Review: Murder and Mayhem — by Rhys Ford

MM_RFOther Reviewers: Goodreads

This is an advance reader copy given to me by the author for an honest review.  As with all of my review, these are my own opinions.

Rhys Ford has become one of my favorite authors in the Male/Male world.  You can see some of my favorite blog posts here.  So, I might be a bit of a fan girl here.  Just your warning.

Basic Plot:

Rook Stevens “stumbles” into a murder accusation, literally.  Now he tries to fight for  his innocence and find out who is framing him.  He meets again the detective that tried to put him in jail before, Dante Montoya.  The chemistry reheats between them is just too much to overcome.  Can they put both of their pasts behind them to make something work?

Rook Stevens:

Rook is our “bad boy” and most of the mystery of this book revolves around his past.  So, no spoilage here, although just note that he is not squeaky clean and he is actually one of the more grey characters that I have read in this genre.  There are points in which I hear about his past and I question if I would want to fall in love with him.

But then I think about the changes he made in his life and I have to respect his efforts at redemption.  At one point, I thought Rook was going to run, but then he takes his stand:

Charlene was right.  He’d earned his fucking normal, an neither Dani Anderson nor Los Angeles’s finest were going to take it from him.

Rook is one of the more dynamic characters in a romance book I have read.

Dante Montoya:

For Dante, he is a by the book type of detective.  Early in his career he learned what could happen if someone tried to get “dirty” to break a case.  Now he understands that.  However, he can’t keep his mind off of Rook and we see how he fights his attraction:

“Everybody fucks up, Dante.”

“I’m a cop, to, People depend upon me to be objective.  I want Stevens to pay for what he’s done, but it’s got to be done right — by the book.”  Dante scrubbed at his face with his bare hand, rasping his palm over his stubble-rough jaw.  “I just need to be fair, you know?”

“Of course you can be, Dante.”  His uncle patted his arm.  “You’re the fairest man I know.  But what you need to be more is honest with yourself.”

So, outside of the sex/romance and the mystery, this is about a man who learns to think beyond what he has experienced and understands to empathize.

Theme Summary:

While this is overall a book about love and a really good mystery, I also took the idea that redemption is possible.  That we can look beyond our narrow vision of what the past was and move on to becoming better and more fulfilled individuals.  Both of our main characters make this move.  For Rook, it was an actually physical and lifestyle change, but for Dante Montoya, it is more that he changes his black and white views on life to understand what he is missing.

Strong Points:

I always love the underlying theme of Ford’s books:  You are who you are.  So often we become persecuted by our neighbors or family for our sexuality, beliefs, or lifestyles  if they do not fit a “norm”.  This novel explores how you can first find acceptance within yourself and then create a “family”of outcasts like yourself.

“Uh-uh, I hear you talk like this, and I think I hear my grandfather or my own father, and that is not who you are.  Remember, tio, they tried to bury us.  They didn’t know we were seeds.”

Think about that last sentence.  “They didn’t know we were seeds.”  Everything that people have done to bring down these people, to make them assimilate has only given them more growth.  Don’t let someone bury your true “self”.  Such profound words buried in a romance novel.

Ford’s writing was fast paced as always;  she gives us heat but not too much that we get bored.

What could be better?

I think at this point, Rhys Ford’s strengths might lead to weaknesses.  Any director or writer will tell you that once you get a formula for success, you keep going. Obviously the fans enjoy it, they continue to buy tickets.  Just think about the new Avengers movie;  I could have predicted every plot twist as the formula has not changed in that movie series.

So, in Murder and Mayhem, we get those things we have come to love and enjoy:  exciting entrance, international culture within the American melting pot, hot cop, and reticent bad boy.  The problem becomes when every one of her series have the similar formats.  Did I enjoy it?  Yes.  Look at authors like Johanna Lindsey or J.R. Ward.  Their formats are always the same and they sell millions of copies of books.  So, writing in a format is possible, you just need to make sure that there is something different in each series that makes them stand out.

In Murder and Mayhem, the use of the Carnie and thief ring makes it stand out from others.  I would have liked some more background into that world and perhaps have seen more of the old Rook in action.

