stories on Adult-Fanfiction.org, and my favorite has to be Husband for the Holidays.

Preston is a wholesome, clean cut college guy… with a job as a server at an upscale gentlemen’s club. His boss, Carter Jamison, is a handsome man with a reputation. Preston has always flirted–that’s part of his job–but with his boss? No matter how much he’d love to climb into the man’s lap and stare deep into those dark eyes, he wouldn’t dare! But when Preston rushes in to work one day to announce he has to quit, Carter shocks the hell out of him with a proposal.

A tragedy in Preston’s family has left him with two young nephews he desperately wants to give a home, but his life just isn’t acceptable for the system. From his apartment to his job, he’s got to make changes… but he doesn’t have the means. Carter does, however, and he instantly proposes. Literally.

Carter gets the server he’s lusted after since he started working, Preston gets a swank apartment and the means to get custody of his nephews. It seems like that’s all that the offer is between them, but unspoken depths to both their feelings simmer as their new life sweeps them both up into a whirlwind of dreams and diapers.

This story captured me from the beginning. I liked the characters, and while I don’t usually like miscommunication as a problem between the characters, in this story it adds a tension without becoming unrealistic or too tedious to read. Both characters are holding back because of the nature of the proposal being all business… even if it’s anything but. Don’t hold back from reading this story, though, because you really don’t want to miss it!

 

In Retrospect

How many books have you read in your life where there’s a hidden subtext featuring the LGBT community in some way? Chances are… more than you think! Take one of my favorite series from my youth: Dragonriders of Pern

Yep! Anne McCaffrey snuck that right in! I always remember reading the series and thinking that growing up in the Holds must have been stifling, and if I could–beyond the fact there were dragons–I’d skedaddle to a Weyr in a heartbeat. I never wanted one of the gold dragons. I wanted a green. Sleek, fast, not too serious, and they could flame Thread out of the sky with the best of them. And they were female, unlike the rest aside from the Queens.

But all the green dragonriders in the series were guys. Of course, so were the blues, the browns, and the bronzes too. The subtext that shows up in a lot of the series didn’t strike me until much later. Greens go into heat just like the gold dragons, even if they’re sterile from chewing phosphine rock, and the impending flight made the green riders “proddy”. LOL

Suddenly the Holders hidebound attitude toward the licentious nature of the Weyr’s inhabitants become clear. And it’s very much an echo of time the series began, back in 1967 with its free love, acceptance, and peace even in the face of impending danger. And that’s why I think I subconsciously loved the series. If you like your scifi with a fantasy-esque setting, if you’re a fan of dragons and danger, then you really should read these classics!

Alan Semrow’s Briefs Receives 4 Stars!

This week’s review comes just in time for the holiday with all its demands on our time. Surely you can squeeze in a few minutes for reading, especially once you read this review of Alan Semrow’s Briefs.

briefs

Review by Timncalifornia

Here’s a perfect book for someone who’s short on time for reading but craving a quick creative escape.  Alan Semrow’s Briefs is a collection of over 50 short stories, truly brief stories as most are only 2-3 pages in length.  They are perfect for that short, crowded commute on the train or someone looking to grab a few moments to themselves during the holiday rush.  In story after story Semrow offers a little slice of life with characters who are noble and flawed, relatable and incomprehensible.  Whether we are in the therapist office with a teen-age boy who may or may not be suicidal or listening in on the pre-nuptial conversation of two men or witness to the despairing patience and hope of a man coping with his wife’s mental illness, each story is a substantial morsel of life whether poignant or humorous.  Even the stories that bring into relief life’s mundane and downright boring days are never themselves boring. I appreciate that Semrow never trifles with the emotions of his character or the reader.  There is economy and balance in the writing that is just perfect for a collection such as this.

Semrow has a gift for showing us what’s humane in humanity and he does so through the eyes of those from many life experiences, different cultural backgrounds, ages, genders, and orientations.  I’m looking forward to reading more from the fertile pen of Alan Semrow.