Conclusions:

Ford has once again given us a fast-paced mystery that was enjoyable.  I actually didn’t come to the “who done it” until the end, although I was feeling suspicious.  The secondary characters were great and they made me want to learn more about this new family Ford built.

Overall, very enjoyable. If you enjoyed the Cole McGinnis series, then I think you will enjoy this one.

Bea

Review: Shift in Time — by Mercy Celeste

shift-in-timeOther Reviewers: Goodreads

This is an advance reader copy given to me by the author for an honest review.  As with all of my review, these are my own opinions.

One of my favorite books is Mercy Celeste’s Behind Iron Lace.  While the book was fairly short with lots of sex, it managed to pull me quickly into the story and the accurate description of the muggy deep south summer weather had me smiling.  So, when asked to review this book, I hoped that I would enjoy this book just as much.

Basic Plot:

Morgan Monstros comes from a family of witches, but is considered a “normal”.  And in this case, normal is not good.  Morgan has always felt like his life was bland in a world of flavor, but never felt he deserved a chance to thrive.  While taking care of his sister’s cat, Morgan discovers something unusual:  he can understand him!  What we discover is that the cat’s name is Fane — who is really a human.  Will Morgan be able to have a normal relationship or will outside forces hamper it?

Morgan Monstros:

From the start we feel badly for Morgan.  He is a “normal”, a word that demonstrates how beneath he is from the rest of his magical society.  He remains on this isolated island taking care of the family inn.  He has no protection from magic and we can see how vulnerable this makes him feel:

“I thought you weren’t poking around in my head.”  Betrayal, that’s what it was.  He had none of her talent, none of any of his sisters’ talents.  The one true normal in the family, and they all used it against him.

We can easily relate to Morgan, someone who feels like he disappoints his family and will never fit-in.

Fane Llewellyn:

Celeste did an excellent job with her depiction of Fane’s change from cat to human.  In science-fiction so often the extreme situations are so impractical that the reader will roll their eyes.  But the confusion and frustration that Fane goes through makes sense.

“I am fine.  I am cat.  I play at night.”  Fane replied, knowing he wasn’t cat anymore.  Most nights he really preferred a warm place to cuddle.  The past few nights had been with Gan.  Tonight, he didn’t know why  he felt the need to run.  “The moon calls to me.  Gan should not sleep in short johns.”

I loved how we understand how Fane struggles both by time, but also by the curse of the shift.  This struggle with the curse is something we can compare with the theme of sexuality.

Theme Summary:

I see the theme of Morgan and Fane’s struggle with not fitting into their society as a metaphor for those who struggle with their sexual identity.  We have two men who can not control their differences with their society and because of these differences they are shunned.  In fact, their lives are in danger.  While dramatic here, look at teen suicide and sexual identity.  Early on we see Morgan’s struggle:

“I had no choice.”  Morgan’s voice broke as he spoke.  He cleared his throat.  “Males are rare in our world.  We must marry a female.  We must have children.  We must carry on the magick into the next generation.  I was made to choose that or chastity.  To spill my seed in the body of a man is an abomination.”

In addition, Fane, has been “forced” to change (by the curse) and his quality of life is less than what it could be.  He has loss his specialness (I do not want to spoil part of the plot), but by Morgan breaking the curse, he is allowed to find is true shape/spirit.

I would actually recommend this book to those who struggle with their sexuality.  It is not a book that has any ground-breaking teenage moments, but I think that someone who does grapple can relate to the uncertainty and despair.

Strong Points:

I enjoyed the building of the “mystery” and how we, as the reader, slowly come to understand the background of Morgan and Fane.  The initial struggle seems silly until we understand the true struggle of our heroes.

What could be better?

There is a lot of sex, and while the sex was awesome, toward the end I actually skipped it.  The balance of sex and plot is a delicate one, and Celeste tends to write a lot of sex in her novels.

Conclusions:

I truly enjoyed this book.  I have a feeling that I got a lot more of out of the theme than some other reviewers on Goodreads, but that’s ok.  Sometimes you have to understand that while a book might be short and have a lot sex, it does not mean that there is not more complexity.  I would certainly recommend this book and I will go and check-out some more works of Mercy Celeste.

Bea

Review: Smoky Mountain Dreams — by Leta Blake

Smokey_Mt_dreamsOther Reviewers: Goodreads

This is an advance reader copy given to me by the author for an honest review.  As with all of my reviews, these are my own opinions.

I have previously read and reviewed a few books by Leta Blake.  What I love about her books are that they are not “typical” romances, meaning someone does not “rescue” the other one and no one has anything perfect.  While our men are very well matched and “Perfect” for each other, they have a significant amount of baggage that it takes the entire book for them to accept themselves and each other.

This format allows the reader to follow the character development and unveiling plot with anticipation, because you will never get what you think will happen!

Basic Plot:

Christopher Ryder is a singer, who tried to become a “star” in Nashville, but never had the talent to break through.  Now he is back to his grandmother’s home town, trying to make a living and settle down.  But he is lonely and the life he has been living is no longer satisfying him. Jesse Birch is a father of two, and struggling to be a single parent father with significant emotional problems due to his wife’s accident.  Now he has met Christopher, who seems to fill something that Jesse thought was missing in his life.  Can they put their pasts behind them enough to try for a future together?

Background:

The description sounds simple, but there is a lot of back story and baggage with Jesse and Christopher.  We spend much of the book understanding how they got this place in their life.  It sounds simple, but there is so much more to this book than a simple romance.

Christopher Ryder:

I loved Chris.  I think he is what we all feel like at some point in our lives.  One of the Blake trademarks is Chris:  a man with passion, but not enough raw talent to make it “big”.  To some degree, that is frustrating, because we want to see Chris “make it big”, but what we come to find out is that he just wants to be happy and fulfilled in life.  This is a lesson we all should learn, you do not have to be “famous” to make people happy and have a purpose in life.

Christopher wondered, not for the first time, what it would be like to have that kind of talent.  He always sensed the audiences’ disappointment when he stepped out onto the stage for the lead parts instead of Lash.  In the end, he usually won them over and they enjoyed his performance–he wasn’t Lash’s second for nothing– but he wished he knew what it was like to step out and see even one person’s eyes light up.

Chris has a wonderful spirit.  He could be bitter, but instead he embraces what he CAN do, and tries his best.  He just wants to be happy:

He put down the chili and rubbed his face.  It wasn’t the whole heteronormative package he wanted, but he just wanted someone to hold and be held by.  He wanted a man who would willingly brave a Ryder-Jenkins family event with him even if it got Christopher disowned.

Christopher’s back story is one that we have seen before, the conservative southern religious family that does not understand or accept anything but traditional heterosexuality.  Living in the south, I have experienced and seen this type of relationship in action.  So it was easy for me to relate and understand how Christopher feels.

Jesse Birch:

Jesse is a little harder to understand.  He is a bisexual, as a youth he was “Out and proud” mostly to piss off his father and married his wife after their friendship moved to something more.  Now he has two kids and she is somewhat out of the picture.  I do not want to spoil some of the plot here, so forgive the vagueness.

Blake also throws themes throughout and I found something profound about Jesse’s discussion on the hidden value of jewelry:

“Yeah, but buildings talk.  Jewelry– it’s full of magic because it keeps its secrets safe.  And, here’s the thing about jewelry — any given piece can change and transform the person wearing it.”

To  me, this mini-theme describes Jesse in so many ways: he has been living his life with other people as his own jewelry.  He was “gay” to transform into pissing his father off, he conformed by becoming “straight” with his wife.  All the time he was keeping his true secret self safe.  Note, this is not a knock against any sexual orientation, just that his life seems to be more about reacting to others rather than discovering and accepting himself.

Theme Summary:

What have we done in our life that we really didn’t expect to have done, but did it anyway because it was expected or what the road of least resistance?  For both Christopher and Jesse, they have taken actions in the past for those they loved.  While they might not fully regret their actions, it took them to the places they are in their life.  Jesse describes why he thinks Christopher wants him to make a piece of jewelry for his grandmother:

“Because you want her to have it.”  Jesse studied him a bit longer and added, “Because you feel like you owe her for something, and  you’ll never be able to repay her, and you want her to know that you’re grateful, and that you love her.”

Accept who you are (and how you got to where you are in life by those decisions) and make a new path while celebrating those who helped you along the way.