4 Stars

Re-read Worthy Free eBook: Lazy Sundays by K-lee Klein

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by K-lee Klein

Review by: Alicia Nordwell

While I have a lot of eBooks in my library as well as the vast amount of free fiction available online, there’s just something about free eBooks I really love. I was first introduced to K-lee Klein’s book with a free read event through the MM Romance group’s 2012 Love is Always Write series based prompts with both a written idea and an accompanying picture. I have to say I really like the cover for the eBook, however, because there’s just something peaceful about it. The image definitely matches the sweet vibe in the story.

And that’s just what a reader will find when they crack open this story. Scott’s a geek. Not the convention-going, pointy-ear wearing, flying wizard party type… but a man who likes jazz, a smooth drink, and a predictable order to life. And lists. A lot of lists. Now, maybe that’s boring to some people but I really found a connection with the main character, Scott. I could understand him.

That meant I wasn’t quite as skeptical of why the hotter than hot tattooed McHottie, Devon, could possibly be attracted to someone who is more comfortable curling up on the couch than dancing in a crowd. But there’s an inherent imbalance in the relationship that just doesn’t work for Scott. Sure, opposites attract… but why? For how long? And just what is it that they’re doing week after week when Devon shows up at Scott’s house? How long could it possibly last?

I don’t usually go for stories where a lack of communication really feeds the tension in the plot, but for this story, it really worked. Plus, since the story is only 82 pages long, the drama isn’t dragged out, so it wasn’t  unbelievable or annoying. All in all, Lazy Sundays is a sweet, hot read with realistic and likable characters who click against all the odds. And, as an added bonus, K-lee wrote a follow up short story to Lazy Sundays titled Lazy Valentines that I enjoyed just as much–and also wished could be longer.

4 Stars

 

Fish Stick Fridays by Rhys Ford

This time of year the focus often turns to family. For this week’s review, I wanted to share one of my favorite family stories simply because they’re nothing at all like a traditional family… but that only makes them stronger. Even better, the second book in the Half Moon Bay Mystery series is out in just a few weeks!

fsf

Purchase at: Dreamspinner Press  Amazon  All Romance eBooks

Review by: Cia

From page one in Fish Stick Fridays we’re introduced to my favorite character in the story, Zig. Our first introduction to her is that she has a ‘poodle snore’ and that the night-light is nonnegotiable. Then we get the gut-wrenching truth that she was in the foster system and is now with Deacon, the story’s main character, who was once in the system himself. See, Deacon’s sister died and Zig has no one else but Deacon who has decided, no matter what his life was like before or how unlikely he deserves to be her guardian, that he will do right by his niece and make her a home.

In order to do that, he needs a fresh start. That’s a new mechanic shop he’s purchased in a strip mall in Half Moon Bay. The small town just might be their salvation. We’re quickly introduced to a fellow business owner, Lang, who has a bookstore just across the lot from the shop. He’s a far, far different type than the men Deacon has gotten involved with before. He’s a steamed trout with asparagus man while Deacon and Zig are fish stick Friday people. But something pulls them together against all the reasons why a relationship, no matter how casual, would be a bad idea.

Then mayhem ensues. The trouble Deacon feared just might have followed him. He has to deal with cops, and social workers, all while trying to figure out just what the hell is going on in his life as he tries to raise a little girl in a tutu and combat boots whose real name is Bobo–but you better not call her that!

This cast of main characters pulls you in with their very distinct backgrounds and personalities–a bookworm, tutu-wearing, mouth of a sailor eight-year-old, a tattooed hottie with grease under his nails and a heart of gold, and a buttoned up, loafer wearing, fluffy cat owning, well-to-do business owner. And that cat is definitely a character in his own right, alongside other secondary characters like Eli and Abe, Yvonne, and Officer Maddox.

This ragtag group of basically strangers are thrown together in the struggle to make sense of life and, hopefully, make it better. Banishing the loneliness and fear might be easier than escaping their pasts, though. What I love about this story is the hope that they all have. Sure, it’s wrapped up in fears from mistakes of the past, let downs, and insecurity, but it’s there. That tentative hope made me root for the characters to find a happily ever after and kept me glued to my Kindle as danger threatened them.

Fish Stick Fridays is a five-star read with characters who take you along as they struggle to overcome all that life throws at them.

5 Stars

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