Strong Points:

I love the risks that Blake takes in her writing.  Things don’t all end Disney-like, we get realistic (yet happy) endings and our characters go through some shit to get through to the end.  That’s called being a great storyteller.

But my fave?  The humor!  Christopher’s Gran is so much how my grandmother was that I was laughing out loud (and crying when things happened).  I would hope we could all be that spunky when we get old:

She finished up her burger before asking, “Will he be at Thanksgiving?”

“God, no!”

“Why not?  Can’t you just imagine Bob’s face?”

“Yes, I can.  He’d have a stroke.”

“Perfect.  Then we’d be done with him.”

“Gran!”

“What?”  She smiled innocently.  “I’m old.  I have dementia.  I don’t even know what I said.”

She reminded me so much of my grandmother.  Blake writes such colorful and deep secondary characters that it creates a vivid picture in our heads.

What could be better?

I really can’t think of anything that I would improve.  The only thing I would say is there is a lot of sex in the book, so make sure you enjoy reading descriptive hot sex scenes.  I will admit that toward the end I did skim a little on the sex.  Not that it was bad, just that I wanted to see what was going on with the storyline.

Conclusions:

Blake writes novels that are more than merely saying “romance”.  She paints a vivid picture of people who struggled with their family, lives, careers, anything and everything about who they are today.  But what we get is an amazing story about survival and perseverance to finally accepting who you are, how you got to where you are and where you want to go in the future.  I loved this book and I loved the characters.  You will cry, you will certainly be aroused.  And when you finish, I bet you will call your friends and family (blood or chosen family) and thank them for supporting you in difficult times.

All I can say is, “read this book.”

Bea

Review: Down and Dirty — by Rhys Ford

down_and_dirty_rhysfordOther Reviewers: Goodreads

There is no hiding or denying that I love Rhys Ford’s writing.  No matter what series, I tend to enjoy it.  She manages to write in imagery; the opening scene is usually some sort of action hook and we are invested in the characters by the end of the first chapter.  In Down and Dirty, we get more of a sexually intense exploration rather than a Jason Bourne type thriller.

As always with my Advance Reader Copy blog posts, I try to be as unbiased as possible and give an impartial review.

This is not a short series, and Down and Dirty is book 5 in the  Cole McGinnis Series.  The majority of these books focus on Cole and Jae, but Bobby and Ichiro have been strong secondary characters that as readers, we wanted to learn more.  I always found Bobby intriguing and knew there was so much more to his character.

First things first, you MUST read the rest of the series to get the full power of this novel.  Down and Dirty happens in the same time-line as the previous book;  you will not necessarily be “spoiled” but I do fear that you would learn something that did not want to know if you had not read Dirty Deeds.

If you want to read any of my previous reviews on this series go to the following links: Dirty Kiss, Dirty Secrets, Dirty Laundry, and Dirty Deeds.

Basic Plot:

This book picks up during book 4 of the series Dirty Deeds.  Bobby Dawson is Cole McGinnis’ best friend, someone who has always been there for him.  He is a former cop, who after he retired came out as gay and has been making his way through scores of twinks vowing never to settle down.  But everything changes for him when he meets Cole’s brother Ichiro.  Ichiro is captivating and challenges Bobby to want more in his live than just existing.  But can Bobby and Ichiro put their personal experiences behind them to find a happy future together?

Bobby Dawson:

I admit that Bobby has almost overshadowed Cole in the past when he was in a scene for me.  There was just something about him that intrigued me.  Maybe it’s that older, “daddy” aspect with him, I just always wanted to see more of him and find his motivation.  What we learn about him is that he is an aging, hardened male warrior who fights to remain in the prime of his life by punishing himself:

The man definitely spend time pushing his body to its limits.  It showed in every long plane of muscle sculpted over his broad shoulders and flat belly.  Bobby’s thick thighs rippled with power when he braced himself and pushed Ichiro down onto the bed, his tongue licking his top lip as if he were debating where to start on Ichiro’s body.

I feel badly for Bobby.  He struggles with his personal history and is afraid to move forward.  It is because of his attraction and curiously about Ichiro that he is willing to try to change.

Ichiro Tokugawa:

So much that we see of Ichiro revolves around his tattoos.  They are his armor:

“I’m covered in bad ideas.”  Ichi sat up all the way, straddling Bobby’s hips.  Sucking his sleeves back, he bared the ink embedded under his skin.  “See these?  They’re supposed to be my idea of running in a burning building, because what I’ve done to myself is everything my family hates.  The symbols, the ink — everything.  But it’s my decision, and I took the consequences.”

Ichi has committed the first step to finding himself: making life decisions for independence rather than allowing others to change him.  Yet, he has only altered his cover, not the book inside.

Theme Summary:

No matter how much you attempt an outer metamorphosis to forget the past, you need to change the core within to move forward.  We see both of this in how Bobby and Ichiro change their form.  Bobby punishes himself for his past by brutally working out making his body perfection.  But at what cost?  For Ichiro, he leaves his father and Japan behind him by painting himself with a new skin:

His tattoos were less a rebellion and more of a birth, the wash of ink marking his break from his familial placenta, and he’d thrust himself gasping into a world where he’d wear who he was on his skin.

Yet, while both men have moved on in one way, they forgot to change the center.  It is not until they see each other’s struggles that they admit to themselves they need to change on the inside.  Luckily they have each other to show themselves the way.

Strong Points:

Rhys Ford’s writing style is always her strength.  As readers, we see it in her action scenes and humorous dialogue.  Her humor:

“Please, call me Charles.  Mr. Howell makes me sound like I should be stuck on an island with a bunch of incompetent sailors and a bevy of pretty women.”

I think in this case, I might have been missing the strong action scenes.

What could be better?

While I truly did enjoy this book, it did feel like something was missing.  Maybe I am spoiled with the action scenes from the other books.  This one revolved around the action of the last book, but we really do not see much of it.  In a way, that is a good thing, we would get bored if we were just getting a rehash of the previous book.

If there is not a lot of external conflict, then to provide some level of suspense, we need to have some internal conflict.  We get this with our theme, yet I felt there was a level of “oomf” missing.  Maybe that is the danger of writing a book about secondary characters and making them primary in their own book.

Conclusions:

Overall, this is a great addition to the series and it was needed.  I wanted to know Bobby and Ichi’s story, which we got.  The way the story ended, we still have some conflict to explore.  Bobby and Ichi certainly could have a second book to continue this story arch.  I think that if you liked the other books in the series, you will enjoy this one.  Just remember this is less action and more love story;  well a hot, sexy love story!

Bea

Review: A Desperate Arrangement — by mikkimouse

Other Reviewers: Goodreads

Fan-Fiction.  It has become something that I read 75% of the time now.  I keep going back to my Goodreads list of to-reads and no of my published books look interesting enough to spend money on.  Maybe I am getting burned out.

So, I have been checking out Archive of Our Own, checking out my favorite worlds:  Sterek, Larry, and Drarry.  I found a historical royalty AU for Sterek and it looked very interesting, it is always great when we get to see our characters in a new setting (and actual plot).  For some other Sterek fan-fiction recommendations see this review.

Basic Plot:

The kingdoms of McCall, Hale, and Argent are in a battle for control and land.  The tentative treaties are not holding and war is imminent.  Now there is a possible treaty between McCall and  Hale — the solution?  Marriage between Stiles and Derek.  But can this loveless marriage truly be happy and can it stop war?

Stiles Stilinski:

The personality of Stiles is consistent with the character on the TV show.  Stiles love his father and his brother (actual brother in this universe), Scott.  Stiles is the illegitimate brother of King Scott and acts as his advisor and magician.

The reminder stung, and Stiles bit his lip and turned away.  He and Scott had been not-so-subtly playing matchmaker ever since Queen Melissa’s official mourning period had ended, and Stiles didn’t want to take that chance at happiness away from Scott’s mother or his own father.  But… “So you’d ask me to be trapped in a marriage instead?”

Scott had the decency to look a little guilty.  “I know what I’m asking, ” he said, “and I swear I wouldn’t be asking it if I didn’t think you’d be at least content in the end.”

So we see Stiles sacrificing his own personal happiness for the good of the country.  This action demonstrates his sense of duty and integrity.

Derek Hale:

Derek’s character has alway been a complex one.  In A Desperate Arrangement,  Derek is the second son who already had a horrific engagement to Kate Argent which ended with Derek’s father’s death.  The guilt has beaten down Derek so much that he is a shell of the man he was before.  It certainly does not help that his brother, the King is a big ‘ol A-HOLE that I want to beat silly.  But to Derek, pack is everything and he is willing to destroy his life (based on his experience in the previous betrothal) to save his country.

Now, he rested in the corner of the courtyard after a grueling training session, doing his best to burn off excess energy and get his mind off everything.  Like his father, who would be scarcely three months dead when Derek was married.  Or the getting married, which reminded him of the rules Stiles had set down.  Or Stiles himself, whom Derek had done an equality good job of avoiding because he didn’t trust himself to be around his betrothed for five minutes without attempting something abominably stupid, like tracing the outline of those blue tattoos with his tongue.

I feel badly on how Derek has been treated, like an asset to be used, even by his family.  You get the feeling of how trapped he feels, which is even more powerful due to the werewolf nature.  The author does an excellent job of describing the inner animal and his PTSD reactions.

Theme Summary:

A simple theme of “Don’t judge a book by the cover” could be applied here.  Stiles is a bastard son, but he is loved and deeply valued member of the court and family.  He is easily discounted, but his verbal acuity has made him an asset.  On the same hand, Derek is a fierce warrior who has a sensitive soul that only wants to be of value to his family and country.  His sensitivity is also hidden, and his relationship with Stiles brings that to the surface as he heals.

Strong Points:

The world building in A Desperate Arrangement had me turning the page to learn more.  I loved how the author turned the Teen Wolf tension and character profiles and made it into an alternate world.  The author did a great job of describing the action scenes:

Derek immediately went on the defensive, but the captain seemed to know how to turn each parry into another attack.  If Derek pinned the staff to the ground, the captain slid forward to kick Derek’s knee.  If he knocked the staff to one side, the captain rolled it across his back and came at him from the other.  And when Derek aimed his staff at the captain’s legs, trying to knock him off-balance, the captain slammed his staff into the ground and used the momentum to swing himself around and kick Derek in the hip

I also enjoyed the chemistry between Stiles and Derek and their dialogue.

What could be better?

The only improvement I would suggest is that the mystery/adventure plot was to be expected and was tropey.  To be fair, this is due to the fact that all of the characters are from the TV show, so we can expect certain people to behave in the way that they did.  It did not dampen my enjoyment of the story, but I could see that if it was not so much fan-fiction the author would have had room to create more original side characters.

Conclusions:

Overall, I enjoyed the book, it was different that many of the other Sterek fan-fiction out there.  I will certain keep this author in mind for other works.

 

Bea

Review: A Forbidden Rumspringa — by Keira Andrews

a_forbidden_rumspringaOther Reviewers: Goodreads

This is an advance reader copy given to me by the author for an honest review.  As with all of my review, these are my own opinions.

This is my first read of Keira Andrews’.  Finding a new author is one of the most exciting opportunities for a book blogger.  Opening the book might bring hours of fun, tears, and angst — OR hours that you wish you could get back.  At first I was hesitant to agree to read this book, after all, Amish?  Really?  I was ready to roll my eyes and prepare for the worst.

However, I was pleasantly surprised and I can now put Keira Andrews on my Goodreads Favorite Author list.

Basic Plot:

Issac Byler and his family have moved from Red Hills to Zebulon, Minnesota, a much more conservative Amish community.  Issac has not joined the church yet, but the time approaches, his first step is to work as an apprentice for woodworker David Lantz.  David is under a tremendous amount of pressure to provide for his family now that his father has passed away.  While David and Issac become friends, will they discover something about themselves and can they afford to seek it?

Background:

As I said, Amish story sounds rather hokey at first, a trope that could be taken into an overly dramatic manner.  Keira Andrews must have conducted some serious research on the Amish community, because how we see David and Issac struggle with the community appears realistic.  It is interesting to consider that just calling someone “Amish” can mean many things and each community set up their own rules and orders (Ordnung).  We don’t have to be Amish to understand how it feels to be trapped in a life we do not want and have no hope to ever escape.

Issac Byler:

This book is from his perspective.  He is 18 and realizes that he is attracted to men.  He struggles with the urge to explore this and the fear of leaving his family and life behind.  Where would he go?  What would he do?  This community does not allow a Rumspringa, so there is no opportunity for him to explore his sexuality.  We certainly feel how trapped he is, some of the strongest scenes are his with his family, as we see he can not question his Father and he is not given any questions.  I liked how they talk about his older brother who left, yet we do not know a lot about Aaron.

Excesses.  In Zebulon — as was the Swartzentruber way — they never uttered the word rumspringa, and the  younger children had no concept of it.  Thoughts of Aaron flickered through Isaac’s mind, unbidden.

I loved the scenes that Issac had with his younger brother.  I hope we see more of him in later books.

David Lantz:

We only see David through Issac’s eyes:  David is older, more worldly than Issac.  However, he is closer to having to join the church and marrying; he has more to loose than Issac.  His family depends on him, so he feels like he has no choice but to sacrifice his happiness for the greater good.

“I’m sorry if you regret going tonight.”  David’s words were bitten out.

“David, I don’t.  At least, I don’t think I do.”  Isaac’s heart skipped.  “Are you angry with me?”

Head down, David laughed, but it was razor sharp.  “No, Isaac.  Only with myself.”

“Why?” Isaac touched the sleeve of David’s coat.  “I wanted to come. I’m glad you trusted me.”

When he looked up, David’s eyes shone with unshed tears.  “I was selfish to bring you here.  Please forgive me.”

I loved how Andrews showed us the difference in the characters.  They might still be gay, but that does not mean that both are equally ready to accept their sexuality and needs.

Theme Summary:

On some level, a theme could be, “be true to yourself.” Yet, these men are not even really able to understand that concept because of their restrictive upbringing.  So for me, this novel is about the inevitability of curiosity and personal growth.  We see through many characters of the younger generation as they struggle with finding tech, going to the movies, drinking, and smoking.  Because they are forbidden any of these (including the rumspringa), they still find a way:

“We’re all curious.  We’re all tempted.  The tighter they try to lock us away from the world, the more we wonder.  They try to prevent rumspringa, but they can’t stop it.  Most of the time I feel like I’m drowning in sinful thoughts.  A zipper and a movie aren’t so bad, really.”

I imagine that the next book’s theme will focus more on they exploring their relationship and how to integrate themselves into the English society.

Strong Points:

The background research of the community made me appreciate the group, but not feel so overwhelmed with details.  We get the feeling of how restrictive it is and how our protagonist want out without spending hours talking about how they farm and make quilts.  With a simple interaction with a tourist, we get insight of the community:

Darren tilted his head, still smiling easily.  “So Michelle and I are what you’d call English, right?  Why English and not American?  Or Canadian as the case may be.”

“I asked once when I was a boy, and Father said it’s just our way.  He says that a lot.”

And this quote pretty much sums up why Issac and David struggle within Zebulon:  Don’t question, just follow the rules.  Which reminds me of a time I was in a Bible studies group one Sunday.  The Bible study was going through the lesson and we were having a group discussion.  I asked a question (using the scripture) to make a point that was not the point he was making.  After the session I was basically told not bring up things like that, that we were following the lesson as is.

So, we eventually left the church because we were not allowed to question.  In A Forbidden Rumspringa, Issac and David face this type of of problem, but magnified.  We could leave the church, imagine if you had to leave your brothers and sisters behind, never to be able to contact them again?

What could be better?

Not sure if I would call it “better”, but I am certain that Amish people might not like how they are portrayed here.  There are a few of the Lantz girls who seem to be “modern”, but most of the older generations seem very black and white.  They weren’t portrayed as “evil”, but there was no scene where we got to see how some folks were trying to make change from within.

That being said, they are very insular community and we do get a few side descriptions of the “liberal” community they left behind. I just wanted to see a more mix environment.

Conclusions:

Overall, I enjoyed the book.  I could have liked to see a less black and white view of the Amish and see some more development of the secondary characters.  However, if the author wanted to portray the feeling of isolation; Andrews was very successful.  I look forward to reading the second book next year!

Bea

Review: Trouble and the Wallflower– by Kade Boehme

TroubleandtheWallflowerOther Reviewers: Goodreads

I have been on a roll lately with finding books that I loved enough to write a post.  I trolled through my Goodreads feed and found another one to try, Kade Boehme’s Trouble and the Wallflower.  The only other prior novel of Boehme’s I had read was Wide Awake, which was a freebie I found on Amazon.  It was a great read.

Basic Plot:

Davy Cooper is alone, mostly by choice but also because of his social anxiety.  But while working at Bart’s Soda Shop Gavin Walker and his rowdy band of brothers show up.  Gavin continues to drop his phone number and flirting with Davy, but Davy is not sure that Gavin should be taken serious.  As the friendship grows, can Davy afford to let Gavin have his body and possibly his heart?

Gavin Walker:

At first glance, we think that Gavin is a bit of a player, more of a user than anything else.  But what we find out is that there are reasons why Gavin behaves how he does with relationships.  I would tell you more, but this provides a bit of the conflicts within the plot and will develop as the book continues.

In Gavin, we find someone who has learned to play the role of Don Juan, but like that character there is more than just seduction.

“I meant it.  I’ve never had anyone in here.  Ever.  I’m not going to apologize for my past, but I hope you know I’m not using you like that.  You’re not jut another hookup. I’d never have brought you here, never introduced you to Ray.”

We see that Gavin has hurt his chances with Davy because of his playboy background.

Davy Cooper:

I could completely relate to Davy.  His mother suffered from  agoraphobia, and for most of his life he was trapped within his own home.  Only his uncle Drew helped him to get out, thus Davy has a successful job at Bart’s Soda Shop.  We see his panic attacks and awkwardness early on:

He concentrated on the work at hand, breathing in and out.  If only Gavin understood.  He’d give anything to be normal enough to just take his number one of the million times he’d offered.  He’d love to go have that coffee with him.  But Davy wasn’t normal.  He was struggling past a panic attack now.  The only thing stopping him from freaking out totally was the familiar actions.

But there is so much more to Davy than just this.  He is incredibly strong-willed, fighting through his fear, through his childhood to become a successful person.  What Davy struggles with now is finding someone who understands Davy’s strengths and weaknesses.

Theme Summary:

Everyone thinks that their own pain is unique.  And maybe the causes of your life’s pain are distinctive, but in the end, pain and hurt all feel the same.  In Trouble and the Wallflower, we see two men who have been hurt by their childhood, forming them, good or bad into the men they are now.  But what happens now is that rather than just being life lessons, the pain has become a crutch, keeping them from risking everything for happiness.

Davy wrapped Gavin up in a hug.  When everyone else saw the two of them, they saw Gavin who was nothing but trouble and Davy who was a wallflower, but in Gavin’s estimation, if you looked inside you’d see that Gavin was jut a scared little boy and Davy was his hero.

So we have two men who don’t think they are good enough for each other, but really they are exactly what they need to heal.

Strong Points:

One of the best things about this book is the writing.  There were many times that I was laughing at a description or crying over an emotional moment.  I loved Davy’s humor, how despite his problems, he still could see the humor in life:

He was tempted to see if throwing a shiny thing would make her run off in the other direction.

I also loved how Boehme hooked us in at the beginning, hinting about Gavin’s background letting us understand that something was going to come with it.  He did not hit us on the head with it, but subtly kept us worrying.

What could be better?

This was almost a perfect read for me, I felt the passion of the writing, the conflicts were realistic and had just the amount of angst I needed.  However, toward the end I felt overwhelmed with the sex scenes; and while they were hot I got a little bored.  It really only detracted the rating by a single star; for others it might not be a bad thing.

I struggle with social anxiety myself.  I know how it feels like your heart will pound out of your chest; the fear that everyone can hear how fast your heart is beating and they are silently laughing at your weakness.  So it was easy for me to relate to Davy.  While I think that Boehme did a good job of portraying this anxiety, it did not seem consistently severe throughout the book.  Yes, there were hints throughout the book, but the attack he had at the beginning and then at the end were the only time we really saw that. I would have liked to have seen a little more of that and a little less of the sex.

Conclusions:

I sped through this book, racing to the end.  I could relate to both characters and their conflicts were realistic, although the ending did seem to be rather nicely tied up.  I think that if you like a book with a bit of character development and lots of  hot sex, then this book is for you.